Ed: Here you go guys-at last the next post!
Jan 15th 2232
The Exiles Trade Access Route near the Eastern Forward Frontier Worlds
‘Flight leader to all call signs-keep it tight!’
‘Easy for you to say Boss after last night’ came the swift and impertinent retort ‘Anyone would think that we were devil-may-care fighter pilots without any thought of tomorrow huh?’
‘Tomorrow never comes-wooha!’
The cry was taken up by all call signs and Lochagos Cristos Sec was reluctantly impelled to join in the boisterousness of his team. They had trained together for many months he and his flight. They had also fought together…well all but one of them. The last was an anomaly but he had as much right to be there as any of them despite his tender years.
The newest addition to the Flight was Sub-Hoplomachus Pollux Ohirides and he was a prodigy. This much had been evident to all not three weeks after the declaration of war when the lad had somehow slipped into the Heraon Starport’s Military Areas and commandeered a Phoenix simulator. It was in the dead of night, when no one was supposed to be around so the last thing the startled lad thought he would be facing was an admiring audience. Serendipity, though, is a wonderful thing for it wasn’t a Port Guard who was the first to realise that the simulator was active but one of Epsilon Flight’s Officers, Hoplomachus Anton Siruis. He quickly called his comrades, even then staggering out of the Port Bar, somewhat the worse for wear but particularly receptive to coming to see what was so enthralling their mate.
And they were all sobered up pretty quickly-the boy was operating at a level of skill that appeared to exceed even theirs (and they prided themselves as being the best in the Fleet). Far from stopping the performance they called their Lochagos…and the rest, as they say, was history. Cristos had not even had to pull any strings-he merely showed the simulator VTRs and telemetry to his bosses by video feed and went to find the lad, who was being sequestered in a holding facility at the Starport. It was a desolate and rather depressing place where he and his College friends had been dumped by Tetrarch Estios a week after the war had started before speeding off again in the Perseus.
‘I hear that you are a Hermes Scholar lad’
The boy, who was startlingly handsome, looked up defiantly half expecting that his latest expression of independence and his addiction to flying was going to result in the withdrawal of his beloved Scholarship. The thought of that last made his eyes tear up.
Smiling, Sec raised the boy’s chin gently. ‘Relax boy I am not about to cheat you of your scholarship-how do you fancy doing a crash version of our Academy course?’
This clearly didn’t register with Pollux as he only looked puzzled-but then it started to dawn,
‘What-you mean me? A course? How?’
Laughing, the Flight Leader explained to the rapt boy how they had devised a special three week crash military flying course specially for him and how he could go to the Academy when times were quieter-the fact was that no one had seen flying skills like it and from a purely selfish perspective those sorts of abilities were likely to mean a longer life expectancy for all of them.
This last sobering comment had stilled the laughter but the boy’s chin was set and determined-this was his young life’s dream come early. He would, of course, have to speak to his father.
And surprisingly for the brash and often cocky Pollux this was the hardest part-his father had been distraught on the vid call: how could he even think of risking his life like that? What would he do to contain his grief if he was killed? Life expectancy was not reckoned to be high for the young Phoenix pilots: just look at what happened to Delta Squadron a month previously-wiped out to a man by a smaller Torian Fleet!
And just when the diatribe was beginning to really affect him through the prism of his own tears he saw his brother approach his father, put his arms around him, whisper quietly in his ear and gently pull him away from the link. Before the call ended he mouthed the words ‘May Ares go with you my dearest brother’ and then he was gone.
Now three weeks later here he was flying with the best. The others had been blooded several times-they had first taken down a massive Torian Constructor headed to reinforce a Starbase deep in Exiles Space. The base too had been despatched and then, on the 8th January, with Pollux performing his Final Aptitude tests planetside, they had destroyed a similarly configured Torian Fleet with the loss of only one of their own. It had been greeted with celebration all across the Colonies-could they compete with the technologically superior green foe? The donation by the fearsome Drengi, of all races, of several of their own fighter craft was as helpful as it was unexpected but these craft were not likely to arrive in the theatre of war for some weeks yet.
And now they were headed for a second such show-down; this time a combination of Torian Fighters and Defenders-and there were slightly more of them…
‘Intercept plotted in five minutes people-heads up!’ from Sec, ‘all call signs report status!’
‘Epsilon-2 roger’ came the melodic response from the only lady in the Flight, Jana Stasos.
‘4 roger Flight Leader!’
‘5 roger-let’s do this thing!’ This from Pollux-his stomach tightening in anticipation, but he felt totally at one with this sleek craft.
‘Epsilon Leader-copy! Remember boys these are Defenders backed by Fighters-Intel has them as more hardy than the fighters that we have previously encountered. Watch your arcs and cover your wingman’s six at all times!’
The red fighters arced towards their quarry as many parsecs to their front the Torian craft broke formation and came at them.
‘Do you think our shields will hold boss?’ from Epsilon-3, Anton Siruis
‘I’m not sure Anton-one thing I do know is that they have none-but their hulls are apparently much thicker than ours-use all your evasive skills when we engage!’
‘E Leader-they’re on the scopes!’
‘Got ‘em! Keep it tight boys-keep it tight-one minute to contact!’
The two sets of fighters swiftly closed and lanced into each other like inter-crossing pin pricks of light, then broke. Anton swiftly latched onto two Torians with Pollux in close attendance,
‘Stay on my wing 5!’
‘3 firing now! No kill no kill’
‘5 gonna go inverted-let me lead!’
‘You’re joking? Do it!’
Pollux threw his craft into a inverted G bank bringing his lasers into exact alignment on one of the craft-firing in short bursts he blew it away before rolling back and zeroing in on the second. Before he could fire, however his craft shook as lasers impacted on his own craft.
‘5 this is E-Leader you have a tail! 3 get him off!’
But Siruis had his own problems. They had come up against seven Torian craft-that number was now down to six but they were still outnumbered. At first they were faring well-their shields seeming to protect their craft from the more powerful Torian lasers but the enemies weapons were beginning to take their toll…
Meanwhile Hp Han Telios in E-4 who was protecting Sec was in trouble and taking multiple bursts from an angry Torian Defender,
‘Boss this is 4-taking heavy fire!’
‘Hold it-hold it!’
‘I cant-shields failing!’ and then in a bright ball of flame he was gone.
The Torian now turned its attentions to the Flight Leader and was joined by a comrade.
‘I’ve got two on me!’
‘Stand by Leader this is 5!’ The boy threw his craft into a seemingly impossible manoeuvre that turned it on its head so that he was suddenly facing the opposite direction and not only this but he had done it at just the moment that the two Torians crossed in front of him-it was an unbelievable piece of flying by any standard and was working the lad’s G Suit to almost destruction.
Deadly accurate laser fire badly damaged one Defender and threw the other one into desperate evasive action.
‘Thanks 5-I owe you one-watch it 2!’ but the shout was too late-their were still 4 Torians remaining and three of them decided to gang up on their token female flyer who had executed a very loose recovery turn after blasting a Torian from off the tail of Siruis.
‘Gods damn! They’re right on-!’ But the sentence was left unfinished as she, in turn, was sent to meet her maker by the Torians.
Four against three now,
‘Leader on me on me! 5 stay out separate-we’ll draw em in and you take em out!’
Pollux smiled ‘Roger Leader!’ he then surprised the seasoned flyers again by putting his craft into such a crazy set of spins and turns that it looked like his craft had malfunctioned. As it spun away and upwards the remaining Torians took the bait and ignored him turning their attentions to the now fleeing Sec and Siruis
‘They’re coming in fast 3-full evasive!’
‘Shields down to 25% boss!’
‘Hold on guys here I come!’ and arrowing in from above came Pollux-he had taken a particularly high line and one that would have him come in from the system’s sun-he was now effectively invisible to the Torians and was able to knock out two of them without them even realising what or where the threat was coming from.
‘Leader-good shooting 5! 3 break! Break!’
‘Leader, 3. My shields are going-‘
And just as Sec broke and executed an inverted barrel with Pollux chasing one of the Torians directly into his sights, the other one destroyed Siruis’s craft.
‘Anton!!!!!’ Came the despairing cry from Pollux who had become fast friends with the young Hoplomachus. Crazed with grief and half-blinded by his own tears the young Ohirides then criss-crossed his craft in towards the Torian darting in and out to confuse his lasers and arcing in from the side and then behind-he was like a cat with a bird, toying with his terrified quarry until satisfied he had extracted the most fear and terror he despatched his foe with a final burst of his lasers.
It was job done but the young pilot could only think of his lost friends and his quiet sobbing was all the Flight Leader could hear on the long flight home…..