11:26 a.m. – August 23, 2021 –
Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan
A STATE-OF-the-art F-15EX jet fighter went roaring past the control tower at Bagram Airbase at supersonic speed leaving a piercing, thundering boom in its wake. Crewmen on the ground looked up bewildered, covering their ears from the noise, and in the background control tower, one of the windowpanes started to shutter and crack!
Up in the flight control tower, General Thomas Reardon, in his late sixties, came storming heatedly into the control room. Reardon was an Air Force “lifer,” – a hard and unforgiving man, and not one to mess with; a stout, brutish hulk of an authoritarian, wearing a crisp-blue starched Air Force uniform, with campaign medals plastered across his chest; hiding hawkish eyes behind intimidating, mirrored, aviator sunglasses.
The control tower was buzzing with activity, with flight control crew carrying out various functions; watching radar screens, and giving pilots instructions when Gen. Reardon charged over to the Senior Air Controller, snatching his headset away, staring irately at F-15EX that had just passed. The loud boom had cracked one of the tower window panes, which finally gave way, shattering shards of glass down onto the busy tarmac below.
“Goddamn you!” Reardon bellowed. “Bagram Tower to Rapper One...” The old General gritted his teeth as the F-15EX did a barrel roll, streaking up to the clouds.
The new advanced two-seater F-15EX fighter jet had a length of 19 meters, a width of 13 meters, and a height of 18.5 meters, and could launch a hypersonic missile, providing a big advantage in conflicts. It could fly at a speed of Mach 2.5, which made it the world’s fastest fighter jet with a range of 1,200 nautical miles, allowing it to strike deep targets.
In the F-15EX cockpit, thirty-four-year-old fighter pilot, Captain Richard C. Nadir, was seated calmly, sporting a black brush-mustache. The brazen pilot was medium built, with oxygen mask off and sun visor half down over his face. He heard Reardon castigating him and chuckled to himself, pulling out of the barrel roll. Cocky and arrogant, he kissed the tips of his fingers and touched the plastic Jesus on his instrument panel.
“Copy...This is Viper One...” Nadir replied, waiting for more abuse.
“Damn you, Nadir!” Reardon screamed again over the radio, “I’ll have you busted the next time you pull a stunt like this. Now bring your bird in, you’re grounded... Do you read me, Captain?!”
Nadir was strangely aloof; he paused for a second then answered.
“Acknowledged, General... Viper One returning to base...
“Over and out.”
Nadir let out an animal-like growl, banked his craft left, and headed for the landing strip.
As Nadir’s F-15EX was landing, the ground crew came over to him, waiting to take care of the plane as he taxied to his slip.
The sleek jet came to a halt, and Nadir climbed out of the cockpit, where the ground crew immediately went to work. The ground crews were fervent young men in their early twenties dressed in blue overalls, many of whom looked up to older, experienced pilots like Nadir.
One Crew member came up a ladder and helped him out of the cockpit, and as Nadir came down and walked on the tarmac, the kid noticed Nadir appeared to have a bad leg, walking with a slight limp.
“Geez Captain,” he gushed, “that was some fly-by. No one’s buzzed the tower like that in years. Old man Reardon nearly shit his pants!”
“Hope so, prick just grounded me,” he mumbled.
Another Crewman came over, “Wow, we thought that was terrific, Captain. Great flying, man!”
They walked off on the tarmac together, but as they were strolling toward the hangar, Nadir paused, unzipped his jacket pocket, pulled out a silver flask, and took a drink, much to the dismay of his ground crew.
“Oh shit, Captain, you’re joking... They’ll bust you out for sure for that bullshit,” the young blonde corporal warned.
Nadir looked at him with a blank expression, took another quick snort defiantly, and limped into the hanger.
Some of the crew gathered around, chatting about Capt. Nadir after he left.
“Can you believe that guy? He’s a lunatic, man...Bad news.”
“You don’t know what made him what he is,” the corporal offered. “Before Iraq he was an okay guy.”
“I heard the story... He really got fucked up,” a private said.
“Well, what the hell was it? What happened?” another inquired.
“Tell ya later… Sarge is coming.”
That’s when a tough ground sergeant, a big burly fellow in his forties, wearing pale-blue soiled fatigues arrived, interrupting their banter.
“Alright, alright, ladies,” the sergeant reproached ... “Break up the chatter. Let’s get those planes checked out and in the hangars. Move it!”
The men hopped to their feet and got back to work.