Ghost in a C5 Fighter Jet
It was a foggy night, it had been raining all day. The sun had set about two hours ago, and I was watching TV. I decided to stretch my legs, and I noticed that the rain had stopped as I peered out the french doors overlooking the deck.
I went to the kitchen, and got a cup of coffee. Then I put on my jacket so I could go outside. I smiled as I slide into the jacket, as it was my favorite one. It had a logo on the front, special to the few of us that make up an elite squadron. The squadron that was developed from the introduction of the C5 Corvette, and appropriately called "The C5 Fighter Jet Squadron".
After I got outside, I walked down the now trampled path to the entrance to the hanger. The concealed door activates upon my arrival automatically. After a security breach a few weeks ago, we all installed new security in each hanger that houses a C5 Fighter Jet. It was called the AMSP, which stands for "Automated Micro Scan Protection". This system scans the inner cells of the eye of each pilot, and identifies it along with voice patterns for a positive ID. There are two additional detectors that I cannot discuss, as they are still top secret. Let's just say, that the security of the perimeter and the hanger are "well protected" now.
I turned on the lights, and walked over to the control panel. Scattered around it were the remains of several new missile installation guides. On top was the new SSBTT that was designed in California, and shipped in and installed a few weeks ago by three engineers that retrofit our Jets as needed.
These engineers are great company to talk to. They work during the day for General Motors, and then as needed bring us all the design plans we need to keep our warplanes as up to date as possible. They share stories of the plants inner workings at Bowling Green, and have a lot of interesting stories.
As I take a sip of the coffee, I notice the garbage can that is almost full. In it is the remains of a meeting with the pilots from across the country. Several beer cans, and a few bags of chips, and a couple of empty Pizza Hut boxes. The guys in the service should be so lucky, I thought. Then came the flashbacks from Vietnam. It has been years since I thought about that war.
I was dreaming of a flight over the delta. We were about 6,000 feet up from the terrain, when a missile from nowhere hit our plane, and smoke billowed out of one of the plane's engines. It seemed like hours while we fought the controls, but only a few minutes past before we ditched our only ride home. We would spend the next three weeks in hell, before we finally got out of the jungle that swallowed us and the planes' wreckage up.
That is where I first met one of the C5 pilots, long before we would again meet at Bowling Green, Ky. He was a real hero, as he played a key part in us getting home again. And President Nixon gave him a medal for his efforts. I can still here the sound of the rescue plane coming as if it were real, and I was back there again.
I open my eyes, as I take another sip of coffee, and notice a blinking light on the wall above me. This green light blinks only when the tracking radar concealed in the forest of trees surrounding the hanger picks up a friendly aircraft. There must be a C5 Fighter Jet nearby! I sit down at the control console and fire up the operations system. As the banks of computers come alive, I look first at the North American Locator System. The NALS will pinpoint each of the C5 Fighter Jets and where they are. I was quite surprised to find each and every one in their corresponding hangers, meaning the tracking radar must be mistaken. As I continue to check the system for what caused the error, I recognize the all familiar local radar picking up a jet that is set up to land at the Tara field, our landing strip!
I hesitate, but turn on the landing lights at the strip to automatic just in case. Each pilot knows to hit his microphone button two times in succession in order for the automatic lights to turn on. I then secure the hanger, and jump in my jeep and head for the field.
I pulled alongside a small out building in order to stay out of sight. There have been past attempts to ambush us before, so I was prepared just in case. As I pulled out the hand held laser rifle that is still in experimental testing at the Air Force, I flipped the charge switch on, and turned the safety switch to expose the firing button.
Then I waited for the arrival of the Jet. I watched as it landed flawlessly, and slowly taxied toward the small out building I was near. A few minutes past before the LS1 powered engines were turned off, and the turbines slowly coasted to a stop. Several more minutes passed. Finally the clear top opened, and a man very slowly climbed out of the cockpit. He very carefully placed each foot firmly in place in the footholds as he climbed to the ground. Then he walked slowly around the Jet, as if he were admiring it for the first time. The landing lights continued to burn, but in order to see better what was going on, I turned on the spot lights above the outbuilding and it instantly illuminated the Jet and its' pilot. He turned around, and covered his eyes partly with his hand, and shouted weakly "Anybody out there?"
After a few seconds I answered "What are you doing here?" He replied "I'm looking for Racer Dan. I got a message for him from someone special. You know where I can find him?"
With reservation and my finger on the fire button on my rifle, I stepped forward just enough to cast a shadow and inquired from the man "What is the message?" He took his time reaching into his pocket. And he pulled out a large envelope. That is the first time I noticed the steam that was slowly drifting skyward off of the wings of this Fighter Jet. I also noticed there was another man in the cockpit. A man that had removed his helmet and had grey hair. I could see him fairly well in the light now. He looked to be an older gentleman. But he didn't represent a threat, I felt. Don't ask me how I knew that, but I just did.
As the man with the envelope walked toward me, the fog continued to roll in from the distance, and slowly surrounded the area around the Fighter Jet. I made out what appeared to be a Corvette Museum Logo near the cockpit window.
I reached out and took the envelope, and the man's face looked peaceful. I opened the envelope, and as I did I looked at the man in the cockpit one more time. I could still see him, but not nearly as clear, like he was slowly fading away. But I could make out a smile on his face. Then I read the letter.
On the top of the letter was a logo from the Corvette Museum, and then I recognized it was the Museum's stationery. It started out as a letter of introduction on the Fighter Jet in front of me. It talked of several systems I had never heard of, and told me there were manuals inside the envelope that would explain all of them. Then toward the bottom of the letter, it told me that the Fighter Jet was designed for the sole purpose of helping the C5 Fighter Jet Squadron to obtain its' goals of improving life on Earth for Corvette Enthusiasts everywhere. It was a gift from an unknown benefactor.
As I looked up to ask the Pilot who a gift this great was from, I was speechless. The fog that was just a few minutes ago surrounding the Jet was slowly receding from the field and was several hundred yards away. The pilot was gone. He had vanished into thin air! I quickly looked in the cockpit, and the older man with gray hair was also gone! How could this be?
I walked up to the Fighter Jet, and slowly walked around it. It had a beautiful paint job, it was a combination of red, white, and blue. The 4" wide blue stripes that covered the white base coat on the front of the jet wound around the fuselage, and down each wing like a ribbon. In the stripe was a white star every foot or so. The back of the plane was painted in red, with the blue stripe with white stars winding over it, too and as it reached the V tail they rose skyward.
I was getting weak in my knees as I continued around the plane. Then as I approached the engine compartment, something told me to open the cover. As I slowly unscrewed the fasteners, my curiosity grew. Who could have done this? I looked over my shoulder and still no body was nearby.
The cover lifted up and its support cylinder held it open on its own. I reached in my pocket and grabbed the pen light and pointed it to the engine as I twisted its lens to focus the light. Almost all of the engine was chrome, and it was all brand new. The Twin LS1's had been expertly assembled, as not a bolt or nut was scarred. Then I noticed the printing on the valve covers. I focused the light a little more and slowly read it several times. It said "Duntov Special".
I closed the cover and walked toward the cockpit. I climbed into it, and as I looked over the dash, I saw another letter, attacked by a string to the landing gear lever. It was also addressed to me. I opened the small white envelope, and read the card out loud.
It said: "Been a little bored until know. Got this great idea that kept me busy and happy up here. Use it well, don't worry about the weapons, this Jet is heavenly equipped, and you should be able to do your job much better now. Good luck on promoting the Corvette name."
It was signed with a familiar name I easily recognized. And it took my breath away as I read it out loud. "Zora".
I looked out the windshield, and I saw what I thought was the man in the cockpit earlier. He was waving at me from the edges of the fog. I waved back, and thought to myself. Save the wave. Zora.
The man turned, and then dissolved into the fog, and as I watched for several minutes, he never reappeared.
I pulled the tug up to the front landing gear, and quietly pulled the newest C5 Fighter Jet to the hanger, and after securing the hanger I walked back up the path to my home. I didn't sleep much that night. Every time I closed my eyes, I could still see the smile on the grey haired man in the fog.
Save the wave, support the museum. :)