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Authors: Mack Maloney

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The Twisted Cross

BOOK: The Twisted Cross
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Prologue

It has been almost four years since America lost World War III ...

Four long years since the bloodiest deception in history - when the American president, his forces victorious against the Soviets in Europe, was assassinated by his traitorous vice president. Then, playing out the long-range communist plan, the vice president allowed the country's defenses to be relaxed long enough to permit a flood of Soviet nuclear missiles to obliterate the American ICBM force while they stood in their silos.

The sneak attack left the country's heartland dead from the Dakotas down to Oklahoma. Now a nightmare of neutron radiation, the region is known to all of The Badlands.

Under the harsh provisions of the New Order, as the Soviet-imposed "peace"

treaty came to be known, the United States was united no more. Instead, the American continent became fractionalized - split up into a scattering of small countries, kingdoms and anarchic free territories. Under this imposed rule, to carry the American flag or to even speak of the United States was illegal and punishable by death.

But peace did not come with the installation of the New Order. To the contrary, the American continent had been aflame with war ever since. Major battles on the east coast marked the first anniversaries of the Soviet-inspired rule.

Later, the criminal armies of The Family, operating out of New Chicago, moved against the free enterprise gambling state of Football City, formerly St.

Louis. However, in each case, the Free Democratic forces were led to victory by the famous jet fighter ace, Hawk Hunter, the Wingman.

These first victories of the forces of freedom proved to be short-lived, however. Even before the smoke had cleared from the Battle for Football City, the Soviets were secretly infiltrating thousands of troops and tons of equipment into the eastern half of America. These forces, under the control of a ruthless Soviet KGB agent named Viktor Robotov, attempted to take over the western half of the continent, but were defeated by Hunter and his allies in a devastating series of battles known as The Circle War.

Later, in the guise of his Mediterranean alias "Lucifer," Viktor was confronted once again by the Wingman, this time allied with a British-led mercenary fleet centered around the salvaged nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Saratoga. "The Lucifer Crusade," as the Mideast battle came to be called, ended with Hunter and his allies preempting Viktor's conquest of Europe by bottling up his enemy fleet in the Suez Canal. A Nazi-garbed gunman stole Hunter's revenge by killing the evil Viktor at the conclusion of the battle.

Back in America, the stage was now set once and for all for a major confrontation between the democratic forces of the West and the Soviet-backed armies who controlled the lands east of the Mississippi. Under the threat of a huge, Soviet-financed mercenary army sailing to invade the American east coast, Hunter and the new United American Army won a stunning string of victories to gain control of several major cities in the East -a campaign which culminated in a major confrontation in the country's former capital, Washington, DC. It was here that the remnants of the hated Circle Army, reinforced by troops of the elite Soviet Spetsnaz, planned a ceremony of iconoclasm - the destruction of "everything American."

The battle that followed, won by sheer determination by the United American Army, not only destroyed what was left of The Circle, but also forced the Soviet mercenary fleet to return to Europe without firing a shot.

Thus America was united again.

But soon afterward, there were rumblings of a new threat on the country's southern borders . . .

Chapter 1

The three F-4 Phantom jet fighters attacked the unarmed airliner without warning.

"Take evasive action!" the pilot of the Boeing 727 yelled to his crew even as the first of the green-camouflaged attackers laid a burst of cannon fire across the bigger airplane's starboard wing.

"Jesus! Where did they come from?" the airliner's navigator cried, trying to get an exact fix on their position.

No one answered him. The 727 pilot was too busy putting the big plane into an evasive dive; the copilot was punching buttons on his radio.

"Mayday! Mayday!" the second-in-command screamed into his mike. "This is civilian charter Flight 889 . . . We are under attack by three fighters . . .

approximate position, fifteen nautical miles south of Memphis ... at fifteen thousand feet ..."

Suddenly the air was filled with the horrible sounds of screaming jet engines and cannon fire. The second F-4 roared in on the airliner head-on, its nose gun blazing wildly. The 727 pilot yanked the big airplane to the right, limiting the Phantom's hits, but still sustaining damage to the airliner's portside engine cowling.

All the while the copilot continued to put out his distress call. "Mayday!

Mayday!" he yelled with no small amount of panic in his voice. "Any friendly aircraft in the area . . . We are being attacked by three fighters . . .

identity

unknown . . . Any friendly aircraft in the area, please assist us!"

The pilot put the 727 into yet another gut-wrenching maneuver in an effort to avoid the third Phantom now peeling off to begin its strafing run. The copilot never stopped broadcasting his frantic SOS calls. But the navigator knew it was hopeless. A quick check of his radar screen told him that besides the three attackers and themselves, there were no other aircraft - friendly or otherwise - within twenty miles of them.

"Call back to the passengers," the pilot yelled over to the copilot while pulling the 727 out of a steep bank. "Tell them to prepare for a crash . . ."

The copilot immediately switched his radio to internal and quickly relayed the pilot's message back to the airliner's 86 terrified passengers.

Just then the third F-4 found the 727's cockpit in its sights and unleashed a long barrage of cannon fire.

The shells ripped into the airliner's flight deck, puncturing the copilot's left shoulder, smashing the navigator's legs and knocking both men unconscious. At the same time, the pilot was hit in the face with a shower of broken glass from the instrument panel shattered by the cannonfire.

Suddenly the cockpit was awash in oil, hydraulic fluid and blood. Through stinging, blurry eyes, the pilot could see the three F-4s regrouping off to his left.

"One more pass and we're going down ..." he whispered grimly to himself.

Already the 727 was dangerously losing altitude. The Phantoms had succeeded in blasting away the airliner's port wing stabilizers and damaging its centerline tail engine. It was all the pilot could do to keep the big airplane from flipping over.

He looked over at his bleeding crewmen and thought "Only a miracle can save us now . . ."

The pilot managed to plunge the 727 into a large cloud bank, all the while knowing it would not be enough to shake his attackers. The airliner was trailing a long line of black smoke that any pilot with two eyes could follow.

As soon as he emerged from the cumulus, he saw one of the F-4s had streaked up and over the cloud bank and was now bearing down on him at 10

o'clock. Already he could see the nose of the Phantom light up with the telltale signs of the cannon's muzzle fire.

"This is it . . ." he said, resigned to his fate.

Suddenly, the onrushing F-4 exploded ...

The 727 pilot shook his head once, just to make sure he wasn't already dead and dreaming. In the next instant, he had to jar the airliner hard to port to avoid colliding with the high-speed flaming debris that seconds before was an intact enemy Phantom.

"What the hell is going on here?" he yelled looking back at the hurtling wreckage, the slightest hint of hope running through him.

He managed to pull it out of its hard bank and level out at 5000 feet. His aircraft was still smoking heavily and his muscles were snapping from the strain of holding it right side up.

But he was still airborne . . .

Just then he saw one of the two remaining Phantoms streak underneath him and pull up on his left, nose gun blazing. The 727 pilot's heart sank, realizing his death sentence had merely been postponed.

But then, just as his life began to flash before his eyes for the second time in less than a minute, this F-4 also exploded into a ball of yellow-blue flame. Once more he had to put the 727 into a steep dive to avoid smashing into the flaming wreck of the second Phantom.

Having dodged the bullet twice, the pilot was now determined to at least make a controlled crash landing. He reached over and tried to shake his copilot out of his unconscious state. But it was no use -the man's shoulder was practically shot off and he was bleeding heavily. And if anything, his navigator was in worse shape.

Just then, the third F-4 appeared directly overhead. As the 727 pilot struggled with his controls, he watched in horror as the Phantom peeled off sharply and dove right for him.

"This guy ain't going to miss . . ." the airline jockey thought.

Already the F-4 was firing-the muzzle flashes from its nose seemed to take on an angry look, vengeance for his two downed comrades. The first few cannon shells began peppering the windshield of the airliner, sending another spray of broken glass and hydraulic fluid into the pilot's face.

Now nearly blind, the 727 pilot was suddenly aware of another airplane, this one off to his right. In an instant he knew it was not an F-4. It was smaller, delta-winged and painted in a distinct red-white-and-blue color scheme.

Just on the verge of passing out himself, the 727 pilot saw this new airplane streak right across his flight path and turn in a screaming climb to meet the oncoming F-4. Now it was this mystery airplane's nose cannons that lit up -and with six times the intensity of the F-4.

The Phantom tried to pull out of its strafing dive, but in doing so, exposed its unprotected underside to the awesome cannon barrage from the other jet fighter.

It was over in a matter of seconds . . .

This time there was no flaming wreckage to avoid. The Phantom was simply obliterated.

Still unaware who the life-saving Good Samaritan was, the pilot once again tried to rouse his copilot. This time the man responded, though groggily.

"Can you get hold of the controls, even with one hand?" die pilot asked him.

"We're only twenty minutes out from New Orleans."

The copilot did as he was told, trying not to look at his wounded shoulder.

"What happened?" he asked, his face a mask of shock and puzzlement.

"Fm not sure," the pilot said as he grabbed the radio mike and started broadcasting to New Orleans tower. "But someone up here likes us ..."

The 727 came in for a smoky, but successful wheels-up landing at die New Orleans' International Airport. Emergency crews surrounded the airplane immediately, washing it down with foam as its passengers leaped, walked or crawled out of the wreckage.

Despite the hundreds of cuts on and about his face, the pilot helped the rescue crews extricate his copilot and navigator before accepting any medical attention himself. He was sitting on the back bumper of an emergency van, talking to the base doctor when he finally took stock of what had just happened.

"We were jumped by three fighters ..." he told the doctor. "They had us dead to rights. Then suddenly, the first' two just blew up -boom! boom!. . ." '

"Blew up or were shot down?" the doctor asked him as he cleaned out the pilot's nastiest cuts.

"Well, that's just it," the 727 pilot said, just now enjoying the indescribable rush of realization that he was still alive. "There was another airplane out there. The guy got the third Phantom with a shot that I didn't think was possible. He put his jet into a screamer of a climb. It must have had six Goddamn cannons in its nose. All of them firing. Smoke. Fire. Jesus, it was unbelievable!"

A military officer from the airport's security forces had joined them by this time and had heard the pilot's story.

"What did this other airplane look like?" the officer asked. "What color was it?"

The 727 pilot, still jittery from the ordeal, had to stop and think a moment.

"It was all painted up ... it was red, white and blue," he said finally. "It looked like a delta-type wing. But I've never seen an airplane like it. Ever .

. ."

The doctor wrapped a bandage around the pilot's head, covering his left eye and ear.

"Red, white and blue, you say?" the military man asked. "You sure?"

The pilot nodded, gingerly feeling the wounds under his bandage.

"And it was a flashy, souped-up kind of delta-wing?"

Again, the pilot nodded.

The officer looked at the doctor and shrugged. "Could it be?" he asked the physician.

The doctor shook his head. "If you mean who I think you mean

The pilot looked up at the two men. "Who are you talking about?" he asked.

Just then, as if to answer his question, all three of them heard a high whining sound, the unmistakable call of a jet fighter. Shielding their eyes against the hot Louisiana sun, they saw a jet fighter streak over the base and turn for a landing. The airplane was a delta-wing design and was painted in red, white and blue.

BOOK: The Twisted Cross
10.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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