Cameron stretched out in the cockpit designed for the larger alien race. Being larger than average, he was usually cramped in the confines of most cockpits, but he never minded. Steele had spent more time in the Ferus fighter in the last week than he had liked, but was still in awe of the craft. There was still so much to learn from the foreign technology.
A green circle appeared on the canopy, dead ahead. This was the first time Cameron had seen a green circle. Red circles were locked-on missiles from the Talons, he discovered that during the dogfight training earlier in the week. Steele checked his watch, seven minutes until he reached the Ferus transport. The Ferus transport should have just arrived in Earth’s orbit. Cameron searched the horizon for any visible sign of the transport, but he was still too far away. It was possible this was the transport tracking him, though he had no way of knowing.
Cameron went over the attack plan once more. The Talons should be mounting their attack in less than two minutes. They would try to distract and hold off the transport for five minutes, at which time Steele would arrive, followed ten seconds later by the Stinson.
Cameron checked to make sure he was still on course to rendezvous with the transport. Three minutes to go; he could just make out the transport. The green circle on the canopy had to be the transport. Was it tracking him? He hoped they didn’t see the Stinson following behind. Cameron switched on his radio; he should be within radio range of the Talons any second now. The radio crackled as he waited and listened.
“I repeat,” it was Lieutenant Colonel Trexlor, “Echo and November squad follow the large section that split from the main ship, down to the surface!”
“Roger that,” said Echo squad leader. “We’re on it!”
The transport grew in size as Cameron swiftly approached. His first guess put the ship at three to four times the size of the Stinson. There was another large craft heading away from the main transport, towards the surface. Cameron checked his watch, less than one minute until arrival. Talons could now be seen swarming around the vessel. The battle was well underway.
“Command, we’re taking heavy losses! There are far more fighters than expected.”
“Alpha One, we need to hold on for a little longer,” said Trexlor.
Cameron checked the time: forty-one seconds.
“Another five fighters just launched from the transport!”
“I see them, Alpha squad is on it.” It was Gonzalez, he was still in the fight.
“Bravo squad, assist Alpha on those fighters,” said Trexlor.
“Negative, Command. I’m neck deep in fighters, and I’m the only one left from Bravo! ”
Cameron advanced, fifteen seconds until arrival. The transport began to shift its location. Cameron made a slight adjustment to his course. He had no way of tracking the Stinson. He hoped they saw the transport begin to move, too.
The transport’s size was so encompassing that it blocked Cameron’s view of the earth. Cameron’s mind filled with the images that Erik had painted for him back in the barn. He felt himself getting angry, rage filled his eyes.
“Break, break, break!” Cameron shouted the command for the Talons to break off the attack and get away from the transport.
He fired the fighter’s laser cannon at the transport as he pulled up and narrowly missed the ship. Cameron knew the damage, if any, would be insignificant at most, but he couldn’t control himself. Cameron looked back at the transport as he zipped by; it was continuing to move, he hoped the Stinson was on target. The transport grew smaller the further he got from it. “Five, four,” Cameron counted to himself, “three, two, one.”
Cameron watched as the Stinson rammed into the transport. It was a direct hit. The explosion that followed was colossal. Large fragments of both ships flew in every direction. Smaller explosions followed in what remained of the transport.
Cameron switched on his homing beacon so the Talons would be able to distinguish him from the Ferus. He quickly turned the fighter around and headed to join the battle.
“Command, Ferus One reporting.” Cameron rapidly assessed the situation. The hull to the transport was mostly destroyed. What remained definitely appeared to be out of commission. The dogfight between the Talons and the Ferus fighters was still in full swing.
Cameron promptly found the nearest enemy fighter and got on his tail. The fighter was locked onto a Talon, who was trying every move in the book to shake him. Cameron lined the Ferus fighter up in his sights and fired, vaporizing the enemy.
Cameron’s canopy lit up with green circles. Every remaining Ferus fighter now had locked on to him; there had to be nine or so enemy craft left. It appeared that the fighters were turning their attention to his craft. He began evasive maneuvers. “This is Ferus One. It appears they think I’m the bigger threat. Take them out!”
“Ferus One,” it was Alex, “lead them back towards the transport, we’ll intercept them.”
Cameron banked the craft as hard left as it would go; the ship seemed to pivot in place. He shot the fighter straight for the wrecked transport. A group of six Talons laid waiting. Cameron was there in a blink of an eye.
“Now!” said Alex.
Cameron rolled the craft over and pulled back just as a barrage of missiles from the Talons streaked by. At least five of the green circles on the canopy disappeared. The remaining four split up and divided the pack of Talons. Cameron spun the craft around and picked a target. There was an enemy fighter moving to cut off a Talon. Cameron recognized the markings on the tail of the Talon, it was Alex’s. “Gonzalez, bank now!” Cameron yelled.
The Talon rolled left seconds before the enemy fired and blew one of the Talon’s wings off. Cameron started firing the laser cannon before he had the Ferus in his sights. It was more of a divergence than an aim to destroy; it worked. The enemy fighter took the bait and went after Cameron. This proved fatal to the Ferus. Cameron guessed which way the enemy would maneuver and fired the split second before he arrived there. The enemy craft was annihilated.
“Alpha One?” Cameron hoped the Ferus’ shot didn’t take out a major system on the Talon. “Alpha One?” Cameron brought his fighter up alongside the damaged Talon. He could see movement inside the cockpit. They were still alive. “Alpha One, this is Ferus One, I’m off your right side. Do you read?”
The two men inside the Talon turned to face Cameron’s fighter. Gonzalez was in the rear seat and gave a thumb up. Cameron made a quick trip around the Talon to scan the damage. The left wing was destroyed, along with part of the fuselage. This damage most likely took out the radio transmitter.
“Can you make it to the remote berthing module?” said Cameron.
There was a pause, and once again Gonzalez gave a thumb up. There was no way the Talon could continue with the fight with this type of damage.
A quick check of the canopy tracking screen showed there were only two enemy Ferus left. Cameron evaluated the situation and felt the Talon could make it back to the berthing module on its own. “Alpha One, I’m returning to the fight.” Cameron didn’t wait for a response. He started towards the nearest of the two Ferus craft.
“Ferus One, this is Command. I need you down on the surface at Lefor now!”
“Sir?” said Cameron.
“We can take care of the remaining two fighters up here. A large part of the transport departed prior to impact, and it’s headed to the surface. We sent Echo and November squads after it, but their missiles don’t appear to be doing damage on the ship. The reports coming in are saying that the ship is doing heavy damage to the underground missile silos. We need to stop it now before it kills everyone in the colonies there.”
“Roger, sir, I’m on it.” Cameron rerouted his fighter for a reentry path that would put him near North Dakota. He dove for the surface, slower this time than his first reentry with this type of craft; he had learned a hard lesson. Reentry went smooth, almost unnoticed. It was truly an amazing craft.
There was a thick cloud layer over the region of North Dakota that Cameron needed to get to. He could have used a clear sky to spot the ship, but that wasn’t going to be the case today. He entered the clouds and went into complete white out condition. The canopy screen lit up with a view of the surface. The image was grainy, but not lacking in detail. It reminded Cameron of night vision, but only this was in black and white instead of a green tint.
Cameron spotted the very large ship right way. It was making sweeping passes over the open fields below. The ship was shooting down some pulsing beam, over and over. Six Talons continued to bombard the ship with missile after missile, causing pretty much no damage.
It was possible the ship didn’t see Cameron coming, or it didn’t consider him a threat. It never lost focus and kept on attacking the ground. Cameron dove straight down on the vessel. When he was within what he thought was the max firing range, he steadied his finger on the laser cannon’s trigger. He wanted to wait until he was certain he wasn’t going to miss. One pass was all he may get. He was going to make it count.
Cameron squeezed the trigger repeatedly, sending burst after burst into the ship. The ship began to heave over to one side, and its forward motion ceased. Cameron pulled back on the stick to avoid a collision with the enemy. The large ship went crashing down to the surface.
Cameron circled his fighter around to make another pass. The ship lay half-buried in the open field that it had just been bombing, smoke rising from the wreckage. It appeared not to be too damaged from the crash. Cameron made an observing pass over the football field sized ship, looking for any sign of trouble. This ship wasn’t going anywhere soon. He continued to circle the ship, watching.
“Command, Ferus One,” said Cameron.
A green circle appeared on the canopy, right behind Cameron. Where did the enemy come from? Steele tried taking evasive tactics, but he was caught off guard. His fighter took a glancing blow just as he rolled. The controls became sluggish, and the canopy display went out. Control of the fighter was no longer Cameron’s; he was just along for the ride.
The ground came fast. Cameron remembered the last time he crashed this ship, and fumbled for the same controls he pulled last time that saved his life. His hands found the lever, and he yanked on it with all his might. The pod once again separated from the craft and hit the ground. The impact was significantly less this time, and the pod rolled along the ground for a great deal. When it finally came to a rest, Cameron opened the canopy and climbed out.
Cameron searched the sky for the fighter that got him and saw it being chased by two Talons. The Talons fired their missiles, which exploded yards from the enemy, knocking the craft about. Two seconds later, the second wave of missiles hit the Ferus fighter and it burst into a blazing fireball that screamed across the sky and smashed into the ground at full speed. The pod never ejected from the craft.
Five Talons were all that Cameron could count patrolling the sky. He saw no more Ferus fighters. He took a deep breath and hoped the major battle was over.
Cameron walked around the pod that had saved his life. There wasn’t a scratch on it. He wished he could say the same for his radio that was bounced around the cockpit in the crash. “Command, Ferus One.” The radio seemed to be dead. Cameron played with some settings. “Command, do you copy?”
Cameron climbed on top of what remained of his fighter and scanned the horizon for anything. The downed Ferus ship was a few miles from where he stood. Cameron could not make out any other structure. He checked the 9mm that was strapped to his leg, jumped down from the pod, and took off running towards the ship.
Despite the fatigue from battle, Cameron was able to cover the distance relatively fast. The Talons continued to patrol the air over the ship. As Cameron approached the wreckage, he came upon armed men taking cover behind various pieces of debris, their guns were drawn on the ship. General Williams was hunkered down behind a large boulder.
“Lieutenant Colonel Steele,” General Williams called out and motioned for Cameron to join him behind the boulder.
Cameron squatted down next to the general. “Sir?”
“You see that small crack in the side of the ship?” The general pointed towards the near end of the ship.
There was a crack about three feet wide and ten feet long in the side of the vessel. “Yes, sir.”
“We’re gathering up as many troops as possible to board the ship. The Talons are patrolling the area to make sure no Ferus escape from another exit.”
“Any word from Lieutenant Colonel Trexlor?” said Cameron as he pulled out his pistol and got it ready. “Are all the enemy fighters taken care of?”
General Williams shook his head. “So far as we know all Ferus fighters are accounted for and destroyed. We’re down to twenty Talons at most. One of the Ferus took out the berthing module before the Talons could finish them off. I’m afraid Trexlor didn’t make it.”
“Any word on Major Gonzalez? His Talon was damaged, and he was headed to the berthing module.”
“I’m sorry, son, I’ve got no info on Gonzalez.”