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Sky Strike
 

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Sky Strike


  Cover illustration: Harrier GR3.

  Initial production of this type, 92 aircraft, all for the RAF to be used in the tactical support role. At the outbreak of war two squadrons were stationed at

  Gutersloh in Germany. Less than half the serviceable aircraft were at dispersed sites at the time of the Warsaw Pact attack. Despite heroic efforts by ground and air crew, all of those remaining at the airfield were destroyed on the ground.

  The surviving Harriers inflicted heavy losses on the Soviet advance in the first few days, though the number of sorties flown by No 3 Squadron after the fourth day was severely curtailed due to the difficulty of fuel and ammunition resupply over roads choked with refugee traffic, or by air due to WP intruder missions aimed specifically at such efforts.

  It is generally acknowledged that had another squadron been available and the supply situation not been bedevilled by years of political penny-pinching, then the WP advances in the Northern and Central Sectors of the Zone could have been halted perhaps as much as fifty miles short of the point at which they eventually stalled.

  Engine: Rolls Royce Pegasus. Max speed: Mach 1.3 in dive, 737 mph in level flight. Weapon load: any combination of cannon and rocket pods, free fall cluster munitions, laser guided iron bombs, super-napalm or air-to-air missiles up to a total of 8,000lb (Conventional take-off)

  51000lb (Vertical lift).

  THE ZONE Series by James Rouch:

  HARD TARGET

  BLIND FIRE

  HUNTER KILLER

  SKY STRIKE

  OVERKILL

  KILLING GROUND

  PLAGUE BOMB

  CIVILIAN SLAUGHTER

  BODY COUNT

  DEATH MARCH

  SKY STRIKE

  James Rouch

  THE ZONE 4

  For Carola Edmond, who guided me through the Second

  World War and Nick Webb, who led me into the Third.

  Copyright © 1981 by James Rouch

  An Imprint Original Publication, 2005

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without permission of the publishers.

  First E-Book Edition 2005

  Second IMRPINT April 2007

  The characters in this book are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

  THE ZONE

  THE ZONE E-Books are published by

  IMPRINT Publications, 3 Magpie Court

  High Wycombe, WA 6057. AUSTRALIA.

  Produced under licence from the Author, all rights reserved. Created in Australia by Ian Taylor © 2005

  ...and in conclusion... this committee recognising that the battlefield of the future will be dominated by the guided missile... it is recommended that the production of manned combat aircraft be stopped as soon as is possible under the terms of existing contracts... and that all new projects, at whatever stage of development, be cancelled immediately.

  The above is taken from the last page of a consultative document, one of several, considered prior to the final drafting of the British Government’s Defence White Paper published in April 1957 that declared manned combat aircraft to be obsolete.

  This document was circulated among senior Air Ministry Staff, who were invited to append their comments. On this particular copy, now in private hands, the only note, pencilled alongside the conclusion in the margin, and alleged to be in the handwriting of an air commodore, is ‘balls’.

  At the outbreak of World War III, taking the Warsaw Pact and NATO totals together, there were more than 5,300 manned combat aircraft in Central Europe, with over 9,000 in reserve and second-line units, with the Warsaw Pact out- numbering NATO by more than two-to-one.

  ONE

  She was struggling, trying to push him off, but he wasn’t going to stop, not now. Christ it was hurting, the fastener of his zip was biting into the base of his iron-hard erection and the lace trimming on her knickers was like sandpaper against its sensitive tip.

  ‘Can’t you wait? At least let me get them down ... this is no good for me... you’re making me wet...’

  He had to finish, had to; he’d waited so long and now, as he’d been afraid it would, it was proving difficult. ‘Just keep still.’ His face was in her hair and his every laboured breath was saturated with the blended scents of perfume, deodorant and hair lacquer.

  There wasn’t enough room on the back seat of the Opel, he could only thrust an inch or so at a time, or his feet became entangled in the door pull or ashtray. It hurt, he’d be sore for days, but he had to finish.

  Managing to push forward a fraction, he felt his penis slide on the silk-like material to the shallow smooth valley between her thigh and crotch. Suddenly he knew he could do it, could feel his body priming itself as he rubbed harder and harder and faster and faster; Now, it had to be now... now...

  ‘I don’t like this, let me... oh you sod, you dirty sod. You’ve done it all over me, it’s running down my leg. Get up, get off me. No, stop, you’re dragging my dress through it... have you got a tissue..? be quick. You rotten sod, what a mess... it’s all between my legs...’

  Somehow Libby half-turned, opened the car door and backed out. Before he walked away he threw her his handkerchief. He didn’t want to, but he saw her, by the pale illumination of the interior light. She’d pulled herself to a slumped position against the far door and was holding up her skirt and parting her legs. Grabbing the folded white linen she shook it out, bunched it and wiped the slow white avalanche from the hem of her underwear, and from among the stray strands of pubic hair escaping beneath it.

  Well, he’d done it, and he hated himself for it. Not because of her, she’d been keen enough to leave the Naafi and go off with him, not because of the discomfort he experienced as he tucked his fast-shrinking self back into his clothes, there’d been several times in the last couple of years when he’d made it that bad himself by exercising it: no, he hated himself for having done it at all. He’d betrayed Helga, broken the impossible promise he’d made to himself when he’d heard she was among the millions of civilians trapped by the Russian advance.

  He didn’t look around when he heard the door slam, or when he heard her approaching. A small fist half-heartedly punched him on the arm. ‘That wasn’t fair, not after getting me going. Are you going to have a proper go? I don’t mind, if you let me get ready this time.’

  ‘No, no, I don’t want anything else... I’m sorry, I can’t explain, I just needed it that way, just once.’ So the Zone hadn’t made him totally sub-human, yet. There was still some decency in him if he could summon up an apology of sorts for an easy pick-up like her. ‘Look, I’ll make it up to you, give you some money for some new things if you like.’

  ‘Alright, I’ll let you, seeing as how that’s the least you can do. You must have stained them, you did a load, it went everywhere, I’ve never seen so much. What are you looking at?’

  From the high ground, southern Germany stretched away into the night, marked randomly but liberally by the lights of farms and villages, and occasionally gashed by the beams from vehicle headlamps. But far short of the invisible horizon the sprinkling of white and yellow pinpoints ended abruptly, as though a black sheet had been draped over the landscape beyond.

  That’s the Zone isn’t it? I don’t like being this close, gives me the shudders.’ Libby resisted the urge to push her off when she wrapped her arms about him. ‘Yes, that’s the Zone.’

  In the far distance a star shell burst and made a bright oasis for perhaps thirty seconds as the parachute-suspended fiery ball of magnesium drifted to the ground.

  ‘Are you going back in there?’

  ‘Yes, soon.’

  ‘Is it as bad as they say? Do you have
to go?’ ‘It’s worse actually, far worse, but I don’t have to go, I want to go, want to.’ Now he felt her move away, as though she were suddenly afraid of him. Perhaps, perhaps he was no longer human after all.

  TO: HEADQUARTERS-GROUP OF SOVIET

  FORCES GERMANY - ZOSSEN-WUNSDORF FOR: THE SPECIAL ATTENTION OF LIEUTENANT GENERAL ALEKSEEV DEPUTY COMMANDER - AIR DEFENCE - EASTERN EUROPE

  FROM: GENERAL PAKOVSKI-OFFICER

  COMMANDING AIR DEFENCE REGIMENTS - CENTRAL SECTOR - ZONE

  Transmission. Priority. By Special General Staff Code AP/43. Secure link or hand only

  Comrade Lieutenant General.

  Acting on Intelligence information passed by your office and following orders issued by yourself the action listed below has been carried out:

  The 867th (reinforced) light anti-aircraft battalion: the 12th anti-aircraft missile regiment: the 727th armoured medium anti-aircraft regiment: have been moved to cover the rail junction and marshalling yards at Kothen.

  All movements have been made by night under conditions of strict radio silence. Counter-intelligence measures have been taken to prevent the enemy detecting the redeployment.

  All battery commanders have been ordered not to activate their radar systems until the destruction of our light screen of radar pickets signals the imminent approach of the expected NATO attack.

  Under these conditions our main defences will survive to engage the enemy force at close range, when their destruction will be assured.

  As required, I can give the Comrade Lieutenant General my personal assurance that not a single capitalist mercenary will survive the implementation of this plan. I am moving my own HQ to a site near Kothen to maintain the closest possible supervision.

  Signed: GENERAL PAKOVSKI

  TWO

  Libby kept a tight grip on the mini-gun, as the slipstream buffeted the heavy cluster of barrels projecting through the open cabin door of the helicopter.

  The eastern fringes of the Zone were below them now, an ugly land, banded by swathes of chemically stunted sickly vegetation. A whole forest lay flattened, the stripped and charred trunks laid in patterns that marked the paths of massive blast waves from a nuclear bomb or missile burst.

  Among the clumps of yellow foliage Libby could see occasional patches of green, where some hardy plant was using the new strength of spring to restart its battle for survival.

  There were no targets for the snaking belt of mixed armour-piercing and tracer rounds. They had been told at the briefing there wouldn’t be, but he was disappointed all the same.

  He leant out, and damp air rushing past pushed against his visor and sucked the air from beneath it, so he had to gasp for breath. Visibility was improving fast as the sun rose higher. When he looked back he could see the second wave of the assault, five miles behind them and stretching away to north and south, bank after bank of Black Hawks and Chinooks, many with under slung loads.

  A Soviet scout car swerved from the track along which it had been making its lonely patrol as the choppers swept overhead, at a hundred feet their massed rotors sending the plants and puddles into wild waving motion.

  It was gone before he could sight on it, but he gripped the multi-barrelled gun tighter, in expectation of other opportunities soon.

  Now they crossed the rusting wire and overgrown minefields of the old Iron Curtain, and then they were over East Germany and the helicopter sank to fifty feet as it raced above the ill-kept fields and dilapidated villages, following every contour of the rolling land.

  ‘Will you look at this?’ Ripper rubbed the fabric of his camouflage top between a filthy thumb and forefinger. ‘This is all brand new, it’s just like we were going to a party.’

  ‘Command must have heard we were having trouble getting you to wash, so they figured the only way to get you clean was to change your nappy.’ Digging Andrea in the ribs with his elbow, Dooley waited for the laugh he considered his due. It didn’t come.

  ‘Twenty minutes to the DZ. Check your weapons.’ Revell came back into the cabin from the cockpit. He carried his new 12-gauge assault rifle cradled in his arms. Four of the big drum magazines hung from his tight-hitched belt. Standing with his legs apart, he needed no hand-hold to counter the motion of the Black Hawk as it maintained maximum speed.

  A burst of rapid automatic fire was audible from the next chopper in line. Libby couldn’t see the other door gunner’s target, but watched the arc of tracer spiral down to a farmyard. Smoke and a bubble of red flame were rising above the roofs as it was lost to view.

  Bombardier Cline was finding it difficult to stay on the seat he had improvised from a stack of spare flak-jackets, teetering back and forth at every slight turbulence.

  ‘Frightened of losing something, Bomber?’ Pretending not to hear, Cline ignored Dooley. The big oaf was just letting off steam, no point in getting involved in a slanging match with him. Not only could he not be certain of winning, it would look bad in front of the Yank officer.

  Noise and vibration rippled through the hull as the mini-gun unleashed fifty rounds. Sergeant Hyde moved to the door and looked out past their gunner. A fast settling plume of mud and debris partly obscured a sandbag-protected light flak- cannon. There was hardly time for it to register before it was gone.

  It wasn’t possible for Hyde to tell if the weapon had been hit and damaged, probably it had, judging by the amount of muck that had been thrown up around it, but one thing was certain, it had been unmanned. His shouted warning to conserve ammunition was drowned by the roar of jets as a pair of A10 Thunderbolts, from the squadrons assigned to fly Wild Weasel flak, SAM and radar suppression missions, zipped past, deposited their entire load of externally carried stores on a seemingly innocuous stretch of woodland, and pulled sharply up and away into the sun.

  Eyes watering, Libby watched the parachute-retarded fall of the cluster and fragmentation bombs. Just above the tree tops, each disintegrated: the cluster munitions into their hundreds of deadly and variously delayed bomblets and the daisy cutters into their millions of razor-sharp fragments.

  ‘They said we wouldn’t see much opposition. Looks like the Airforce is determined to reduce that to none at all.’ Through the smoke Hyde could discern the hulls of several tracked SAM missile launchers, a whole battery. Some were partially buried by the trunks and foliage that had been intended to merely conceal them. More trees were falling, toppling across trucks and trailers already damaged by blast and fragments. Several spread-eagled bodies were fleetingly visible.

  As the scene of the devastation was left behind they flew over a collection of a dozen Zil and Tatra trucks, all of them burning fiercely. Flames rose high, to lick about the radar dishes and masts on their roofs.

  ‘Looks like our flyers poked out the Commies’ eyes before coming back to hit the hardware.’ Libby saw the handful of troops attempting to tackle the fire throw away their extinguishers and run as the chopper squadrons beat past overhead.

  Now, save for where it persisted in a few scattered hollows, the mist had dispersed.

  ‘Kothen in ten minutes. If Intelligence has got it right, we’re through the main anti-aircraft defences. From here on in it’ll just be random light stuff.’ Revell declined the mint Ripper was offering. ‘No, thanks. I’ve seen the effect they have on others.’

  Only Clarence accepted, pausing from checking the ammunition clips for his Enfield Enforcer sniper rifle to take two. He put both in his mouth at once and chewed vigorously without change of expression, to Ripper’s obvious disappointment.

  Twice they passed over military convoys and both times Libby made ready to return fire, but there was none. It might be different for the second wave. Several transporters and field cars sported pintle-mounted heavy machine guns.

  Hardly any civilian traffic was to be seen, apart from the occasional tractor or cart-towing pushbike.

  A few handfuls of livestock stampeded at the helicopters’ approach, running into fences and streams in their panic. For a mome
nt Libby was tempted to put a burst into a scattering herd of cattle, but held back. Hyde was still close by, and the sergeant came down hard on needless expenditure of ammunition, very hard.

  Including the belt already in the mini-gun, Libby knew they had six thousand rounds of ammunition for the weapon, less the few he’d fired off. Sounding a lot, in fact at maximum rate of fire, which the gun was quite capable of sustaining, it was just sufficient for one minute of action. But at this rate he’d be taking most of them back.

  Movement in a far corner of a large field caught his eye. Yes, there it was. A rapidly rotating dish topped a tracked armoured hull, and Libby could see a figure, a man, running fast towards it. Other door gunners had seen the target and several lines of tracer hosed towards the vehicle.

  One of the blasts of steel and fire cut across the runner; it could only have been by accident, he wasn’t worth the expenditure of a tenth of the ammunition. His remains were scattered over the meadow like pink chaff as his torso was nearly slashed into quarters.

  For a fraction of time three other streams of bullets converged and pieces flew from the radar carrier also, as it was pounded and half-hidden by the smoke and sparks of the multiple impacts.

  There were more buildings below them now. The villages had given way to ribbon development. Revell noted the change and took his seat on the bench, wedging himself between Clarence and Andrea.

  The sniper attempted to distance himself from the contact, but there was not enough room on the bench. Instead he closed his eyes and part of his mind to try to ignore it.

  Dooley sat chewing his lip, but it wasn’t fear that made him distort his stubble- darkened features, or play constantly with the sheathed bayonet at his belt. It was tension, an overpowering surge of adrenalin that would build and build until, at the moment they jumped from the chopper and into action, it would peak and he’d pour his pent-up energies into the battle.

 
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