The barrage of alien weapon fire continued.
One of the airborne UFOs dived towards a sturdy support leg under the platform and let loose another salvo.
“They’ve taken out one of the main supports – we’re listing!” Ford called as the room began to tilt to one side.
Freeman hauled himself to the radio console, “Now hear this. This is Colonel Freeman. All personnel evacuate, repeat evacuate! That’s an order!”
He sounded the evacuation klaxon and then turned to Ford, “You too, Keith. Get out of here, there’s nothing more you can do.”
“What about you, Sir?” Ford replied, as a look of concern flashed across his face.
“I’m going to set the destruct timers and then head up to level 1 with an RPG. With luck I might be able to take out at least one more UFO, or at least stop them from making a successful landing. Whatever happens, they can’t be allowed to discover what we’ve been working on here.”
“With respect, Sir, I’m staying too.”
“There’s no time to argue.”
“I’m not arguing, Colonel, I’d like to help.”
There was a brief pause. Another direct hit shook the room again.
Freeman relented, “Alright. Get to the armoury and pick up the RPGs, I’ll set the timers.”
“Right, Sir!” Ford replied and hurried out, taking the 20-degree listing floor in his stride.
Freeman hit a button on the main control console.
A simulated voice crackled out of the speaker system, “Destruct System. Voice print authentication and destruct code required.”
“Voice print positive: Freeman, Alec E. Please give destruct code.”
“Zero Seven Foxtrot Four Two Two Eight Bravo Nine.”
“Code accepted. Destruct sequence initiated. Orca will destruct in ten minutes.”
Without a glance back at the countdown timer, Freeman ran for the door and made his way to the stairs.
The fire and smoke on the main deck of the platform was badly obscuring visibility. Freeman picked his way carefully across the wreckage to the point where Ford had set up the pair of RPGs.
“They’ll have to get pretty close for us to have a chance of seeing them in this lot, Colonel!” Ford called over the flames.
“That should make them easier to hit!” Freeman called back grimly.
There was a momentary lull in the sound of alien energy weapons and then, from somewhere behind them, the unmistakable whirring sound of a UFO closing in.
Both men swivelled their weapons towards the sound.
Then, the curtain of thick smoke on the opposite side of the deck was parted by the twirling shape of a UFO, which was spinning slowly towards the remains of the helipad.
Freeman and Ford didn’t hesitate. They fired almost simultaneously.
The twin projectiles struck the alien craft in its prone mid-section and sent it spiralling out of control back the way it had come. It clipped the edge of the deck with a crash, then spun the last few feet and plunged down into the sea.
The explosion rocked the platform and more heavy pieces of debris crashed around the two men.
As the pair began to reload for the next attack, another UFO zoomed into view.
Freeman, sighted the target and pulled the trigger, but the mechanism jammed and he let out a frustrated curse.
The UFO’s weapon projector was glowing brightly. It was about to fire.
Freeman braced himself for the end.
Then the UFO exploded in a spectacular fireball.
The wreckage smashed down onto the deck with a shattering crash.
Ford pointed excitedly to the sky, “Colonel! Look! They made it!”
Freeman craned his neck, following Ford’s gaze.
There they were, glinting in the sun, just visible above the billowing smoke – A squadron of five SHADO Kingfisher Mk.II VTOL attack aircraft.
Freeman’s walkie-talkie crackled into life, “Kilo One to Colonel Freeman – Come in, over!”
“Receiving you, K1!”
“Kilo Five is en route to evac you now. We’ll handle the rest of the UFOs!”
“What about Captain Waterman?” Freeman asked urgently, “We lost contact with Sky 1.”
“His radio has failed, but he’s still in the fight. Sky 1 and Sky 4 engaging UFOs as we speak. We’ll soon have them on the retreat!”
“Roger, Kilo One. Good luck!”
Seconds later, Freeman and Ford heard a loud characteristic thrumming as the armoured attack aircraft let loose with their powerful rotary cannons.
Several distant explosions were audible above the sound of Kilo Five’s rotors as the craft came in to land beside them on the listing deck.
The two men scrambled aboard and in seconds the aircraft lifted off again, wheeling around and heading away from the battle.
“We need to stay and help!” Freeman shouted over the noise of the engines.
“Negative, Sir,” the pilot replied, “Commander Straker’s orders. I’m to get you both back to HQ immediately.”
Far behind them, the ocean seemed to heave and foam as the destruct charges detonated, enveloping the remains of Orca in a ball of flame.
Freeman shook his head sullenly and looked at Ford, “So much for our routine inspection tour…”