It seems to be a slow day. The mechanics are working on calibration simulations for the third time that day. The cafeteria isn’t as busy as the gym or the recreation room. We all seemed to be relaxed. At least we pilots are, but everyone else is repeatedly thinking of what they need to do before the end of the day. Me? I am sitting in my squad room working on that paperwork that everyone says is so important. But in the end a kill record won’t make you a better pilot, just a bigger target. That is when my PAS (personal announcement system) went off. Glancing down, I see the command to get airborne as soon as possible. I was on Alert thirty status, and being an Alert Thirty meant I needed to be ready enough to be in the air in thirty minutes. The one interruption that would get me out of this paper-work and it comes right before I finish. Talk about rotten luck. All I can do is hope that the paper work is here when I come back, and bolt to the door.
Jumping up and running thru the hall, to the door, across the grounds, and into the hangar. Starting the gear up I realize the helmet and Flight suit still smelled like sweat from the repeated use of them. I got to say I’m sorry to the Prara riggers of my squad. he did say he wouldn't do his job and look over my gear too well untill I admitted... to somthing. I seem to recall the argument was about a sport. I Jump to the latter to my A/F-45D Cheetah.
The Cheetah was designed around the A/F-45 Lion, as was all the other planes in my squad. The Lion had forward swept wings that folded inward fitting flawlessly with the Canards (a smaller set of wings set forward on the fusaloge, or body of the plain), and two vertical stabilizers that folded downward to make the plain look like an arrow head. It limited maneuvering, but these features are for storage and high speed performance. To help maneuvering, it also had vector thrusting, meaning I could steer the thrust, making the maneuverability extremely efficient. On top of having voice activated commands, the Cheetah had its sensitivity so finely tuned that most pilots didn’t make it off the ground. I was the only one out of the eight first test pilots that made it off the ground that first flight, and after getting to know the feline we tore the sky in two. The two of us where beautiful and perfect in our maneuvers.
Being the last in my squadron’s hanger but the first in my plane gave me some satisfaction. Still thinking about the "quarter master", I Tune my radio into my squad and ask “hay do any of you remember what the argument between me and are head PR was about.” The engine gives a low hum with strong vibrations as I start the engine. They quickly smooth out to a barely noticeable rumble as the turbines gained momentum.
“I think it was about how martial arts aren’t a sport.” responds Pilib Reagan with a heavy Irish Accent. “No, Mike says the head PR claimed that he could kick your tale on the mat” I groan inwardly, knowing the Head Prara Riggers pride, he won’t be satisfied until we do meet on the mat.
“Tell Mike to remind me to schedule a hand to hand with him”.
“I got that.” Came a voice over the radio. It sounded like Pilib was talking into a voice modifier. That was mike. Pilib’s other half; born by a botched implant that ended up using his brain to create an independently thinking being. His control was isolated to the implant so until it… “He” was plugged in he could see, hear, taste, feel, and smell, but had no way of communicating Manipulating or effecting anything around him. He could “speak” to Pilib thru thought, a concept that made many people outside our squad give him strange looks.
The Prara riggers starts opening the doors, but lingers at my wingman’s door for a few seconds, fiddling with the locking mechanism. Over the radio Miranda Abney chuckles, “looks like I beat you out” I hear as the A/F-45 E Panther pulls out of the just opened door. I really need to say I’m sorry to him. He finally manages to open my door and I start to taxi out of the hanger.
The Panther was designed after the A/F-45 lion as well. it was desined for pilots so skilled that it mattered vary little what they flew. It was said to have a bad attitude to the pilot in the cockpit. Any beginner flying this plain would say it shouldn’t fly at all, but an experienced flyer would say they feel a little handy capped. That was because it was the fighter with the biggest payload on record. Dangerous to the handler, vicious to the thing at the other end of the plane thence the name Panther, the most feared of the big cats to handle, or fight. This was Miranda’s choice of plain because she was skilled beyond belief, with only one flaw, she was slightly trigger happy.
Being the lead squadron we have the ‘privilege’ of going up second. The first in line had trained to being the fastest to get off the ground and provide cover for us. As they started to take off from the other side of the field I see an enemy fighter barreling towards them. “Bandits on your six shredder one, start take off but hug the deck, I’m going to try something.” Turning off the transmitter I start voice commands. “New firing system for missal one. start burn, stall release for two hundred milliseconds, targeting subroutine Alpha, R (return to) Default” I turn on the transmitter back on and push the launch missile button on the stick while calling out “Draco one, fox two.” The missile jolts the plain for an instant then launches. It curls up and away from the shredder squad and hits the plain coming up on his backside.
“thanks.” Shredder one says. “Now let us return the favor.”
In two minutes the shredder squadron was up and drawing the attention of most of the plains. “Control Tower this is Draco one ready for takeoff.”
A short pause and the control tower responded “roger Draco one, you are clear for takeoff. Nice kill.”
Gunning the burner for a fast take off, I switch over to squad radio to talk to mike, while studying the sky “Mike, you are our eyes and ears, find out what their objective is, and monitor all radio frequencies.” I finnish just as we lift off and the gravity was pushing me into the back of my seat.
Normally a squad would have one plain for two people or a fifth plain. That other man’s job was to be the brains of the squad; direct them to objectives, monitor radio frequency and point out things to the squad leader so he can make the hard calls. But mike did all that, when Pilib was in the A/F-45C Cat Eye, yet another A/F-45 lion decendent. The Cat Eye was designed for the off chance that an AI worked; they never seemed to make it pass simulation. The cameras all over the body of the plain made it so mike could see in almost all directions, the computer had all the functions he could want and the second radio had the range as all are planes radios combined not quite an AWAX, but at least this could fire back.
Mikes response was lazy and drawn-out. “Roger.”
“Don’t worry I’ll set a pace you won’t be bored with.”
My squad and I were up in the air, and gaining altitude then Mike patched control tower in. “Draco squad, altitude restrictions canceled, protect are base and stay alive.”
Knowing mike would patch the response thru I said “Draco one, roger.”
My response was soon followed by Miranda’s voice. ”Draco two, roger.”
Then Pilib’s Irish accent sounded. “Draco three, roger.”
“Draco four, roger.”
Taken by surprise I look around for the unidentified speaker. “Pilot, identify yourself.”
“This is First Sergeant Zeke H. Baxter of Draco squadron, I was waiting in your office when the warnings were sent out, I have been assigned to your squadron.”
“Fine” I respond, seeing him in my spare A/F-45 LION. “But you don’t decide what your call sine is. You’re Drake four until you earn status of Draco, got it?”
“Roger.” He responds flatly.
“Now get over here and join the squad already.” I say gruffly, returning my attention to the Bandits and thinking about what I would say to the base commander. “you think you can waltz right in and join us then do it.” any idiot who thinks he can have his first introduction before an engagement like this, and flying my plain, obviously had confidents and talent, or was a pilot who has no idea who he was talking too. And if he was skilled enough to be sent to my squad I was banking on the former.
Drake Four just barely managed to join us when the enemy started to cercal around for another pass. Sending the stick to the right, then pulling up, my plane performs a banking right turn that the three other plains copy flawlessly, placing the enemy right in front of us.
“Okay, we are going to section off, Draco three, watch drake four and tell me how he performs.” All squad members sound off, each of them saying “roger” and Draco 3 and Drake 4 peel away. With a new pilot in my squad, I had to keep an eye on him, as well as give him a chance to see what we are capable of, but we had to spread out for maximum coverage. Draco two falls behind to better cover me and Draco three and Drake four go to work as a section.
Choosing a target in the distance I start closing in. the bandit is an SU-30, highly maneuverable, and dangerous. I fly in sizing up the target. Jugging how he was flying he was a pilot who had some experience, but not quite enough to make him a huge threat to me. I approach just out of missile range and the bandit makes an attempt to stay out of range. Then the lock on warning sounded. Having been shot down before, my first instinct was to move, an impulse I had to fight. I was in a sandwich, an enemy plane in front, and an enemy plane in back also an SU-30. A position that one tries to avoid; the plane behind can track your movements and try to take you out, but to get out of the maneuver would prove to be risky seeing as the plane in front would start gunning for you too. But as long as I stay in this position, I can use the man in front as leverage. The plane in back can’t fire guns constantly seeing as doing so would make it more likely for him to hit the lead plane; At least, those where the common rules. The man behind me opened up with everything he had, two sidewinder missiles, and a barrage of gunfire. Pushing the stick down as far as it could go, I feel the restraints digging into my shoulders as my plane goes into a dive. Reducing the engine and firing off two directed flares towards the lead plain, I manage to send the missiles over my head and strait forward. The flares I launched where designed to attract missals and fly to a designated target. Not quite a sidewinder, having no bang, and a heat signature similar to plane engines. I fool the heat seekers to head straight for the lead plain.
The back plain stayed on me. This man, unlike the ex-lead plain, had skill. I spin 180 degrees, and start pulling up. Feeling the g’s, now pulling me into my seat; I start to try to get an eye on the plain behind me. I start a series of maneuvers to shake my pursuer, Jinking left and right to avoid letting the other plain getting directly on my tale. The bandit was now in range to use guns on me. A short burst, and the bandit was crippled by my wingman. Draco two then released a sidewinder, calling out “Draco 2, fox 2.” The bandit dives for the deck and started releasing flares. I pulled up to let the missal go under me and to cercal down and behind the bandit. Normally I would let my wingman have the kill, but the bandit had let all he had fly at me and endangered his companions life. So he deserved to be shot down and get hit in the canopy to inshore he didn’t ever do that to another comrade. Squeezing the trigger I send the burst and I see the shatter of glass as the bullets fly thru the top of the cockpit, killing the pilot instantly.
Time for the checkup “Drake four, where are you.”
His response surprised me. “Workin on my third kill.” His pace was good. Getting a visual on him, I see he was too far away from the bandit to have the gun targeting computer help him, but He was firing anyway. A plume of smoke came from the bandit as it started losing altitude. That was incredible.
“Very impressive, now get over to Draco three and cover him like you were ordered to.” Even though I sounded like I wanted to hit the man, I was impressed. Choosing another target I start a pursuit.
“Mike to captain. So far I haven’t seen any bombers, or a single ace. These guys are mercenaries. All their doing is fallowing orders. We won’t be finding out why the attack is happening from these guys. Also they haven’t been identified with a country.” I role my eyes and grind my teeth. Why was it never simple? And why have an attack on a base if you don’t bring a way to destroy it? Well if they don’t want to destroy the base than what? Capture? Then there will be more on the way, and ground forces to boot. But why mercenaries? This is the kind of job someone would want done right.
I finally caught up with the bandit, yet another SU-30. They must have bought the plains in mass. He, along with two others, was chasing a friendly who was franticly trying to get away. This was another point of stupidity on the part of the mercenaries. It didn’t matter how many people were chasing you, because there is only room for one on your tale.
I turn the transmitter off again, and start giving commands. ” apply targeting system gamma to all missiles for one launch.” Upon turning the transmitter back on, I switch to an all friendly frequency, the computer starts tracking all the bandits’ distances. As I get closer two out of the three non-friendly indicators turn yellow, in range but not locked on. The gamma setting will wait for all three plains in front of me to be in range before locking on to all three at once, the surprise setting. I get them all in range and fire. “Draco one, fox two by three.” Three missiles streak out and head straight for the three bandits. Not having much distance to travel first one, then two of the plains were hit. The third had time to react, managing to pull up and get out of the way, as well as launch a flare. My call out to gave the friendly aircraft time to react, so the missal passed over him harmlessly.
By now many of our planes were up. This was a joke right. Forget not being very good, these guys were bad. If you can, you take bandits out on the ground, but not a single plain was touched until it was up in the air. Contacting the tower, I ask, ”H.Q. is there any word of more bogies on their way?”
“Affirmative, but only one. why?”
“If it’s one of ours then tell it to change course, these guys aren’t here aiming for the base or us. That plain may be carrying something they want.”
“It hasn’t been responding to are hales, I don’t think it’s one of ours.”
My mind starts rushing for an explanation. “What is the bogie’s E.T.A.?”
“It is starting to increase speed” the tower reports. “I guess one minute. It’s big enough to be a transport plane.” A short moment of silent’s then, “hold up it just let go of something. It’s flying up and heading for us, it's climming but the plain will be here first.”
The engagement has reached a safe elevation from the base, and the pilots have successfully contained next to all of the engagement over the base. The one thing that would devastate us would be if the transport was carrying some high explosive missiles. That would devastate both sides of the engagement. Even if the mercenaries where able to pull away… mercenaries… mercenaries are expendable! This whole plot is to clear the base of aircraft! Switching to all aircraft I shout “Disengage! All aircraft disengage! Bogie inbound, possibly carrying concussion burst missiles that will cause major damage to all aircraft.”
All aircraft have a reaction vary typical to a situation that wasn’t very typical. Rookies stop trying to maneuver and experienced pilots start aiming for the fighter in the farthest reaches of the engagement zone for a relatively easy escape if what they heard was true. Then I hear a caracal on the radio. The fact that it crackled means it wasn’t from near buy, so it must be from the plain on its way. “Command override; continue to engage. That aircraft is a friendly.”
I Switch back over to squad radio. Immediately I hear Mike. “Captain I just heard identical transmissions on all friendly and all hostile frequencies, someone wants all aircraft to stay where they are.”
“Well we are moving. Form up on me, start racking up the mocks and get as far away from here as possible.” Maneuvering the Cheetah southeast I start the after burner and the wings start folding inward. The ‘transport’ was going very fast indeed, but started to slow down. As it slowed, the sides started folding downward revealing a very large payload of very large missals. We were too late to take it down.
If I was right about the kind of weapons in the ship, speed would be critical. It launched six missiles at once. Still keeping the afterburners on I start a dive to get under the missiles, gather speed, and to use any lip in the relatively flat ground. Two of the missiles start heading towards my squad, just as we get close to the ground. “Start maneuvers and don’t kiss the ground. We need speed to stay ahead of this thing.” The missiles start hitting the ground. The damage the missiles caused was so vast to everything it hit. The plain’s we were flying were designed to resist such impacts from the shockwaves. As long as we stayed in complete control and didn’t sustain a near hit, we will make it.
Sticking with the lowest path I can see, I use the vector thrusting to do most of the maneuver. In my peripheral vision I see a smaller missal heading straight for me. Extending the wings and pulling up I start to slow down, but the change of direction meant that the missal sailed right under me and impacted the ground at the foot of a small hill. The shockwave was enough to send me up a bit. Folding the wings out for better control in my lower velocity, and gunning the after burner to start climbing, I head straight for the missile plain. I have had it with this pilot, this has to stop now. I start heading straight for it. The missiles were focused on the main body of pilots that had been decimated by the first wave. An occasional one or two sent to my squad, but now that I am closing in on the missile ship, it seemed to send three or four to me alone. I start weaving in-between the missiles, one overhead, two under, one I hit with a quick burst of machine gun fire, the Cheetah and I pull maneuvers that others would find impossible, all the time getting closer .
I finally get close enough to get a lock on. I launch one of my last two missiles. It hits one of the four engines mounted on the wings. the missile plain veers off course but then compensates and keeps going. I pass the plain, shooting skyward, and cercal back down behind it too see if I could finish it off.
“Captain.” It was mike. I was surprise I could hear him over the pounding if blood in my ears. “the small high speed shuttle sent out a signal and I am now detecting a burst transmission from the tower, and the encryption is not in any of my data banks, so it’s not intended for our side.”
“Draco one you must shoot down that shuttle!” it was the tower.”The transmission is from our top priority research station. We cannot let them have whatever was in that transmission.”
“Tower this is Draco one, the missile ship is still a threat to all aircraft and possibly the base.” I respond as I gun down a second engine on the opposite side.
"There are no more aircraft, your squad is the last one" it was Commander Stelancoff"and the base is expendable compared to what could be in that transmission. Now target the shuttle NOW!”
Looking beyond the missile ship I see that there were no planes over the base, yet the missiles were still going for the base.
Before I could make the call to fallow orders, Zekes voice came on the radio. “Drake four, roger, commencing attack. He starts a rolling turn towards the shuttle like craft.
Muttering something under my breath, I switch to the squad radio and say. “I’m going with drake four, the two of you take that gun plain down before we have no place to land.” I fallow Drake around and start my Afterburners with full speed to try to catch up.
The shuttle really looked like a shuttle, just smaller than all shuttles so far, only big enough for two people. Very little wing surface meant it took a long time to turn around, but it seemed to have two very large rockets built into the back of the fuselage. It was clearly made for speed… for a quick getaway.
“Drake four, Full speed.” I say. “Once that thing decides to leave, we won’t be able to stop it.” Drake response is a quick “roger” and starts to climb higher, this allows me to pass him without requiring me to maneuver around him. This really gets me mad. Confirming that he heard me then disobeying the order given was unacceptable behavior. But all I do is continue flying striate for the shuttle craft to get a missile lock. As I near the shuttle two things happen. One: the two dormant engines start glowing, and two: gunfire starts flying overhead towards the shuttle. The gunfire looks like it may have done some damage, but the shuttle just starts picking up speed until it was out of all weapons range.
Sighing I turn around to see that the only plain in the direction that the bullets could come from was Draco four. The SOB managed to take a shot that would have been nigh impossible for anything short of an AI.
Switching to the tower frequency, you say in a matter of fact voice “Target escaped. Repeat, target escaped.”
Pauses then I hear “Roger. All aircraft return to base.”
(This is the end of the chapter. Where should the next chapter take place? on the ground right after they land? in his CO office getting chued out? or in his office chuing out the new guy?)