"Eagle's Nest"

Dedicated to the pilots of the F-15 challenge ladder!

"Bear's Bane!"

He stood at the end of the tarmac in a formal "At-Ease" position, clipboard in hand, brim of his scrambled-egg adorned hat pulled low over his eyes, overcoat buttoned to the neck, shoes highly spit-shined (as they had been since his second day at The United States Air Force Academy), and stared fixedly at the approaching
landing lights in the distance.

He noticed the wisp of black smoke before he was able to actually make out the form of the Eagle fighter. The ever-present furrows in his tanned forehead deepened, and blood was subconsciously forced from his pressed lips. The thought of another damaged fighter on the base infuriated him. He knew who the pilot of the floundering craft was, but any need of personal concern escaped him as his anger mounted.

As the wounded fighter passed overhead, Bear snapped to attention and in his ingrained military protocol, executed a smart about-face. The heels of his shoes clicked loudly as he brought his feet together
again. His lips hardly moved as he whispered "At-Ease", and snapped quickly to the formal stance again. He never lost sight of the fighter in his maneuver.

He noticed that the tail section of the craft was seared black, and the once brightly colored feathers painted upon the tail of Goshawk's craft were singed away. Only one engine remained in operation, but smoking from damage.
As the tires screached upon touching the runway the puff of white smoke stood out starkedly against the black smoke from the engine.

"Damnit!", he muttered to himself, "No "Snake-Fangdango" tonight!"
His state of anger doubled as he realized that his favorite meal would be yet postponed again. Although he turned his head in the direction of his driver (who stood at attention by the parked dark-blue Dodge Stratus sedan at the edge of the runway), Bear's eyes never left the fluttering Eagle.

"Have Goshawk report to my office as soon as he drags his ass outta the remains of that aircraft!", he ordered.
"Yes, Sir!", answered Gizmo, the newly assigned driver.
"He only flew against Coyote, for chrissake! It's time he went up against a real pilot, and get a taste of what flying is really all about."
"Yes, Sir!" repeated Gizmo, fresh from his intensive "silence" training at St. Francis of Assisi's Monk Seminary. "Goshawk vs Bluejay it is, Sir!"
"He's gonna fly these top guys until he locates that meat!", Bear insisted.
"Yes, Sir!" echoed Gizmo as he briskly climbed into the sedan, and raced away after Goshawk's damaged aircraft.

"Hmmmmmmmm", thought Bear as he watched the Dodge disappearing down the tarmac, "that boy needs just a tad bit more training."

His lips hardly moved as he whispered "Attention". The heels of his shoes again snapped together. He stood monentarily at attention, hands clenched at his side, clipboard still in hand.

"Forward, March!", he whispered and smartly began marching in the direction of his office.

"Goshawk" vs "Nighthawk", the challenge:

The recollection of the hot walk back to base after a previous loss to "Sparrow-Hawk" was still fresh in Goshawk's memory. He felt saddened at the prospect of Bobbyboy40 and his older brother, Bobbyboy3, walking back to the base through the same desert sand and cactus. He had radioed ahead for the rescue copter to pick up the stranded pilot and WSO, and glanced at the chopper as it slowly drifted toward the fading sunset.
As his Eagle approached the airfield, Goshawk reduced throttle, lowered gear and flaps, and flipped off the master arm and radar switches. He couldn't shake the feeling that had been gnawing at him through most of the challenge with Bobbyboy40. Although the aircraft's radar and warning detectors were now switched off, his internal warning detectors were still giving him the sense of being watched. A cursory scan of the horizon revealed numerous broken clouds but no trace of any aircraft other than the chopper.

As the Eagle lowered to the airstrip, Goshawk was welcomed by the typical screech of tires on tarmac. As he reached to extend the speedbrake, however, he caught a brief reflection of light in the center rear-view mirror. The first thought entering his mind was the presence of a threat in the clouds behind him, at an altitude of 10,000 feet. A closer search revealed no visible aircraft, but Goshawk was not one to ignore his instincts. They had saved his "bacon" many times in the past!

Goshawk's hand moved quickly from the speedbrake switch to the throttle, and within seconds the afterburner's rumble and jolt rocketed the Eagle back into the darkening sky.

"There's someone there, dammmit! I know there is!!", he spoke to the WSO.
"Roger, Gos! Systems ON, vector 90 degrees, beginning TEWS scan mode now, sweeping, 6 bars!" responded the systems officer.

Goshawk made a hard 7g right turn, pulling hard on the stick and pointing the nose skyward. The stall warning indicator screamed it's mournful plea, but the pilot maintained this attitude until the WSO called out, "Bogie, 12:00, 10,000 feet, looks like a fighter, sir!"

As soon as Goshawk locked the aircraft with the radar, he could see the speed of the aircraft slowing and descending. The plane's pilot was obviously aware that he had been found out. Within minutes, Goshawk eased in beside a charcoal colored Eagle. The wingtips of the aircraft were barely inches apart and the discomfort of the occupants in the dark Eagle was felt even within Goshawk's craft.

"Who is it, sir?", asked the wizzo. "Why's he trying to be so stealthy?"
"That's Nighthawk, Lt.! He's been watching us for some time now!", Gos
advised. He looked at Nighthawk. Their eyes met!
"You been watching, Nighthawk!", Goshawk stated over the radio.
A brief nod of the other pilot's head confirmed.
"Next time I see you in the air, Nighthawk, I'll expect to know where and when!", Goshawk announced.

Nighthawk issued a brief salute to Goshawk, then sharply banked his
Eagle into a breaking right turn. The aircraft fell earthward, headed
back in the direction of the base.

"What was that all about, sir?" asked the WSO. "I think he's next, Lieutenant", answered Goshawk. He banked sharply left and followed his next opponent.

"Goshawk" vs "Nighthawk", After Action Report:

It had been laying in the sun most of the day, and would have been content to remain so, had it's heat seeking pits not detected the presence of an intruder upon it's space. To get nearer to it's prey, it wound sideways across the hot sand. It then waited, coiled, muscles taught with eager anticipation, and ever so uncommonly silent. When it struck, it did so with sufficient force to upend the unsuspecting rodent.

It then fed upon it's prey!

The rat was large for a desert species, but not so large that the serpent's unhinged jaws couldn't stretch over the swollen stomach. Most of the food left over from the officer's mess, and from below the windows of sleeping pilots had been a welcome treat for the rodent, except for the turnip and collard green scraps it found out behind the big building that housed the human species that called out all kinds of names and numbers into the wee hours of the mornings. This didn't matter anymore now, nor the fact that the rat didn't understand the ramblings on of the occupants of Bobbyboy40's hangar. The shock of the impact was enough to kill the animal, and the injection of poison from the serpent had not been necessary.

When the rat's body was fully swallowed by the serpent, the pit viper rested. As the shadows of the passing afternoon encroached and covered the snake's body, it remained lifeless, allowing the digestive functions to pursue their
course of action. It remained in the shade, although it's blood cooled, and it's speed of motion would be affected. Such was the world of a predator, and its prey.

"Goshawk" had slept for most of the day. He had stayed up every night since detecting Nighthawk's presence in the air the day of Bobbyboy40's fight. He had been intent upon learning something of his opponent and remained awake for countless nights, watching and learning. He was deeply sleeping, and unaware of the world surrounding him. He was a daytime hunter, not inclined to revell in the nightlife of the drivers of the black jets.

The fleeting image of Nighthawk's charcoal colored Eagle haunted his sleep. He only noticed the incidental "squeek squeek squeek" from his hangar during the restless times after the haunting image. The squeek's would be accompanied by an occasional "shhhhhhhh" from nearby, but he was not inclined to arouse himself enough to investigate. He was thankful for the crew who so meticulously cared for his Eagle, but sleep was sooooo inviting....

[Squeek], [squeeek], [squeeek], [squeeeeek] went the sound of a jack in the hangar area.
"Shhhhhhhhhhh!", came the voice again.
[Sqrueeeek] , [skreeeeeeek], [skreeeeeeeck],,,,,,,,,,,,

"Screeeeech! Scrawwwwkkkk!", called the goshawk upon spotting the intruder in its airspace. It's instincts had taught it well! "Screeeeeeeeeeeeek!!", it called in warning. The bird of prey watched the path of the intruder, a dark hawk, smaller than itself. He did not wish to attack it, by nature, but would not hesitate to do so if provoked, or if the bounty within it's
territory were threatened. The keen eyesight of the goshawk had seen it earlier in the day, but the nighthawk fled upon discovery.

The nighthawk had not tangled with a goshawk before. He was aware of this goshawk's food preference of chicken, so was not worried of posing a threat to the goshawk for what it had seen on the ground below. He was surprised that the
goshawk objected to his brief intrusion into it's territory. "Skraaaaack!" it called in response.

"Skreeeeeeeeeeeeeek", called the goshawk as it watched the smaller breed fly away towards the man-made structures in the distance, where the long lasting thunder often sounded. "ScreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeK!", it repeated, warning the nighthawk away from what it also had seen below..

[Skreeeeeeeeeeeeek], [skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek], [skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek], went the jack again.
"Shhhhhhhh", came the soft distraction to the fighter's slumber.

Both birds spotted it at the same time. Although they both had different angles of approach, they were set to arrive at their intended ingress point near the same time. They approached fast, flapping their wings only occasionally, for thrust to gain speed, but not wanting to attract any unnecessary attention or discovery. Their keen eyesight caught the slight movement of
the prey, who by now was resting peacefully in the shadows of the nearby sagebrush. The "killing toes" of the hawks quivered with the excitement of the pending kill and feast. Neither was aware of the other's presence now, only intent upon striking their prey with sufficient force and speed to render it helpless. They were also both keenly aware of the danger in their intended "fowl deed".

They struck almost in unison, each from an opposing angle. Goshawk struck first, the force of the impact enough to shake and loosen it's tail feathers. The "killing toes" sunk deep into the sides of the serpent, who recoiled and spun with confused contraction.

It had heard neither raptor, and it's sensory organs did not detect the approaching heat of the body of the hawk. It now was powerless to use the effect of it's heat seeking abilities, it's body too slowed by the coolness of the shade. The bird was upon it with deadly speed and effectiveness. Goshawk's claws grasped the viper immediately behind the now-lifeless eyes. A quick
plunge of the "killing toes" into the pit and neck of the sidewinder rendered it incapable of escape or attack. The snake died as quickly as it had struck and killed the rat. The feeding frenzy was about to begin!

"Goshawk" awoke with a start, covered by sweat, and not quite sure if the tightness in his chest was a result of the dream of a snake, or a recollection of his fight against Nighthawk.
"Nighthawk", he mumbled in his confusion.
He recalled the speed of the closure, and violence of the first impact of the sidewinder upon his opponent's aircraft. He was unsure if he had dreamed this or was recalling it from actual events. The mistress of sleep soon lulled him back to a state of deep slumber.

"Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, ok.", was only a hint of a whisper from the hangar area.
Skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek, skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek.

"Goshawk" was soon dreaming again of a deadly challenge. He thought fitfully
about rounds of attacks and release of pent-up furies.

The nighthawk struck almost immediately after the goshawk.

"Skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech, scraaawwwwkkkkk!" screamed the goshawk, upon seeing the nighthawk strike the middle of the snake's body. Fury filled the goshawk upon the arrival of the smaller bird. Both raptors now fully extended and began flapping their wings with enough force that their bodies raised quickly into the sky, clutching the snake and stretching it between them.

"Skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaack!", yelled goshawk, as the head and several inches of the snake's body ripped off, just ahead of the still-swollen mound of digesting rat. Blood and sinew sprayed upon the body of the smaller hawk, and the sudden weight of the snake's lifeless body pulled it earthward. The nighthawk struck the
ground. Round 1 was finished.

"Was it the spray of bullets that took him out, or the missile?", thought Goshawk in a spasm of fitfullness. It took longer to fall asleep this time, but the goal was accomplished with no interference from the noises in the hangar. His eyes closed and his breathing returned to a reposed pattern.

"Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. OK, go ahead." came the nearby whisper.
Skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek. Skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek.

The nighthawk tried desperately to raise again into the air. It then felt the impact of the goshawk again striking the body of the snake with it's full force. The battle for victory was again taken to the heavens, with both birds flapping and tearing the viper's body with their talons and teeth. Goshawk ripped another section of bloody flesh from the carcass, and watched as the weighty force of the sidewinder again caused the nighthawk to fall to the ground. He gleefully soared to a lonely spot to feast, and enjoy his victory yet again. Snake was not his preferred food, however. But, chicken pickings had been slim around the base since the arrival of the pilot the humans refer to as "Goshawk". The sound of the human's name carried no meaning. He did not, however, feel threatened by the presence of the loud silverish monster that carried this human aloft to share the sky with him.

He watched the nighthawk again rise with what was left of the snake.

"HUH?", inquired "Goshawk" aloud. He again awoke with a start and looked about the room. Everything appeared normal, yet he has the sense that something was amiss.

"Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.", came the whisper from the hangar.

"Goshawk" looked toward the door leading to the hangar, and saw the shirt of a crew member behind the door jam. He was quickly assurred that everything was ok, and he again sought the needed sleep. It seemed to him that although he could not
specifically recall it, round 2 was complete. He smiled with satisfaction as his body fell asleep.

The goshawk's appetite was not yet quenched. Besides, the nighthawk was trying to poach upon the goshawk's territory, and that was not acceptable to the larger hawk. It launched at the smaller bird and aimed at the small spinning circumference of
sidewinder. His senses told him to stay within close proximity of this nighthawk, in order to strike when the opportunity presented itself. As the goshawk dove straight at the spinning snake, trying to avoid the nighthawk's wings, it struck clumsily.
The snake's body was wrenched from the nighthawk's grasp, and fell to earth. Both birds flew apart from each other, aware that they were both at a draw for the next piece of snake flesh.

Goshawk dreamed of two Eagles fighting, but no victory yet as the thought faded from his brain. His last conscious thought was of a score of Gos - 2 Nighthawk - 0 and 1 draw.

Skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek, clunk, clack, tchhhhhhhhhhh, skreeeeeeeeeeeeeee,,,
"Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, fer chrissake", came the whisper again. So did the sleep.

Both raptors again aimed directly at the lifeless remains of the sidewinder laying on the hot desert sand. The nighthawk struck first, and raised the snake into the sky. The goshawk's aim was sure, and the force of the impact with the snake's body
tore it from the nighthawk's grasp. Additional drops of blood and tissue were flung across the wings and fuselage of the nighthawk's Eagle. "Goshawk" stirred in his sleep, fitfull at the new sounds from the hangar, but reassured at the recent image
of Nighthawk's Eagle exploding from cannon fire. Both bird and man were encouraged at the thought of another victory. "Goshawk" drifted off again to sleep, and the goshawk ate again from the section of snake. He watched as the nighthawk shook it's body in order to rid itself of the droplets of blood and tissue. Round 4 was finished, but some snake meat remained. Gos - 3 Nighthawk - 0 Draw - 1

Reeeek,reek,reek,reek,reek,reek came the sounds from the hangar.
"Shhhh, you guys almost done?" came the responding whisper. "Goshawk" did not stir this time.

"Skreek, skreek" called the nighthawk, winging quickly to the remaining section of torn snake flesh. The goshawk responded as if on cue, taking flight to beat the smaller bird to the prize. The goshawk reached the remains first, and not waiting to
grasp it with talons, snared it with a razor sharp beak. The goshawk quickly took to wing with the tail section of snake, now only several inches in length. The nighthawk, not an easy bird to defeat or intimidate, reared it's angry head and took
off in chase of the goshawk. The goshawk was rocked by the impact of the nighthawk with the sidewinder, but maintained hold on the flesh. The goshawk, slightly dizzied by the fight still left in the fiesty opponent, spun toward the smaller bird,
swinging the snake's tail at the nighthawk. The remaining sidewinder struck the body of the nighthawk, and a repeated spin of the snake by goshawk splashed the opponent with heavy droplets. The goshawk climbed into the sky, and watched as the nighthawk spun lazily toward the ground, then retreated into the fading sunset. Victory and the snake flesh had finally been conceded. The goshawk ate the fourth section of flesh. Nighthawk had eaten none. The territory had been secured!!

"LET'S GO!!", was the shout that finally awakened "Goshawk".
"What the hell?", he spoke to no one in particular as he searched the empty room. He rose quickly from the bed, however, when he heard the clatter of tools upon the floor of the hangar, and running feet leaving the large spacious building.

As Goshawk entered the hangar, he was shocked to discover that his big fighter had been jacked up and the tires had been removed. The wheels of his Eagle had been blocked by parking lot type "rhinos", and were sitting off to the wall of the hangar. A large padlock and chain hung from the rear fan blades of the big Pratt & Whittneys. Further inspection of the fighter revealed that the cockpit was bolted shut, and the stick had been removed. A note was taped to the side of the
cockpit. Goshawk read with trepidation:

To: Flight Officer Goshawk
From: Cmdr. "Bear"
Ref.: Fees in A-rears

The fees above are currently
where my boots intend to be.
You will not fly that ole' Mud Pup,
if you promptly don't pay up!
Your plane will be returned upon receipt.
And Gos, it seems I've lost my frozen snake meat?
You seen it?

Epilog of the Hawk's battle:

Droplets of blood and sinew were spattered across it's brow as it watched the other bird of prey take to the air, the middle section of the snake's carcass still dangling from Gos's beak, as he flew away from the Nighthawk.

It had been a long drawn out costly affair, with both sides gaining an edge at times. Neither one was willing to just up and quit the fight. The viper was too tasty a prize for that! Nighthawk followed closely behind, knowing that there was one weekness that the Goshawk always suffered.

The Nighthawk flew slightly below and behind the Goshawk, but the lead bird of prey was aware of it's presence. A furtive glance back over it's wings gave proof of the challenger's location. A cry of anger welled up from within, but was restrained by the unconscious knowledge of the food in it's mouth.

Darkness fell, and shadows stretching across the desert floor vanished in the fleeing light of day. When the Nighthawk saw that it cast no more of a shadow upon the sand below, it made it's move. From deep within the
wells of it's lungs, the Nighthawk gave cry to the distant mountains, a loud shrill challenge to the larger Goshawk.

The Goshawk fell victim to it's main weakness. It was never one to fail to meet a challenge, and the restrained scream of warning that had swollen it's own lungs, was expelled with a fury equalled only by a hawk of golden
splendor. The Goshawk screamed it's reply, a loud warning for the Nighthawk to retreat. In doing so, the reptile's carcass fell from the Goshawk's beak, and was quickly grabbed by the smaller, flightier bird.

The Nighthawk fled into the darkness, it's route of escape covered by the intermittent patch of sagebrush on the sand below. There were no more shadows to mark it's escape route. The Goshawk flew in higher and higher
circles, hoping to catch sight of the wicked little miscreant, but it was of no use. The Nighthawk had faded into it's namesake.

It was a pleasure flying with you, Nighthawk! You were a true sport, and a helluva tough fighter!

Hope to see you soon on a ladder, but not at my six o'clock, thank you very much!

--------> the hungrier peregrine!

"Goshawk" vs "Strike", the challenge:

The smoke from the mesquite cooker drifted ever so slowly towards the tonset hut in which Strike slept. He had a demure smile upon his face, perhaps dreaming about a "first time" with Mary-Jean out behind her father's garage. His nose started to twitch at the aroma of the cooking chicken emanating from the side of Goshawk's hangar, and as was always usual with this young warrior, matters of the stomach overtook matters of the heart. Matters of the heart would have to wait again. The memories of Mary-Jean dumping him for someone who was more sexually compatable had totally faded from his memory, as the thought of a meal possessed his consciousness.
"Mmmmm, chicken, barbeque'd chicken", he mumbled aloud. "Gotta have it!"
He rolled off the cot, and stepped into the bright sunshine of Janesland. Turning toward the aroma, he strolled to Goshawk's hangar. "Whatchacookin', Goshawk?" whined the hungry young pilot. "Yougonnashare [sniff]someofthatgoodsmellin'chickenwiffmeee [sniff]?"

Gos handed Strike a plate piled high with chicken thighs, with plenty of skin and little fatty pockets dripping their shiny droplets of melted saturates into the thick coating of barbeque sauce. Goshawk wore the stained apron and hat of a master chef, ready to feed the hordes which would undoubtedly be coming to the scene of this pending veritable feast. Strike thought not a second about a need to fly soon. He began biting the meat from the thighs, thoughts of Mary-Jean now a thing of the past...

Other pilots began drifting to the scene of the banquet, grabbing food and libations which were stocked in great abundance by Goshawk. Strike [munch munch munch] lost himself [gulp gulp] in the pleasure [munch munch] of the meal, assuming [munch munch] that Goshawk would also be too [gulp gulp] busy eating and cooking to pay any heed [munch munch] to the pending challenge.
"Time to go, Strike!" shouted Goshawk as he stripped off the sauce-stained apron and cap. The loud whine of the big twin Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engines began to fill the air, as the crews for Gos and Strike's Eagles prepared the craft for the upcoming challenge. Strike noticed with horror that Goshawk was wearing his flightsuit underneath, with his g-suit already strapped on. Goshawk ran to his aircraft.

"Goshawk" vs "Strike", After Action Report:

Strike swallowed the greasy wad of chicken, with streams of fat still running down his chin. He half burped, half "chucked" upon the realization that he was being summoned to his cockpit. Bear stood nearby, a clipboard in hand. He motioned briskly with a pencil, thrusting it over his shoulder.
"Let's go, boys!"

Round 1

Goshawk was already at altitude when Strike activated his radar equipment. Both planes charged headlong at each other, with neither pilot aware of what the other had in store for them. Both pilots hated the dreaded Sparrow missiles which were slung below their wings. Strike had just settled back into his seat after a refreshing passage of gas when the first of two
missiles struck his craft. His flailing Eagle made a black donut in the sky through which Goshawk's third missile passed.

Gos - 1 Strike - 0

Round 2

Strike decided to maintain a low profile after his last encounter with barometric and atmospheric pressure upon his overworking digestive tract at altitudes above 15K, combined with the dizzying effect of the F-15's propensity to twirl uncontrollably in a nose-down attitude after the titanic impact force of two Sparrows upon his craft. Goshawk spotted his
opponent at sagebrush altitude, and gave chase with all four of his Aim-7's. Shock overcame the venerable old dogfighter, as he watched all of the Sparrows plow into the ground, well behind Strike's aircraft. Strike quickly moved within missile R-min range, and began "Yogi'ing" with effect. Goshawk, in a hastily planned dive after the elusive opponent, augerred into a hillside. Goshawk had forgotten to confirm the retraction of his airbrakes. {KA-BOOM}

Gos - 1 Strike - 1

Round 3

Goshawk kept a close eye on his rear-view, testing the ability of his airbrake to go up and down as it is supposed to. Strike's aircraft blipped the screen at 80 miles, and closing fast. A check of the altimeter showed that Strike's hastily chowwed lunch was still having it's impact on the ability to climb above 10K without the gaseuos intestinal pressure exploding through the stomach wall, or perhaps following the path of least resistance. Strike did not want to chance clogging the air ducts of his
oxygen mask, and decided to stay low to the ground. He was testing his ability to turn at speed when his TEWS lit up, WSO started screaming in his ear, and his chaff counter began spinning too fast to monitor. He kissed the hillside at 500kts.

Gos - 2 Strike - 1

Round 4

This round was the most fun! After we both flew all over God's creation with no TEWS indications, I luckily happened upon a lazily cruising Strike, busting ass at bushtop level toward Gosland. I dropped down upon his six and quickly lit him up. Two Sparrows were "striking" their way through the hot ground level air. Only one thought was coursing through the electronic brains of the two missiles, "STRIKE STRIKE, STRIKE STRIKE!"

Meanwhile, inside Strike's cockpit, he had again settled back into
his ejection seat. The WSO again started sreaming into the rancid air
floating in the cockpit space between the two now-nauseous airmen.

"JEEZUSFRIGGIN'CHRIST, Strike!! CHAFF[cough] CHAFF[cough] CHAFF[cough]" yelled the WSO, trying hard to yell although he was frightfully aware that any exhalation of precious oxygen would result in a need to inhale the putrid air within the cockpit.

"Whad'ya have to eat all that chicken for?" He was horribly confused now as to what posed the most immediate hazard to his health, the air, or the missiles. [B O O M- B O O M]

Gos - 3 Strike - 1

Round 5

Gos launched three of his four missiles as the Eagles groped for unmolested air in their hot pursuit of the other. In the heyday of bells and whistles within the two separate cockpits, the pilots were not able to keep track of the missiles remaining on the opponent's aircraft. As Strike passed by me, I dropped to a position on his six, aware that I only had one precious missile left. I assumed he still had all, if not most, of his missiles, so decided to stay as close as possible. After approximately four miles of tail chasing at ground level, I decided that he must be out of missiles. I slowed and kept him in constraints as the distance between our craft widened to approximately 7.5 miles.

Missile #4 launched from Gos' racks when the triangle designator started flashing. I was unable to determine if the jolt to Strike's Eagle was a result of a missile impact with Strike's plane, or the sudden jolt of the aircraft due to the WSO's opening the canopy to air the place out. In any event, Strike was not able to correct the instability to his aircraft's path, and his chicken lunch was followed with a dusty 6.6 million million ton "Planet Earth" chaser!!
(Even "Koko" would have been proud to have conjured up that one!)

Gos - 4 Strike - 1

As Goshawk taxied back to the hangar, he noticed the ladder's pilots passed out around the litter strewn grounds next to his hangar. He exited the Eagle, and strode over to the only figure who remained standing in the area.
"This your fault, Goshawk?" asked the trenchcoat-clad figure of Bear.
"It is, sir!" Goshawk replied. "The fowl deed is mine, sir. Care for some, sir? Strikingly good stuff, sir! Shall I report how it happened, sir?"
"Just the facts, man!" mumbled the commander.
"4-1, sir!" replied Goshawk.
Bear turned and strode away. As Goshawk turned to return to his quarters he heard the report of distant thunder. "Good lunch!", thought Goshawk.

"Goshawk" vs "Coyote", the challenge:

Goshawk was tired! So godawful tired! He had been practicing his ACM for days. His abilities did not seem to be improving. He had expended all of his bag of tricks, and found himself no closer to a solution of the "Coyote Conflagration". He found himself walking in the darkness more often lately. The coolness of the night air, however, did not help in easing the confusion filled thoughts streaming through the old pilot's mind.

"How does he do it? How does he do it?", Gos mumbled.

The words came as a hint of a whisper, and Goshawk thought first about the line in that wonderful movie (the title escaping him at the moment), "build it and they will come".

"Huh?" said Goshawk into the darkness. He listened closer, ears pitched in the direction of the whisper.

"you must think like a cloud, grasshoppa", was what the words seemed to be saying.

Goshawk tiptoed into the direction of the voice, neither wanting to disturb the discussion, nor get discovered in the act of eavesdropping. The words became more clear as he neared Ninja's hangar.

"You must make yourself one with flight, grasshopper.", spoke the voice of an obviously patient Master in a soft slow monotone.

Goshawk held his breath, fearful of being found out, yet desiring to gain any benefit of the mind game and conscious awareness going on inside the hangar. He squatted below the window, listening intently.

"You must be like a cloud, drifting yet in control of your destiny, grasshopper."
"To own yourself to your destiny and ability is to know oneness."
"You are able to launch yourself to the heavens, unbraced by the bounds of gravity."
"You must visualize yourself as the master of your environment, in order to overcome these limitations you have imposed upon yourself, grasshopper."

Goshawk did not see the teacher and student, and did not hear any soft responses. But the intensity of the comments made it obvious that the subject of the instruction was listening and absorbing the words of wisdom being evoked.

Goshawk had flown against Ninja in the past, and found him a worthy opponent. The voice sounded strangely familiar to Ninja's but Goshawk knew that it must be that of a wise old grandfather. He summoned all of his inner strength, intent upon gaining a clear insight of the meanings of the spoken word. Goshawk knew that the words being spoken would hold the secret to the difficulties he had with Coyote. He decided to remain under the window, listen intently, and internalize the message of the old Master.

"Fly grasshopper, as if you lived only for flight."
"Become one with the universe, an atom of energy."
"You fly as you live, free of the shackles of this earth."
Goshawk would finally be able to defeat the fighter who seemed impervious to the forces of this earth's nature.

"Goshawk" vs "Coyote", After Action Report:

The night passed all too quickly. Goshawk began to imagine himself one with space. His thoughts were alone with solitude. He was at equality with Sidhartha, as the crew chief approached and informed him of the pending match with Coyote.

All trepidation was now a thing of the past. Goshawk was one with the universe as his Eagle lifted off, breaking the "bounds of earth" spoken by the Master of this furtive student. He would finally be one with energy, a mere wisp of vaporous cloud, as he climbed to the heavens. His thoughts were at ease now, and he realized that he had no need of the engines in this fighter, only the weapons therein. He could float and move as the wind, but needed the stark coldness of the weapons to simply apply the final solution to the "Coyote Conflagration".

He believed that he almost had no need even of the weapons as the fighters approached each other. Perhaps the teachings of the old Master had imparted an ability to destroy the opponent's plane by mere thought, with hardly an expellation of energy.

He began to visualize the opponent, and use the energy of thought to become the victor in a battle of the mind. He would try to defeat the Coyote by conscious energy. He was convinced now that he had no further need of the weapons at this time. He began to float like a cloud, at one with his presence of energy. He felt as if he was able to even stop in midair, so "one" was he with his surroundings.

He was totally at peace with his environment as the bullets from Coyote's plane tore at his fuselage and ate the fan blades of the Pratt & Whittney engines, four times in a row!!!!

As Goshawk returned to the base, having walked through the miles of desert heat, his consciousness was shaken by the sound of the voice he had invested himself in during the previous night's sojourn. He looked in the direction of the voice, and saw Ninja standing on the tarmac.

"You must do this, grasshopper!", Ninja spoke intently at something he held in his hand.

Goshawk watched as Ninja threw a small object into the air, and saw it flutter back to the ground. He looked at Ninja, and noticed the anger upon the face of his friend.

"STUPID GRASSHOPPER!" Ninja yelled. He strided quickly to the object laying upon the ground, raised his right foot, and stomped the insect with his flight boot. Ninja then turned toward Goshawk, and seethingly spoke.

"They make crappy pets, Gos!!"

Goshawk stood in amazement as he watched Ninja walk away, back in the direction of his hangar.
looking at the yellowish goo flattened upon the pavement, Goshawk became aware of the coincidence of it all. He felt like the grasshopper that he had become.


Nice match Coyote!

Goshawk vs Moose:

Bear was standing at the end of the strip, not believing his eyes. He removed his
cap, and rubbed the dry orbs, already red and hurting from staring into the afternoon
scorching sun. He looked again, but the vision still remained. He would not have
believed it had he not seen it himself.

The Eagle fighter was dropping for the landing, and although it appeared that the
plane wass right on track for a good beam-ride to touchdown, but still, the nose was
wavering a bit back and forth.

Bear knew that it was Gos's plane from the splash of feathers painted on the tail, but
he couldn't quite figure out what was wrong with the nose of the craft. There seemed
to be something there that did not belong, but not clearly discernible as to what it

In the Eagle, Gos was able to see the edge of the field above the hulking mass of the
nose, but it was hard, and he did not like having to raise himself up so high in the
seat. Ordinarily, he could see easily over the hud, but even that was now obscured!
What a battle he had. He had been in others as well, but never one like this. He
never had this kind of trouble bringing a victory home.

As the Eagle closed the distance, the hulking mass sitting atop the front of the
fighter became even more visible, but still not quite discernible.

The engine was trailing smoke, and that was a bad omen as well. Ordinarily, if
Goshawk's plane sustained sufficient damage to smoke, he would have to ditch it
and walk back to base. The plane neared, and came yet even lower in it's approach.

"Damn, can't be!", murmurred Bear. He was just beginning to recognize the mass
on the front of Gos' plane. As the Eagle roared past, Bear was able to see the
bungie cords clearly, strapped across the front of the plane, and the carcass of the
moose draped across the radar cowling. The antlers reached out to the side, creating
a vortex in the wind, which caused the plane to pull hard to the left, and raise the

Goshawk touched down, and taxied to the hangar.

By the time Bear arrived at Goshawk's hangar, the antlers had been mounted above
the opening of the hangar door.

Goshawk walked form the open door.

"Got 'im, boss! Took some doing, but I got him. Bugger tried to run me over with
these bloody things. Nice rack, don't ya think?"

The score was 4-2, and was hard fought. Alkl kills were gun kills, and only one
missile found any paydirt during the match from what I could see. Then again, when
one has a mad Moose rushing one's ass, and trying to impale one with those antlers,
one does not often have the time or inclination to be counting something as
insignificant as a silly missile, either!

Good match, Moose. You're a true competitor. You've improved a LOT!!



Bear's Last Stand

His place at the end of the tarmac is bare,
but the pilots recall his standing out there.
In snow and in rain, through dusty long days
he'd stand like a statue even though long delays
would pass among pilots who challenged and fought
to gain upper levels, "Top Gun" they all sought.
But this man, like a beacon of honor and of pride,
watched all results posted his fists at his side.
He watched and he waited for his "boys" to fly home
and he'd handle their "beefs" and let them all moan
about everything possible, under the sun,
yet through quite dignity, solutions would get done.

Bear wore this old coat, came down past his knees
that kept him quite dry, and stayed off the breeze.
Olive drab was the color, with patches and stars
the bottom half wrinkled from rides in the cars
that were driven by such gents as sargeants and "specs",
"Gizmo's" and others, most all of them vets.
But now that ol' tarmac stands cold and alone
for Bear has decided to retire and go home.
So now all the pilots who fly, fight, and vie,
for those great "Top-Gun" honors way up in the sky,
will ne'er forget how he showed them he cared
by the outstanding manner of leadership he shared.

Bear, take your honors you've earned on this base
through your lofty example and with never a trace
of ire, nor of temper, with bickering you were tough,
you showed too much dignity for that sort of stuff.
We'll miss your command and your staunch sort of pride
that you showed to us all, kept your feelings inside.
A shining example of how administrators should act
when the boys come flying back, tell them, "Just give me the facts!"

You will be missed, good luck to you!


This too, shall pass! The close of a challenge ladder:

He stood at the end of the tarmac, watching the distant hills, hoping to catcha glimpse, however brief, of the reflection of sunlight on a canopy. His ears strained to catch even a fleeting hint of the big Pratt&Whittney powerplant that powered so many of the Eagles flown from this once busy field.

But the only reply to his teaming senses was the distant echo of wind upopn the hills, and a lonely hawk's cry as it swooped for prey upon the desert floor.

The sun pounded down upon his skull, He turned and allowed his gaze to traverse across the sandy cracked surface of the runway. Areas once bright black with the residue of burned rubber from tons of aircraft dropping onto treadless tires were now a faded gray. Grass grew from the cracks getting slowly wider in it's heated surface of the concrete.

The names of the once proud pilots who flew here began to pass across the mind of the aging pilot. Names like Coyote, MadDog, Yogi, Fighter, Moose, Wolf, Taipan, and many others brought a smile to his face. He recalled the leadership of the Bear, and the sense of urgency in the eyes of all the pilots who flew and fought here. Peering out across the sand, he still could see the indents of footprints from all the pilots who trudged their way back to the base after having their planes shot out from under them.

He walked in the direction of his hangar. Upon reaching the front door, he slid it aside. The sounds of small feet scurried across the floor in the darkness of the inside. The light from outside seemed to shatter the serenity of the quiet solitude within. Goshawk noticed that the windows were covered with tar-paper, as of in preparation for demolition.

His plane, like a stone statue, stood in the center of the floor as it has for months before, when the ladder was at its peak. Off to the side he noticed a pair of Sidewinder missiles.

As he pondered the thought of his appointment to the ranks of the new F-18 Hornet group, if and when they ever get it flight worthy, he walked to the wall, picked one of the missiles off the rack, and took it to the outer wing hardpoints. He carefully mounted the weapon, making sure it was affixed correctly before grabbing the next one.

After the missiles were loaded on the plane, he climbed into the cockpit, and waited. "They'll return", he thought. "They may not stay long, but they'll return".

He decided to wait for the next pilot to arrive.

"If not, well, it's still more fun than the F-18 so far!"

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