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Desert Hog

Screaming jets burn a trail through the open desert sky. I sit behind  The craft's electronic instruments feed me a constant stream of information for my assessment. I am a brain, the neural hub situated behind the eye of the mechanical body. I watch the ground below, blinking only when I feel my eyes start to burn.
We are in the air around the clock. Whether the sky is lit by the burning sun or the glowing moon, my long shadow races ceaselessly across the desert sands and engulfs my prey as I dive on them for the kill. I live in the sky now, but not alone. I am a pack hunter.  Our movements are synchronized and seamless. We move as one, linked to each other and to the omnipotent network that gave us our directive by an invisible chain of microwave signals and radio waves. When it struck out against its enemies, it did it with us.
I could see our base on the wavy horizon—the airwaves like water.
"This is nemesis 3-8 requesting landing clearance," I say.
"Roger, that nemesis you are clear to land." The voice echos in my helmet.
As soon as we touched down on the dusty runway, my plane was swarmed by a pit crew that replaced ammunition belts of depleted uranium. I didn't like to be grounded long, but the throbbing pain in my head and my stomach churning with acid was too much for me this time. No one wants to shit themselves too soon after takeoff. They don't let you come back and change. You have to complete your mission.
As soon I heard the screeching impact of the wheels and felt the bump of the runway, I started working on getting my flight suit off while keeping my plane straight on the runway.
I threw up my hands and climbed out of the cockpit. I found the nearest toilet and braced myself for the worse. The stream of fire quickly turned to a trickle. I hadn't eaten in nearly two days. So it was a mystery what my stomach was expelling so quickly. The pills dissolved my appetite. Even the thought of food was nauseating.
I could feel beads of sweat swelling across my forehead; they slid into my eyes before I could do anything about them. I padded my face with some tissue and rested my chin between my hands. I could taste copper. I had bit my lip open again. The timer on my watch began its rhythmic beeping. It was "treat time." That's what we pilots called it anyway. It was when they would administer Modafinil. An apparently new and improved version of the amphetamine.
It was given to us at regular 16-hour intervals. When the watches beeped, we raced over the infirmary. We stood at attention while they placed the pills in tiny white paper cups. We couldn't hide our excitement.  The anticipation had us drooling like dogs. My legs had gone numb, and I could feel myself slouching. My mind was racing, but my body felt like it was about to fall over. Then, I heard a faint cracking sound. I hadn't noticed I was grinding my teeth into powder.
We got our pills and returned to the air. It felt good to leave to the ground. I felt slow down there, slow, and exposed without my metal cocoon. It's 17:30, we are beginning our 47th hour of combat patrol. We find some tire tracks in the sand and begin to follow the trail. We were tracking our next kill.
"Damn, I needed a Statham." Someone says over the radio.
Statham was the nickname the pilots gave to the Modafinil because of the movie "Crank."
"I call them Keanu's." A second voice cracks with static.
"Why?" Asked the first one.
"He was in a movie called Speed." For one thing, was the swift reply.
"Hey, what about bullet time." Another one chimes in.
I ordered general radio silence unless absolutely necessary. The desert below was littered with the charred and twisted remains of vehicles and bodies left behind by us. Flesh and metal were scattered around in the blood-soaked sand. They were our kills, they were my trophies, they were the legacy I was leaving on the battlefield. When the enemy saw a burning tank or a shredded truck, they would know we were stalking the skies. We flew along in silence for some time. The droning of the engines was almost hypnotic. Finally, I decided to make sure the rest of the squad was still on top of their game.
"Have any of you ever heard of Grand Admiral Donitz and his wolf packs?" I ask casually.
"You mean the Nazi submarines?" One of them replies.
"Well yeah, they were German, but they were the best at what they did. They stalked the Atlantic around the clock, and even when they weren't really out there, everyone was convinced they were right behind them. Every sailor was afraid of them." So I proceeded to give them a pep talk about the U-boat crews, just killers exalting other killers.
Before I could finish my speech, a cluster of potential targets came into view. A truck and a jeep were idling just ahead of us. As we got closer, I could see a sedan in between them. We were low enough to make out the people on the ground. It looked like about ten soldiers, two officers, and a few people dressed in civilian clothes. It took me a minute to make out the scene. The sedan's hood was up, and so were the trucks. Cables connected the vehicles. It looked like the car had broken down out there.
"This is Nemesis 3 8. We have a visual of the target and are about to engage." I say aloud.
"Roger." The disembodied voice at the command center answers back.
As we draw ever closer, the landscape sharpens into view. There are children down there, at least two of them. A dog, probably a German Shepard, is running around the car.
"Ready weapons," I say to the squad.
"I see kids down there, Captain." Someone protests. I ignore him.
"Prepare to fire on my command." I continue.
"It looks like they're just giving those people a jump captain." The airman persists.
The targets below can hear our engines and see us circling the sky like a bad omen. I continue to ignore the protesting pilot and swoop down on the target. I make a screaming descent towards the Earth. I know when I fire, he'll fire. I already see the people on the ground scattering. The parents pick up the kids and start running aimlessly into the desert. The soldiers throw down their weapons and disperse. I press down my guns and rain down my fire.

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