Nevada, June 28th, 2013
Thaddeus Coulter stood outside smoking a cigarette while his best friend, Jeremiah Stills sent text messages to his wife Linda. As seasoned veterans in the United States Air Force, not much was really expected of them right now. The two had flown together in Iraq and Afghanistan, but now the former war was over and the latter was in its decline. That meant that men like Thad and Miah could spend most of their day messing around with the newbie pilots.
Of course, those newbies weren’t really pilots. With the new drone technology, guys like Thad and Miah were no longer relevant. They had been replaced by video game junkies disguised as members of the U.S. military. This did not really bother the two buddies though. Less real combat meant a better chance of making it home every night. Now that they were both in their mid-30′s, that was more important than the thrill of dropping bombs.
But they still missed that thrill sometimes.
“Tell Linda I’ll be home to see her and my kids in a little bit.” Thaddeus said, straightening his back to lengthen his five foot eight frame. He looked into Miah’s eyes as he stroked his hand through his medium length blonde hair.
“Man, don’t make me kick your ass.” Jeremiah smirked at his best friend. In the ten years they’d know each other, he’d heard that same tired insult hundreds of times. He looked back down at his white phone, which stood out in contrast to his almond colored skin. “You planning on coming over for dinner tonight, Linda is making her world-famous stir fry.”
Thad thought about it for a second. It had been two weeks since Jenny had left him, so he should be ready to do something besides going home and drowning in a mug full of rum, but he didn’t know if he could. Miah and Linda were a perfect couple, and seeing them together playing with their kids seemed like a torture that he was not yet ready to put himself through.
“I really don’t think….”. Thad stopped in mid-sentence as alarms went off in the compound. He dropped his cigarette, let out an ‘oh shit’ and ran into the control room. As him and Miah entered, newbies were quickly running to their computers, getting their drones on-line.
General Jefferson Anderson approached the two veterans. “We have no idea what’s going on yet. All we know is that 23 unidentified aircraft just flew in from the Pacific ocean and they are heading this way. We just alerted Washington. Our orders are to attempt to intecept.”
“Well what if we can’t intercept?” Thad blurted out. He was one hell of a pilot, but struggled with tact, one of the reasons he found himself single right now. He did not wait for the answer, he headed to station one, where he would coordinate seven of the drone pilots, while Miah took another seven under his command. Senat Singh, a fellow ex-Iraq pilot took control of the last group.
Thaddeus Coulter’s heart started pounding, a feeling he hadn’t had in combat in four years, and one he hadn’t felt at all since three weeks before Jen had left. ‘Twenty one drones versus twenty three unidentified aircraft’ he thought, ‘this is going to be one hell of a thrill’.