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One Good Soldier: Chapter Ten

       Last updated: Monday, November 9, 2009 22:01 EST



July 1, 2394 A.D.
Mars Orbit, Sol System
Saturday, 11:40 AM, Earth Eastern Standard Time

    DeathRay finally decided that he had to flip a coin to be fair. Dee won the toss and chose to fly in the FM-12 mecha with Jawbone. The other cadet was with Fish in the Ares-T trainer. DeathRay led the other two Navy mecha out of the cat bay and into a standard patrol orbit a safe distance from the supercarrier. The three mecha flew in a staggered V formation with DeathRay in the lead, Stavros and Fish in the trainer on his left wing, and Poser and Fink off his right but further back.

    I’ve got the Marines just coming off cat and into the engagement zone, Jack, his AIC, Candis, alerted him.

    Yeah, I’ve got them. Let’s see how long it takes our nugget to spot them. DeathRay relaxed his grip on the HOTAS and adjusted his position in the pilot’s couch, something he wouldn’t be able to do if they went to high-g maneuvers. He centered his mind by breathing deep a few times and relaxing his body from head to toe. Soon, every muscle in his body from head to toe would be wishing it could relax.


    “DeathRay, DeathRay, this is Navy2,” Stavros said over the net.

    “Go Navy2,” DeathRay rolled his helmet from shoulder to shoulder. Shit, not bad. Get ready, Candis. Here we go.

    Aye, sir.

    “I’ve got our Gomers at eight o’clock at five kilometers! Three Marine FM-12s in fighter-mode,” Stavros replied. From the sound of his voice DeathRay was pretty certain that the kid was about to squeeze the HOTAS into oblivion. Fish would calm him down.

    “Good eyeballs, Navy2. Hold our present vector until I say otherwise. Colonel Fink, when I say ‘break’ I want you to go solo and try to make a nuisance of yourself. Navy2 you stay on my wing like stink on a skunk’s ass.”

    “Roger that, DeathRay,” Fink confirmed.

    “Uh, roger that,” Stavros replied a little hesitantly. Fish must’ve had to remind the kid to key the tac-net.

    Jack went to full battlescape view in his DTM. The interior of the little snub-nosed mecha became transparent allowing him to see space in every direction. He looked below to keep a bearing on where the Madira was and had his AIC plot the trajectories of the three inbound in red. They were coming fast. Damned fast.

    Plot me some strategies, Candis.

    Roger that, his AIC replied. Multiple traces of reds for the Marine team and blue for the Navy team spiraled around each other in his mindview. DeathRay studied them briefly until he found one he liked and then thought the others away.

    That one looks good. Pass it on.

    Roger that.

    “Alright folks the party is starting. Wait for my signal…” DeathRay announced. “Now!”

    DeathRay pulled his stick back and pushed the throttle full forward into a full g-loaded climb. He could tell through his DTM that Navy2 followed him and was right on his wing. Colonel Fink and Poser in Navy3 had banked left and down and away from them. The three Marine fighters stayed with DeathRay and Navy2.

    “They’re on our six, DeathRay, and closing fast as shit!” Stavros grunted against the g-suit.

    “Hold it with me, Navy2. When I say ‘now’ you hold your vector for a count of three and then toggle to bot!” DeathRay ordered.

    “Roger that.”

    “Three, two, one, now!” DeathRay immediately toggled the mecha from fighter to bot. He could see his wingman streak by him in a red blur. “Fox three!” he shouted as the Ares-T fighter tossed a mecha-to-mecha missile simulator at the oncoming Marine FM-12s. His fighter rolled over and reconfigured itself to an upside down bot. The maneuver flung DeathRay through multiple direction changes pulling anywhere from minus six to plus eight gravities. He grunted, squeezed his abs, and stomped the left pedal spinning the bot around to face the incoming planes and went to his forearm cannons.

    “Guns, guns, guns!” He fired. There had been no time for targeting but the computer scored several hits against the onrushing planes. None of them were kill shots. DeathRay kicked the thrusters in the feet of the giant armored bot downward and out of the path of the rushing Marine fighters. Two of them zipped passt to Stavros while one of them pulled out and rolled over into bot-mode.

    “Shit, I’ve got two of them on me!” Stavros shouted. “I need some help here.”

    “Fox Three!” came a third voice from the net. It was Fink. The colonel might be a retired instructor, but he could still fly and he was doing just what DeathRay had told him to do. Fink broke right across the three-nine line of the Marine fighters pursuing Stavros and put a kill shot right on Skinny. The icon for her plane turned orange showing eliminated status.

    “Thanks, Colonel!” Stavros shouted. “I’ve still got one on my six!”

    “Go to guns, Navy2!” DeathRay shouted at the cadet. Then he kicked his bot-mode mecha into a roll and back to fighter going full throttle just in time to get out of the way of the Marine trainer in bot-mode on his ass. It was Dee. Shit. She is either good, or that’s Jawbone doing the flying.

    I’ve confirmed with Jawbone that it is her, Candis assured him.

    Well, how about that. Let’s take her out. DeathRay grunted as he grinned to himself, actually grinning would have taken too much effort as he was currently pulling about nine gravities.


    “Watch it, Marine2, that Navy Gomer is gunning for you!” Deuce warned Dee over the Marine channel.

    “Roger that, Deuce. I see him.” Dee rolled over from bot back to fighter and stomped the right pedal and gave full left on the HOTAS. The FM-12 went into a near flat spin and went around full-circle twice before she hit the throttle to hold her in a reverse pointing trajectory. The nose of her fighter was pointing toward the Navy fighter that was on her tail now, while the ship flew in the complete opposite direction. She was flying backwards with respect to her trajectory. “Guns, guns, guns!”

    “Watch the guns, Marine2. We’re too tight to each other!” Deuce shouted at Dee.

    “Shit, Deuce, get out of the way, I’ve got a shot!”

    “Dee, I suggest you get some separation with the Navy and let’s regroup,” Jawbone chimed in from the backseat. “And don’t forget who the squad commander is.”

    “Got it. Deuce is the lead. Not used to that.” Dee jinked and juked but couldn’t get anything clear on DeathRay so she flipped her plane back around in normal flight vector. “Deuce, I can’t get a shot and he’s coming hot! Any suggestions?”

    “Thought you’d never ask.” Deuce would have laughed had DeathRay not been keeping them both grunting and squeezing every muscle in their bodies. “We have to stay together, Dee. We’ve lost Skinny so that leaves us outnumbered. Just stay on my wing and take shots if you can get them.”

    “Roger that.” Dee barrel rolled over to Deuce’s wing. She decided to trust the Marine lieutenant colonel ace for now.

    Bree, give me some ideas, Dee asked her AIC.

    Got it. A second later several trajectory solutions popped in her mindview. Dee, Navy3 has broken from the pack again.

    Shit. Colonel Fink is gunning for us.

    “Deuce, Deuce, Navy3 has broken from the pack! I’ve got him projected as trying to loop around on us!”

    “Roger that, Marine2. Stay on my wing!” Deuce replied. “Stay on my wing.”

    Dee held tight to the squad leader’s wing, but she didn’t get her tactic at all. She stayed on Stavros’ tail trying to get a shot while he and DeathRay rolled and bounced around each other trying to shake them. The effect of the Navy planes dangerous ballet left the targeting computer confused and neither Dee nor Deuce were going to get a shot anytime soon. But Fink was coming in off their four o’clock very quickly. They had to make a choice soon or he was going to pick one of them off.

    “Navy Gomer just behind our three-nine line, Deuce, closing fast!” Dee didn’t like waiting on a shot at a plane in front of them that they were never gonna get while an enemy mecha was closing in on them from the side. Then tracer simulators zipped across the canopy and into the front of her fighter. “Shit, Deuce! I’m taking fire.”

    “Stay on me, Marine2!” Deuce ordered.

    “What!” Dee didn’t like that order.

    “Dee, stay with your wingman!” Jawbone warned her as she grunted through the maneuvers from the backseat. “She knows what she’s doing.”

    “Fox three!” Deuce shouted. “Bank up, Dee! Bank up!”

    The mecha-to-mecha missile simulator twisted out in front of them and into Navy2 with a confirmed kill. There were fireworks simulating a fireball and the computer animations didn’t show an ejection of the pilot. That meant there would have been no time for Jay to eject.

    “Shit!” Dee banked up pulling the HOTAS back with her right hand and full forward with her left. Her stomach stayed somewhere about two hundred meters behind her when she did. Tracer simulators rocked her hull but the computer scored it as minimal damage to the aft armor plating. Her SIFs were holding.

    Pulling up the way the two FM-12s did put them above Navy3 who was now undershooting them rapidly and would have to burn off speed to loop back to them. This left the two remaining Navy planes separated by a good distance from each other and in situation where they would be vulnerable in a two-on-one attack for a few seconds. Fink was closest. Dee liked that.

    “Pitch reverse and guns, Dee!” Deuce shouted at her, meaning for her to flip over pointing her nose in the opposite direction as that she was traveling and go to guns while flying backwards and upside down. Of course, she was in space, so upside down was really meaningless and only relative to the pitch angle she had been oriented in.

    It took Dee only a microsecond to understand what she was supposed to do. Years in the simulator had honed her senses for just this sort of maneuver. But Dee had to admit that the simulator, even with gravity compensators and full mindview simulation, was nothing like the real thing. She pulled the stick all the way back and kicked both lower foot pedals. The ship flipped over. Dee could see through her canopy that Deuce was doing the same. Stars spun around her head bringing the Madira and Mars behind her back into view. Now both of the Marine mecha were flying upside down and backwards and were pointed at Fink’s plane.

    “Guns, guns, guns!” Deuce shouted. Not to be left out, Dee followed suit.

    “Guns, guns, guns!”

    “Let’s go, Marine2. You take the lead!” Deuce shouted.

    “My pleasure!” Dee slammed the throttle full forward a bit eagerly and abruptly. When the propulsion kicked in against the backwards velocity vector she hit about twelve gravities for a few seconds. “Whoooaaah, shit!”

    “You might wanna tell somebody next time,” Jawbone coughed from the backseat of the trainer.

    “Ungh, no shit.” Dee held back her stomach from lurching out of her throat by biting down as hard as she could on her bite block. When she did the mouthpiece shot fresh oxygen and stimulants into her system that snapped her quickly back to life. The high-g thrust reversal’s effect on her quickly vanished and she pushed on her pursuit of Fink’s ass.

    “I’m on the Gomer!” Dee kept her targeting X in center trying to lock it onto the Navy fighter but the old Marine colonel was real good at managing his energy.

    The Navy fighter pushed at top acceleration upward and back directly toward Dee and Deuce. That was a brilliant, yet gutsy as hell, maneuver. Had Fink pulled down and away it would have allowed the Marines to get on his six and lock him up. Pulling into Dee’s vector put the Navy fighter’s and the two Marine’s vectors criss-crossing at near equal energies. The key to modern space combat was controlling the energy of your three-dimensional position vector and trying to make the other guy overshoot you. Then that would put their ass in your sights. The other key was not to get killed.

    As it currently stood, Dee and Deuce were now barrelrolling around each other and Fink, and all three pilots were cutting and adding throttle in a three-way dance to see who slipped up first. Dee had every intention that it was going to be Fink.

    “Deuce, you got DeathRay on eyeball?” she grunted.

    “Negative, Marine2. You watch Navy3 and I’ll keep an eye out for the CAG.”

    “I’ve got him DTM coming in behind us. He’ll be in range in ten seconds so we better get on with this!” Dee added.

    “Roger that, Marine2. Stay on Navy3. I’m with you.”

    “Do you see him anywhere, Jawbone?” Dee asked. Why have a backseat driver if she couldn’t help? she thought.

    “He’s back there. Trust your DTM and your wingman, Dee. And hurry up and lock this Gomer up!” Jawbone replied.

    Dee rolled and jerked the Marine mecha trainer round and round but couldn’t get a lock. At one point the two fighters were cockpit to cockpit with each other. If it weren’t a simulation with good guys on each side Dee thought she could go to eagle-mode and punch the pilot through the cockpit, but they were all friends here playing a game. One hell of a game. Then an idea hit her. She would do just what DeathRay had done to them in the first round of the engagement.

    What’s good for the goose…

    “Deuce! When I say bank right, do it!” she shouted to the squad commander. Rank didn’t really apply to covering wingmen in a tactical scenario.

    “Roger that, Marine2,” Deuce replied.

    “Three, two, one, now!” Dee slammed her throttle full forward hard into the stop shooting her way out in front of the dance she had been in with Fink. She could see in her mindview that Deuce had banked away.

    Now I’ve got you, Colonel, Dee thought. She then toggled the mecha into bot-mode.

    The g-load on Dee’s body from the mode change was over thirteen gravities for the entirety of a second or less, and then it lurched her the other way to minus seven, but under that much gravity time slowed and it seemed like it took an hour-and-a-half. Dee screamed and grunted and fought blacking out as best she could and kept presence of mind to stomp her left pedal to spin her bot around pointing at Fink’s plane. She had just enough strength left to pull the trigger.

    “Guns, guns, guns!” she growled. The yellow targeting Xs from each arm bounced around and then both of them locked onto Fink’s snubnosed fighter plane and turned red. The tracer simulators pinged him and generated a fake fireball. There was no simulated pilot ejection either.

    “Great shot, Dee! Now go to fighter! Hurry!” Jawbone shouted loud enough that she could almost actually hear her through the cockpit and not just over the internal net. But Dee was stunned by the maneuver and didn’t respond quickly enough.

    “Dee, break out of there at top throttle go!” Deuce yelled at her as well.

    “Full throttle up, Dee!” Jawbone continued.

    Dee shook herself to and saw DeathRay’s fighter looming at her fast. She was certain that she was a goner, but at the last second tracers came in off his three o’clock. Deuce engaged him just in time to give Dee the second she needed to recover and get the hell out of there. But then the damndest thing Dee had ever seen happened.

    The Navy Ares-T fighter started swirling about its center of gravity point while still traveling along the same trajectory it had been on. The Navy fighter twisted and spun in a mad whirl in all directions. Tracer simulators came out of it each time it tracked around to hers or Deuce’s position. The little fighter whirled so fast Dee could barely see it or manage to respond quickly enough. Finally, the thought hit her just to get the hell away from there. So, she slammed the throttle forward.

    “Move, Dee!” Jawbone shouted and then she sighed. “Shit. Fucking, goddamned DeathRay.”

    “You have been confirmed killed in action,” the computer simulator referee voice chimed.

    “What the hell?” Dee could tell by Deuce’s icon turning orange in her DTM that she was KIA too.

    “Pukin’ Deathblossom,” Jawbone said between breaths. “Good flying, Dee. DeathRay is, well, DeathRay.”

    “A puking what?”

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