Author: DigiBentoBox PM
Jared Aberdeen is a newly minted pilot of Federation Halcyon-class fighters, who finds himself the center of a plot involving politics, subversion, and intense dogfighting. Together with his WSO co-pilot Ralphie Mendez, and the reluctant help of Jenna Sterling, a Military Intelligence Officer, the story of Sector JULIET-08 unfolds in this explosive and high-paced tale.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Adventure - Words: 3,032 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 02-24-13 - Published: 02-17-13 - id: 3101963
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
CH1: THE LAW OF THE DESERT
Sunlight kissed the wing of the fighter, glinting gold with all the promise of a past long forgotten. Out here, soaring above the pallid white sands of the desert, nothing was golden. The soft azure of the skies was an endless tunnel, it's cloud ceiling unreachable by the common man. But we were not common men. Not in our Halcyon-type fighters– no, we were beyond that. We were evolved. The promise that the Federation brought was one for all mankind; universal peace, an absence of the chaos of the world known as Earth. A solemn pledge to forever disobey the laws of entropy that governed the stars. Yeah, we thought we were special alright.
Yet the canyon walls below twisted and writhed into a fiery, jagged labyrinth. In it's valley, our promise fell silent. Here, where the tungsten sun raged against the dust and rocks and sand, the order of the universe– disorder itself– reigned supreme. This was not the homeworld: Absent was the gleaming metal pride of the towers and spires of it's cities. Here, the only mark of civilization– the colossal Outpost– stood stooping below the turbulent blue weight of the sky. This was a hostile, unlivable world which we were tasked to govern.
This was JULIET-08.
"Outpost actual this is Patrol Flight Charlie, no signs of trouble sighted." As always.
"Patrol Flight Charlie, this is Outpost actual. Copy your last, complete final circuit then head on home. Kingstons is serving eggs and salsa today."
"Copy that, can't wait. PF-Charlie out."
Great. Eggs and salsa, a somewhat decent breakfast, was all we could look forward to these days. The 347th Fighter Squadron of JULIET-08 was assigned patrol duty over the entirety of this forlorn planet, and patrol we did. At least four times a week, we'd have a sortie. At first, the pilots were excited to see so much flying. But the endless scanning of the barren desert quickly killed that sentiment. Now, it was a grueling 8 hour pre-dawn mission. Most people gave up hope of finding anything interesting in it's silica expanse. We would leave, do our job, and come back to start our day. If we were lucky, we'd get sent a free cup of coffee from the dining facilities at Kingston Hall. And if we were extra lucky, we'd get eggs and salsa.
I mentally willed the fighter forward and the familiar shiver ran down my spine as the neural uplink encoded my thoughts into action. Despite the tedium of the job, flying was an experience we would give anything to feel. It was a high for us; the speed, the Gs, the tremble of the engines as we glided through the arid desert air– it was all a drug that kept us signing up for more missions. It kept us going even when there was no eggs and salsa waiting for us at Kingston's. Right now, as I felt (thanks to the neurosync) the wind buffeting the thin, sharp wings of the Halcyon, all was at it's best. Thousands of feet above the chaos of the canyon below, I felt at peace.
Mendez broke the calm.
"Ey Aberdeen, you ain't alone in here. You know I can feel the plane shuddering when you get all into it– next time warn me so I can get you some tissues."
"Funny, Mendez. Just run another scan of the north-northeast quadrant again will you?"
"Hehe, no problem boss. I know she's your baby."
I refrained from giving him, my WSO 'backseater,' the finger from my front half of the cockpit. As he started up the scan, the glowing lines of the HUD blinked into my vision. Integrated into my visual cortex, the light blue boxes and endless numbers flitted around my line of sight, selecting and analyzing everything within our sensor's radius. The data was instantly recorded in our brain, so it was as if we had the data stored somewhere in our memory all along like some sort of textbook fact or figure. Yet again, there was nothing new, nothing even remotely exciting in the sandy doldrum. On to the next quadrant.
We scanned three more valleys that day. Of course, the only difference we detected was the new cologne Mendez's girl had given him. It would've smelled nice if he hadn't bathed himself in it. With nothing new to report, and our stomachs yearning for something more substantial than tube-food, we plotted a flight plan back home. We didn't have to worry about fuel of course– it'd take at least a month of straight flying to exhaust the onboard hyperbolic reactor.
I could feel the tiredness begin to set in. My thoughts were slowed, and consequently, the normally tight and zippy maneuvering of the Halcyon was equally impaired. Every time I let my mind drift, every time I thought about my not so comfortable bed, or of breakfast waiting for us at Kingston's, the fighter plummeted a few hundred feet. It required every ounce of concentration, every mental fiber of attention I could muster, to successfully fly it. The taxing neurosync would sooner kill us than any hostile we'd have to face.
Thus, it didn't immediately register in my mind when I spotted a metallic glimmer over the horizon. It was tough to see; the gold-tinted glass of the cockpit had shielded us from the lethal radiation of the enraged sun, but it's ochre glow made everything feel fuzzy and unreal, as if watching life unfold on a yellowing movie screen. The longer we flew, however, the more prominent it got. I broke from the flightpath and banked to the right.
"Mendez." No response. He was asleep, the silly bastard. "MENDEZ– UP, NOW."
"Wait yeah I'm up. Jeez."
"Look over there, two o'clock. Don't do a scan– you'll scare it."
I willed the plane upwards, climbing at a steep rate. The sky above us slowly grew darker and darker the further we were from the ground; I could even see the faint outline of the orbital operations base. From up here, the bogey wouldn't see us. To make things extra clandestine, I triggered the fractal drive, bending light around us to achieve semi-transparency. This was all standard procedure, but I still got excited nonetheless.
"Dang. What do you think that was? From what I could tell, it wasn't that big. Do you know if there's any patrols in this area?"
"Negative," Mendez piped in. "We're the only patrol out at this time. Clune and Perrington called in sick today– those worms."
"Whatever about them, focus on whatever that is."
Our Halcyon, outfitted with a Patrol set-up, had an advanced optics and sensor suite onboard, and we zoomed in on the unknown. It was definitely man-made, although it didn't look anything like Federation specs. Bulky and ungraceful, it was hurtling along at a surprising speed in a beeline towards some target. Considering that the only thing on this planet was the Outpost, it was safe to say that it had a clear destination in mind, and it was intent on getting there fast.
"Outpost Actual, this is PF-Charlie, we have an ingressing unknown with a flight plan most likely targeting the OP. Requesting further instruction."
"PF-Charlie this is Outpost Actual, say again? Large amounts of st… on yo…. dio, do you copy?"
"Negative, receiving interference on our radio as well. Unknown target on an ingress route towards the OP, requesting further instruction."
All that came in was static, and then silence. Damn. The radiation from the sun at this altitude messed with our communications. We were going to have to drop a few thousand feet before patching up communications.
Slowly I eased the tension on my shoulders, causing the fighter to descend quickly like a bird's heavy feather. I could feel my organs floating in my ribcage as we dropped, and before we knew it the desert began to reach up to swallow us, hungry for the unwary bird that falls out of it's nest.
We did it all too soon however. The second we dropped into communications level, the unknown target jinked to the right and hit full thruster, obviously spotting us on our descent. Even with the fractal drive, our quick movement was seen like oil slithering through water. I tensed up my legs and sprang forth both physically and mentally, and the Halcyon followed suit with a terrific burst of speed. The chase was on.
"Mendez hit it with all our sensors. Our little spying act is up."
"Yee buddy, I've been waiting for something to do."
Finally. We were seeing some action at last. This was no cargo transport– not with those heavy thrusters it wasn't. Whoever it was, they didn't intend to knock on our door like some sort of salesman.
"H-hey, got something. Alright alright– damn!– it's a Murphy-type assault craft, not used in nearly thirty years– since before the OP was even established. What the hell is it doing out here?"
"Nothing good, that's for sure. Get a fix on it. Prepare to engage."
"Woah what? Bro we can't engage a target unless it's a hostile."
"Well it's an Assault boat, what else do you think it has in mind?"
"But Federation guidelines states–"
"Oh come on! Forget about those– if we stick to the rules like that, we'd be dead."
"Well alright man, but this is– HOLY SHIT! Just picked up a huge spike in radiometric activity– The bastard's got nukes!"
My heart dropped into my stomach. Nukes. Those things were banned many years ago, the last of Earth's supply being used on some sort of asteroid mining gig. When the human race left the confines of a single world, such destruction was rendered obsolete– there were simply too many cities to target to effectively keep it as a weapon of fear. That, and the Federation said it was a big no-no. Thus, it is sufficient to say that this was no accidental encounter. He suddenly turned hostile.
"Well dammit, you got your hostile, Mendez. Get me a lock and get me one fast!"
"R-right, on it. Target lock in four seconds."
My heart began to beat faster. I could feel my adrenal glands squeezing epinephrine into my bloodstream, the liquid energy coursing through my veins. Everything became sharper, clearer. The neurosync translated that into increased performance; i knew everything about the terrain from the onboard sensor suite, and I could even feel how far away the assault boat was. I willed the Halcyon faster, and it complied with happiness, blurring our surroundings into a red and blue smudge.
Little blue boxes flew around in my vision as the HUD began locking onto the Murphy-class's signature. Slowly they converged on the target, glowing ever more red as they focused. When the lock was secure, I felt the neurosync focus my mind entirely on the target, like a sprinter to the finish line. It would be mere seconds before we were in attacking position. We would gun him down, quick, lethal, and easy.
Until his fighter escorts appeared.
They dropped out of the sky like hawks diving for their prey. Two sprays of neon colored bullets rained around us like a hailstorm of depleted uranium; each round biting the ground and throwing up a tower of dirt and flame a hundred feet high. I jinked to the left, pulling upwards and barrel rolling myself upright, repeating the maneuver to form one big aerial "S".
The two fighters broke away in opposite directions, forcing me to follow one of them. Typical tactics. Instead, I relaxed my shoulders, dropping the plane quickly to the ground. Then, violently exploding forwards into an upwards roll, I positioned the fighters directly in the firing path of our guns.
"Mendez– nail those bastards."
As the Weapons System Officer took over controls to fire the guns, I felt the rush of his battle fever through the Neurosync. Our light blue rounds screamed towards the fighters. Before they could even realize they were being fired upon, our superior weapons struck them first. The one on the left erupted into a flash of red and yellow, sending flaming debris cascading onto the hungry desert below. The other one got lucky, breaking hard to the left and jinking wildly so we couldn't get a lock.
I took back the controls as the fighter pulled too far out of targeting range. We had him on the run. Not bad for our first encounter.
Except the only ship that mattered, the one with the nuke, was about two minutes from the OP.
"Dammit, Mendez can you target the Murphy?"
"No can do boss, it's too far out for gun sensors."
"Crap. Ok, spin up the PLAGU-Es; we gotta take him out."
"Wait– are we even authorized to use them?"
"Huh well gee I dunno, what if we weren't."
PLAGU-Es, or PLural Adversary Guided missile–Electronic variants, were the newest form of weapons that the Federation developed. It is the single most deadliest thing to ever grace the fighter world– a six-missile volley of sophisticated lethality. Every round of PLAGU-Es shot had a different sensor on each head, all connected to a central computing module on one of the missiles. The result? A literal web of death for up to 6 enemies at once. Quite ironic considering it was Federation built.
As Mendez readied the PLAGU-Es, I felt the Halcyon tingle with excitement. It was almost as if even she had a bloodlust in her, ready to unleash her wares against a worthy foe. I couldn't wait to use em.
The Murphy-class had no idea what was coming it's way. It jinked it's way left and right, trying to get out of a firing path that didn't exist. It was sad, almost, like watching a bug slowly succumb to a pesticide. Soon, the glowy blue boxes appeared on my retinas, and I saw Mendez guide the six of them onto the target. The HUD began flashing yellow. Missile lock developing.
It was at that moment that communications erupted back online.
"…PF-Charlie: This is General Onikau, DO NOT ENGAGE. I say again, do NOT engage."
What the hell? In a minute, the OP would be leveled if we didn't take it out.
"General Okinau, verify your last: Did you say "do not engage?"
"Affirmative, Federation mandate received that all craft in the area are not to be engaged. Escort it to–"
"But Sir, it's armed with nukes– you'll all burn if we wait any longer!"
"Nukes? What the hell are you talking about, Aberdeen? Follow your order and get back to base. Okinau out."
DAMN! What the hell am I supposed to do? To disobey orders is a crime– here in the wonderful wasteland Outpost, it was second only to murder. But I couldn't let it reach the OP. No way.
"Bro," Mendez offered, "just listen to the General– there must be something goin on."
"Mendez you know downright that that's just Okinau's crappy-ass logic. The idiot couldn't even see an assassin if he had worn a safety belt."
"But dude, those are orders. From a three-star. You can't just ignore–"
"Yes I can. Fire the PLAGU-Es."
"Shut up Mendez, just fire the damn missiles."
"Wait– No man, I can't do– aw hell! Radiometric spikes detected; He's opened the safety doors."
"FIRE THE GODDAMN MISSILES!"
"I…" Mendez hesitated. The HUD was flashing red, rearing like a blood-eyed bull at it's only target. I could feel the Halcyon's anger and ferocity building up in me.
"Aberdeen, my job–"
"I SWEAR I WILL– unnhghh..."
I stopped mid-sentence as a wave of violent release came over me via the neurosync, causing me to shudder in pure primal pleasure. A loud poomf followed a bright flash as the six missiles burst from their compartments on either side of the cockpit. Six pinpoints of light, angelic and gracefully spiraling in a helical twist towards the doomed target. Quickly they danced, elegant and precise, weaving in and out of some unseen ring, bobbing like fairies on a midsummer's glen. And then… Impact.
All at once they converged like a six-headed snake striking it's victim. A blinding flash of light, followed by a guttural tremor as the shockwave came over our ship, was all that was left of the threat. The air was still burning in a chain reaction, fueling a fireball the size of a half-dozen houses.
It was done. The danger was thwarted. I drank in the satisfaction, the calming lull of victory after battle. I knew it was temporary. I knew what was coming next. But still, my stomach lurched when the voicecom blared into existence.
"LIEUTENANTS ABERDEEN AND MENDEZ, I WILL HAVE YOUR ASSES ON MY PLATE TONIGHT. Get back immediately and report to my office before I shoot you down myself. Okinau out."
As I watched the burning wreckage fall towards the lustful hungry desert, I couldn't help but think it was smirking, reveling in our situation.
"The law of the desert," it said, "is simply that: For every hell avoided is another hell waiting. All order is disorder, and to think otherwise, is to be consumed."
This, was JULIET-08. There would be no eggs and salsa for us.
(Hey guys, I just re-wrote the chapter because I didn't like the way the other one went. I think you'll like this version better. Plus, I can FINALLY put in backstory without looking like I tried too hard. Ch2 is gonna be on the way!)