Chapter 4: Recoil

UCSF improvised helipad

1347 Pacific Daylight Time

Staff Sergeant Enrique Sanchez knelt and turned his back to the rotor blast as yet another blue and white civilian medevac helicopter climbed and headed to the north, bound for a hospital in San Rafael. Dust swirled for a few seconds, then tapered off as the helicopter departed the "pad" perimeter. He then stood up and walked over to the LT. "How many more?"

Lieutenant Wilson looked into the lobby of the hospital. "Not many. Five, six? Almost done. Why?"

As if on cue, the forward air controller radio that Sanchez carried crackled to life. "Bravo Green, sitrep?"

"Got a few more, Boomer. Almost done."

"That's good, because once this is done, word from on high is that your platoon is to go out into the wreckage and hunt for survivors."

The two Marines looked at each other, worried looks on their faces.

"Yo, look alive, 'nother bird coming in."

"Roger."

-.-.-

White House

1650 Eastern Daylight Time (1350 PDT)

"Mr. President? Do you want us to execute the mission?"

The President looked at the mission plan summary laid out before him. It was going to take at least 8 hours to perform, and it could end the attack on San Francisco in a single blow. But it was a precision strike, one that relied on numerous assumptions about the anatomy of the creature laying waste to the city. "What are the other options?"

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force squirmed in his seat. "There's two other options that the Air Force can field, and the Navy can field a third. However... all three are nuclear."

The President sat quiet for a minute, deciding. Everyone in the Oval Office waited for his decision.

"Go ahead with the strike... but prepare the backup options immediately. Bring me a summary of each as soon as it becomes available."

The Chief of Staff nodded, saluted the President, and left the Oval Office at a jog.

-.-.-

U.C. Berkley Medical Center

1400

Tendo walked into the crowded emergency room and flagged down a passing nurse. "Hey, I need help here!"

"You and about a hundred other people." He began to turn and walk off.

Tendo grabbed the nurse by the shoulder. "My grandfather's having breathing trouble. Can you just take a look at him?"

The nurse sighed and followed Tendo outside to Yeye. "What symptoms is he... What is that blue stuff?"

"I think it's the blood from that creature smashing up San Francisco. We were almost stomped by it, but some fighter jets shot it with something that hurt it." Tendo scratched the back of his head. "I dunno if it's the cause of the coughing, but he was fine before we left the city."

"Well, it could be the smoke and dust. There were a lot of similar cases on 9/11..."

"Whatever the cause, can you help him, please?"

"Yes. We'll get some oxygen for him. You have a cellphone?"

"Yeah, but the network's swamped. Can't make any calls."

The nurse nodded. "We've got enough outbound bandwitdth to make calls to emergency contacts if needed. So, if we can get your number down, we can contact you if anything changes."

Tendo quickly wrote the number on a scrap of paper and handed it to the nurse. "I'm gonna go back and see what I can do to help."

"Good luck."

Tendo nodded and walked back towards the ferry docks.

-.-.-

UCSF improvised helipad

1407

Mia watched the USMC UH-1Y Venom head off towards the coast with the last patient aboard. "Well. Evacuation of the hospital is complete. What's next?"

The sergeant was already on the radio, probably talking to the plane that been circling the hill for the last two hours. He nodded once, then walked over to his boss. "Sir, higher up wants a sitrep."

"Evac of the hospital is largely complete. Just surgeons and other medical personnel left. Ask if they can use more of them anywhere else."

Mia looked down at her clothes, now soaked with the blood of people she'd helped stabilize for airlift. Wait... blood. "Uhm, Mr. Marine?"

The boss walked over. "Yes, ma'am?"

"Ask them if they need more blood. Because there's a whole supply of it here, and I'm pretty sure they'll need it elsewhere."

The man blinked twice, then turned around and started shouting orders. "SILVA! Get your ass down to the ER, find me every last mobile gurney that's left down there. Take your team with you. Beat feet, Lance!"

Another Marine saluted, grabbed two others, and sprinted into the atrium and down the stairwell.

"First squad! Follow the good doctor here and follow her directions. You're going to be saving a lot of lives. Move!"

Mia waved them towards the door that led to the blood bank. "Right, do NOT mix up the bags. They're clearly labeled with blood types. And mixing blood types is bad, okay?"

One of the Marines spoke up. "Ma'am? We understand blood types. One of the things we've trained on is giving transfusions in the field to keep a fellow soldier alive until help arrives."

"Oh. Well, then. Just... Try to keep them orderly, and don't drop the bags."

The Marine nodded, then pointed at some abandoned hospital beds. "Patterson, Deckard, grab those. Anyone else with free hands, grab any others you see. We'll need at least eight."

Mia thought about it for a moment before realizing what the man had in mind. To keep them sorted and to carry large numbers at once. Brilliant! "Right, here we are." Mia swiped her ID card, and the door opened. The Marines with her piled into the room and quickly emptied the storage racks onto the beds. Hmmm... "On second thought, let's try and provide a decent mix of bags when when ship them-"

The building shook around them and dust fell from the ceiling. The Marine leading the small group pointed at another, then quickly gestured out the door. The other Marine nodded once before jogging down the hall. He started to turn the corner, then dodged around Silva and three other Marines pushing ambulance gurneys. "All we could find, ma'am. How do you want to do this?"

Mia took a deep breath, then began directing the Marines on sorting out the bags of blood. Please let us have the time we need to get this done before that... thing... comes for us.

-.-.-

Travis AFB

Flight operations office

1415

"Like hell you're grounding us." Moggy glared at the American. "We can help still. Hell, you've lost more birds than us. Don't see you grounding your squadrons."

The Major glared back. "Look, you've lost one of your senior commanders to that... thing, and the other is in shock. You can't-"

"Stuff it, Yank. We're going. We've still got some cannon ammo to use right now, and they promised to send up bombs for everyone." He stormed past the Major and walked out to his plane. Behind him, Sticky and four other RAF pilots shoved their way past the officer and out onto the flight line. "Right, gang, let's roll."

-.-.-

Ocean Beach

1420

Ocean Beach was normally a site of relaxation and recreation. Now, however, it looked rather like an invasion was taking place. To be fair, this observation wasn't far off the mark.

Especially once the LCACs arrived.

The three massive hovercraft had launched almost an hour earlier from the Boxer and her attendent ships that made up the Marine Expeditionary Unit, then had raced up the coast to Ocean Beach to deliver their cargo as close to the Kaiju as possible. As each hovercraft arrived at the beach, it eased onto the firmer wet sand, then shut down its engines and settled down to the ground. A heavy duty ramp extended from the bow, and a small team of Marines scrambled out of the crew cabin and untied the load... a 66-ton M1A2 Abrams main battle tank. The teams worked quickly and skillfully, prepping the massive war machines for action. Then, with a rising howl from its onboard gas turbine engine, the first tank lurched onto the beach, up a sandy embankment, and onto Lincoln Way.

The tank commander took in the vehicles scattered across the road and grinned. I've always wanted to play monster tank... "Driver... hit it!"

-.-.-

Boomer watched the tank lurch up the street, batting aside cars and trucks like they were made from styrofoam. That looks like fun... "KOOKABURRA 2, any idea what the frequency for those tanks is?"

"Tanks? What tanks?"

"The three Abrams rolling off of Ocan Beach and up Lincoln Way?"

"Hold one."

Boomer swept past the hospital again, checking on the Marines. What are they up to down there? "KOOKABURRA, if we can't get in touch with them, they could wander into a dead end, or-"

"BULLDOG 8, contact established. They're teamed up with a pair of Venoms. They also said, and I do quote, 'Stand back. We're gonna try something.'"

"Craaaaaap..." Boomer waggled her wings at the UH-1Ys riding shotgun over the tanks, then got onto the squadron channel. "Bulldogs, get clear of the Kaiju! The Leathernecks got their tanks ashore and want to do something stupid."

"Copy, Boomer. Breaking off run, for what little good it would have done..."

As she watched, the first tank skidded to a halt and swung its turret to the north. Here we go...

-.-.-

The Kaiju had moved to the north side of Golden Gate Park by this time, and was almost directly north of the first tank. It was also slightly downhill, allowing the tank to bring its powerful 120mm smoothbore cannon to bear on the torso of the beast.

The tank commander smiled as the creature began to lumber into view. "Load sabot!"

The loader hit the ammo comaprtment door switch with his knee and withdrew the requested shell. As he pivoted to place the round in the cannon breech, he let up on the switch, and the blast door snapped shut. He slid the shell into the breech and released the breech block, which slid up and closed off the gun. "GUN UP!" He then stepped clear of the recoil path and closed his overhead hatch.

The tank commander waited a second, then also ducked fully into the turret and dogged his hatch shut. "Gunner! Target an extremity, if you can. I suggest a joint."

"Copy." There was a pause, then the turret moved slightly. "Target sighted!"

The commander didn't hesitate. "FIRE!"

"ON THE WAY!"

WHAM.

The tank bucked as the powerful cannon spat the projectile downrange. As the round left the barrel, three plastic "petals" detached from the much smaller, dart-like projectile, allowing it to fly free at more than 4 times the speed of sound. In under a second, the round flashed across Golden Gate Park and three additional blocks, where it slammed into the Kaiju's left flank just below the secondary arm. The projectile, intended to penetrate both reactive and composite tank armor, tore through the thick hide of the Kaiju with ease and continued onwards until it struck a rib.

The Kaiju let out an earth-shaking roar of agony as the round spent its kinetic energy in the rib, fracturing it.

-.-.-

2 floors below UCSF Medical Center street level

Silva winced as the roar from the Kaiju shattered the fluorescent tubes lighting the hallway. "Damn! What'd they do to that thing?"

Lance Corporal Jensen listened closely as the roaring stopped for a moment, and heard another distinctive CRACK as the Abrams fired again, eliciting another roar from the creature. "Sounds like the tanks hit the beach!"

Silva groaned. "Why do they get all the fun toys!?"

-.-.-

Boomer watched the tank round flash across the park and into the Kaiju. "Oh, yeah. That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!" She toggled the radio, still grinning under her oxygen mask. "KOOKABURRA 2, Marines have engaged the Kaiju with an Abrams tank. Looks like they actually hurt the thing!" She paused and flicked the Warthog into a hard bank and looked down at the scene below in time to see a car smash to the ground near the tank, scattering parts and flaming gasoline across the area. "Aaand the Kaiju has decided to attack the tank. Joy. Permission to try something to draw some of the heat off them?" A quick flick of her wrist, and the A-10 snapped into a right bank, bringing Boomer around and lining her up with the creature's head. Let's see what the big gun does...

"Negative, BULLDOG. Disengage."

Boomer grinned as she squeezed the trigger, and the massive rotary cannon that dominated the fuselage of the aircraft sprang to life. Too slow, guys!

-.-.-

Improvised helipad

Sanchez and the other Marines instinctively hit the deck as the distinctive "BRRRRRRRRRTTTTT" of an A-10's main gun filled the air. "Great, the 'Hogs have gone to their guns... Shit just got real."

Beside him, the LT bounced back to his feet. "What were they... Jesus fuck."

Sanchez let out a low whistle of respect as he watched the creature lumber to the north, trailing blood from its massive crest. "Well, I do think our guardian angel got its attention."

There was another loud CRACK as an Abrams fired another round, followed by the howl of its engine as it accelerated towards cover.

Sanchez and the LT looked at each other, then back to the hospital. "Time to bail out?"

"Yup. Let's move out, Marines!"

Sanchez rushed back into the hospital and eyed the doctors and nurses still present. "We're leaving, people! Let's move!"

Mia stepped forward. "Where are we going? We're still able to help out."

Sanchez headed out the door. "Anywhere but here, for starters. Despite the Chair Force's best efforts, that thing is getting a little too close for comfort. And you can't help if you're dead." Sanchez watched the Marines rush out onto the top of the parking garage with the last gurney of blood bags and roll it under the tail of a waiting medevac helicopter, which quickly loaded the gurney and lifted off. "Sir, recommend we beat feet to the south ASAP. Wheels if we can get 'em, on foot if it's a logjam."

"Probably a logjam, Sergeant. You've seen how people react in a panic."

Sanchez frowned before nodding. "Point, sir. I'll get the platoon in gear and headed out. What's our rally point?"

"Uhm... Looks like City College. 'Bout 4 miles actual."

"Right. Masterson, round 'em up, get 'em in gear."

"Yes sir, sergeant!"

Lt. Wilson turned to Mia. "Ma'am, strongly advise you join us for now. We'll evac you from the next rally point, get you to a hospital to help out."

Mia looked to David, who nodded. "Alright. Lead the way, Marine."

-.-.-

7000 feet above Angel Island

1442

"BULLDOG 8, I specifically directed you to disengage!"

Boomer ground her teeth as she climbed up to meet the rest of her squadron. "I was already on my run when you told me that."

"Then you should have broken off your run." There was a pause before the squadron leader spoke again, with noticeably less tension in his voice. "But I'm kinda glad you didn't. That was a good call to try for the crest."

"More of a wild ass guess, but hey, I'll still take kudos where I can." She checked her instruments before toggling her radio again. "Say, anyone else running a little dry right now? What's our bingo field?"

As if on cue, the radio came to life with the voice of their controller. "BULLDOG flight, this is KOOKABURRA 2. Break off and go to Travis to refuel and rearm. Gets some chow while you're at it."

Boomer frowned. "KOOKABURRA, BULLDOG 8 here. Any word on who's going to take over FAC duties?"

"Hold one, BULLDOG... Sonofabitch. BOTTLE 4, how copy?"

Boomer smiled as a distinctly British voice came on the radio. "KOOKABURRA 2, this is BOTTLE 4. Copy loud and clear. Boomer, I'll take your spot as eyes in the skies for your Marines. Anything I should know before you go get some food and fuel?"

Boomer dipped back down towards the city as Moggy took formation off her left wingtip. "Yeah, aim for the crest. It's a little thinner skinned and seems to be somewhat more sensistive. Bravo Green, how copy?"

"Sorry you have to leave the party so suddenly, Boomer, but we'll manage. BOTTLE 4, you have a name?"

"Moggy, sir. Boomer, where are they right now?"

Boomer looked down at the city below. "Sarge, you guys pulling back yet? The Kaiju's getting a little close to that hospital."

"Affirmative. Pulling last civilians out now, along with a supply of blood we're going to take to the next evac LZ and try to distribute it. We're currently hoofing it until we clear the worst of the traffic jams."

There was a long pause before Moggy replied. "You... may be hoofing it for a while, then. The roads are a bloody parking lot now."

"Well, shit. How far does that go?"

"A ways, Bravo Green. Unless you want that tank to your east to bulldoze you a path."

Boomer watched the tank in question swivel its turret and unleash another round, this time to less effect. Hmm. Wonder what's different. "Nah, tank's doing its job of covering the troops. Advise you swing over to the west and run along the side of the hills. What street is that, anyways?"

"Local source says 7th. I'm not in a position to argue with them."

Moggy rocked his wings, and Boomer did the same before breaking to the east. "Well, I'm going to go rearm and refuel. Be back in a bit, Sanchez."

"Solid copy, Boomer. Thanks for the cover."

-.-.-

Travis AFB

1501

Miriam settled her helicopter to the ground just off the main flightline in a swirl of dust and dried grass. Man, FOD's gonna be a bitch... Good thing we've still got the sand filters installed. "Okay, people. Take twenty, get some food and water, and get ready to roll again." She shut down the engines, and the rotors of her helicopter slowed, then stopped. She took a few moments to catch her breath and collect her thoughts before pulling off her helmet and exiting the cockpit. "Young, if you want to eyeball anything on the engines, now is the only chance you'll get for the next few hours."

The crew chief/gunner nodded and promptly scrambled up onto the roof of the helicopter, popping open access hatches as he went. "Grab me some chow and water, boss?"

"Got it. I'll be back in ten or so." Miriam waved to a passing vehicle, which slowed down and let her hop on. "Wherever there's food and water."

The airman nodded and waited as two other pilots piled into the back of the pickup truck. "This is an absolute disaster, if I do say so myself, ma'am."

Miriam let her fatigue and frustration get the better of her, and her response carried more of a bite than she had intended... or was proper. "Oh?"

The airman gulped, realizing he'd overstepped his bounds. "Nothing, ma'am." He pointedly focused on the pavement ahead of the truck.

Miriam sighed and let her head roll back briefly. He has a point, though... this is a utter Charlie Foxtrot right now. Her reprieve didn't last long, however, as the sound of a flight of A-10 Warthogs landing reached her ears. She opened one eye and rolled her head enough to see the next flight of Warthogs settle down on the runway. Let's see... 5, 6... There's Boomer's bird. She made it here without doing something terminally stupid.

-.-.-

Boomer followed the rest of the squadron into a parking area and shut down the engines, popped her canopy, and released the built-in boarding ladder on the side of the fuselage. A quick glance around her revealed no additional help was coming, so she began to unhook the restraints that tied her to her ejection seat.

"Hang on, ma'am, let me help you with that."

Boomer's head whipped around to see a young female airman looking over the side of her cockpit. "Do you have an ejection seat safing kit, kid?"

The airman held up a red metal bracket. "This thing?"

"That's the one. Here, gimme. I'd rather not have the rocket motor I'm sitting on go off right now, yeah?"

"Good point, ma'am. Oh, your crew chief is on his way. Last check put his transport about 20 minutes out."

"Thank you, Airman, I can get it from here." Boomer undid the last of the restraints and stretched out for a moment. "And thank you for the information. I'm sure Mike will want to get to work right away on rearming. What's the situaion for ordinance?"

"No clue right now, ma'am. You probably have a better idea than I do, to be honest."

"What's your name, Airman?"

"Airman Rebecca Silviera, ma'am." Rebecca climbed down the ladder to make space for Boomer.

"Okay, Rebecca. Thank you for the help with getting me unhooked. Want me to pick you up some water or food?"

"No thank you, ma'am. I'm fine for now. But thanks for asking."

"No problem." Boomer noticed her commandeing officer waving her over. "Right, gotta go. Keep the pidgeons outta the cockpit for me."

"Uhhhhh... sure?" Rebecca looked around as Boomer sprinted off towards her CO, helmet tucked under her arm, then leaned against the side of the A-10. "Keep the pidgeons out of the cockpit my ass."

-.-.-

1517

San Francisco waterfront

Crunch slammed the engine compartment shut on the boat and gave the owner a thumbs-up as he jumped back onto the dock, then helped an older couple into the boat before heading over to the temporary HQ the police had set up.

A lieutenant clapped Crunch on the shoulder. "Thanks for fixing that boat."

"Eh. Big or small, I've fixed them all. What's next?"

Before the police officer could respond, the monster let loose another earth-shaking screech, shattering the few unbroken windows in the area.

Crunch ducked instinctively, then looked skyward to see... is that an Israeli F-16? How...?... streaking in on an attack run. As he watched, several unguided 500 pound-class bombs rippled from racks beneath the wings and slammed into the creature's flank, not far from a bright blue wound. A series of explosions followed, and the HQ hit the deck as shrapnel pinged all around them. "RUN!"

The Sergeant on scene took off running, and everyone grabbed what they could and followed.

Crunch looked over his shoulder as he ran, watching the creature closing in on them until another strike from the west temporarily redirected the attentions of the beast back into the ruins of central San Francisco.

The lieutenant looked at Crunch, fear in his eyes. "What's next? Get the fuck off the peninsula and set up camp on the other side of the bay."

"No arguments there, sir. LET'S MOVE, PEOPLE!"

-.-.-

1527

Travis AFB, improvised mess hall

"They're gonna do what?!" Boomer plunked down into a seat alongside Miriam, aghast at the news she'd just received.

"Okay, lemme make sure you got this... The 9th Bomber Squadron was down at Nellis plinking stuff from on high with JDAMs, yeah? Well, they've not been packing up to go back to Dyess... They're packing every last bomb they could scrounge at Nellis into their B-1s and they're going to make a conventional, level, unguided bombing run on this... Kaiju... in a few hours. Shortly before nightfall, in fact." Miriam sighed and took a huge bite of the sandwich in her hands.

Boomer stared at her former Academy roommate as she processed what she'd just been told. "So, no JDAMs, no Paveways, nothing precision."

"None."

"But the collateral damage will be..."

"Huge, I know. But, that's the gospel truth. Look, you're the closest thing I have to a sister, and vice versa, si? Would I bullshit something like this?"

"I just... When was the last time a U.S. bomber squadron did a mission like this? Y'know, a massed, formation drop of unguided ordinance?"

"Vietnam, as part of Operation Linebacker II. I asked." Miriam shook her head. "Look, I agree, this is some Grade-A bullshit, but do you really think the brass will consider the word of two lowly O-3s? I mean, seriously, Boomer. There is no way in hell you or I can convince them to change their plans."

"So, we're supposed to fly into the area where unguided munitions will soon be falling to keep the Kaiju distraced long enough for the bomber crews to line up their drop?"

"Like I said, Grade-A BS." Miriam finished off her sandwich and took a long drink of water. "Look, we can sit here and debate this for hours, but right now, people out there are dying, and we both need to get back out there and do what Uncle Sam pays us to do."

"Blow shit up."

"Amen, sis. Now let's saddle up and see if we can put enough ordinance on target to kill this thing."

"Pffft. All you have are a few Ma Deuces. You really think you're gonna-"

A shout rang out from outside, followed by cries of dismay. The two pilots piled out the door to see a large crowd around a hastily erected information hub. Several TVs were displaying footage from CNN, Fox, and NBC showing the Kaiju smacking a Marine Corps attack helicopter from the sky.

"Fucking hell. MOVE!" Miriam began to run to her helicopter.

Boomer pulled her bandana over her head, already at a dead run towards her Warthog. "Make a hole, people! Hog driver with a mission!"

-.-.-

Miriam skidded to a halt not far from her helicopter as a full-bird Colonel waved her down. "Captain Ramirez? Colonel Rodgers, USMC. I need you to do something for me."

"Make it quick, sir, I need to get airborne ASAP."

The senior officer noticed Miriam's brusque attitude and decided not to call her on it. "I have a platoon of Marines hoofing it just ahead of that... thing."

"Kaiju."

"What?"

"Kaiju. Japanese for 'monster' or 'beast'."

"Huh. Fits. Anyhow, they need to be pulled out. They have several civilians they're escorting as well. The civilians get priority exfil."

"Take it up with KOOKABURRA. They've been running taskings."

"Captain.."

"Sir, I hear that you're concerned for your Marines... but I just saw one of your Vipers get slapped out of the sky like a bug. There is a very good chance that any helicopter that gets in close will get taken out like that."

The Marine opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by the roar of a departing F-15E thundering down the runway, hardpoints loaded with fresh bombs.

"Remember, sir, KOOKABURRA. The Aussie bird." Miriam waved her hand in a circle above her head as she ran back towards her helicopter. "Let's go, gang!"

-.-.-

Boomer slowed her jog as she approached her Warthog, which was the scene of much activity as a crew of airmen worked to rearm the plane. "Mike!"

"Boomer! There you are. You have no idea how glad I am to see my bird in one piece."

"Your bird? Whose name is on the canopy rails again?" Boomer laughed and wrapped her crew chief in a hug. "So, what bundles of explosive joy do you have for me today?"

"Well, I noticed that Mk-80 series were doing jack shit, and even BLU-109s weren't fairing much better, so I got you a pair each of 7 and 19 round rocket pods. Jarheads are reportedly doing decently with them, so you probably could do some serious damage. Also got a few Mavericks for you, but those were a hard scavenge. The local Warthog unit at Nellis took off with most of 'em, and we'll find out shortly how well they work. No cannon ammo, though... Bit too heavy to load on a Herc on short notice. So be stingy with the 30 mike mike, ma'am. It'll be a few hours until we can get some up here from home base."

Boomer walked under the wing her Warthog and took note of the warheads on the rockets in the first 7-round pod. "Really, Mike? Willie Pete?"

"Hey, it's all that was left. Besides, target marking."

"Okay, fair enough. And given the sheer number of HEDPs you've stuffed into 19-tube pod, I'll forgive you. Oooh, Hotel model Maverick? Interesting choice, Mike."

"Shaped charge. Figured it might do a little better against Fat Man out there."

"Kaiju, Mike. How many Tokosatsu movies do I have to show you before that settles in?"

"Eh. Few more, I guess."

"Heathen. Okay, a few more... What the... CRV7s? Where'd you dig up those?"

"Our British friends had some intended for use on their Typhoons for training, but they left 'em in the rush. I figure that they'll forgive us putting them to better use. They're steel core warheads for training, but given how fast they fly..."

"I've never used CRV7s before, Mike. Do you really think now is the time to bring me new ordinance?"

Mike was about to protest when the squadron leader jogged up. "Boomer, quit gabbing and mount up. We need to cover the Marines." He turned to leave, stopped, and turned back to the rocket pod. "Mike, I'm not even going to ask how you found some CRV7s... But good find. Send a 7-pod of 'em to Stevo if you have any to spare. Boomer, be stingy with those, and aim a little higher than you would with Hydras. They're scary fast, and accurate as hell, so make 'em count."

"Yes, sir. See you up there!"

The CO left at a jog, leaving Boomer and Mike sharing a well-practiced glance.

"Welp."

"Yep. Let's get this show on the road, Mike." Boomer scrambled up the boarding ladder and dropped into her ejection seat, then donned her helmet and began to preflight her plane.

-.-.-