Omega Force Soldiers of Fortune Online - Joshua Dalzelle

Chapter 1

High in the upper atmosphere of Corran, a world under political quarantine, white hot plasma streamers heralded the arrival of an enormous intersystem cargo freighter that was beginning its attempt at making landfall. The ship was never designed for this, and there was no guarantee it was even going to work. During the subduing of Corran all the orbital platforms with tethers capable of ferrying cargo to and from the surface had been destroyed, so in order to get critical supplies planetside during the subsequent negotiations radical steps had to be taken. One of these steps was to try and land massive cargo ships laden with medical supplies, food, and infrastructure equipment.

Now past the point of no return, the ship was engulfed in superheated gasses as it slammed into the planet’s mesosphere, its thrusters and gravimetric drives howling in protest as they worked to slow the ship’s descent. The sensors from tracking stations on the ground were blinded as the thermal signature of the ship climbed several thousand degrees and the ablative thermal shielding began to slough off in the slipstream… and this was exactly what the six beings aboard the comparatively tiny Jepsen Aero DL7 gunship were counting on.

The Phoenix was tucked up between the aft drive pods of the plummeting freighter, fighting to maintain position in the violent turbulence created by the atmosphere breaking around the irregularly shaped hull of the larger ship. The pilot of the gunship, Captain Jason Burke, struggled mightily at the controls without the aid of the ship's grav-drive to keep it under control. In fact, all the grav generators were powered down (including deck plating) to minimize their chances of being detected by one of the picket ships in orbit.

“Stop fighting her!” Kage shouted from the copilot seat. “Just keep your control inputs smooth and let the computer worry about keeping the interval between us and the freighter.”

“Do you want to do this?” Jason ground out between clenched teeth.

“Not even a little bit,” the smaller alien answered glibly.

“Then shut the hell up and let me do it,” Jason replied, sweat beading up on his forehead from both the temperature of the ship’s bridge and the stress of the situation. While his piloting had improved exponentially over the last year, trying to dead-stick the gunship down through the atmosphere while hiding up under a freighter that was nearly a kilometer long was taxing him. With the exception of Twingo, who was in the engineering bay, the rest of his crew were on the bridge and displaying varying degrees of the terror they felt as they watched through the forward canopy. Most of them wisely kept silent, afraid to distract their captain during the atmospheric entry as they bounced around in their restraints.

“It looks like it’s starting to shed the thermal blanket,” Kage said. The freighter had a woefully underpowered drive for what it was being asked to do so, in order to protect the ship during re-entry, the contractor had applied an auxiliary heat shield that was designed to burn away as it descended through the atmosphere. The ship’s de-orbit burn had it coming in over the Western Sea on a direct approach to Corran City Starport, so most of the larger chucks that were blasted off in the slipstream would fall harmlessly into the water.

“I see that,” Jason acknowledged. “Get ready for the rough part.” Crusher moaned mournfully at this, the hulking alien was not all that fond of flying to begin with. Running the ship through a violent storm of superheated gas while trying to manually maintain precise spacing with another ship, without the grav-plating of the deck active, was making him miserable. He sat at one of the bridge stations, maintaining a death-grip on the console in front of him. I guess Twingo will be repairing that later. Jason kept a sharp eye on the thick pieces of shielding that were peeling away from the freighter’s hull; he wanted to try to blend in with them, but also would prefer not to fly headlong into one.

“Now!”

Jason shoved the stick forward and the Phoenix pitched over sharply, falling away from the freighter. He fought to maintain control as the gunship bucked like a wild animal in the turbulent wake vortex left by the larger vessel’s passing. He ignored the curses and yelps from his crew and the litany of warnings from the computer as he concentrated on the largest piece of shielding he could find and chased it down into the atmosphere.