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  Chapter 1

To Outrun the Bony Bastard


Time: CY 9786 Aug
Location: aboard the drop ship carrier Forged in Flame over the planet Tizona

"Launch in 30 seconds," came the voice of Seraphina, the drop ship carrier's AI over the Ung Tae's intercom system. "Good luck boys and come back safe."

Lawford checked the safety straps on his acceleration couch once more. He hoped that he didn't look as nervous as he felt. There was a joke among Lancers that the only difference between a crash and a Ung Tae drop ship landing was that the crash was accidental.

"Hang on to your shorts ladies," came a voice from over the craft's intercom. "We'll be doing a hot drop. The natives are restless tonight"

"Do tell," came a sarcastic reply from somewhere behind Lawford. "It's been hot all the way in from the slippoint."

"Shut up, Marlin," came another voice , "and save your breath. You'll be needing it to cry for your mother once we launch."

Lawford thought that he should say something witty just to prove to the others that he wasn't as frightened as he felt, but before he could think of something to say his acceleration couch swiveled into the launch position and he was suddenly struggling to breathe.

Ung Tae's had the same inertial compensators as their mother ships but they couldn't be activated until they were clear of their mother ship, and they launched at nearly 15g's acceleration. A long minute later the inertial compensator activated and gravity went back to normal. Lawford checked to make sure that his helmet was secure and that it was connected to the ships air auxiliary air supply. There was a reassuring hiss as air began to flow into his helmet. Theoretically if a drop ship's passenger compartment was holed by enemy fire the Lancers riding down to the planet could survive as their uniforms were designed to provide mechanical counter pressure in case of a sudden decrease in pressure and they could breathe ship's air. Unfortunately in practice any weapon that could punch a large enough hole in a drop ship's passenger compartment to cause significant loss of air generally was powerful enough to kill everyone in the compartment.

The audio receivers in Lawford's helmet began to pick up some of the chatter between the drop ships and their Phoenix escorts. Either by accident or intent the drop ship crew had left the intercom active

"Papa two Charlie, this is Delta eight Foxtrot. I have incoming on my six."

"Delta eight, this is Papa two. Roger engaging. Break left my mark. Mark. Mark Mark."

Lawford's acceleration couch pivoted to compensate for the change in vector, and g forces once more pushed him into the couch. Drop ship pilots piloted their craft with a fine disregard for the limits of their inertial compensators. In his mind's eye Lawford saw the Flame's drop ships screaming down towards the planet below them, their Phoenix escorts flying close along side attempting to intercept the enemy missiles and fighter craft that were rising from the surface of the planet to meet them. Above them the Flame and the other drop ship carriers would be doing their best to provide assistance launching mobile decoys, chaff and jammers, and providing what covering fire their limited weaponry could offer .

A series of jolts rocked the drop ship and brought Lawford's mind back to the passenger compartment. The lander was launching it's own decoys. Then a series of much stronger jolts rocked the ship. The landing craft was firing it's AP cannon. The cannon ceased firing and there was a subtle but distinct change in the thrum of the engines powering the Ung Tae. The ship began to vibrate gently at first but then more vigorously. The drop ship had entered the planet's atmosphere.

"Touchdown in one minute," came the voice over the intercom. "We're almost... All hands brace for impact!! Missile inbound!"

Lawford's last thought was that he hoped the drop ship landed right side up. He hated inverted debarkations. Then the incoming missile struck and blackness washed over him.

  Chapter 1