Author : William Tracy

I am an airplane.

The wind whistles down my fuselage as I soar in the bright sky, the earth spread beneath me. I pull a barrel roll for the sheer joy of it, weave through an invisible slalom course in the sky.

A voice crackles in my mind. “You aren’t here to have fun, soldier.”

I straighten my course. “Yes, sir.”

“Get your job done and get out.”

“Yes, sir.”

I lose altitude, and skim low over the hilltops. Plumes of dust rise from a column of trucks ahead of me—the enemy convoy.

Right on schedule.

I arm a missile, and target a bridge ahead of the convoy. Ready … the lead vehicle is driving onto the bridge … now.

The weapon skips ahead of me, rocket purring. In a flash of light, the bridge slips into billowing smoke. I swoop overhead to the sharp staccato of automatic gunfire.

I am hit in my left wing. My ailerons twitch involuntarily with the pain. Warm hydraulic fuel seeps down my wing, only to be lapped away by the brisk air.

Now this is personal.

I double back, empty my last three missiles into the remainder of the convoy, and open up with my machine guns as I pass. I turn again, and strafe the wreckage one more time.

The voice in my mind clears its throat. “That’s enough.”

“Yes, sir. Returning to base now.”

I weave artfully back and forth, dodging fire until I am out of range. Then I load the return vector and activate the autopilot. After verifying the diagnostic output, I disengage.

My senses return to my body a thousand miles away. I reach back and release the plug from the base of my skull. I stretch comfortably and sit up, systematically popping my knuckles one finger at a time.

Damn, I love this job.

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