The Hunted Chapter 11 snippet

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“You’ve got to be kidding!”

Kate looked at Loving while they entered the hanger bay. A bemused expression crossed her face while contemplating what the security officer had said. While Jennifer had been trained on combat and security, Kate had learned how to fly everything in the Fleet and how to used every weapon too.

In each of her hands she held equipment for their mission. While the fighter had limited storage compartments built into it, there was no way she was going to keep from bringing plenty of firepower. Who the hell knew just what she and Loving might walk into?

A lion’s den more then likely, Kate thought with a snort.

“You don’t trust me?” Kate asked her friend with a raised eyebrow.

Loving looked over at Kate with distrust written all over her face. How in the name of hell would that thing get us where we’re going, the security officer’s face said. A fighter wouldn’t stand much of a chance against a merc ship, and Loving wondered if Kate had finally lost her mind.

Poor Jennifer, Kate thought, she’s going to be shocked when I tell her what this craft is capable of!

“I don’t like the idea of traveling in a fighter with half the galaxy looking for us,” Loving muttered while Kate stored their weapons.

“They won’t find us,” Kate said, smiling. “This is a very special fighter.”

“All I see is a standard M-22 fighter,” Loving said. “You’ll have to explain to me what’s different.”

While the M-22 was Fleet’s most advanced fighter, its design had been carried over, and adapted for space combat, from the F22 Raptor that the US had built. Converted into a two seat craft, the M-22 looked exactly like its older ancestor. A hyperspace capable craft, it had twin engines and dual tail controls for atmospheric flight. Capable of carrying every ordinance Fleet carried, it was a formidable weapon.

And that’s before I tell Jennifer about the add-ons Intelligence has done, Kate thought while punching her security code in.

Kate had changed all the codes on her fighter before Loving had arrived. By doing so, she could prevent anyone in Intelligence from trying to collect on the bounty, and negate any knowledge Adams might have been able to pass along. That was the problem when your betrayer worked with you in Black Ops: they knew everything about you just like you did about them.

“Well,” Kate said as the cockpit canopy opened. “It’s easier to show you then to explain.”

“Oh,” Loving said, sarcasm dripping. “Okay,”

“Trust me,” Kate said, while watching her friend climb that built in ladder. “You’ll be surprised.”

Once Loving had settled down in the cockpit, Kate climbed up into the fighter. A broad smile crossed her face when she sat down behind the controls. Memories from Top Gun floated through her vision while going through the pre-flight checklist.

Flying is one of the few things in Intelligence I truly enjoy, Kate thought while the cockpit canopy settled into place.

Normally a pre-flight checklist took nearly twenty minutes to complete when under peacetime conditions. However, Kate hadn’t been able to sleep due to her nerves, so she had come down and checked everything out earlier. Once the list had been completed, activating the fighter’s security system kept anyone from being able to sabotage the craft.

“I still don’t like this,” Loving grumbled while she attached the harness.

“It’ll be okay,” Kate said. “Just don’t touch anything unless I tell you to, okay?”

Loving was right of course, but Kate didn’t want to admit it. While taking a transport would have been more comfortable, the fighter gave them speed and the ability to defend themselves from other bounty hunters. However, once Jennifer saw some of the extras built into the fighter, she wouldn’t be complaining about flying in it.

“Hell,” Loving snorted. “I don’t know what any of this **** does.”

“Flight control,” Kate said. “This is Foxtrot-Yankee-Tango three-five-one requesting permission to launch.”

“Foxtrot-Yankee-Tango three-five-one,” Control said. “You’re cleared for launch. Please use course Delta on your ascent.”

“Roger,” Kate said, the thrumming of the turbines comforting under her buttocks. “I acknowledge the request to use course Delta on ascent. Foxtrot-Yankee-Tango three-five-one out.”

“Course Delta?” Loving asked.

“There are certain flight paths that Intelligence is cleared to use,” Kate explained when strapping herself in. “It keeps our traffic from interfering with the civilian craft. Strap yourself in, we’re getting ready to launch.”

This would probably be the last time either one of them could relax for a while. The Syndicate had to know who Kate was after now, and they would be waiting for her. While Adams might know a lot about Intelligence and it’s technology, there were still a few tricks she had up the sleeve to play.

And I’m more then ready to use them, Kate thought, applying full thrust to the turbines when the flight deck was clear. I will.

The sudden acceleration pushed her back against the padded pilot’s seat. In the rear of the cockpit, Loving groaned in complaint as the g-forces built on them. Normal Fleet personnel never got flight training in fighters, and the sudden g-forces were something that the security officer wouldn’t have had to deal with.

She’ll be okay, Kate thought, because we’ll be in orbit soon.

“How do you stand this, Kate?” Loving croaked.

A broad smile crossed Kate’s face at her friend’s comment. How could Loving possible understand the freedom of being a pilot? Out in space, alone in the fighter, flying was the closest she had ever come to being completely free. The feeling of weightlessness and the g-forces at take-off all combined to give her an adrenaline rush that nothing else could match.

Why would I ever want to give it up? She asked herself as the turbines died and the thrusters took over their ascent.

“This?” Kate said with a laugh. “Oh I find the ultimate freedom to be the most intoxicating.”
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