Badger woke to the sound of the alarm. He reached over and picked up the clock from his bedside table and looked at the time. He’d slept for 4
hours. He tossed it onto the bed next to him and growled. He got up and stumbled to the shower. As he passed the mirror in the bathroom he gave his
own reflection the middle finger in retaliation for setting the alarm so early. After a hot shower he dragged on his flight suit and grabbed his
thermos. He stopped by the nearest chow hall and one of the mess orderlies filled his thermos for him while he drank a large mug of steaming hot
coffee and ate a piece of toast with butter on it. The mess hall was quiet and only one or two others were there.
Badger pulled a small electronic writing pad out of his pocket and began to go through checklists and paperwork. He had a return correspondence
from the security office. He’d thought he would need to get an ok from Neno on Abernathy, but one of Nenos’ officers had already processed the
paperwork and cleared him for transfer. Badger electronically signed the completion papers and put his thumb on the small screen to authenticate the
signature. The screen flashed blue and a fine yellow outline of his thumbprint appeared on the screen and faded. A few seconds later a confirmation
came back. Abernathy was now a member of the wing. Badger selected a few documents and went through the authentication again. Within a few seconds
Abernathy was a Warrant Officer, level 1. After evaluations they would see if he needed a bump in pay but this would do to start.
Badger took his full thermos of coffee and made his way to the security section and Abernathy’s’ quarters. He propped open the door and in
the light from the corridor walked down the narrow room looking at each bunk until he found Abernathy asleep in the bed nearest the bathroom.
Badger took a half step back and kicked the foot of the bed.
“Wakey, wakey.” He said to the startled Abernathy. “Let’s go flying.”
Two hours later, Abernathy was sitting in the cockpit of a two seater 337 fighter that the wing used for evaluations and special delivery of
important people. The wing had two such training/transport birds. They also worked well for long range recons and patrols. Other than the spare seat
and twin sets of controls they were identical in capability and performance to the other 337 series fighters. From the rear seat Badger went over the
preflight checklist and performance parameters on the bird.
The two hours since Badger woke him up had been the longest of Abernathy’s’ life. He’d had to get a flight suit and gear as well as ensure
it was all fitted and worked properly. He’d had to sign documents and get briefed on numerous things that were not only required but necessary
before flying. It helped that the wing commander had streamlined the process and signed off on everything but it seemed to take forever. Now Abernathy
was actually sitting in a fighter cockpit wearing the bars of a Warrant Officer and he couldn’t wait to fly. He’d been waiting for this his whole
life and had thought he’d never see it. Now he was so excited he was practically hopping up and down in his seat. In the back seat, Badger completed
“Any questions Nasty?” asked Badger.
“Just one.” said Nasty. “Are you gonna talk all day or are we gonna fly?”
Badger laughed. He keyed the outer door. The blue door marker lights ringed a field of stars that got bigger as the doors opened wider.
“Ok, we’re in a low profile situation so no burns over 30%, no fancy stuff and no launch rail flash. It’s a standard recon patrol on a stealth
protocol. Got it?”
“Rodger, I’ve got it.”
Nasty put his hands and feet on the controls and checked the status light on his console it was red. The controls were still set for rear seat
“Uh, Sir, Badger?”
“Are you going to let me fly this thing today?”
Badger waited a few seconds before answering. “Maybe. It depends I guess.”
“What happened at the academy that got you grounded ?”
Nasty hesitated. “I really can’t say sir.”
“That’s Badger, not Sir, and yes you can.”
“No Badger I really can’t.”
Badger pulled out his thermos and unscrewed the cap.
“I checked your academy records Nasty. They were first rate. No problems with flying, grades, fitness, capability, leadership skills, discipline,
nothing at all out of the ordinary. One might say that your record was exceptional, even exemplary.”
Nasty didn’t respond.
Badger continued after a few seconds. ”What I don’t get is why an officer candidate with such a fantastic record, has a letter in the same file
from the Commandant of the school that basically destroys a promising career. The Colonel actually wrote that it would be detrimental to the future of
any officer who signed off on a promotion for you or allowed you flight status, ever. That’s quite a letter.”
Nasty stayed quiet.
“Colonel Kloss wasn’t it?” asked Badger. “He’s a real piece of work .Never forgets. Never forgives. Maybe I’ll give him a call. ”
Nasty could see his chance at flying beginning to slip away.
Badger continued to speak as if lecturing a wayward child. “The Colonel didn’t bother specifying the offense that you committed in his letter.
This is highly unusual wouldn’t you say. I actually know Albert Kloss and can tell you that he is one of the most anal retentive, meticulously
detailed control freaks I’ve ever met. If he didn’t cite the actual infraction in the letter then there was a damn good reason for it wasn’t
Nasty kept his mouth shut. He was looking at the front controls indicator. It was still red. He looked out through the bay doors and stared at the
stars. He looked back down at the red light on his console.
“I can wait all day buddy. I’ve got coffee and a sandwich. That’ll keep me happy for a while. We can sit here or you can answer my questions.
I’ve got to know who I’m flying with.” Badger said as he poured a cup of coffee.
Nasty smelled the coffee and realized that Badger was prepared to sit there and wait it out.
Nasty finally said. “Yes, there was a good reason.”
Badger took a sip of his coffee. He unwrapped his sandwich.
“I know you are staring at that red light there on your console Nasty. I promise you this; it will never be green until you tell me what happened.
Why has Albert Kloss made it his personal mission to make your life miserable?”
“I’d really rather not say. He said he’d make me regret it if I ever told anybody.”
Badger took a bite of his sandwich.
Badger said “Not good enough Nasty. No green light for you. Want half of my tuna fish?”
Badger toggled a switch and the outer bay doors began to close.
“Wait, wait. Don’t close the doors.” said Nasty. I’ll tell you but you have to promise not to tell anybody. If it gets back to the Colonel
he’ll try to get me back somehow”
“Ok.” said Badger. “I will know as will one or two others who I can trust if necessary. Beyond that it will be kept secret. Now, spill it.”
Badger began to close the doors again.
Nasty, seeing the doors begin to close, blurted out “I went out with the Colonels wife.”
Badger stopped the doors. “Wait. What? You went out with his wife?”
Nasty sighed. “Yes, Sharon Kloss.”
Badger gave out a low whistle. “She’s got to be 25 years older than you. What, did you do, take her to the school formal or something?’
Nasty began to grin. “No. We were dating.”
“Dating, or rutting like rabid weasels?” said Badger.
Nasty shrugged. “More like the weasel thing.”
Badger tried not to laugh as he asked “For how long?”
Nasty answered. “Six months.”
Badger wasn’t really surprised but he still had to struggle not to laugh. Sharon Kloss was the Colonels uppity trophy wife and Kloss was an
uptight Martinet who was more worried about his career than his home life. It was all wrong and Nasty shouldn’t have done it but the situation was
What Nasty probably didn’t know was that Sharon was a well known cheat from way back. He hadn’t been the first and he wouldn’t be the last
to have a game of ‘poke and tickle’ with Sharon Kloss.
Badger got himself under control and asked “How did he find out?”
Nasty said “She told him.”
“Why?” asked Badger.
“Because I broke up with her to date a younger woman.”
Badger laughed so hard he snorted coffee onto the console. Nasty couldn’t help it, he started laughing too. They both continued to laugh until
Badger got a call from the flight control Chief.
“Commander Badger, is everything all right?” he asked.
Badger called back, still chuckling and trying to clean up the coffee, “Yeah chief. We’re fine. We’ll be taking off now.”
In the front seat Nasty saw the red light turn green.
Up in the flight center the chief watched the ship launch. He shut the outer bay door. On the wing communications channel he could still hear the two
pilots laughing as they started their patrol.
He turned around and smiled at a red faced Wally and bleary eyed Nora who had been there the whole time listening in as well.
They looked at each other grinning.
“Well,” said Wally”another high quality misfit for Team Psycho.”
“Can you believe that kid dated Sharon Kloss?” said Nora.
“Why not?” said Wally. “You dated Al Kloss.”
“He wasn’t married then!” said Nora.
“You were.” returned Wally.
The flight chief looked over his glasses at Nora. “Ah ha. So the sordid truth comes out!”
Nora blushed and punched Wally in the arm. “Big mouth.”
Wally put his hand to his ear and cocked his head to the side, “Hear that.”
“What?” said Nora.