Interlude: Hero of Soviet Union

From the Story Arc: A Day in the Life...

Previous Story in the Arc: Fall, 1953: Graduation by Petrograd (Thursday, December 02, 2004)

Next Story in the Arc: Spring, 1954 by Petrograd (Tuesday, February 15, 2005)

(posted Monday, December 06, 2004)

The young Captain, a "butter-bars" as they were called and the son of a big-shot general, looked out the slightly icy windows of his B-52 at the frosty world around him. A good pilot would have gone lower to abate the ice, but he was hardly a good pilot...

Not that he had to be with his father's clout. Fly just enough missions to rate a desk, and its all smooth sailing from there.

He shot a glance over at his copilot. "Good," he thought to himself, "the little runt has finally quit complaining."

The navigator came on the com, "Captain, I need you to make a 38 degree right turn to stay on course, coming up..... now."

The pilot stammered "roger" and jerked the stick to the right. The copilot threw his head down on the console in disgust as the plane wheeled drunkenly to the right, getting near the course and stopping.

It was their first big flight out of training, a scientific expedition over the North Pole. They were to follow the course, maintain radio silence, take some pictures, and fly directly back. They were still in the first leg of their 20 hour flight, and their wings were icing up, costing them precious fuel. However, no one on board knew the first thing about it.

McWatt was a gunner, a technical term, as all the guns were remotely run from consoles.He had gotten the bright idea to search the radio for Russian signals. He wasn't sure what he would do with them, but it gave him something to do besides sit around and stare down empty gun sights. The radio kept spewing the same static, but he kept on listening intently. Definitely more interesting than more damn white skies and white land.

The navigator hunched over in his own cubby-hole, checking and rechecking the map with his calipers. Satisfied, he leaned back: it would be some time before they needed another turn, and by his calculations, he had plenty of time for a nap. He flipped the calipers on to his snall table and pulled his cap over his eyes. Of course, he didn't see the calipers fall to the floor, and he never checked their alingment.

The next few hours were uneventful. The gunner was humming some rhythm and blues, and the navigator was assuring the pilot that they were A-OK on course, and the next turn wasn't for thirty minutes.

McWatt decided he might as well go back to the guns. Not only were there no signals from Russia, there was nothing at all. The static had even begun to grow quiet, until it was nothing. He tracked around a little with each turret, to keep the guns from freezing up. It seemed the wire lead above the plane had snapped, but that was unimportant. It was merely a backup radio transmitter, and their main antenna under the plane looked fine.

Suddenly, a flash of silver in the distance caught his eye. Nothing was supposed to be up here....

"Captain, I've got a possible bogie at 4 o'clock low and rising."

"What the hell are ya yammering about now McWatt? All I've got on the radar couldn't be more'n a seagull."

"Well, he's moving in pretty fast, sir."

"Can you get an ident?"

"I can give her a try..... holy shit Capitan, it's a guy!"

"What do you mean, it's a guy? Can you see into his cockpit?"

"No, I mean it's an honest-to-God guy! He's all shiny though, and he's got some kinda rocket strapped to his back."

"That's impossible. You need some sleep McWatt, go take a breather."

"No Capitan, it's true," the navigator piped in, "I can see him out my side window."

"What in the ever-loving hell!?!? Well, what does he look like? What‘s he doing?"

"He's closing in sir. Should I open fire?"

"On a guy in a monkey suit? Hell no, what could he do, scare us out of the sky?"

"Well, I think that's Soviet insignia.... well, I mean... it is red."

A thump reverberated through the aircraft as the man disappeared from view.

"Ah. Well, what are you waiting for McWatt? Open fire!!!"

"Can't sir. The guns won't turn where they'll hit the plane, and he is kind of... on it, sir."

A blue icicle shoved into the ceiling about an inch. Then another, then another. Fortunately for them, the self-sealing rubber kept the pressurized air inside the plane.

The navigator drew his service pistol, but McWatt knocked it out of his hand before he could take aim. "What the hell are you thinking?!? We don't have masks, if we lose cabin pressure we're goners!"

The icicles started to form a kind of path, marching down the side of the plane one by one. When they reached the bottom, they started to move forward, until suddenly the navigator recognized a pattern.

"Capitan, he's going for our radio antenna! We won't be able to call for help!" he shouted over the intercom.

"Those ruskies wouldn't dare. It'd mean war to take us down!"

"Only if the brass knew about it."

"It doesn't matter," McWatt jumped in unenthusiastically. "I can't shoot him while he's on the plane."

Suddenly, the radio began shouting and sputtering. McWatt had left it on full volume while attempting to home in on signals, and it was now far louder than it needed to be.

"THIS IS MCMURDO STATION TO ALPHA-SIX-ONE-NINER, MCMURDO STATION TO ALPHA-SIX-ONE-NINER, TURN BACK, YOU ARE IN SOVIET AIRSPACE!! THEY WILL FIRE ON YOU IF YOU DO NOT TURN BACK!! REPEAT, THIS IS MCMURDO..."

The crew muttered some choice oaths while the copilot calmly took the wheel, turning them back towards home. There was a second thump, and the man in metal flew next to the cockpit, matched speed, and saluted before peeling off, back to where he came from.

When they arrived back at the field, a maintenance tech found that their radio antenna had iced over and snapped off. In its place was a long Soviet combat knife, jammed into the hull and jury-rigged to the transmitter.

The Captain and most of his crew were court-martialed.

Petrograd was awarded the Hero of Soviet Union ribbon for averting a nuclear showdown, and a propaganda field day ensued. Russia, it seemed, had a hero who could stop the nukes from falling.