The wire-frame silhouette of the Falcon Interceptor appeared on the transparent screen of Lieutenant Green’s SpectraNet console.
With a glance at the screen and a tap on the comms switch, she said, “Skybase to Symphony Angel – I have you on final approach. Welcome back.”
There was no response. Green frowned.
“Symphony, do you read me?”
Once again, there was nothing but silence.
“A problem, Lieutenant?” Colonel White asked as he strolled over to the console.
“It’s Symphony, Sir. She’s on final approach, but hasn’t requested landing clearance or replied to my signals.”
“Perhaps her radio’s failed.”
“Maybe,” Green replied doubtfully, “But that doesn’t explain her flight path. Look – she’s much too high.”
White’s eyes narrowed, “You’re right.”
Crossing to his desk, the Colonel picked up a pair of high-powered electro-binoculars and trained them out of the panoramic observation window. Zooming in, he could just make out the sleek white shape of the Falcon as it closed in on the floating base.
“I don’t like it, Lieutenant. Something’s wrong.”
Without warning, the Falcon suddenly pitched down into a steep dive, screaming towards the flight deck. In an instant, a pair of deadly missiles streaked towards base, exploding almost simultaneously.
Automatic bulkheads slid into place below deck to prevent a loss of atmosphere as the warning sirens blared their frantic tone.
Colonel White spun to Lieutenant Green, “Sound action stations! Launch the Angels, on the double!”
“Yes, Sir!” Green replied, her mind racing at what had just happened, “Spectrum is Red! All personnel assume action stations. Angels immediate launch, repeat – immediate launch!”
“Flight deck to control – Runway 1 is non-operational, re-routing Angels to Runway 2!”
“Acknowledged, flight deck,” Green responded, “That’s going to slow them down, Colonel.”
“And Runway 2 will be Symphony’s next target. There can be no doubt that the Mysterons have her now.”
The pair watched as Destiny’s Falcon rose up from the bowels of the carrier and blasted off the deck at breakneck speed.
“Destiny to control, airborne. Permission to engage?”
“Granted!” White replied in a clipped tone. He felt a momentary sense of pride that Destiny was carrying out her duty in incredibly difficult circumstances.
But then, he reasoned that Destiny must know that Symphony, the real Symphony, was already dead and that whatever Destiny was about to engage in combat was nothing more than a sinister facsimile.
Destiny’s Falcon tore through the air, creeping around behind the Mysteronised aircraft.
There was a reassuring tone as her weapons locked onto it and she felt a brief shudder as the pair of missiles rushed toward their target.
At the last second, she saw the flashes of the rear auto-cannons on the other plane blaze into life, tracking and destroying Destiny’s missiles one by one.
The Mysteron craft launched a pair of missiles of its own, but not at Destiny. Instead, they smashed into the flight deck, damaging Runway 2 just as Harmony’s Falcon got clear.
Colonel White’s voice broke in over the radio, “Skybase to Destiny and Harmony Angels. Runway 2 is non-operational. You’re going to have to destroy that craft without additional air support.”
“Understood, Sir,” Destiny replied, “Destiny to Harmony, set your attack system for multiple launch.”
“SIG!” Harmony replied, taking station on Destiny’s wing.
The Mysteronised Falcon seemed to be ignoring the two Spectrum interceptors. Instead of turning to engage them, it began to dive towards Skybase once again.
“It’s going for the starboard engines!” Destiny called, “Launch now!”
The pair of Spectrum craft launched a cluster of 12 missiles in rapid succession.
A hail of fire erupted from the auto-cannons on the Mysteronised Falcon, swatting seven of the missiles out of the air in quick succession, but no matter how much it twisted and turned, it wasn’t agile enough to avoid the rest.
The missiles found their mark and blew the Mysteron aircraft out of the sky.
“Destiny to Skybase, confirming enemy destroyed.”
“SIG, Destiny,” Lieutenant Green replied with relief, “You are clear to return to Skybase. Use the VTOL recovery system on Runway 3.”
“That would appear to be that,” Colonel White said, clasping his hands behind his back as he stared out of the view-port at the clear blue sky.
“Yes, Sir,” Green replied quietly.
In the silence that followed, something caught Lieutenant Green’s eye. A single white light was flashing on her console.
“Colonel! I’m getting a signal,” she exclaimed excitedly, “It’s weak, and there’s no audio, but it’s Symphony’s emergency beacon!”
“You mean the Mysteron replicant survived that?” he asked incredulously, gesturing outside.
“No, Colonel, the signal is from much further away. It reads as sea-level, and it’s along Symphony’s return flight path.”
“Then it’s just possible that Symphony is still alive. Perhaps the Mysterons only destroyed her Falcon. Lieutenant Green, get Doctor Gold on board an Albatross and down to the source of that signal. There’s not a moment to lose!”
Colonel White gazed out of the view-port once again, his mind already turning over the events of the last half hour. The damage to Skybase would be repaired, but the attack had demonstrated that the base was far from invulnerable.
The war of nerves would continue and the Colonel was all too aware that no one could predict how the next move in the deadly game would unfold…