Sleeping Giants Page 8

—Who is “they”?

—The US military doesn’t allow women in combat or special operations.

—How does that make you feel?

—How does what make me feel? That women can’t join special ops? I knew that when I joined the Army. There are still a lot of rewarding jobs for women in the military. Do you wanna know if I’m upset I can’t fly anymore? You bet I am. It feels like my legs were cut off.

—You like flying that much?

—Most kids want to become firemen, policemen, fighter pilots, astronauts. Most people change their mind when they get older. I always wanted…No, that’s not true; I wanted to be a princess. But I knew I wanted to become a helicopter pilot the minute I saw one hover over our house. I must have been five or six. I haven’t changed my mind ever since, never questioned my choice to join the armed forces. It’s who I am. It’s the only thing that really makes me feel alive.

—Could you fly if they let you?

—Could I? Yes. I could. I see fine.

—Let me ask you this. Why were you in Turkey?

—I’m really trying not to be a smart-ass here, but you’re making it difficult. You’ll have to be more specific.

—I mean why did they send you? This seems to be the type of mission the law is designed to keep women away from, and you just told me there is an entire regiment of people who specialize in just that sort of thing. Why did they send a twenty-four-year-old woman with an attitude for such an important mission and not SOAR?

—The commander knew me. I flew support missions for him in Afghanistan. And it’s NATO, things are a little different. In any case, all the commander has to do is call it recon, or support, then I can go. There are some really good women pilots in the Army. Good commanders find ways to use them.

—One last question. What if I told you I could get your flight status reinstated? What would you be willing to do?

—Anything.

—Be careful how you choose to answer. You might regret it later.

—Then tell me what I have to do.

—Would you be willing to put your life at risk?

—That’s a ridiculous question. Anyone who gets in a military helicopter knows they’re putting their life at risk.

—Would you be willing to put the lives of innocent people at risk?

—If I trust there’s a good reason behind it. It doesn’t really matter what you ask me. Like I said, I’m willing to do anything if there’s a purpose to it.

—You are a soldier in the United States Army. Presumably, you are not always told the reason for everything. Have you ever been sent on a mission without knowing its purpose?

—It happens. Not as often as you’d think, but it happens.

—Then how do you know it was worth putting your life in danger? You do not strike me as someone who would blindly trust anyone.

—I guess I didn’t do too well on that test. You’re right, I don’t trust people easily, but I have faith in numbers.

—Interesting.

—I do. I think people are scared, and dumb, and selfish on their own, but put enough of them together and they’ll be half-decent. The Army’s a big clumsy machine, but I trust it to do the right thing more often than not.

—Can you keep an open mind? Are you willing to challenge what you know to be true?

—I suppose no one ever thinks that they’re close-minded. You tell me.

—Thank you very much for your time, Ms. Resnik.

—Oh, again with the cryptic ending. Come on! Tell me more…No? Ask me more questions, then! Don’t go…I’ll tell you more stories about little Tommy sitting on the stairs!

FILE NO. 017

INTERVIEW WITH CW2 RYAN MITCHELL, UNITED STATES ARMY

Location: Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington State

—Good morning, Mr. Mitchell. Dr. Franklin tells me you are making progress.

—Oh yeah. Like she says, all you need is some faith and trust…and a little bit of pixie dust…We’ve been flying all over North America for just over four months now. It’s sort of like crop dusting at night, only from a lot higher, and it’s probably a lot more illegal. Operation Tinker Bell, that’s what we call it. It was too easy, flying around leaving a trail of magic powder behind.

—Is the compound working?

—Definitely working. Hats off to Dr. Franklin, she sure can cook. ARCANA, she calls it. It means “secrets,” or in this case Argon-Rich Compound for Aerial Nocturnal Application. I think she just liked the acronym. When we first started, pretty much everyone but Dr. Franklin thought this was a complete waste of time, but we found another arm piece in Vermont our first week out. We almost crashed again, though. Kara thought…

—Pardon me. Kara?

—Chief Warrant Officer Resnik. I’m sorry. We’ve been working with civilians for a while now. I guess it rubs off. She and Dr. Franklin thought we’d be fine flying at eight thousand feet, but when the arm piece we found activated, our engine stopped just like it did in Turkey. Fortunately, we were high enough for autorotation, and she was able to restart the engine before we hit the ground. She’s really amazing to watch. Not the most tactful person you’ll ever meet, but the girl can fly.

—I am happy to see you two are getting along. I was hoping you would. Do I detect a hint of infatuation in your voice?

—I wouldn’t go that far. I’m well aware of the Army’s fraternization policies, but you’d have to be made of stone not to find her attractive. She’s built like a swimmer: long legs, very strong, and shoulders that would put most men to shame. I don’t know how to say that without sounding like a jerk, but the men at the base say it makes their day just to watch her walk away. She has the darkest hair for someone that light-skinned. It just makes her eyes jump out at you. That pale green, it’s very…disconcerting. Well, you’ve seen her. You know how hard it is not to stare at her eyes.

—I never noticed. You must realize you are not operating in a typical military environment. You would not be jeopardizing the chain of command.

—Actually, we would be. In the Army, the co-pilot is second-in-command. That means she’s my superior. We have our own tiny little chain of command to jeopardize, and the Army is pretty serious about the Uniform Code. It doesn’t matter anyway. I find her attractive, that’s all. And believe me, she’s not the least bit interested. She acts like she barely tolerates me.

—Coming from her, I would take that as high praise. Let us get back to the mission.

—Yes! We’ve divided the country into a grid. Each box on the grid is roughly the square mileage we can cover in one night, based on the time it takes to get there from the nearest Army base. We can cover a good portion of the map from here, and we go from base to base to clear the boxes farther east and south. We’re just about halfway through the grid right now.

—Have you been able to disperse the compound from a safe distance? I would rather the two of you not nearly die every time you discover a new body part.

—We have, sir. As I mentioned, we almost crashed our first week out, so we went up to fifteen thousand feet on the next flights. We were unsure whether it was close enough for the pieces to activate before we got too far away to see them. It took about a month before we found another part, a lower leg, then a foot, along the Kansas-Missouri border.

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