Lieutenant Leeds yawned as he looked at his console, rubbing his eyes sleepily.
It was 10:40 at night, normally he should have been more awake. Unfortunately in his case, he had made the mistake last night of perusing his favorite bar in Colorado Springs last night. He had stayed up until three in the morning, trying to score with this woman who was a complete knock-out. His efforts, alas, had all been for nothing as he had come home with no date and would eventually get no sleep. And now he was paying the price for his mistake.
Leeds glanced at the clock on his console, praying for it to reach 11:00. At NORAD, he was usually responsible for organizing flight plans for aerial exercises, but since Levinson was out with the flu, he was in his place in front of the radar, mindlessly staring at it until the late night exercise would get underway.
Grumbling under his breath, Leeds considered stealing away to use the restroom and grabbing a Coke along the way. He desperately needed something to perk him up if he wanted to survive the night. If Major Wasser caught him asleep at his console, he would be PT'd in front of the entire squadron for the next month. He shuddered at the thought.
The clock now read 10:53, only seven more minutes until the Fifth Fighter Squadron would test the capabilities of the new radar system. It was co-developed by the Air Force and Raytheon as a black project. They had to classify it that way in order to maintain the highest security during development. People just couldn't trust anyone these days.
And who could blame them? Officially it was a time of peace, but there was no telling when that peace would be suddenly and irreparably shattered. This was why the radar system was developed in the first place, to detect America's enemies before they had a chance to strike against the very land that men like Lieutenant Leeds loved so dearly.
The abrupt ping! of the radar jerked Leeds out of his reverie, perhaps to punish him for even thinking about nodding off while on duty. Leeds immediately sat upright in his seat, sleepiness left behind. His eyes shot to the clock, where it read 10:57. That struck him as odd. Those flyboys were never early, they were either on time or unreasonably late. Take your pick.
Concern rising in his head, he quickly turned toward the radar. The new system used a type of laser as a form of identification; the innovative part was that it was designed to scan plane configurations and analyze them in a database. Different countries used different types of aircraft and the uniqueness of the system would give the military a lead in case they were ever attacked by a foreign enemy.
Right now, the display on Leeds' console showed a blip which read, "NO CONFIGURATION" in bright red letters on his screen. Leeds frowned. The system was new, and there were bound to be bugs, but they had already tested the scan feature by deliberately flying planes of various types and origins into the laser's path. All were immediately and accurately identified. To add to his confusion, the blip was more than 300 miles off the surface of the earth.
Something wasn't right, an F-22 couldn't reach an altitude of that height. Unless SpaceX passed one of their new shuttles underneath the path of the radar, which was statistically impossible, the only thing that could possibly go that high would have to be….
Lieutenant Leeds lunged for the built-in phone on his console and punched the number 2. Major Wasser's brisk voice immediately squawked through the speaker.
"Leeds? What is it?"
Leeds gulped before answering his superior's query. "Sir, it's probably nothing. But you should check this, to be sure."
Note 5/4: Chapter 11 slightly extended. Go see for yourself!