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Dragonfly vs Monarch
Autumn Willow is a grad student at MIT. In her spare time, she co-pilots her grandfather’s B-17, a restored WWII bomber. Sasha Brezhnev is a pilot for the Russian Air Force flying the SU-57 fighter jet. She’s assigned seek-and-destroy missions over the Safandel Desert in central Anddor Shallau, where terrorists are covertly working to destroy the country’s democratic government. Rigger Entime is an engineer working on a CIA project to develop a tiny drone aircraft to be used in surveillance and possibly carry out assassinations of terrorist leaders.
Excerpt from Chapter Ten
In the air, over Anddor Shallau
Sasha and Nikita flew their Sukhoi SU-57 fighters at 5,000 meters over the Safandel desert, in central Anddor Shallau.
A block of static came from Sasha’s earpiece, followed by her wingman’s words. “Mogu li ya prisest’ zdes (We have visitors),”Nikita said.
Sasha touched the 360-degree display button on her stick. “Izvinite (Where)?”she asked.
“U menya vsyo normal’no (Ten o’clock low).”
Sasha tilted her head to her left and looked toward the ten o’clock low position.
Sensors inside her helmet picked up her head and eye motion, then displayed the lower left quadrant on the inside of her visor.
“Do svidaniya (I see them).” She zoomed her display. “Mogu li ya priset’ zdes (My radar did not pick them up).”
“Gde nakhoditsya tualet (They are just as stealthy as we are).”
“F-35C,” Sasha said.
Two blocks of static came back, confirming Sasha’s identification of the other fighters. “F-35 affirmative. Are they Israeli?”
“No, not the ‘C’ variation.”
“How can you know they are ‘C’?” Nikita asked.
“Tail hook. These bandits came off a carrier.”
“Carrier? Persian Gulf?”
“Must be American, and they are a long way from home,” Nikita said.
“Their range is approx twenty-two hundred kilometers.”
“The gulf is over nine hundred clicks south of here.”
“Uh-huh.” She watched the F35s fly under her at 500 meters altitude, then they started a slow rotation to the west.
“If they came off a carrier in the Gulf,” Nikita said, “they have to be low on fuel.”
“Let us find out.” She checked Nikita’s position—twenty meters off her right tail fin. “Come up on my right wing, and stay there.”
Sasha rolled over onto her left wing, banking down and to the south.
Nikita stayed with her like a silver shadow.
Sasha watched the F35s on her visor display as they preformed an identical maneuver.
She smiled, then rolled to her back and dove toward the desert below.
The F35s duplicated her movements.
Sasha hit her afterburners. “Now, let us burn some of their precious fuel.”
Two blocks of static came from her earpiece.
She pulled out of her dive at 100 meters, scaring the hell out of three camels and stirring up a cloud of dust. She climbed her SU-57 straight up at 2400 kilometers-per-hour—almost three times the speed of sound.
Looking out the right side of her canopy, she saw Nikita give her an agitated hand signal, pointing to her left. She looked that way and gasped into her oxygen mask; the two F35s were flying in formation with her, just ten meters off her wingtip.
The pilot in the closest aircraft touched two fingers to his visor.
She smiled, gave him a salute, then pointed toward the sky.
He nodded and throttled up.
Sasha did the same.
As they climbed, he tapped his helmet, over his right ear. He held up two fingers, then five fingers, then two again.
She switched to frequency 252 on her radio. “Hello, Hotshot.”
“Good morning, Red One.” He pointed to the nose art on her aircraft. “What does that rabbit have between his legs?”
“We call that a missile.”
They stayed side-by-side for thirty seconds. The closest F35 had a tiger with flaming wings painted on the fuselage, beside the cockpit.
She checked her fuel gauge; the needle sank past the one-half mark and drifted downward.
Ten seconds later, the F35s peeled off, heading south.
Sasha and Nikita leveled off at 8,000 meters. She spoke into her mic. “Goodbye, Yankee tiger.”
Static came back, then, “See you later, alligator.”
“That is Miss Alligator. You run now back to carrier Reagan in Persian waters. Think you gas tanks come dry little bit.”