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PAUL CIRCLED HIS Apache helicopter over the Atlantic Ocean, having pulled wheel chocks from Libya soon after John had departed on a sonic jet. He was getting a lay of the coastline and flying out to a group of smaller islands a bit farther than the ones the other helicopter tours exploited, planning to carve out a piece of the tourist business while he melted into the population and could all but disappear, when John had called. Grim Reaper clawing out from hell, the missile rose up from inside Ascension's communication tower. "Profit." He groaned to himself. "You're making trouble again."

The weapon climbed into the cloudless sky, and quickly picked up speed.

"Respond. This is Captain Paul Hawke. Did you receive my signal? Confirm, General. Do you see what I am picking up? Code Delta-Mark-Delta. Code Delta-Mark-Delta. Over. Respond."

"Former, Captain Arrow. How the hell are you on this frequency?"

"It doesn't matter, sir. Code Delta-Mark-Delta. Do you confirm?"

A rapid tapping of keyboard transmitted over the radio. "Confirmed, sir three bogeys in the air. Nuclear, and armed."

Paul sighed. "With all due respect, sir, listen to your men. We only have a few seconds before it'll be too late. You have to give me access to the Satellite Defense System, now! I can ping my signal off yours and the satellite. It's the only way fast enough to triangulate onto the targets."

"Negative. No! Stand down, Hawke. And would someone get me the damn presiden—"

"There's no time. Sorry, sir. Hawke, out."

Paul pressed three buttons and flipped a switch. "That didn't go so good." The hacking program went to work, and within twenty seconds, the instrument console in front of Paul beeped. A giant atlas HUD flickered into existence within the Apache's main cockpit window. "Commandeering the military's satellite defenses. Firing on sovereign soil. Oh, yeah. This isn't going to end well."

"Let's hope our tax dollars went to a worthy cause—for once." John's voice broadcasted into Paul's headset.

Paul locked the Apache into hover mode and pressed the space of the hologram HUD blinking red closest to landfall on the map.

The display switched to a live feed far above the clouds. "Magnify." Paul said, and the display zoomed-in. Past the wisping clouds, toward the Earth's surface, to the missile closing in between the western coasts of Spain and England.

A message flashed across the HUD. A warning sounded throughout the cockpit.

IMPACT IN THIRTY SECONDS.

Paul jerked the controller in his hands, arming the defense satellite's laser system.

TWENTY-FIVE SECONDS.

He followed the trajectory...

TWENTY SECONDS.

Logged onto an intercept course...

FIFTEEN SECONDS.

Squeezed the trigger and fired.

TEN, NINE, EIGHT...

"Great! This thing doesn't even work." He banged his fist on the controls.

FIVE, FOUR, THREE...

Paul perked when a green streak zapped from the orbiting weapon and struck the target with amazing accuracy. He closed his eyes for a three count, waiting for the bright flash to fade. When he opened them, the target no longer blipped on the radar. Cheers erupted over the radio.

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