The Loki Must Die

By John A. Gilmore




"SKREE! SKREE!"

"THUMP!"

"SKREE!"

"KABOOM!" the collision warning system and the hull of her tiny gun ship screamed at Lieutenant Florida Tafoya as pieces of Red Leaderís gunship bounced off her fuselage. The Piscean Death Ray left nothing of Red Flight larger than a basketball. Her own Blue Flight was about three seconds behind the ill fated Red Flight and on the same flight path.

"Daddy," Floridaís voice trembled as she called to the spirit of her dead father, "you said youíd always be with me. Please be with me now and if you can, put in a good word for me with the big guy too."

The Human Equivalent Integrated Digital Image (HEIDI), materialized as a human face in Floridaís head-up display. "Temperamental till they respect you," the Techie had told her about HEIDI when she first got her ship. Six months later HEIDI was still moody. "Do you realize," she chided Florida, "how many of these objects are capable of breaching the integrity of our ship?"

"No!" Florida snapped at the image, wondering if it would ever respect her, "and I donít want to know so donít tell me." HEIDI smiled beatifically.

*

The Techies called the new Piscean weapon a sub-molecular disrupter. The Pilots had taken to calling it the Fish Death Ray. The Techies said it broke the bond between atoms and caused any compound connected to a power source and caught in the disrupter to dissolve. The Pilots said it looked like some kind of sickly green virus that ate its way to the atomic reactors powering their ships.

What ever it was called and what ever anyone said about what it did, words failed to capture itís power. It had to be experienced. It seemed like a simple beam of green light. But when any part of a victim ship was "lit up" for more than two seconds, the beam did seem to infect the ship with something, a virus that devoured everything, everything in itís path as it sought the nuclear engines. A few lucky pilots punched out before their engines cooked off. Some just transmogrified with their ships. The truly unfortunate were trapped between that malignant weapon and their engines.

Not that the Fish cared. They claimed they were human but what kind of human mind could conceive of, much less use a weapon like that.

*

She crossed herself with the wrong hand, afraid to let go of her joystick. "Thank you God for protecting me from that wicked death ray."

"KABOOM!" another piece of Red Flight bounced off her canopy. "Oh yeah!" she added hurriedly, "and Lord, if are you still listening, thank you for keeping this debris from poking a big hole in my ship!"

"You might consider action as opposed to prayer," HEIDI suggested scornfully. Florida was too busy to notice. The enemy battle carrier loomed massively in front of her.

*

"There she is gentlemen," Major Kirby commented about the three dimensional projection of the massive Piscean battle carrier as it hung above the pilots gathered in the briefing chamber. "Sheís obviously a battle carrier but please note the new class designation created especially for her; Hercules Class. The Fish call her the Loki and sheís a big one, perhaps one tenth the mass of Earthís moon." A murmur of awe swept through the gathered pilots. "Thatís right. She broke through at Mantari and has been grinding up everything in her path as she makes a dash toward Earth." Now worry crept through the pilots. "I guess the only good thing is that weíve managed to wipe out most of her fighter escort over the thousands of par secs between Mantari and Earth. But she is coming Gentlemen. Make no mistake about that. And there will be Hell to pay stopping her."

*

"Blue Flight; begin D-3 prep now." Kirbyís voice boomed over the net. As if Major Kirby needed the net. The joke around the squadron was that the Major could make himself heard across a vacuum.

"D-3 Tafoya!" the Major goaded. Florida had been gathering wool.

"Too slow!" she mentally kicked herself in the butt. Even that took almost too long for the rest of her skin. "Dee three," she racked her brain but couldnít remember what it meant. "Dee three, dee three! Oh my God!" Her mind froze up.

"Dee three? What ..." Florida muttered. She slapped her hands on her helmet as she tried to knock the answer out of her brain.

"Itís one of several pre-planned attack options," HEIDI answered snobbishly.

"O. K., now which one?" She couldnít even remember to punch in D-3 on the key pad resting under her left hand and let HEIDI do the rest.

. "Tafoya! Get your head out of your butt while you still have one!" Kirby screamed. Some detached part of her brain pondered whether Major Kirby meant while she still had a butt or a head, then concluded it didnít matter because she probably needed both to live any kind of normal life.

"I could do it for you if you are not capable," the smug pseudo person offered but there was something in HEIDIís voice that really rankled.

"I can do it myself," Florida retorted, more with hope than in truth.

"Tafoya!" Major Kirby screamed. Florida struck out at the key pad randomly. A cloud of chaff engulfed Blue Flight. One ship was put out of service as chaff clogged its gun ports.

"TAFOYA!" Florida could almost feel his spittle splatter on her face.

"Oh! Too much," she squealed. "I canít do this."

"If you are incapable of simple tasks like flying the craft," HEIDI interjected smugly, "you may turn that function over to me."

"Oh, shut up!" Florida Tafoya snapped. HEIDI looked miffed as her virtual lips snapped closed.

"A-r-r-r-g," Florida growled in frustration and reached out tentatively toward her key pad. "I think it was ... "

"If you don ... ," Major Kirby began. Just then another enemy EMP, electro-magnetic pulse device, popped off, terminating all radio traffic and Kirbyís voice. The ships were battle hardened to keep them from being frazzled but communications were disrupted. Even HEIDI had to leave visual mode. Till the pulse faded, every one was on his or her own. That included Florida Tafoya who had to do something quickly or else.

In the end she didnít fall back on meticulous training. She couldnít rely on pre-planned tactics. She didnít bank on native talent. She didnít even just trust her gut instinct. When it got right down to doing or being done to, her decision was made by the seat of her pants, or rather the painful rash sheíd picked up on her hind end from a toilet seat back at homeport.

*

"WHAT?" Major Kirby barked loudly enough for the entire flight bay to hear. Many turned and Tafoyaís normally honey beige complexion darkened as blood rushed to her face. Heat radiated off her head and neck. "Youíve got a what!?"

"Iíve got a rash and ..."

"Youíve got a rash?" he cut Florida off before she could explain. More turned to listen.

"Well ...," she grimaced, whispering, vainly hoping that Major Kirby would take it down a notch or two, "yes sir, itís kind of embarrassing and ..."

"YOUíVE GOT A RASH!" he bellowed. Everything on the deck stopped. Even those who had been pretending not to pay attention, turned to watch now. Tafoya froze. "Yes sir," she whispered, choking back the details.

"Right this minute the Loki is charging toward Earth and chewing up everything in itís path. You, me and a few other pilots are all than stands between the Fish and Home. The whole Confederacy hangs in the balance. But wait a minute, Lieutenant Florida Tafoya has come down with a rash? Well maybe we just ought to call the Fish and ask if theyíll wait a couple of weeks until you rash clears up." The major got real close and very quite. Florida discovered his brand of tooth paste. She could even see every tiny red blood vessel in the white of his eye as he cocked the right side of his face down toward hers. Florida didnít dare blink. "What do you think Lieutenant Tafoya? Would that be a good idea?" Major Kirby hissed. Florida didnít even try to answer, she just wished for a hole to crawl in and pull closed behind her.

"Get in your craft Mister Tafoya!" he boomed, pivoted in disgust and marched off toward Ops.

*

D-3 required Floridaís squadron to deke up then dive under the belly of the enemy battle carrier. Despite the gee box, this maneuver placed tremendous "positive" gees on the pilots. After all, the gee box could tease, cajole and trick the laws of physics, but good as this clever little gadget was, it could not break those laws. So even with the fabulous modern design capabilities, even with the ancient technologies of gee suit and seat padding, Florida Tafoyaís posterior anticipated pain and squirmed. Florida continued up and over the hardened deck of the enemy battle carrier, unconsciously preferring to suffer through the "negative" gees sheíd feel in her shoulder straps. "Do you have the slightest idea what you are doing?" the disembodied voice of HEIDI offered snidely. Florida ignored her.

The rest of her flight executed D-3 flawlessly. Unfortunately, enemy fire control anticipated their move just as flawlessly. They didnít need radar lock. Most of Blue Flight darted under the mine field strategically placed to force them directly into the wash of green light from the deadly new weapon. They dispersed chaff but two seconds later every gunship of that part Blue Flight burst like microwave popcorn. Several craft had dodged out of the lethal weaponís eerie green light into the mine field. A few, a very few, actually escaped that way.

Now on the opposite side of the Loki from what was left of Blue Flight, Florida fought her instincts and squirmed to plant her fragile derriere more securely into her seat. "The enemy have locked fire control radar on this ship," HEIDI warned. Florida unwittingly shoved the joystick forward as she tried to use it as leverage. Her harness cut deeply into her shoulders as her gunship darted down toward the Loki. "Padre!" Florida screamed as the enemy deck charged at her face. She yanked back, over correcting. Even HEIDI joined the screaming as the gunship was hurled into a series of random moves and counter moves. Florida clutched the stick as inertia jerked her all over the interior of the craft. The nimble fighter responded by whipping up and down, left and right, sluing one way, pitching another. She roared into a snap roll. She lost track of everything. "Where the hell is up?" she muttered, hoping the spirit of her father would forgive the mild oath.

Her heads up display showed unintelligible lines and dots. Even HEIDI was speechless. As she searched for the artificial horizon she also began to tumble. The gee box was tested beyond any engineerís conception. Lieutenant Florida Tafoya was thrown all over the sky. It was the best thing that could have happened to her because, fortuitously, she presented such an erratic target no gunner or even automatic tracking program could lock onto her.

As Florida tumbled, screaming through the heavens, she didnít even notice her thumb depressing the fire and defense control buttons. She launched several missiles at various trajectories, one in the general direction of an enemy fighter but most harmlessly into open space. She also accidentally strafed but did little mischief to the hardened deck of the Loki although several Piscean flight crews dove for cover.

In her own mad attempt to regain control one of her armament fins smashed heavily into an anti-fighter battery as the tiny craft screamed across the massive enemy deck, eliminating the battery and its crew from that or any other battle. The resultant bump shoved one of her retro-rockets deep into her fuselage and changed her tumble so that the exhaust cone of her main thruster crushed against the enemy ship, mangling it badly. Before the nuclear hot exhaust burned away the cone, its deflected stream launched her on a crazy path into space "above" the Loki, beyond the attention of enemy gunners, and into history.

*

From his position far to the starboard side of the Loki, Major Kirby saw most of Florida Tafoyaís astonishing flight. When he saw her bounce away, he was amazed she was still intact. "Thank you!" he whispered a prayer of thanks, nearly overwhelmed at how deeply he meant what he whispered.

He had used the brief moments of her insane attack to gather the few remaining gunships of Blue Flight for one last desperate run at the Loki. If this one failed, there was literally nothing left between her and Earth. Kirby changed the angle of assault. The remains of Blue Flight swept in from the stern of the massive enemy battle carrier then split to both the starboard and port sides strafing, bombing and releasing missiles as they went. Piscean intelligence had created an extremely accurate psychological profile of the Major. Again, enemy fire control anticipated Kirby.

The craft that had gone to the port side, ran into the horrible death ray again. Kirby and Tafoya heard the survivors scream. Kirbyís group was only slightly more lucky. The gunship to his right took a heat seeking missile up the exhaust and burst into deadly shrapnel, destroying one of the two remaining gunships to itsí right and ripping Kirbyís right wing off. The lone remaining gunship continued to press the attack but Kirby couldnít watch. He had more immediate concerns at that particular moment.

Losing the wing, of course ruined the integrity of the cockpit. His atmosphere blew out into the vacuum of space, but also snuffed out an infant fire directly behind him. Damping rod controls damaged, within milliseconds the atomic pile went to super critical. Faster than the human mind could comprehend, the HEIDI in Kirbyís ship sensed the danger as bursts of neutrons began to tear through cockpit and pilot. She blew him a kiss as she launched him free just before meltdown. Through he would have to fight eruptions of cancer the rest of his life, he was alive.

*

Finally stable but adrift above the Loki, Florida saw Captain Kirbyís gunship come apart, then explode.

"What do we do now?" the reconstituted HEIDI asked, even the pseudo humanís digital contempt for her pilot was muted by recent events. Florida didnít have a clue. As far as she could tell, Major Kirby was dead. All her friends in Blue Flight were dead. The Loki came about below her, pointing her massive prow toward Earth, but also toward everything that meant anything to Florida; her mother, her brothers, her big sister Imelda, Imeldaís husband Carlos; even her God son, Imeldaís little boy Javier. Javier, with dimples so cute he could break hearts. Not Javier!

And nothing could stop the Loki; not Red Flight or Blue Flight, not the genuine certified war hero Major Kirby, not all the armed forces of the Confederation of Planets. What could she do? Suddenly, she was too depressed to be frustrated. Her soul was an abyss and darkness filled that abyss. The Loki seemed to mock her as it turned its back on her and lumbered toward Earth.

"Padre, what am I to do?"

"Was that question directed toward me?" HEIDI queried.

"Hush," Florida whispered. Snap shots of her life tumbled free fall through her mind:

*

"Iíll always be there." Her dying fatherís last promise. Heíd meant it. His grip on her arm and on her life remained firm even as his eyes closed. She had never cried so hard. She wished she could curl up on his lap now.

*

"Thatís Flor i da!" she exploded. She got into Major Kirbyís face on that first day at Chesty Puller Field and punctuated her remark by tipping her forehead in toward his chin. She glared up at him through her eyebrows. "Floor-EYE-duh. ĎFloorí, as in where youíll soon be sitting when I knock you on your butt; Ďeyeí as in where I will punch you to put you on your butt; and Ďduhí, as in what you will have to say about it if you ever call me that again. Do I make myself clear?"

*

"Oh, Iím so sorry," Florida covered her embarrassed laugh with her parted fingers, "Iíll clean that up." Her God son, Javier had just spit up on Father Frankís robe. The entire church had seen and started to laugh. "No problem," Father Frank smiled and tickled Javier under the chin. "Happens more often than you might think."

*

An eerie calm descended upon First Lieutenant Florida Maria Tafoya. A cold, hard flame kindled in her heart. "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," she blessed herself out loud, then added, "Lord, forgive me for what I am about to do."

"The Fish must die," she swore to herself, then demanded of HEIDI, "Recommendations."

"May I ask your course of action?" HEIDI queried.

"I intend to destroy that enemy battle carrier below us. Is there any fatal weakness I can attack?"

"Fatal? No," HEIDI answered flatly.

"What if I rammed her?"

"You realize ..."

"Yes," Florida interrupted quietly. The Loki moved away. "Please hurry. I donít have much time."

"I see," HEIDI stated, sensing the new resolve in her pilot. "Unfortunately, by ourselves we canít destroy or even cripple the Loki." Florida notice that HEIDI used the word "we". She smiled grimly. "Took you long enough," she thought.

"Even if we use our engine as a nuclear bomb?"

"Even so," HEIDI answered.

"Well, itís going to take a miracle"

"Even so," HEIDI repeated.

"Even so," Florida said as she punched the throttle of her tiny ship, "letís see just how much damage we can cause. Gee box, do your stuff." She threw her ship into a hard left bank, rolled and dove at the Loki. The acceleration plus turn were almost too much, she nearly blacked out. "The Fish Must Die!" she screamed as she fought back up through the blackness.

"Several enemy radar units have locked on us," HEIDI informed Florida.

"Weíve got to get close," Florida said aloud to herself. HEIDI took no offense. She like what she saw now in her pilot. "Took you long enough," HEIDI thought.

"First, I would recommend chaff," she offered her pilot.

Florida leaned forward and punched the appropriate key. Nothing happened. She tried again, ... and again, ... and again.

"The chaff has failed to deploy," HEIDI reported. "I suspect it was damaged during your first run at the Loki. Keep trying." Florida continued to punch for chaff but started some evasive maneuvers as well. Suddenly, a massive cloud of chaff deployed around her, cutting her vision. But the radar warning tone dropped a half octave to let her know the Lokiís radar had lost lock. It was still searching to reacquire her but now she had a little room.

Florida flinched. Chaff scattered frantically as an enemy missile blew by. "Some smart gunner decided to take a shot," Florida speculated.

"He must be speculating about our position. He will probably do a proximity detonation," HEIDI informed Florida.

"That means Ö," Florida thought. Abruptly, she shoved the stick forward. Sure enough, the concussion of the blast smacked her hard, shoving her forward with appalling velocity. The walls of her ship seemed to tremble in terror and gave off a horrible low pitched moan. The Techies would have told her it was just the harmonics of her ship, but she couldnít help feeling the valiant little craft was actually in pain.

She burst out of the chaff cloud. The Loki loomed. Instinctively, Florida tugged on the joystick to avoid smashing into its deck. Enemy radar instantly reacquired. Florida could admire the beauty as Lokiís deck erupted into hundreds of flashes, each brilliant flame a missile or other projectile launched with one purpose; return Florida Tafoya to the star dust from which she had been made. As if that wasnít enough, the cockpit suddenly turned Frankenstein green. She had just been "lit up" by the Piscean Death Ray. Things looked pretty grim.

But looks could be deceiving. At some very impressive fraction of the speed of light, she flashed past most of the protective flak from the Loki before it could close in on her. Her rear visual display showed countless harmless explosions recreate perdition behind her as good gunners miscalculated her velocity. She mentally murmured one "Hail Mary" as the trajectory of her craft leveled out mere meters above to cold metal skin of the enemy battle carrier.

Florida screamed along the deck of the Loki. Most enemy gunners couldnít even obtain a firing resolution on her. At her relative speed, she swept up to them and disappeared over the Lokiís horizon before all but the best gunners could even draw a bead. Those that could, the best, would pull the trigger, only to have their weapon fail to fire or watch helplessly as their ordinance sailed harmless past Florida, frustrated by their own automatic systems.

"Whatís going on?" Florida wondered in awe as scores of deadly devices sailed by her with disdain.

"I believe," HEIDI speculated, "we may have found the Achilles heel of the Loki. The automatic fail-safe devices on her defense systems wonít allow her weapons to fire or explode near the spacecraft of origin. If we are able to maintain this relative altitude, we may actually be beneath enemy defenses. That is, except for two possibilities I can anticipate."

"Those being?" Florida asked, almost nonchalantly strafing and firing her own missiles as the Loki roared by just outside her canopy.

"Well, Lieutenant," HEIDI chose a more formal, more respectful form of address, "at our current velocity, we could destroy ourselves by colliding with almost anything." Indeed, Floridaís biggest current challenge was dodging all the debris and unexploded ordinance in her flight path.

"And the other?"

"The Lokiís gunners might reprogram to over ride their fail-safe devices."

"They might risk doing damage to themselves just to get me?"

"They might."

"Why," Florida said, "I am flattered."

"You should be proud to have come this far, Lieutenant," HEIDI said.

"HEIDI?" Florida queried as an idea germinated in her head.

"Yes, Lieutenant."

"Do you have any idea how high I can get before they can shoot me down?"

"Statistics gathered from HEIDIís on other craft would seem to indicate that we have an operational ceiling of two hundred meters. Why do you ask, Lieutenant?"

"I see. Do you have any statistics on this Death Ray?"

"By ĎDeath Ray" I presume you mean the Piscean sub-molecular disrupter, in which case I have a plethora of data. There appear to be seventeen gun ports on the Loki with the ability to fire the disrupter. Of those, using the identification system created by Major Kirbyís HEIDI before she expired ..."

"Thatís enough," Florida stopped her, the abrupt reminder of the cost of this mission was suddenly too much to handle.

"I am sorry if I disturbed you, Lieutenant," HEIDI apologized.

"Thatís all right, HEIDI. Itís not your fault." said Florida, as she regathered her composure, renewing her vow to make the Fish pay. "I just need to know where their best Death Ray gunner is. Can you do that for me?"

"Yes, Lieutenant Tafoya. That would be 117.587 kilometers away on a bearing of forty seven point twenty seven degrees. If you like, I can lay in a course."

"Yes, HEIDI, I would like that. And can you tell whether he has a favorite side."

"I beg your pardon."

"Can you tell me if he favors shooting to his left or right."

"Interesting," HEIDI mused. "No one has ever asked me for that information before."

"Just a little something my Dad taught me about skeet shooting. Can you tell?"

"As a matter of fact, yes," said HEIDI, "How intriguing. He seems much more accurate when shooting to his right."

"Thank you."

"Commencing new course now. Estimated arrival time in two minutes, thirty six seconds. But why do we want to attack their best gunner?"

"Itís a combination of something you said about how they might reconfigure to get around their fail safe system and something I know about men in general."

"Sounds interesting already. Letís go get them," HEIDI stated, almost bemused. Yes she was beginning to develop a real fondness for her pilot.

"Your destination is directly ahead," HEIDI said. Florida saw the gun port projecting from Lokiís deck. The disrupterís projector wand was already pointed toward them.

"Good. All right," she stated. "First, we give the Gunner a love tap." Florida let fly with a concussion round as she blew by beneath the gun port. The round was designed to temporarily blind the enemy and pound on their ships like a hammer. It was well designed and had the desired affect.

"Now we make real sure he got the message." Florida began darting around, spreading random destruction. The Death Ray projector wand tracked her constantly. She would pop up just beyond two hundred meters relative altitude, waggling her ship, taunting the Gunner. He would lock on and light her up. She kept careful eye on her timer and would drop back below two hundred meters just before two seconds elapsed. She could see the power fade from the projector wand as the fail-safe device kicked in. She could almost hear Piscean cursing coming from the gun port.

"O.K." Florida narrated her actions, "Now that weíve got his attention, we need to pour a little salt in the cut. HEIDI, can you open up a frequency to that Gunner?"

"Yes, Lieutenant. But I seriously doubt either of you speak the same language and even if you do ..."

"It doesnít matter HEIDI," Florida interrupted gently. "I just want him to hear my voice. I want him to know a woman did this to him. You said heís the best gunner on the Loki and unless I miss my guess heís going to be a little peeved that a woman is taunting him."

"Oh, yes indeed Lieutenant." There was a smile in HEIDIís voice. She almost certain now that she liked this pilot. "That is if the Gunner is a man," she speculated.

"I doubt if Piscean society is much more progressive than our own," said Florida.

"Less by most reputable accounts," HEIDI offered in support.

"And if they are more progressive, more power to them. Anyway," Florida said, "Itís a risk Iím willing to take. No harm done if Iím wrong." But she wasnít wrong.

"Channel open," said HEIDI.

"Hey Fish Boy!" she chided as she continued to strafe. No response. "Here, fishy, fishy, fishy" Still no response. "I hear youíre the best. Still not good enough to beat a girl though, are you?" All the while, she strafed and bombed, jumped over the two hundred meter line, waited for the Gunner to light her up, then drop back down, cutting off his power flow. After a few cycles of this routine, the Gunner stopped trying to light her up but continued to track her.

"Heís not taking the bait anymore," Florida told HEIDI.

"It would seem not. He apparently doesnít speak the same language as you. Perhaps if you took a different tact?"

"Aw! This is boring," Florida teased as she launched another concussion round at the gun port. "I going to go find a real man, someone with testicles. This Fish has probably been neutered." The Gunner instantly lit her up, desperately trying to get off a shot. Florida barely made it below the two hundred meter line before the clock expired.

"Whew," she managed to exhale. "That was close."

"That would appear to have done the trick, Lieutenant, and it is quite clear he does understand what you are saying." Florida dashed around as if she was possessed; bombing, strafing, waggling, taunting. The Gunner tracked her helplessly, desperately. She let another concussion round fly at the gun port. The explosion seemed to knock the Gunner out of commission.

"Uh, oh!" said Florida. "I hope we didnít go too far."

"I donít believe so Lieutenant," said HEIDI. "This would be an excellent time for a clever gunner to feign injury and lull a woman into a false sense of security while he reconfigures his weapon to by pass the fail-safe devices."

"I think you are right," said Florida. "Get ready, HEIDI. This is what we have been waiting for."

"It is Lieutenant?"

"Yes," said Florida. She pretended to be taken in by the ruse and hovered below the gun port, the nose of her craft pointed directly at the projection wand of the Death Ray. She itched. She could feel his cross hairs on her skin, lining her up in his sight, like some great hunter anxious not to spook her away before he was ready to pull the trigger.

Her hand anxiously twitching on the throttle, Florida knew the Gunner must be licking his lips, anticipating the kill. She was counting on that. "Open that channel again," she ordered HEIDI. "And start the timer the instant I move."

"Aye, aye, Lieutenant," HEIDI replied. Florida sat silently, listening to the static of the open channel, waiting for him to make his move.

When it came, he was almost too quick for her. If she hadnít already been on needles and pins, she might have reacted too late. The gun port burst to life. She jerked the stick hard to starboard. The laser guidance beam burned by her left ear. She punched her throttle hard as she accelerated to the Gunnerís left, his weaker side. It was the slimmest of advantages but it was just enough. The Gunner chased her with the Death Ray as she flew an almost perfect circle around the gun port, dashing just ahead of, agonizing close to the Death Ray.

HEIDI noticed Floridaís eyes were glued to the timer read out. At the speed of light, not wishing to disturb, she pondered the meaning of her pilotís actions. The only thing she could think of that was so dependent on time was ... "The Death Ray!" she said out loud. She realized Floridaís plan two seconds before The Gunner, who was one second too late for his own good.

*

The Gunner cut off the beam immediately when he saw the virus stage begin to take a bite out of the deck of the Loki. But he knew better than any one the enormity of his error. He watched helplessly as the virus rapidly spread, devouring everything, searching for the enormous nuclear engines of the massive enemy battle carrier.

*

"Did two seconds ever take so long,?" Florida asked HEIDI.

"Two seconds always takes the same amount of time to elapse."

"Never mind HEIDI," Florida interrupted. "We better just get the Hell out of here. Things are going to get real crazy, real soon. I hope the Fish are too busy with their own problems to pay much attention to us." Florida Tafoya pushed the throttle to maximum one last time and pointed her gunship straight up.

"Aye, aye," HEIDI answered, paused, then added on a whim, if pseudo humans are capable of whim, "Florida."

The End


© 1999 by John A. Gilmore

Bio:I am quite young for a father of nine (yes nine). I always had a dream to write but never the time. Finally, about a year and a half ago I decided I'd better stop wishing and make time before I ran out of it. I started to learn about computers by writing stories like this one. I hope I've learned a little about both.

E-mail: John.Gilmore@tsjc.cccoes.edu


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