Maniac’s Last Flight
May 12th, 2603
Ubanto Prime, Ubanto System
In the shadow of the wrecked carrier, five starfighters hung motionless in the darkness as beneath them a destroyer with blackened and scorched hull plates moved between them and the planet below. The cockpit of each fighter was in darkness, the pilots illuminated only by glow sticks taped to the canopy roof. The blackout was a mixture of necessities. Partly to reduce their sensor signature and remain undetected. Partly to conserve power as the power cell readout in each of the cockpits hovered just above the zero mark.
Using a handheld communicator, one of the pilots addressed the remains of the squadron. “This is it, we’ve been playing cat and mouse with these fuckers for two days. We’re almost out of fuel, O2 and ammo. The nearest help is 12 light years away and between us and a working jump drive is about an entire armada of … Darkers. Any questions?”
There was no response.
“Ok our first target is that destroyer. If we can disable it, it should cause enough of a distraction. Maniac, since you are the only one with missiles left, that’ll be your job.”
Two fighters over, private Carl “Maniac” Tyler acknowledged the orders.
“Lock weapons and accelerate to attack speed. Good luck everyone.”
With a flare of engine thrust, the fighters rocketed out from under cover, zeroing in on the destroyer. In a classic diamond formation, they approached from behind as the enemy sensors picked them up. Weapon batteries opened fire but their fire arcs couldn’t target the fighters as they approached. Holding his breath, Maniac painted the rear of the ship with a targeting laser as the lead fighter pealed upwards to give him a clear shot.
“Red 5. Fox 3,” he called as he fired his last remaining missile. The squadron broke formation and Maniac sent his fighter into a steep spiraling dive. He glanced up just as his missile struck the rear of the ship and vanished into the hole its impact made. For a second he feared the missile may have been a dud and the whole attack had been in vain but then the back end of the ship bulged outward. The missile must have detonated inside the ship! A ripple of flame washed out of the hole and the entire rear half of the destroyer suddenly exploded into a cloud of superheated fragments as its reactor exploded. Maniac howled in joy. “Take that you…”
“EYES FRONT MARINE!” Screamed the voice of the lieutenant.
Maniacs eyes snapped forwarded and widened in panic as an entire squadron of enemy fighters ahead of him opened fire.
Somehow, even with his eyes closed and screaming in panic, he managed to avoid every single shot and wall of fighters swept by as he shot right through the heart of their formation. Within seconds, half of the enemy fighters had split off the main formation and turned to engage Maniac. He hit his boosters and began to make his way to the wreckage of a commercial transport.
The enemy fighters were faster and better armed but his Raptor was much more maneuverable. Weaving in and out of the chunks of debris Maniac was able to evade most of their fire.
“Maniac, whats your sitrep.”
“I’ve got 6 … no wait 8 fighters on my tail, I can’t seem to shake em.”
“Eight! Shit, you must’ve pissed em off…”
“… where are you.”
“By the wreckage of the Colonial Movers ship.”
“Crap, we’re on the other side of the battle from you. It’ll take time to get to you.”
“Oh, no hurry,” he said as piece of debris exploded showering his cockpit canopy with shrapnel.
“Just hang on.”
Finally free of the wreckage, Maniac had a clear view of the planet below. Not a single ship could be seen between him and the surface.
“I got an idea.”
“Don’t do nothing stupid kid.”
“You know me.”
“That’s what worries me.”
Maniac hit his thrusters once again and made a dash for the planet. He knew that his fighter was a transatmospheric. A type designed to operate equally well in space and in an atmosphere. The same could not be said for the enemy craft.
He hit the atmosphere with the enemy close on his tail. Wreathed in flames as he made atmospheric re-entry, all comms and sensors went down for nearly a minute. As the static and flames cleared he learned that three of the enemy fighters had burned up on reentry. Continuing the dive for as long as possible he pulled up just before impact and began to skim the surface at an insanely low altitude.
The enemy fighters began to fall behind and his flight took him towards the colonies spaceport. Once filled with commercial transports, private ships and government vessels, all that occupied it now were the landing craft of the enemy. The same enemy that had nearly wiped out the small defense force. The same enemy that had massacred the unarmed colonists. In rage he opened fire with his railguns stitching a path of destruction right through the heart of the enemy encampment. Men died, ships burned and fuel tanks exploded.
He was swinging around for another attack run when a high pitched tone alerted him to imminent danger. From the ruins of the city below a surface to air missile rocketed upwards and struck the rear of the fighter. The entire engine housing sheared off and the front of the fighter began to violently spiral to the ground below. Automatic systems kicked in and ejected the cockpit. Two explosions marked the impact points of the front of the fighter and the engine housing. The cockpit struck the ground before the retro thrusters could fire. It rolled over and over, crashing through several buildings before finally coming to a rest in a side street.
A few minutes passed and then a gunshot from inside the cockpit blew a hole in the canopy. A bloodied hand poked out and operated the manual release catch. The canopy came off with a crash and Maniac stumbled out. The air was filled with the crackling of still burning fires and the muffled whump of explosions. He reached back into the cockpit and pulled an SMG from a storage space and moved out.
The streets were a mess. Vehicles abandoned in the chaos of the evacuation blocked the roads and littered everywhere were the bodies of those that hadn’t made it out. Maniac carefully picked his way through the ruins, heading for the outskirts of town. A patrol would soon discover the wreckage of the fighter and it was in his best interest that he was as far away from …
Suddenly a sharp pain in his leg interrupted his train of thought. He fell to the ground in agony. Looking down, he saw the vice-like jaws of a man-trap clamped around his left leg. Blood dribbling from the wound. He tried to open the jaws but they were too strong and he couldn’t move them even an inch. A whoop from down the street caught his attention. Figures began to clamber over the debris towards him. Armed with clubs, knives, axes and a few nasty looking firearms they were definitely NOT friendlies. Maniac brought his weapon up and opened fire.
The mantra, “short controlled bursts. Short controlled bursts” ran through his head as his heart rate shot through the roof. One after another the figures fell in a spray of blood and a gurgled scream but for every one that fell two more took its place. Soon the SMG was out of ammunition and Maniac drew his sidearm. Round after round was fired but they kept coming. He had heard the stories. Everyone who lived in the Boondocks did. He would not be taken alive. Pointing the pistol at his own temple he closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.
Click. Out of ammunition. In disgust he threw the pistol at the nearest figure and pulled out his combat knife. From out of nowhere a shot rang out. The bullet struck the knife sending it flying to his left. It hit a wall and rebounded back towards him. It was just within reach. He stretched out as far as he could, straining against the chain of the man trap. He could feel the flesh on his leg tearing as his fingertips brushed against the hilt of the weapon.
Then they were on him. Someone sat on his back, its weight forcing the air out of his lungs. The person bent down to whisper into his ear.
“Why are you so eager to leave us flyboy?” He felt the Darkers fingers lift his hair back exposing he MindJack socket. “We have such wonders to show you.” A plug was inserted into the socket and white hot blade of pain shot straight into his cerebral cortex.
Three Years Later…
February 14th, 2606
New Port Dillion, Agamemnon System
Tyler woke up sitting bolt upright, drenched sweat. The cabin was empty and Samson’s bed was already made. He stumbled towards the wash room, rinsed his face in cold water and looked at his reflection in the mirror. His hand unconsciously went to the socket at the base of his neck.