The B Team

All characters that appear in these chapters of B-Team are my own. Steal them if you must. This story is a continuation of the original four part "B-Team". My special thanks to Tigermark for suggesting this storyline to me and helping me put it together.

The B Team is copyright © The Silver Coyote

A Glowing Opportunity

It was a cool morning, and a little damp as what passed for dewfall was drifting across the airport. The ramps were quiet, it was too early for any activity of consequence. Out here away from the main terminal area at Port Columbus, on the old part of the field where Intermountain Charter's main hangar and ramp were, there was very little sound other than the whirring of the exhaust ventilators in the hangar roof. The sky was a grayish blue, the eastern horizon pink with the approaching daybreak. There was no wind.

Joe Latrans and Steve Lupus, together again, were just completing the walk- around of their favorite nemesis and money-maker, The Bitch. Fresh from the ministrations of Jerry Kitt, the company's master Airframe & Powerplant mechanic, she was ready to fly once again, and just in time for the next classified charter. Steve and Joe both had spent quite a bit of time checking out the cockpit area this morning, especially in the small compartment under the flight deck that housed the hydraulic pumps, electric buss isolators, and power distribution systems. Brand new pumps and wiring gleamed dully in the glare of their flashlights there, and the log books reflected the time and materials that had been absorbed by The Bitch in her bid to become airworthy once again. A brand new phased doppler weather radar system had mysteriously found it's way into the nose of the C-130, an unquestioned gift from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

An entrance door opened and closed in the office at the front of the hangar. The owner of Intermountain, Matt Barstock, walked purposefully across the ramp towards the two furs standing beneath the port wing of the C-130 Hercules. In Matt's left paw was a large, stainless steel Thermos, his right held three coffee mugs by the handles. The tails of his pilots wagged slowly as he approached, and he couldn't keep the smile from his own muzzle as he noticed the happily expectant looks on the faces of his canid cousins.

Matt was from the Retriever clan, mostly Labrador by appearance. His fur was mostly black except on his chest and paws, where it became a cream color. The fur around his muzzle was graying, the only hint of his age on an otherwise trim frame. Matt stood tall at six foot one, and tipped the scales at 205. He'd been flying transports since the Vietnam War, and had started Intermountain with a surplus DC-6 and a Rockwell Aero Commander 680 in 1984. Matt had more sky in his brown eyes than most states had above them. Normally dressed in business attire, this Saturday morning Matt was dressed in jeans and a polo shirt, looking like he was planning a day outdoors.

"Buy you furs a drink?" Matt held the bunch of cups up towards the pilots at chest height, and Joe and Steve each took one. Matt spun off the lid and stopper on the Thermos and proceeded to pour each of them a cup of coffee. Steam rose in abundance from their cups.

"Thanks, Boss," Steve grinned as he raised the cup to his nose, sniffing. "Fresh!" He took a large sip.

Matt poured Joe a cup in turn. The coffee was quite hot, freshly brewed. As he lowered his cup Joe said "Tastes like Angie's here."

"She is," Matt said, laughing briefly as he poured the third cup for himself. "You don't think I could make coffee that's palatable?" Placing the Thermos on the deck at his feet, Matt motioned towards the office with his free paw. "She said something about having some invoices to catch up on."

"I was wondering..." Joe gestured with his cup and smiled as he sipped again.

Steve held his cup towards Matt. "How about a refill, Boss?"

"Dang, Steve! You must have cast iron insides!" Matt looked into the empty cup to confirm for himself that Steve had already consumed all of it, a look of slight bewilderment on his face. Shaking his head slowly, he picked up the Thermos and refilled Steve's cup.

"Titanium..." Steve smiled as he drank again.

The pilots spoke quietly about the condition of their mount for a few minutes. All seemed to be in order. As they discussed the profile for today's flight they heard an approaching automobile. Turning, they saw a red IROC Camaro approaching their aircraft. It pulled up in front of the starboard wing of the ship outboard of the number four turbine and came to a stop. The passenger door opened and Rick Carter climbed out and held up his right paw towards them in greeting. The three furs tossed waves back at him.

"Why's he here this morning, Matt?" Joe asked. He couldn't fathom the need for a third pilot, momentarily overlooking the fact that Rick wasn't officially checked out to command the C-130.

"Check it out, furs..." Steve spoke softly so his voice wouldn't carry.

The driver's door of the Camaro had opened to reveal a gorgeous set of legs attached to... Dakota. Joe and Steve recognized the golden brown squirrel from that night in the terminal bar several weeks ago, just after The Bitch had tried to kill them. She looked, if anything, even better in the dawn light. Legs right up to the lunch pail, Joe remembered from an old Van Halen song from too many years ago. She indeed had one of those busty figures that turned heads. In the light of day they could see her green eyes and the flash of her teeth as she smiled and spoke quietly to Rick.

The coffee drinking pilots suddenly took exaggerated interest in the number one turbine nacelle as Rick and Dakota embraced under the morning sky. Parting after a considerable portion of a minute had slipped by, the squirrel returned to her car as Rick moved to shut her door for her.

At the sound of the engine revving and the Camaro accelerating away, the pilots turned to see Rick ducking under the nose of The Bitch, a wide grin on his face and a flight case in one paw.

"Furs, meet your navigator for today's flight." Matt reached out to shake paws with Rick as he approached. "Mornin' Rick."

"It is a good morning," Rick agreed, nodding to Joe and Steve as he shook Matt's paw, and then shaking each of theirs in turn. "Joe, Steve, good to see you guys again." Rick put his case down next to two others of a very similar appearance.

"Hi Rick"

"What's up, Rick? How've you been?" Steve had a sly smile on his muzzle.

Rick grinned wide, he knew what Steve was driving at. He looked at the concrete for a moment, then looked up to his friends. "Doin' good. Put things together with Dakota..."

"So we see. Excellent."

"Good for you, Rick," Joe chimed in. "She seems quite the lady."

"So what's on the boards for today, Skipper?" Rick asked, facing Matt.

"You're navigator on this flight, as you requested. Joe's PIC, Steve is number two fur. You're deadheading down to McGhee-Tyson to pick up a classified load from Oak Ridge, then you're out to Washington state with the delivery."

"Washington?" all three exclaimed in unison.

"Hanford," Matt said with a knowing look. "Wanna guess what the cargo is?"

Steve shook his head. "As long as it's not leaking or radiating, I don't want to know." A classified load to Hanford could only mean one thing, nuclear waste in transit to the disposal site there. "Why not South Carolina?" he asked.

Matt rolled his shoulders. "You know how it goes, the feds tell us what they want and expect a yes or no answer, and no questions." Matt looked at each pilot in turn, his eye contact telling them the rest.

"Slam will be joining you again at Knoxville, and he'll have monitoring equipment for the flight," Matt continued. Slam Whiteline was a Lance Corporal in the USMC, and regularly drew the duty of guarding classified cargo on Intermountain charters. "You'll be loading at the transient ramp directly from a truck. All load handling will be done by the Marines, all you furs do is fly."

"Well, that makes me feel so much better," Joe grinned. "Good thing Annie and I have already had our pups."

"Yeah," Steve chuckled. "I can hardly wait to tell Molly why we aren't going to have any pups of our own. It's my job, dear."

The others laughed. Finally Matt held up a paw. "Alright, alright, knock it off. Time to get underway." As each of the three pilots turned to grab their flight cases, Matt further instructed them. "You check in with us by phone before you depart Knoxville, and then once at cruise altitude by company radio. I want status reports every hour. Angie will be here until you set down in Washington."

"You got fuel arranged at Knoxville?" Joe asked.

"It'll be handled by the Marines, don't worry. They will also have your flight profile data on a CD for you for the route from Knoxville to Hanford." Matt nodded, looking at each of them in turn. "Anything else?"


Twenty minutes later the number four turbine on The Bitch was spinning up, the propeller slowly paddling the air as it began to turn. The other turbines had already spun up, and were stabilizing and warming up. All three furs on the flight deck had settled in, earphones on, communicating by intercom. There was no gear to stow except the flight bags each of them had brought aboard.

Joe and Steve had just completed their startup and pre-taxi checklists. While they had been going through the challenge - reply litany, Rick had been programming various radio and computer navigation systems for their flight down to Knoxville. The weather briefing that had been sent over to them on the wireless MDT was on the number three CRT in the center of the panel between the pilots. It looked like a great morning for flying, pretty much CAVU over the entire mid-Atlantic states and west into the mountains this early morning. Some moist air coming up from the gulf down in Texas and Louisiana might spell thunderstorms for the south this afternoon, but that wouldn't be an issue for them. This was going to be a real milk run.

"Got a west wind this morning, Joe," Rick commented as they monitored the Automatic Terminal Information Service on the number two communications radio. The mechanical voice began it's repeated litany once again. "Port Columbus International information Kilo, one two one five Zulu, sky clear, temperature five one degrees, dewpoint four seven degrees, visibility seven in haze, wind from two six five degrees at four, altimeter two niner niner eight. Arrivals runway two eight right, contact Columbus Approach Control on one one nine point one five. Departures runway two eight left. Notice To Airmen, the ILS for runway two eight left is out of service. Advise on initial contact that you have information Kilo." There was a few seconds pause, and the recorded message began to repeat.

Joe and Steve watched carefully as indications on various instruments climbed into the green arcs of their normal operating ranges. After carefully studying the hydraulic and electrical indications for a brief time, Joe finally looked up to Steve and nodded. "Everything looks like a go." Steve nodded back.

"Got your nav gear set up Rick?" Joe asked.

"All set skipper," Rick replied. "VFR departure. Maintain runway heading after liftoff to fifteen hundred, climbing left turn to track inbound to first nav fix, Buckeye VORTAC. Climb maintain eleven thousand five hundred. The rest of the flight is programmed, each succeeding leg will display on the number two CRT as each waypoint is passed. Buckeye on number one VOR receiver as well as the tube."

"Thanks, Rick," Joe nodded his head as he scanned the panel again. "Steve? All set?"

"Comin' up," Steve mumbled as he placed a paw on his control yolk, then spoke clearly and with more volume. "Columbus ground, Intermountain forty four at company ramp with Kilo, taxi two eight left for VFR departure."

They waited while the ground controller presumably put down his coffee and picked up his binoculars to look for them.

"Intermountain forty four, Columbus ground, squawk two zero four four, taxi runway two eight left, hold short at taxiway Bravo. No other traffic in your vicinity. Contact tower on one three two point seven when ready for departure."

Steve pressed the push to talk switch on his yolk once again. "Thanks, Intermountain forty four." He then reached towards the transponder head and dialed up 2044 in the display, and turned the transponder to "Mode C".

All three furs looked out various windows to clear the area about their ship. Seeing no one about and no moving vehicles or aircraft, the way looked clear for them. "Clear right", Rick called. "Clear left," Joe replied. Steve added a "Clear forward," and they were set.

"Here we go!" Joe grinned as he released the brakes and advanced the power levers slightly. The C-130 slowly rumbled forward. "I hope everybody's got their insurance paid up!"

The sun was just clearing the horizon to the east.


A few minutes later they were holding short of the parallel taxiway at the approach end of runway two eight left. Joe and Steve had just completed the pre-takeoff checklist, and Rick had double-checked his navigation equipment. "Joe, if you want the moving map display we can port it to the number one tube after we're gear up. Just press softkey number one if you want it."

"Check Rick, thanks." Joe replied, looking out the windshield to the east. He shaded his eyes, looking for traffic. He gave Steve a thumbs up.

"Columbus tower, Intermountain forty four holding short of two eight left with Kilo for VFR departure."

"Intermountain forty four, say direction of departure," the tower controller replied.

"Forty four will be inbound to Buckeye after liftoff, sir."

"Intermountain forty four," the controller replied slowly, "maintain runway heading until above one thousand five hundred feet for noise abatement. After passing one thousand five hundred cleared normal navigation. Taxi into position, you are cleared for takeoff. Traffic a Cessna 310, two mile final for two eight right."

Joe advanced the power levers and they began to move into position on the runway. "We've got the sun at our backs, a clear sky ahead, and a great day for flying, furs. Let's do it!" He smiled, relaxed as the C-130 trundled slowly through a left turn to align itself with the runway center stripe. As Joe straightened the nose wheel on the stripe he advanced the power levers slowly to maximum takeoff power and the Hercules began to accelerate down the runway.

"Forty four rolling," Steve advised the controller. A few seconds later Steve called "V1", indicating to Joe that they were committed to flight.

Without a load in the cargo bay the C-130 gained flying speed quickly and practically leapt into the air. They had established a positive rate of climb and still had several thousand feet of runway left.

"Gear up," Joe called, giving Steve another thumbs up signal.

Steve moved the gear selector to the up position and held his breath. This was where all their trouble had started on their last flight in The Bitch.

Joe watched Steve move the selector and held his breath too, for the same reason. They all heard the hydraulics whine, and continue to do so, as the landing gear was sucked up into the fuselage of the aircraft. When the hydraulic pumps stopped and the three red "gear in transit" lamps extinguished to show that the gear was safely stowed, Joe and Steve sighed audibly.

"What's with you two?" Rick asked, a small smile on his muzzle.

The turbo-props thundered comfortably, Joe observed a three thousand foot per minute rate of climb. Shaking his head ever so slightly side to side, he quietly growled "Nothing..."

"Yeah," Steve mumbled. "Nothing wrong here..."

"Intermountain forty four, contact Columbus departure control on one one nine point one five, good day."

Steve keyed up once again. "Intermountain forty four will call departure on one one nine point one five, thanks, Columbus. Have a good day, we'll see you tomorrow."


Joe observed the altitude to be winding up through one thousand seven hundred, and began a gentle bank to the left. "Number one VOR head, right Rick?" he asked as he dialed the OBS around to center the needle.

"Right, skipper," Rick called.

"Looks like about one sixty on the heading," Joe said mostly to himself.


They had been at cruise altitude for a few minutes now, and the atmosphere on the flight deck was relaxed. For once everything seemed to be working well. The sun shone warmly into the windows quartering on their left, the sky was clear, the air smooth at eleven thousand five hundred feet. All the engine and flight instruments were at optimal indications. As the navigation electronics assumed most of the load of managing the flight, the furs found themselves with a little time to devote to important matters at paw.

"So Rick, looks like you and Dakota are an item, huh?" Joe asked.

Rick nodded. He had turned his chair at the navigator's position to face forward so he could see his crewmates. "Funny how that worked, too. When I went out with her the first time, I was not expecting anything long term. But we really clicked. She's fun, energetic, educated..."

"...and drop dead gorgeous," Steve finished, turning in his seat to smile knowingly at Rick. "And she drives a hot car. Is that an IROC?"

"Oh yeah, with a few aftermarket goodies besides," Rick agreed. "Zero to sixty in four point eight, not bad for a heavy car like that." Rick smiled. "And you're right about the other, too. Gorgeous."

"Whattya think, Joe? Rick's the only single guy left on the roster…" Steve nudged his pilot with his paw.

Joe was scanning the sky for traffic, and not seeing any at all. "I don't know," he said, trying to sound serious. "He doesn't sound like he's achieved that certain level of commitment yet." His tail gave him away, thumping slowly against his seat frame.

Rick made a choking noise. "We've only been dating for a couple of weeks, guys! Sheesh!"

Steve laughed, looking Joe in the eye while tossing his head toward the navigator's position. "Hell, he's halfway to the altar."

"Tell me about it," Joe returned. "We're gonna be uncles before Christmas."

Rick laughed. "You guys sure are optimistic about my future."

"Lemme tell you something, buddy," Steve had turned in his seat and batted Rick's knee with the back of his paw. "If Molly wasn't a better shot with my SIG than I am, I'd be looking at that more closely myself."

Hhmmph. Rick grinned. "Like you said, no worries here..."

They all had a chuckle at that...


To Chapter Six: The Rematch.

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