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I watched the green Cuban jungle rushing by my canopy as I flew formation next to Raul's MIG-21. I heard Manuel's voice over my headphones counting down until the bomb release. I watched as the target came into view. I moved the stick a little to the right. I wanted to be clear of the debris when the bombs hit their target. At zero the four bombs were released and dropped onto the target. I watched out the left side of the canopy as a massive orange explosion filled the sky. It was a good drop, target destroyed. I turned to look forward and saw lines of tracers reaching up at us from a Russian ZSU anti aircraft gun. I heard rounds hitting my MIG and warning lights began to flash red across the flight panel as smoke began to pour out the rear of the fighter. The rounds had ripped through my flight controls making it difficult to control. I felt intense heat all around me inside the cockpit as flames began increasing around me.
"Greywolf EJECT EJECT EJECT!" I heard Raul's voice screaming at me through the headphones. My mind returned to the flight training Alexi had drilled into me, my hands moved in coordination. My right hand released the canopy, which was ripped away in the strong wind. Then my hands returned to the eject handles between my legs, I pulled with all my strength and the rocket motor beneath me ignited thrusting me out of the burning MIG-21 and clear of danger. It was a clean separation from the ejection seat and my right hand automatically reached for the D ring to release my parachute but to my horror it wasn't there.
I was freefalling over the Cuban jungle from 2000 feet up without a parachute, the ground rushing up at me. Falling to my death.
"ALI!" I screamed at the top of my lungs as my wife's face filled my mind. The falling feeling consumed my body.
I awoke from the nightmare, my body bathed in sweat as Ali was shaking me trying to rescue me from the nightmare. I lay there in her arms, breathing heavily, my heart pounding in my chest, her arms around me talking to me in low tones until I came out of it.
"The same dream again?" she asked. All I could do was nod. She left our bed and returned with a cold wet washcloth and ran it over my sweaty body, cooling me. This same nightmare had haunted me ever since I had taken part in a bombing attack on the Chinese electronic intelligence gathering station in Bejucal Cuba. I had been part of a hand picked group of international mercenary fighter pilots who flew updated MIG-21s disguised as Cuban Air Force fighters. It was a successful mission. We eliminated the Cuban leaders while they were having a top-secret meeting with Chinese officials inside the installation. The Chinese had wanted to increase their influence in the Western hemisphere. They had moved in when the Russians decided to abandon Cuba. China was giving the communist Cuban government military and monetary assistance. We hit them while they were meeting with Chinese representatives discussing further military assistance in exchange for allowing them to eavesdrop on American military and civilian radio and telephone traffic.
The nightmares began two weeks after the Cuban government collapsed, which was replaced with a non-Communist type of government led by a no nonsense anti communist military general. Later after surviving the mission, I was offered a position in the new Cuban Air Force by the new government.
Getting out of bed we both walked out onto the patio of our house that was right on the beach. We sat there holding each other under the stars watching the waves roll in.CHAPTER 2
The next morning I went to the airport in Havana to pick up my friend and former wing man from my Navy days. We had flown together off the carrier USS Grant. He had been an unplanned partner in the attack on Bejucal covering my ass helping us fight our way out. It had been almost a year since his last visit to Cuba. He was coming for a week of Cuban sun, fun and sand. Or as he always put it the three Bs, broads, booze, and beaches. His name was Wally but I always called him by his call sign Boner.
The International Airport in Havana had been modernized since the changeover, and almost doubled in size to handle the massive amount of tourists that were flying in daily from around the world. We saw each other at the same time as he entered the concourse. He was wearing his Navy whites and I was in my Cuban Air Force uniform. He had been promoted since the last time I'd seen him. He was a now Lt. Commander. He threw me a quick salute. I saluted him back, grinning. We shook hands then walked to the carousel to retrieve his bag.
"I'll never get used to seeing you in a Cuban uniform." He told me looking at the Cuban flag on my shoulder.
"You should see my dress uniform, it has US Navy Wings, Indian Flight Wings, Cuban Air Force Wings, the emblems signifying I'm a Colonel in the Indian Air Force, my Cuban Colonel insignia, it's quite a sight I'll tell ya," I told him as he shook his head grinning at me.
He had to walk through processing, show his military ID, and have his bag searched. Boner had to verify how long he was planning to stay and the nature of his visit. I stood quietly as he finished. Walking out into the warm Cuban sun he laughed as we approached my vehicle. It was a green Hummer, the driver standing there with the door open saluting us.
As a Colonel in the new Cuban Air Force, I was allowed a driver who doubled as my bodyguard. The new government took security very seriously.
The driver saluted Boner then loaded his bag as we got in.
"An air-conditioned Hummer, man you really rate," he smiled as the cool air hit him.
"Well as I remember you did your part. That's why you get an all expense government paid vacation every year here," I reminded him.
"Has it really been two years since our little adventure?" he asked.
"Doesn't feel that long. So much has changed here since the Communist government was thrown out."
"All for the better I've heard. Has anyone discovered our little secret yet?" He asked, referring to our bombing mission that eliminated the communist leaders of the old government. Our participation was a closely guarded secret to prevent any attempts on our lives by former angry family members or Chinese assassins.
"Thankfully no, only a handful of people know, and they realize the possible consequences if it ever leaked out."
"Yeah, I still look over my shoulder wondering," He revealed.
"If we were ever compromised I would contact you ASAP," I offered.
"How's Ali?" He asked referring to my wife.
"Beautiful as ever," I answered.
"How's married life treating ya?"
"It's great. Nice having more to come back to every night than just an empty house."
"Still working two jobs?" he asked sitting back into the seat as the driver pulled out into traffic.
"Yeah, I love it. I get to test flight the updated Migs for Antonio's company and then teach the new Cuban pilots how to fly. Manuel finally finished flight school. He is married and has a baby on the way."
"Manuel a daddy, man if I remember correctly he tried to nail anything that moved," he grinned.
"Yeah, well Maria keeps him happy," I told him.
"Oh man, she is a hottie."
"What's new in your life? Still single?"
"Oh yeah, I'm still too young for the old ball an chain."
"If memory serves me, we're the same age," I reminded him.
"I'm having too much fun right now to settle down. Those women love Top Gun pilots," he explained.
"How is it being an instructor there?"
"It's a blast, I get to fly my ass off as a bad guy. Man they sure have improved the roads around here." He remarked looking out the window.
"Just one of many improvements here. I have to stop at the base before we head to the house," I told him.
"No rest for the wicked eh?"
"Ahhhhh, there are fitness reports, pilot qualification reports, and then write-ups on every Mig I test fly. Not to mention mission drill results to type up. Damn paperwork never ends. I have to keep track of training levels, create training scenarios, maintenance reports on 9 MIG-21s, health records of my pilots. There's more to wearing this uniform than just turning women s heads," I lamented.
"As I live and breath, I never thought I'd hear you of all people talk like a desk jockey," he laughed.
"Comes with the rank I'm afraid. When they made me a Colonel, I never realized how much desk time I'd have to do."
The driver stopped at the gate of the Air base and two armed guards checked our ID cards. They both saluted and waved us in.
"I'll never get used to seeing AKs without getting a chill down my spine," he revealed.
"Amen to that. Took me forever to get used to that too. I'm still not used to a lot of things here yet, takes time," I said as the driver stopped in front of the building. He got out and opened the door for us. Boner followed me into my office. My secretary handed me a folder as we walked past and into my office.
"Mig-21s?" he asked as the deafening roar of jet engines shook the building.
"No, 23s," I told him as I sat behind my desk.
"How can you tell the difference?"
"The pitch is different, the 23 has two engines. Must be the last training flight of the day. The Mexican government has sent some of their pilots here to train in the 23s they are buying from Antonio. It's keeping Alexi very busy," I explained.
"How is our favorite Russian?" he asked.
"Ahhh you know Alexi, he's the Russian version of a jarhead. Stiff as usual." Alexi was a former Russian flight instructor. He had been left stranded in India when the Soviet Union folded. He had been in India teaching their pilots how to fly the MIG-21 purchased from the Soviets. Antonio offered him a job as a combination flight instructor slash test pilot for his company. He had run me through the Soviet designed training class teaching me how to fly the MIG-21 when I joined the company. He was the best pilot in a MIG-21 there was. He was able to do things with the MIG-21 the designers never dreamed of. He had been my wing man during our bombing attack on Bejucal.
"Raul still your boss?"
"Ayep, he's in heaven I'll tell ya. He loves being in the Air Force now that everything has changed," I told him, opening the file on my desk. Years earlier Raul had been in the Cuban Air Force. Disgusted with the Communist way of life he flew his MIG-23 to Key West, defecting. Later he had taken part in our mercenary mission bombing the site where the previous government leaders were holding their meeting. Now he was once again a pilot in the Cuban Air Force, but a Colonel this time, and my superior officer.
I started scanning the fitness reports and signing them in the appropriate places. Boner helped himself to a cup of Cuban coffee and walked around my office looking at the photos and certificates I had on the wall. It was an odd combination, a copy of my US Navy Flight School certificate, the certificate the Indian government had given me for shooting down two Pakistani F-16s, confirming me as an honorary Colonel in the Indian Air Force, the certificate from the Cuban Air force confirming me as a Colonel, and the certificate given to me by Antonio, verifying I was an official test pilot for his company. On my desk was a color photo of Ali and next to it was a group photo of Raul, Antonio, Alexi, Manuel, Perry, Boner and me at our beach wedding, the greatest gang of aerial outlaws ever to help free a country from communism.
"Ali know you have this one?" he asked, pointing to Toni's photo hanging on the wall.
"Yeah, she's not too happy about it, but it reminds me of an important time in my life. Toni was there for me at a dark time in my life. I don't forget people who have helped me," I told him, looking at the photo. Toni was the school teacher I had met in Key West after I was discharged from the U.S. Navy for shooting down two Cuban MIG-21s against orders while flying F-18s off the carrier U.S.S Grant. Later Antonio, the owner of a large aviation company based in Israel, had offered me a position in his company test flying modernized Russian MIG-21s for sale to poorer countries. I traveled to India where during a test flight of a MIG-21, I shot down two Pakistani fighters sent to kill me and ruin the test flight. It was hoped by the Pakistani government that by shooting me down in the updated MIG, the Indian government would refrain from updating their fleet of MIG-21s. Luckily I was able to use the modern updated weapons systems installed in the new MIG-21 I was test flying for the Indian Government to shoot down the two Pakistani fighters helping to secure the contract.
"I can vouch for that one amigo. You shot that Cuban MIG-29 off my ass," he reminded me.
"I'd do it again too," I smiled remembering the Cuban MIG-29 I shot down that was attacking him from the rear two years ago during our mercenary mission. We were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Colonel, your wife is on the telephono for you," my secretary told me, sticking her head in the door.
"Gracias," I told her, reaching for the phone.
"Damn she is fine," Boner observed after she left.
"Yeah Anna is one damn fine secretary, and she's easy on the eyes too."
"I'll bet Ali isn't happy about her," he remarked.
"She trusts me, but you're right," I told him, as Ali's voice came over the phone in my ear.
"Hi Honey, did Boner make it?"
"Ayep, he's standing right here," I told her.
"Wonderful. Hey why don't you invite Anna to dinner here with us? I'm sure Boner would love to get to know her."
"You're about as subtle as a sidewinder, but yeah I'll ask her, see what she says," I chuckled.
"Whatever do you mean my dear?" her Israeli accent coming through innocently.
"I love you, we'll see you in a bit." I heard her laugh as I put down the phone.
"Ali wants me to invite Anna to dinner tonight so you can get to meet her," I grinned.
"She is just trying to protect her six. I'd love to get to know her though," he told me.
"I recognize that look in your eyes, remember that waitress at the Tropicana? You still keep in touch with her?"
"Yes I do, in fact she is expecting me to get together with her while I'm here. That was a wild night wasn't it?" He said referring to the night Ali and I got married on the beach under the moon. We had all gone to a club afterwords where he had hooked up with a dark red-haired fireball cocktail waitress. No one had gone home sober that night.
"Truly a night to remember," I said with a grin. I signed the last of the reports and stood up to leave. On the way out I relayed Ali's invitation to her.
"Si, Gracias Colonel. I would enjoy that very much sir," she replied, looking Boner up and down with interest. Boner was practically drooling on his uniform undressing her with his eyes. I had to wonder, knowing Ali, if she had called and invited Anna ahead of time.
"Seems like we've been preempted Grey," Boner told me reading my mind. She lifted her phone and called for my driver. Boner stood there making small talk with Anna, trying to slyly look down her blouse.
"Red light there, Commander," I told him. He just grinned. Anna didn't seem to mind a bit.
"So Mexico is buying MIGs now?" he asked in the back of the Hummer as we rode to the house.
"Yeah, they are upgrading their air force and are tying to cut costs buying older MIG-21s and having Antonio's company upgrade them. Antonio convinced them it would be a great idea."
"That man could sell air conditioners to Eskimos"
"Amen to that."
"Is Mexico having money problems?"
"There seems to be an increase of narco-guerrillas in Central America. A group in Guatemala that is being led by former Cuban Communists is infiltrating Mexico. They have hooked up with a Communist group in Chiapa. Get this; the Chinese have been funding them. They hope to replace the electronic intelligence gathering stations they lost when they were thrown out of Cuba. They believe they can help establish a Communist group in Central America." I explained.
"The Chinese? No shit!" he exclaimed. "What's with the Chinese interest here anyway?"
"When the Russians pulled out of Cuba the Chinese moved in, took over the electronic intelligence gathering station here in Bejucal. They listened in on the United States phone and radio traffic. They were paying Cuba millions in exchange for the right to listen in.
Then with our little air raid and the change of government here the Chinese were told to take a hike. Now with the hands off attitude that Washington has concerning foreign affairs, it's likely to get worse"
"Why the hell they elected that asshole to be President I'll never know. He doesn't want to upset other countries to the degree that he'll be kissing the UN's ass every time something happens," he said disgustedly.
"If the Chicoms get a foothold in Central America, it'll be a nightmare."
"I thought the guerrilla days were over in Guatemala" he said.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Greywolf Down"
Copyright © 2018 Rusty Cash.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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