Educating Motor Trend
C5 Fighter Squadron
A discreet electronic transmission originating somewhere in Michigan, bounced off the On-Star satellite far above the US, and headed back down to earth at the speed of light. Within moments, each of the C5 Fighter Squadron members, stationed all over the country, grabbed their pagers, which read the familiar code 83883. It wasn't a number to call; it was a call to action.
As quickly as possible, each pilot returned to his or her home and powered up their PC. Through great strides in encrypted computer networking, plus a lot of lobbying from one of the pilots, the Squadron was now able to meet virtually, using a 1024-bit encrypted private network. Each pilot's PC was equipped with a camera and microphone, which were intended to be used for Squadron purposes only. It was common knowledge that some of pilot Ernie's "car show" exploits were shared on that 'net as well.
After about 15 minutes, the entire Squadron was assembled from coast to coast, and awaiting orders. The General's disembodied voice boomed over their PC speakers, "Thank you all for joining the conference. I realize we're in the dog days of summer, and each of you are enjoying your relaxation. It has, however, been a while since we've met."
Commander Dorothy cleared her throat and spoke up for the team, "We're here, ready, willing, and able. What does the General need from us?"
A picture of the cover of the August, 2001 Motor Trend magazine appeared on each of the pilot's screens. Each pilot was heard muttering something about ridiculous reporting and stupid comparisons. The General spoke again, "Yes, I'm quite aware of how unhappy the Corvette community as a whole has received this issue of Motor Trend. I'm not happy about it myself. Neither is the Company."The cover in question had, in big letters, "SPEED WARS!" followed by "Who's the NEW KING of Power? Handling? Braking?" The picture on the cover was that of a Porsche Boxster S, a new BMW M3, and a 2001 yellow Z06.
The General's voice said, "To anyone with even half an automotive clue, the answer to this question is simple and obvious. But somehow, after the Z06 won every single comparo-test, it still lost to the M3 because of a lack of 4 doors. Nowhere in the article did they say they were rating cars based on their daily usability or people-moving prowess. It was billed as a speed shootout, and the Z06 won."
Joker interrupted, "I take it we're going to do something about this?" "Yes, indeed we are," the General answered.
"Then why didn't we do so sooner, sir?" questioned the youngest of the group.
"I wanted to give Van Tune a chance to apologize to the community. But as it turns out, he didn't take that opportunity. In the September issue, editor Kevin Smith wrote about Motor Trend's apparent lack of objectivity. They don't apologize for it one bit. In fact, he wrote this..." A clipping of Smith's editorial appeared on each of the pilot's screens:
"Apparently, even if a car clearly loses all of their shootout tests, it can still be praised for good design and engineering." The pilots chuckled in the background. Surely BMW could make an M3 to challenge the likes of the C5, but it certainly can't be found in this batch of M3s, especially when compared to the Z06.
"Commander Dorothy, you're going to gather most of the mid-west team, and fly west to California to meet up with Ernie and Vince. We understand that editor Tune has a hot date tonight, and will likely be attempting to carve the PCH with his M5. He needs education."
Dorothy spoke up, "Got it. We'll deliver the lesson personally."
"Racer Dan, you've got a tougher mission with the boys to the east. Emap-USA, the company that owns Motor Trend, is expecting a large shipment of various BMW models by sea. We want you to intercept this vessel and politely convince them to return to their port of origin. Use any means necessary, but NO ONE gets hurt. Got it?"
Dan extinguished his cigarette and spoke into his mic. "You mean we can't sink the ship?" he asked, half-jokingly.
"No Dan, you can't sink the ship. But, I'm very interested to find out what kind of noise a potato makes when it hits a metal hull." Pilot Hal heard this and chuckled. He had recently worked closely with Ernie to integrate a spud cannon into the weapons systems of the C5 Fighter Jets. The twinkies would continue to be used for "soft" targets. The potato cannon was for leaving an impression.
"Any questions, pilots?" The General asked. There was a brief silence. Everyone pretty much understood what they were to do. "OK, your specific mission instructions will appear on your screen momentarily. As always, we here at the Company wish you the best of luck, but know nothing of your actions and will disavow everything. General out."
The speakers went silent and each of the pilots began reading their mission specifics. It was time for both planning and relaxing. In a few hours’ time, they'd be ready for action.
Ernie chuckled at Vince, dressed up in his valet's uniform. "Good thing I had one of those just lying around the shop, huh buddy?" Ernie asked with a smile.
Vince was mildly annoyed but took it in good fun, "Yeah. Good thing. Hey, there he is!" Vince motioned towards the doorway of the posh restaurant the two pilots were standing outside of. Out walked Motor Trend's editor at large, C. Van Tune. Ernie cat-whistled at Tune's date while Vince rushed to the editor's side. He grabbed Tune's tag, retrieved the correct key from the locker, and went hunting for the car.
The license plate on the suspect vehicle read "M5 4 CVT". Vince tried the electronic lock, and sure enough, the door opened. With the car reasonably out of sight, Vince was able to pop the hood, find what looked to be the BMW's computer, and attach to it a C5 Fighter Squadron micro-disrupter (i.e., a battery powered magnet.) Before too long, the M5 rolled up to a slightly disturbed magazine editor who blurted out, "What the hell took you so long?"
"Sorry sir, I had a little trouble starting her up. You might want to have it checked out." Vince reported, while helping Tune's date into the passenger side and closing the door. Tune offered no tip and drove off in a hurry.
Ernie drove up in his new hot rod red Z06, chuckling at his friend. "No respect, huh?" Vince climbed into the passenger's seat and hmphed while belting himself in. Tonight, he and Ernie wouldn't be flying, they'd be tearing up the Pacific Coast Highway, chasing a certain M5.
Ernie kept his distance from the BMW so as to not arouse suspicion. They weren't but 5 minutes from some very fun, long, windy, and twisty roads. Vince keyed his microphone, "Ground crew to Commander Dorothy, do you copy? Over."
Dorothy's voice crackled over the loudspeaker in the car, "Roger that. We're waiting for your go ahead."
Ernie sped the Z06 up so that Tune would notice him, just as the cars got close to the fun stuff. Vince reported, "OK, we're in hot pursuit as of now. Do your stuff."
Inside the M5, the editor squinted as he looked into his rear view mirror. He recognized the unmistakable shape of the C5's hood and headlight pattern. He also recognized a challenge when he saw one. Throwing caution to the wind to try and impress his date, he dropped a couple of gears and buried the throttle. Ernie watched the M5 lurch forward and attempt to speed away. All he had to do was depress the accelerator some more to keep a close distance.
Tune saw the C5 getting closer and closer, and tried in vain to pull away. The last thing Tune saw before a deafening thunder crack shook the ground was Ernie's grinning face. Suddenly, the Commander with pilots Bush and Tuna hot on her tail roared overhead in the same direction the two cars were driving. The 3 jets split in 3 different directions and vanished, leaving Tune shaking his head in disbelief.
The editor snapped out of his reverie in time to notice the C5 behind him still gaining. Again, he downshifted and dropped the hammer, but his attempts were futile. Ernie kept gaining, closer and closer. As Tune glanced in his mirror, he could see Ernie pointing to their right. Tune broke his gaze on the mirror to look to his right, and there, waving back at him, was Commander Dorothy insider her C5 Fighter Jet.
Fortunately, Ernie knew what was coming next and had backed off. Sure enough, the big BMW's tires screeched as its ABS tried to fight lock-up. Dorothy flew away and radioed the others, "OK, let's feed him some twinkies for dessert." She heard a couple of cowboy "yahooooos" through the radio and chuckled. The 3 pilots armed their latest edition of the twinkie Gatling cannon and sighted the M5 in.
Van Tune couldn't believe his eyes. He'd stepped out of his car and watched as 3 flying Corvettes were diving straight for him. Suddenly the ground around him rippled as round after round of stale twinkies slammed into the pavement not 20 feet from where he was standing. Tune's date screamed as he hopped back into his car and sped away, splattering stale confection everywhere.
"OK," radioed Dorothy, "we've got him on the run. Ernie and Vince, time to start chasing him again." The red Z06 took chase as Rob, Tuna, and Dorothy let another volley of twinkies fly. The road to the left and right of the M5 was instantly covered with twinkies. Dorothy took careful aim and slammed a shot right into the back window of the car. The twinkie splattered all over the window, blocking Tune's rear view mirror.
Tune, a good driver in his own right, managed to keep the 2-ton behemoth on the road, even with twinkies splattering all over. His date was pale white and clutching helplessly to his arm. This did not make shifting any easier for him. But quite frankly, he was terrified himself. Between being chased by a real Corvette and 3 flying ones, he didn't know which end was up.
The 3 pilots kept up their torment for another 5 minutes or so, then backed off and vanished. Ernie also lifted a bit and slowed, allowing the M5 to vanish. Tune smirked as he figured he'd out driven the Corvette and somehow managed to shake the jets. Just as he was about to boast to his date, the car sputtered, coughed, then stalled. Tune tried the ignition several times, but all the car would do was crank. Now instead of being scared, he was just embarrassed.
He got out of his car just as Ernie and Vince pulled up along side him. "Car troubles?" Vince asked innocently.
"Yeah, it won't start, and I want to get the hell out of here! Did you see those... those... flying cars?"
Vince and Ernie looked at each other and shrugged. Vince spoke, "We didn't see anything. What did you see again, flying what?"
Tune, with an annoyed tone answered, "Never mind. I have to get out of here. Can you guys help me out?"
"Sure," said Vince as he removed his valet's cap and tossed it to Tune. "Why don't you go get a job so you can buy a real car." Ernie lit the tires of his new Z06 up and the two vanished around the next corner. As they drove away, Vince flipped another switch on the remote control for the micro-disrupter. The little device turned itself off, unattached itself from the computer, and disintegrated into dust leaving no trace.
That same evening, 7 of the C5 Fighter Jets assembled from all over the country at a secret hangar at Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia. Within minutes of their gathering, their ammo stores were fully loaded, jets fully fueled, and they were once again airborne heading east. Following US law, they stayed subsonic until a few miles away from the coast. Without word, each pilot opened the throttle bodies on their dual twin-turbo-charged LS1s and were at mach 2 in seconds.
Racer Dan broke radio silence a few minutes into the cruise, "OK folks, this is how we're going to work the vessel. Major Mike and I will stay together, hang back and sort of supervise. Joker, you, Junkyard, and Hal will stick together and provide the main diversion. Pat and Randall, keep your eyes peeled for lights, flares, and anything that may help the vessel identify us. Extinguish them instantly. Glenn and Carl are already aboard our combination radar platform and refueling jet. In fact, we should be closing on them shortly to top our tanks off."
Glenn's voice was heard next, "Yep, we see you guys on the scope. We can get two of you in here at once so line 'em up." Before the pilot's eyes, a monstrous black jet lowered itself out of the clouds. It had a large radar dish on top of it, and two refueling rigs just behind either wing. The C5 Fighter Jets were set up to refuel from either side, so this wouldn't be a problem.
The Joker and Junkyard Warrior started their refueling at the same time. On board Joker's ride was new recruit Glen; riding shotgun with Junkyard was recruit Sandie. They waved at each other while the Jets were refueling. Glen noticed a handle to his side with a sign that read "In case of air sickness, pull here!" He asked the Joker, "Does this pop out a big air sickness bag or something?" with half a grin on his face.
"No," Joker began, "actually, it activates the ejection seat. I don't want you getting sick in my plane." Just as he finished his statement, the fuel line broke from his Jet and he punched the throttle. As the Jet built up speed, the young pilot rolled it a few times, getting it upright and climbing before almost hitting the Atlantic. "Doing OK?"
"Whoa..." was all the new recruit could say.
Ten minutes later, their radio crackled to life again with Glenn's voice, "OK you guys, you should be seeing some lights, 12:00 low. That's your ship."
Dan radioed back, "Affirmative. Mike, climb to 15000 with me." Racer Dan and Major Mike gently elevated their jets to 15000 feet and slowed. "OK guys, let 'em know we're here." Pat dipped to 100 feet off the deck and to the boats starboard side. Randall was at the same elevation on the port side. They stayed supersonic as they roared by the massive vessel, sending a huge plume of water up to the deck. Meanwhile, Joker, Junkyard, and Hal all went supersonic just as they passed by what looked to be the bridge.
The captain of the boat, not at all prepared for warfare, panicked and hit the fire alarm. Four men ran to the boat's four main spotlights and fired them up. The captain opened a locker in the bridge, handed his first mate a semi automatic rifle while arming himself with a pistol. Just then, Dan's voice crackled over their radio. "Captain of the vessel marked 7 1 niner 5. Please turn your boat around and return to your port of origin."
A spotlight illuminated Joker's jet, and the first mate took aim. Glen ducked as a round bounced harmlessly off the canopy above him. Hey guys, I'm taking fire. I repeat, they're shooting at us."
Dan spoke, "OK, Pat, Randall, turn out them lights!"
"Affirmative," was all Pat responded with. He flew back down the starboard side, delivering two well-placed spud rounds directly center of the spotlights. The lights exploded, causing the men behind them to hit the deck. Randall did the same on the port side, and the sky was once again dark.
Dan repeated his order over the radio. "Please turn your boat around and return to your port of origin. We do not wish to harm anyone." No response, so Dan then ordered his 3 pilots "OK, make some noise guys." Joker, Hal, and Junkyard each armed their spud cannons and fired random shots at the boat's mighty steel hull. The booming sound to the men below was almost deafening.
The captain didn't give up, however, and fired a flare up into the sky. This provided the first mate with enough light to see one of the Jets, and he fired a few rounds at it. The rounds bounced harmlessly off the bulletproof skin of Joker's jet, but he was still agitated. "Boy this guy really likes me. I think he needs a twinkie."
Dan broke in, "Remember what the General said. No one gets hurt."
Joker assured Racer Dan "Don't worry. No one will get hurt," he then muttered under his breath, "much." Joker came about and set a course almost directly for the ship's first mate. His Jet was easier to see now, and the first mate fired a few more rounds at it. Glen flinched but Joker didn't move. He sighted in the man's stomach and squeezed off a single round. The stale twinkie slammed into the gunner's solar plexus, knocking the wind clear out of the man, and the man clear onto his backside. The rifle fell off the side of the boat and splashed into the water. "Oops." was all Joker said.
Racer Dan kept his eye on the first mate while shaking his head and muttering something about impetuous kids. The first mate picked himself up and ran to the bridge. Dan breathed a sigh of relief.
From afar, Glenn could see the course of the ship changing on the radar. It was too hard for the pilots close by to notice it, but Glenn could see if very clearly. He called to his compatriots, "Guys, it looks like they're heading home!" Sure enough, the pilots noticed the moon was now on the other side of the huge car-bearing vessel as it began it's long trip home.
"Well done pilots, let's go get some fuel and get on home. Joker, I think we're going to talk with Ernie about removing your SSBTT cannon." Joker's only response to his older friend was to bounce a stale twinkie off Dan's canopy, and then reward the wary pilots with a mach 2 sonic boom.
Early the next day, in Emap-USA's fifth avenue New York office, their secretary opened the office door and almost tripped over a large envelope waiting for her. She picked it up, set it on her desk, and went about getting some coffee for the morning. While sitting down to enjoy her first cup of the day, she decided to open the large envelope. Inside it was a specially printed ad with a gorgeous red Corvette on it: