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They say only the dead know peace. If that is the case, then I’ve already had the pleasure twice. Maybe third time’s the charm.

Have you ever heard of the Night Witches? If not, I’ll let Element tell you more about it. For now, suffice it to say that’s where our souls first became intertwined. We had trained together, flown dozens of sorties together, and were on readiness standby. Alarms began to wail as comms altered us to as an immanent Luftwaffe bombing raid.

It was to be a scramble mission like the 100s of drills we had done before. From a dead sleep to airborne in 5 minutes. I did it in 4 minutes 35. All ready to go. Flight suit, half fuel, and no ammunition. I’m not sure how it happened but somehow I took off with empty cannons. I thought my aircraft felt light at takeoff but also thought I was just having a good night. It wasn’t until I pulled up on the six of a Bf 109 that I realized I had no guns.

You ever have an “Oh Sh!t” moment? Yeah, well take that and multiply it by ten thousand.

I was a sitting duck. So I went full Christmas Tree* and started cutting across the flight paths of the enemy. I wanted to lure them off of my comrades. Like moths to a flame, they came after me. I scored 3 maneuver kills* that night before they shot me down, must have been novice pilots.

35 years later I found my gravestone. On it was a quote from Element, “We will always remember your bravery on Earth. May you always remember your ordnance in Heaven.” She has a weird sense of humor.

Turns out, destroying things is what I do best. Fast forward to modern-day and we are fighting a modern war. Power, politics, and economics are what motivate world leaders now. Their legacy can’t be sullied by certain missions that must be kept secret. When the job gets too dirty, they call in the military contractors. It’s the billion-dollar industry you probably know nothing about.

I worked for a PMC called Red Water. There were several available missions but one captured my attention. There was a rouge aerial squadron in Iran using Soviet aircraft to attack American convoys. The job was to neutralize their aerial assets on the ground during a night raid and evacuate before daybreak.

What intrigued me were the stories about their ace pilot. She was known for going full Christmas Tree during a dogfight, luring the enemy on her six, pulling a Cobra, and scoring the kill. I knew it had to be Element. And I knew I had to at least try and find out.

The mission, however, was a total disaster. One of our helios crashed at the LZ* and when we reached the objective, all the aerial assets were gone. The place had already been excavated. Turns out, it was a propaganda campaign to sell the story terrorists had attacked an American base. The rogue aerial squadron was another PMC; hired by the same people.

Our PMCs met at the objective. And there she was. You ever meet someone and feel like you’ve spent a lifetime together already? That was the feeling that day. It was Element alright. We called a ceasefire after seeing the objective had already been destroyed. Element explained the situation to us. Her PMC had arrived sometime earlier and started putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

Shortly after, our radio team intercepted comms that a QRF* had already been deployed and was just minutes out. We had little time for a reunion. We scrambled to the LZ and were met with a horrifying reality: one helio had been damaged in the crash. With just one functional helio, we couldn’t support the weight of the whole crew. We duffed whatever gear we could to save weight but it still wasn’t enough to fit everyone.

A choice had to be made. And if you’ve been following along to the theme of these profiles, I’m sure you can guess what choice I made.

As I looked yonder down my sights I heard breathing next to me. Then the words, “You didn’t forget your ordnance this time did you?”

We held off the QRF long enough for both our teams to be extracted. I guess I went first because as I hovered over the battlefield I could hear the sound of Element’s rifle, not mine. Not long in Limbo, St. Dismas offered me another chance. A chance to exact revenge on those who set us up. A chance to find a new war. Her war. I agreed, as long as whenever Element’s time was up, she could come with me; from the beginning this time.

And so here we are. A new mission but a team once again. Maybe third time’s the charm.

*Christmas Tree: slang for turning on all the aircraft lights

*Maneuver kills: slang for causing your attacker to crash by out maneuvering them during a pursuit.

*LZ: Landing Zone

*QRF: Quick Reaction Force

Third Time's The Charm

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