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(Part 10) M31: First Blood
Posted By: Wes Foutch<hockey0935@yahoo.com>
Date: 29 July 2003, 3:15 PM

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"Orbit is stabilized," Lt. Warren stated. The Santa Maria was in a tight orbit around the planet's smaller moon. Hopefully, they would be able to hide and send in scout ships.

"Have we been detected?" Russ asked.

"Unknown," Tel replied. "But at the moment, I don't believe so."

"Good. Launch the Eagles and the Melee squadron," the Captain ordered.

"Yes, Captain." Tel appeared outside Rat's station. "You're up. The Captain wants four Eagles to go in, along with a full Melee squadron."

"Thanks, Tel." He walked briskly to the Hanger and signaled for his squadron to be there in five minutes. The Hanger was a very spacious room, filled with 70mm ammunition crates for the Eagle Dropships and Melee fighters. Along the walls were labeled lockers containing flight suits and personal belongings. In the middle, lined in rows, were sixty triangular shaped Melee fighters, four squadrons. The fighters had no wings, the whole thing pretty much served as a wing. The cockpit was centered on the rear of the craft, and on either side were large triangular stabilizers protruding upward.

Lining back were fifteen Eagle Dropships. The Eagles were very large, with short stubby wings protruding for the middle. The nose was aimed downward at a 45-degree angle, which opened to let vehicles roll out. The back had an airtight hatch, for the troops to enter and exit, along with a rear-mounted plasma cannon. On the nose of the aircraft was a 70mm chin gun, for defensive purposes.
As soon as they were assembled Richard addressed his pilots. "You have been updated on the situation. The Captain wants our squadron to go in, along with four Eagle Dropships. Let's move, we'll be there within the half-hour."

With a chorus of, "Sir! Yes, sir!" the pilots jogged to their Melee fighters and hit the ignition. The Hanger was filled with a thunderous roar, and the fighters rose simultaneously into the air. Seconds later, sixty Marines were loaded into the four Eagles, and they too thundered to life. By now, the steady roar was so intense that anyone standing in the Hanger would be at a hearing loss.

"Hit it," Senior Airman Richard A. Turner said over the radio.

"Aye, aye, Rat," another said. The four Eagles took off, followed by the Melee squadron. It was a rather uneventful flight, but they arrived at the planet within fifteen minutes. Although they could have been there faster, they chose to take it slow, taking the time to make scans and observations.

"Power shields to one hundred percent," Rat said to the on board A.I.

"Shields at sixty percent," the A.I. replied. "Eighty percent...ninety percent...one hundred percent. Engine power at fifty percent."

"Entering atmosphere in five," Rat said over the comm channel. Five seconds later, his Melee fighter began to shake violently. Through the view port he could see a red-orange glow as the fighter took stress from the extreme heat. "And...we're through. Scan for safe places to unload the Marines," he said to the A.I.

"Approximately twenty point seven two kilometers south is a safe area," the computer replied.

"You heard her," he said. The squadron turned south and put engines at one hundred percent. "Keep your eyes open," he cautioned. About thirty seconds later someone saw something.

"Sir, I've detected an aircraft on an intercept course. At current speed he'll overtake us in thirty seconds," a pilot alerted.

Without hesitation Rat replied, "Activate cloaking shields, and hover at fifty feet." Within seconds the entire fleet was completely invisible, due to a recent development. Basically, the atoms of the aircraft modeled the light, colors, and textures of what was behind it. It didn't make the craft, or person (the technology was incorporated into gear for troops), completely invisible; it was more like a shimmer in the air. But, as in this case, the aircraft would be traveling fast and not looking to closely; the pilot was likely to miss the squadron.

"Here it comes," someone said. The black aircraft flew overhead, missing them entirely. "That was close."

"Yes, it was. Now let's get to that clearing so we can deliver the Marines," Rat said. Twenty seconds later they were airborne and heading for the destination.

"Hit it, Marines! Go, go, go!" The four Eagles were hovering half of a meter off the ground. Fifteen Marines exited from each bird, weapons at ready. As soon as they exited, Sergeant Major Turk Keller looked around. "It's just like home," he said. They were in a clearing, surrounded by trees that closely resembled white pine. After a few minutes of scouting, the Marines took off into the dark forest; they were heading for a hill they had seen. On top of that hill was some sort of structure. T.K. figured it would be a good place to scout the land. But they would find something unexpected there: a force to be reckoned with.