It's just a job. That's what you tell yourself every morning to make you feel clean about what you're doing in this hell hole. Your being paid to do a job just like a billion other people around the world. They get up, go to work, come home, go to bed then do it all again the next day. Why should I feel any different about my job? My job is important. Maybe not to me but it's important to my employers at least and they pay me well. I have all the money, hookers, alcohol and creature comforts I could ever want as long as I do my job and kill enemy pilots. I've forgotten how many I've killed now. I don't really care. Their blood graces my pockets with money. If I don't do it then someone else will. Why shouldn't I make a bit of money off it after alll the Asranian Air Force has hired plenty of mercenaries too. More than the rebels have anyway. I am one of the few since mercenaries aren't exactly welcomed by the rebel pilots but recently their losses have been so great that they have had no choice but to hire some of us. It's just a job. Don't take it to heart...

Al Hasa - Rebel controlled Asranian shanty town

I pulled myself out of the bed without so much as a word to the woman still sleeping in it. She means nothing to me. Last night I paid her for the simulated experience of feeling love but it was short lived and empty and as I got dressed I secretly hated myself for succumbing to the temptation the previous night offered. After everyone of these liasons I always feel that a part of me has died. She had already taken my money and so I simply turned away and left.

Outside the woman's home, a small rundown shack in the middle of the dirt and flea ridden township, I climbed into the Land Rover I had requisitioned for my night off and drove off back towards the nearby air base. The town was rife with poverty and I always made sure I had a sidearm with me in case any of the locals fancied their chances at robbing an Anglo Saxon 'white boy' after violating one of their women - as they saw it anyway. It's amazing how you seem to switch yourself off to the suffering of others.

I arrived back at the base a short while later and enjoyed a hearty big breakfast. I used to feel guilt over eating such fine food considering the situation in the town but I've toughened up to it now. I always eat alone at the base. I'm not in a dedicated mercenary unit. I fly as part of a regular squadron of MiG-21 squadron. Ironically the MiG-21 was a plane I was taught to fight against when I was still flying for the RAF. I never thought I'd end up flying one myself against Western aircraft. I've become used to eating alone. As I said the rebel air force doesn't want mercenaries. They see us as nothing more than hired guns loyal only to who will pay the highest wages. I don't need to justify myself to them. I let my flying do the talking...

3 Hours Later

I pulled back on the stick and the nose of my MiG-21 pulled up as the bomb laden A-4 Skyhawk tried desperately to climb but it's heavy warload was making progress for the little jet extremely difficult. I wasn't in a good position to fire an Atoll so I selected guns and waited patiently for the A-4 to reach my gunsight. I squeezed the trigger and held it for four seconds. The MiG-21 vibrated as the 23mm cannon shells blazed from my aircraft through the hot desert air and found home in the rear fuselage of the Skyhawk. Menacing black smoke oozed from jet exhaust as it quickly lost power and realising his aircraft was doomed the pilot ejected.

I pulled around to the right and headed back into the fight. Contrails and missile smoke drew dizzying lines across the marble blue sky that was otherwise clear of any cloud. To my right a MiG-21 was being chased by an F-4E Phantom, the pilot screaming in terror for help over the radio having been unable to shake off the more experienced Phantom pilot. I called out to him over the radio "Flycatcher 23 this is 17. Break hard left on my mark!" I banked left and right as I checked my own six oclock before pulling up pure vertically so that the sun was behind me. Having gained a few thousand feet above the F-4 I then rolled the aircraft onto its back before pitching the nose down towards the Phantom that was now spewing gun fire at my fellow MiG-21 pilot. As I throttled up my speed increased and I selected an Atoll as I positioned myself directly behind the Phantoms powerful engines to give the missile's seeker a nice big juicy target. I was ready. "Break now!" and I squeezed off the trigger sending the Atoll racing through the air towards its target. The Atoll isn't a very good missile and it's often pot luck if it hits or not. I knew this and that was why I had put myself between the Phantom and the sun so that the two crew of the F-4 wouldn't be able to see me firing and therefore have less time to react. As the Phantom banked hard to the left to follow my fellow MiG pilot my Atoll exploded on his tail and the shocked pilot began to wrestle for control. His rudder had taken some heavy shrapnel damage and it's stability was suffering. Having given up on pursuing his quarry the F-4 tried to escape to the south away from the battle. I knew what I had to do. Still diving towards the ground after coming out of the sun I pulled the nose back up and I was beginning to climb again. I positioned myself underneath the wounded Phantom and finished it with a three second burst of gunfire much to the jubilation of the MiG pilot I had saved.

Just another day at the office...

1 Hour Later

As I climbed down from my MiG I removed my sweat stained helmet and felt the blistering rays of the midday desert sun burning down on my head. I looked around as the MiGs returned one by one from the battle. We had successfully disrupted the enemy air strike on the rebel troops but it had cost five MiG-21s from our unit. It was a hollow victory.

Walking off the flighline I could hear the other pilots busily talking away as they shared their stories. Although I had saved the life of one of their number and downed two enemy planes during the fight I got no recognition or respect from them but as long as I got paid I didn't really care. Then I heard one of them say, " I saw it! I'm sure of it. The F-8 with a Unicorn on the tail." That plane had become legend amongst the rebel pilots. It's pilot was extremely skilled and earned himself the title of 'The Black Death' because wherever he appears he only leaves the burning wreckage of his victims. Nobody knew anything about him except for one thing; he was a mercenary. In many ways he was my opposite number, both of us flying for money in a country whose people don't give a damn about us. I wonder what his story is or whether he even exists at all? He may very well be one of those myths that appear on the battlefield and are only remembered in old soldier's stories.

Later that evening

I rolled over onto my back having finished with the girl I had paid for that night and reached over for the bottle of Scotch Whiskey I had brought with me. I swigged it back and let it burn my throat before offering it to her. She cocked her nose up in disgust and turned over to get some sleep. I turned out the light beside the bed, little more than two mattresses piled on top of one another on the floor, and pulled myself under the thin woollen blanket knowing that the next day I was going to do it all over again.

It's just a job after all...