"Blackout-2 come in." Came a voice over the now crackling helmet radio attached to Shane Schofield's ear "I repeat Blackout-2 come in. Oakley, you there?"
"Copy that Delta, I'm Okay" Schofield responded.
He heard Delta leader breathe an audible sigh of relief as he replied. "Was that a SAM I just saw?"
Still kicking himself for not seeing the Surface to Air Missile before it almost blew him out of the sky, Schofield spoke edgily "Affirmative, Delta. SA-6 MANPAD. They're still not showing up on radar. Can you confirm?"
The only way they could sneak up on him like that was with a MANPAD a 'Man-Portable Air-Defence-System' and from the area that it came from it was most likely some Serb assholes firing a handful from the back of a jeep or something equally as 'High Tech'.
"That's confirmed Oakley, unknown origin, they must be on the move" Delta reported.
'Tell me something I don't know' Schofield thought as he returned to silencing the screaming alarms going off inside his cockpit.
There was silence on the line for a few long minutes as Schofield madly flicked switches and checked gauges. With a low chuckle Delta came back on the line "How are you still in the air you crazy son of a bitch. That was some nice fly..."
Schofield didn't hear the rest as at that moment the entire rear section of his jet exploded into two pieces.
Sitting in the darkened room of the WASP Sergeant David 'Delta' Deswell could do nothing but stare at his screens.
It had just been a regular patrol around the no fly zone. As far as he knew this shouldn't have been happening.
After a few close calls with SAM in that area previously Delta had been questioning the higher ups orders to carry out this mission. Well, he would have been if it was anyone else but Jack Walsh giving the orders.
Fast thinking and good at improvising Schofield, despite his young age of 22, was well respected by his subordinates as arguably the best fixed-wing pilot stationed on the WASP. Delta was quite fond of the lieutenant and his attitude towards his work. The nickname 'Oakley' being a friendly jab at the fact Schofield always had a pair of Oakley sunglasses on when not in his flight uniform. He'd heard they were given to him by Captain Walsh himself as a reward for a particularly tricky mission he had once flown.
All he knew was that Schofield wore that pair of Oakley's everywhere and Captain Walsh had had him assigned to all those problematic 'not so public missions' they were 'never involved in' ever since.
He figured that it must have been a pretty important mission if Oakley was flying this one.
Despite Deltas' worries it had all looked routine until approximately five minutes ago when Oakley had picked up an alarming bogey and initiated evasive actions. Even that had appeared over when suddenly he'd lost all contact and received a mayday signal.
Then dead silence.
Meanwhile back in his harrier Schofields' entire world was wildly out of control. Red lights flashed strobe-like as the jet began to spin wildly. Grappling with the now hardly responsive control stick he managed to purge the left-hand side engine just as he the plane jerked to the right. The response being that the plane stayed level long enough for him to rip the ejection seat lever and go flying vertically into the icy Bosnian air.
Schofield shot into the air at phenomenal speed; he let himself drift for a couple of long seconds before he pulled his parachute cord.
It wasn't until he was a few hundred metres from the ground that he saw them. A vehicle of some kind headed along a dusty path that could barely even be described as a road. Not really that suspicious until you noticed their headlights were off and there was some kind of large contraption on the back.
Shit! Schofield thought as he redirected his parachute. He was in trouble now, with no way to change his speed he was a sitting duck.
This day couldn't possibly get any worse. He thought to himself.
Now steering as far away as he could from the men with the big guns he heard an explosion.
It was about three times the size of the one that forced him to eject, as his Harrier burst spectacularly into a thousand shards of light somewhere below him. Quickly pulling his legs up as far onto the seat as he could, he managed to avoid being ripped to shreds by the shrapnel. That's more than he could say for his parachute. A sudden jolt and he began to fall through the air.
Schofield looked up and swore as he saw his life saving parachute now resembled a very large silk soup strainer.
Well then, only one thing for it.
Wrestling to get his rope knife free from his flight suit webbing he reached up and cut the cords holding him to the chair. Praying to god he still had time.
Too low to open his auxiliary parachute and with his main parachute now gone, Schofield fell. Fast.
Five hundred metres
Two hundred metres
One hundred meters
He released his backup parachute and...
...was bounced relatively safely to a complete stop about one metre from the ground! He had waited to deploy his parachute until he had fallen level with the nearest tree so it would - hopefully - snag on the branches as it opened and stop his fall.
He immediately unclipped his flight harness from the backup chute and dropped to the ground.
He staggered upright and balked, opening his eyes as wide as they would go. Nothing. All he could see was a wall of inky blackness. It was suffocating to be so deprived after the explosions of light from his plane. His breath hitched as he spun off-balance and tried to see something, any kind of landmark. As he looked up his balance faltered and he pitched backwards onto his butt. Hmph. His unceremonious landing was accompanied by a sharp and excruciating pain in his side.
The pain brought with it sensation, the ability to focus beyond the adrenaline. His hands were buried in damp, crunchy leaves. He heard their familiar crackle as he shifted his weight. He heard the whistle of the wind past leaves, he smelled damp mildew and fresh rain. Still with his eyes plastered open dark shapes began to swim into focus before his eyes. He stood and began to explore.
Shadows of trees and branches criss crossed the area, in some places the leaves on the ground were so deep they came up past his knees when he fell into them. He then had to trudge back out again and was thoroughly spent by the time he found a sheltered spot to sit.
Now safe from certain death -for the moment anyway- Schofield looked around. He sat amongst the roots of a large conker tree that fanned out over a shallow gully. It left him relatively covered from searching eyes for now. He hunched over and gasped for breath as his hands scrambled to hurriedly unbuckle his flight harness. He ripped off his utility vest to expose his rope knife, now firmly planted in the left side of his stomach.
Apparently this day can get worse!
Silently cursing Murphy and his law he rolled onto his right side reaching for his emergency pack from the discarded vest at his feet. He felt the warmth of blood creeping across his stomach as he moved.
Unsuccessfully muffling a groan he pressed one hand of gauze next to it to apply pressure and grabbed the handle with the other. Turning his head to look up at the moonlight filtering through the trees his breaths came fast and unsteady as he shut his eyes and pulled hard.
Luckily, the searching Serbian soldiers didn't hear the following muted cry of pain radiating from the vast Serbian woodlands.