Updated 1999.08.16

Charlie's Cat (Part 3)

Röt Hafen Chapter 9

copyright 1998 by Carlos Lourenco

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Charlie's Cat (Part 3)
Röt Hafen chapter nine. copyright 1998 by Carlos Lourenco

Brooks looked at the G beside him. The man didn't speak English and he didn't speak German.  For the umpteenth time Brooks reached down to scratch his ankle and realized his foot was gone. Phantom limb syndrome was hitting him hard.

    Mellor and Lawrence caught up with the rest of the party a minute before they reached the release point. From here they would go above ground and make their way out of the city. Charlie was inwardly excited to be out of Röt Hafen while also dreading that something would catch them before they left. As they waited in the ruined building they could hear tremendous firing occurring to the south. It sound like a dim cacophony of pops and crackles, punctuated by single and multiple explosions.  Occasional a peel of thunder from some ortillery-directed energy beam would reverberate through the building, causing dust to fall. Task Force Hannibal had already entered the city and was fighting block by block to reach the enclave. Mellor looked at his watch.

"T-minus two minutes."

"When those things hit it's gonna cause quite a bang. When that happens we move. I just talked to Donner, they're waiting to cover us. "

    In orbit, two objects detached from the KRS Pommern. Each reentry shell was less than ten meters in length. Both penetrated the upper atmosphere, and fell to one hundred thousand feet, where the shells separated and two five meter long flat black projectiles began their guided freefall. Both picked up the signal from the beacon and guided on the spot. They went through a series of drogue chutes to stabilize and slow descent, which helped put them into the right attitude for the last second rocket motor firing. Both penetrators rocketed into the ground at over one thousand meters per second, the specially hardened shells protecting the detonators for the split second needed to reach the pre-programmed depth of one hundred meters. Two, 2000lb HE warheads detonated, destroying the Kra'Vak bomb, and the second work crew sent to get at it. A tremendous shockwave reverberated through the ground felling many damaged structures within six hundred meters.  Hundreds of civilians, still hiding in the vicinity were killed or wounded.

    The shockwave had dissipated by the time it reached Charlie but it was enough it collapse a wall on the unsteady structure. Miraculously no one was hit.

"Jesus. That was fucking close". Said Molitoris.

"Go!" Said Charlie pumping with a fist towards the escape route. The party gathered themselves up and moved through the alleyway.

Charlie had just dashed across a street, quickly scanning the alleyway on the other side then motioning the rest across. The Two Gs, then Gibbons and Handley carrying Daun followed him. As they crossed firing erupted followed by an explosion which damaged the corner of a building where they took cover. Charlie looked back and saw all five laying in the road motionless. Where they all dead? He was about to dash out to find out when Gibbons, Handley and the Daun jumped up like scared rabbits and ran towards him. Charlie was surprised to see the wounded Daun moving so sprightly.  "Wow a little incoming does wonder for your health, heh?" he grinned. The man just stared back at him, eyes wide with fear. The two Gs remained motionless in the road. Dead.

Huber scanned the street a detected a Kra'Vak tank sitting across an intersection three hundred meters down the road. They had missed it in the smoke and debris.  Mellor was squatting beside him. "Shit, that things got a pretty good fire lane established."  He looked both ways down the wide avenue. There was no telling how far down the road they'd have to go to find a place to cross.

Huber made a quick decision. "I'll be back." he called over to Schwartz, one of his troopers. "Schwartz we need to get rid of that vehicle. Move north down this side of the road and I'll parallel across the street. We'll hit them from both sides. Ja?"

"Ready when you are, Sergeant."

Huber stepped back twenty meters, then got a running start at the road. By the time he cleared the building and was out in the street he was moving at 30 kph. Huber leapt from midway across the road and had cleared the gap to the other side just as a burst of railgun fire whooshed behind him. Mellor was surprised by how agile the man was in his suit.

Once across, he gave the word for Schwartz to move out. Zig-zagging their way behind the buildings facing the street they ran hopped and leapt their way over the debris, using the building as cover. Mellor caught on quickly and dared a few peeks around the corner and fired some ineffectual rounds at the enemy vehicle just to keep their attention. The wall one meter above his head exploded in chunks of plasticrete, one of which ricocheted off his helmet, and smashed his flip down visor. Kenny was knocked on his ass, but quickly shook off the hit, took a prone and stuck his rifle out into the road, firing off two grenades. This time he rapidly scooted back as railgun armatures cracked by him less than a meter away.

"Fuck you, ya can't get me!" He shouted to no one but himself. Molitoris had caught on and was also playing the deadly game of chicken with the Kra'Vak.

The Kra'Vak evidently grew tired of the sparring and opted for more direct action. The vehicle spun on it's axis and sped off down the road towards them. Several enemy infantry remained behind at the original position and fired in support.  Mellor braved a final shot and frantically waved everyone back into the ruins. "Haul ass! They're coming!" The others, of course, needed no coaxing.

    Mellor's enticing the Kra'Vak to attack had upset Huber's plan.  He caught sight of the speeding grav tank as he was passing an alleyway, which fed out, into the main street.

"Verdammt!" He said to himself.

"Engaging the position." Said Schwartz.

"The tank just sped past!"  He said.

"Ja, but the infantry is still here."  Passing you the datalink.

Huber saw the red blips on his HUD. "Keep them busy, I'm going back for that tank!" He spun and ran back the way he came.

Mellor and Molitoris, who was carrying Miner, ducked into a shell of a building, which had once been an office. They crawled under the first table they found. So intent were they on seeking cover that Mellor missed that a twenty meter section of the front wall was missing on the building exposing them to the street. Before he could signal Molitoris to move the Kra'Vak tank appeared on the road in front of them, turret slueing directly towards them. Mellor hugged the ground as a tremendous explosion shook the building and he felt as if an elephant had stepped on his head. Covered in dust and smoke Ken shook his head once and his helmet fell way, split down the middle/. He looked up and saw the grav tank collapsed onto the road and burning fiercely.

"What the fuck?"

Molitoris grabbed his arm and pointed up. "Look."

Mellor looked up through a gap in the ruined roof in time to catch a glimpse of something passing over head. They heard the familiar whispering whine of the AV72 attack skimmer's engines as it passed slowly over head looking for more targets. It stopped for a moments, launched another missile, then sped away.
They shouted in glee. "Fuck yeah!" Said Molitoris.

"Last time I ever badmouth a pilot!"

"What the hell happened?" Asked Miner blindfolded and squashed on the ground with Molitoris on top of him.

"We just got our asses saved that's all."

    Across the street an event transpired which would leave them nearly useless with laughter for several minutes. Lawrence, Gibbons and Handley were squatting or sitting with their backs to a wall waiting as Huber and Schwartz moved to clear the enemy from the intersection. Daun however, capitalizing on his new-fund energy, was anxious to keep running and couldn't understand why they were waiting for the rest of the team to cross.

"We must go, we must go! " he said in broken English standing in the alleyway pacing nervously.

"Sit down and shut the fuck up!" Said Charlie, pointing his rifle at the man menacingly.

At that moment the Grav tank pulled into the street beside them. Before anyone could react it exploded, hit from the unseen AV72. A large chunk of the front galacis tore of from the vehicle and spun into the alleyway, hitting Daun and tearing him literally into pieces. The explosion shocked everyone. Handley had been sitting with his back to the wall, knees up by his chest, waiting for the word to move. The explosion stunned him momentarily.  When Daun was killed, his lower torso, sans legs spun through the air and landed perfectly atop Handley's knees. The stunned officer found himself staring directly at a detached pair of buttocks.

"God am I hit that bad?" He said.

There was a silent pause of several seconds while Charlie and Gibbons stared at the macabre scene. Then they both erupted in a roar of howling laughter, doubled up and rolling on the ground, oblivious to the fighting around them. Had there been a Kra'Vak in the vicinity he could easily have walked up and slit their throats without much effort.

Handley for his part remained in the same position, mouth agape, glancing back and forth between his laughing comrades and the buttocks staring him in the face. He eventually came to his senses and pushed the offending chunk of meat off of him, unable to se the humor in the situation.

Mellor and the others made it across the street only to find Gibbons and Lawrence on their hands and knees gasping for air. At first he thought they were dying until he realized it was laughter. Once Charlie regained a modicum of composure, he explained what had happened and the rest joined in with laughter.

    Huber had almost caught up to the Kra'Vak tank when it exploded with a direct hit from the AV72. he swore under his breath and spun around, running back after Schwartz. By the time he arrived at the intersection she had already mopped up the three Kra'Vak  which had stayed behind.

"I'm missing all the damn action." He shouted in frustration.

"No problem I'm sure there'll be more." Remarked Schwartz laconically.

There were no other enemy in sight. The action seemed to be about a kilometer further south where a full-fledged battle seemed to be under way. Huber and Schwartz trotted off towards the rest of their group. They had regained their composure and set off along their route.

Kurt "Weasel" Watermann brought his fist down hard on the ground. The power-spike embedded itself into the plasticrete floor of the tall building on the outskirts of the city. He connected a small cable to the spike and readjusted his heat shroud. The shroud would mask all IR, Thermal and UV signal from his body. It channeled the thermal energy his body generated through the spike to be dissipated into the floor below him. He was effectively invisible.

From his vantage point on the fifth floor of an apartment complex he could see much. Off to the south a major war was underway as TF Hannibal fought it's way block by block into the heart of the city. If it had been up to him he would simply have surrounded the city and bombed the ‘Vaks out but he suppose there was some higher reason for it that he was not privy too. 18 years of active service had taught him not to look to deeply into things.  He sighted in with his gauss rile on the action. With smoke, fire, and ruined building in the way there was little for targets out at the distant battle. However there were plenty of other targets around closer to him. Many civilians were out, braving instant death in an attempt to get out of the city into the foothills where medical units were already gathering refugees.     Watermann had also spotted some roving groups of armed humans accompanied by Kra'Vak, which moved rapidly about the city, shooting anyone caught in the open. He supposed that these were the "handlers" he had heard about, under the influence of some form of alien mind control. He contemplated picking off a few but realized that the risk of giving away his position was not worth the effort. He was, after all, here to cover Mellor and company as they passed along the routed below him, which he had sighted out to three hundred meters.
     He observed a pair of AV72s in the distance. Once stopped and fired at close range and there was an explosion of something hidden by building which he couldn't see. The second 72 swung wide east to attack another target but exploded in mid air, destroyed by some hidden Kra'Vak flak emplacement. With the destruction of its mate, the remaining Skimmer ducked down between some building into a street and disappeared.

Watermann's attention was drawn to some firing one hundred meters down the street from him. He could see a patrol made up of a dozen humans in blue coveralls, armed with shotguns, together with three Kra'Vak. They had just shot down three civilians, which had attempted to flee from a building where the patrol was heading.

"Here they come." Said Donner over the commlink. Kurt turned his attention back to the expected avenue of approach for Donner's teammates. He saw three men advancing cautiously along one side of the street. Zooming in to the lead man, he recognized the gaunt face of Charlie Lawrence despite the ragged civilian attire. He quickly looked back in the direction of the approaching enemy. They were going to intersect.

"It's no good. Warn them, ambush left."

"Where? I can't see them. " Said Donner.

"I can, I'm looking right at them. Fifteen. Humans and ‘Vaks. They're on the right side of the building you're in. It's masking your view. Can you tell them to hold up."

"I'm trying but Mellor's not answering. I don't think the others have this freq."

"Fuck. Ok wait one. I'm going to engage." Watermann swung the barrel of his rifle towards the party and scanned over it. He sighted each one of the Kra'Vaks. Two wore combat gear while one was dressed in purple robes.

"Hey. What's up with these purple ‘Vaks?"

"Kill it. That's the brains of the outfit. Without him the Humans won't be able to pull their heads out of their asses.

"Excellent."

"Remember. Head shots on the Kra'Vaks if you want to make sure to kill them. Assuming you can."

"Look boy, I've got more time behind the trigger than you have in the mess hall."

"Heh. Whatever."

Watermann sighted in on the purple Kra'Vak at the rear of the party. They walked in two lines, one on each side of the street with a Kra'Vak soldier in the center position of each line. He made up his mind to take out the leader first, then swing is rifle to the left and take out the ‘Vak leading that squad.

Even though the shot was at one hundred meters, he left nothing to chance. Kurt selected ten power, placing the reticule direct between the ugly creature's eyes. He took a deep breath, then let half of it out, relaxed and squeezed the trigger. With only two pound of pull required, it needed but a gentle stroke and the armature was traveling towards its victim at 1200 meters a second. The purple Kra'Vak's knees buckled, leaving a green spray of blood and gore behind it. Kurt shifted his elbow and shoulder three inches to the right and sighted in one the other Kra'Vak, which had spun partially to see what had happened. Kurt took it through the side of the head, and it too collapsed, it's arms and legs flapping violently. He swung to acquire the third Kra'Vak but was gone. Several humans could be seen bent over stumbling hesitantly towards cover. He tracked one, anticipated his movement and squeezed off a quick shot, which caught him in the upper back, tearing a great chunk of spine away and leaving a red splotch on the street. Yet another man stood over his fallen comrade firing his shotgun off in the wrong direction. The confusion of the group was evident, due either to the loss of their leader and or the fact that they obviously had little training. Kurt killed him too.

Having taken four shots against enemy at under one hundred meters, he realized that he'd stayed too long in one place and began crawling backwards when the opening in front of him exploded in shards of smashed plasticrete.

Damn that bastard is good, he thought, realizing that the last Kra'Vak had found him out somehow. Below, on the street firing erupted. He recognized the sound of L7s. That would be Lawrence and company engaging anyone left one the street. There were a few isolated blast of return shotgun fire. More shots impacted in front of him.

"Leaving! What a great idea..." Kurt unplugged his shroud, and tossed it over his shoulder. He ran doubled over along the far wall of the room, out into the hall and down the stairs one level. There he found a room on the same side of the building, covering, the killzone below him.

The room had been a kitchen. Rather than expose himself at the window he hopped up behind a bar and squatted in the corner atop a counter. He could look down into the street while anyone looking up which just see another dark window. He quickly draped the shroud over himself. Pulled out another spike. Stuck it into the wall and plugged it in. He could clearly see two of the humans squatting behind a wrecked truck firing in the direction of Donner and Lawrence's party. They would be easy kills, but something told him not to shoot. No doubt the ‘Vak would be using them as bait also.  Kurt had just survived a very close call and had some newfound respect for his quarry.

Two other humans foolishly ran across the street but were felled by an airbrust above their heads. Someone had launched of an L7 grenade to the perfect spot. He scanned the street carefully concentrating on the dark windows and doorways, peering into each in turn with his thermals. He made out several shapes but they were all human. Where was that bastard?

His intense concentration had heightened more than his seeing. He heard a shuffling outside the apartment in the direction of the stairwell. Whispering he asked on the commlink: "Donner are you moving?"

"Nope."

"Shit."

"What's wrong?"

"Shh ...I'll get back to you."

Watermann tried to picture the layout of the hallway outside the apartment. The stairwell was to the rear of the building. If the ‘Vak was coming up the stairs he would pass behind him. He realized that the spike was buried into the wall and dissipating his thermal energy directly into the wall. If the alien passed along the other side and had any type of thermal capability, he'd be dead. Kurt started to unplug the shroud, but then had another idea. He gingerly extracted himself from under the shroud and got off the counter onto the floor. He stuck a hand into his backpack and fished around for his ration cooker. The small palm sized object was easy to identify. He pulled it out, set it against the wall atop the shroud and turned it on. Then he quietly climbed over the counter and went to the far corner of the room where he could observe the door into the apartment and the whole wall. Then he waited.

The firing outside had died down. Kurt strained his hearing and thought he heard some feint scraping from out in the hallway. For a big creature that damn thing sure is quiet. He thought. Listening carefully he couldn't make out anything else. He pointed his rifle at the door, finger resting lightly on the trigger.

There was an explosion and the wall collapsed directly behind where the shroud and cooker sat. The Kra'Vak obviously had used his thermals and detected the cooker's heat signature through the other side of the wall, assuming it was Watermann. The blast of railgun fire blew almost a meter-wide chunk out of the wall. Kurt swung his rifle over and fired into the hole several times. All firing stopped. Kurt could hear an odd grunting gurgling sound. Had he hit him?  He pulled a grenade off his belt thumbed the activation switch and lofted it through the hole. Never having been known as a star ball player, the grenade failed to go through and bounced onto the counter directly atop his shroud. He ducked instinctively as the explosion smashed the kitchen and blew the rest of the wall down. Laying prone. He did a quick mental check to see if he was still alive, then pulled another grenade out, rose to his knees, and tossed it through the bigger hole. This time it sailed through and exploded out in the hallway.

"Hey what's going on up there? Are you all right?" Asked Donner.

"I think so, hold up." Kurt quietly rose to his feet, set his rifle aside and unslung his sub-gun which was much better suited to this close-in action than the long gun. He carefully made his way to the open door of the apartment. He sliced the pie in both directions ensuring no one was just outside waiting for him. There was nothing out in the hall.  He cautiously stepped outside and proceeded towards the stairwell. He crept past the hole in the wall and despite the dim light noticed a sticky green mess on the floor heading off towards the corner and the stairwell.  With both hands on his sub-gun he kept it aimed out in front of him ready to fire.  As he approached the corner that led to the stairs, a rifle was thrust out at him held by a single hand. It fired twice and Kurt could almost feel the hypervelocity armature whiz by his temple.  He jabbed his weapon out into the wrist holding the rifle and fired twice, blowing the hand clean off. It fell to the ground, still grasping the rifle, with a loud clunk. There was an inhuman screech of pain and a massive bulk swung around the corner and fell upon Kurt. The speed was surprising and Kurt found himself bowled over backwards with the alien atop him. Kurt still had both hands on his sub-gun but the weight of the creature had it pinned against his chest. Time slowed down, seconds seemed like minutes. Kurt was struck by the musty grass like smell from the creature's breath. He could feel something wet on his face.  The Kra'Vak canted it's head and attempted to hook one of it's large mandibles into Watermann's throat.  Missing a hand, it was having a hard time trying to pin Kurt in the right position. Kurt jerked his head to the side as a mandible swung up., It caught the lip of his helmet, snapping the chin snap and nearly his neck with it. For a moment the helmet was stuck on the aliens face. It jerked it's head from side to side and shake it loose. Kurt made use of the wiggle room to extricate his left and with the pistol. The helmet flew off to the right and creature jerked its head down scraping the mandible along the side of Kurt's temple. He screamed as a burning trough or pain erupted on the side of his head. Kurt jammed the gun under the creature's jaw shut his eyes and jerked the trigger repeatedly until the clip ran out. The clicking of the hammer on the empty chamber brought him back to reality. The heavy mass oof the dead ‘Vak was atop him, crushing him. He was covered with a sticky mess.

There were footsteps and voices. He felt the creature moving as several men pulled it off him.

"You all right partner?" Asked Donner. They yanked him up by his arms. Kurt couldn't speak. he was stunned and out of breath. The sub-gun slipped from his grasp and fell to the floor. He recognized the grinning face of Charlie Lawrence.

"Damn Weaselboy, you look like shit. I thought you snipers were supposed to reach out and touch them from afar."

"Fu...Fuck you."

"Hahaha! Doctor Doolittle get up here. We got some more work for ya."

UNS Provider
Röt Hafen system
16 August, 2183

    Marina Jurewicz and Zeev Keller were peering intently at their respective sensor screens.  The Provider had been out on picket duty together with her counterpart UNS Peacekeeper and other ships for the past 24 hours. It was hoped that her superior sensors would provide advanced warning to any return of the Kra'Vak fleet. There had been several warp signatures in her assigned sector but they had all turned out to be allied ships arriving as reinforcements. Despite the fact that an arrival corridor had been specified for incoming traffic, the very rush to get reinforcements in system rapidly had led to a few less than accurate transits.

But it was not a stray transit signature, which was drawing their attention. It was the possibility of another cloaked ship.  Since their first encounter on the 13th, Jurewicz had been perfecting her homespun filters in an attempt to achieve maximum effectiveness against cloaked vessels. She had tested each in simulations based off of the first actual encounters. For the past twenty minutes they'd been tracking an anomaly in their readouts. It was much farther out than the first encounter, nearly 70,000 kilometers. Keller was convinced that it was nothing more than a sensor anomaly. Perhaps a field of electro-magnetic radiation caused by drifting debris from the battle or some naturally occurring phenomenon. Jurewicz  reported to contact to Captain Rai, who had authorized a departure from their patrol station to investigate.

"I don't know Chief, it still seems like nothing."

"Zeev, I don't accept the debris theory. While it's true that a particles of a destroyed ship could have traveled this far since the first fight, the odds of us picking that up are infinitesimal. Plus I had Ally run the logs from the fight and there really wasn't anything on a vector that would have put it out here. As for the natural phenomenon. Well I think it would have been isolated and identified by now. Anything able to produce something like that would require a physical source that we don't see. No, something is out there. I would bet money on it."

Zeev listened to the argument. While he wasn't convinced he was sure of one thing. Jurewicz knew her job. She was the finest sensor chief he'd ever worked for.

"Here, I've made some modifications to filter 37. I'm going to upload it to the production region and give it a go. Keep the large array focused on AOI one."

"Ready."

"Activating."

Keller watched the screen shimmer with purple light for a moment as the knew filter took effect. There. He could see the phantom contact. It was no more than a few pixels in diameter but the ripples in the surrounding EM field were clear enough. "Well I'll be damned."

"There. Captain Rai are you seeing this?" Rai had the ability to see their screens form his command chair."

"I see it Chief. Helm what are we looking at for an intercept?"

"240 mark 39 mark 19. Shall I lay it in, Sir?"

"Negative. This far out it might tip them off if they have anything other than black globe. Lay in a 25 degree offset."

"Aye Captain, new course laid in."

"Engage."

Rai studied the screen and the contact, observing as Jurewicz magnified and refined. At once the screen shimmered with a number of energy ripples, which looked like raindrops spreading on glassy pond.

"Warp sign! Ninety thousand kilometers. 244 mark 35 to 65." Shouted Jurewicz.

"Ours?"

There was a moments delay. "Doubtful. There are nearly two dozen footprints. And they are still coming in."

"Comms keep the log rolling and dump the entire thing onto the guard net from this point on."

"Aye captain."

"Come on sensors.  Give me something."

"Confirming contacts as hostile, though we're still having a hard time typing classes."

"That's all I need to know. Sound general quarters. Helm give us 4 KPS acceleration. Come to 180, 14 20."

"Aye Captain."

Rai did some quick calculations in his head. Given what he knew about Kra'Vak ships it would take them about 90 minutes to reach the planet. He hoped that was enough time for Bellamy to pull everything together. He was impressed with the compactness of the Kra'Vak transit given the amount of ships involved.

"Up to 39 warpsigns and still going Captain!"

"Shit."

LZ Grumman
16 August, 2184  1745 local

    "Major Burns! Major Burns!"

Natalie tried to open her eyes but they were stuck together with sleep. She managed to peer into the bright light of the entrance, where one of the enlisted men was standing.

"Major Burns! It's a scramble!"

"Scramble? Don't be wet. What about the alert fighters?"

"They're already off. Your bird's being preflighted. The Kra'Vak are up to something big."

She shot up in the cot and swung her booted feet over the edge. She grabbed her kit in one hand, helmet in the other and ran out the door to the operations shack.Natalie entered the ops shack, which was alive with activity. Her wingman, the recently arrived Lt. Michael Flug followed her in. "What's going on?"

Everly was there. "It's a big push. The Kra'Vak air arm is up in strength. They launched from five different hidden fields, all detected from orbit. There's over 60 identified aircraft up. All incoming to the city. Also the Kra'Vak are launching ground counterattacks against the task force within the city. Looks like they've come out of the woodwork.

"Sixty aircraft?"

"At least. Their fields are going to be targeted by the Pommern. TF control has authorized nukes. No screwing around. All are well away from civilian populations."

"ETA?"

"You've got ten minutes to get on station."

"Shit, lets go!" Said Burns running out the door.

Everly chased after her. "Wait, there's more!"

"Well run along with me."

They both jogged out to the Raptors. Natalie climbed into the cockpit and started strapping in with the help of her crew chief. Everly climbed up and kept talking.  The Kra'Vak fleet has reentered the system. Almost fifty vessels. They've obviously timed this attack to coincide with their fleet in hopes to tie us up."

"Damn." Natalie concentrated on the checklist, starting the engines, checking gauges and control movement. Everly had to shout over the noise.

"And it's working too. Fleet's pulled their fighter support. They'll be hotly engaged up there by the time you get up."

"What about GCI?"

"It's up. The link is open. Everything we have up till now has already been loaded into the flight computer."

"All right. Get off my ship." Natalie made a shooing motion and Everly hopped down the retractable steps. The crew chief stowed them, then gave the thumbs up.

Burns looked over at Flug. His canopy was closing.  She looked over to him and nodded. He saluted in return. She looked over at Wiggens and pumped her fist. He removed red arming tags from the kraits.

"Dragon this is Watch tower. You are cleared for immediate take off. Steer 180 to base plus six. Once airborne push three for Lubber. Good luck."
At the red marker, she set the NIQ to 60 degrees and rammed the throttles forward. The Raptor leapt into the air. "Lead airborne."

"Two airborne."

"Go spread."

"Two."

"Lubber this is Dragon flight, picture."

"Picture is multiple groups, nearest bearing 220 for 60, angels three. Speed 440 heading 020."

"How many contacts?"

"Difficult to say. At least three but the formation they're using could be masking others. Can you intercept."

"Roger."

"Dragon this is Eureka." It was Robson.

"Dragon go."

"You should have us on the datalink. We're engaging some trade, which is headed almost to Röt Hafen. One group's already hit some support positions outside of the city. You'll see them as Yellow. Let em go. Concentrate on the ones who haven't dropped yet.  We're handling the main group, but you need to chop the flight coming in from the southwest designated as orange."

"We're on it."

"OK I'll be busy from here on out, Lubber well give all vectors. Magic and Coggs will be out your way in a bit. Good luck. Eureka out."

"Two this is lead. Kick out."

"Kicking out." Flug put an additional kilometer separation between them.

"Have you been following along?"

"Roger."

OK we're going for orange flight. You can see them on the MSD at 242 for 50. Remember even though we're getting it on datalink you won't see it on you won't get a lock on your own FCR until they're 15k out."

"Understood."

"We'll run a single side offset. You bracket right, I'll take it down the throat. Got it?"

"Roger."  His voice sounded raspy. Natalie could sense his fear. Her own fear sat coldly in the pit of her stomach. She supposed that a few stirring words might help him but only one thing came to mind:

"Master arm on."


Go to The Hunters, chapter 10, of Röt Hafen

 


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