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(Part 5) M31: First Blood
Posted By: Greg and Wes Foutch<hockey0935@yahoo.com>
Date: 28 July 2003, 12:45 AM

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Military leaves come way too few and far between. Senior Airman Richard A. Turner (R.A.T.) knew this all too well. He had just left Ellsworth Air Force Base six hours ago for the first time in weeks for some long overdue R&R. The Air Force had been good for Rat. Born and raised in Chicago's lower east side, his life hadn't been flooded with opportunity. As a young child, his father left for a weekend business journey, and seemed to forget his way home. The few letters received from him were postmarked from different cities across North America and Richard soon figured it out that "Daddy" was no doubt a drifter. Birthday gifts, after awhile, were never expected, and rightly so.

His mother, a loyal and devout wife whose world revolved around her husband, was devastated by his abandonment. Once he was gone and she finally realized he was gone for good she fell apart. She had totally given up on herself and apparently her only son. At the very immature age of 14, Richard found his mother, submerged in an overflowing bathtub.

The next two years were spent bouncing from foster care providers to Juvey hall. Growing up in Chicago had its benefits though. Some kids have "book smarts" and the really lucky ones are blessed with "street smarts". That's the education one gets from having to get everything the hard way. It starts simple enough, selling whatever a boy can get his hands on for his next meal to pick pocketing watches and wallets as a seasoned pro, or so he thought. At seventeen, his fingers got caught in the cookie jar. This guy damn near beat him senseless, and then... he called the police. Rat was going to the big house, and he knew it. Had it not been for a forgiving Judge, willing to give Richard a second/last chance, he probably would have spent the better part of his life behind bars. He was given the option to trade a cell for an H&K MP5 automatic, complements, Uncle Sam. Richard reluctantly accepted the challenge and has never looked back. This, although unknowing to Richard, was the break he needed to get his life on track.

The Air Force was a colossal change for a street kid. Basic training, at first, almost killed him. He was a tough kid, but 05:00 came early for a late sleeper. Slowly, his body began to change, along with his attitude and outlook towards life in general. It took all the anger that had been building since childhood and channeled it for positive results. Good ole Uncle Sam also gave him an education that would have been unattainable from the cold streets of Chicago. He excelled at every challenge given him.

Shortly after graduating flight training, he was given the opportunity to compete in a training program named B.A.D.A.S.S. Ballistic Air Defense, Assiduity Strategic Strike waged the best pilots in simulated head-to-head combat situations to determine superiority. He had learned well. With the advanced aeronautics and flight controls of the new FZ-44 Tactical Fighter, it was almost easy. This airframe and himself virtually became one. All competitors had the same aircraft but very few were able to make her dance like Richard. The rest is history.

With the lights of Miles City, Montana slowly fading in his rear view, home was not far away now. Rt. 59 to Cohagen was one of the few 2 lane travelways left in Montana. Being stationed in South Dakota for the last four years has been a big change for a city boy. While on leave several months ago, he met a sweet Norwegian gal in a dance club in Rapid City. Slim figured and full of spunk was just what the doctor ordered. This relationship, although short lived, brought him to Montana to see her. Richard fell in love with the wide-open spaces of Big Sky country and with the help of a local realtor; he shortly became the proud title-holder of his very own little spread. It really wasn't much; just a tiny, two bedroom house situated on 50 acres of useless, flat, Bentonite riddled scrub brush, But, it was the first time in a long time that he really felt home. His nearest neighbors resides just two miles straight north. On almost any given night, under a moonless sky, he is able to make out a radiant glow of their yard lamp as it burns aimlessly, for no one ever visits this forgotten dot on the map. This is what Richard liked the most. There is nothing like being able to sit buck-naked on the front porch, sucking down a cold one and picking a tune on his old Fender flat top.

Should he wish to shitcan his satellite phone, he would be totally free for the next three days. Should have. The call came in with the agonizing familiarity that always seems to annoy him. I gotta change that damn call alert tone, Richard thought to himself as he held the phone in his right hand, flipped it open with his thumb, and never lost a beat with the beer in his left. Always looking at the digital screen for the relative info on the callers I.D., he saw an "UNAVAILABLE" residing. Should I answer this damn thing or let it ring? They will, if important, leave a message. Hell no... yes... SHIT... three freakin' days, is that too much to ask?

Damn-it...damn-it...damn-it...he thought. He punched the SEND button.

"It's your dime!" Richard sarcastically said.

"Please hold," came a friendly female voice. Whoever this was, they were pressing their luck. Damn lucky I even answered. You got 30 seconds, don't push it, raced through his mind. Immediately a firm commanding voice reached out and grabbed him.

"Senior Airman Richard Turner?" the voice inquired.

"That depends, who's asking?"

"General Charles Neumann, Secretary of Defense" he replied. Silence followed.

Shit... why do I always stick my foot so far up my ass? Richard pondered as he leaned forward and set down his beer. What the hell does this guy want with me?

"Sir, pardon me, I wasn't aware..."

"Forget it... Look, I need to speak with you about a situation.... We need to talk, but not on this open line."

"Yes Sir"

"Do you have a secure line available from your position?"

"No Sir. I believe the closest secure line would be back at base, Ellsworth. I am roughly seven hours away...Sir"

"Knowing this, I must believe you are R&R. Sorry kid, but we need you a.s.a.p. All I can tell you here and now is that this is a matter of global security. Get your shit packed and get back to Ellsworth. A transport will be fueled and cleared for your immediate departure to D.C., and Richard? This conversation never took place. Do you understand?"

"Sir, yes Sir" he replied.

As he heard a solid click from the earpiece, Richard's head was spinning.