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Seven B’nei Elohim Sandwich fighter pilots leaped into the Lunar sky from the roof of Taurus to enter the fray. Baron Bayard established good old-fashioned encrypted radio contact on a UHF frequency. “This is Illustrious, radio check, over.”

They reported in by rank. Ash-blonde Stephanie leveled out her fighter and said, “Illustrious, this is Valorous, roger, over.”

Red-headed Amanda checked in saying, “Illustrious, this is Ardent, roger, over.”

When it was her turn pretty dark-haired Adirael Larund said, “Illustrious, this is Resolute, roger, over.”

Blonde pixie Suzanne set her fighter busy doing a Built-In-Test and piped up saying, “Illustrious, this is Lancer, roger, over.”

Shaven-headed Tori got her buggy transmitter working just in time and said, “Illustrious, this is Tornado, roger, over.”

Dark-haired, slender little Candra looked through her canopy at Bayard's fighter nearby and chimed in, “Illustrious, this is Talon, roger, over.”

"Pink Wing this is Illustrious, roger, close it up tight ladies. I want visual contact with all of you. Illustrious, out."

From the first day these women joined his team, Bayard made them drill. And drill. Bayard drilled because he wanted no hesitancy to remain. Combat must be learned in the muscles. It should be a dance. Second nature. There should be no transition from training to the real thing, and the real thing had finally come.

The Persecutor was easily identified. Each enemy ship had a radar with unique "fingerprints", which were certain defects in the transmitter. These defects, which were little dips on the tops of the pulses, or slightly ringing pulses, lent an electronic “personality” to the signal going out. The Beaters had long ago matched the radar fingerprints to the ship, and they had also shared that information with the B’nei Elohim. Stephanie said, “This is Valorous, I have identified the destroyer, designate track one zero niner.”

Soon after the seven fighters had all gathered close together Bayard barked his initial orders. “So let's get them interested in us. Spread to every corner of the sky. Then make your runs. Sting 'em with random attacks. No pattern! Set your Multiblip Repeater to attack formation Delta.”

The Multiblip Repeater was a jamming device unlike any other. Most jammers filled the enemy's radar picture with clouds of static. But the Multiblip Repeater simulated the echoes of real contacts. So mixed in with the real blips of Bayard's seven randomly flying fighters were the false blips of a dozen ghost ships in a precise "V" attack profile. This was Attack Formation Delta.

Belphegor directed his arsenal toward the juicy targets of all those blips lined up in a straight "V". He instructed the ships under his command to ignore the other blips, the randomly moving blips, as silly attempts to jam their search radars.

The Multiblip Repeater was even more clever in that it deleted contacts one by one as the invaders thought they scored "hits." Not until Bayard's people actually passed to within visual range did the cherub realize he had been tricked, but by then it was much too late. The first pass had to count. Bayard's people made sure to hit all the good stuff, the missile racks and most of the gun mounts.

Still, the Persecutor reached out and slapped Candra as she passed by, crippling her ship with close-in laser fire. “I'm hit!” she screamed as her fighter spun wildly out of the zone of combat. But eventually her nerves settled down and she was able to bring her ship under semi-control.

“This is Talon," she said when the immediate crisis had passed. "I'm all right.”

“Can you make it back to the city?” Bayard asked her.

“I don't know. I'm going to set down on the surface until I can check out the extent of my damage.”

“If it's bad, Candra, don't try to limp back into the battle.”

“Roger, out.”

Candra didn't know it yet, but the Battle of Luna was over for her. The damage was far worse than she realized, and when she suited up and went over the exterior of her ship she would marvel that she had made it down to the ground in one piece.

At the same time that Candra had sustained her disabling hit, Amanda and Suzanne's blows combined to score a fatal hit on the Repressor. It fell like a stone to the surface of the Moon and impacted on the hard regolith, killing all twenty-five men aboard. Then the six remaining sandwich fighters headed back out and regrouped, tearing a path away to free space.

Bayard had set out to interest the destroyer in his tiny force. Persecutor was definitely interested now. With the small shreds of dignity it had left remaining to it the wounded warship and her own retinue of fighters, bombers, and shuttles turned to stately pursue their attackers.

Bayard said, “Pink Wing, execute Formation Delta. Scramble your repeaters.” Everyone expertly complied. Now it was the actual fighters which were in a precise V pattern and the false electronic blips which were moving randomly.

Cherub Belphegor had picked up on things right away. Now he scoffed at the primitive attempt to fool his radar with a V of dots all lined up with (it was so obvious now) machine precision. Not the rough formations to be expected from inexperienced human women pretending to be combat star pilots like the battle-hardened nephilim aviation officers of House Gerash. This time he directed his ship’s missile and gun-fire to the randomly moving contacts.

“It's electronic warfare,” Bayard said to himself when he watched his deception work. He was in a rhythm with the other five gals. They all functioned as one unit, and more important, they were all having enormous fun.

Bayard allowed the burning destroyer to pass into the zone of space defined by himself and the five planes under his command. The cornered Persecutor slowly withered away under Pink Wing’s continuing attack. Belphegor’s smooth brown ellipsoid was on fire and had giant ragged bites taken out of it. Parts of the hull had been exposed to vacuum, sucking some unstrapped personnel out into space.

Command shifted to a secondary bridge deeper within the highly compartmentalized interior where pressurized and undamaged work spaces were still to be found, but it was a fool's errand. Persecutor could no longer run nor see nor fight. There remained only vengeance.

In her death throes Persecutor, true to her name, lashed out with a blind Bulldog missile which found its way to the Resolute. Impact. The dense knot of water held in a phantom quantum state inside her fighter went up all at once, creating a vast white explosion completely out of proportion to the fighter's tiny size, much as a macro-bomb punched well above its own weight.

“Poor Adirael!” Suzanne cried, breaking radio discipline in her grief, because she knew the Fallen Angel, not having been Changed, would never live again.

Bayard smiled through his own tears. “This never was about us trying to live as long as we can,” he said. “Don't you see? Avoiding death never was the glue that bound us together.”

Suzanne nodded to herself. No, that glue is love!

When the overlapping glowing swirls of water vapor from Adirael's demise grew and faded to invisibility all eyes turned to the final doom of the imperial destroyer. None of the officers and crewmen of Persecutor survived the final blow, a ship-to-ship Brushfire-B missile fired by Bayard through a gap in the hull with a thousand pound macro warhead, blowing the ship into bright glowing embers which scattered to every corner of the sky.

So ended Cherub Belphegor, victor of countless campaigns in the Eggbeater at Alpha Centauri, at the hands of a Gold Beard and four human females pretending (as the cherub supposed) to be star pilots.

After only a few moments of shaking themselves and checking for broken bones the troop transports and their escorting wings turned and lumbered hell-for-leather after the B’nei Elohim fighters to avenge the Persecutor. Gradually the battle became strung out on a line only fifty thousand feet above the Moon, making a beeline for the city of Taurus.

“There's gotta be an idiot in charge,” Bayard told her girls over the coded channel. “This is too easy. No way a worthy foe just walk into our triple A over the city.”

The line of Pink and Blue beads lengthened and thinned out. Blue forces slowly found themselves isolated with small enemies on two sides. The five gnats became four. In the slug-match that ensued Tori aboard the Tornado suffered a disabling hit. It wasn't as serious as the damage to the Talon, but she had to withdraw from the battle and return to Taurus.

Still, the forces of Asmodeus were strung out along one vulnerable line. Configured this way, one-dimensionally, each ship could assist only it's two immediate neighbors or assail at most two fighters. Meanwhile, the entire formation passed directly over Taurus City, which attacked the enemy ships from below using its heavy defensive lasers with impunity. Asmodeus dared not return fire because he assumed his unnamed objective was somewhere inside Taurus and he needed the city intact.

This was a classic textbook case of what not to do, studied by naval historians for centuries, from the time of wooden sailing ships right through the era of steel battleships in the first and second world wars. Asmodeus had allowed the B’nei Elohim to cross his “T”. And what made it even more unforgivable was that it was a stationary city bristling with cannon (and not a line of maneuvering warships) that did the crossing.

In the ensuing storm of fire the invasion fleet broke formation, went into complete disarray, and individually set course to get to the Moon's surface as quickly as possible. All of the enemy ships took damage, but the Subjugator was crippled by a particularly well-paced shot from the city and her descent turned into a free-fall as she spiraled down to the ground. All hands aboard died in the crash.

Hunky noted this sparrowfall from the War Room in the heart of the city and said, “I get the impression the Empire came out here with their second-best football team and expected to go up against nothing but cheerleaders.”

So only nine Imperial troop transport shuttles successfully landed in the predesignated place, a small valley in the Taurus-Littrow highlands about ten miles from Taurus. Very close by was the actual landing spot of the 1972 Apollo 17 expedition, where the initials of Gene Cernan's daughter had remained intact as Robyn had promised him.

Bayard came in low over them and scored a direct hit on the troopship Oppressor before they could debark, killing or seriously wounding sixteen of the Americans aboard.

Asmodeus saw this and his anger, already smoldering from the loss of Persecutor, burned white hot. When Bayard came around again for another pass, this time with his surviving girls in formation behind him, Asmodeus prepared to let Bayard have it with a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile (although the Moon had no air, so a different name for his weapon would have been more appropriate).

With effortlessness derived from countless opportunities over two centuries affording him experience, Asmodeus shouldered his rocket canister and took meticulous aim while the rest of his people dove for cover.

From Bayard a laser touched the ground at the feet of Asmodeus, visible only as a glowing, searching orange cloud of dust. Azibeel took aim and fired, unperturbed and undeterred by Bayard's attack. The passive, IR-homing, radar-silent surface-to-air missile found its way unerringly toward the intense heat of Bayard's underthrusters.

Two objects crossed in the black lunar sky: Asmodeus' missile and Bayard's spacecraft. The intervening factor was a hot puff ball at the point of closest approach only three feet away from Bayard's wildly evading fighter.

“I'm hit!”

Bayard's fighter tumbled in a flat spin to the surface of the moon like a tile thrown out a window. And so passed the second son of Queen Aurra, though she was long gone herself, two thousand years gone. Bayard was dead and the sudden loss of their leader frightened the remaining three star pilots off.

The so-called "air" campaign was largely over. Now the surviving Imperial shuttles could unload Asmodeus’ people and supplies unmolested in the vale of Taurus.

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