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by Bill Mills
The 1986 US Federal Budget had a single line item for the department of defense labeled simply “AURORA”, with an 80 million-dollar price tag, and a projected 2.3 billion-dollar price tag the following year. According to the Department of Defense, the item appeared by mistake, and it has never resurfaced in public funding requests. Aircraft industry watchers soon began hypothesizing that Aurora was the code name for a top secret aircraft being developed by the famous Lockheed Martin Skunkworks - the same aerospace think tank responsible for the U-2 Spy Plane, SR-71 reconnaissance plane (fastest declassified aircraft in the world), X-32, F-22 fighter, Sea Shadow stealth boat, and F-117 Stealth Fighter.
The connection makes sense. Aurora was the name of the Roman goddess of the dawn (known as Eos in Greek mythology) who was responsible for setting the stars in the sky at night. Lockheed’s black budget recon programs have had similarly themed names in the past. The SR-71 (actually it was the RS-71, until President Lyndon Johnson reversed the letters when announcing it and Lockheed changed the name to match) was code named Oxcart (the European name for the Big Dipper). The A-12, the plane on which the SR-71 was based, was referred to as Cygnus, after the swan constellation, while the U-2 was called Isis after the Egyptian goddess.
There is more than a name and a budget; there have been sightings. The most detailed of which was by a retired member of the British Royal Observer Corps (a person trained to identify aircraft) who spotted an unusual aircraft refueling in the North Sea. In the skies over the United States, unusual contrails have been seen in the skies. The trails have been described as “donuts on a rope” with large puffs of cloud on the trail. Many have theorized that this is the trail left by an Aurora utilizing a pulse detonation wave engine to reach speeds well over mach 5. The PDWE concept, a theoretical design that the Aurora may secretly be using uses the shockwave of air compressed by the fast moving plane as its engine wall. Fuel is sprayed outside the body of the plane and ignited in a series of explosions to push the air away from the airframe, allowing it to move forward at higher speed.
The very existence of the Aurora was the starting point when Wayne Dollack began planning the New Millennium Productions first scenario game of the year 2000 season. The story line quickly began taking shape in his mind. Historically, the Soviet Union, and now Russia, has played catch-up in aircraft technology. What better way to get a foot ahead in the techno-race than to sneak in and steal the best? In a reverse of the plot to the 1980s film Firefox, Wayne’s story packed Russian soldiers in a fishing trawler that put them ashore on US soil then was sunk, to divert attention. The mission of the soldiers was to infiltrate the top secret airbase where the Aurora was staged, take control, and fly her back to mother Russia for analysis and reverse engineering.
Players gathered at Wayne's World of Paintball on April 14th, 2000 to see which side would be successful. The Russian team was generaled by Chester Bombriant, while Jerry “Dutch” Scheppert led the US forces. The two were making a re-match from their appearances at the previous game, Millennium Paradox. The game began well before the weekend though, with the two bantering back and forth in Rec Talk. Friday afternoon, while players gathered at Waynes’ World of Paintball, the Russians poked fun at the Americans, using a communist stereotype of the western world. A flyer was distributed throughout the campsites bearing a picture of Dutch in a “US” pot helmet, wearing an apron and holding an iron and spatula. The flyer was an invitation to a Tupperware party to be held at the American base, hosted by “The Dutchess.”
Long time readers of Action Pursuit Games will remember the photograph of a crashed Russian aircraft at Wayne Dollack’s first 24-hour scenario game. The tradition of big props has continued. Wayne’s crew built their rendition of an Aurora on a humble automobile chassis, which allowed it to taxi about the airstrip and be moved as needed. It was outfitted with its own sound system for engine and aircraft noises. If they Russians were to succeed, they would need to gather the necessary fuel, have a trained pilot in the aircraft, a flight programming tape, and the proper switch sequence to start the engines. The staging area was also decorated in theme. A set of landing gear and crew ladder appeared to be connected to nothing but thin air, however they were labeled as a THAP-17, a stealth aircraft capable of complete invisibility. Several players theorized that it used the same technology as Wonder Woman’s invisible jet.
new appearance at the game was Zap Paintballs. Zap has become the
paint sponsor of New Millennium Productions, and Steve Moore made the trip
from the Canadian factory to attend the event. Unfortunately, the
paint quality was lacking, with much of the paint being oblong or dimpled.
For some players this provided feed problems, for others, accuracy problems,
and a few reported no problems. New Millennium's Ben Toricelli began
polling the teams to detail the problems, and met with Moore to discuss
the issue. Both publicly apologized for the quality, and thanked
the players for their understanding, vowing to make sure that such a problem
did not happen again.
As the game started, Dutch commented on the strong security measures being taken by the American team to prevent spies or assassins from infiltrating their base. Players checked in at the US command center showing ID cards, getting their tape, and getting a wrist stamp as an extra measure. Five minutes into the game, and only a moment after explaining this, Dutch began walking down the line of players checking in, asking them to show their character cards when one swiveled up the muzzle of his paintgun and asked him to “take the hit.” It was the first general elimination of the game. Fortunately Dutch was good natured about it, admiring the guts of the player, and admitting it was his mistake to step outside of the security measures he had put in place.
Once the game got rolling, the Russians went from playing hard, to dominating the field. At times, they held nearly the entire field, and the referees had to figure out how to safely insert reincarnated American players. A number of teams defected from the American team to the Russians, some planned this action prior to the game, and used their American ID cards to photocopy forged identity papers at a local print shop. Some other teams chose to defect on Saturday night when it was becoming clear that the US forces were completely overwhelmed.
At night, the hammering continued, with night vision equipped Russian patrols putting the hurt on the American team, capturing all of the Aurora’s fuel, and the flight programming tape. On Sunday, the assault continued. As the hours dwindled the Russians attempted to take off with the Aurora, but did not have the necessary switch sequences to start the engine.
As the game drew to an end, the Russian team decided to blow up the aircraft, to prevent the US team from gaining extra points for protecting it. Off the field, the Russian teams rejoiced in their victory. At the closing ceremonies, raffles gave away a heavy prize package from the events sponsors with every thing from Wicked Mpulse’s new jerseys and Scott bucks to a variety of paintguns. Wayne Dollack then stepped forward to announce the winners. He listed the missions completed – the Russians having finished twice as many as the Americans, and the crowd cheered. But when he listed the total points, the crowd was stunned.
In many scenario games, missions give similar points. When the story line is something like drug lords versus police trying to control a city, deciding who wins depends on how many bases were held, and attrition of points. With the Aurora game, however winning or loosing did not depend on who held what bases when. The Russians had one main goal, to steal the Aurora aircraft, and the point structure reflected this. Despite complete domination of the field, the Russian team’s points didn’t measure up, and a surprise victory was awarded to the American team. This led to a mixture of boos and cheers from the crowd, and lively debates on-line in the following weeks as to whether the choice of winners was correct, and the ethics of teams which choose to defect from one side to the other.
The next New Millennium scenario game
revolves around street gangs sending their members into the military to
receive heavy arms training and steal weapons to take military control
of Los Angeles.
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