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Authors: Stuart Slade

Armageddon??

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Armageddon?? by Stuart

 

 

Chapter
One

Eagle
Flight, Over The Eastern Pacific

“I,
Satan Mekratrig, Lord of Hell, Commander of the Legions of the Damned do hereby
declare my dominion over the earth and all that it contains. Crawl to me,
humans, knowing the eternity of torment that awaits you.”

“Balls.”
Said Lieutenant Michael Wong. The voice that had come over the radio link,
booming in the cockpit of his F/A-18E, had distracted him from paying proper
attention to the cockpit display of his APG-79 radar. The new AESA radar was a
vast improvement over the older APG-73 but that was, as always, a slight
problem all of its own. Until the pilots learned how to take full advantage of
the improved data flow, they could be swamped with it. Wong was experiencing
that problem now, the resolution of the new radar was phenomenal but it seemed
to indicate that the wings on the targets 60 nautical miles out in front of him
were flapping.

“Full
of himself isn’t he? Or should it be ‘it’?” Lieutenant Anthony Squires was
genuinely interested, he was renowned as being the Ronald Reagan air group’s
grammar geek.

“Try
a ‘that’.” Wong wasn’t really interested, the targets in front of him were
behaving oddly. They were slow, 180 miles per hour at most, they had a strong
radar image yet seemed to have no infra-red signature. That was an odd
combination to put it mildly. The bombastic message that had interrupted his
concentration was irritating, no more than that. So what were those contacts in
front of him? Birds? They were too fast for that surely? The Peregrine Falcon
was the fastest bird known and that could, just, hit 180 mph in a steep dive.
These were doing that in level flight. So they had to be some form of aircraft.
That was assuming the AESA radar wasn’t generating a completely false image of
course. And who knew how the electronic systems were malfunctioning following
the delivery of The Message three days ago? There was one way to find out.

“Buster,
this is Eagle Flight, 200 miles out, bearing 353, we have an anomalous radar
contact some 60 miles out in front of us. Please confirm.”

There
was a pause for a few seconds, electrostatic discharges in the atmosphere were
playing havoc with radio communications but the systems filtering programs
quickly cleared the white noise from the channel. “Confirm contact Eagle
Flight. Bearing 358, range from Buster is 66.6 nautical miles. Target speed 184
knots, course one-three-fiver. For your information, Crown and Scepter are
tracking also. They have locks.” There was a pause, a series of crackles on the
radio, then the message resumed. “If targets are hostile, you are cleared to
engage.”

Wong
translated the message in his head. ‘Buster’ was CVN-76 USS Ronald Reagan,
‘Crown’ was CG-70 USS Lake Erie, an AEGIS cruiser, while ‘Scepter’ was DDG-93
USS Chung-Hoon, one of the Arleigh Burke class destroyers that now dominated
the fleet’s surface combatant force. Also AEGIS-equipped, that meant whatever
the targets were, they were now being tracked by three of the most advanced
radar systems in the U.S. Navy. The ‘lock’ part of the message was really
interesting, that suggested the order to open fire was already being passed
out.

That
didn’t surprise Wong, human reaction to The Message had split neatly down
religious lines. Those whose religion had demanded blind submission to the
‘Will of God’ had accepted it without a struggle and more or less laid down and
died. They just weren’t around any more. The rest of the world’s population had
followed the example set by Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown. His reply to
The Message had been “Sod off, Baldrick,” followed by a reassuring message to
the British people that he had a cunning plan to deal with the situation. The
British had enjoyed the joke, whatever it was, and collectively told Satan to
perform some highly improbable obscenities on himself. They’d been the first only
by a matter of minutes as most of the other countries in the world has replied
with similar messages. Ever since then, The Message had been repeated at
regular intervals, almost as if the concept of human defiance was so completely
unexpected that the powers ‘up there’ couldn’t comprehend its existence. Well,
if that was the case, the powers ‘up there’ didn’t know the human race very
well.

The
three days since the first reception of The Message had been something of a
standoff. Humans had waited for the next development, allowing the situation to
mature in military parlance, while the only response to their defiance had been
the repeated proclamations. No effort to force compliance, not yet at any rate.
And no overt human resistance. Wong got the feeling that was all about to
change.

“All
members, Eagle Flight, increase to fiver-six-zero knots, say again increase to
fiver-six-zero knots. Intercept targets in front, range, five-eight nautical
miles. Weapons are free, say again, weapons are free. Good hunting Eagle
Flight.”

The
four F/A-18Es accelerated out of cruise speed, building up to maximum subsonic.
The E model had more range and fuel than the older As and Cs but fuel status
was always a serious concern to Hornet drivers. Wong had listened with envy to
those who had flown the now-gone Tomcats or even longer-lost Intruders. Then,
he glanced down at his radar scope again. There were four targets, apparently
blissfully ignorant of the Super-Hornets bearing down on them. That was neat,
one each.

“Eagle
Flight, we are swinging around behind them. I have radar paints on all four, no
infra-red signature yet. Each Eagle aircraft, take target corresponding to your
flight position, from the left. Use AIM-120 then close in for 20-mike-mike. Not
sure AIM-9 will work unless we can get a heat signature off whatever is out
there. We’ll get a visual ID first.”

At
twelve nautical miles range, the U.S. Navy Hornets got their visual ID. The
contacts were four giant creatures, jet black in color, looking like a hideous
cross between a gorilla and a bird. Four limbs, two wings, flying in an
unconcerned, oblivious line.

“Just
what the hell are those?”

Wong
wasn’t sure which pilot had breathed the comment into the radio. Didn’t matter,
they all knew what to do. So did he come to that. “Buster, this is Eagle.
Targets visually identified, large flying humanoids about the same size as a
Super-Bug. Wingspan at least twice as great as ours, probably much larger.
Engaging.”

“Eagle,
this is Buster. Acknowledged. Targets designated as demons. Good luck Eagle
Flight.” A few days earlier the fighter controller might have added “And may
God go with you” but not after The Message and the betrayal it had represented.

Wong
switched the annunciator on his AIM-120s on. They were growling gently, a
sustained continuous note that indicated their homing heads were logged on to
his selected target, the demon second from the left. The F/A-18s were closing
fast, the range was dropping to the point where the hits would be almost
instantaneous. “Eagle Flight, open fire.”

Wong’s
pressure on the firing button was almost simultaneous with his order. A pair of
AIM-120 missiles streaked ahead of his aircraft, curving after the demon he had
picked out for his target. He’d been right, the gap was so short that the
target couldn’t have evaded even if it had wanted to. It never even tried.

Demon
Shingroleth was actually aware of the approaching fighters, he’d seen them when
they were still 15 miles out, far beyond the range of any human eye, so he had
assumed their presence was coincidental. He had other problems to worry about,
a few inconsequential humans were of no significant account one ay or the
other. What concerned him was the way his skin was itching, it had started a
few minutes before and was getting steadily worse. Maddening. He hadn’t even
worried when the four human machines had swung in behind his group and started
to close the range on them. That had been when his skin itch had become really
intolerable. Then, the humans had done something really strange; odd streaks of
smoke coming out from under their flying machines. Surely they couldn’t be
resisting the all-powerful armies of the damned?

The
AIM-120s worked as advertised. They were good missiles, well designed,
well-tested, and they had a target that was proving co-operative to the point
of suicide. No maneuvering, no electronic warfare, no interference, if the
guidance had been capable of human thought it would have been vaguely offended
at being asked to solve a task so undemanding. The first missile exploded
between Shingroleth’s legs, just underneath his tail. The 50 pound explosive
warhead was wrapped with heavy-gauge pre-notched wire that disintegrated into
an annular hail of pre-formed fragments when the missile’s proximity fuse set
off the explosive charge. Some of those razor-sharp fragments slashed through
Shingroleth’s tail, severing it at the root and sending it spinning off in a
long arc. Others ripped into his legs and genitals, tearing open the great
arteries, sending his fire-and acid blood spraying over his body, and mangling
his reproductive organs beyond recognition. Shingroleth’s scream of demented
agony was heard even in the sound insulated-cockpits of the F/A-18s.

The
second missile did really serious damage. Its proximity fuse initiated it right
underneath Shingroleth’s belly. The holocaust of tungsten-steel fragments
ripped open his stomach and tore his abdominal cavity to shreds. Even in a mind
crazed by the ghastly pain from the first hit, Shingroleth noticed the sudden
drop in weight as his intestines dropped out of his body. Then his
fire-and-acid blood, spraying from more wounds than could reasonably be
counted, set fire to his flesh. Shingroleth tumbled downwards, all hope of
control had gone when he had lost his stabilizing tail. By the time his remains
hit sea level, all that was left of him was a fine carbon dust.

Immediately
on firing, Wong had firewalled his throttles, cut in reheat and taken his
F/A-18 up into a steep climb. The last thing he had wanted to do was get too
close to those things. As he rolled over at the top of the climb, he could see
the havoc his attack had wrought on the demon formation below. His target had
gone, its death marked by a black streak towards the sea far below. Another one
of the formation had taken hits from four AIM-120s, for some reason two F/A-18s
had fired on the same aircraft, well, that sort of thing happened. It had meant
that the demon had been quite literally torn apart by the storm of fragments
and blast of the explosions. More than 200 pounds of best explosive American
dollars could buy had vented its wrath on the hideous creature and all that was
left of it was a shower of burning fragments. A third demon was staggering
away, it had been the last to get hit and had escaped the eviscerating body
hits. Instead, one of its wings had been torn to tiny fragments and it was going
down in a helpless spin. Even as Wong watched, two of his F-18s were closing on
it.

Prigrathrath
was desperately trying to control his descent. One of his wings had gone, it
was just a mass of torn flesh and spurting blood. The only thing that was saving
him was that his flight path was keeping the blood-and-acid away from his body,
the fate of Shingroleth and Caranaskatos had shown him what would happen when
demon blood and body parts mixed. Two of the gray-painted human machines were
coming after him, he could see them, but with his crippled wings there was
little he could do about it. It was odd, there was a strange twinkling light
coming from the front of the two flying machines. Then Prigrathrath’s lights
went out.

Squires
had fired a much longer burst than was normal for the M61 cannon in the nose of
his F/A-18. He and his wingman had aimed very carefully, using the plane’s
on-board computer and continuously-computed impact point sights to place all
100 rounds of their bursts square into the demon’s face. The effect was more
than either pilot could have hoped. The great, hideously malformed head had
just disintegrated as the armor-piercing incendiary shells ripped through the
skin and shattered the bones underneath. The demon’s eyes, in fact every feature
of its face, had been destroyed in the hail of cannon shells tearing through
its structure. Once again, fire-and-acid blood spraying from the ruptured veins
and arteries finished the job of destruction that fragments, explosions and
blast had started. The demon erupted into flames and dropped like a stone
towards the sea below.

That
had left one demon, untouched, unharmed by the sudden, vicious attack.
Quellarastis simply couldn’t believe that the humans had dared to attack him
and his colleagues, let alone that they had killed three of his flight-mates
with such contemptuous ease. Filled with unrighteous wrath at the effrontery of
the attack, he swerved to retaliate at the pair of human flying machines that
were coming straight at him. Now, they would learn what the wrath of a demon
meant. He opened his mouth and gave a blast of terrifying hellfire straight at
them.  In Eagle-One, Wong saw the fireball leave the demon’s mouth and flipped
the ailerons over, pulling the stick back in a barrel role around the jet of
flame. It wasn’t precisely a hard maneuver, the demon may have had powerful
lungs but they could only drive a jet of flame so fast. Compared with the
problems posed by trying to dodge a multi-mach missile, the flame was easy to
avoid. Even better, the jet of fire was a perfect infra-red source for his
AIM-9 Sidewinders. Both annunciators were screaming with the demand to be let
loose and Wong obliged them both. They streaked from his wingtip mounts,
heading straight for the inferno of heat that was the fire-breathing demon’s
mouth.

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