Sharoma Frontierverse Why Did The Groigan Dance? Chapter 10

Why Did The Groigan Dance?

Chapter 10

Light the Fires

Face locked in concentration, Wolfsheart depressed the trigger to his 20mw beam laser as the Minos swung around for a second fly-by of "Mother Hen;" he had been lacing the city with the deadly energy for more than thirty seconds now, and he realized that the large doors to "Mother Hen's" launching bay would be opened and fighters would pour forth soon.

"Ship, open communication line to Achenar," Wolfsheart said. "Begin recital now: The Wolf is in the Henhouse. Repeat, the Wolf is in the Henhouse. End recital."

"Clandestine stuff, mac. Read any good Bond Jameson books lately?"

Wolfsheart smiled as the lasers cut a glowing red line down the paved roads of "Mother Hen". "I heard 'Tomorrow Always Dies' was good, ship."

"Haven't had a chance to see it, mac. Pick up the rental someday."

"On my honor, ship. I want to see it myself, actually."

"Do you two always chatter like this?" Sinclair demanded, unable to pull his eyes from the viewscreen, which now showed the bright white laser arcing towards a little white building with a red cross on it. "How do you concentrate on fighting if you won't shut up?" The boy's voice was more inquisitive than spiteful.

"Sounds like he starting to like this 'Let God sort 'em out' stuff, mac," the ship commented.

"What'd I tell you, ship? We'll make an officer out of him yet," the hunter joked. A loud scratching sound came from the speakers in the rear of the Minos. "Is nice to see our friends are finally joining the show."

"Twenty Federal ships have entered the atmosphere," the ship said. "All Vipers."

Wolfsheart laughed. Vipers? He would've thought a military barracks would be better equipped than that. "Open communication link to all ships in the Sixth, ship. Begin message now: Gold and Red squadrons, peel off and take care of those Vipers. The rest of you, continue attacking Mother Hen and fire on hostiles only if fired upon first." To show an example, he tapped the trigger again and another building went up in flames.

Behind him, fifty ships, two squads of twenty five ships each, separated from the main group into three "V" formations and headed for the approaching Vipers. "Save a piece of Mother Hen for us, Iron One," Mark Anthony's voice crackled over the speakers. Anthony was the leader of Gold squad, who was primarily made up of pilots from the fifth fleet. A quiet man, but his voice was now tinged with excitement.

"You'd better hurry, Gold One," Wolfsheart replied. His call sign for Scalpel was Iron One, being head of the Iron Squad. The squad was named so because it was the squad that iron asses in the wing were assigned to, though so far only he and Count Redfield in his destroyer were a part of it. "I've seen you Fifth Fleeters fight before, and we might be back in Achenar by the time you mop those Vipers up!"

"Zing," the ship said, and Sinclair barked out a nervous laugh.

"Thank you, thank you," the hunter replied. "I would bow but I am otherwise predisposed. Ship, open a communications link to Iron Two. Begin message: Iron Two, do you see the area where those Vipers launched from?"

"No, sir, I was facing southwards when they were mustered."

Wolfsheart swung the Minos around again, pointing the bow of the ship to the now-open launching bay doors. "Follow my laser, Iron Two," he commanded, then fired off a brief burst into the middle of the opening, leaving a red afterimage in his sight. "Commence bombardment of the bay I just indicated, soldier."

"Aye aye sir," Redfield's voice said, and out of the corner of his eye Wolfsheart saw the gigantic destroyer begin to turn to position itself on a target that was now out of the line of sight of the viewscreen.

"Warning, thirty six fighters have now entered the atmosphere from space. Scans show that there are thirty one Constrictors and six Fer-de-Lances, mac."

Fer-de-Lances! Those were outlawed! The Federation, the Empire, and the Independents all agreed to stop using them as the superior ships were being used by pirates to terrorize even the Core systems. "Oh, well," Wolfsheart said with a shrug. "They blow up just as good as anything else." He turned and grinned ferally at Sinclair, who was sitting in the leather seat enraptured with the unfolding scene before him. "Ready for some real fun, Squire?" the hunter asked the novice, a fierce fire coming to his eyes.

Before Sinclair had a chance to answer, he turned the ship and charged head-on into the pack of Fer-de-Lances, who had separated from the Constrictors and were now heading for Redfield's ship.

"What the hell are you doing???!!!" Sinclair screamed as Minos laughed maniacally and quoted "The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land, you may almost hear the beating of his wings."

"Damn right, ship," the hunter said, and jerked off a quick 20mw blast. A Fer-de-Lance in the back of the formation exploded into a cloud of metal and blood, forcing Wolfsheart to perform a quick maneuver to avoid the debris. "Open communication link to the Fer-de-Lances, ship. Begin message: How's it going, guys? Who wants to dance with the eight hundred pound gorilla?"

The five remaining ships began to twist towards the Minos in response. Wolfsheart laughed again, aimed his laser at the front ship in the formation, and shifted the thrusters into high gear. The ship leaped forward, pinning the passengers to the backs of their seats, and began to race at the Fer-de-Lances at an incredibly high velocity. "This is what being an officer is all about, cadet," Wolfsheart grinned. "Ship, target ships two, three, four, and five. Fire missiles." A second later, three NN500's were flying towards every ship in the formation other than the lead, forcing them to break ranks and scramble to avoid the deadly weapons. That left Wolfsheart one-on-one with the lead, who was still hurtling full speed for the Minos. With any other Cobra Mk III, the faster Fer-de-Lance would have been able to perform the old airbrake maneuver, but this was no ordinary Cobra, and this was no ordinary task force. The ships of the Sixth had all been fitted with minor foldspace devices and all were now operating with class eight hyperdrives, making the already sleek fighting machines of Scalpel into terrifying bolts of homicidal lightning.

The ship let out a small shudder as the Fer-de-Lance passed a bare six meters overhead, scoring an insignificant hit on the Minos's shields as it roared by.

The pilot of the illegal ship felt a surge of victory as he slammed on the airbrakes and drove the quick fighter hard to port, only to have the feeling turn to one of dread a nanosecond before the Fer-de-Lance exploded, already fixed in on by the unidentifiable Cobra.

"Bingo!" shouted the Minos. "Even outlawed ships are no match for my magnificent components!"

"It was a fancy bit of driving, too, ship," Wolfsheart said, steering the ship to face a second Fer-de-Lance. "Why, if it wasn't for me, you wouldn-" He was cut off a the ship shook violently and pitched to the side, the metal frame of the ship letting out a wail of protest.

"Hostile at six o'clock, mac!" the ship yelled, and Sinclair whimpered.

A wrinkle appeared in the center of Wolfheart's forehead as he frowned. "The bastards are double-teaming me, eh?" he whispered, and a fanatical light bloomed in his eyes. He looked over to Sinclair. "You thought we were having fun before? This'll give you a heart-attack." He flipped a switch on the main console, and a cloud of chaff emerged from the aft of the ship to throw off any missiles. "Ship, target hostiles at forward and aft. State distance to each."

A instant of silence, then: "Four point kilos to target at twelve o'clock, five point one to target at aft." This was punctuated by the sizzle of a laser blast missing the ship by inches. That Fer-de-Lance in the back was beginning to make Wolfsheart mad.

"Open communications link to all ships in the Sixth; begin message now: Do not, I repeat, not engage any Fer-de-Lances unless fired upon first. These bastards are mine, concentrate on Mother Hen. End message."

"You really are as crazy as they say," Sinclair murmured.

"I'm flattered, Squire," the hunter said, keeping and eye on the distance to the ship in front of him. Three kilos.... two kilos (Wolfsheart pressed the trigger, not trying to hurt but merely keep the ship busy)... "You want to see something crazy?"....one kilo... he yanked the control stick back as hard as he humanly could, and the ship shot up higher, spiraling. He couldn't see the moment of impact, but the Minos rocked as the shockwave from the collision of the two hostiles rolled through the air above Henhouse.

Wolfsheart smirked as he fought to stabilize the ship. "Was that crazy enough for you, cadet?" he inquired. Sinclair sunk into the leather of his chair and said nothing.

The look of extreme concentration stayed on Wolfsheart's face as he danced between the two remaining Fer-de-Lances, darted in between the peaks and valleys of the Etruscan Mountains, and raced through the flaming ruins of Mother Hen.

At one point, right after Wolfsheart somehow was able to stop the Minos, throw it in reverse, and zoom backwards while avoiding the lasers of the surprised hostiles, Sinclair buried his head in his hands and whispered "How did you do that?"

Wolfsheart smiled. "This is nothing," he replied. "The real test is when the gun goes warm."

Over the next half hour, Wolfsheart led the two hostiles in a deadly dance unlike any seen in the galaxy in dozen years; he was one with the ship, and the ship was one with him. The two pilots knew they stood no chance of survival, they had seen the smoking heap that was Fortress Anderson, and their movements showed their desperation. They seemed almost hypnotized by the weaving of the small Cobra, and weren't the least bit surprised when the lethal bite of the Minos's lasers feasted upon their shields, their hulls, their lives...

Exhausted, Wolfsheart faced the ship back towards Mother Hen to resume the attack. He found the whole of the Sixth wing, minus casualties, pointed in his direction.

"That was just....amazing, sir," Redfield's awed voice said from over the speakers. "I've never seen anyone fly like that in my life." The Count's proclamation broke the dam of stunned silence that hung over the group, and the speakers were filled with muttered agreements.

"Got that on video, anybody?" was all that came to the mind of the hunter.

A hundred chuckles. "Affirmative, sir," someone replied. "It would've been a crime not to."

His face twisting into a smile, Wolfsheart took a look at what was once Fortress Anderson. "Good job, men," he said. "You've earned your paychecks this week. Prepare to jump in five...four...three...two...one..."

The sky above Henhouse was filled with a deep blue shimmer as over a hundred ships all leapt to hyperspace at once. The threat now gone, a lone ship rose from the treeline of the forest around Mother Hen, and set its jump coordinates.

Continue the story with Chapter 11