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What Could Go Wrong (Chapter Cover Art)

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Chapter 32 - What Could Go Wrong[]

20 June 3041
Inner End (Federated Commonwealth)

Commodore Franklin Noble, settled into the cockpit of the RPR-101 Rapier Heavy AeroSpace Fighter, having never flown one, nor any of the other pilots that arrived with him, they had all spent the morning reading all the manuals that had been in each shipping container. He plugged in his flight helmet feeling the familiar tingle as his helmet and the fighter's systems synchronized with his brain pattern. When he got the green "good to go" symbol on the touch screen he began the full start up sequence. Once the engine was at idle power, he gave the signal for the waiting technician to unhook the ground-based power supply.

Rapier Aerospace Fighter (in Flight - IWM version)

Rapier Heavy AeroSpace Fighter

After 22 years in the AFFS, rising to command an Aerospace Fighter Wing, he had made the tough decision to retire and take his 50% pension and look for new adventures, since he felt he was too young to actually settle into retirement at only 44 years old. During his out processing, he had been contacted by Command Sergeant Major Vernon Grimes, who was quite infamous in the AFFS Navy. He could get you a sweet assignment or hand down the absolute worst of assignments depending. While he could not provide much detail on the actual job, he had promised adventure, maybe some action but a great paycheck. That he could keep flying was just icing on the cake. Plus, the potential employer was paying for the trip to Inner End. While he had been skeptical, he had decided what the hell. Then yesterday, hearing that he would get paid the same rate as in the AFFS, plus a massive bonus was almost too good to be true. But last night, most of the new people had been surprised when even privates showed them their bank account information clearly showing a 100,000 deposit on exactly the same day, just as Leftenant Colonel Mitchell had said.

The other Aerospace pilots selected by Command Sergeant Major Grimes had been good choices. He knew 3 of them personally, had commanded one of them during his service time. And each of those 3 knew most of the others, one way or another. Bringing all of these new people together had to have been a logistical nightmare and hideously expensive. He himself had taken 14 jumps over a single 24 hour period, and 22 jumps total from Lee, where he had been stationed with the 5th Davion Guards RCT. All the new people that had arrived yesterday had all linked up at Woodbine for the final jumps to Inner End on the same Dropship. Speaking to the new folks, he had been surprised that they had come from all over the Federated Suns half of the Commonwealth. All to converge at Woodbine within 24 hours of the JumpShips departure. A logistical nightmare for sure.

Seeing all his readouts showing ready, he flipped a quick salute at the technician and called the Space Port Control after checking that his wingman was also good and with him. "Space Port Control, Bravo One One flight of 2 requesting takeoff clearance for the Filbroy Range."

"Bravo One One, winds from 227 at 5. Cleared for takeoff on runway Two One. Maintain heading 180 until Oscar Bravo."

"Bravo One One flight of two is rolling runway Two One. maintain heading 180 until Oscar Bravo."

He pushed the throttles and began his take off roll. The speed came up rapidly until he reached his rotate speed and pulled back on the stick. Once he was airborne, he retracted the landing gear, verified that his wingman was with him and when he reached Oscar Bravo he began his turn for Filbroy Range, the coordinates already entered into his flight computer. It only took 15 minutes to reach Filbroy Range, a large 100 mile by 100 mile range set aside for the militia to use. He changed frequency to the one he had been given and keyed the mic "Range Control, Bravo One One flight of Two on this frequency."

"Bravo One One, Range Control. Your cleared onto the range. Maximum altitude is 100,000. Max speed is Mach 2 only. The range is all yours for the next 30 minutes for unlimited maneuver. Do you accept MARSA?"

"Bravo One One, cleared onto range. Max 100,000, speed Mach 2. Unlimited maneuver and Bravo One One accepts MARSA." He had just accepted Military Authority Assumes Responsibility for Separation of Aircraft. Now he and his wingman could mix it up a little and get a good feel for this aircraft in atmosphere. Vacuum would wait a few days until everyone got a feel for this bird.

"Two, One. Let's see what these babies do on a ground target. One has the lead, take spacing for a ground run." Commodore Noble said as he throttled up and dove for the ground, centering the reticle on the wrecked tank, he prepared himself for the expected heat wave from 3 PPC's firing and pulled the trigger. He pulled up before seeing if he hit, and quickly checked his heat monitor, the heat wave had never rushed over him. The heat monitor was already back to normal. "Two, I am not even sure my weapons fired, no heat."

"Shit, yeah they fired. Looks like two out of 3 hits, Sir. I fired from further back than you did and saw mine slap the target. What the heck kind of cooling system these birds have? I got no heat buildup at all."

"Not sure Two. Let's make another pass, this time even further, let's stress it and see how it can handle that."

After a great hour in the air, Commodore Noble finished his shutdown procedures and popped the cockpit open. Looking at the tech on the ground he said "I am in love. Do not break my new bird."

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