"Arosa Sky, this is Parasol, I've got you locked and loaded. Let's make sure you don't make the same mistake as The City of London last week." Jenny warned the crew of the liner. The other liner had souped up her engines before her last trip. The crew had tried a brute force acceleration out of the corridor.
Jenny and Abbey had thought that the G forces had probably made jelly out of the crew, but they fired their Hellfire 2000s up the exhaust plume. That had been their 24th confirmed kill over the last year. Some of the nuclear waste was still raining down on the planet below.
The Spacers as a rule now ignored any complaints or diplomacy from the planet down below. They had the tactical advantage with the gravity well. It had only taken a couple of well placed asteroids to drive home their point. The Plague survivors were being forced to cooperate.
But even as little as 20 years ago, the Spacers would not have been able to be so callous. Back then they were still very dependent on critical supplies from the planet - they were no where near self sufficient. The new agricultural stations, the mining efforts in the asteroids, the population explosion, and the Plague had finally broken the umbilical cord. It had been ready to be cut for over 10 years, but times were good and the Earth side governments had not ruled with a heavy hand. They had wanted people to emigrate to the solar colonies.
With a population of over 12 billion, the 3 million on the moon and various stations hadn't provided that much relief. New habitats were being populated by third or fourth generation Spacers faster than the Earth could cast off its excess masses. Indeed, the 2.4 billion that had died over the past year was doing more to relieve the population pressure than the expansion into solar habitats.
But the death factories where the bodies were incinerated, the uncertainty caused by knowing next to nothing about the Plague which was consuming the planet, and the scent of their own mortality was feeding the frenzy to leave the Earth. The Plague didn't care about your social class, your lineage, your education, or how much deep your savings were - it just struck everywhere.
The Parasol skipped above the Arosa Sky, a converted cruise ship. The light display was enthralling as she skimmed off of the upper layers of the Earth's atmosphere. But neither the passengers on the Arosa Sky nor Lunar Central cared.
"Parasol, give it a rest. Concentrate on bogeys!" the cool voice of Lunar Central heated up almost as much as the outer shell of the two man fighter.
"Then why do we call them skimmers?" was the quick reply of 1st Lt Jenny Dalton, pilot of the Interdiction Patrol's light attack skimmers.
"Not funny Mustang, think the Arosa Sky is laughing?"
As the cruise liner climbed out of the Stratosphere, the Parasol leveled out. She gave a final shake, perhaps to get rid of a bad case of the giggles. "Lunar Central, what is the ETA on Skydancer? I'm a little nervous out here without backup."
"She's got the pedal to the metal Parasol." Left unsaid was "Be quiet on an open line!" The quick transition of Lunar Central to match the mood of the fighter crew would have bewildered an observer from a hundred years earlier. But times were different, the Plague has been
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