The shimmering laser beam shot past the yellow-tipped nose of the Ultra Eagle, narrowly missing the large warship as Ollie maneuvered the craft away from the line of fire. His efforts were needed again a mere second later however, when another round of attacks came forth from the eyes of the worm-like Vorak mecha writhing in front of the ship.
“I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this!” Ollie reported, his voice clearly expressing the strain he was under. “Otto’s not much help with this kind of flying, and the Ultra Eagle’s already been damaged, so she isn’t responding as well as I would like!”
“We have to get out of here!” Kelly offered her astute observation. “We can’t destroy that thing yet, but we can’t take much more just sitting here, either!”
“But Hunter’s still down there!” Mickey cried, jumping up and out of his seat. “We can’t abandon him!”
“And because Hunter’s still aboard that damn mecha, we can’t destroy it, either.” Joe growled. “What the hell is he doing over there?” The Falcon turned his penetrating gaze in the Dove’s direction.
“We got to Data Center, and I retrieved the stolen files, just like Dr. Keane ordered us to do.” Kelly stated. “I set the last charge in the system, so it would be destroyed along with the mecha, and the Vorak wouldn’t be able to reconstruct their stolen information. Hunter and I were just about to leave when Mallanox appeared with a bunch of Vorak androids. Hunter left me to fight the androids while he went after Mallanox.”
“Just like him to run after Mallanox when he knows we’re all waiting for him!” Joe said angrily, slamming his fist down on the console. “He should have been the first one back, and instead he’s running off on some wild goose chase! He never catches Mallanox!”
“Well, to be technically correct, sometimes Hunter has caught Mallanox, but Mallanox has still managed to get away.” Kelly smiled slightly.
The Falcon’s only response was a disgusted snort.
“I need an answer, Joe!” Ollie shouted, a hint of desperation in his voice. “They’ve already clipped our wing!”
“I’m going to disable their weapons.” Joe declared, after only a fraction of a second’s hesitation. His finger moved toward the red button in the center of his control panel, and the glass cover retracted.
“No!” Mickey yelped, rushing over and grabbing Joe’s right arm with both hands. “You can’t! Even a small explosion will set off all of the charges we left inside!”
He had a point. This Vorak mecha had been set up with various protective bulkheads, preventing an explosion in one section from impacting another. All eight sections had to be destroyed separately in order to finish the alien craft. Even worse, the alien metal from which the craft was made had a frequency dampening effect, and communications couldn’t get in or out, even on their bracelets.
The strategy the Eagle Riders Team had employed was to infiltrate the vessel, splitting up to allow Joe, Mickey and Ollie to plant seven of the charges, while Kelly and Hunter could retrieve the stolen files and plant the last charge in the Data Center itself. They had intended to set off those charges remotely, using a special transmitter designed to break through the dampening fields, once they all were back on board. But a Bird Missile hitting the mecha would have the same effect.
The Falcon lifted his right arm up, with the small Swallow still hanging on, until Mickey was dangling helplessly above the floor. Seemingly unbothered by this state of affairs, Joe calmly moved the index finger of his left hand over the button.
“If I do it right, this detonation won’t set off the charges.” Joe said with a deadly quiet. “But after all, I am right-handed, and my aim isn’t as good with my left.”
Mickey appeared shamefaced, and relaxed his grip to slide off of Joe’s arm, crumpling to the floor.
“Aw, no, damn it…” Ollie swore loudly, and the Ultra Eagle shifted quickly, sending Mickey and Joe to the ground. Kelly and Ollie only held onto their seats thanks to their safety belts. The warship suddenly stopped its forward movement, and it felt as if the entire craft had slammed into a giant wall. Smoke began to pour out of Mickey’s control panel.
“We have a fire in the Armory!” Kelly cried frantically, initiating the automated fire suppression systems in that area. She did not want to go down to the storage area and have no alternative but to put out burning Bird Missiles with a hand-held fire extinguisher.
Fortunately, she didn’t have to.
“Armory temperatures returning to normal.” the Dove reported in a relieved voice. “But we can’t afford to take another one of those hits.”
“What the hell was that?” Joe demanded.
“Some kind of sonic beam!” Ollie replied through gritted teeth. “I hate to say it Joe, but if you don’t shoot that thing now, we may not be in a shape to get out of here.”
“The Vorak mecha is now attacking the ground!” Kelly shouted, relaying the horrifying information that was coming across her data screen. “It’s sending laser fire down to Phaedra City! Evacuations haven’t been completed yet!”
The Dove turned to the Falcon, her eyes like granite.
“We have to stop them, Joe, they’re going to target the orphanage! Three thousand kids…” Her voice carried only a hint of the desperation she felt.
“But Hunter…” Mickey’s protest was lost as another one of the laser shots hit the Ultra Eagle.
“That’s it! Damn, you, Hunter!” Joe grimaced, depressing the red fire button.
The silver Bird Missile streaked through the air, landing squarely between what passed for the mecha worm’s eyes. A small explosion shook the ‘head’ of the craft, and the laser fire immediately ceased.
“You did it, Joe!” Ollie grinned widely.
“No.” Joe sighed. “It moved at the last second. I think…”
But before the Falcon could finish his thought, another explosion burst through the mecha’s head, and the rest of its body blew apart a fraction of a second later.
“It set off the charges…” Mickey whispered.
The four Eagle Riders watched flaming wreckage of the Vorak mecha fall harmlessly into the ocean in a gloomy silence.
“Hunter…” Kelly said quietly, bowing her head.
An angry voice broke the mournful hush of the Bridge.
“What the hell are you doing, Joe? I nearly got caught in that blast! Why didn’t you wait for my signal?”
“Hunter!” Joe said, raising his bracelet communicator to his mouth. The Falcon’s body posture visibly relaxed at the sound of the Hawk’s voice.
“Your orders were to wait until we were all back on board, Joe!” Hunter sounded as angry as any of them had ever heard him. “Can’t you do what you’re told for once? Who’s in command of this team, anyway?”
It was clear that despite the seeming initial success of the mission, there were a few issues yet to be resolved.