Author’s Note: Unfortunately, I’ve had to cut a handful of subplots and characters from my WWIII novel to save some space. Not my idea, however, I understand where the publishers are coming from. One of the minor characters I cut was Major Anders Carsten, a Danish Air Force F-16 pilot. I really liked this character and the subplot he was tied to. So, I thought I’d share a few deleted scenes of his before we jump back into the war entries next week. This scene takes place as hostilities are just starting to break out. –Mike
Major Carsten turned around in his seat to examine the forlorn, bruised NCO slumped in the rear of the jeep. The poor kid still appeared shaken even though the accident that landed him in this condition had taken place hours ago. Carsten had read the police report and spoken to the investigating officer at length. He knew the entire story and also knew that Sergeant Oster, a maintainer from 727 Squadron, was damn fortunate.
The lad was returning to the base after visiting relatives in nearby Haderslev when the misfortune struck. The squadron commander had approved him for a short six-hour pass because Oster’s brother had just come out of surgery to remove a tumor. While being taken back to the base by another sibling, the car they were traveling in was cut off by a tanker truck and forced into a ditch. If the truck had cut them off a second or two earlier, the car probably would’ve struck the base of a nearby overpass. Oster and his sister walked away with bruises mainly, and in the NCO’s case, a sprained wrist. Luck plays a role in everything, Carsten reminded himself. Oster was still coming to terms with that right now.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
Oster looked up and tried to smile. “I’m fine, sir. Thank you.”
“The doctor said you need to rest but should be ready for duty again tomorrow afternoon.”
“That’s a long time, Major,” Oster breathed. “The squadron needs me sooner. I will be back at work in the morning.”
Carsten nodded and hid a grin. “We need you back healthy. When we return, go straight to your quarters and go to sleep.”
The call had come to the squadron’s makeshift offices in the late afternoon. Carsten volunteered to go into town and await Oster’s release from the hospital. That wait unexpectedly turned into an almost four-hour long ordeal. The emergency room doctors at the hospital had been unusually thorough, ordering up a wide battery of tests. Carsten and his driver waited patiently in the waiting room along with a knot of Oster’s relatives. Two hours into the wait and the Oster family was treating them like long lost children, grateful for the service they were providing to their young relative and Denmark as well. Someone had brought in food and the atmosphere became almost festive as the Osters, other waiting patients, and even hospital employees all came to extend their thanks and best wishes to Carsten and his driver.
Now that they were finally on their way back to the base, Carsten could breathe easier. Things were happening and hostilities appeared likely to break out at any time. When he checked in with the squadron an hour ago, Colonel Ronne inform Carsten that the base was going to its maximum security alert level. If Oster had not been discharged when he was, Carsten would have been forced to leave him at the hospital.
As the passed through the town of Vojens, next to the base, Carsten noted the scenery mirrored the grim mood of the moment perfectly. Very few people were visible on the sidewalks and there were no cars on the roadways. A few lights peered out from the darkness, one or two residences, an all-night convenience store and a small bar. Life wasn’t entirely drained in Denmark, he was glad to see. The past week of uninterrupted crisis and growing tension was not breaking the strong spirit of the Danish people.
The major was about to tell the driver to increase the speed when the right side of the jeep was suddenly bathed in a bright orange glow. He snapped his head in that direction just in time to see a fireball climbing into the night sky to the north, silhouetted against the backdrop of nearby houses. The light was intense and then began to draw down. The driver hit the brakes at once and the vehicle decelerated, wobbling slightly before he managed to regain control. Then the noise and shockwave of the explosion reached them, an ear shattering thud which rattled the jeep violently for a long second.
“What the fuck was that?” the driver shouted.
Carsten turned around again. “Sergeant, what’s over in that direction?”
As a native of a nearby town, Oster knew the area well. He did not hesitate. “That’s the rail yard. A train must have derailed.”
“Take us back to the base,” Carsten ordered the driver, as an uneasy feeling crept into his stomach.
Ten minutes later the jeep pulled up to Skrydstrup’s main gate to find a squad of Home Guard soldiers clad in full combat gear. They weren’t here before, Carsten noted immediately. On the other side of the gate sat a jeep similar to theirs, only this one had a pintle-mounted machine gun attached instead of a hardtop.
A guard approached and shined a bright flashlight into the interior. “IDs,” he said curtly. Carsten handed them over.
“What’s happening here?” He then asked.
“Somebody started dropping mortar rounds on the base about ten minutes ago, sir. Just a handful but they landed down near the ammunition bunkers. Didn’t hit anything, Thank God. You’re coming from town?” He looked up. Carsten noticed that his face was covered in dark camouflage paint. “What’s going on there? Someone said there was an explosion in that direction a little while ago.”
“We saw it, as well. Looked like it came from the rail yard.”
The soldier’s eyes widened. He handed the IDs back to the driver. “Okay, you’re clear. Good luck, sir.”
“And to you,” Carsten answered. “Keep alert,” he advised as the jeep took off.
“Where to, sir?” The driver asked.
The Humvee pulled up to the brick building that served as 727 Squadron’s operations center and headquarters. Other vehicles were pulling into the lot beside them. Civilian cars intermixed with a handful of jeeps and other official vehicles.
Inside, the scene was just as chaotic. Carsten watched his squadron-mates rushing around without quite knowing what they were doing. As his fellow officers noticed his presence, he was besieged by men vying for his attention. He picked Major Henrik Dahl from out of the gaggle and motioned to him. Dahl was the operations officer.
“What’s the situation, Henrik?”
“Somebody hit the base. Probably commandos. Dropped mortars around the ammo dump and fueling area. Nothing was damaged. Base security is out trying to track them down now.”
Dahl shook his head. “I haven’t heard. What about you? I heard something blew up in town.”
Carsten filled him in on what they had seen on the drive in, along with Sergeant Oster’s thoughts.
“God,” Dahl features turned a pasty white as he absorbed the news and started putting the pieces together in his head.
Carsten nodded, his thoughts moving along similar lines. “Yeah. I think it’s started. Where do we stand?”
“Our people are still coming in. We have no orders yet, but Colonel Ronne wants everyone gathered and ready immediately.”
“Where is he now?”
“Down at the shelters with the aircraft. He said to let him know when you arrived. I’ll do that now.”
“Before you do, give me an update on our status.”
Dahl scanned the sheet of paper in his hand. “Four aircraft are on alert presently. We can have them up in minutes. Everything else is being armed and fueled right now. As they come on line we’ll assign pilots to them. Oh, and Green flight is now on the return leg. Coming back from CAP.”
“I want them turned around at once as soon as they’re on the ground.”
“Right.” Dahl went off.
The red phone on the conference table began to ring. Carsten reached down and picked it up. “727 Squadron.”
“This is Air Ops,” an alarmed voice on the other end nearly yelled. “Heavy jamming activity is being picked up from the southeast. The base commander has ordered-”
Carsten didn’t hear the rest. Klaxon alarms began erupting across the airbase.