A quick Author note before we begin: Chapter 34 (68) will be the last in “Goblin Driver”, after which I will post the ten chapter “Star Light”. Since “Star Light” has already been posted elsewhere, I am uploading everything in its entirety. This will finish the current “Tales of the ESDF”.
This is by no means the end of ESDF, but it is the last that will be posted for now. This volume will be flagged as “complete” on CrN. I have two serials planned for the future, one that is a continuation (more accurately, a sequel) of “Goblin Driver” and the other that follows the cast of “Moon Duty” in the 77th Pursuit Squadron (with Tony and Poe included). Since I also have notes for some additional stories involving the same universe but other characters, I will eventually publish a “Tales” volume two.
But I’m not ready to publish those yet. The “Moon Duty” series and the “Goblin Driver” series are works in progress. The stories I have completed in ESDF I’ve decided to use as the base material for the “Moon Duty” series, and rewrite them as a continuous story.
In the meantime, I will be debuting a new series, “Sword Of The King”, here on Creative dot com. It is a multiworld fantasy (which, unlike an isekai, takes place on multiple worlds, including near-future Earth. Think “Stargate”.) It will begin in the near future, and I hope you will check it out.
Chapter 33 – Flight
Molly had the ability to get up to orbital speeds eventually, but just like Mo, she wasn’t designed to outrun fighters. And that’s what was coming closer. It was only the kind that the ESDF calls an ‘atmospheric’ fighter, which means it was not built for space, but it still held the advantage on us in both weapons and acceleration.
My shields began to light up from the strikes, and the gauge began recording their energy levels. They showed to be holding five percent of their capacity for the moment, but it was rising fast.
There was some kind of installation ahead. It might have been a destroyed Allied facility, or something the Enemy brought in after overrunning this area recently. I didn’t dare fly closer. But turning away from the aircraft would leave a faster aircraft on my tail. That was suicide, so I turned toward it instead, enabling my nose cannon as I did.
She was still flying like an overloaded snail, but I began getting good lift from the wings now, and I was able to get a quick turn by combining their support and the belly thrust.
The Dragon has a smaller cousin, an spacecraft known as a ‘Wyvern’, the type that they build normal assault landers out of. The air support variant of it has a cannon in its nose, a design that the ESDF stole– I mean borrowed– from the US military. A 30mm autocannon that was originally intended to kill tanks. It’s a good last option when one suddenly discovers at the last moment that the landing zone is hostile-occupied.
The same idiots who had put the Wyvern’s underpowered engines in this poor Dragon had somehow found the wisdom to also give her that autocannon. It’s fired by the pilot, so I brought Molly into line and held down the firing stud. All the memories of my Banshee days began coming back to me in that familiar act of lining up the sights on the quarry.
The weapon makes a unreal sound, a sort of cross between a chainsaw and a motorcycle, and it is painfully loud. And it is visible, although not the way you think. You don’t see lines of tracer bullets flying at the target, but there is a big plume of smoke billowing from the barrels as they fire, making the nose of the spacecraft look like it has caught fire.
Fortunately it was a head-on shot, not a deflection shot. That was fortunate because Molly wasn’t equipped with air-to-air targeting for the gun. It was meant to shoot up targets on the ground. But I did have a basic gunsight and fire projection being created by the fire control computer and sent into my nerveware, overlaying my vision. I could aim the old-fashioned way.
My opponent was trying to penetrate spacecraft shields, and mine had only now reached twenty five percent of capacity. All I had to penetrate was an aircraft. My first shots went a little wide, but I quickly corrected, and on the next squeeze of the firing stud, the thing crumpled and fell away when the 30mm cannon shells ripped through it.
I began my turn to resume my course for friendly territory, just in time to see a second aircraft heading at me from the opposite direction.
“Segers!” I yelled, and then he was firing on the second bandit. I fought to wrestle the clumsy lander onto a new vector. This guy wouldn’t make the same mistake as his partner. He wouldn’t get in front of me. As I did my best to bring Molly around, he turned slightly away. But his weapons could traverse like the turret gun Segers was operating, because the weapons kept firing.
So I had to line up on him to fire our big gun. But I was already doubting it was possible. And my shields weren’t anything like the shields of a Gob. The guy’s weapons would get through them sooner or later.
I watched him get his nose lined up and the sparkly weapons started up again. My shield began lighting up from the enemy’s fire. The energy state had bled off a little, but now it rose up above twenty five percent again, and kept rising. Segers continued trying to get his projector stream to intersect the guy as our shield took on a visible glow.
Pulsing the belly jets randomly gave me an erratic vertical motion to throw off his targeting, but it wouldn’t be long now. He kept managing to find us and the energy rose. Thirty percent, fifty percent and the shields were begin to shine with excess energy.
But then the enemy aircraft folded up like it had been struck in the center by some heavy object, and fell away into the ochre forest beneath us.
Three heartbeats later as my attacker fell into the coral-tree forest beneath, a Moth replaced it, dropping in vertically and stabilizing next to me.
Luna Moths have this atmospheric manuever where they use their attitude jets to convert a nose dive into a flat fall on their belly. It’s anything but good flying for an aircraft– frankly, it’s purposefully putting yourself into an aerodynamic stall– but if you have belly jets and propulsion that doesn’t rely on sucking air into a turbine, it’s a way to approach an enemy that no atmospheric flyer would expect.
As my savior resumed aerodynamic flight, my short-range headset crackled to life.
“Googly to Psycho, you guys okay?”
I have got to meet this woman in person! I can’t unsee that image!
“It’s all good. Thanks for the assist.”
They must have figured out how to dial the Luna Moth communication system into the short range frequencies that SC platoons use on the ground, since there was no way she was carrying the same headset I had.
“I’ve got an airfield dialed up for you on nav. The one you probably picked is compromised right now. Follow me.”
She moved ahead, then angled off to the right. As I followed, I looked at my mass reserves. “I hope it’s within a hundred kilometers or so. I’m low on propellant.”
“It’s almost that far.”
I suppressed a cuss word and said, “Lead on. Tell me when we’re over friendly territory.”
“You want to get more altitude?”
“Yeah,” we were still skimming treetops. I wanted to be higher up as soon as we were out of danger of anti-aircraft weapons, to give myself options if I suddenly found myself out of propellant and gliding without power.
“Let’s do it. We’re getting into safe territory now.”
She began rising and I followed suit.
“That was quite a flashy kill. What did you hit him with?”
“GAU-8 Avenger,” I answered.
“It’s in the database. Same thing the ground support flyers use.”
So if my life were easy, I would have come into the airfield in the vertical landing pads, set down and offloaded without a worry.
My life isn’t easy. About five kilometers from the field, I did some quick math and determined…
“Googly, let the airfield know I’m coming in horizontal and probably out of mass. Get me a landing vector while I’m still flying.”
After a pause as she consulted with the controller, she said, “come right to heading 277.”
We had been flying straight at the base, but the runway wasn’t pointed the same direction. I needed to line up with it first.
My tanks went dry right at that moment. The readings the system had been giving me were wrong. The skirt collapsed in the main jet as the last plasma vanished.