"This is crazy man! We're going to die going into this shitstorm!"

The pilot was hysterical with fear. He was a veteran of the first Gulf War and a specialist used mainly by the CIA, but nothing in his training or his personal experience had prepared him for flying into the teeth of a cataclysm like what was raging in and over Washington DC. Only a few hundred feet in front of the windscreen of the unmarked helicopter an F-18 Hornet spiraled down trailing smoke. Its cockpit canopy was blown and the pilot was gone. As the man behind the controls of the Blackhawk watched the Navy fighter crashed at speed into a housing project with a tremendous burst of fire.

"Lower," Captain Henry muttered. "Get us lower."

The pilot complied, choking back further hysteria to prevent hyperventilating. He guided the Blackhawk down so low that its rotors were nearly touching the tops of buildings on either side. Fires burning in the streets below caused unpredictable gusts of hot air that made keeping the helicopter level a nearly impossible task. As they pushed in towards the Whitehouse a vehicle's fuel tank blew beneath them and the helicopter juddered forward, its rotor snapping off an antenna on the top of an apartment building.

Captain Henry's head was still hurting, but he took comfort in the fact that he was no longer having trouble remaining conscious. How could he sleep now? Seeing the heart of America bloodied and burning? This was what God made men like Captain Henry for!

He looked down a side street and saw one of the big black metal bastards throwing a limp human body like a child's doll.

"That way, and slow down."

"Slow down? You've gotta be fuckin' kidding me, we can't sl-"

Captain Henry had already unbuckled himself from the copilot's seat and was making his way to the 5.56mm mini-gun in the helicopter's door position. He didn't know if it would do anything to the chrome commie son of a bitch, but he was sure as shit going to find out.

"Angle me for a shot!" He shouted to the pilot and then stuck the pistol he was brandishing into his mouth like it was a pirate's dagger.

The pilot considered yawing the helicopter violently and pitching the crazy guy in the head bandages out of the door. He glanced out the windscreen again and decided against it as he watched yet another fighter meet its end; cart wheeling and fragmenting in midair, a strange vertical "T" shaped aircraft punching a hole through the debris and fire.

"Hang on!" The pilot bellowed unnecessarily and swung the helicopter down the side street, angling the door so that Captain Henry could take a swipe at the Imperatrixian.

The creature was crouching down, getting another blood sample from a prostrate woman, when Captain Henry started firing. The mini-gun made a sound like a motorcycle engine revving and concrete burst into clouds in a hundred places around the Imperatrixian. The creature swung its head up and Captain Henry adjusted his aim. Another two hundred rounds spat out of the mini-gun, so fast that the last was in route before the first had even hit. Most missed completely, most that didn't miss ricocheted harmlessly from the alien armor, but a small minority of the bullets struck things that mattered. Shielded linkages, joint spots, coolant hoses, and the targeting system of the Imperatrixian all suffered damage.

It sprawled back into the growing dust cloud, crushing the woman beneath its bulk and flailing wildly with its arms and legs. The helicopter rushed past and Captain Henry gave the bastard a parting shot. Two lucky bullets found their way through the optics of the Imperatrixian's helmet and buried themselves in the motor control system. The creature inside was unharmed, but the suit it relied on for life support and safety was completely immobilized.

"Yeeeeehaw!" Whooped Captain Henry, assuming that the sudden limpness of the thing meant it was dead.

The pilot was surprised that he felt slightly elated as well. In fact, he was so elated that he nearly missed a dangerously auto-rotating Apache that swung its rear rotor strut into his path. The pilot rammed the stick down, pushing the Blackhawk beneath the Apache and beneath the tops of the buildings. He angled the rotor dangerously so that the blades were clipping the tops of the tallest trees.

Captain Henry joined him in the cockpit like nothing was amiss.

"Well, quit dicking around and get me to the president."

The pilot pulled up from street level just enough to secure his rotor space a little and even out the helicopter's attack angle. They were getting close. He could see the cordon around the Whitehouse and, miraculously, it seemed to be relatively safe. A solid wall of police cars were parked on the lawns of the Whitehouse and behind them the heavy armored Suburbans of the Secret Service with their pop-up gun mounts. There was just enough space next to Marine One to put down on the lawn, assuming no one decided to shoot them down.

No one did, and the pilot set the helicopter down with a sigh of relief.

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