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|Subject: 2078: The Book Wed Jul 07, 2010 12:39 am|| |
Okay, I've been writing a sci-fi book called '2078'. I modeled my 2078 Spore GA series after it. So here it is, it all its uneditied glory:
The city, covered in a swirling gray mist, had a dull, concrete hue to it. The Skylines were crowded with shuttles of all types and sizes, bustling with the early morning clamor of rush hour. A faint, almost discrete wailing broke out on the empty streets below, causing the ever-moving flow of pedestrian traffic to cease and part. Two SC-9 patrol vehicles slid past the crowd of onlookers, their sleek grey shells and streamlined curves commanding an intimidating presence. Shortly behind the SC-9s came the source of the now harsh, shrill wailing. An armed police formation, consisting of several sleek ground cars, was in the rear. The front formation, three police cruisers equipped with cutting-edge electronic defenses and several hidden crowd deterrents, drifted behind the larger SC-9s. The waling was cut off as the formation drifted forward, its presence known.
The political delegation followed. An elegant stretch-shuttle hovered in the middle of the procession, hiding what many of the milling crowd assumed where important ambassadors and the like, attending yet another important political affair. The limo was coated with an iridescent layer of a laser-resistant substance, and the strengthened windows deflected all incoming projectiles, whether they be the bullets of ancient sniper rifles or a mini-smart flare. Its sleek curves and weird angles, along with the laser-resistant substance gave it an almost untraceable beam signature, and the only real way to detect one was through the naked eye, as it constantly emitted an electronic pulse which disabled any piece of concealed espionage equipment known to man.
As the convoy silently slid along the streets of Skyla, protests erupted from the crowd of pedestrian onlookers. Some flashed electronic banners advertising the usual antiwar and anti-oil slogans: peace not war, oil is for spoils, and so on. Silent as the night, small anti-crowd water cannons slid from the sides of the stretch-shuttle, along with the two police vehicles in the lead. The cannons pivoted side to side, ready to disperse the crowd with a powerful jet of compressed water. As the political convoy rounded a sharp curve, violent threats erupted from the crowd, and several pedestrians leapt at the stretch-shuttle.
Faster than the naked eye could see columns of compressed water streamed outward from the hidden cannons, blasting the assailants backwards several meters. Angered by this sudden display of self-defense, the enraged protesters began hurtling various objects, some ablaze, at the delegation. Many of the missiles bounced harmlessly off the stretch shuttle’s armored exterior and translucent armor, while the remainder soared overhead and smashed into nearby glass-pained windows, etching spider-web-like cracks in them. However, none shattered. Wailing erupted from the lead patrol vehicles, escalating to almost unbearable decibel levels. Several protesters dropped to the ground, covering their ears in agony. A roof-mounted laser slid up from the stretch-shuttle, pivoting silently, twin-barrels trained on the crowd below, discouraging any more would-be assailants.
When one group of protesters managed to edge over the accepted green-zone perimeter established by the laser’s computer, a low-energy blast erupted from the twin-barrels, flying through the air at the speed of light. The beam hit the sidewalk only centimeters from the protesters, blasting chunks of dust and concrete into the air. Immediately afterwards, a small street-bot emerged from a hidden wall panel, attaching a new concrete panel by way of a strong adhesive to the blasted crater, then retreating back into its shelter. Although the blast caused no permanent damage, the protesters backed away nonchalantly to beyond the green zone perimeter.
As the embassy reached the final stretch of their short journey, they came upon a gathering of imprudent Hov-cams, which hovered only feet above the ground on a cushion of air, filming a wirelessly transferring video to organizations around the world. Although they were priceless to police squadrons and news agencies around the world, to the silent political convey gliding down the streets of Skyla, they were nothing but a high-tech annoyance.
“Activate EMP wave drones: target coordinates in sector one, three, five, two, six: shoot to disable.”
Several apple-sized metallic spheres erupted from then now weaponized front of the stretch-shuttle, careening into the Hov-cams. A shield apparatus expanded from the EMP drones, surrounding each Hov-cam in a blazing blue sphere of cold plasma. Electrical energy arched out from each sphere, frying each of the Hov-cams’ sensitive electronic and flotation systems. Several dropped to the ground, their lenses going dark; a furry of sparks and the acrid smell of melting plastic followed. The hovering political convoy drifted by, silent as the dark veil of night.
A cacophony of screaming, gasps, and angry chants flooded the empty streets as hordes of on lookers gathered on the concrete walk. Minuscule robots, popping out discretely from hidden wall panels, converged on the scene of the convoy’s display of aggression, wiping up smoking metal parts and plying plastic from the ground. In less than a minute, the walk was immaculate. As the minibots headed back to their wall-panels, the newly cleaned space was taken up by a mob of protesters. High above the convoy, in the fiftieth story window of the famed Mirkato Business Tower, a lone sniper aimed his mini-flare rifle, the barrel coated with a distinct non-slip coating and equipped with a computerized aim-assist tripod system, down at the deflective-coated window of the stretch shuttle.
The trigger was pulled, unleashing a single, silent mini-flare. It hit the window of the shuttle a millisecond later, and was immediately deflected. However, the time it hit the window had been sufficient to melt the deflective window coating, shattering the frail electronic glass. Seconds it seemed that every alarm within a mile’s radius had gone off. Within seconds, the convoy was bristling with previously hidden weapons. A targeting computer locked on to the suspected combatant’s location, and before the sniper could move an inch, a salvo of laser beams flew through the window, crumbling the exposed flexi-brick, and melting gun and man alike. It was over in moments.
The crowd below gapped in awe at the burning facade of the Mirkato Tower, and pandemonium spread like an infectious disease. Skyla’s automated police force, consisting of a multitude of hover, ground and sky drones, stealthily infiltrated the mob, training hidden mini-flares and lasers on the stretch-shuttle. Although it was painfully obvious that the convoy had detected the police-drones’ presence, they did not react in any noticeable way. Just too risky.
When the UEC Conference Compound finally emerged from the ravel of city buildings, the day had already taken a violent turn. And it was only a sign of things to come.
Outside the UEC Compound, Skyla
As the convoy reached the conference compound a HA was issued. All personnel in the immediate vicinity of the building were put on standby, just in case. This convoy was, after all, carrying the most hated man in the world. General, or as he was called in his native land, Leader Cresthetan Nactore who had recently self-proclaimed himself leader of , the large island nation made up of Old Australia and hundreds of miles of artificially expanded land. In the past weeks, Cresthetan had made supposedly empty threats of a world wide “civil war” and total world control, the obvious ravings of a madman; however, no one had the balls to speak out against him; he was just to powerful.
The stretch shuttle’s inaudible engines cut off, and the sleek chassis of the shuttle descended slowly to the paved ground, settling on of the many energized grooves in the roads to be recharged. The side door panel contracted and slid away into the posh exterior of the shuttle, and a long, spindly leg sheathed in the contours of luxurious smart fabric stepped out onto the hand-crafted squares of marble tiling that encompassed the main entrance to the CC. Cresthetan walked at a nonchalant pace, his two beady eyes nervously darting from side to side. Two Humanoid Security Officers, or HSO’s silently drifted from the shuttle, following Cresthetan at a slow, steady pace, lasers drawn in a public exhibition of power and intimidation.
A human officer, Colonel Rick Sander, requested Cresthetan’s Bio-ID, and scanned the tiny chip into his palm-computer, which analyzed all the genetic material present on the chip, cross-checked it with all known records, and continued to authorize access to the CC. The next moment, Cresthetan was in the door. He met up with his diplomatic-relations officer, Aide Allen Norfolt.
“The admittance process is so slow with humans here; why not just use machines to do the drudgery? It would be much more efficient and cost-effective.” Cresthetan murmured as the duo passed through the main lobby.
“I agree sir” Norfolt replied.
“But it’s an honor issue with the UEC. Their unofficial motto is “Humans are the brains behind the machines” or something like that; I never really understood it myself.”
The assembly room was full when the two men entered.
“Ah, Cresthetan, you’re finally here” the premier said in a low, monotone voice.
The room was, minus the random clicks of dozens of translation modules, silent. Cresthetan, ignoring the premier’s obvious annoyance, took his seat in the “Southern Hemisphere” section of the room. Only five other nations joined him. The leader powered on his in-desk computer, syncing the translator’s output with his AA chip. The computer gave a silent sign of conformation, and it was his to control. Allen did the same.
The premier studied the room, confirming everyone was present. He touched his computer screen, and a holographic world was projected into the center of the room. It rotated slowly, in perfect synchronization with the real earth.
“This meeting of the UEC...”
Cresthesen cleared his throat.
“And other nations” the premier added with a hint of discontent, “has commenced at twelve-thirty standard pacific time, and all members of the UEC and other nations are accounted for and present.”
The premier nodded at his computer terminal, which quickly identified the gesture and proceeded to record the statement in text.
“Let me start off this meeting by addressing any of the concerns you or your nations may have. The floor is open”
Cresthesen felt the powerful urge to shout out his country’s plight to all the UEC, but he held it in, for he knew the time would come when it would become the setting for his intricate plan/.
The premier scanned the room for takers, keeping his supposedly impartial gaze am exceptionally long while on Cresthesen and his aide.
After a long, awkward silence, he spoke.
‘With no further complaints, let the meeting continue. Ambassador Klide; how are the Eastern Alliances’ strategic defense points holding up? I do believe the UEC sent a couple hundred units...”
Cresthesen drowned out the councils’ talk with his AI’s mute, directing all his thoughts to one thing: setting his plan in motion. Slowly and with great relish, he raised his hand, and coughed once.
“Premier, the New World Alliance would like to speak.”
The premier, startled by this revelation of a “New” anything, turned to Cresthesen with a look of utter malice.
“What ‘New World Alliance’ could you mean? We all know that the World Cooperation Act, signed by everyone in this room, stated specially, in the first line in fact, that NO new alliances groups, or any other form of opposition to the UEC could be created under ANY circumstances.”
Cresthesen smiled at this obvious piece of logic.
“Very true, Premier. But, I do believe you realize that, in fact, not all of us signed that act. You can check the digital copy of the act if you like, but I am sure one of our spies deleted it, along with a great multitude of other things, while he had access to your data crystals. Moreover, as I remember, paper was outlawed as being “primitive” and “ a waste of life.”
Frantically, the Premier accessed the data crystal which contained the Act. His composure turned to rage when an error scrolled across his projection terminal, reading FILE NOT FOUND: DELETED. Cresthesen continued, enjoying the attention of the entire UEC.
“Now, might I add that any country intelligent enough to join the New World Alliance may do so without risk or fear, as that despicable UEC Act is no more. I bid you farewell; and those of you considering the Alliance, it would be best to follow me out the door.”
Leaving a deranged and confused gathering behind him, Cresthesen stepped out the UEC’s door with the finesse of someone who had just conquered the world, for he was certain that he had. A sparse crowd of diplomats and leaders followed in his wake, like hungry wolves longing for power. As Cresthesen stepped into his posh stretch shuttle, he murmured to his assistant humanoid, “Hit it”
In a dozen places around the conference compound, tiny receivers sent commands to strategically placed timers, which then counted down the minute that would change the world forever.
The stretch shuttle took to the air, quickly exited the city’s airspace, flying south on a course for home. Seconds passed, as panicked diplomats, presidents, and chairpersons flew out of the conference compound seeking salvation in their own stretch shuttles and hover cars. An explosion of the magnitude not seen since the Americans had dropped the first atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ripped the compound into radioactive fragments, spread through the entire city of Skyla like a tidal wave of fire. All three hundred stories of the Mirkato tower came down in an a fiery instant, crushing blocks of businesses, homes, and other office towers. The fortunate citizens of Skyla were either not present in the city, or turned to ashes the instant the bombs went off. The not so lucky ones endured minutes of intense radiation, massive tremors, and searing pain, followed by a slow death.
A squadron of UEC Skimmers patrolling the waters off Skyla's former Harbor witnessed the nuclear detonation with utter disbelief. One of the lead Skimmer’s infrared scanners detected the signature of shuttle engines fifty miles to the South, and their heat signatures were quickly identified as Cresthesen’s stretch shuttle. The Skimmer squadron quickly ascended to five thousand feet, following the shuttle's heat signature with a deep sense of loss and hatred. One Skimmer managed to send a pod of FLAREs at the shuttle, but their tracking instruments were short-circuited by a low-level EMP. The missiles drop into the ocean, created a geyser of steam as they hit.
The Skimmers were called back, passing over the now desolate wasteland that was once the bustling city of Skyla.
Dawn broke over a bleak and hazy horizon. Over the flooded plains and mountains of the West Coast of America, a flight of seven (someone somewhere in the SOC post had insisted that the number pertained to ‘luck’) I-67 Interceptors. Classified RIA, patrolled the skies like a band of well trained hawks. The lead Interceptor, RIA 1, announced the various locations the flight was passing. Although was entirely unnecessary, as every pilot’s AI chip received automatic GPS and ground-target data, it was a trait from the early days of military flight that the commander still retained. Down below, the flooded plain that was once the central valley of California, the lost state, shimmered in the luminescence the golden sun. At purely random intervals, if the pilots magnified their view screens to maximum, it would a appear that the peak of a skyscraper or the tapered point of a long-rusted radio-antenna would rise out of the blue, a monument to all those who perished when the floods of climate change and Earthquake driven tsunamis razed the Coast.
Halfway through the patrol, the lead pilot, Commander Snow, detected a hailing beacon and opened communication.
“RIA flight 22, this is SOC base 67. You are now in UEC airspace. Take course Alpha-two, and report to base at 13:00 hours.”
“Roger that, SOC 67; RIA 1 copies all.”
The transmission faded, and RIA flight was again in silence.
Gradually, the landscape began to change. Wide stretches of blue became a green landscape, densely populated by the towering Redwood tree. The flight was over the UEC’s largest wildlife preserve, which stretched for hundreds of miles. It was the only swath of land which had not been touched by the great floods of 2047, which had killed millions of people who had refused to evacuate the once great cities of Los Angles and San Francisco. Those who had survived the floods had either moved inland, toward the Great Plains of the Midwest or moved to SOC territory. Most had lived in Skyla, until the New World Alliance turned the city to radioactive dust.
Coincidentally, an alert flashed onto his cockpit view terminal citing the fact that RIA flight was approaching the Skyla quadrant, and that tight airspace would be enforced. Snow disregarded this message; he had seen it often, and knew the regulations and rules regarding this area by heart. Ten kilometers from the heart of the ruins, his Interceptor’s Geiger counter exploded into a fury of alarms and red, showing extremely high levels of radiation. Again, Snow took no notice; his flight was equipped with the most advance in radioactive shielding. Cautiously, Snow slowed his E-24 to a speed of just over eight-hundred kilometers per hour, and toggled his starboard camera down to the ruins. The radiation from below caused mild static, but the picture straightened out to reveal a grey and desolate landscape, devoid of any signs of life. Snow had once flown to the moon for a conference, and the barren landscape below had a startling resemblance to that of the cratered satellite.
For about a dozen kilometers, the grayed and rusted wreckage of the former UEC capital continued unabated, as not even the heartiest of plants or animals could survive the lingering but intense radiation produced by the NWA’s declaration of war. Gradually, though, the landscape shifted, and the world again belonged to nature. Clear of the restricting codes that governed Skyla airspace, RIA flight sped up to Mach 5, and continued their patrolling duties.
When an hour of dull, blue skies passed, a message of clearance was issued from SOC, intercepted by all seven I-67’s. The day made, RIA flight heeded their invitation, or rather, mandate to return home at top speed, mere Mach 7 (interceptors were not designed for the high speed chases and the intensive combat of war; the qualities of speed and heavy armament had been given to the E-84, the only battle asset Commander Snow had ever wanted to desperately fly). With half an hour, record time for RIA flight, the familiar lock of infrared beams appeared, represented as red flashing dots on their flight visors. Quickly, as not to upset the time-sensitive targeting beams, Snow sent the data-hungry computers the access codes and flight details for RIA flight. Equally fast, an obviously computer generated voice responded:
“RIA flight clear for docking on flight deck three; disarm all weapons systems and release control of your aircraft to SOC.”
In perfect synchronization, RIA flight did as they were instructed, and the infrared targeting beams vanished, replaced by the green dots signifying a SOC link. Slowly, as Snow had great disdain for SOC control, the commander leaned back into his cockpit’s ergonomically designed seat, and let the darkness of sleep encompass his mind. For five minutes, the usual checks and procedures to check this engine and that landing module went on, followed by the habitual ceremony of landing. Snow peeled his eyes open to glimpse the cavernous mouth of hangar 3 encompass his interceptor. Slowly, the green blips on his view terminal faded away to tiny specs, and the almost inconspicuous thump of landing modules scraping the steel floor of the hangar resounded through the cockpit. The shadows of his docking flight members slithered across the cockpit like dark snakes.
Satisfied with his landing, Commander Snow deactivated the sensitive cockpit locks surrounding his seat and stepped out onto a wide boarding platform. All around him and his aircraft, a swarm of mechanics, hovering fuel pods, and robotic drones rushed to their tasks, ripping off and replacing various panels and instrument clusters. Snow carefully disembarked from the boarding platform, tossing a data crystal to an approaching data analyst.
“All the flight data, maps, and travel coordinates are on it; don’t expect to find anything surprising!” he called back. The data analyst nodded and scurried off to his hoard of overcomplicated computers. Snow moved about a meter before the next barrage of questions was upon him.
A red-faced computer service technician dashed out from behind a lofty stack of silvery boxes, which Snow assumed were one of the many computational systems which dictated the workings of the base, nick-named the AC (Autonomous Control).
“I just reviewed your NavCom, and SOC tech just released a new version of it. I was wondering if you wanted the upgrade.”
Snow stood in though, comparing the pros and cons of what was assembly a more automated navigation program.
“What are the new features?” he finally inquired.
“Oh, you know, the usual; enhanced GPS tracking, AI chip integration, the works.”
Snow gave another long pause and an equally long sigh.
“All right, if you insist.”
“Terrific, sir!” the tech joyfully replied.
“I’ll get right on it!”
“Sure, just do it quick. And if my Bird cuts out in mid-flight, at least I’ll have someone to blame.”
The tech scurried off to the Hangar Three dock, picking up a data crystal from an inconspicuous pile labeled upgrades as he went. The loud sound of a console covering being torn off followed. Trying not to postulate all the new changes he’d have to overcome on his next reconnaissance sortie, Snow sauntered past the usual sights of Hangar 3, breaking stride to observe an E-84 undergoing maintenance.
Snow had firmly decided many months ago that he was in love the E-84. The sleek and defined curves of the outer delta wings gave it a terrifyingly beautiful appeal, similar to the deadly grace of a cobra or tiger. His eyes lingered on the FLARE pods, empty at the moment, which had the capacious firing rate of one hundred rounds-per-minute. His Interceptor could barely manage half that, given the best circumstances. And, the most enticing feature was the handling. Yes, the E-84 was a joy to fly, and could cruise at Mach 5, and maintain shirt bursts of speed that exceeded Mach 10 in good conditions. By the stars themselves, Snow wanted an E-84. However, as it were most pilots were lucky to glimpse one at all, with only the elite of the elite ever flying one.
Giving a half-hearted shrug, Snow continued on to the Hangar exit. Within a meter of the plain, white metallic door, multiple scanners and AI interfaces detected his present, and sent numerous “pings” to his AI chip. He, or rather his Chip, responded to all the inquiries with the proper responses, deactivating any security precautions for a brief period of time. Within seconds of the deactivation, a polychromatic cube materialized into his line of sight. Snow turned the cube six times, each time to a different color. As always, each turned rendered the old colors obsolete, and a new set appeared. When the correct color combination had been entered, the seemingly indiscriminate door slid open with an almost inaudible hiss, revealing an equally white and immaculate corridor.
“Welcome, Flight Leader Snow” a cool, soft-spoken voice said.
“The main SOC calendar states you have a Strategy planning meeting at thirteen-hundred hours; do you plan on attending?”
“Of course, computer.” Snow replied with as little a hit of indignation as he could muster. After all, the computers were known explicitly for detecting lies utilizing the tiniest hints.
“Excellent, flight leader. Your new schedule has been drafted and sent to your inbox. Good day.”
The voice was cut off, leaving Snow and the empty corridor. The flight leader walked briskly into the white hallway, stepping aside occasionally for the few maintenance and security drones patrolling the corridor.
Conference Room 23, although almost identical to the forty-nine other rooms on Level two, held many distinct memories for Snow. It was there he received an unofficial commendation for his actions in the battle (many called it a skirmish) of Walakai Bay, and where he was appointed the flight header of RIA flight. Today, though, all the room had in store for him was a rather boring and dry tactical meeting.
The entrance to the conference chamber was little more than a drab grey door marked by a built-in screen as Conference Room 22, and complemented with sub-text that read: Next scheduled meeting: Tactics and Operations Conference, along with the successive names of the people who were confirmed shows. Snow casually strode to the door, and was admitted with the inconspicuous hiss of advanced hydraulics. He found a seat near the Chief Flight Warden’s chair. Outer Base Defense flight leader Remis Johnson set foot into the room seconds later, claiming a seat next to Snow. He brought up a news feed on his terminal, browsing through the latest news stories and articles, stopping at one entitled: French Request aid of UEC after devastating NWA sorties.
Evidently, the French had finally had their asses handed to them. The report specified extensively on the damage throughout the Parisian landscape, Even the reportedly indestructible capitol had taken a hit. A picture in the news feed displayed a crumbled and imploded facade, one Snow had been near many times. The fragile ancient doors leading to the posh interior of the lobby hadn’t faired much better. Only splinters of the doors remained on the nanite-strengthened hinges, opening a window into the now ruined lobby. Snow called up a news feed of his own and went into panoramic display mode. His AI chip synced with the terminal, and Snow was able to travel down the streets of ruined Paris with a single thought. The nanite-enforced Eiffel tower still stood, but FLAREs had done more than just cosmetic damage to it. Many of its spindly beams had simply melted, forming a grotesque trail of slag that traveled down into streets below, covering many stalled Autonomous Ground cars. Row upon row of ruined shops and homes lined the cracked streets,, where the occasionally FLARE crater swallowed up hundreds of tons of ruined cars and buildings. Calling Paris devastated seemed like a euphemism. No other city on Earth that Snow had seen had been so ruined. It made one hate the NWA (although you would have to be demented not to hate them in the first place), and images like the ones he was sorting through were the morbid recruiting tools of the UEC.
“At attention! Officer is here!”
Snow’s feed automatically canceled out, leaving him back in the drab, gray conference room. The CFW stood in the door way, his new-generation prosthetics glinting in the hallway light.
“At ease” he commanded, in a voice that had the hard resonance of a leader but the smooth timbre of a man who cared.
“I take it you’ve all heard of the NWA incursion in France” he said as he moved to his high chair.
A chorus of “of course sirs” and yes, sirs” reverberated throughout the room.
“Good, then this will be shorter. Guess who the French called to help? That’s right; they called us.”
Snow witness no expressions of surprise. He suspected that everyone had already reviewed the NWA incursion, and had been expecting this; he definitely had.
“So, without any more formalities or delays,” the CFW continued, “I’d like to assign sortie groups and aid flights. Johnson”
The flight leader sat up in his chair, a mild expression of surprise on his face.
“You will lead Alpha flight. Your main duty is to safeguard any aid transports coming in or going out of designated perimeter 223. Understood?”
“Perfectly sir.” Johnson responded “Shall I prep my squadron?”
“That would be advisable; dismissed”
As Johnson strode out of the conference room, the CFW turned to Snow.
“Snow, I’ve review your records extensively, and I’ve decided to out you in charge of outer defenses surrounding Paris. RIA squadron will ship out immediately, following Johnson's squadron. Understood?”
“Yes, sir. Shall I follow Johnson?”
The CFW smiled.
“Always the formalities. Yes, that would be advisable. Dismissed.”
Snow stepped out the conference door; he noticed Johnson was waiting a few meters away. Apparently, he had already known about Snow’s assignment.
“Well Snow” Johnson said as he approached Snow.
“Looks like we’ll be shipping out together.
“Hardly. We’ll be in the forward most position, while you’ll be suck with the aid carriers. And they have a reputation for being on of the slower ships in the fleet.”
Johnson gave a wry grin. “Yes, while at least we’ll see some decent action. I’m told the outer defensive position is one of the more boring positions, as the NWA always find a covert way around it.”
Johnson walked away, leaving Snow in a mixed sense of offense and amusement.
RIA flight was, for the most part, already prepped. Evidently everybody but Snow had been told about his defense assignments. His own I-67 was waiting in its usual lead position, the cockpit ajar. Snow ascend the board ladder and hopped into his cockpit, closing the clear ceramic top behind him. The I-67’s system automatically engaged, filling the cockpit with soft light and radio chatter. Strapped, in, Snow entered his flight code while simulations inserting his hardware key to the flight port. The cockpit filled with green light, giving him complete control of the engines and navigation computer.
“RIA flight, this is RIA one. Commence pre-flight checks and rotate to launch position: Flight Leader out.”
Snow did his own pre-flight check, and found nothing wrong. Rotation went flawlessly, the wonders of magnetic levitation at work.
“SOC command this is RIA one request permission for dock release and flight clearance,”
Snow waited a few seconds while the request filtered through to appropriate site.
“RIA one this is SOC command. You are a go for dock release and engine start.”
The familiar sensation of rising took over the I-67 as the docking clamps released and Snow’s electromagnetic impulse engines activated, putting him four meters above the steel tarmac. A few final engine checks confirmed that he was ready, and Snow hit the ignition.
The intense acceleration of two twin-ion engines, combined with the immense repulsive force of his EMI engines sent his Interceptor hurtling out of Hangar 3 at close to mach 5. The sonic boom generated was effortlessly absorbed by the Hangar’s shielding, while Snow’s G-suit inflated with what many pilots called “g-gel,” protecting him from the shock of the acceleration.
The worst of the shock wore off within five minutes of launch, Regulation prompted Snow to check his flight status. A satellite-generated feed of his flight’s formation (a standard triple v-pair, with three duos of wingman and leader and Snow at the tip, making a lucky seven) revealed no issues, although RIA 4’s heading was off by a degree or two.
Satisfied with his routine duties, Snow moved on to his personal items. His ‘g-shield,’ an oblique coating that covered his cockpit’s computerized glass faded into transparency with a thought, revealing a sweep of deep oceanic blue. At Mach 5, anything worth seeing would be transformed into an indistinct blur, but Snow enjoyed the blue of the pacific filling his cockpit. It created a calming peace one which he secretly cherished. His five minutes of solitude was broken by a blinking yellow icon in the corner of his eye, signaling he had a priority message. RIA 2 wanted to talk.
“Go ahead, RIA 2” he said casually.
“Snow, RAI 4 is having some small problems with her communications and flight controls.”
“And why didn’t RIA 4 tell me this herself?” Snow replied dryly. He new all to well why, but RIA 2’s interruption had put him in a sour mood.
“Her communications completely fried, sir. She had to use her short-range transmitter, and you weren’t in range at the time.”
Snow closed his channel for a second to sigh and think, and then reopened it.
“All right, RIA 2. Tell RIA 4 to head on back to SOC. I don’t want to lose lives over faulty software.”
“Very good, sir. I’ll tell RIA 4 break formation.”
Seconds later, Snow watched his seven blips turn to six, and nodded with satisfaction as the rest of his flight formed a three-pair V formation. RIA 2, his newly appointed wingman, slipped in silently behind him.
To address any new concerns, Snow opened a squadron wide channel.
“Good transition, RIA flight. With Four gone, each of you will have to take up one or two extra duties to compensate. I’m sending the data to your AI chips now, so there’s no need to do anything, yet. One out.”
Fix green blips of conformation appeared, and Snow closed the channel.
Now what to do? He wandered.
With the many technological advances in the last fifty years, Snow found it evident that piloting had become, in many ways, boring. It was standard regulation to only use manual controls in the event of an engagement, and engagements were hard to come by. So almost 90 percent (he had come up with the figure on a particularly long flight to old Australia.) of his ‘flying’ was done by the computer, leaving him bored out of his mind.
In many ways, he envied the pilots of the twentieth century. Every day held a potential engagement, a potential thrill, and potential danger. Today a pilot was lucky to get one contact a month. The NWA was just too smart to throw out attack forces every day, and, as some of the latest intelligence suggested, too underfunded. Many of its sponsors were renegade delegates or politicians who had made the wrong bets. Now, many of them were leaving despite the risk of the NWA’s punishment and moving to UEC territories. One of the newer policies set up by the politicians in the high command was the ‘give funding and no questions asked’ policy, where as long as the NWA dropouts gave funding to the UEC cause, they were allowed asylum. It was a clever, commonsense move, but Snow could never trust the former NWA members. If they placed their loyalties in power and economics, then one day they might switch back. And like the UEC, the NWA would gladly accept them.
A blinking orange icon in the corner of his eye put an end to his moment of thought. The message was from the lead aid ship, the UEAS Forbearance.
“RIA One here. Go ahead, Forbearance.”
“The holo-screen in the center of his Interceptor came to life, with a large video pane in the center of the screen. The face of the aid captain, Lieutenant Commander Ryan Cusan, materialized on the screen.
“Good morning commander.” Snow said.
“Morning, Snow.” Cusan replied. “Our long-range optical probes launch earlier have picked something up about 200 klicks away. I think you should see it.”
The commander’s face was replaced by a visual. It was a bit out of focus, with the high wind speeds over the Atlantic, but the objects traveling by at Mach 5 were easy to see. A flight of ten NWA ‘Strikers’, the combat equivalent of ten UEC Interceptors, were blasting their way toward the aid convoy.
The visual faded away, replaced by the commander’s face.
“As you can see, we’ve got trouble headed our way. We know nine of the Strikers are self-piloted drones, but the tenth Striker is human-guided. From the little intelligence we received from France, it’s believed this flight is the same squadron that devastated Paris.”
Damn, Snow thought. Now things were going to get interesting.
“We’re preparing all the defenses we can” Cusan continued, “but this isn’t a convoy of attack cruisers! We’re sending Johnson’s flight to rendezvous with yours, but it will take thirty minutes for them to catch up, and time is of the essence.”
“I understand, commander.” Snow replied grimly.
Few flights had ever survived an encounter with a superior NWA force, and for a reason. Drone pilots were most effective in groups (the effectiveness was a calculable, but Snow had never figured it out), as they would set up a collective intelligence network, which could share targeting data and information seamlessly and in seconds. A flight of ten could take out a warship if the computers were programmed right, and if there was a flesh and blood pilot as the flight leader. The combined firepower of the aid ships and two flights of Interceptors roughly equaled that of a Gamma class attack cruiser, but it was spread out over a wide area, and was not coordinated. It was a commander’s nightmare and a potential death sentence for any pilot.
“RIA flight, this is One. In case you haven’t received the visuals yet, we have a flight of NWA Striker Drones headed our way. I know the odds are not good for the aid convoy, but I’ve personally reviewed your flight records, and I know that RIA flight is the best of the best.”
Snow paused a few moments for emphasis.
“Power up Wave Coating, and prep for engagement. Avenge Skyla!”
RIA flight repeated the war cry of the UEC with a passion, knowing it could be the last thing they said. :Wink: :Wink: