As the sun sets in the west, the heat still boils off the land. The crews walk to their aircraft, each quietly considering the tasks before them.
This scene has been played out ten thousand times, in a thousand different locations. In every case, there was a mixture of excitement, confidence, dread, and hope.
Quietly, but with anticipation, they strap themselves into their seats, becoming one with their aircraft. If the aircraft is the body, the skeleton, sinew and flesh, its hydraulic system its lifeblood, its engines the heart that makes it all go, then they are the mind and the soul of this entity, and they will feel the joy or pain of the flight.
As the engines come to life, as the systems warm and ready, the crews finish their final preparations. Soon, they will hurl themselves into the night seeking the darkness as a cloak. There they will hide until the first light of morning finds them returning to their perch.