Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

There are naked angels riding our missiles down, using their wide wings to override delicate guidance systems by brute force. Distant explosions show that, yet again, we’re going to kill more friends than foes. Actually, those explosions-
“Charly Four, where are you, over?”
“Heya, Topside. Just watching the latest episode of Dances With Missiles. It’s sure to be ratings smash, over.”
“Charly Four, you’re not amusing. New orders: shoot the aliens off our missiles, over.”
Of course we shoot down our own ordnance. Good plan.
“How’s that going for the rest of the flight, Topside? Over.”
“You’re it for Charly Flight, Four. Sorry about that, over.”
“So our sainted Commodores want us to die shooting down missiles because they won’t listen, despite every bastard bombardment getting redirected to blow up our own? Over.”
“Can’t comment on that, Charly Four. It’s a good day. Every hit has taken out a bogey, and some pilots managed to bail out, over.”
Which reminds me.
“How do we know a bogey got downed, Topside? Is there a cloud of singed feathers twirling in the wind? Over.”
“You’re still not amusing, Charly Four. Weaklings like you are why this offensive has stalled. Get on with your duties and stop chatting. Over and out.”
Different voice. Could I have just been graced by one of our beloved Commodores?
There’s a knock on my canopy. Oh, poot. I slowly turn my head to look that way, keeping my hands steady on the sticks. No sudden moves.
What looks like a turquoise-haired teenager sporting auburn freckles, no nipples, and eagle-ish wings with a span wider than I can take in points at something inside my plane. I look down, trying to work out…
I look up and shout: “Ejector seat?”
The apparition crouching on my wing nods enthusiastically, pantomiming me punching out.
“Eject or go down with the plane?”
Another nod.
Nice of them to offer a choice. Okay. Live to snark another day.
“Topside, Topside, got a pair of them going at my wings. I’m bailing out. Co-ordinates are-”
The figure taps the canopy and points behind, nodding urgently, eyes wide. Surely not? Only one way to find out.
“-seven four cross three two, tactical grid nine.”
Which is about two klicks behind me, over that open ground I saw.
I kill my comms, wriggle out of my harness, and pop the canopy.
“What now?”
My hitcher leaps away, shouting: “Fly, mannish, fly.”
More of a controlled fall – I punch the eject panel.
A while later I come back to thinking, and find myself hanging under the parachute. Looking about, I see my seat being carried off by my hitcher while two more alien angels do slow circuits about me.
Shortly before I hit the trees, my hitcher comes hurtling back. The three of them manoeuvre me to drop neatly through a gap in the canopy.
I look back the way I came just in time to see a skylance obliterate the area I said I’d be landing in. So that’s what those explosions were! Well I’ll be…
Being distracted means I clown up the landing, dislocating both ankles and a knee. I grab the painkiller from my medpack and give myself a shot in each leg. As I slump back in relief, a group of people, some in familiar uniform, storm into the clearing.
Uniforms might be familiar, but the lack of insignia isn’t. Gee, let me guess. More betrayed?
I raise a hand.
“We fighting angels or commodores?”
So be it. Cheeky bastards tried to kill me.
“I’m in.”