moved over to the corner of the shed, where Bayerly sat on the dirt

floor, a strange expression on his face. “I think it’s a battle,” she


“F-14s,” he said, listening. “Tomcats. They’re ours.”

Pamela felt a sudden thrill which jolted through her. Tombstone! If

there were Tomcats overhead, one of them might be Tombstone!

Bayerly was looking toward the door now. “We’d better get ready,” he

said. “If they’re buzzing the airstrip, ground troops can’t be far


And I don’t think our new friends are going to want us to get rescued.”

“But what can we do?”

He gave her a tight smile, a mirthless stretching of his lips. “We’ll

manage something,” he said.

0746 hours, 21 January

Near U Feng

Lieutenant Miller peered up through the jungle canopy as the six Tomcats

thundered into the sky. There was a thump, followed by a slithering

hiss, and a line of white smoke scrawled its way across the blue.

Someone on the ground had just loosed a SA-7 Grail … but far too late.

The Navy planes were already nearly out of sight by the time the missile

was loosed.

Miller noted the launcher’s position in his mind. Part of the close-in

perimeter defenses, no doubt.

Lieutenant Miller lay on his belly at the edge of the clearing, studying

the compound through his binoculars, taking care not to turn the lenses

toward the sun and give away their position with a flash. The Marines

had moved silently to this location. staying off the trails, slipping

like shadows among the trees. Security elements were posted, guarding

flanks and rear.

They were directly on the U Feng perimeter now, looking into the camp

across a cleared fire zone a hundred meters wide. Behind barbed wire

and sandbags, the enemy camp was in an uproar. Large groups of armed

men were running among the barracks, apparently deploying along the

perimeter defenses to the south. A pair of tracked SA-6 chassis were

parked by one end of the runway, each mounting three Gainfuls side by

side, probing the sky.

Miller cursed. Those Gainfuls meant big problems. They’d have to be

taken out before the Thais could assault the camp, or they’d play hell

with the That-American grab for air superiority. The leader of that

flock of Tomcats that had just gone over had played it smart, Miller

decided, coming so the Gainfuls couldn’t nail them with their Long Track

radars. As he watched, though, a missile on one of the launchers spat

flame, and a billowing white cloud of smoke engulfed the vehicle. The

missile rose into the air, an ungainly, finned pencil shape balancing

atop a column of fire.

He looked up. The Tomcats were almost out of sight already but the SAM

radars would have them locked in hard.

A second missile slid clear of the launch rail with a hissing roar.

God, Miller thought. This can’t go on much longer. Someone would have

to take out those SAMs, or this whole operation would be blown.

He turned his attention back to the compound. The word was that the

prisoners were being held in a shed or small building close to the fuel


He could see the tanks, not far from his present position, but there

were several buildings which could be the one the Karen scouts had


Damn! Which one?

0747 hours, 21 January

Tomcat 201

“Stand by to break, people,” Tombstone ordered. The Tomcats were

climbing now, the enemy just coming into visual range. He could see the

mingled contrails of dog-fighting aircraft two miles ahead and ten

thousand feet above. “On my mark … break!”

The tight cluster of F-14s opened like the blossoming of a flower, a

maneuver called the bomb burst at Top Gun school. Three pairs of sleek

gray aircraft separated from one another, the pairs themselves slipping

apart as the formation went from welded wing to loose deuce.

“Eagle Leader, Eagle Two!” Batman called. “We’re being painted by

Straight Flush. They’re trying for a lock!”

Tombstone rolled his Tomcat into an inverted position so he could see

the ground. There could be hundreds of SAMs lurking down there. “Keep

your eyes open, Batman,” he said. “I don’t- SAM launch! SAM launch

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Categories: Keith Douglass