An hour later the hanger was almost empty, the remaining people going about their jobs except for a couple of mid-level executives or engineers, I wasn’t sure which. The big wigs had all left when we had started to check out our planes. Colonel Taylor and his aide had left a little while before, we were going to be flying the planes to March field once they had been serviced and they needed to return to their regular duties.
Buffy and I were standing by the planes as the mechanics went over them one last time, then they’d be rolled out and fueled and we would see if we could get them running. From the slight staining around the exhaust ports I knew they had been started before so I didn’t expect any problems.
I looked past Buffy and saw the group of women pilots, led by Helen Carson and Tammy Nelson, walking toward us. I caught Buffy’s eye and glanced over her shoulder and she turned just as they came up to us, all of the women came to attention and Helen saluted her. Buffy returned the salute, “Hello Helen, Tammie,” as I glanced over the group I saw Sarah hanging back Buffy continued, “and Sarah, I don’t think I’ve met anyone else. Can I help you?”
Helen and Tammy exchanged a quick glance; then Helen spoke up, “We understand you’re looking for some pilots?”
Buffy nodded, “Combat pilots, are you volunteering?”
After a moment of silence there were nods from all the women except for Sarah, I thought she’d been dragged into the group against her will. Tammy spoke for the rest of them, “Yes ma’am.”
Buffy and I exchanged glances, and then she turned back to them, “We’re interviewing candidates, if you’ve got time we can do that before we leave.”
“And knock of the ‘ma’am’ shit; I get enough of that from people I don’t know.”
It took a couple of minutes but we found an unused office and had the women come in one at a time. They were all stationed at Lockheed as ferry pilots so their service jackets were available, I got them from the Army personnel officer at the plant. He was reluctant to give them to me at first until I showed him the orders authorizing us to recruit female pilots and giving us the authority to review their service jackets.
I’d look over their service records while Buffy talked to them, interjecting questions about anything I found in their records that raised any questions. When we talked to Sarah I was surprised, she’d improved quite a bit as a pilot when she was with our Combat Training Group at March before we all got booted out but I didn’t expect that she would be the kind of pilot we would want. Reading through her service jacket I was surprised at both how much flying she’d done and some of the close calls and emergencies she’d dealt with.
Buffy was grilling her pretty hard, I don’t think she thought Sarah was what we were really looking for but her responses kept surprising Buffy. Finally I spoke up, “Sarah, why the hell are you volunteering for combat?”
She looked at me in shock, and then turned her eyes to the floor, “Uh…”
“Is it because everyone else is?” She looked up at me and after a couple of moments shook her head no, “Then why?”
Her eyes glistened a little, “My… my brother was shot down… killed… over Germany a couple of months ago… he was a bombardier…”
“So?” Buffy asked, “Is this some kind of revenge thing?”
She looked mystified, “I don’t know… I just think I should do it… I want this damn war over before my little brother has to go off and fight! I can’t lose another brother!”
“How about your family losing a daughter?” I asked.
She looked at me wide eyed, “I’m not going to…”
Buffy shook her head, “No matter how good you are you can never say never - I’ve been killed a number of times, only luck and friends have brought me back.”
Sarah looked at her wide eyed, I was wondering how much Buffy was going to say, finally Sarah nodded, “I know… I just know I can do something and I know I’ll be alright…”
I still had my doubts, “Why the ladies uniform? Why the hanging back in the crowd?”
She looked at me, “I like skirts! Is there something wrong with that?”
“No, but when you’re…”
“When I’m flying I wear pants just like everyone else! I’m not flying today and I’m not doing anything else that requires pants!”
I smiled, “Okay… not the real tomboy type, I can understand that.”
Buffy spoke up, “There was another question.”
She looked at Buffy, “I wasn’t sure this was the right way to get into the group and I didn’t want to blow it.”
Buffy thought for a moment, “Okay, we’ll let you know.” I saw her eyes drop and she flushed a little, Buffy relented, “I can’t say anything official yet but you’ll get orders.”
She raised her head and looked at Buffy, then to me and back to Buffy, “Thanks.”
Buffy nodded, “Send in the next one.”
For the rest of the women it was pretty straight forward, Tammy and Helen and two others were what we were looking for and they wanted in. Of the other three two didn’t really want to fly combat, they were just being swept along with the group, they wouldn’t be getting orders. The other one did want it but her piloting skills and experience weren’t up to it, Buffy told her to try again when she had some more hours under her belt.
By the time we finished the interviews our new planes had been moved out on the apron and fueled, Buffy and climbed onto our planes to head out. I stowed my duffel and cane in the small luggage compartment behind the cockpit and then stepped into the cockpit and lowered myself carefully to the seat. My injured leg was stiff and it took a little maneuvering to get into the seat without too much pain, but once seated I found it fit me just fine. I hadn’t been in a P-38, for that matter I hadn’t been in a pilot’s seat, since I’d gotten shot up, I took a moment to glance around and reacquaint myself. The instruments were all shiny and bright, not a scratch on her, everything was incredibly clean. I powered her up and then glanced outside, ground crewmen were standing clear of the port engine with a large fire extinguisher, I raised my hand over my head and twirled my finger; I got the thumbs up from the ground crewman to start the engine.
I moved the left throttle to the start detent and pushed the primer button three times and then held down the starter button, the high pitched whine of the starter motor came from the engine nacelle and then the prop jerked, once… twice… and then with a bang and a puff of black smoke it started turning, a moment later the engine was roaring. The ground crewmen shifted over to the starboard engine and I repeated the procedure. In a minute all the instruments were in the green and the engines were idling smoothly, I glanced over at Buffy and saw her looking at me, I raised my thumb and heard her voice on the radio, “Union Tower, Slayer Lead, flight of two P-38s requesting permission to take-off.”
“Slayer Lead, Union Tower, you are clear, first for departure, no traffic in the area, winds northwest at 10 to 15, barometer 29.1.”
“Roger Union, winds northwest at 10 to 15, barometer 29.1”
Buffy’s plane started moving and with a touch of throttle I followed after her, we turned onto the wide runway and set up side by side, and then roared down the runway and lifted off together. As soon as I had her cleaned up I pulled into a loose formation with Buffy. The flight from the Lockheed Plant in Burbank to March Field in Riverside only took about fifteen minutes, but we took the long way around out over the ocean and played with our new toys.
The planes were the new ‘G’ model with more powerful Allison engines; I could feel the extra power as we threw them around the skies. We had been playing for half an hour, my injured leg only bothering me slightly as I worked the rudder pedals, when we picked up some chatter. After a moment I realized it was from some Navy pilots, probably out from San Diego. It didn’t take long for us to figure out where they were and we headed in their direction. After a couple of minutes I saw Buffy wiggle her wings, I looked over at her and she pointed down and ahead of us, it took me a moment and then I spotted four dark dots.
We got a little closer and I could make out the dark blue stubby shapes Navy F4Fs, they were swirling around the sky in a mock dogfight. Then I heard Buffy’s voice, “Hey boys, want to play?”
There was a moment of silence and then a voice came back, “Who the hell is that?”
“What the hell?!?!” The Navy planes had stopped their dog fight and were reforming into a more organized formation.
“I asked if you wanted to play?”
Another voice came on the radio, “There they are, two bogies four o’clock high… they look like Lightnings!”
“Who the hell are you?”
“Just some fighter pilots looking for some fun,” Buffy shot back.
“Why the hell not!”
Buffy immediately peeled over and I followed her as she started to dive on the Navy planes, a moment later they scattered, I think they were going to try to pinch us between the two elements but Buffy lead us outside of them and we came back at one element and the other was too far away to support them. We fought them for about twenty minutes, it was apparent that they were pretty green, they kept losing us and then milling around until we bounced them again.
As we closed on them, coming up from behind and below, they hadn’t spotted us when Buffy radioed them, “Thanks guys, but we’ve got to call it quits, it’s been fun.”
With a somewhat chagrinned sound to his voice their leader radioed back, “Yeah, tired of mopping the skies with us.”
“Coming up on your five o’clock,” Buffy responded as she brought us up to their level and then closed on their formation, “you’ve got some good moves you just need some more practice.”
We were just coming up on their right side when I saw the pilot’s eyes in the plane closest to me go wide behind his goggles; then a new voice came over the air, “Jesus! Look at those flags! That’s Summers and Thompson!”
The leader’s voice came back, “And who the hell did you think it was? How many female P-38 pilots do you think fly like that?”
I could hear the acidity in Buffy’s voice, “More than you think, buddy-boy, and more all the time.”
“Sorry Major, no disrespect intended.”
Buffy lightened up, “You didn’t really do that bad, these are the new G models and I think yours are getting a little dated.”
“Yeah, we’re supposed to be getting the new F6Fs in a couple of months, these birds were okay in their time but that’s sort of passed now.”
“Good luck, and give them hell!” Buffy called out as we banked away.
Twenty minutes later we were on the ground at March Field, as we followed a ‘Follow-Me’ jeep past our old hanger I glanced over, there seemed to be a lot of activity around it. Two P-40s and both the Spitfires we had acquired were on the apron, panels open with ground crewmen swarming over them. On the other side sat four fat bodied P-47s looking massive next to the slim P-40s and Spitfires.
We followed the jeep to a service area next to the main terminal; a small group of officers were standing in the shade obviously waiting for us. We shut down and got out of our planes; I got my duffel and cane out and then dropped carefully to the ground. A Staff Sergeant was waiting by my plane and reached up and grabbed my duffel; then he raised his hand in salute and I returned it as he greeted me, “Welcome to March Field, Major Thompson.”
He emphasized the ‘Major’ and I looked at him closer; then grinned as I recognized Dunlop, he’d been a newly promoted buck sergeant assigned to us when we’d started the Top Gun school, “I see congratulations are in order Staff Sergeant.”
“Thank you sir,” he glanced at the plane beside us, “anything she need?”
“Just the normal checks and get her refueled,” I thought for a moment, “give her an extra thorough going over - she’s brand new from the factory.”
“Yes sir,” he grinned, “it’s a pleasure seeing you again, Major.”
I smiled and shrugged at him, “Yeah… it’s been an interesting year. I’ve got to get going but it’s nice seeing you again. Take good care of her.”
“I will sir.”
I took my duffel from him and headed over to the group of officers I’d noticed earlier, Buffy was nearly there and I increased my pace as much as I could, we reached the group at the same time. We came to a stop and a Lieutenant Colonel stepped to the front. Buffy and I came to attention and raised our hands in salute; he returned it, “At ease, Majors. Welcome to March Field.”
“Thank you, sir,” Buffy responded.
“I’m Martin, the training coordinator and the General’s assistant; Lieutenant General Hitchens would like to have a word with you before you start your recruiting drive.”
Hitchens had been the area commander when we were originally here; I’d seen him several times but never met him. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, he’d been in charge when Jenkins had been reassigned and Stevens had been put in charge of the Top Gun school and proceeded to destroy it and try to screw us. Buffy had finally dealt with him by showing him her Slayer side; we’d left the same day to start our new assignment as ferry pilots.
We were quickly introduced to the other officers that had come out to greet us; two were officers we would be working with as we went over the records of the available female pilots attached to the base. The others just wanted to meet us as far as I could determine. Once the introductions were out of the way Martin led us over to a staff car, the three of us got into the back seat and the driver closed the doors behind us.
I glanced over at Buffy, squeezed between me and the Lieutenant Colonel, she shot me a sour expression and her eyes went to the empty passenger seat beside the driver. Army protocol dictated senior officers ride in the back of staff cars, Buffy hated it. Most of the time she called ‘shotgun’ and got in beside the driver, this time she’d gotten herself trapped. Fortunately it was only a short ride over to the headquarters building.
Martin led us in the building and through a security checkpoint and then up a set of stairs to a long hallway. We walked down the hallway until we were nearly at the end where he turned into a moderately sized office. There were file cabinets covering most of the walls and a couple of desks, one by a door to an adjoining office, the corner office of the building I realized, occupied by a Master Sergeant. The other desk, empty but with a sign reading ‘Lt. Col. A. B. Martin’ was on the other side of the door we had come in.
The Sergeant looked up as we came in and instantly reached out and pushed a button on the intercom that sat on his desk, he leaned over as he spoke into it, “Sir, they’re here.”
A voice came from the grey box, “Send them in.”
He looked up but before he could get up the Colonel waved at him and walked to the door and gave it a quick rap and then opened it. He stepped aside and motioned for us to enter, I looked at Buffy and she gave a quick nod and we marched into the office with her in the lead. It was a good sized office with windows on two walls; a couch was under one window with a coffee table and couple of club chairs in front of it. On the other side of the room the wall along the corridor was solid with book shelves except for the door to the hallway. The General was behind the large desk in front of the bookshelves, I recognized him from the times I’d seen him before. He was watching us, his expression stern, as we marched up to the desk and Buffy saluted him, “Majors Summers and Thompson, reporting as requested, sir.”
After a moment he returned her salute, “At ease, ladies. Take a seat.”
There were two straight backed chairs in front of his desk but set slightly to the side nearer the windows, a single chair sat immediately beside the desk on the other side. Buffy and I took the two chairs together, moving them a little more directly in front of the desk. Martin took the other chair and pulled it out and sat down a couple of feet away from us.
The General looked at us for a couple of minutes, he seemed to be concentrating on Buffy; finally he broke the silence, “I’m still not sure if I made the right decision.”
“Sir?” Buffy asked, I was just as lost as to what he was talking about.
“When Major Jenkins was reassigned he came to me, evidently with Colonel Robinson’s backing, and recommended that you be put in command of the Squadron Combat Training Group.”
Buffy’s mouth dropped open, “Sir?”
He shook his head, “I thought you were way too junior and the fact that you’re a woman… Let’s just say that I didn’t think it would work; now I think he was right. ”
Buffy recovered, after a moment she filled the silence, “Thank you, sir.”
“But if I had done that then you wouldn’t be where you are now, would you?”
There was silence again as he studied her, “I’ve had my doubts about the appropriateness of what you are going to be doing ever since I heard about it.”
I was beginning to wonder if he was going to be a problem for us, I didn’t relish the idea of getting into a conflict with a Lieutenant General. That usually didn’t bode well for the Majors involved. Buffy was keeping her expression as neutral as possible, although there was a little gleam of suppressed anger in her eye, “Yes sir.”
“I think I might be changing my mind,” I could see the trace of surprise on Buffy’s face but she quickly covered it up, “I read an article in the paper this morning about you; it contained some quotes you gave some reporters you ran into last night?”
“That was a very astute observation about the people who should be fighting,” he glanced down at his desk and I saw a newspaper was sitting on it; he began reading from it, “… I think it is incredibly stupid to ignore that pool of talent, any pool of talent, that will help us win this war as fast and as at as low a cost as we possibly can.
” He looked back up at Buffy, “You think women pilots are a pool of talent that shouldn’t be ignored?”
Buffy leaned back a little, then gave a sharp nod of her head, “Yes sir. For two reasons, first I think there are many women who will outperform a lot of the men that are going to be put into combat. If they are not used then you’re going to have to dig even lower in the talent pool to come up with the pilots to fill the positions. That’s going to mean some less capable men are going to be put into combat and in all likelihood get their asses shot off.”
There was silence for a moment, the General nodded grimly, “And the second reason?”
“A women is a person, she should the same rights, and responsibility, as a man. To do anything else is to discriminate.”
He raised an eyebrow, “Radical equalitarian are you?”
Buffy looked at him for half a minute, “I don’t care if a person is male or female, white, black, yellow or red, first they are human beings and they should, they must, be treated equally.” She was getting warmed up and I hoped she didn’t go too far, “Hell, I don’t care if they’re green with little horns on their foreheads, as long as they’re the best at what they’re doing then I want them. I know that everyone is different, I’m more different than most, but everyone should get their fair shot. How far they go, what they accomplish, that is up to their abilities and drive. What shouldn’t matter is their sex or the color of their skin, or anything else not having to do with the actual job at hand.”
“You don’t think the different races have different capabilities?”
She looked at him for a moment and then shook her head, “I don’t think so, not at the basic level. I think culture and upbringing can have a lot of effect on the outcome. And I think the society’s expectations can be self-fulfilling. If you’re constantly treating women as children it’s not surprising if you end up with a lot of child-women. But I think what actually happens shows that it is not our, women’s, true nature; women overcome that treatment all the time. If it was truly our nature then how do you explain the thousands of powerful, independent women out there? Look at Barb for Christ’s sake!”
The General looked at her for several minutes, “And you don’t include yourself because?”
Buffy looked at him for a moment and then said softly, “Because I grew up in a world where I had to take responsibility for… for damn near everything as a fifteen year old. It wasn’t something I wanted but I didn’t have a choice.”
He looked at her for a moment, “Your background history is a little sketchy, just some remarks about growing up in China the daughter of some missionaries?”
“Yes sir,” Buffy responded, refusing to answer his silent question.
He looked at her for a while longer, and then turned to me, “And you share your friend’s beliefs?”
“Yes sir,” I answered.
He thought for a moment and nodded, “Before I let you go, I did come to my senses and finally got rid of that idiot Stevens who managed to destroy the training program Major Jenkins and you developed. If you have time I’d appreciate it if you could spend some time with Colonel Martin here, he’s going to be trying to get it going again using your original training program. I know he would like to have the chance to pick your brains.”
“Yes sir.” Buffy said as she turned toward Martin, “Sir, if you’re available maybe we could meet after dinner and we could talk as long as you’d like.”
He nodded, and then smiled slightly, “Or we could meet for dinner and go on from there.”
Buffy shot me a glance and I nodded, “That would be fine sir, shall we meet at the officer’s club at 1900?”
He nodded, “I’ll bring my soon to be XO, he’s handling getting the planes you were using back into shape right now. They were ignored for a long time.” He scowled a little, “Although I’ll have to admit I’ve never seen a more thoroughly painted hanger.”
Buffy grinned, “Stevens did seem to like his paint, too bad he didn’t like to fly.”
General Hitchens snorted, “I’ll let you get on with your task. I guess we’ll all find out how this works out in the end.”
“Yes sir,” Buffy responded.
We had been on the go for two weeks, traveling through California and then across Arizona and New Mexico and then jogging up to south-eastern Colorado before dropping back down into Texas. We had visited over two dozen airfields where women pilots were stationed, Army Airfields, private factory airfields owned by aviation companies, public airfields that were the hubs of the growing network of the military airlift command.
In all we had identified more than two thirds of the pilots we would need for the group, orders were starting to go out for the pilots to report to Eglin, on the Florida pan handle east of Pensacola, where our group was forming. We had arrived at Avenger Field outside of Sweetwater, Texas early in the afternoon. We had gone through our usual routine, inspect the service records and identify those we wanted to talk to and then spending the rest of the time interviewing them.
We had only found three candidates we thought promising, Avenger was a training base and while there was a class of female pilots nearing graduation we didn’t expect to get any from that. The candidates were instructor pilots assigned to the base, we interviewed them and two had what we wanted and wanted in, the other wanted in but Buffy didn’t like something about her. Sometimes Buffy had this inexplicable feeling, whatever it was she followed it whether in taking or rejecting a candidate.
The third candidate we interviewed, Cheryl Hopkins, was one of the ones we accepted; she recommended that we talk to a couple of girls in the class that was due to graduate next week. Buffy didn’t want to at first; unlike the women in our classes these women hadn’t had significant flying experience before joining the Army. They were coming in as raw as the male recruits. But Cheryl was adamant; she claimed they were the best natural pilots, male or female, that she had ever seen. We had plenty of time, we weren’t going to fly out until the next morning, so Buffy told her to find them and send them over.
As we waited in the little office Buffy turned to me, “Barb, I think it’s time for you to head to Eglin.”
“I can handle this; I need you there to start whipping the group into shape. The pilots will start to report in soon, some may already be there.”
I thought about it for a moment, it made sense, there wasn’t anything we’d been doing that Buffy couldn’t handle on her own. I nodded in agreement, “Yeah - that makes sense.”
“You can fly directly from here to Eglin, its well within range, and be there tomorrow night. There are a couple more fields to visit here in Texas and then I’ll be heading for the northeast and New England.”
I knew the rough route we’d laid out, modified as we got word of where the female pilots were actually stationed. The plan called for another two weeks of recruiting, by then we were supposed to have all of the group’s pilots selected. We were actually ahead of schedule, we were getting fewer refusals than we had expected. There were some big concentrations coming up next week and I expected we would find the candidates to fulfill our requirements along with the half dozen ‘extras’ Buffy wanted.
We knew we would lose some people during training, accidents always happened, and Buffy wanted to be able to leave behind the seeds for the replacement pilots we would be requiring once we got into combat. There were officially four squadrons in the group but like most groups one squadron would remain in the States training replacements for the group. Buffy wanted some experienced pilots, pilots that maybe didn’t quite have the mental state to be in combat but had the flying skills, in that squadron. She was also going to stash any extras that she didn’t think had the experience to go into combat right away but had the talent for it in the training squadron. They would stay behind to build up their experience and help train the new women coming to the group.
I looked at her and grinned, “You aren’t just trying to get rid of me so you can get into trouble?”
She smiled back, “I want to get into trouble with you, not without you.”
I stuck out my tongue at her and gave her a raspberry, then added, “In your dreams.”
She nodded seriously, “Yes, in my dreams… for now…”
I shook my head; I wasn’t at all comfortable where this conversation was heading, “Lighten up, Slayer.”
Buffy held up her hands, “No pressure!”
She shrugged her shoulders, “So let’s go out and celebrate tonight.”
“In Sweetwater Texas?” I asked incredulously.
“It is where we are, there has to be a restaurant or bar of some kind.”
“Yeah, I can imagine what kind that some kind is.”
“Come on, Barb, live a little!”
I shrugged my shoulders, “Sure, why not.”
A knock on the door brought our discussion to a halt, Buffy yelled out, “Come!”
The door opened and two young women came in, they were thin and only a bit taller than Buffy and any curves they had were hidden by the bulky flying coveralls they were wearing. They marched stiffly up to the desk Buffy was using. Each had their caps and a manila envelope in their left hand, as they came to a hault one of them rendered a crisp salute, “Cadets Cherry McMillan and Sherry McMillan reporting as ordered!”
Besides sharing the same last name, and almost the same first name, they also shared the exact same looks, they were identical twins! I didn’t have to say anything so I could suppress the laugh that was trying to escape, Buffy didn’t succeed completely, I could hear the giggle as she asked, “Which is which?”
They both glared at her a little; then the one that had spoken originally pointed to herself, “I’m Cherry,” she pointed to her sister, “she’s Sherry, the younger one.”
They looked very young, I would guess they weren’t much over eighteen and wouldn’t have been at all surprised if they had fudged their birthdays by a year. Buffy looked them over and then stood up and held out her hand, “I’m Buffy Summers, it’s nice to meet you.”
They were shocked and it took a moment before Sherry took Buffy’s hand and shook it, when she tried to let go I saw Buffy grip her hand and hold it for an extra four or five seconds. Then she released it and moved her hand over to Cherry, she gripped it and again I could see Buffy holding on longer than was necessary. Slowly Buffy sat down and then gestured at the girls, “Have a seat.”
The two girls sat down and Buffy was silent, she was watching them with the strangest expression I’d ever seen on her face. Buffy didn’t usually shake the hands of candidates, maybe when she’d decided to accept someone she would but not when they first came in. After a moment Buffy seemed to bring herself back, she glanced over at me, “Barb, would you take a look at their service records?”
Each girl held the manila envelopes in their hand out to me. I saw the envelopes were sealed and the personnel officer’s signature was across the flap. I ripped them open and pulled out the thin service jackets that were inside. I looked through their records, it didn’t take long, the girls hadn’t graduated from the course yet nor been commissioned so the only things they contained were their enlistment papers along with some background information and the school records. They had both done well academically, 3rd and 4th in their class, and the comments from the flight instructors said they were outstanding pilots.
I looked up at Buffy, “The records look good, what there is of them.”
Buffy nodded, she was still gazing at the two girls. Finally she shook herself, “Do you want to do this together or one at a time.”
They both instantly chorused, “Together.”
Buffy looked at them a while longer, finally she seemed to come to a decision, “Did you two have a Watcher?”
Both girls looked at her and then at each other in confusion, finally Cherry said, “I don’t understand, ma’am.”
Buffy shrugged, “You two seem pretty connected.”
The girls exchanged another glance, their faces clearly showing they were mystified by the questions. I tried to keep my face neutral but I was just as mystified. I dug around in my memory and finally remembered that Buffy had called her advisor Giles a ‘Watcher’ but what on earth did that have to do with the two girls sitting in front of her? Finally Cherry responded, “It happens when you’re twins.”
Buffy nodded and turned her attention to Sherry, “How are you going to feel when you see Cherry shot down in flames and hear her screaming in agony over the radio just before she smashes into the ground?”
Sherry went white and I could see her swallow heavily and then try to speak, “I’ll… I’ll feel like a part of me has just died.”
Cherry was glaring at Buffy, “And how are you going to feel when Major Thompson is shot down in flames?”
Buffy looked at her and after a moment gave a sharp nod, “Touché! I’ll feel like shit… and I won’t be very good company for a long time, but I’ll live through it. Will you when Sherry gets killed?”
The two girls exchanged glances; then Sherry spoke, “We’ll deal with it if it ever comes to it. We didn’t join the Army because we wanted to stay safe.”
Buffy looked at them for a while longer, “Cherry, do you wish to volunteer for a combat assignment?”
Cherry shot a glance at Sherry and then turned her attention back to Buffy, “Yes ma’am.”
“Even if your sister isn’t accepted?”
“Why wouldn’t she be accepted if I was accepted?”
“Answer the question!”
Cherry looked over at her sister again, I couldn’t see any sign of communication between the two but then they were twins; they could probably do it without us being able to see it. Then she turned back to Buffy, “Yes ma’am.”
Buffy turned to the other girl, “Sherry, do you wish to volunteer for a combat assignment?”
“Yes, with or without my sister.”
Slowly Buffy shook her head, “Okay… I’m not sure what I’m going to do with you two…”
“Sir?” they asked together.
Buffy put her hands together and rested her chin on them as she leaned back in her chair and contemplated the two girls, finally she said, “I don’t know if I’ll assign you together or if I’ll separate you as much as I can. I can see how you’d work together very well; you’ve done it all your life. But another part of me wants you as far apart as I can get you so one of you doesn’t do something stupid to try to save the other and have both of you end up dead.”
“Yes ma’am” they said together.
Buffy nodded curtly to them, “I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, in that time I expect you to finish your courses here without any slacking off and I’ll expect you to be ready to take your check flights for certification in a P-38. Is that clear?”
“And knock off the ma’am shit! I’m not your mother!”
They glanced at each other and I caught Cherry’s eye and silently mouthed ‘sir’, she was quick on the uptake and responded to Buffy, “Yes sir!”
“Now get out of here before I come to my senses and change my mind!”
The two girls got up and practically ran out of the office; before the door completely closed I heard two palms slap together and someone squeal, “Yee-ha!”
I looked over at Buffy for a moment, “What the hell was that all about?”
She looked at me for a moment and then shrugged, “They were… are… I don’t know the correct terminology but they are a couple of potentials that were never called.”
I was lost for a moment and then realized what she was talking about, “They were potential Slayers but were never called?”
Buffy nodded, “They’re too old, at least I think they’re too old, to be called now. But I could feel the Slayer in them, just barely but it’s there.”
“They couldn’t sense me, they’d never been trained and they weren’t called.” Buffy was staring off in the distance, “I wonder what would have happened if they had been called? Would they both have been called? I’ve never heard of twin Slayers.” After another couple of moments she shook her head, “Let’s get cleaned up and get out of here, find out if there is any place in this town worth going to.”
Three hours later we had finished a very good meal and had lingered over desert and drinks in a pleasant hotel dining room on Broadway in Sweetwater, a mile or so from the base. When we’d returned the personnel records to the admin sergeant he had recommended it. The bar on the other side of the lobby was starting to get loud, it sounded like they were planning on having a wild Saturday night.
Across the table Buffy put the last forkful of her third slice of chocolate cake into her mouth and chewed contentedly. It was a somewhat awe inspiring spectacle watching a Slayer eat when she wasn’t too concerned about what people might be thinking. She swallowed her last bite and then washed it down with the quarter glass of wine she had left. She put the glass down and then stuck out her arms and stretched, her mouth opened in a massive yawn and she hastily jerked a hand back in to cover it. She looked at me sheepishly, “Sorry, Barb.”
I shook my head, “Sometimes I am still amazed.”
“Never mind… Are you ready to head back to the base?”
She cocked her head toward the bar and listened for a couple seconds and then nodded, “Yeah, not a crowd I really want to get involved with… it sounds like just about everyone is drunk or soon will be.”
We paid our check and started out of the building, then I realized I had better make a stop before the mile plus hike back to the base, “Buffy, I’ve got to make a pit stop.”
She nodded, “I’ll be outside.”
A couple of minutes later I came out onto wide porch on the front of the hotel. I didn’t see Buffy right away but there was a boisterous crowd around the door so I went down to the sidewalk and started walking toward the base. I came to the alley at the side of the hotel and still hadn’t seen Buffy, I must have missed her on the porch, she was probably on the other side of that crowd, I turned to go back for her.
An arm slammed across my neck from behind and cut off my wind, another hand grabbed my wrist and jerked my arm up between my shoulder blades as the arm around my neck pulled me back against a large body. I started to struggle as I was jerked off my feet, I got my free arm behind me and grabbed some hair and then felt an ear, I grabbed it and twisted it as hard as I could. I heard a grunt of pain and the pressure on my arm increased and pain shot through my shoulder, a voice hissed in my ear, “Stop struggling or I’ll break it!”
I wasn’t accomplishing against my attacker so I decided to try to play possum until I got a chance. I was being carried backward up the alley and now he turned around and carried me deeper into the alley. He had to be at least six three or four and probably close to three hundred pounds, it felt like was being held against a hard pillow. Under a thick layer of fat there was a lot of muscle, I’d have to be good and he’d have to make a mistake for me to get away. I wondered what the hell he wanted.
A moment later we were past the hotel, the building behind it was only one story instead of the four of the hotel; moonlight lit the remaining length of alley brightly. Over against the brick wall of the building on the opposite side of the alley two men were holding Buffy’s arms out to the side as they pressed her into the wall, a third man stood in front of her, a couple of feet away from her. As we came up to the group the man holding me said softly, “Charlie, I’ve got the other one you wanted.”
The man in front of Buffy turned toward me, he was a big man going to fat and he didn’t look that old, mid-twenties I would guess. Something about him was vaguely familiar and then Buffy spoke, “Callahan, we’ve already established you’re an idiot, now do you want to let us go or are things going to get nasty?”
At the mention of his name I placed him; he’d been court-martialed and kicked out of the Army for refusing to follow Buffy’s orders to stop a firing pass on the gunnery range when she was towing the target sleeve. A student pilot had wandered onto the range and Callahan had ended up hitting him. He was from some well-to-do Texas family and he’d managed to get off without any prison time but the Army had booted him.
Callahan turned back to Buffy, “Oh, things are going to get nasty… for you… I think me and the boys are going to enjoy it. I always figured you had a tight twat, now we’ll find out just how tight!”
Buffy glared at him, “Callahan, so help me if you don’t let us go this instant you are going to regret it for the rest of your miserable life, however short it may be.”
He chuckled, “Oh, I don’t think so little lady… I think it’ll be the other way around. But I think I’ll start with your friend first, she’s more my size, besides maybe it’ll get you in the mood for it when you see what I’ve got.”
Buffy was still trying to talk her way out of the situation, “Callahan, I’m warning…”
He ignored her as he turned toward me and took two steps and then his hand reached out and grabbed my crotch. I gasped in pain and shock as his fingers gripped me hard, they were moving around and then I could feel him forcing the material of my pants and panties into me as his fingers probed. The man behind me lifted me higher in the air as I started to struggle and pain shot through my shoulder.
I was looking over Callahan’s shoulder when I saw Buffy move, she jerked her right arm free and brought it swinging around and buried her fist into the kidney of the man holding her left arm. He arched back as the breath exploded out of him in a huge grunting gasp. Buffy pulled her left arm free and before the man on her right could do more than turn toward her she slammed her fist into his gut. As he bent over Buffy grabbed his shoulders forcing him down even faster, at the same time she brought up her knee into his face, the crunch of bones being smashed could be heard clearly. He flipped out of her grip, going over backwards and crashing to the ground, the back of his head hit the hard dirt of the alley with a heavy thud.
Callahan jerked his head around at the sound, his fingers were still digging inside of me but they stopped moving as he stared at the same thing I was watching. Buffy grabbed the wrist of the man she had hit with her first punch, her other hand grasped his arm near the arm pit and then she spun and slammed him into the brick wall they had been holding her against. There was a hollow thud as he hit the wall followed immediately by a sharp ‘crack’ as she snapped his arm back, the arm was bent ninety degrees at the elbow, but it was in the wrong direction. Buffy released him and he crumpled to the ground.
Callahan was standing stunned, too shocked by what she had done to move, he was facing me but his head was craned around to watch Buffy. In less than five seconds Buffy had taken two men, each of whom was at least a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than she was, and knocked them unconscious with her bare hands.
Before Callahan could react Buffy turned and took two steps and then planted her foot as her other leg swung forward with incredible speed. The form was perfect for a punt that would go the length of a football field. Buffy’s foot came up between Callahan’s legs and slammed into his crotch with so much force he was lifted three feet above me, the hand he had in my crotch jerked free. The guy behind me staggered back as Callahan’s body crumpled to the ground at our feet.
Buffy stepped up to him as he curled into a ball, his hands going to his crotch as a high pitched, barely audible scream whistled out of him. Buffy paused for a moment and said fiercely, “I warned you that you would regret this for the rest of your life!” She looked up at me and then past me to the man still holding me, the fury plainly visible in her eyes, “If you want to live more than five seconds you had better let her go!” I felt him release me and I staggered as my feet hit the ground; then I caught myself, “Barb, are you okay?”
I nodded and managed to speak, “Yeah, maybe bruised a little…”
Buffy turned back to Callahan, I was surprised he was still conscious, but his eyes were wide with terror as she knelt down beside him. “If I ever see you again you will wish you were dead for many hours before you actually die!”
As Buffy stood up I noticed the crotch of Callahan’s light slacks were turning black with blood, I didn’t know how much damage Buffy had done but I didn’t think he would be fathering any children in the future. Buffy took a step toward me and then her eyes shifted to the man that was still standing behind me, “You better start thinking up one hell of a story because if Barb or I are mentioned in any way I’ll come back. And you really don’t want me to do that, do you?”
Buffy took my arm and started walking me down the alley. The more I walked the easier it got, but I knew I was going to be bruised and sore for a while. Buffy spoke to me quietly, “Are you okay? Should I call the base and get the duty driver out here to give us a ride?”
I took a couple more steps, it was getting easier with each one, “No, I’ll be fine. The exercise is helping.”
Buffy nodded, “Barb, I’m so sorry…”
I cut her off, “So help me if you try to apologize for what those goons did I’m going to see how hard I can punch you - Slayer or not it will hurt some!”
It turned out the long walk back to the base was a pleasant experience. There was something about walking along in the cool air under the brilliant stars that was nice. Having a beautiful Slayer at my side who had just saved me from a very unpleasant experience and had administered some rough frontier justice made it just about perfect. Damn it, I thought, I’m falling for the girl beside me. What the hell was I going to do?