The Colonel was tired. He didn’t mind training flights. But this was a simulated combat mission. He and his other two crewmates had flown their B-47E 600 miles from Homestead Air Force Base to mimic a low altitude run into the Soviet Union. The mission had been successful as 02:00 approached.
The Colonel’s Stratojet was carrying a single transportation configured Mk15 Mod 0 hydrogen bomb capable of 3.8 Megatons. It was dangerous to fly an armed weapon over the continental United States. But the men of the Strategic Air Command had to train with transportation configured devices in order to get the “feel” for the real doomsday scenario.
The bomb was twelve feet long and weighed 7,600 pounds. That was close to the Stratojet’s maximum lift capacity of 10,000 pounds. The bomb itself contained 400 pounds of conventional high explosives and it had a highly enriched uranium core with a plutonium trigger. On detonation, the heat it would generate could turn ten square miles of landscape into spun glass. And the shock wave would flatten anything within a twenty-five-mile radius.
The Colonel was one of the Air Force’s best, an Instructor Pilot. He had flown so many combat missions over Korea in A-26 Invaders that he couldn’t count them. But the Stratojet was a different bird entirely. His B-47 was powered by six General Electric J-47 turbojets. That brought its top speed to almost supersonic. The only problem was that the thin wings, which gave the Stratojet its aerodynamic advantages, also made it a bitch to land.
But at this point landing was the least of the Colonel’s worries. His main concern was staying awake. For the millionth time he looked outside the bubble canopy. February’s night sky was lit up with stars. It was unearthly beautiful even though the instrument reading indicated that it was minus 70 degrees outside.
His copilot/flight engineer was behind him in the sleek bomber’s narrow cockpit. He was going through the standard checklist for arming the device. He was just not flipping the switches to actually do it.
The Colonel was thinking about the Valentine’s Day surprise that he had planned for his wife. The 14th was only a little over a week away. And the Colonel planned to hop on the overnight boat to Havana. Where he was going to spend a romantic weekend drinking, and dancing with the woman he had loved since the third grade.
He was just glancing over his right shoulder, when a black apparition slammed into the Stratojet’s starboard wing. The impact threw the bomber into a steep right bank and all hell broke loose in the cockpit.
The navigator/bombardier, who was enclosed in the nose of the aircraft, screeched over the intercom, “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT!!??” The Colonel who was dealing with a severely damaged aircraft at that point could only shout, “I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA.”
The co-pilot/flight engineer behind him said in strained tones, “It was an F-86. It slammed into the wing, bounced off and exploded. I think that whoever was driving it ejected!!”
The Colonel wrestled with the aircraft for an excruciating few minutes before he got it back to level flight. Then he and the co-pilot/flight engineer began to assess the damage. The Stratojet was a tough bird and it was continuing to fly. But all of the avionics in the starboard wing were off-line and the number four and five inboard engines were about to fall off their pylon.
The Colonel squawked a Mayday to Hunter AFB. The fact that the Colonel’s aircraft was carrying a potential “broken arrow” got the phone lines open all the way up to Omaha and General Lemay himself.
The Colonel told the boss that there was no way he could land the aircraft without jettisoning the bomb. Normal landings require the B-47 to come in “hot”. So at the best of times there was no room for error. With two of its engines shut down and God-knows-what damage to the flaps, they were likely to either overshoot, or hit the front of the runway.
If that happened, the bomb would fly out the front of the aircraft like a spit ball out of a straw. And Savannah might experience its own version of nuclear holocaust. So the people in charge were faced with two very unpalatable options. If they ordered the Colonel to land without dropping the bomb and the plane crashed it would kill the crew and in the process might create an atomic disaster. If they ordered the four-ton weight of the bomb to be jettisoned they would have a classic Broken Arrow scenario.
There was considerable discussion up the chain of command but even the remote possibility of a hydrogen bomb going off in downtown Savannah made the ultimate decision. The Colonel was given orders to drop the device offshore. The Stratojet circled out over Tybee Island and the bomb was jettisoned at 7,000 feet into Wassaw Sound.
There was no explosion so it was assumed that the bomb had just splashed into the shallow water of the sound. The Colonel then landed the Stratojet at Hunter and he and his wife celebrated a romantic Valentine’s Day 1958, in Havana.
The phone blasted Jordan awake. It was 3 AM. He felt around on the night table and mumbled, “What”. A parade of brontosauruses was marching through his head and his mouth tasted like they’d left their droppings. It had been another drunken night in DC.
Jordan had never been a drinker -- until recently. But the crushing sense of alienation and world-weariness that had come over him since leaving the Army was killing him. He had no direction in life. It all just seemed so utterly pointless.
He had been a hero once. Early in the Afghan War, Joint Special Operations Command had recruited soldiers with Jordan’s particular set of skills. He had been a talented 29-Echo – definitely not a Ranger type. But he was the best Bluesniper in the Army. So the people at Fort Sill gave him his E7 stripes. And then shipped him to Fort Belvoir.
There, he got acquainted with the nerd branch of the Joint Special Operations Command. Jordan was probably the lamest Gray Fox in the history of JSOC. But the Taliban’s leadership was addicted to Bluetooth headsets. And Jordan could Bluesnarf those gadgets from two miles away -- not the 300 feet that everybody assumed. So his rare talent brought a few hundred tons of JDAMS down on the Evil Doers before they wised up.
Jordan was no physical specimen – extremely tall and skinny with the shock of unkempt brown hair, lean face, high cheekbones and profound eyes of the classic intellectual. He had barely made it through the physical part of the training. In fact, he had scraped by on sheer guts and determination. He was a nerd. But he was a tough and gritty one. And he very badly wanted to be a Grey Fox.
So he was with DEVGRU in the Shahi-Kot. And he did the whole show with 45-Commando in Jacana. Then he chased Saddam all over the Saladin Governate until they caught him. After that he decided that he had no long-term future as a fully weaponized geek. So he separated out. The Army gave him a few medals as remembrance of his glory days. And he signed on with a private intelligence firm.
It was ironic really. He did the same thing that the basement monkeys at the alphabet agencies did. But, because he was in the private sector he got paid three times more. The problem was that he had nobody to share it with - especially a woman. He was a complete loner.
In fact, Jordan was not a bad looking guy. His scholarly features combined with those bottomless brown eyes made him look thoughtful and even a little dangerous. He was much taller than average. And the exceptional width of his shoulders on his slender frame sometimes made him look like he had forgotten to take the hanger out, before putting on his coat.
His time in the Army had built some power in his upper chest and he had a long muscular neck and arms. But the overall impression was sinewy, not brawny, much like the Grey Fox that was his professional namesake. Plus, he was a genuine decorated war hero, even if his arena of engagement was 2.4 Gigahertz ISM exchanges.
But in the matter of human relations he was and always had been a total nowhere man. He was utterly closed up and conflicted - too shy and awkward to have any success with the beautiful women. And he had no interest in the ugly ones.
He just couldn’t get outside his own head to make lasting friendships. He must have been the only soldier to serve two full combat tours in the Sandbox and never have a battle-buddy. He was a legend in JSOC for his isolation from the teams he served on. And his only regular sexual experience had been with Rosie and her five sisters.
His only friend was canine. Buster was a big muscular brown-dog. But he was loyal, loving and a fabulous listener. Jordan got him from the pound. He was so scary looking that nobody else wanted him.
Buster’s origins were unknown. But Jordan guessed that he had been bred as a fighting dog. Certain elements in DC still do that. But Buster was like Ferdinand the Bull. He wouldn’t fight. Instead he chose being beaten to death over hurting another creature. Jordan decided that he and his dog had a lot in common.
Jordan worked at a business in Roslyn. Why Roslyn? Because a little “Company” is located right next door in Langley, the NCTC is just up 66. And the Pentagon is two stops down on the blue line. That was the customer base.
Which brings us back to the 3:00 AM phone call and explains why Robert Jordan had made it a regular habit of over-medicating.
The call was from the boss. He wanted Jordan at the Ballston I-Hop – NOW!!!
You ask - why the I-Hop?
.... There is more of this story ...