B Chee
Australia
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"The destiny of nations is shaped by the plangent vicissitude of destroying enemy flattops, interdicting their convoys, and severing their reinforcements and supply lines. And, if you make ace along the way... well, that's just gravy."
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"The destiny of nations is shaped by the plangent vicissitude of destroying enemy flattops, interdicting their convoys, and severing their reinforcements and supply lines. And, if you make ace along the way... well, that's just gravy."
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Behind enemy lines // 0931 hrs // Day 04

Nearly sixty tons combined of strike fighter streaked across the desert floor at just under Mach 1.

"You okay there, LIGHTNING?" BANZAI asked.

A beat, then, "Yeah. Yeah, it's all good, man. Thanks."

LIGHTNING sounded a bit more flustered than usual, BANZAI thought. The near-miss with that Foxbat must have really caught him by surprise.

Quote:
For the Over-Target Event, "Short Range Threat!" appeared, which moved all the Sites into the Centre Area, in one huge defensive block.

It was a mixed blessing. All but one of the SAM sites were radar sites, and thus could be targeted with HARMs; the solitary Zu-23-2 AAA battery to the north could only reach low altitude. Having all the Sites into the Target area meant that it was safe for the Hornets, as long as they stayed in the outer zones, firing their Harpoons. Fortunately, the Bandit draw came up No Bandit.




Approaching the target, LIGHTNING pulled back on the stick, feeling the g-forces dig into his harness as the nose of the Hornet rose. Still feeling annoyed at the unexpected encounter with the Foxbat, he locked up on the closest radar - a SA-10 site - and unleashed a HARM.

Smoothing switching between radar targeting modes, he checked that the Harpoon's targeting data had been uploaded. The green phosphorescence on his FLIR displayed a photo-quality picture of the POL storage sheds. Reaching launch altitude, both Hornets launched their SLAMs in two waves, each half a minute apart.

Quote:
Approaching from the southern area, BANZAI launched on the POL Storage with a SLAM, getting 1 Hit, whilst LIGHTNING took out the SA-10 in their path, before using Situational Awareness to attack the POL, inflicting 3 more Hits. Not a bad start.

As there were no Bandits and none of the enemy Sites were in range, the Hornets advanced one area inward. Each firing a SLAM again, both Hornets scored 1 Hit apiece, leaving the POL badly burning with 6 Hits of damage - but short of one final Hit needed to destroy it.


As the smoke cleared, LIGHTNING saw once again that despite the pinpoint Harpoon hits, a pair of floating-roof tanks had escaped damage. The SLAMs were deadly accurate, but their warheads sometimes left something to be desired. The problem was, his weapons were now fully expended. BANZAI was down to one HARM. It was a repeat of what happened with the weapons laboratory two days ago.

"I'm going in with guns," LIGHTNING announced.

"That Gainful battery's still active," BANZAI observed.

"I'll be going too fast for them to track."

"This is not a good idea, man."

"Not unless you have a better one, BANZAI."

LIGHTNING lined up the POL tanks in his sights, and pulled the trigger. The entire aircraft shuddered in recoil as a hundred rounds sprayed into the target area in a handful of seconds, and as the aircraft flashed past, he saw that he had missed. It was scant consolation that the SA-6 missile fired in his direction also failed to track.

Quote:
BANZAI was down to one HARM, and LIGHTNING was fully expended. In the following Turn, LIGHTNING went into the Centre Area to strafe the target, but missed, rolling a 3. The SA-6 defending the Center Area fired on LIGHTNING, and missed. BANZAI's HARM on the SA-6 also missed, setting up the excitement which would follow next.


"Going for another gun pass," LIGHTNING said. "One more, and then we'll scoot."

A moment, then BANZAI replied, "Let's finish the job. I'm out of weapons, too." Tactical wisdom held that running more than one pass over an alerted target generally did not enhance one's longevity prospects.

The pair of Hornets returned, buzzing in anger as another missile trail rose from the ground to meet them. Firing in turn, LIGHTNING's attack grazed the POL tanks, but it was BANZAI's follow-up salvo that drew a sudden eruption of oily smoke and raging fire, as the tank crumpled on itself like a piece of crunched paper.

Quote:
Headed into the final Turn, this was all-or-nothing for BANZAI and LIGHTNING. Lining up for a final pass, the Hornets went at the target. LIGHTNING rolled an 8 - pretty good, but not enough; BANZAI rolled a 9, modified +2 to 11, thus scoring a Hit, which was enough to finish off the job.




LIGHTNING saw the conflagration on his FLIR, and was about to congratulate BANZAI when-

The Hornet lurched and spun crazily, as if smashed by a giant invisible swatter. The controls momentarily went dead in his hands. Half the instrument panels turned red; the other half flickered and went dark. An atonal chorus of multiple warning tones, plangent and frantic, sang in his headphones. This was not good at all.

LIGHTNING took a quick survey of the cockpit readouts. Highest priority was the fire warning in the left engine. Instinctively, he shut it down, first the fuel selectors, then the fuel intermix. The airframe shuddered like a rickety roller coaster. Radar was clearly gone. Flight computer was barely functional. Stick response, sluggish. Throttle was still okay, thankfully. Altitude steady at least. Somewhere behind, along the fuselage, metal was screeching on metal.

LIGHTNING realized, with a clarity unfolding in slow-motion, that he'd just been hit by a SAM, and in spite of which, he was somehow extraordinarily lucky to still be alive to realize that.

Quote:
The SA-6 battery fired again, this time scoring a Damage on LIGHTNING. He had no weapons, pods or Situational Awareness remaining to discard, although he took another +2 Stress from the ordeal.


"Are you alright, LIGHTNING? Talk to me, man. Can you fly?"

"I'm okay. It's okay. Can you inspect for damage?"

BANZAI nudged his Hornet under and around LIGHTNING, in a slow circle to assess the situation.

"Looks like the fire's out, so you're okay on that front, but the left engine's completely gone. Left rudder and stabilizers look like Swiss cheese. The left and right fins are barely holding on, what's left of them."

Unexpectedly, another voice joined the conversation. "LIGHTNING, this is Battlestar Actual. Please advise your condition. Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine, CAG. I'm okay. The plane took a hit, though. Left engine's gone."

"Can you hold course and altitude?"

"Yeah, I think so. Fuel tanks look intact, right engine is nominal. Controls limited but functional. Navigation's dead, but I'll just follow BANZAI, unless something else falls off."

"LIGHTNING, if you can't make it, bail out in a safe zone, and we'll send SAR."

"Sir, I can do it."

"Okay, then. Come on home, son."

It took almost an hour to get back to GW. LIGHTNING's Hornet flew like a drunken pig, and he had to adjust for course and trim constantly. BANZAI was ordered to land first, so that he would not be stranded airborne if something happened. The deck was cleared for LIGHTNING, and the emergency barrier erected.



On final approach, the damaged Hornet was struggling badly on one engine and half its controls gone. It smashed hard onto the deck, missing the arresting wires and finally catching on four. The forward landing gear collapsed, and the thirty-million-dollar strike fighter skidded across the deck in a crest of sparks, before stopping at the barrier. Instantly, deck crews in fire-fighting gear bravely smothered the smoking Hornet with foam.

As CAG watched from Vulture's Row, the canopy of the Hornet opened under reserve power, and LIGHTNING clambered out, helped by the deck crew. That was too close, CAG thought. What he didn't know yet was that his day was going to get worse... much worse.

Quote:
When I began writing, I had no idea that Mission 07 would end up running long. After cutting parts out and editing as judiciously as I could, it was still twice as long as each of the previous installments. It turned out to be more of a character-driven story about LIGHTNING, than the mission itself. Rather than damage the narrative further with more cuts, I decided to split this into two parts.

The observant reader may have noticed that I ran the Secondary Mission first. This was because Primary and Secondary missions are considered to occur simultaneously in game terms, so it doesn't matter which one runs first as long as both are completed before applying the post-mission effects; and also because I wanted to save the big mission as the finale to the campaign, not realizing that a "small" mission with two Hornets would have more than its fair share of drama.

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Brian
United States
Michigan
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Aw, crap; gonna be sore in the morning...
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thumbsup Enough tension to catch a 4 wire on, nicely done. More well-earned gold for the effort.
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