(Chapter 3: The Spirit In The Sky)

"Jesus," Mickey swears as he paces the length of the runway that he had almost died on earlier in that day.

"Helluva wakeup call, isn't it?" Greg says as he starts walking toward the hole in the runway.

The tarmac itself was 200 meters wide, more than ample to land a fighter at, more than enough to land a cargo plane or even a passenger plane at. The hole that had been blasted in it was almost 35 meters wide, and right in the center of the runway. It had been patched over with a steel grate cut to fit hastily so it could be used for landing operations, but right now a patch was being poured in the runway by a cement truck and a dozen Army Corps of Engineers personnel from the British Army.

The team had won the first battle and more or less forced the enemy to abandon their forward fire base. NATO had been understandably cautious about moving forward, but the refinery-missile base combo facility had been left entirely intact less what damage the UN Squadron had caused. For the most part the base itself was in one piece, and the enemy MLRS had eventually stopped burning and smoldering so the intel weenies could examine it. They had initially apprised that the tank was engineered very large and for a hellish amount of abuse, more than three fighters would ever be expected to nominally deliver to it, but they had pulled a lucky shot and slammed its ammo bunker. The whole MLRS was ingenious from the ground up, lacking only the blueprints for NATO-allied installations to build a few of them. The one downside: the unit was very massive, and would be understandably hard to ship from place to place.

Area 88 paid for it in spades, though: where you looked, in every direction there was some form of damage to just about anything in the area. Personnel were lost, equipment damaged, even the fighters that were not on the base did not survive unscathed. On the other hand, the experimental weapons systems used by the team had proved the validity of the designs and proved they were incredibly powerful of their own right. The super shell itself was enough to punch through a couple normal-sized tanks the long way, which would change the nature of air warfare to have that much firepower in such a small package.

"How many?" Mickey asks as he approaches the hole himself.

"140 support personnel, 26 guards. Just about every building took damage except the hospital and the cafeteria."

"That's good, at least we'll get a decent meal before we go out again."

"The cooks were part of the casualties."

"Shit," Mickey notes. "The bar?"

"It's gone, but apparently it is high on the list of priorities to get rebuilt," Shin notes as he approaches the hole that was slowly filling up with concrete. "Two of the hangars are mostly intact, which should make repairing the craft much easier. Not that they will wait overlong before they try to flatten us again, and the next might be by air instead of long-range missiles," Shin notes gravely.

"How so?" Greg asks.

"Satellite intel shows the enemy has a modified B-2 Spirit on the runway right now, fueling and arming as we speak. If that thing gets airborne, we'll have to find it the hard way and try to shoot it down before it arrives here," Shin notes just as gravely as before.

"Or it will finish what the MLRS started, and in no small way," Mickey adds. "Does it have nuclear capability?" he asks, knowing that the American B-2 fleet could easily carry B-61 Gravity Bombs (two-stage nuclear bombs) that could turn several kilometers of real estate into a 'glass parking lot' as the crass euphemism went. This made the matter all the more dangerous, as the bomber in question really only needed one bomb to do the job right, two for guaranteed kill, three for overkill, and a fourth to finish off the cockroaches.

"It does not matter," Shin declares. "Two thousand pounds of high explosive or a four thousand pound nuclear bomb, any more damage to this base is going to put us completely out of action, and that spells a slow, painful death to NATO."

"I hear that," Greg says. "Can we preemptive strike the bombers while they are on the ground?"

"No," Shin replies immediately. "Their defenses are too heavy to accomplish that, we would not make it past the desert before their fighters and ground defenses annihilated us."

"Ah," Greg almost moans.

"We can intercept them in the air, the bomber itself should be thin-skinned and unarmed if I remember the B-2 stats from my days of piloting in the JSDF," Shin says. "All we need to do is get behind it and spray it down with our guns, and the enemy will be the ones picking up the pieces."

"Evil, pure evil," Greg notes. "I like it," he adds after a moment.

"How soon can we launch?" Mickey asks.

"We have to launch after they do, to intercept them over now-allied-held territory. Launch too soon and we'll be flying unfriendly skies," Shin notes, using a corruption of an old airline advertisement slogan to hammer home the point.

"Here's to hoping we do it right the first time, or there may not be an Area 88 to return to," Mickey replies dubiously.

-x-x-x-

"Attention!" one of the crew of Spirit shouts as the Colonel steps in. They remained at attention while the Colonel moved to the lectern.

"Please be seated," the Colonel notes. "By now you have all heard what happened to the Regulator. We lost the prototype but not the plans, so we're not completely screwed here. On the other hand, we need to make this UN Squadron bleed for their intransigence. We've given them a broken bones with artillery missiles from the Regulator, now we remove limbs and hopefully their head. You men shall be the sledgehammer that brings down their base and their chances of casting us away."

"Sounds fun, sir, where do I sign up?" the pilot of the Spirit replies.

"You just did, son," Colonel 'Hail' Mary replies. "Your mission, and this one is mandatory, is to conduct a bombing campaign against Area 88 with the primary objective of knocking out their remaining air support facilities. Additionally, should you encounter their air units in transit you are to intercept them using all available weps on the Spirit."

"Mission constraints, sir?" the navigator requests.

"Two: one, NATO targets may be big and fat and exposed, but Area 88 is your primary target. If you scratch the remainder of their airbase and have ordinance left over, feel free to dump on NATO, not before. Second, keep in mind that is it permissible but not preferred that you can eject if necessary. That being said, if you encounter this UN Squadron in mid-flight, you are permitted to get frisky with them. If you can knock them out of the sky, it will be much to our advantage."

"Allied forces?"

"You will be deploying with a full wing of Hornet, Flanker and Fulcrum fighters to clear the way through enemy airspace. They should be more than capable to the task of scratching this UN Squadron, but just in case they blow past your fighter cover you are authorized to take them out yourselves. Now, part of this operation will be over enemy territory, so expect blind-fire SAM and triple-A in the vicinity of your flight path. Just like their own stealth craft they cannot properly identify it with radar. We're going to try and sanitize the area before you overfly with Wild Weasels, but don't expect a miracle on their part. Also, be advised that we have a separate air operation that will be crossing your sky area, Backfire bombers headed to fat and juicy NATO targets. They are also modified for AIM roles as well, so they may be able to support you if it gets hairy."

"Roger that, sir," the pilot notes, since it would be in his hands to avoid such nuisances as AAA and SAMs and hopefully kill off these Area 88 pukes.

"Your depart time is 0200 hours. Good hunting, Spirit."

"Attention!" The crew comes to standing once again.

"Dismissed," the Colonel says. The four filed out immediately, leaving only the Colonel at the lectern. "Good luck, men," he says before he stacks his paperwork and heads toward his office near the rear of the massive Section 4 base.

"Colonel, in here," a certain authoritative voice orders as he passes a certain office.

"Sir," Colonel Mary replies as he stops at the door.

"Come in and grab a seat, we need to talk," General Barkas says. "Colonel Chazz Mary, this is Colonel Amelia Mazas, appropriations and resources section," the General introduces the other officer in the room.

"Ah, 'Hail' Mary in the flesh," she says, rather surprised that she would find him halfway to nowhere. "I guess I find it rather hard to understand why a hero of the homeland would be out here instead of mixing it up with the hated enemy, such as they are."

"Simple. We do our jobs here, the battle gets easier there," Colonel Mary replies matter-of-fact. He had not encountered this lady prior, and what he had seen of her so far was not all that bad looking...

The Colonel was not one to get his hopes up, but he thought he had been checked out by the Colonel from Appropriations. "Regardless," she continues fairly smoothly, "the designs for support units have thus far garnered the attention of the Home Office. It is the opinion of the NRC that the destruction of the prototype frame had been due to enemy luck and superweapons. Some refinement, use of better materials available to the production divisions, should alleviate the problems. It is also notable that the simplicity of production on even the larger designs should make the manufacture process a lot easier for our industries to absorb, which really only leaves tactical application and training standards," she concludes.

"I can send you the rough calcs of what it was capable of when it was working, can you use those to generate tactical standards? Or are you going to need another prototype?" Chazz asks.

"We will assemble a few of them off-site and do the testing necessary, but your data on the machine in practical use would also add to the standards," since it went without saying that testing was usually done at ideal conditions, and real-world data usually factored in less-than-ideal conditions. The distinction was a small one but could be critical in battle.

"Thank you, Colonel Mazas. If I may, I have some operational matters to discuss with Chazz before we wrap up for the day."

"A pleasure, General," the Colonel stands, salutes, receives a return, and was on her way in less than ten seconds. On the way out, Chazz could not help but notice the striking figure made all the more so by her dress uniform, though he quickly put such thoughts aside for another moment. Work was at hand, the kind of work he thrilled at.

"I take it Spirit is doing their preflight right now?"

"Yes, sir, they are readying to launch as we speak."

"Conventional munitions only, correct?"

"Aye. No sense invoking an ICBM strike on our base, that would cause nothing but trouble for us in the long run." Nothing was really said of such a strike being fatal to the base, because it would not be. Much like NORAD, the base was buried inside a mountain, and more to the point was buried under several mountains, making picking which mountain to nuke off the face of the planet a dicey proposition at best.

"Indeed. You think we can finish off the UN Squadron in this sortie?"

"I will be honestly surprised if we do not. They're already on the ropes, all we need to do is push them off the mat and its game over."

"NATO is becoming a pain in our arse. What's the status on Gungnir?"

"Still awaiting finalization of the weapons systems. After that, kiss NATO goodbye," he says. It went without saying that a weapon as was being constructed into the Gungnir platform would definitely match its namesake in pure destructive capability, which made things tactically simpler for Section 4 both here and at home.

"All right, get to it. I want them erased off the map, Chazz, and I want these projects to amount to something in the end."

"Aye, sir," Chazz says as he stands up.

"And one last thing, Colonel. I don't want to have to deal with the paperwork from any 'unprofessional conduct' or 'undue inter-service rivalry', clear?"

"I shall avoid such situations, sir," Chazz replies, knowing quite clearly what the General meant.

-x-x-x-

"I am beginning to dislike this Section Four," Mickey says sourly.

"Don't worry, the bartender sounds like he'll protect that shot of rum for you with his life," Shin notes as he finishes his preflight list. "Tower, this is Tigershark, reporting ready to launch."

"Tigershark, you are cleared for takeoff at this time. Good hunting, pilot," the Tower notes. It was almost a minute before anything else was said, then:

"Tower, Tomcat, requesting takeoff clearance," Greg requests as the Tigershark moves onto the runway and jams the throttle to the max.

"Tomcat, move out," the Tower orders. In moments he was up off the ground and ready to head out himself.

"Corsair, requesting permission for takeoff," Mickey asks finally, assured that the controls on his fighter were working properly.

"Corsair, wait 3-0 seconds before beginning taxi at this time, then you are cleared for takeoff."

Mickey counted off the thirty seconds under his breath, than began his taxi. With some minimal effort he was able to get his plane to the required spot and aligned to take off properly. Like the last mission, he was loaded heavy but did not have the ground attack 500-pound bombs, as there would be no target to drop those on up in the skies. He began by hammering his throttle forward to make sure the engine would not flame out; satisfied, he hauled back and began advancing his throttle in a gradual increase instead of hammering it.

"This is it, gentlemen," Shin notes. "We fail this mission, we would best punch out and surrender."

"He's right, no base to come back to means no joy for us," Greg says. "Still, I don't see us losing here, unless they got something up their sleeve we don't know about."

"Don't get cocky, Greg," Mickey cautions as his plane closes up on the formation. "If they outnumber us heavily, we got problems, big ones."

"Supposedly the enemy bomber is a B-2 Spirit, which means our radar systems will not be able to track it. We will have to go in visually with guns to take it down," Shin notes.

"Where the hell did they get one of those? America doesn't exactly sell stealth bombers to other nations," Greg asks rhetorically.

"Hey, nobody knows where these bum-holes came from to begin with, so guessing how they got their hands on American stealth bombers is about as pointless as asking where they came from," Mickey replies with a little more anger than usual. "Sorry 'bout that, frustrated," he offers as apology and explanation.

"Bah," Greg replies. "We're all frustrated. These punks just won't give up and go away."

"Contacts," Shin notes. "I'm getting increasing returns dead ahead, above us at this time, range 400 kilos."

"Won't be long before we get to tangle with them," Mickey notes. "How many?"

"Over thirty, count still rising," Shin notes, then stops to look out and about instead of counting the dots on his radar. "Good Lord, they're in the middle of that storm cell," he says after roughly calculating where they were. A storm cell of cloud cover was very well situated dead ahead of the three pilots, and that is where Shin was getting the radar traces. "These guys are insane, flying in something like that, one lightning strike and its all over for them," he adds.

"Well, if the enemy bomber is in there, that's where we have to go," Mickey declares, though his tone told that he did not exactly trust his own logic on the matter.

"Think they see us yet?" Greg asks.

"In that scuzz? Not a chance in hell. They won't even know we're there until after we've started shooting them down," Mickey replies.

"Follow me in," Shin says. "Make sure you keep track of the others and keep your speed constant. If we have to start maneuvering, we run the risk of ramming each other."

"Roger that," Greg replies.

"Going in now," the gap to the enemy fighters was now only 200 kilometers away, and closing at a decent rate. They would be closing a lot faster if they were headed straight in for Area 88, but Shin figured that the enemy was either navigationally challenged or planned on striking from somewhere north of the base. Either way, the team had a side-on attack profile to the storm cell, making things easier for him and not for the enemy.

"Almost there," Greg mutters as they started passing parts of the outer layers of clouds.

"This is wild!" Mickey half-shouts. "What the...are they controlling the clouds?"

"Can't be," Shin replies. "The clouds would not be able to keep up with the fighters," he says. "Almost on top of them, people, get ready for it!"

Shin's left hand reached down to the master arm switch and flipped it on, converting his fighter from a formation of flying parts to a serious weapons platform. Immediately his right hand moves the selector on his control stick to the Phoenix AAM, and his radar begins classifying threats by range and known type, of which only some of them were really known, the rest were new units. "Go Phoenix, thin the crowd?" Greg asks, since it would be his plane that also carried the Phoenix missiles, and in greater quantity than the Tigershark used by Shin.

"Launch when ready," Shin orders as he locks his eight Phoenix onto as many separate targets and verifies all eight locked up. "Fox Two!" he shouts as he triggers all eight of the missiles.

Greg did the same, triggering his ten Phoenix missiles to the shout of "Fox Two" and both pilots watched as the missiles ripple-fired from their craft and immediately streaked in on the enemy. One by one by one, the enemy fighters took the hits, blissfully unaware what was going on until after the first of the missiles hit and blew a fighter completely in half. After that, things got a bit hectic as the enemy began trying to maneuver, but not to great effect. Phoenix was designed to defeat squirrelly enemy fighters, and in close the missile's immense range only meant that it could easily chase down an enemy fighter for far longer than the pilot's nerves would hold out. The eighteen missiles launched accounted for as many fighters and one more, an unlucky sod that ingested part of a wing from a destroyed fighter nearby and blew his engines out with the debris sucked in.

"Take it up a couple thousand, people," Shin cautions, and the group advances up two thousand feet in the space of a handful of seconds. If anything, the enemy would look at the same flight level that their comrades had died, maybe a little higher, but not likely much higher.

"Guys, I'm getting active radar tone, someone's looking long and hard for us," Greg notes. "Take it up another 3K and try to come in behind them?"

"It may be the only way to survive this," Shin replies, since his systems were not receiving any threats. "Take her up at 100 a second, keep it smooth," he orders.

"Roger that," Mickey replies as they head deeper into the scuzzy cloud layers above them.

"Oh shit," Greg declares as the clouds thin to what appeared to be an enclosed zone inside the cloud formation—full of less-than-pleasant-looking craft. "Guys, we got Soviet Backfire bombers up here as well as some fighters," he says.

"Great, just freaking great," Mickey declares. "We have to take those Backfires out or the base is toast," he says.

"And those things have rear-facing cannons, which makes things dicey for us," Greg notes, having studied the Backfire as part of his NATO training in countering it.

"Enemy fighters coming in behind those bombers!" Greg says. "Radar sig shows they're Flankers!"

"Shit, these pukes are all up and down the Soviet model, how are we supposed to track them down?"

"We don't," Shin replies. "Go close on those Backfires, let's see what they've got in their crack-pipes," he orders as he switches over to his guns.

"Mickey here, I got some unrecognized delta-wings on my left, I'm going in after 'em."

"Make it fast, Mickey, we're dancing with a half-dozen Backfires up here and could use the help..." Greg notes.

"Right," Mickey grumps as he moves in on the now-panicking enemy fighters. As they passed below him, Mickey turned in on them with a split-S turn and dove down to where he was closing on them from dead behind as the two elements (pairs) danced back-and-forth trying to find who was shooting at them. Mickey did a quick 'check six' to make sure nobody was attempting to close up on his rear, then set his targeting system to guns. With a quick jink left, he centered his gun site on the rearmost of the left pair, then gave his Vulcan gun a half seconds squeeze. With that one half second burst, over a dozen 20 mm shells were loosed from his gun and lanced out to the enemy fighter now only 800 m ahead of him. With eight hits on the enemy fighter, the 20 mm slugs tore apart the left wing root of the targeted fighter, causing the whole left wing of the plane to shear off in less than a second. What remained of the plane lost control and nosed into the cloud cover below, never to be seen again by Mickey.

"Follow me in, Greg," Shin orders as Mickey was turning in on the enemy fighters. In what seemed to be the most possible suicidal move he could have made, Shin charged straight for the Backfire bombers. In so doing, Shin literally put the bombers between the escorting fighters and himself. With that done, he as well switched to his guns and gave the bombers a respectable lead for the direction they were moving being slightly different from the direction Greg and he was moving. In the same fashion as Mickey, Shin let loose a half second burst of 20 mm cannon at the optimal range, and for his efforts firing at a far larger target in the Backfires, Shin's fire struck the target without a single miss. Greg did the same, though his burst missed almost half the shots, though even with only five slugs striking the target he still brought the bomber down by way of destroying a fuel tank.

"No freaking way!" Mickey half shouts as he sees something he would much rather have not seen: how the enemy fighters were using glowing balls of energy as weapons. He managed to duck under two of the balls, the third clipped his vertical stabilizer but did not cause serious damage. "These fighters have those energy balls from before! Look for a dome on the upper surface of the plane," he cautions to the other two pilots as he maneuvers on the other fighter in the leftmost pair. Mickey got a fractional shot on the enemy fighter as both were maneuvering, though the two shots that struck the plane out of his half second burst struck the cockpit and eliminated the pilot.

"The tail guns on the Backfires are the same way," Greg says as he dodges around one ball, a second, a third, but fails to dodge the fourth from one of the Flankers. Thankfully, the ball in question struck the airframe just inside his left engine intake, damaging the paneling but not the all important engine. Reassured that his craft was not about to blow up or lose an engine, Greg slammed his throttle all the way forward to rocket between two of the remaining Backfires. When sufficiently far enough ahead of them, he switched weapon systems and triggered the cluster strips. Shin broke hard left as he realized what Greg was planning, and had the distinct pleasure of watching the cluster strips detonate immediately alongside the Backfires. The trauma from dozens of explosive charges detonating that close to the bombers brought each of them down in a flurry of flying aircraft parts headed in several directions at once. Shin knew this was going to happen, and his deft movement to the left away from the bombers kept him from becoming part of the debris.

"Good deploy, Gre—KUSO!" Shin shouts as he sees the most ungodly thing he ever expected to see coming from a Soviet bomber. The craft dropped loose two canisters that immediately deployed forward engines, instantly and very rapidly slowing their descent and forward momentum as moments later the cans swung out a set of six large metal legs, looking much like a suicidal spider designed to tear into an aircraft with pure impact. Shin dodged them easily—his fighter was more than capable of ducking under the slow-maneuvering suicide devices, but he came back up only to dodge another pair unsuccessfully—one tore the top five percent of his craft's tail. "Those—that is the most insane and inventive countermeasure I have ever seen!" Despite his stated admiration, he still had to take down the enemy craft and did so by way of a burst of gun from below—the bomb bay shredded apart, calving the main structural components of the craft that held the nose and tail together, and what was left of the craft folded in on itself before sinking below the clouds.

"I got ya suckers," Mickey declares crassly. Having dropped into a Split-S turn and come back almost directly at the Backfire Bombers that Shin and Greg were attacking, two MiG-style fighters were trying to track in on him as he moved to rejoin the main attack against the Backfire bombers, and he did not see them. "I still ain't seen that Spirit!"

"Damn, we have to find it before—Mickey! Two MiGs on your nine!" The warning was too late for him to evade, as the MiGs had already launched missiles just as Greg had said 'on'.

"SHI—EJECTING!" he shouts just before a trio of missiles broadsided his plane on the left side. Just like that, his craft was wiped from the skies, though the largest chunk of the fuselage continued forward and down to slam into the nose of the one remaining Backfire bomber, annihilating its cockpit and driving it below the scuzz. "Bombers down, now we do the last of the fighters, Greg."

"Fair warning, I'm running out of cannon shells," Greg acknowledges.

"May not matter," Shin says as he tries getting a MiG from the side as it crossed in front of him and missed by a matter of five meters astern. "I have track on the Spirit dead ahead of me. Moving in now!"

"They're getting confused by the clouds!" Greg half-shouts, astonished that he just saw one of the few remaining enemy fighters shoot up an ally of his with guns, leaving an impressive streak of fire headed toward the ground.

"Let's pull this off and get out of the clouds ASAP," Shin says coldly before running under the B-2 and performing a picture-perfect Immelman to come up behind it and at reduced speed.

"Comin' at ya!" Greg flew high over the Spirit, tripping his Cluster munitions at an opportune time; the Spirit flew into the cloud of exploding munitions, though much to their surprise the damage was minimal at best, barely peeling back the RAM in places and not damaging it in others.

"Going guns," Shin says before letting loose the cannon in his fighter. Several one-second bursts failed to cause significant damage to the enemy machine, even when the burst walked across the engine nacelles. "What the—no! I just sprayed this foe several times and it didn't flinch!"

"This is insane!" Greg half-shouts in reply.

"Oh, it gets better," Shin replies darkly. A pair of small hatches had opened up in the ventral surface of the craft, ejecting two large pods of some kind. "Dive!" he shouts, but it was a moment too late even for himself.

The two pods detonated behind the craft 300 yards, enough to ensure that the craft itself was not hit. One was below the flight level of the Tomcat and Tigershark, the other was right at it. The Tomcat took a couple fragments in the fuselage, nothing major because it was significantly farther away. The Tigershark, however, did not waltz away from the strike with mere peppering. In point of fact: "Oh man," Shin moans.

"You all right?"

"No, I'm losing hydraulic fluid in my starboard side and one of those fragments blew through my cockpit and embedded itself in my leg. I'm pulling out before I lose too much blood to fly. Damned shrapnel pods," he grouses.

"Understood, get low and fast, I'll finish this thing off," Greg replies. The Tigershark broke off, trailing vapor and a thin line of smoke as the Tomcat pushed forward to close up on the enemy. "My turn, punk," Greg informs the enemy beyond his windshield before snapping off a shot of Thunder Laser at it. Given that it was a small target, two of the beams missed low and one missed wide right, but three hits from the powerful energy weapon exceeded what the apparent layer of armor on the craft was specified to stop. All three punched into the craft, causing one of the engines to fail catastrophically and begin trailing black smoke.

The answer was another rude shock to Greg, but not an impossible one. As he crossed the centerline of the craft's rear, it discharged a burst of several different machine cannons, solid slug tracers streaking past him and tearing gouges out of his left wing, including knocking out one of the Thunder Laser generators. It was not enough to shear a wing off or bring his craft down, but a dozen alarms in his cockpit were now flashing red from the damage, lending credence to his irreverent thought that he could fly a brick with sufficient engines if it held together throughout the flight.

"Not bad, but I'm not through yet;" Greg rocks the selector switch up to the pylons for the Super Shell canisters, and jams his rudder back in the other direction to bring it back on target as the enemy pilot began a shallow dive down to clear the cloud layer. Greg forced his fighter down against failing aileron hydraulics, swept the wings forward to reduce speed and increase lift, and centered the radar sight on the rear of the now-electronically-visible enemy craft. It gave him a different aimpoint, which he lined up on and let loose the four Super Shells he carried.

The superheated plasma bolt left his craft at a very high velocity, dissipating part of its energy in the chase that inevitably led to the rear of the enemy craft. Designed with rudimentary resistance to ballistic and missile weapons (albeit more than the original United States B2 semi-stealth bomber), the Spirit was not protected against the blossoming energy weapons collection of the enemy. The Super Shells blitzed through the titanium shell on impact and dug deep into the main structure of the craft, gutting out parts of the engines without reserve. Immediately the craft's rear section began sputtering and flaming out of blown armor plates, though Greg made sure the detail was done with a second pair that entered higher and cut through the shrapnel canister launchers. The canisters below in the ready magazine were themselves cooked off inside the fuselage, with devastating results courtesy of the titanium armor.

With the second strike, the crew of Spirit was killed as their craft took a nose-dive toward the ground, flaming from several different locations on the fuselage as it began sinking ever faster below the cloud layer. "You guys chose the wrong team," Greg mutters to the just-disappearing stealth bomber before himself diving down through the clouds to perform a Split-S and head back to base. On the way down, he passed the still-decelerating Spirit, as it finally nose-dove toward the ground below.

"Area 88, this is Corsair, returning to base. Enemy bomber intercepted and confirmed going down."


Author's Chapter Afterword:

Another chapter in the ballet of the skies. Been a while since I updated this one, but I've been mainly focusing on other works and this one is pretty much a wayside story for whenever I'm not up to writing in one of my epics. Sorry about that to anyone who is paying attention to it, but I have to divvy my time between a lot of different things.

Now, for all you military buffs who would rip me a new one for an armored plane, keep three things in mind: one, I know the B2 Spirit does not have armor, it is designed to hide, not take abuse. Two, these guys in Section Four are not normal terrorists or country invaders. Three, I have to make a logical real-world hash out of game mechanics, and armor is the only way I can think to make the Spirit capable of taking the kind of abuse it takes to kill it in the game. Shoot me later if you want to take offense to it.

As to the rest, well, lets just say the cloud cover played a helluva role in the battle. You can't kill what you can't see properly, right?

That's it for this chapter. Next up: As Section Four changes their plans pertaining to Area 88 and NATO, they deploy a naval asset to attack the base by cruise missile. Things are getting dicey on the ground and in the air...


Review Replies:

Only one review, from Knives91, and I can only say that as this goes on, more and more wildlife may become casualty to the evolving battle. Stay tuned as the air war heats up...


The Gripe Sheet:

Still no gripes from the readers. Come on, where's the complaints?


Footnotes: