Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

When Lieutenant Parks and a lone Private lifted off from the rooftop in the only available escape vehicle, they were painfully aware that they were leaving behind a vastly outnumbered platoon of men engaged in a firefight for their very lives.

Leaving was the only option.

Picked up by a troop transport in low orbit, they sprinted from the airlock to the cockpit, where Parks found himself face to face with the ship’s Captain.

“Find a seat in the stalls, you can pickup fresh men when we’re in high orbit and redeploy.”

“With all due respect, Sir, we’re going back. I’ve got men waiting; they need picking up.” Parks braced himself for an argument.

“You’ll find a seat, or I’ll…” the Captain stopped short as the Private hit him in the forehead with the butt end of his Ka-Bar, thrown silently over Parks right shoulder. Parks caught the man as he fell, tossing him back to the Private as he slipped into the vacant seat beside the pilot.

“Well done. Stow him, and the weapon. Make sure you’re both strapped in tight,” he called back to the retreating soldier.

“Aye sir.”

The Lieutenant turned his attention to the controls in front of him as he addressed the pilot.

“You keep this ship in good repair?”

“Sir, it’s maintained regularly, I don’t…” Parks cut him off.

“Hands off and hold on.” Parks didn’t give the pilot a chance to respond as his Private signaled the all clear. He threw the ship into a steep dive, following the vertical trail from the escape pod, before peeling off over hostile territory just above the range of their ground weapons. Locating the open end of the alley they’d only days before retreated down on foot, he swung wide, then banked a hundred and eighty degrees hard to the right, rolled the troop ship over on its back, and hurtled down between the buildings towards his embattled men. The wreckage strewn surface of the road screaming by above his head, he raced to close the distance to the tower his troops were barricaded inside.

Parks eased the stick back as the rear of the enemy battalion came into view, giving up altitude and leveling again with the startled ground troops within a half kilometer of the streaking inverted craft. He waited, gauging the distance before violently pushing the controls all the way forward, at the same time easing off on the throttle and firing the rearward lift thrusters.

The ship shuddered stem to stern as slowly the inverted nose gained altitude while the rear of the craft swung in the opposite direction. It’s engines swung in a massive arc, tearing a wide trench in the ground below, vapourizing men and equipment alike as the ship hurtled towards the end of the alley.

With barely a few hundred meters to spare, Parks had turned the ship end over end, and eased gently to rest at the base of the building where his men were pinned down. The street before him was a molten mass of men and machines. Not a single shot was fired as the troop doors were opened, and the platoon walked, carried or dragged each other into the hold.

The familiar voice of his Sergeant rose above the cacophony of the wounded and weary. “Won those wings in a card game, did you sir?”

Parks grinned as he locked the doors and pointed the bird skyward.

“Good to see you too Sergeant.”


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