Jason typed into the key board of his tracking station. The trajectory of the final missile appeared on the radar screen.
“Ah, crap,” Tiny muttered as he looked over his shoulder at the screen.
“New York City.” Princess wrapped her arms around herself under her wings and shivered.
“How…how are we going to stop it?” Keyop asked, staring at the radar as it showed the missile’s progress.
“Standard Bird Missiles are no good,” Tiny reminded them as he tapped his finger on his console. “The TBX missiles didn’t work, either.”
Mark tore his eyes from the radar to look at Jason. “What?”
“The Fiery Phoenix might produce enough heat to destroy it,” Jason responded.
“Or blow it up, us with it,” Tiny pointed out.
Jason stared back at him intensely. “Five people or millions. Take your pick.”
Princess moved up behind Jason’s seat. “What if it doesn’t work?” she asked, a slight tremor in her voice. “What if the missile still gets through?” She turned to look at Mark, who was staring hard at Jason.
An understanding seemed to pass between the three of them.
“Then we died trying. It’s better than not trying at all.” Mark took a deep breath and blew it out. “I can’t force any of you to possibly give up your lives.” He looked at each of them in turn. “But the Fiery Phoenix needs all of us to operate. I vote yes.”
Jason was already nodding his assent. Princess closed her eyes and nodded.
Tiny clenched his teeth. “Yeah.”
Keyop looked at each of his teammates, his family. He moved back beside Princess and reached for her hand. She took it and squeezed hard. “Let’s do it.”
“Prin, get the Chief,” Mark requested and turned back to Jason as she went to her station. He grasped the headrest of Jason’s seat and leaned over his shoulder. “Plot an intercept course, as high in the atmosphere as possible,” he instructed.
“Mark, I’ve got the Chief.”
Mark turned towards the main view screen mounted above Tiny’s head. Security Chief Anderson stared down at them.
“The city is being evacuated, but there’s no way we can get everyone out in time,” he told them, even though he knew they had already surmised the situation.
“We think we might be able to take it out with the Fiery Phoenix,” Mark said. The Chief drew back. He knew the implications of such an action.
“Are you all agreed on this?” he asked quietly. Mark nodded. The Chief closed his eyes and sighed heavily. In the nearly three years that they had been fighting Spectra, there had been missions when there had been doubts they would survive, but G-Force had never faced a suicide mission before. This could very well be it.
Anderson opened his eyes and looked at each of his children, wondering if he would ever see any of them again.
“Then God Speed and good luck.” He forced a weak smile and tried to keep his voice steady. “I’m very proud of all of you.”
Mark swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. “Thank you, sir.”
“Intercept course plotted,” Jason announced, pressing a key on his radar to transfer the coordinates to Tiny’s navigation computer. “Time to intercept, four minutes.”
“Got it,” Tiny acknowledged.
“Everyone to station for Fiery Phoenix. Three minutes to activation,” Mark ordered. He took his command seat beside Tiny. Keyop and Princess took their seats at the central console. Everyone strapped in.
“Two minutes to Fiery Phoenix,” Tiny announced, maneuvering the warship along the trajectory Jason had identified. Mark turned just enough so he could face everyone.
“If we don’t make it—“
“Jeez. You’re going to nag us to the very end, aren’t you?” Jason asked, but there was a warm smile on his face.
“No. It’s been an honor to live and work with all of you.”
Princess felt her eyes filling with sad yet determined tears. Keyop still had her hand and squeezed it.
“One minute to Fiery Phoenix,” Tiny said.
She turned to look at each member of her family. As if sensing her attention, Mark turned and smiled at her.
“It’ll work,” he assured.
Tiny began the ten second countdown. He grasped the throttle for the thrusters as Mark took hold of the controls for the Fiery Phoenix affect. When Tiny hit zero, they both pushed the throttles forward.
A high pitched squeal erupted and quickly became a deafening roar as the ship transmuted into its fiery form. It began to shake violently as the interior pressure built, quickly becoming painful.
“Fifty seconds to impact!” Jason yelled over the roar. He gritted his teeth as he watched their progress on the tracker.
He glanced at Princess. Her face was stark white, her chest rising and falling as she struggled to breath against the pressure. “Prin, it’s okay!” She forced her head to turn so she could look at him, fear in her green eyes.
“Jason, time!” Mark yelled.
Jason tore his eyes back to the tracker. “Thirty-five!”
Princess stared at Mark’s white back, her heart constricting, a sob catching in her throat. Keyop squeezed her hand harder. So hard, in fact, she thought he might break it.
“Mark!” she said. Even over the roar he heard her and turned again, his blue eyes both sad and understanding.
“I know.” He only whispered it, but she read his lips. She smiled at him as her tears overflowed to run down her cheeks.
Tiny took over the countdown at ten, now having to scream over the screeching power of the Fiery Phoenix. He thought of his family around him and held the throttle even tighter, as though the action would ensure they all survived.
When he reached zero, the warship shuddered violently, the missile explosion rocking it. The Phoenix listed to the left as control panels exploded and the lights went out.
Princess screamed as Keyop’s hand was torn from hers. She continued to scream as the ship nose-dived, throwing them all about like rag dolls. The sound of metal tearing was overwhelming as the ship was engulfed in a blinding light.