“Reporting for duty, sir,” the ITT engineer said with a smile.
The base commander shook her hand.
“Welcome to the 122nd Fighter Wing,” he said. “Homeland Security told me to expect you. I understand we’re all part of a team now. What do you hear about our little operation out here on Ferguson Road?”
“Word has it the Blacksnakes are testing hovercraft for the federal government,” Cindy said. “It’s going to be a huge contract and bring hundreds of jobs to the Air National Guard in Fort Wayne.”
The commander returned the smile.
“That would be a hell of a deal if it were true,” he said. “But no, it’s just a rumor. There have been quite a few rumors lately about the 122nd.”
The engineer nodded.
“Same thing with ITT,” she said. “People see lights in the sky over a city with defense contractors and an air base, and they start speculating. Like when you threw a scare into Kokomo a couple of years ago.”
F-16 jets from the 122nd had produced sonic booms over Howard County. People said they saw fireballs in the sky.
“Those were flares during a training exercise,” the wing commander explained.
The commander said the 122nd Fighter Wing was in fact planning training maneuvers for a couple of “Warthogs” – A-10 Thunderbolt jets that were replacing the F-16 fleet at the base. The A-10s would be flying at times and places that Fort Wayne’s mysterious blue lights had been reported. The commander told the ITT engineer she’d receive reports on anything that was spotted.
That evening, four pilots flew their Warthogs from the base, adjacent to Fort Wayne International Airport, west over Fox Island, north up to Smith Field, back down the east side and across downtown, scanning the city with night-vision goggles.
There was no shortage of lights – from houses, restaurants, stores, streetlamps, broadcasting towers. Coliseum Boulevard glowed along much of its length. There were the spotlights beaming from Piere’s, the big nightclub on the northeast side. And the Three Rivers Festival lit up Headwaters Park.
“It’s a wonder anybody saw anything with all these lights,” one pilot radioed to others as they prepared to return to the south-side base.
Jake sat on his lawn chair in his driveway, just off Ludwig Road. He had watched the shapes of the A-10s as they passed over Smith Field. There was a full moon, and the summer days were getting longer. It was light enough that he could still see a crowd of people milling around by the Smith Field maintenance training hangar.
Jake recognized one man as the Homeland Security director. And, of course, he knew the mayor by sight.
“Are you certain?” asked The Journal Gazette reporter standing next to Jake’s lawn chair. “How do you know those people are over there? They’re too far away, and it’s getting dark.”
“Here,” Jake said, “look through these binoculars.”
“You’re right; it’s no wonder airport personnel wouldn’t let me in the gate earlier,” she said. “Good thing I spotted you in your driveway.”
“I’m here nightly,” Jake replied. “All week, every week.”
The reporter had heard about the strange lights over Smith Field and elsewhere, and Jake told her about what he’d seen. An hour later, the reporter, the Smith Field gathering and the F-10s were long gone, and Jake went inside his house. Nothing more to look at tonight but the pages of a book, he decided.
Jake heard a car pull into his driveway. He looked out the picture window. His daughter was bounding up to the front door.
“It’s kind of late for you to be here,” Jake said to Chelsea.
“We went out after band practice for ice cream,” she said.
Jake started to tell Chelsea about his night.
“There’s something going on,” Jake said, “unless I’m just plain crazy.”
“Then that makes two of us,” Chelsea said.