Wing Commander: Threat of War

ONE

If he thought on it long enough, the mere prospect of what they were up against would have brought on another bout of heartburn and it was too late to even contemplate turning back toward the medical wing for a bis-tab.

They were pilots for crying out loud, not ground troops and certainly not exterminators! Yet here the deckhands were just finishing up the neo-alliprine toxin spray modifications to the Rapiers. The dull silver canisters jutted out from below the ships' wings providing the only visual verification that the weapons systems had been altered. Of course aerodynamics mods were also performed to allow for prolonged atmospheric flight but the techs had assured the pilots they would detect no changes in handling.

The intel on this one must have come from a really trusted source to get the higher-ups so riled. Rumors of unorthodox Kilrathi tactics weren't too uncommon but it was rare indeed for a full scale offensive to manifest as a result of that kind of speculation.

And yet here they were, hustling across the spotless flight deck of the Tiger Claw while buttoning up the heavy fasteners of their flight-suits.

The deck boss frowned as Maniac flashed his usual over exaggerated smile complete with deliberately drawn out thumbs-up.

Angel hadn't said more than two words to him in passing in the entire time since they had returned from one of the most emotionally taxing missions of Christopher Blair's young career. There were certainly things he'd like to have said; if only she would give some small indication that he wasn't simply another pilot under her authority.

The mission briefing had been just that: brief. And Angel didn't appear overly enthusiastic with the orders handed down to her to be handed down to the rest of the Wing. It was an escort mission to be sure; a drop and mop as they were known among the pilots involved. The planetary proximity calculations were finalized only moments before the pre-launch scuttle and Blair was sure that had to do with the simple fact that the Tiger Claw itself had only slipped into orbit moments earlier.

The Kilrathi, for all their self-perceived honor and pride in the ways of combat clearly weren't above some guerilla tactics if it increased chances of the race's galactic domination. Details were sketchy at best but the gist of this sortie had them shutting down a bizarre cultural experiment supposedly taking place on the planet's surface.

Entherans, battle bugs, were supposedly being bred in great numbers here. Apparently the sulfur content of the atmosphere of V123.9 was conducive to spawning intense populations of the things. Initial egg sacks were rumored to have been flown in by Kilrathi capital ships then deposited. By now the entire main continent's surface was likely crawling with them.

Blair had never actually seen a bug outside of holo-text but they were allegedly as nasty as an organic life form came. Covered in shells made of calcium fibers so tightly weaved as to make the creatures immune to neutron blasts, they were long thought invincible to all forms of modern weaponry. A chance discovery in exposure to the alloy alliprine proved some wildly unexpected side effects to the Entheran internal biology; namely the stuff dissolved their gooey innards in a matter of minutes. With that bit of information learned back in the Academy in mind, Blair decided it simply could not have been a good sign that neo-alliprine tanks were being installed to the Rapier's armament.

The tight confines of the Rapier cockpit were strangely welcome to him as he slid into position behind the complex array of controls and instrumentation. In effort to embrace his Pilgrim-half, Blair had been making a conscious effort to view the ship as a part of him; an extension of himself wrapped in metal. In doing so he continually astonished his superiors by plotting jumps of ever-increasing risk. It had become a personal goal to push the boundaries to the very point where a quasar began to disassemble his Rapier on an atomic level before passing into gravitic warp; to literally be so in tune with both the physicality of his craft and the very ebb and flow of space-time itself as to recognize that infinitesimal moment between success and utter destruction. Nobody, not even Angel could have understood the yearning that had been growing within him. But such things would have to be put on hold today, for the mission's orders were rattling within his helmet's communicator before he even had a chance to fasten the chinstrap.

"All right ladies," said the voice of Lieutenant Commander Jeanette "Angel" Deveraux through the relay. "Standard drop and mop operation down to the planet's surface. Our wing will break up into two divisions. Maniac, Pilgrim, Cheetah and I will fly escort to the drop ship containing the marine infantry set for surface touchdown. Dancer and Calico will remain in high orbit with the Tiger Claw in the event of trouble. Clear?"

Blair felt a small surge of satisfaction in officially hearing his new call sign roll off Angel's pretty mouth so effortlessly.

"Ma'am," Maniac's voice came in reply. "Are we touching down in bug land as well or just making sure the foot soldiers get down there safely?"

"Good question," Angel fired back. "We are to escort the drop ship to the coordinates I am sending to your ships' navigational computers now. We will then be clear to return to the Tiger Claw upon my mark. If everything goes by the book, we should be climbing back through the layers of atmosphere moments after we reach the drop point."

"But it never goes by the books," Calico mumbled. He said what Blair and all of the rest of them were secretly thinking.

"If there are no more questions," Angel announced, completely ignoring the comment, "we will launch in order on my mark."

Blair drew a deep breath and closed his eyes. Gone were the jitters of the preflight checklist he had battled with all through the Academy. In their place was an odd sort of connection with all things. His directional control stick, thrust adjusters, even the coordinate entry keypad were no longer instruments of control so much as they were parts of his own body. He had discovered a harmony with all of the complex systems that allowed him to thrust, juke and dance through the void of space as if he were actually running and jumping through the grass as a child.

He allowed the HUD eye-lens to flip into place as it always did to verify launch coordinates quite confident that he would be able to blast his Rapier into space without the plethora of special data it supplied him with just as easily. How long had it been since he had first tried flying without the aid of the Merlin interface, choosing instead to absorb the constant flow of crucial data from his ship's computers at his own pace?

"You're up Pilgrim," Angel said in her usual authoritative tone.

"Roger," Blair replied as the flash of blue light of the ships' magnetic field passing through his ship's canopy approached, "Pilgrim launching."

The weightlessness of space enveloped him despite the fact that neither his flight suit nor seat restraints gave enough to allow him to move physically. It was something he could just sense, sometimes even through the artificial gravity generators on the Tiger Claw.

Angel was the last to launch, directly after Blair and quickly scuttled her Rapier into formation around the much-larger drop ship before them. The entire fleet looked terribly insignificant against the swooping scope of green swirling clouds before them. Low planetary orbit was always an absolute sensory overload after one became accustomed to the bleak, lightless expanse of deep space.

"And we're away," came the voice of Cowboy, the drop ship's pilot. Coinciding with the announcement, the drop ship's massive thrusters lit their flairs of pale blue energy, indicating the escort group to follow.

Blair had been assigned the right rear position, opposite Angel and in front of him to the right of the drop ship's nose was the Rapier of Cheetah. Maniac was out of sight, positioned at the larger ship's left fore position but Blair had little doubt that visions of Cheetah's cleavage before zipping up her flight suit were occupying a majority of Maniac's attention rather than the task of smooth atmospheric entry at hand.

Passing through the planet's ionosphere resulted in the usual communicator blackouts and electronics distortion but Blair powered through it with what seemed to be a lot less turbulence than the others. The five craft held a tight textbook formation in the moments the pea green clouds parted to allow visual contact.

"Keep em peeled," Maniac announced through the communicator. "We're a bit high yet but something tells me the bugs know we're coming."

"Truly," Angel added, "visual range expected to be compromised due to the abundance of sulfur and magnesium in the atmosphere. Be sure to keep personal life support systems active at all times in the event of a breach. This shit will kill you just as quickly as if you were out in space."

"Maybe quicker," Cowboy corrected. "The conditions are all over the scale, thermal pockets and acidic storms seem scattered about in all directions."

"You heard the man," Angel added. "Watch your scopes for the first sign of these things."

"Shouldn't the long range scanners be picking them up by now? Cheetah asked.

"Hmm, possibly," Angel answered. "But it's also possible the acidic nature of the clouds is interfering with the sensors' ability to lock a biological feed. Just keep your wits about you, all of you."

Blair was equally concerned with the lack of sensor activity. While he had been becoming steadily less dependent on the ship's guidance and control systems of late, picking up and isolating biological signatures demanded a skill set well beyond his own capabilities. Navigating the fabric of space could be done with mathematical deduction. Perhaps Pilgrims then, were simply better at taking the billions of calculations required to truly understand one's position in space and to apply those variables to end up some place else. It was difficult for him to even try to rationalize the concept of how he was able to do what he could into conscious understanding yet it simply felt so natural to him, so right.

So then the rumors of Pilgrims honing their skills to the point that they could detect and decode the mathematical presence of everything around them, even other living things, wasn't too unreasonable. To become more in tune with such things would indeed be a worthy ambition despite the fact that at the moment his Rapier's empty screen space reserved for the confirmation of life forms mimicked his own inability to sense anything below.

As the cloud cover broke up, the vast expanse of the landscape came into view, it's ugly gray rocky surface all but featureless save for pocks and craters from countless meteor impacts throughout time. Cheetah's announcement came through just as Blair noticed the same thing.

"We've got visual contact," she said. "Looks like they move in large clusters."

Quickly appearing before them were large herds of the creatures. Armored in slightly glossy shells of black and gray, they pushed their way in groups across the barren landscape, mouthparts undulating wildly as they moved.

"Of course," Angel said, breaking Blair's focus on the hideous display below them. "No thermal registers because they're cold blooded. Body temps matching the ambient."

"And their shells are thick enough to mute biochemical electrical pulses," Cowboy added.

"If you want the ships to read them, set for motion detection only," Angel concluded.

Blair contemplated flipping the switch to set for motion detection tracking well aware that Angel was right about the benefits for target tracking the creatures below then pulled his gloved hand away from the toggle. Limiting himself to such a narrow range of sensors didn't feel right.

"Okay," Cowboy announced, "drop zone approaching in twenty-five seconds. Clear me an area down there, Angel."

"Roger," Angel replied. "You know your formation, ladies."

The four tiny Rapiers throttled up and quickly overtook the drop ship. They continued their violent descent toward the ground only to level off the noses of their craft at the last possible instant before impact. Large plumes of gray dust rolled in their wake. The formation of ships spread out in delta formation; Maniac and Cheetah leading side by side and Angel and Blair representing the two corners of the rear of the triangle.

The Entheran were everywhere, passing below them in streaks of shiny black and silver.

"On my mark," Angel said, "three, two, holding. Fire."

Blair pressed the launch release, sending the twin alliprine-tipped missiles ahead of his cockpit trailing great plumes of white smoke. His pair joined the other six a moment before impact. The world momentarily flashed then was immediately awash in wall of rolling smoke.

"Pathway opened," Angel confirmed. "Cowboy, you are clear for set-down."

"Acknowledged, approaching now."

Blair peeled right slightly behind Cheetah while Maniac and Angel turned off in the opposite direction. The drop ship touched down just as the smoke and dust of the explosion finally began to clear.

Blair couldn't see the happenings below his already-ascending craft but recalled the briefing stating that the drop ship was to dispatch its marine unit immediately to set up a long-range alliprine dispenser unit then dust-off the instant the troops were back on board. It would then tail the Rapier wing back to the Tiger Claw.

Lieutenant Blair's heads-up-display lens flashed just as they passed into the swirling green clouds. A glitch perhaps, due to the magnetic disturbance of the alliprine dispenser's activation?

"Angel, you pick that up?"

"What is it Pilgrim?"

"A blip on the HUD."

"Negative, I'm showing nothing. Cheetah?"

"Negative Wing Commander, scopes are all clear."

"Maniac?"

"My screen is as empty as the bottle of scotch in my quarters."

Blair saw it again; only this time he caught sight of a dozen separate objects, closing fast. What he was looking at registered only fractions of a second before the cloud cover broke enough to confirm what his ship was reading. Kilrathi!

TWO

"Kilrathi," he shouted, "switch your scanners back to full spectrum! The motion tracking is why you couldn't pick them up on long range."

The tight formation of the Rapier Wing shattered into a melee of craft darting off in all directions. The Kilrathi wasted no time engaging, their sleek KF-100 Dralthi fighter craft opening fire before even locking on to individual targets. They were outnumbered three to one worse still the alliprine warheads they had fired off on the planet's surface meant only neutron cannons remained for ship-to-ship combat.

Blair instinctively performed a steep arcing loop and flipped his weapons toggle to guns, which immediately sent the target-lock symbols dancing across his HUD. In the vacuum of space the Confederation Rapiers had the edge over the Dralthi but in atmospheric conditions, the opposite were true. Here the angled and complex wing pattern of the Dralthi units served to cut through the planetary gases with laser-like precision while the Rapiers required extensive hull modifications to simply tolerate the density of atmosphere. This was why their mission entailed clearing a path for drop ship then immediate retreat back into space.

"Stay loose," Angel advised over the communicator. "Don't bunch up."

A pair of the attacking Dralthi zipped through the melee and disappeared into the clouds below them.

"The drop ship," Blair called out as the mental connection clicked. "Do we pursue?"

"Negative," Angel said without hesitation. "We attempt to keep these Dralthi from returning to their Dreadnought."

"Roger that," Blair mumbled, feeling conflict erupt within him. If the Kilrathi managed to destroy the drop ship and it's cargo, the entire mission would have been for nothing.

His ship's alarm sounded, snapping him out of such concern. The Dralthi on his tail had established lock and began firing laser cannons. With a tight barrel roll and drop in elevation, the blasts of energy passed all around Blair's Rapier without connecting. He slowed then began a steep climb in coming out of the roll, now nearly directly underneath the Kilrathi craft that had targeted him. Not waiting for his ship's targeting system to lock onto the mark above him, Blair unloaded a fury of white-hot energy bursts from the frontal neutron cannon of the Rapier. The Dralthi erupted in fury of flame rolling smoke an instant before Blair's ship tore through the explosion, trailing flames and glowing particles from the Rapier's wings in the process.

He leveled out in time to watch Angel roar past, a Dralthi in hot pursuit. Without thinking, he again unleashed a burst of neutron fire, this time merely nicking the Dralthi's aft stabilizer in the process. The Kilrathi craft was knocked off course, now trailing a heavy plume of black smoke but regained its composure at it sailed by Blair's cockpit.

"Angel you've got one locked," he announced as he looped around to get behind her pursuer.

"I see him," Angel said. "Relentless little bastard."

From his new position behind the line, Blair waited until his ships sensors established a strong lock before firing so as not to risk inadvertently hit Angel's ship. He peeled off only after his neutron bombardment completely obliterated the Kilrathi craft.

"Thank you," Angel began when a nearby explosion cut her off. Blair saw Maniac spring around the wake of heat and radiation left by another downed Dralthi.

"You see that Chris," Maniac boasted with a smile Blair could feel even through their facemasks. "That one was for Rosie."

"They've got missile lock on me," Cheetah shouted before Blair could even acknowledge Maniac's accomplishment. "Somebody, get them off me!"

Blair scanned the melee: craft darted in all directions, as did stray cannon blasts. The already soupy appearance of the planet's atmosphere was now heavy with lingering smoke. He spotted Cheetah's Rapier some distance below the moment one of the twin Dralthi pursuing her had fired its missile. Powerless to stop it, he could only watch in slow motion as the angular dart closed the gap between the ships and connected with Cheetah's in a fireball of intensity.

"Eject," he had managed to shout just before the missile reached her. Had she managed to do so in time, he was unable to tell. In a surge of emotion he dropped down through the murky mist of a cloud and targeted the Dralthi closest to him.

"Come on you son of a bitch," he muttered while the target lock icons came together before him on the HUD. He got tone to fire and clicked the button on his control yoke when a shot that must have originated somewhere from his upper left caught his Rapier's left wing soundly. The impact was tremendous and he felt the awful vertigo of plummeting immediately.

His Rapier was spinning violently as it dropped through the layered clouds, making it difficult for him to even lean forward enough to pull the eject lever. The blackness of blood leaving his skull had tunneled his vision by the time he managed to give the lever a sound tug. His cockpit capsule blasted away from the damaged spacecraft where, with the help of massive retrofitted parachute, he began a slow descent toward the bug-infested land below.

THREE

Despite what Blair perceived as a gradual descent through the lower atmosphere, his Rapier escape pod came to harsh touchdown that included the sliding and rotating of the small canopied-dome across the rocky surface. A plume of gray dust had been kicked up in the process and was quickly carried off by swirling currents. Out of habit, Christopher Blair tripped the pod's locator beacon and swapped his C-512 combat helmet's air mask with the full coverage face shield. The hose of the C-532 life support pack gave out a soft hiss as he connected it to the side of the helmet. The face shield fogged momentarily until the first blast of oxygen pushed its way inside.

His only hope for survival would depend on getting to the drop ship before it blasted back into space but it wouldn't be easy navigating the featureless terrain with the bugs crawling about. He had a pair of 100-round caseless clips and a C-244 pistol but such weapons had been proven useless against the Entheran. He had heard rumors of exoskeletons so dense that military grade beryllium-carbon alloy blades would snap like twigs if forced.

The plated glass of his cracked cockpit shattered and was taken by the rippling currents the moment he manually released the hatch. The change in temperature was severe enough to be felt right though the C-524 armor. His boots struggled for traction on the large rock plates with a coating of loose gray powder. The place seemed devoid of water but strong eddies kept the visibility to a minimum.

Headed in the direction he believed the drop ship to be, Blair was startled then relieved when the downed pod, complete with flapping parachute, of Cheetah came into grainy focus.

He sprinted to the site, and found the pilot yet inside her escape pod. She drew a C-244 firearm of her own when he tapped on the glass of her Rapier's detached cockpit.

"It's me, Pilgrim," he announced through the helmet's short-range communicator. "It's all right, are you hurt?"

"My ankle's giving me pain," she replied, "but I don't think anything's broken."

"Good. I'm going to need you to activate your pod's locator beacon and exit the craft. Our only hope of getting out of here is hitching a ride with the drop ship if it hasn't launched yet."

The seal of her pod hissed then flung open a moment later. Her canopy was in better shape and held together while she dismounted with a hand from Blair.

"My ship's sensors were pretty well in tacked and I've been monitoring for launch activity. It doesn't appear the drop ship's left yet."

"That's great news," Blair said with a sigh that was audible even over the communicator.

"I couldn't get a lock on its position though with all this interference. Looks like we're on our own in terms of locating it."

Blair frowned beneath his tinted visor. The rotating and flipping of his escape pod before touchdown had managed to scramble any sense of orientation that remained prior to the dogfight with the Kilrathi. There were canyons on the Northwesterly horizon that looked similar to the range outlining the drop ship's landing point but positively identifying such vague terrain features on a continent full of them would be nearly impossible.

"Think we should just wait it out near the pod with its locator beacon activated and give them the six-hours until life-support runs out to send a rescue craft?"

"No," Blair answered after a moment's deliberation. "The locator beacons, just like long-range communicators, are pretty much disabled due to the strong electromagnetic poles of the planet. I touched down a few clicks from where you landed and couldn't detect your beacon."

"These Rapiers really aren't made for this inter-atmospheric shit are they?"

"Not at all," he replied. "You saw the trouble we had engaging a small Dralthi squadron. We would have turned them into dust had we encountered them in space."

Basing their trajectory strictly in instinct, Blair led Cheetah north to follow the distant wall of rocky canyon. Visibility refused to improve and it wasn't long before both pilots were weak and thirsty.

"They really never covered these situations in the academy," Cheetah said.

"No that they certainly did not. They made it seem like we would move the marines into positions like these then rendezvous back with the fleet until evac."

"Drop and mop my ass," she said, causing Blair to chuckle. "I'm Bethany Ogden by the way."

"Christopher Blair. You must have been one of the Lieutenants who transferred in from the Leopard Pelt huh?"

"That would be me. Transferred from one Bengal-class carrier to another in only my third month of active duty.

"It really speaks highly of your XO's faith in your piloting. They say a transfer to the Tiger Claw is a sort of promotion in and of itself."

"It sure doesn't feel like a promotion from where I'm standing."

"Yea, I suppose it doesn't. Well if we get out of this one alive, you might want to see about putting in for a demotion immediately."

"It will be on Deveraux's desk the moment we dock."

After walking for three-hours, the canyons seemed no closer and there was motion all around in the dust. The Entherans were stirring.

"We've only got four-more hours of life support," Cheetah announced breaking what had been at least an hour of radio silence. "Three on the main and one ancillary."

"I was really hoping we would have located the drop ship by now," Blair replied, swallowing down a surge of anxiety that threatened to well up in his chest. "There are just so few terrain markers here."

"Look, behind you!"

He wheeled, feeling the familiar grip of his C-244 fill his palm before completing the rotation on his heels. The menacing form of an Entheran appeared in the blowing dust and then beside it another, then two more. He froze, the weapon aimed at the massive creatures before him.

They were far more intimidating that holo-texts and even fly-bys could have portrayed, with large domed carapaces of silver and black. Their underbodies were a mass of writhing limbs, moving in odd rhythm with pincers of glossy black barely extruding from the front section. They had no eyes that Blair could see, but their mouths, gaping black orifices lined with dripping clear saliva, clicked with alternating mandibles.

The creatures, each twice the height of a man and nearly as wide as a Rapier, gathered before them but seemed content to observe from a distance.

Cheetah had her pistol drawn as well, but each knew that if the creatures before them decided to attack, they would be powerless to thwart it.

"Do we run?" Cheetah whispered.

"They've been tracked at 29 kilometers per hour. They would overtake us quickly if they decide to pursue."

The closest Entheran reared back slightly, exposing a flash of it's complicated underbelly. Cheetah instinctively fired, a flash of orange meeting the animal's shell with a rain of sparks. The targeted area glowed like an ember for a few moments then dulled to it's usual black luster but otherwise gave no indication of the gunshot.

Bracing himself for the inevitable slaughter, the first Entheran turned and slowly vanished into the haze. A second followed then a third until all that remained was one of the creatures.

"You don't think they mean for us to follow?"

"They didn't attack, even after I shot at them," Cheetah said.

Blair holstered his weapon and fell in line as the last of the creatures turned away from them.

They barely managed to keep the advancing bugs in sight even at a steady jog and their path felt like it had circled back on itself multiple times. But hunger, thirst and disorientation had eroded away any confidence Blair had in his ability to navigate the terrain.

Then slowly the bodies of fallen Entheran came into view, first a pair, then half a dozen and before long at least several hundred. They lay scattered about randomly, hollowed shells and disconnected body parts; clearly a result of connective tissue having been dissolved from within.

The parade of living Entheran led the pilots directly down the center of the carnage toward the mangled corpses of the marine unit scattered around the yet-grounded drop ship. Blair's heart skipped a beat.

The corpses wore signs of death resulting from a firefight; blast holes tore directly through the armor that looked very much like those of the wing mounted laser cannons of a Dralthi fighter.

"Looks like the Kilrathi got them all, even Cowboy," Cheetah said solemnly.

Indeed the face shield of their fellow pilot has been shattered in the melee, revealing his grimaced scowl and sand encrusted eyelids.

"Seems like the drop ship is undamaged though," Blair said, noting the lack of physical damage to the hull. "Looks like we can pilot this thing out of here."

"And what of them?" Cheetah asked, implying the Entheran survivors. "It looks like the marines were unable to activate the disruptor array before the Kilrathi attack."

Blair glanced at the creatures that had led them to the ship, to their salvation. They gave off no signs of intelligence, of reason, of understanding and yet there was undoubtedly a connection there. These weren't the violent mindless killers the Confederation depicted them as and nor were they the initial enforcers for some Kilrathi planetary occupation scheme as intel had clearly mistakenly reported.

In fact their crime, and the only connection shared with Terrans, Kilrathi and every other life form of the Universe was the will to live. Blair set his pistol to burst mode and aimed at the complicated electronics cluster of the disruptor array. He fired repeatedly, reducing the weapon into a pile of charred fragments that slowly burned in the gray sand. It was as close to an apology as he could offer the Entheran for their help.

FOUR

Bethany Ogden was a small blond figure with bright blue eyes and a warm smile that seemed to warm the drop ship's cramped cockpit as the layers of soupy green atmosphere passed outside the canopy. Once in the upper atmosphere, Blair was able to contact the Tiger Claw and relieved at the confirmation that Angel, Maniac, Calico and Dancer would be dispatched on an intercept course to escort them into the flight deck. It was more procedural now, than an act of genuine concern considering the Tiger Claw, with some help from the 88th Fighter Wing dropped the Fralthi-class cruiser responsible for dispatching the Dralthi squadrons after only 52-minutes of actual combat.

It would later be determined that the Kilrathi were in the early stages of building an outpost on a small island chain off the primary continent's southernmost tip and didn't appreciate Confed's snooping around. Once their Fralthi was destroyed, a Sivar-class Dreadnought was sent to the Vega sector to eliminate the remains of the outpost 72-hours later. Though Confed's interest in the matter had been dissolved the moment the drop ship containing Pilgrim and Cheetah touched down on the Tiger Claw's flight deck, Blair was confident the Entheran populous was quite unaffected by the Kilrathi's final visit to V123.9, though he couldn't quite describe the reason behind his confidence at the time. It would be many years before he would discover that Pilgrims possessed an intimate bond with all life forms regardless of the physical distance between them.

And Lieutenant Bethany "Cheetah" Ogden never did get around to requesting transfer back to the Leopard Pelt even though it had become an ongoing joke between her, Blair and the remaining members of the 88th Fighter Wing whenever the incident on V123.9 was brought up.