throttle wider, closing the gap.

The lead MiG was firing again. Tombstone saw bits of metal flaking away

from the twin stabilizers of Taggart’s F-14. The smoke from his engine

was heavier now. Taggart was still climbing, but his plane was reacting

sluggishly. Tombstone dropped down on the two MiGs less than a quarter

of a mile behind them.

“Got the one on the right,” Batman yelled. “Lock! Fox two!”

“I’ve got the left!” Tombstone decided to stay with the Sparrow

missiles. He had two of them left, and only one heat-seeker. “Fox


The hunted Tomcat seemed to stagger. Tombstone could tell that Taggart

was fighting to keep the wounded turkey under control.

“Eagle Four, Eagle Leader,” he called. “Punch out, Price!”

“I can hold it, Stoney!” His Tomcat was dropping again, skimming the

trees as the MiGs weaved back and forth on his tail.

Taggart’s aircraft exploded with stunning suddenness, bursting into

flame, then tumbling over and over and over again until the wreckage

sheared through the uppermost branches of the forest canopy.

“Tomcat down, Tomcat down!” Batman called. Tombstone could hear pain in

his wingman’s voice. “Eagle Four down three miles east of Taeng River,

five miles south of the green line …”

The MiGs were climbing on full burners. Tombstone’s second Sparrow

followed, zeroing in on the lead MiG. He could see the number 612 on

the MiG’s nose. Tombstone found himself willing the missile to


A miss! Damn! The Sparrow had passed fifty feet behind the jinking

MiG, decoyed this time, Tombstone was certain, by a timely burst of


His attitude and position were wrong to pursue. “Two-oh-one breaking,

Batman! Going high!” He pulled the F-14 clear of the trees.

“I’m with you, Stoney,” Batman replied. He sounded shaken.

Behind them, black smoke curled into the sky, grave marker for

Lieutenant Ronald Taggart and his RIO, Lieutenant Charles Ziegler.

0752 hours, 21 January

U Feng

Their flight was an all-out run away from the shed, past the neatly

aligned fuel tanks, and into the open space beyond. The camp was in

complete chaos. Pamela could hear the rising whine of the planes she’d

seen being started earlier. Once she chanced a look back over her

shoulder and saw two heavy-bodied aircraft lifting from the runway with

a thundering roar. Other planes seemed to be milling about at one end

of the runway, readying for takeoff.

Where were the Navy planes? She could hear a distant rumble of jet

aircraft, but outside of wisps and streaks of white high in the sky, she

could not see them, couldn’t tell if they were engaged in battle or not.

She could see soldiers in the camp, but none were close by, and none

appeared to notice the two fugitives. “Run!” Bayerly yelled, and she

ran, her legs pumping away. Memories of Hsiao and the warehouse drove

her on.

The clearing around U Feng was a hundred yards across, but the ground

was soft and broken, making each step treacherous. She quickly found

herself slowing. She’d eaten little more than a bowlful of rice in two

days, had slept no more than a few hours. In minutes, her lungs were

burning with the effort, her breath coming in gasps. She clutched at

her side as a stitch hobbled her. She couldn’t run much farther.

They were halfway across the clearing when someone saw them. Pamela

heard a burst of gunfire behind her, much closer than the rattlings off

in the jungle, and something went snap-snap-snap just above her head,

making her duck involuntarily. She started to recover … and then her

foot turned and she went sprawling to the ground.

“C’mon! C’mon!” Bayerly yelled. He stood above her, breathing hard,

the AK-47 raised to his shoulder and pointed back toward the base.


But Pamela was on her hands and knees, unable to get up. Her knees, her

legs were trembling with the effort which had brought her this far. “I

can’t …”

“Move, damn you!”

Bayerly’s scream was like a physical blow. She found her balance and

got her feet under her. Still shaking, she lurched forward.

“Yoot!” a shrill voice yelled behind them. “Yawm pa!”

Bayerly’s AK fired, a short burst that assaulted Pamela’s ears. She

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Categories: Keith Douglass