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FLIGHT INTO THE UNKNOWN
// somewhere, Yuktobania //
It was a clear and sunny day. Every man and every woman at the base was preparing the lone Tu-142 Bear-F plane for its flight. Everything was set for the reconnaissance plane, and as ground crews guided the fully loaded plane to the runway, its crews were engaged in series of conversation to kill their time waiting for clearance from the controller.
“So I heard you’ve just married?” the pilot asked his navigator.
The navigator could only laugh. “Married? Who told you that? We haven’t prepared the invitation cards yet,” he answered.
The pilot returned the laugh, as so did his co-pilot. “Come on. You know your secret isn’t so secret anymore,” he said.
“What?! No way!” the navigator moaned in protest. “When I thought I had promised Natalia to keep it secret…”
The rest of the crews kept on laughing. “Relax. It’s not that we won’t celebrate our fellow’s marriage with his princess,” the pilot continued. “I tell you; who doesn’t feel lucky to marry a shrine maiden who wears eyeglasses?”
“This is Ground Control. Chandelier 1, you’re cleared for take-off.”
“Chandelier 1 to Ground Control. Thank you.” The pilot signalled to his team-mates. “Alright, everyone. Let’s roll out.”
The year is 2013. Three years have passed, and the Union of Yuktobanian Republics is still recovering from the devastating effect of the Circa-Pacific War it had waged with its neighbouring states of Osea. With great losses inflicted by the Grey Men, the same people who had enticed Osea into the seemingly meaningless war, Yuktobania is desperately seeking for any method (in fact, everything possible) to restore its pride and glory as a military superpower in the Verusan continent.
As a part of its restoration programme, the Yuktobanian Air Force conducts a top-secret military exercise aimed to improve the efficiency of its force. Codenamed “Operation Albatross”, the project calls for a selected group of dedicated aviators (or so the Yukes call) to fly a daring mission into an uncharted territory deep in the Southern Hemisphere. What kind of mission they were flying was not the question they are allowed to inquiry, considering the secrecy of this operation, although they had been hinted that they would fly on a regular patrol mission.
The Tu-142 now reached the safe altitude. The crews were directed by ground control and intercept (GCI) officers to fly to a location 300 miles off the coast of the Antarctic. They obliged, knowing that it was merely a part of their pre-established patrol route. “Well, here goes our 10 hours of wasted life again,” the pilot said and directed his plane to the designated position.
“I knew I should bring my vodka along,” the co-pilot grumbled.
“Are you sure this is a patrol mission, Captain?” the navigator asked. “Because just yesterday, I overheard the senior officers mentioning something about top-secret. Maybe it has something to do about this flight.”
“It is not our decision to question our superior officers’ decision,” the pilot – the oldest member of the crews – answered. “We just have to follow orders as usual.”
The navigator was not amused by the answer. “But Captain, wouldn’t it be wrong to assume that the upper office is planning on… something again?” At this point, the pilot and the other crews glared at the young personnel, who in turn panicked by their unwary responses. “Did I… just ask the wrong question?”
“Hey, we’ve got our job to do,” the co-pilot reminded. “I believe we should concentrate on our flight. Then we’ll talk about this conspiracy after we’re done. Okay?”
“Okay, okay,” the navigator sighed.
The flight continued, even after the Tu-142 changed course and headed west. It had been three hours into the flight, and the crews were experiencing no weird experiences. The navigator, however, became even warier by each passing minute, and had always wanted to seek for any opening to discuss the so-called “secrecy”.
The Tu-142 had reached the second beacon and was due to turn north when it entered thick layers of cloud. “Well, this is the kind of weather we hadn’t been briefed on,” the pilot commented. “How’s the radar going?”
“It’s working perfectly fine,” the co-pilot answered. “The clouds are surely thick, but it doesn’t look like we’ll stumble across a heavy storm.”
“Then we’ll just continue with our flight,” the pilot said.
“I have this very bad feeling…” the navigator sighed.
The Tu-142 continued its path, but after 30 minutes it still didn’t find any exit route. Now the crews began to feel uneasy about the situation, although they remained calm and focused on the mission.
“Guys, I don’t want to burst the bubble here,” the navigator spoke, “but I’ve heard a story of this area where planes and ships suddenly and mysteriously vanish. Do you think we’re flying into one?”
“Nonsense,” the pilot chided. “Is there such a thing? Knock off your superstitions. This is the world of high technology.”
The navigator, instead, was persistent. “But sir, if you could listen to me for once-” The plane suddenly shook violently, as if it had hit turbulence. The pilot struggled to keep the plane steady and in-course, even as the plane’s onboard instruments started going haywire.
“Damn it! We’re losing control!” the co-pilot screamed.
“Calm down! It’s just turbulence!” the pilot reminded.
“This is Chandelier 1! Ground Control, please read!” There was no response, and the navigator tried contacting the airbase. “Ground Control! Please respond!”
“Try the international frequency,” the pilot told him.
“I did, but we don’t have any radio signal!” the navigator replied. “We’re doomed, Captain! The area really does exist!”
“Stop screwing yourself with your superstition! We have to bring this plane out of the clouds anyway!” the pilot barked.
Ten minutes would pass before the plane regained stability and broke out of the clouds. All the crews looked at each other, a moment of frightening silence enveloping them. Then the navigator broke the hiatus when he asked, “did we just…?”
“Captain, we have unknown contact at our three o’clock,” the radar operator reported.
“It must be the Osean interceptors,” the pilot thought. “Prepare for contact. They might already know our arrival.”
“Captain, we already have visual contact,” another crew reported. “But you won’t believe what we just saw.”
“What are you talking about? I thought we’d be meeting the Oseans,” the pilot interjected.
The crew looked reluctant to reveal the answer. “Captain, if it’s true, then they wouldn’t send a witch and a girl who doesn’t have wings to us.” He paused, and then he continued. “I know it sounds really weird, but… but try looking outside.”
“What?” The pilot looked outside the window. What he saw was the strangest sighting he had ever had in his fifteen years of life as a pilot. It was an event that would never be forgotten for the rest of his life:
“Holy Motherland! This is madness!”
Well, yeah about that picture. I know I wasn't supposed to throw in that Tu-95 but oh well. And yes, as those who have read my fan fictions may say, "THIS IS MADNESS!"
I see if I can dig in more pictures to post.