Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chapter Sixty-six

Stone followed the flight leader out of the bay and pushed the throttle forward as he tried to keep up. There was a bright blast of light from the rear of the flight leader's ship. Stone followed as it dived to the right, racing toward the planet's surface. There was no maneuvering to disguise their route. They dropped from the fleet and headed toward the planet by the quickest route possible.

On the radar he could see the fighters strung out behind him. A hundred ships launched from four different fleet carriers. They were joining into a single formation under the control of an officer who was coordinating from one of the fleet ships.

Stone was the number two man in the formation. Only his flight leader who had taken off before him was in front of him. He didn't have to worry about the other ships, only the one directly in front of him.

The planet changed from an indistinct disk with little detail visible to the naked eye to a large planet that filled the small cockpit window. Through an obscuring cloud layer the top of the world where the Citadel stood on the black plain was visible. The flashing of the laser cannon and the strobbing of the smaller weapons suggested that it was not wise to attack at the moment.

But they ignored that. The mission was clear. Hit the Citadel with a barrage of weapons. They fell out of the sky in a long line and formed on a broad front to attack the Citadel all at once. Stone pulled even with the flight leader, only a few feet to his right and just slightly behind him.

Some of the weapons on the Citadel were directed at them, but more of them flashed past them, ineffectively targeting empty space. Stone's flight leader launched every missile that he carried and dropped all the bombs which disintegrated into hundreds of bomblets. He salvoed the weapons, giving the Citadel as many new targets as he could before he pulled up to fly over the top of the target. They were attempting to overwhelm the defense by giving it more targets than it could handle.

Stone reached down and flipped the selector to salvo and did the same. Fourteen missiles were launched, directed at the Citadel in general but no specific spot on it. He dropped all the bombs he carried, letting them drift down toward the Citadel deploying the bomblets to detonate on the walls and rooftops.

As he pulled up and away, he twisted around and looked back. No weapons had been fired at him. His ship hadn't been touched. Now his weapons were beginning to impact on the surface of the Citadel, tiny, bright flashes of lights as the bombletss and missiles penetrated the defensive systems and shields that tried to protect the Citadel.

"We hit it," he shouted over the radio. "Slam dunked it."

A minute later the flight controller said, "No unnecessary chatter."

But that did nothing to stop Stone. He was watching the attack on the center screen on his instrument panel using the rear looking camera. The Citadel was taking hits... finally.

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