Ben adjusted the seat of the simulator pod, pulling it forward as the canopy closed. No lights came on, at least not right away, but he didn't need illumination to strap himself into the replica of the cockpit of the plane that he flew for a living. He had the best job in the world. The only thing missing from this simpod was the little bobble head style hula girl that was superglued to the console of his real plane just between two and one o'clock next to his radar scope.

"Simulation ready," a vaguely feminine voice sounded into the earphones in his helmet, "Two forces."

"What do we get to shoot up today, Vaga?" That was a decidedly deeper and more masculine voice.

"If it's just us," Ben told his wingman, "I'm going to be insulted if it's anything less than four angels."

"Objective for both forces," the computerized voice continued, "is annihilation of opposing force."

"Yeah," Ben muttered as he grabbed the stick and throttle, "what are we annihilating today?"

"Red Team consists of two aircraft..."

"Just us?"

"Sounds like fun," Ben answered.

"Designation Red One," the computer went on, "F-39 Bodkin stealth interceptor. Pilot, Lieutenant Benjamin Montose, call sign Vagabond. Designation Red Two, F-39 Bodkin stealth interceptor. Pilot, Lieutenant Alan Spacer, call sign Mr Clean."

"How many?" Clean asked.

"Like I said," Ben replied, "anything less than four fighters and I'm pissed."

"Blue Team consists of one aircraft..."

"Just one bird? Against us?"

"Not only am I insulted," Ben said as he moved his hands away from his controls to cross his arms over his chest, "I'm already bored."

"Designation Blue One," the computer said, oblivious to the pilots' interchange, "F-41 Sabertooth command interceptor."

"We're fighting a fucking Sky King!?"

"I am no longer bored nor insulted," Ben said as he grabbed his controls again, his lips turning up into a grin behind his oxygen mask. Every modern combat aircraft was built for stealth except for one. The F-41 Sabertooth. The only two seat plane that the Cemeri Navy used for dedicated air to air operations, (hell, the only pure air to air plane in existence since even Bodkins could carry air to ground ordinance) the Sabertooth carried enough radar and other sensors (some of which Ben didn't even know about because he didn't have a high enough security clearance) to supposedly render stealth insignificant. Add enough communications gear and you get the next best thing to an AWACS little brother that can still hold its own in a dogfight with the best. The backseater handled all those wonderful toys and acted as a forward air combat controller, and they only let the best pilots drive a Sabertooth.

"Pilot," the computer went on, "Lieutenant Commander Michael Taney, call sign Royal Flush. Radar Intercept Officer, Lieutenant Commander Li Kuoyen, call sign Bruce."

"Flush and Bruce?" Clean sounded nigh incredulous.

"I guess those rumors were right," Ben answered.

"Simulation begins in ten, nine..."

"They weren't washed out after that crash?"

"...eight, seven..."

"Like they'd get rid of those two?"

"Six, five...

"They're as good as us!"

"Five, four..."

"Back when they were flying in separate planes," Ben said hastily.

"Three, two..."

"They acted like they had one mind and what do you think they can do together in a Sabertooth?"


"Simulation engaged."