Moon Duty Chapter 9 – Mouse

Tony refused to think of a fellow pilot as a liability, but he did suspect the CO had teamed him with ‘Chiquita’ to help her grow a backbone. The way she flew, the girl stood little chance against the real Enemy. She’d survived three patrols IRL so far, but the record showed she had seen minimal opposition on those.

The mother hen who chaperoned his every moment with the young FC had prevented him from having any serious discussion time. This morning, he had his chance. Rissa would fly with Poe as the first flight of the day, so the two had breakfasted early and gone to suit up before the rest of the squadron went to eat.

He finished mopping up the last of the syrup with the last of his pancakes, finished it and put his fork down.

“It’s our turn this afternoon, Cadet. How you gonna fly?”

She looked up at him, puzzled. While she pondered his question, her older sister looked on with interest.

“Don’t understand?” he deduced.

She shrugged. “It’s a weird question, sir.”

He glanced over at Amanda and flicked his eyebrow up. “She flown with you before?”

“On my wing? Only in sims, but I know what you mean.”

Ana glanced back and forth between them, looking perturbed. “I only know one way to fly!”

“Mmmm. Yeah. Thing is, I’ve watched you in sims and the Test, and seems to me, your way to fly is…”

He stopped, pondering how to say it.

“Is what?”

He shrugged. “Like a mouse.”

Her eyes narrowed. She demanded, “What does that mean?”

“You don’t fly to win, Babe. You fly to not lose. Like you’re afraid of gettin’ hit.”

Her sister nodded silent agreement.

Ana looked from her back to him, frowning. “You’re supposed to bring the ship home in one piece, sir!”

“Sure, but you’re supposed to do somethin’ with it while you’re out there, too. You can’t fly scared, Cadet. Don’t ever fly scared. You’ll get foamed every time.”

“I’m not scared!” she flared, showing some spine for once. “I’m just more… careful than you. I mean, like when you were fighting Cat Girl! What were you going to do if you missed that shot?”

He figured out she meant the nasty turn Rissa had given him when she boxed him in with a spray of missiles.

“Dodge the best I could,” he answered, immediate and frank. He’d meditated over the split-second decision for hours since the Test. “No matter what, I would have been too close for anti-missile mines to work, even if I still had any.”

But Chiquita had brought up the perfect example. “Check it, that’s exactly what I’m sayin’. I reacted with my fight, not my fear. Cat Girl had boxed me in before I knew it. If I dodged, maybe I succeed or maybe not. The shot was close to head-on; she didn’t have me cold but the angle was still enough to keep the odds in her favor. Maybe I lost a shade off my chance to evade by takin’ a half-second to shoot, but by fightin’ back I bought myself another possibility. It worked out, you might recall.”

She didn’t sound convinced. “You couldn’t have analyzed the situation that fast!”

“I didn’t. But if I were flyin’ scared, I would have dodged first. The odds were, it would have been over in that case.”

# # #

The moment the inner door closed, the lights pulsed and the general quarters buzzer blared. Rissa grabbed a safety bar. “Take hold!”

Poe grabbed on just as the outer door banged open and the air in the lock rushed out in an emergency blow. Either a real attack was underway, or the scenario had already begun. Either one required the same response. They sprinted together through the plume of dust and across the landing field to where their Banshees sat.

No crews headed out to prep the other Banshees, no flashing lights in the other locks… it’s the scenario, Rissa.

She elected to not point it out to Vampire. She wanted to see his performance in a scramble.

Only allowed on

The ground crews kept up their part of the act. They were jumping off the ships instead of taking the ladders while she climbed the opposite direction. The crew boss had stayed behind to help her into her couch while the gantry backed away. He took his own dive, more than thirty feet to the surface, as the canopy closed on her.

Even in Lunar gravity, hitting the ground’s gonna hurt, she reflected with admiration. You guys are troopers.

She gathered as much intel as she could from her command board while she hurried through her prelaunch checklist.

Poe’s voice came across the squadron frequency, a little derisive. “A battle cruiser getting in this close to the Moon before it’s detected? No way!”

So he did realize it was the scenario. No point in keeping quiet. “Concentrate on your startup, Vampire. One bad day for the fleet is all it would take for the front lines to shift back to our doorstep. This isn’t unrealistic at all.”

Although, it would be all over for the ESDF if that ever happened, she didn’t add out loud. It was a doomsday scenario, the nightmare they tried to not think about too much.

“Seven-seven-four, steam up,” she called, wondering how long it would take Vampire to be ready.

To her shock, he spoke immediately. “Seven-Seven-Nine, steam up.” He’d been ready and waiting for her to announce first?

“Lift in flight order,” the controller ordered, “as you are ready.”

She throttled up on the word Ready, using her nerve-ware link to bring her weapons menus up. The simulated plot looked in line to come out of Meta-Space right on top of them, as deep into the Moon’s gravity as physics allowed. They would be pouring a ton of energy into the generators at that distance to prevent crash out! Could anyone do this in real life?

Most scenarios, she reminded herself, came from real battle records. It must have been some attack on an outlying base light-years from Earth. She wondered how it had gone for the unfortunates who had fought the actual battle.

I sure hope they had more than two Banshees on their side!

Just before the Enemy ship reached emergence, an aft collision warning sounded in her ear. Rissa’s heartbeat went off the scale. She laid her ship sideways to dodge whatever it was, then saw Poe’s Banshee passing her. His attitude jets blazed white-hot as he blasted upward just to one side of her old path.

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She couldn’t see any light at all from his main jet. The glow was beyond the visible spectrum. He’s in high-gee mode! she recognized with shock.

“Idiot! You can’t…”

Poe’s ship ‘hit’ the simulated cruiser at the moment it entered Normal Space. A heartbeat later, Base Comm announced, “Simulation terminated. Return to base.”

- my thoughts:

That escalated quickly.

Check out my other novel: Substitute Hero

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