Friday, February 18, 2011

For The Greater Good 10


CHAPTER TEN



    It seemed unnatural at first, the large aircraft being able to take off like a helicopter, and then the huge propellers rotated forward, making their vertical take off craft a forward moving airplane. Bill Walters had watched over the years as the all branches of the military had embraced the V-22 Osprey, this was the first time he had actually flown in one.

    General Robert Perry sat alongside Colonel Walters and Commander Greg Nash, their green hard shell helmets, with the wired microphones hovering over their lips. Sitting behind the three officers were four of Commander Nash’s SEAL’s. Everyone, with the exception of Bill Walters, was fully armed.

    The co-pilot of the Osprey, Marine Corps Lt. Jane Wilson turned to Colonel Walters, “Sir, we are approximately fifty miles from our target.” She said pointing to the location on a map, which designated the location of the missile launch.

    “Thank you Lieutenant.” Colonel Walters said. Looking out the side window at the rolling hills and all of the farmland beneath, he was impressed, as always at the beauty and diversity of the United States. However, what struck his mind was the once verdant green farms were now brown dirt. It was late spring and the Nebraska corn should be thigh high, it wasn’t.

    Approaching the farm, which they were able to identify as TLC Farms, owned by a South Korean multinational corporation, the aircraft slowed as the wings moved from horizontal to vertical. Flying slowly over the farm, all eyes were looking outside at the area below. The pilot settled the Osprey down on the graveled drive, and shut the engines off. The sound of the huge turbines outside whining down reduced the vibrations on the inside. Colonel Walters took a deep breath. Commander Nash opened the side door and the four SEAL’s sprinted off the craft, weapons at the ready.

    Removing their helmets, the three officers exited the Osprey and stood on dry ground. The farm appeared to be abandoned, as the SEAL’s worked their way towards the buildings, entering and completing searches of the insides for any possible threat. The ‘All-Clear’ was given via hand signal to Commander Nash.

   Commander Nash and General Perry slung their weapons over their shoulders, and began a forensic search of the area.

    Bill stood at the launch pad, its blackened concrete indicating a substantial heat source. Greg and Robert came alongside.

    “This is where they launched.” Bill said, kneeling down rubbing his hand on the blackened area, trying to remove some residue.

    Greg whistled to one of the SEAL’s, “Bring me some bags.” He shouted, and the soldier came running, bringing a hand full of plastic evidence bags.

    Robert said, “Looks like someone got themselves blown up.” He stood over a lump of human flesh. Finding a portion of an arm, he took his knife and sliced off enough so that it would fit into the bag.  

    One of the SEAL’s shouted, “Sir…I found a computer.”

    Bill Walters looked over to the SEAL as he knelt down and was starting to open the laptop. “Hey! Don’t touch that!” He commanded.

    The soldier, hands frozen, looked up as Colonel Walters sprinted over to him. Kneeling down and getting a grounds eye view of the laptop, the soldier asked, “Do you think its booby trapped?”

    “No, but it could have a poison pill encryption…” looking over the SEAL “…that means is that if someone turns it on and tried to hack into the system, it would destroy everything inside.” Lifting the laptop gingerly, he dusted off the dirt with his breath.

    The search team gathered together. “What did you find?” General Perry asked the SEAL’s.

    “There are two vans, from the looks of them I would say that they were exploded from the inside out. There are body parts scattered everywhere.” Another member replied, “They were destroyed intentionally, like the car bombs we would see in Iraq.”

    Greg Nash had a firing switch in his hand. “What do we know so far?”

    “One…they launched from this spot.” Bill said, smelling the traces of rocket exhaust residue on his fingers. 

    “They didn’t want any witnesses.” Robert said, pointing at the burned vans.

    “And…they made a mistake.” Greg said holding up the firing switch and touching the chunk of hand in the plastic bag with his foot.

    “What are you going to do with the computer?” Robert asked.

    “Find someone that can analyze it, and maybe this will tell us something.” Bill replied.

    “I don’t know anyone, especially now, that has the equipment or the talent to open an encrypted computer.” Greg added.

    “I think I do.” Bill said as they all gathered up their evidence and took off, heading towards Malmstrom.

    Colonel Walters felt comfortable now, four reliable jet engines hummed as they flew at 20,000 feet. Commander Nash and General Perry sat in the crews recliners, amazed at the array of computer systems onboard. The four SEAL’s which accompanied them, dozed in the comfortable seats.

    “Man, you Air Force guys have it nice.” Robert said, impressed at the comfort level.

    “Not bad, for an ugly old bird, huh?” Bill said smiling.

    The pilot called out over the intercom, “Sir, we are approaching Groom Lake.”

    Colonel Walters took a deep breath, exhaling, “Let’s see if this works.” Turning to Comms, “See if you can contact them.”

    “Groom Lake, this is Raven One…we are a Combat Sent aircraft, do you copy?” Comms said.

    “Sir, they are tracking us.” One of the radar officers spoke from the middle of the aircraft.

    “Raven One…this airspace is closed. I repeat, this airspace is closed. Do not attempt to enter this airspace.” The unidentified voice commanded.

    “Put me on.” Colonel Waters said to Comms. “Groom Lake, this is Colonel Bill Walters, aircraft commander…I need to speak to your commanding officer.” He commanded. Switching his communications to the pilot, “Mike, give us a lazy eight pattern outside their air space.”

    “Colonel Walters…this is Major General Richard Reavey…what can I do for you?”

    “General…I need help with a computer problem…that’s all I can say over the air.”

    The line was silent for a couple of minutes, as everyone stared at the microphone in Colonel Walters hand. “Raven One…I’ll talk with you. I do need for you to keep away for another twenty minutes…then you’ll land on runway 32 Right  …you’ll follow the taxi vehicle directly to the large hangar and shut down your engines. No one is to leave your aircraft, is that understood?”

    “Yes Sir.” Colonel Walters replied, looking at his watch.

    Twenty minutes later, they were on final approach. Touching down on the concrete runway, they were met by a white Jeep with a ‘Follow Me’ sign on its rear. Taxiing to a large hangar, the Jeep stopped. One of the outside ground crew attached a plug-in microphone to the Combat Sent, giving final orders to the pilot. A low aircraft tug moved into position in front, and the ground crew attached a long heavy metal bar to the Combat Sent’s front wheels. Slowly the tug pulled the aircraft inside the empty cavernous hangar. Once inside the doors were shut.

    Colonel Walters opened the aircrafts door, extending the step to the ground. They all sat inside, as ordered. The heat from the desert outside filtered into the aircraft.

    Major General Reavey bounded up the steps and stepped inside the Combat Sent. Colonel Walters introduced himself and his two compatriots.

    Looking around and nodding his approval, “Nice equipment.” He said. “Ok, so what do you need help with?”

    Bill Walters handed him the laptop. “We found this at the site where the high altitude nuke missile was launched in Nebraska. I think it might be encrypted…do you have anybody that can check it out?”  

    Richard Reavey chuckled, “Yeah…I think we have some people that can figure this out.” He stood and turned to exit the craft. “We have to time our take offs and landings around…them.” He paused, pointing up to an unseen satellite. “Another satellite will be in range shortly, you have fifteen minutes to take off, can you make that happen?”

    Bill nodded, “Sure.” He paused, puzzled. “Is that it?” He asked.

    “For now it is…I’ll call you when we have some answers.” The General quickly stepped off the aircraft, shut the door and the tug began to push the big gray bird out of the hangar. Twelve minutes later they were airborne, and headed back to Malmstrom.

    “Well that was probably the most anti-climatic, top secret meeting I’ve ever had.” Greg Nash said, shaking his head.

    “Did you see how young he was? How does someone our age get promoted to Major General so fast?” Robert Perry questioned.

    Their flight landed at Malmstrom AFB slightly over two hours later. Raven One’s engines spooled down and the crew prepared to deplane.

    “Colonel, I have an incoming message from Groom Lake.” Comms said, switching the communication to the Colonels headset.

    “Colonel Walters.”

    “Colonel…this is General Reavey. We have an answer for your computer problem.”

    “That was fast.”

    “Are you still airborne?”

    “No Sir, we just landed and are preparing to deplane.”

    “Too bad, I was gong to suggest that you and your crew fly back and stay the night with us. We have a briefing tomorrow, which you are most certainly are invited to.”

    Everyone looked at the Colonel, they were excited about the prospect of staying at the place everyone had heard all the rumors about. “General, can you hold on for just a moment.” Colonel Walters spoke to his crew. “How long would it take to get your overnight bags together?”

    The moment he said that, the entire crew rushed off the craft, heading to their billet for their bags.

    “General, we’ll be airborne in thirty minutes.”

    “Good, we’ll be expecting you.” He replied with a slight chuckle.   

    Commander Nash and General Perry, along with the SEAL’s shifted excitedly in their seats. After all, it wasn’t every day that you got a chance to spend the night in Dreamland.

    Two hours and forty-five minutes later, they were taxiing towards a very large dirty white hangar, following the Jeep. Once inside, and the doors opened, General Reavey greeted the crew as they stepped off the aircraft.

    “Welcome to the Air Force’s Technological Research and Development Unit, or as you’re probably used to hearing, ‘Dreamland.’” He smiled and shook the three commanding officers hands. “We have very tight security here, as you can imagine, so if you’ll follow the Security Team over to the desk in the corner, they’ll check your bags and then show you to the areas where you’ll be staying.”
        
    The crew and the SEAL’s went with Security, the three commanders stayed behind with General Reavey. General Reavey looked up at the Combat Sent and marveled. “She’s a beauty…a real classic. I really love the classics.” He turned to Colonel Walters, “You know the Seven Oh Seven changed the world’s transportation system…amazing to see her still performing.”

    Colonel Walters stood proud as this was the first time in recent memory someone had said anything positive about his ‘gal’. He began to like this General.

    “Here are your badges…” he produced three red cards on a lanyard, “…wear these at all times. Anyplace along the wall you see ‘red’ then you’re ok…do not go into any areas where you’re not authorized.” He cautioned.

    The trio nodded as they put on their clearance badges.

    “Come on let me show you around. We don’t have too many visitors, so this is a real treat for all of us.” The General turned, then stopped, “By the way, my name is Richard.” He said, continuing towards an elevator in the corner of the hangar. The elevator door opened, just like any elevator in any other building. Stepping inside the difference became quite clear, instead of going up, this elevator went down. The lights, buttons and key slots indicated twenty floors lay beneath them.

    Richard pushed the second floor button. “This floor is where we have our visitors quarters. Here you’ll find the mess hall, showers and recreation areas. We serve chow 24/7, and it’s pretty good. Tonight is Mexican…we’ll be packed too.” Walking along the corridors, they glanced at photos of aircraft, both earth bound and space craft along the walls. Richard stopped at one photo. “This is the Aurora. We developed Aurora as a replacement for the SR-71.” The needle nosed dart shaped aircraft looked extremely fast, as it was in real life. The next group of photos were of pilots. The wall was covered with images of men and women. “This isn’t a place where you want your picture…these men and women have all been killed flight testing aircraft.”  

    Richard continued his tour. The hallway was filed with personnel heading to the chow hall. Opening the door, there were at least two hundred men and women standing in line, and sitting at the large dining room tables, having dinner.

    “We have a number of contractors here. This base is used for their development and testing of ‘Black Projects’. However, since the attack a lot of their work has been put on hold. Most of their home offices have been destroyed, so they’ve become our wards.”

    The four officers picked up their trays and stood in line, moving slowly through the cafeteria. Making their selections, the four moved to an empty table. From across the room a man wearing a blue one piece jump suit waved and then came over.

    Richard introduced the man. “Gentlemen, this is Ray.” Introductions were made and hand shaken. “Ray, is my top go-to guy here, jack of all trades…and master of none.” He said smiling.

    Ray looked at General Reavey. “Well, who won?”

    “You did.” He said and produced his wallet, taking out a dollar bill, handing it to Ray.

    “I love taking your money General.” Ray said, patting the General on the back, and then explained, “You see, we had a bet. He said that before you got to the chow hall, one of you would ask ‘Where we keep the little green men and the Flying Saucers.” He said smiling, and then added, “I said you wouldn’t ask…not that you wouldn’t be curious, but nothing would be said.” He laughed.

    Robert Perry’s eyes widened, looking at Ray. “So…”
                                                                                                      
    Before he could complete his question, the General shook his head no, and then chuckled.

    “I do have a question.” Colonel Walters asked, “Pardon me if this is out of line, but how did you get two stars? I mean, you’re the same age as we are.”

    “I get asked that a lot.” General Reavey said smiling. “You see, I was one of those child prodigies. In college at fourteen years old, graduated at sixteen, and my Masters at nineteen…by twenty one I was bored out of my skull and joined the Air Force. I learned how to play the ‘game’ for promotions, and voila, here I am. I’ve had command of this base for ten years now.” He paused and then added, “I truly love this work, but it is a love-hate kind of thing.”

    “What do you mean by that?” Commander Nash asked.

    “Well, let’s say that you spend ten years restoring a classic car. This car is now a work of art…and when you are finished, you can’t show it off, and have to park it in the garage. It’s like that here. We are working on technology that is truly amazing, but won’t see the light of day.”

    “What was your major in college?” General Perry asked.

    “Quantum Physics.”  

    Conversations then turned to the outside world and the issues everyone faced. General Reavey listened intently. The meal finished, Richard took the men to their rooms. “General Barker will be arriving at 0730, we’ll have breakfast and then meet at 0900. You guys have a good evening.” He said then left with Ray.

    The next morning the three officers stood in line, waiting their turn for selecting breakfast. General Reavey, and General Barker came in with Ray, joining the visitors. After their breakfast was over, all went to the elevator. General Reavey took his green ID card and inserted it into the slot for level three. A touch pad extended from the elevators panel. “The system knows that there are six of us here. So, take your hand and place it onto the touch pad, it will then check your biometrics against what’s on record.”

    It took a while before the system acknowledged the three visitors. General Barker and Rays biometric check was instantaneous. The elevator door opened to level three. They were met by an armed guard who checked their personal ID’s with their faces, and allowing them continue. Two doors down the hall, they entered a room with large plasma video screens and computers. Ray left the group and went about his daily chores.   

    General Reavey spoke. “General Barker, there are some recent development’s you should be aware of. First of all, after hearing Colonel Walters comments regarding the current Administrations communication with Middle Eastern countries and the European Union…we checked into this further. It seems that Acting President Engstrom has recently signed agreements with China, Mid-East countries and the EU to supply them with massive quantities of food. In turn they are receiving money and support. What form of support, we don’t know. We do know that two tankers carrying crude oil have anchored in the St. Lawrence River and have transferred their cargo to smaller tankers. These smaller tankers have transited the St. Lawrence Seaway and are unloading in Detroit.”

    General Barker took this information, jotting notes on a yellow legal pad.

    “I had questions about Detroit, but after looking at the areas where the nukes were detonated, it makes sense. Detroit, and Michigan as a whole, wasn’t hit. Now, along with those tankers, we are seeing other Middle Eastern ships move into the St. Lawrence system. These ships are carrying personnel and are also porting in Detroit.”

    “Why Detroit? That doesn’t make sense.” General Perry asked.

    “Well, at first it doesn’t but it seems that the current Administration is moving their base of operations to Detroit. Keep in mind that Detroit had…or has, the largest population of Muslims in the country.”

    “And now that population is growing.” General Barker said, shaking his head.

    “Correct. Now this brings us to the recent information about the people who launched the nuke from Nebraska. Colonel Walters, General Perry and Commander Nash brought us a laptop computer they found at the launch site.” General Reavey paused and clicked a remote to bring up a display on the plasma video screen. “Colonel Walters, it was a good thing you didn’t try to access this laptop, it was encrypted, but not with a poison pill program…it had two ounces of Astrolite inside.”

    “Astrolite?” Colonel Walters questioned.

    “It’s a liquid explosive.” Commander Nash replied.

    “Correct, it would have detonated on the third attempt to access the system. Our guys figured it out and worked through the encrypted data.” He paused and then continued, “We attacked the wrong country. It was China who was behind this.”

    “Are you fucking kidding me!” General Barker raged.

    “No Sir, I’m not. Here look at the programs.” General Reavey clicked through the programs showing the ground delivery systems, and the emailed bills of sale and authorizations for delivery.

    General Barker stood, looking for a fight, every muscle in his body enlarged as he paced the floor.

  “General, you had no way of knowing Sir…their plan was almost perfect, and by the looks of it, was in the works for many years.” General Reavey said.

    “Those fucking cocksuckers…” he shouted, kicking at a chair, “…I’m going to blast them back to the fucking stone-age!”

    “Hold on General.” General Reavey said with a calming tone. “They don’t know that we know…that is an edge. Besides, if you take this to the Acting President for approval to launch, he’ll probably say that you made it up. I wouldn’t expect any help from that crowd.”

    It was apparent that General Barker relied heavily on the advice from the young Major General. General Barker, the raging bull, calmed down. “Ok, so what do we do now?” He asked.

    “The only thing we can do Sir, is to wait.” General Reavey said quietly. “Let’s move on to another subject. We touched on this briefly, and that is food. You three talked about this back at Malmstrom.”  He said pointing to the three officers, “I think you might be on to something very important here…actually it will be the most important.”

    General Barker rubbed his eyes giving an indication that he wasn’t interested, still thinking about China’s attack on their country.

    “General Barker, what is the most important thing in warfare?”

    “Surprise…then beans and bullets.” He said. Then, realizing the importance of what they were discussing. Sitting up attentively, he asked. “I’m sorry, what about this food thing?”

    “The agreements that were signed, are for huge quantities of food, which they don’t have to export. This leads me to believe that either the Administration doesn’t know what they have, or they are lying. Personally, I don’t think they know what their status actually is.”

    “What leads you to that conclusion?” General Barker asked.

    “There hasn’t been any communication with the civilian population. I would think that they are relying on data from past crop reports and adjusting downward to account for the nuke attacks. They obviously don’t know about the salted aquifers or the complete lack of any appreciable rainfall.”

    “Are we in a drought situation also?”

    “Yes Sir, the only place that is receiving any measurable amount of rain is a small area on the East coast.”

    General Barker thought for a minute. “So, what they don’t know is an advantage to us.”

    “Yes Sir.”         

    General Barker turned to the officers, “You two are now going to be the Pied Pipers of food storage. Both of you, are to go to every unit and command, giving my personal orders to store as much food as they can lay their hands on.” He ordered Commander Nash and General Perry. To Colonel Walters, “You are to stay in the air as much as possible. Any indication of their knowledge about this, pass it along ASAP.”

    “Yes Sir.” The three said in unison.

    “If China finds out about this, what would you think we could expect?” General Reavey asked.

    “China is very strong right now, I would imagine they would mount an invasion. If I were the Chinese government, I certainly wouldn’t want one point four billion people to go ballistic because they can’t eat. So it’s in everybody’s best interest to keep this as quiet as possible. I would also imagine that with this Administration sucking up to them, there might be some political activity to remove any obstacles for an impending invasion…so if anyone gets wind of any request to have the Pacific Fleet moved, take that as a signal.” General Barker paused and then closed. “If that’s it, then I have to get back to Raven Rock.” General Barker said.

    “Actually Sir, there is one other item.” General Reavey paused, “We have listened to a few shortwave broadcasts from Brussels, Belgium. The EU is contemplating charging you personally, for ‘war crimes’ against the North Koreans.”

    General Barker laughed. “War crimes…now I’ve heard everything.”

    “Sir, to cover our bases, maybe we should make you an office here too.” General Reavey said.

    “They’ll have a hell of a time getting me out of Raven Rock.”

    “Maybe so Sir, but I’m assigning some of my men to watch over you.” Commander Nash said.

    “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

    “With all due respect Sir, you are going to have six of my SEAL’s with you, 24/7. We can’t afford to have anything happen to you.” Commander Nash was adamant on the subject. General Perry and Colonel Walters nodded in agreement.    

    “Thanks Greg, I do appreciate it. Have them meet me at Raven Rock; I won’t be an ass about it.” General Barker said.

    “Thank you Sir.”
   
    The briefing adjourned. General Barker flew out as the four officers went to Richard Reaveys office. General Reavey closed the door behind them, offered the men seats and then opened a small refrigerator. Taking four cold bottles of domestic beer, he handed them around.

    Commander Nash noticed a presentation box on the Generals desk which held a custom made fixed blade knife. “That’s a beautiful knife.”

    General Reavey smiled and opened it for the Commander. “Do you remember Ray? He made this…beautiful isn’t it?”

    The Commander held the Damascus bladed knife, admiring it’s razor edge and perfectly fitted handle. “Ray made this?” Greg said quite surprised.

    “Yeah, work of art isn’t it…Ray came to us quite by accident. Maybe that’s the wrong term I should use. Ray’s wife and kids were killed in an automobile accident a couple of years ago. We found him alongside the base perimeter, sitting and staring at the sky.” He paused. “Ray is a good man.” 

    “So this food thing is going to be big?” Robert Perry commented, taking a drink of the cold beverage.

    “Yeah, think about it for a minute. You can have the technology and weaponry to take on anyone in the world, but if you don’t have food, you’re just as dead as those on the receiving end.” Richard took a drink of his beer.

    “It’s a good thing the Weather Channel is off the air.” Bill Walters said jokingly.

    Richard chuckled and paused in mid-drink. “The Weather Channel might be off the air, but there is still one weather satellite that we are receiving data from.” He paused, and then briefed the three. ”Due to the EMP, all of our weather satellites were knocked out, now, there are two main types of weather satellites, geo-stationary, and polar orbit. The geo-stationary are just that, they stay in one place and give a big picture, so to speak. The polar orbiting satellites orbit the earth about every ninety minutes, and at a much lower altitude.” Pausing to make sure the three would understand, “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA had two in orbit, NOAA-17 and 18. NOAA-17 was knocked out, 18 was on the other side of the planet and survived. We use 18 for our own weather forecasts.”

    “If we use NOAA-18 for our weather, could other countries use it for their weather?” Greg Nash asked.

    “Absolutely.”

    “So, can we knock it out?” Robert Perry asked.

    Richard smiled. Moving to his desk, he typed on his computer. Finding what he wanted, he opened his small flip phone and pressed the talk feature. “Ray.”

    “Yes General.” The response was almost immediate.

    “Bring Project 201 to the BlackStar hangar.” 

    “Yes Sir.”

    “Gentlemen, come with me, I think you’ll like this.” Richard drained his beer as did the others and tossed the empties into the trash. All four left and went down to Level Three. Walking past the room where they had just held their meeting, they came to a large underground garage. One of the Security Team members came over. “Take us to the BlackStar hangar.” The General commanded.

    The four climbed into an electric golf cart and were driven through one of six darkened tunnels. The tunnels lighting would come on as they traveled through and then off as they passed, making for a surreal experience.

    “Can you go faster?” The General asked his driver.

    “Sir, you know better.” The driver turned to his passengers, “This cart has a speed governor…and the General hates going slow.” He said smiling.

    They traveled almost two miles through the tunnel and arrived at another check point. ID’s were again checked and they entered through a locked steel door. Inside the huge well lit underground hangar, the three visitors stood, stunned at the scale of the facility.

    “Do you remember when you landed, there was a large circular turn-around at the end of the runway?” The General asked Colonel Walters.

    “Yes.”

    “We are directly beneath it. That turn-around is actually the roof of a huge elevator.” General Reavey said proudly, “This is BlackStar.” Introducing the very large, grey painted behemoth, standing in front of them.

    “Oh my God…” Colonel Walters stood transfixed, “…is that the XB-70?”

    “Well, calling this the XB-70, is like me calling your Combat Sent, a Boeing 707.” He paused briefly and directed his commentary to the ground officers, “Back in the late 1950’s the military was at a crossroads. We didn’t know whether to go forward with high and fast aircraft to deliver nuclear weapons, or ballistic missiles. Missiles won out and aircraft like this were discontinued.”

    Commander Nash and General Perry nodded at the history lesson review.

    “Rockwell built two flying models of the XB-70 Valkyrie. Number Two was destroyed in a mid-air collision. Number One’s shell is at the Air Force Museum on Wright Patterson Air Force Base. The contractor had built enough parts for a complete third aircraft. It took the combined funding from CIA, NSA and the Strategic Reconnaissance Office or SRO, to get her built.”

    “She is beautiful.” Colonel Walters said in awe.

    “She sure is. Now, the thought from the agencies was to have this for a test bed type of craft. Over the years she has undergone many changes, the latest was the BlackStar project. She is now configured to launch a low orbit craft.” He said, then walked towards a low, delta winged, stealthy black spacecraft parked behind the XB-70. “This is the Remora.”

    The three officers were silent, looking at technology that one could only guess at previously.

    “The Remora attaches to the belly of the Valkyrie, and then is launched at 90,000 feet. Once dropped, the pilot lights the rocket engine and bam, you’re in orbit.” He smiled and motioned to a white suited technician standing nearby. “Would you open the cargo bay for me, please.”

    “Yes Sir.” The tech opened the gold tinted canopy, pressed a series of buttons, and with a hum of its electric motor, panels directly behind and above the pilot’s canopy opened.

    “What we can do with Remora, is to launch small disposable satellites. When you flew in, we had to time our landing due to a satellite. Well, everyone knows when there are satellites overhead, and they adjust their activities accordingly. With this, we can pop a satellite out and get a quick picture of what is actually happening. We might only get one pass before they readjust, but one pass might be the difference between life and death.”

    “Nice…so we’re not totally blind?” General Perry stated.

    The four were distracted by the sound of a forklift. Ray was driving the natural gas-powered cart and had a large wood box attached to the tines in front. “Where do you want me to put it General?”

    “Set it down there Ray, and open it for me.”

    The forklift carrying the box, and the men being shown the BlackStar, attracted the attention of other technicians working nearby, they migrated over to the group.

    “When you brought up the Weather Channel, I thought about some old technology we have. We might be able to make this work.”

    Ray removed the screws, which attached the lid to the box, opened it and pulled out the shredded fiber packing, revealing the metal contraption.

    “This is a working model of a miniature Rail Gun.”

    “A Rail Gun…and you say this is old technology?” Commander Nash questioned.

    For us, it is old technology.” General Reavey smiled and pointed to the 1965 date on the box side. “The issue with an electro-magnetic Rail Gun, has been the power requirements. You see, you land guys need seven to ten thousand feet per second muzzle velocities…that uses huge amounts of power. I’m thinking that we could de-power this model to around three thousand feet per second muzzle velocity for space, and have ourselves a real nice satellite killer.”

    “Sweet.” Colonel Walters exclaimed.

    “Now we just have to find someone to fly it.” General Reavey paused. “We had six test pilots…four were killed in Phoenix during the nuke attack. My other two are test pilots, not attack pilots.”

    “I can help you there.” Colonel Walters offered, “I know a couple of Marine Corps Harrier pilots that would love a little payback.”

    “Excellent. Bring ‘em here.”

    Turning to the technicians, “I want you guys to de-power this for three thousand feet per second velocity, and give it the ability for multiple shots. Mount the gun in the Remora and when the Harrier pilots arrive, take the weapons sighting systems out, and install them into the Remora. Ray will get you anything you need, just ask.”

    The technicians became visibly excited over the project, heading over to a paper covered easel, and began to make notes.

    Ray moved next to the General. “So are we going to kill some satellites General?”

    General Reavey smiled and nodded. “That’s the plan.”

    “Excellent…we finally get to shoot something.” Ray said.


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