THE EDGE OF SPACE
0800 ZULU MARCH 11
The Star filled blackness of space. There is an eerie feeling of being nothing more than a bubble on the edge of space at 70,000 feet. The labored breathing of pure oxygen gives one a sense of being in slow motion. A darkness just before dawn as the sliver of light that encompasses a point on the horizon showing the curvature of the earth flashes across the sky. Below, the Gulf of Oman spears the ribbon of water that separates the Iranian coastline and the Arab Peninsula.
The famed U-2 SPYPLANE moves across this vast emptiness in a seemingly silent glide.
The dark blue sky and the extensive cockpit control panel of the U-2 are reflected from the pilot’s faceplate. Captain Dan Wales glances out of the cockpit to the Gulf of Oman. No presence of vessels in the Gulf today. He activates the VOX in his headset.
“Sat Com secure link to Starlight.”
We hear a voice over the radio from the Combined Air Operation Center at Beale AFB in California. A communication signal begins flashing on the cockpit control panel. Major Katherine Blakely responds to the U-2 call sign from Angel One.
A moment of silence.
“Angel One you are secure.”
As Angel One moves across the horizon a large part of the African continent can be see below as dawn approaches. Dan watches the magic begin as he catches the faint glare off the nose of the aircraft marking the approaching dawn. It never ceases to amaze him the view from the edge of space as the first light comes alive. There is a flutter in his heart. It’s always an inspirational moment no matter how often he arrives at that point in time. If a pilot wasn’t a believer before he made the program. Well, after a few ventures to the edge of space usually cured that stigma. Odd how people change once the military gets into their mind. Back to realty, Dan flips the sun visor down to ward off the blinding light of the approaching dawn.
Half a world away…
BEALE AFB 9TH RECON WING CAOC
At the Beale AFB 9th Recon Wing Operation Center the fading light of the sun casts a crimson tone in the semi arid landscape as it moves toward sunset. A long low building that sets on the edge of the runway houses the Combined Air Operation Center for the 9th Recon Wing. The CAOC is the nerve center for global operations of the U-2 Reconnaissance aircraft.
Major Katherine Blakely is the Operations Officer at the CAOC. Today, she is directing the U-2 operations in the Middle East. A large array of screens; manned by a number of personnel, are displayed on the north wall of the bunker. A large main screen is showing live footage from Angel One. Major Blakely glances over the array of screens; then turns to Sergeant Wilkes.
“Wilkes, start a track on Angel One. I’ll be at HQ for an Intel briefing.”
Sergeant Wilkes gives her a soft salute. The Major glances once more at the main screen then walks out of the control center. Wilkes glances at the bank of screens and finally to one specific screen that shows the Strait of Hormuz and Qeshm Island from a Satellite point of view. He grabs his coffee mug and heads for the coffee bin for a refill.
QESHM ISLAND -IRAN
0930 ZULU MARCH 12
Several miles from the City of Messen on Qeshm Island, several vehicles move toward the Syrian vessel MAESTRO moored at the end of the Pier. There is a flurry of activity as workers load large crates of guns and rockets. A very large object covered by a tarpaulin is lifted by the Ship’s cranes. A few very subdued lights cast shadows on the dock area. Captain RODRIGO HOSAN of the MAESTRO watches as the cranes drop a 80 foot container onto the deck of the Maestro. Satisfied, he turns and returns to the dock area to meet Suli Akman, the leader of the truck caravan. Hosan greets him with a smile.
“We must be underway before dawn.”
Suli Akman knows Hosan well, for he has loaded cargo for him on several previous occasions. He is known to have a temper and a bad disposition if things don’t go his way. Suli is not sure rather or not the smile is real or not.
“You will be loaded in less than an hour Captain.”
Suli smiles weakly.
“Expensive wine for our friends in Ramallah. Enough to satisfy our curious neighbors for many events.”
Hosan smiles sardonically.
“They will welcome such luxurious items.”
Suli points over his shoulder to the Maestro and it’s covered cargo on the deck of the vessel.
“The Yugo will give you passage...”
The Captain nods with a grin.
“Ah, we will swim like mermaids, my friend.”There is something very dark in his wicked smile. Suli doesn’t trust him and likes him even less. But that would not be prudent for him to make that known to this very dangerous man. The Captain suddenly ends this conversation.
“Enough said. Hasten the loading we must depart in the darkness.”
Captain Hosan dismisses him with a wave of his hand and moves back to the Maestro. Suli watches him depart. There is a very sinister look that briefly hints at the mission he is about to embark upon. The crane hoists the last crate of munitions on board. To the East there is a hint of the approaching dawn.
U-2 AIRCRAFT OVER YEMEN
At 70,000 feet over Yemen, Angel One charts a course, moving across the Yemen landscape in search of terrorist training camps. The mouth of the Gulf of Aden lies in front of him. The African Continent fills his horizon to the south. The faint glow of lights from Karachi India can be seen some 400 miles to the east. The dawn moves across the Asian Continent...