Coming this summer!

 

The Black Scorpion Pilot: A Ford Stevens Military-Aviation Thriller (Book 2)

 

“All warfare is based upon deception.”

-Sun Tzu, Chinese military general and strategist, 544–496 BC

 

The Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency was reviewing his morning reports in the office when Jason, his assistant, knocked on his doorway at headquarters, Washington, DC.

“We got a problem, sir.”

What is it, Jason? Oh, sorry, I should have said good morning. Yes, Jason,” said Deputy Director Calvin Burns.

“Good morning, sir. A few months ago, you had me bring up to your office, a missile analyst, a guy named Mike Klubb.”

“Hmm.”

“Do you remember him?” asked Jason Cohen, Deputy Director Burns’ assistant.

“Absolutely. Yup. Why do you ask?”

“Well, sir. He’s here and says it’s urgent. Something he has to talk to you about, a problem. He won’t talk to me. Says he’ll only talk to you. Said you would understand?”

Calvin Burns sat back in his chair, rubbed his chin, and thought of Mike Klubb. Why would he come back here? the deputy thought. “Here? Outside?” The deputy looked at the wall of red digital clocks set to world time zones that lined his office.

“Yes, sir,” Jason answered.

“Hmm. OK, send him in,” Calvin Burns instructed. Quietly, he added, “Knock on the door in ten minutes for my appointment, even if I don’t have one.”

Mike Klubb walked in, looking like he’d gained another twenty-five pounds since the last time the deputy saw him. He still wore thick dark rimmed glasses. His wrinkled white shirt was untucked a bit in the front, his necktie was too short, and his scuffed brown-leather shoes had not yet seen polish. “Hello, Mr. Deputy Burns, sir.”

“Hello, Mike, how are you? What brings you back up this way?” asked the deputy.

Mike Klubb was a missile analyst at DIA, working out of the headquarters on Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC. Mike was a typical government bureaucrat, keeping an eye on the clock, counting down the time until he could leave for the day, hand carrying the black lunchbox his wife packed for him. Only putting the minimum effort in for what was necessary to keep his job, sometimes doing what was asked but never more. Mike Klubb, like many government employees, was paid for forty hours a week. Not forty-one, forty-five, or fifty, and never, ever sixty hours a week. He arrived at six o’clock in the morning, had thirty minutes for lunch, and at two-thirty in the afternoon, he was ready to head home. Mike was a terminal GS-15 supervisor in the civilian federal government and would stay at that level for the remainder of his career. Financially, it wasn’t too shabby, because a GS-15 received a hefty salary, in addition to a secure pension. Mike, approaching sixty years old, was, as some say, a geek. A wealthy one at that, with his matching 401K, called Thrift Savings Plan, maxed out each year. For minimal effort, Klubb was set for life.

His last incident with the Deputy was in the DIA auditorium, when Mike and his missiles team started to look into Chinese ICBM missile flashes a few months ago. The flashes were detected by the Space Based Infrared System satellites, the SBIRS, which orbited the earth at some twenty-two thousand miles, watching from afar and used for missile defense and battlespace awareness.

During the auditorium brief, another analyst, Mark Savona, had come into the room and publicly confronted Mike Klubb. The Deputy weighed in and eventually told Mike to stop looking into the situation. The Deputy then called Mike up to his office, advised him that the event was highly classified, and gave Mike Klubb a personal challenge coin, which he proudly showed his wife. To this day, he had it displayed, not on his work desk, but on the fireplace mantel at home.

“Well, sir. Umm, sir, we have more flashes over China,” Mike Klubb explained.

“Flashes? I don’t understand.”

“Sir, last time we met in the auditorium, it was because the SBIRS out of Buckley Air Force Base detected flashes over China. The infrared ones that the Air Force monitors. Uh, we, umm, we thought it was maybe another Chinese ICBM test. Then you brought me up here and told me to stop looking into it. It was going to be compartmented, and I never heard or talked about it again. Until now.”

Calvin Burns stood and stared at Mike Klubb in disbelief. Burns turned his head sideways in thought. “Really? Tell me more.”

“We detected, or rather Buckley detected, eighteen flashes between last Thursday and today. No one has figured it out. The signature, that is, sir. And I remember the signature.”

Located at Buckley AFB and housed in a humongous satellite operations center facility, was the US Air Force’s 460th Space Wing. The airmen from this wing controlled and watched the country’s SBIRS, as well as the older system, the Defense Support Program, known as DSP.  The group of hundreds of service members in the active, Reserve, and Air Guard watched the earth, giving decision-makers the information as it came in. Their clients could be intelligence community agencies, the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the military Combatant Command, and even the National Security Council.

Using the best poker face Calvin Burns could scrounge up, he turned to look at the wall, then back at Klubb while biting his bottom lip. “Very interesting, Mike. Thank you. Perhaps, if it’s not too much trouble, could you send me what you have? Would that be all right? And it doesn’t require your team, just you. Quietly bring it up here or send it to me in an e-mail. I’d be interested in seeing what you’ve got,” said the deputy.

Mike instantly turned into a frenzy of activity, without ever moving from his original standing position. Talking quickly and spitting when he talked, he answered, “Oh, right away, sir. I’ve got everything. Everything from last week and from last night, and I was having my hot chocolate that my wife makes for me every morning and I…”

“Mike. Mike. Terrific. Take it easy,” the deputy told him, moving his palms in a downward motion to keep him calm. “Just bring it on up. Yes? Good?”  Holy crap, the deputy was thinking to himself. This guy.

“Yes, sir. Be right back. Thank you, Deputy Burns,” Mike said as he massaged his hands together into a sweaty ball.

Mike left the room and closed the office door. Deputy Burns could not believe what he just heard. He walked over to his couch and sat down, leaned back, and stared out into the air for about a minute. He sighed. I’m retiring in a month. Shit.

“Jason!”

Jason came hurriedly into the office. “Yes, sir?”

“Hey. Get Mark Savona’s ass up here ASAP. I don’t care where he is on this earth—he needs to get his butt in here. We got issues. Now.”

Jason took off on his mission to find Mark Savona from the Chinese Aircraft Directorate while the deputy leaned over on his couch and placed his face in his hands. He rubbed his nose and eyes and then leaned back again. He stood up, taking another step forward, then stopped and folded his arms to think. Calvin Burns thought he had seen everything in his intelligence career, from the Cold War to Gulf War I to Iraq. Now this.

Even stealing the Devil Dragon, the Chinese stealth bomber from a few months ago was a career highlight. DIA and the Navy had just finished the crane operation at Graham Island, Canada, about one thousand miles northwest of Vancouver. Devil Dragon was cut into specific pieces, loaded in large crates and loaded onto a commercial ship from the island to the mainland, and then trucked to Tonopah, Nevada. This latest news, though, topped everything for him. Burns was nearly speechless, bordering on shock.

Christ almighty…I just can’t believe this. A month before retirement. The goddamn Chinese had two stealth bombers built. We took one…and now they’re test flying the other.

 

Copyright 2017 Lawrence A. Colby   The Black Scorpion Pilot: A Ford Stevens Military-Aviation Thriller