The cockpit shook so hard around him he thought the bolts were going to break loose. The roar in his ears so loud he couldn't hear Command's orders to return to the carrier. He gripped the stick with both hands and fought just to keep the bird level, his restraints biting in as turbulence violently attempted to tear him from his seat. The emerald green vapour of the portal whipped around the canopy completely obscuring his view, the darker glow of his instruments became his eyes, the only thing keeping him on target and saving the vortex from shredding his plane.
Without warning everything beyond the canopy disappeared into a cold darkness, an unwelcome calm blanked his craft as he seemingly soared through nothingness. The bleak tranquillity lasted only for a moment before he burst through one last wall of vapour and out into an entirely new sky.
An endless turquoise atmosphere stretched out above, with wispy, brilliantly white clouds strewn around and below him. Through the cumulus he could see a dusty maroon landscape, canyons and valleys cracked in the colour of dried blood.
"Switchblade 4, report! Switchblade 4, respond!"
He searched the scope for activity, but found nothing. His Raptor was telling him he was entirely alone in those alien skies. He banked gently around and visually scanned the horizon, there was no sign of his wingman's F-22 anywhere.
"Switchblade 4, do you read me? Come on Ghost, give me a sign."
He lost his wingman after unidentified aircraft appeared through the tornado-like portal on Earth, a vicious battle ensued and more than half of their fighter-wing were destroyed in the first ten minutes of combat. These were JAM, alien craft which had invaded their world several decades previously. The United Nations had pushed them back through to their home planet and established a defence force many years ago. They were unprepared for their sudden return.
One of the alien interceptors had latched onto his wingman's jet and plunged back into the portal, returning to the alien world of Fairy. Switchblade 3 gave chase.
His radio crackled to life, feeding nothing but static, but unmistakably receiving a signal.
"Switchblade 4, where are you?!"
His radar hit a contact, four thousand feet directly below him and closing rapidly. Banking fast to the right and pulling back hard a JAM fighter exploded upward, just past his wing. The enemy contact traced a long sweeping arch through the air with its vapour trail as it turned back on him. Switchblade 3 lunged into a sharp dive to gain speed. His altimeter quickly ticked down as he jerked to the left to avoid another hostile craft racing up to meet him. The first contact was almost on his tail, but he was already using his momentum to swing up and track the second opponent. He brought it into his view and tried to get a lock as it ducked and weaved, frantically trying to shake him loose. He switched to guns and squeezed the trigger, the Vulcan cannon blazed to life and cut an arc of 20mm rounds through the sky, barely grazing the enemy jet.
The radio rasped in his ear again, he could hear his wingman's voice.
"Ghost?! Say again, you're breaking up!"
He got a lock on the hostile, switched to missiles and thumbed the button.
The short-range Sidewinder missile broke free and latched onto its target, snaking towards its prey it quickly closed the distance. Unable to outmanoeuvre the heat-seeking device it made contact with the enemy JAM, exploding in a billowing plume of smoke and fire the alien invader disintegrated ahead of him. Switchblade 3 twisted to the side to avoid the fireball just as his original opponent lanced rounds up toward him, scarcely clear of his flank.
His radio whispered in his ear again.
"... They're us."
A third contact ferociously plummeted in from above, tracers whipped down and tore across his fuselage and tail, fiercely perforating his plane. Instantly all yaw control was lost, electronics failed and hydraulics were history. His F-22 pitched and rolled wildly out of control. Something ignited behind him and the aircraft began trailing a thick pitch-black trail of smoke. He felt the intense heat of flames creeping into the cockpit as he desperately ripped on the ejection cord, to no avail.
As he tumbled helplessly toward the surface of this incredible new world he thought he caught a glimpse of his wingman. Flying high above, climbing into the distant clouds and the turquoise sky, he flew in formation with the JAM fighter, side by side and just out of reach.