Read SODIUM:3 Fusion Online

Authors: Stephen Arseneault

Tags: #Sci-Fi & Fantasy

SODIUM:3 Fusion (13 page)

Here at least, we would be firing from a standoff position. While we were all eager and willing to fight the aliens none of us wanted to go on a Kamikaze run. When we arrived we programmed the Drillers and let them fly. Bigg had updated the code for their sensors and Whip had added a new target selection algorithm. The Drillers were each programmed to seek out and attack individual fighters.

From our standoff position it took half an hour before the advance of the Drillers stirred up the hornets nest. Our sensors went wild as more than a thousand fighters took to flight at almost the same time.

At final count there were 1326 alien fighters in flight. It was many more than we had estimated. I guessed that after we got lucky taking out the first carrier the surviving fighters had somehow attached to the second carrier for the duration of the trip.

The carrier itself moved fast and had to drop its speed by half so that it did not run away from its fighters. I reasoned that if anything, by slowing down the carrier, our little experiment might buy us a few more hours of time before it reached Earth.

The slower speed added a definite benefit to our mission. The Drillers soon began to interact with the swarm of fighters. We cheered as several of their fighters collided in attempts to avoid our new weaponry.

When a group of nearly 50 of them broke away from the rest I ordered the squad to move away from the fighters while matching their speed. When I pushed the throttle to full our reactor sputtered and went dark. Pop sprang from his chair and began working on it. Without power we would be sitting ducks.

Kat came on the air asking why we were just sitting there. When I told her she turned her Defender around and made full throttle towards the incoming fighters. A104 followed soon after. They would distract the fighter group while we attempted repairs. Pop soon came back with the bad news. The reactor feed had somehow gotten fouled.

He immediately turned to the second reactor and prepared it for a cold start. Again, we would have one shot at starting it up from the battery we had on-board. Kat and the crew of A277 flew within 15 kilometers of the alien onslaught. Her distraction worked, if only for a moment, as the fighter group turned in unison to follow.

Just as I thought we were in the clear a lone fighter was dispatched in our direction. A104 did a fly by while firing their coil guns in an attempt to knock it out before it reached us. The attempt was unsuccessful.

I called back to Pop to hurry it up as we had incoming heading our way. Bigg soon had a countdown counter up with how long we had before the fighter reached us. When the timer dropped under two minutes I again prompted Pop to get that thing started. He did not reply but kept working at it feverishly.

As the counter dropped under a minute he reached over and slapped the flashing red holo-button on the reactor console. I watched as the seconds ticked by. At 35 seconds the quick flash of the reactor showed us that the process had begun. The flash dimmed and then began to slowly build.

The reactor would take a full minute to come up to power and we had less than 20 seconds left. When it reached 12% I gunned the throttle in an attempt to buy us more time. Our Defender began to accelerate but the pace was not such that we could outrun our foe. With my final seconds I thought of Paige and of how little time we had really had together.

As we braced for impact from the fighter's concussion weapon Kat came on the air with a yell. Just as the fighter had gotten within range of us she had done a fly-by at a half kilometer while firing all four of her coil guns.

The fighter exploded in a flash of glory as Defender A277 swept past it. Our wing-man had come to our rescue! Within the minute we had full power, it coming from the second reactor. We each gave out a shout to A277 and then immediately got back to the business of the other 49 fighters that were coming our way.

For half an hour we played cat and mouse first waiting for the fighters to catch up and then speeding away, all the time watching on our sensors as the Drillers took their toll.

The drillers had taken out three fighters and damaged three others. However, they were not completely impervious to the concussion weapons as we had hoped. The fighters had quickly taken our Driller numbers from 48 down to 19.

We moved and watched patiently as the last two Drillers continued taxing the fighters. With our partial victory I decided it was time to head for home. The Drillers from our three Defenders had accounted for five alien fighters destroyed and four damaged.

I gave the orders and all three Defenders went to full throttle. After arriving back at Regents Field Pop had a group of Techs look over the failed reactor. A minute design change from his original conception had halted the free delivery of the Sodium fuel. With our primary reactor corrected we would be free to fly with both reactors running on future missions.

We had not been allowed to operate both reactors on the last run. It was not a question of having a good supply of Sodium. Sodium was plentiful. Our second reactor had been slated for removal to install in a new Defender.

After our mishap General Buck gave the order to leave it where it was. I was really starting to like the General. He would listen to reason, make a decision and then stick with that decision. When we arrived back in the chamber it was time to turn the data over to the Tacticians where our fates would soon be decided. The world's clock of doom was quickly counting down.

Chapter 13

After some lengthy discussions General Buck ordered that the missiles on 250 of our now projected 286 Defenders were to be converted to Drillers. When the alien carrier arrived we would be launching 4,000 Drillers at them all at once. It was a risky strategy but we were out of options.

We would be fielding 286 Defenders, 416 space-born coil guns, 602 heavy ground based coil guns and 244 medium ground based mobile coil guns. A third of the world's cities with populations over 10,000 would be left unprotected. Those residents had been urged to seek shelter in the larger venues.

On the final day before the alien carrier was to arrive the General ordered all USAC personnel and accompanying foreign crewman to take at least ten minutes out of their day to call loved ones. This was it. This was a fight for Earth... for our freedom... for the survival of Mankind. For those who were religious it was a time for prayer. For everyone it was a time to offer encouragement to others.

As I walked around in the chamber I could see the occasional worker or crewman step to the side for a private conversation with family or friends. I took my ten minutes to visit with Paige in person. After a long embrace we made small talk in an attempt to comfort and reassure one another.

It felt good to have someone to share those moments with. I was fighting for all Mankind, for my Great Uncle David Brenner, for my freedom and survival... and for Paige, the one who made it all worthwhile for me.

The remainder of the day saw everyone scurrying about in an attempt to make everything as ready as possible. The expected arrival time of the alien carrier was approximately 11:08AM on July 29th. For my final hour before bed I sat in my quarters contemplating what was coming. The warble of channel 1647 went off on my audio implant.

It was Paige. She was on her way over so that we could share what might be our final night together. She would be a good distraction from my thoughts of doom. When she entered my quarters we shared a long kiss and then settled in on my anti-grav mattress. We lay staring into each others eyes as I gently stroked her hair and she my cheek.

Within minutes I was fast asleep as the time released sleep aids in my suit took hold of my consciousness. I held fast to Paige and she soon drifted off as well. The big fight would be upon us shortly. I awoke in the morning with my arm still hanging over Paige's small frame. She was pulled in close and clutched my hand to her heart as she slept.

I gently woke her and said good morning. We cuddled for a few minutes longer before the orders came in on my implant to report to station. I kissed my wife, then rose and gave my face a sonic wash. I then turned and winked as I stepped through the door into the now crowding hallway. The place was awash with everyone heading to their duty station.

I soon met up with my crew and headed towards our final briefing. I sat up front with Bigg, Whip, Pop, Kat and her team and the crew of A104 while the Tacticians went over our part of the final battle plan.

We would launch and then half the Defenders would rally on the opposite side of the Earth with the other half on the opposite side of the Moon. When the first alien craft was within range of one of our space based heavy coil guns all 4,000 of the converted Drillers would then be loosed at once.

The 36 Defenders that still had the nukes would then be called upon to close and fire upon the carrier itself while the 250 remaining Defenders sought out fighters. We hoped for a single direct hit on the carrier.

If all went according to plan it would be a war of attrition. If the number of alien fighters could be knocked down to a third by the Drillers, General Buck felt we had a strong shot at winning.

I was not happy with the odds, but it was all we had. By 10:15AM we had launched all Defenders and the rally points were beginning to crowd. The alien carrier was now passing the Asteroid Belt and would be striking at the Earth within the hour.

All Nations had been fully briefed on the impending attack. At first there was a huge outcry, but the reality of what was coming soon took hold. There was cooperation between Nations like the Earth had never seen. Factories ran 24 / 7. Resources were diverted. Cities Defended. Neighbor helped neighbor. There was also martial law in every country.

Anyone caught in the commission of a crime was taken immediately before a judge and sentenced without trial. If the Judge ruled against you the sentence was the same for all. The arrested had 3 days to appeal and were then locked up with no legal recourse until such time as the alien threat had ebbed. No one was interested in wasting time on criminals while the world was in such peril.

Within days all cities were reporting that crime was largely a thing of the past. It was deemed that if you were causing a distraction from the defense of Earth you did not deserve to live on it. Thousands had quickly found out how serious the situation was.

We sat quietly at the rally point watching a countdown timer on our consoles. The ticking readout displayed 30 minutes, then 20 then 10. When the counter reached zero the 125 Defenders in my group let loose the 2,000 Drillers in our care. At the same moment on the backside of Earth another 2,000 Drillers were released. The defense of Earth had begun.

As the first reports of coil gun fire began to display on my console Bigg came on air with a loud comment. Another 3,000 Drillers had been released from the planet's surface!

We had been instructed to give the Drillers a five minute head start before pushing our throttles to full. The hour of our destiny was upon us. The battle computers on the ground were busily dividing up the fighters for each of the Defender squads. Our squad was given a group of eight to contend with.

As we came around the back side of the Moon the alien carrier came into view on our consoles. The carrier looked like a long dark branch with a huge swarm of mad bees in a fog surrounding it. The swarm began to grow and pulsate as the Drillers interacted with the alien fighters. Small explosions could be seen as if like fireflies in a dark night sky.

The explosions continued as we quickly approached. The alien fighters were within range of four of our heavy space based coil guns. Every three seconds a new set of tungsten pellets were propelled to extraordinary speeds. Every few seconds an alien fighter gave out a bright flash and then disintegrated.

Before we were able to fire a shot more than 30 alien fighters had been eliminated. A feeling of hope began to build in my heart. Then just as quickly as it seemed we were gaining an advantage the aliens changed tactics. Swarms of 64 fighters attacked and quickly overwhelmed all four heavy coil guns.

Their next tactic was the most unnerving. Each of the swarms then turned towards the planet surface. Boston was the first city to be attacked. We had 25 heavy coil guns positioned in the northeast where at least five would cover any city at once. The five guns went into service immediately.

The fighters overwhelming tactic had knocked out three of Boston's guns before we made it into the fray. A dozen fighters had been taken out in the process but the remaining 52 began to do their damage. First the city center was shredded. Skyscrapers fell. Bridges were knocked out. Highways and the autos on them crushed. The destruction slowly circled outwards as the Drillers continued to chase the rampaging fighters.

Our squad had been assigned to the fighters that were now ravaging Atlanta. A rage burned inside me as I took our Defender within a hundred meters of the first fighter we encountered. Whip fired the coil guns and our foe broke in half before bursting into a ball of flames. We quickly targeted another and another as we flew through the alien horde.

Our second reactor was dedicated entirely to our shield and Bigg was hard at work countering any fighter gravity wave that came our way. The battle over Atlanta raged for 15 minutes before half of the alien fighters had been eliminated. Dobbins Air Force base on the north side of town had provided extra heavy coil gun cover with four additional units.

Those guns had been taken out along with four of the six protecting the metro area only minutes later. The Air Force base and the aircraft factories located there were in ruins. As the remaining fighters continued to do their damage a flashing red indicator on my console told me of the fate of A104 along with 12 other Defenders assigned to our group.

There were nine Defenders still engaged with 26 of the enemy over Atlanta. The Drillers continued on their rampage. The alien fighters continued to obliterate targets on the ground.

Four times our active skin had hit more than 80% saturation. I was putting us in harms way in an effort to provide my wing-man with cover. The war of attrition was not going our way as our numbers had soon dropped to four. The alien fighters numbered 18 while 47 Drillers continued to chase them about.

Untold millions had perished on the ground in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles and many other cities and strategic targets around the globe. Our strategy of firing the nukes at the alien carrier had failed. The gravity weapon on-board the large ship was far superior to that of the fighters. No missile had come within 200 kilometers.

A dozen Defenders had been lost attacking the carrier before the order went out for those remaining to retreat and help with the city defense. Mankind was taking it hard on the chin... and in the gut. If something didn't change soon the aliens would have control of the skies. That would mean certain doom.

The remaining 18 fighters over Atlanta dove and pummeled ground targets and then swooped back after the remaining Defenders. The chaos of battle was almost overwhelming. We managed to take out another four fighters before the last of our ground based weapons was eliminated. The aliens had taken out one more of our Defenders.

I ran cover and came in close on our attacks as we took out two more alien fighters. Just as we had adapted our tactics the aliens changed theirs. The dozen fighters all turned on us at once. The coordinated attack took out our third remaining Defender. It was now just us and the girls in A277.

We shot straight skyward in an attempt to lure the fighters from the city. They feinted a follow and then turned quickly back to their destruction.

With another sweeping pass we took out another fighter. Then, A277 took a hard hit knocking out four of their rings and their active skin. A final salvo from their guns took out one more fighter before they turned to flee. My girls were out of the fight leaving us to defend against the ten remaining alien fighters. Even with the extra power of our second reactor we would not last long.

When six of the fighters maneuvered towards me I had to push full on the throttle to squeeze out of their trap. Another hard hit took our shield to 92% saturation. In my slow turning Defender with no other help I was out of moves. The aliens were becoming skilled at evading my hit and run attempts. They continued to ravage the suburbs of Atlanta and all who had sought shelter there.

When the darkest moment of dread was upon us our consoles lit up with green blips. In a last ditch effort the Tacticians had launched our conventional fighter aircraft. They were of no match for the alien fighters but they brought a distraction that allowed my crew to operate. As the brave airmen of the USAF, USMC and USN sacrificed their lives over Altanta in a gesture of bravery that I will never forget, we began to eliminate the remaining enemy fighters one by one.

When the clock struck noon the battle for Atlanta was over. More than 8 million souls had been lost below us. Our orders quickly came in to divert to Chicago to continue the fight. There would be no rest for the weary.

I pushed the throttle full and within five minutes we were doing battle with another 16 alien fighters. Only three other Defenders remained. We made our first pass and eliminated two fighters. On the next sweep we took out two more. The remaining dozen then suddenly turned and headed back skyward towards their carrier.

We continued to make runs as they retreated. One more fighter fell before we got pinched between two gravity weapons. Our shields went to 102%.

We lost three of our BHD rings with the remaining two taking damage. The safety fuse in our second reactor blew filling our cabin with smoke and eliminating our shields and active skin.

I cut hard away from the fighters and almost blacked out from the sudden affects of inertia. I looked for an immediate place to land. There were plenty as most of Chicago had been flattened.

We set down hard in the parking lot of what had once been a thriving community grocery store. The back hatch opened and the smoke from the blown circuits boiled out. We had made it out alive, but not before the city of big shoulders and many others lay largely in ruin. Fire raged in every direction. Mrs. O'leary's cow had done nothing compared to the devastation that lay all around us.

I attempted to contact Battle Command at Regents Field but got no response. I tried repeatedly to raise Paige but the silence was the same. I wondered if any other Defenders had survived other than the three we had come to assist.

They had been redirected to another destination as soon as the alien fighters retreated. The comm channels were jammed with individual pilot chatter. Command had broken down. I questioned the team and the only conclusion they could draw was that Regents Field may have been taken out... along with the chamber.

My heart sank as I thought of the possibility of Paige's death. I had gone into battle feeling that at least she would be secure in the underground rock fortress. Perhaps I was wrong.

Once the smoke cleared Pop got to work on making our craft flight-worthy. The blown circuits for the reactor were bypassed and the two somewhat functioning BHD rings inspected. It would be risky, but we could fly. The immediate choice was to go back to Regents Field. When we lifted off I pushed what throttle we had to full.

We passed over Denver on our way back to the Nevada desert. Smoke plumes billowed high, placing a dramatic haze over the adjacent Rockies. On final approach to Regents Field it was as we had guessed... complete devastation. The hangars had been flattened. The administration buildings flattened. Anything that had once been sitting on the tarmac had seen the same fate.

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