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68 miles south of Delta, Russian Amerika

First Lieutenant Gerald Yamato found himself in the twin-thirty crossfire from three tanks. He felt Satori shudder with each hit, and there were a lot of hits. For a blissful moment he thought he could stay in the fight.

Then his controls went mushy and the solid stream of smoke from his engine compartment burst into bright flame washing back over his cockpit. Another minute in this situation would kill him. He immediately ejected the canopy and rolled the bird over; after jerking his seat restraints free, he threw himself into the smoky wake of his doomed P-61 that screamed out of control down into the awesome canyon a thousand feet below the battle.

Lieutenant Yamato wrenched his chute around so he could see as much of the battle as possible. While he watched, one of the Eureka fighters suddenly flamed, trailed smoke and exploded.

“Looked like Christenson’s ship,” he said to himself, feeling his heart lurch. Mike was the squadron mascot, a classic brilliant, self-doomed fuck-off.

A tree drifted past and he realized he had better pay mind to his own predicament, for him the fight with the Russians was over. An explosion from below pulled his attention to the bottom of the valley. His fighter had impacted at the edge of a river.

Someone had claimed it was the Delta River.

The wind pushed him farther down the huge canyon. The artist in him took a quick moment to appreciate the majestic beauty of the valley. The miles-long ridge on the far side rippled in shades of reds, pinks, greens, and even light purples, like a Technicolor layer cake cut and toppled on its side.

Abruptly the pragmatic flier took over and he worked his chute in order to come down near the river, rather than hang up in the middle of the forest bordering both sides of the obviously swift-moving water. Even before the ground rushed up and grabbed him, he wondered what equipment he had and would it be enough?

His landing was textbook: take the shock with his feet together and collapse in a rolling tumble. Unlike the field back in the Napa Valley, this one was covered with boulders and rocks the size of his head.

He landed on a small boulder and his feet slid off to the right. He threw his arm out and instantly jerked it to his side again—he couldn’t risk breaking it. His shoulder took the majority of the impact and immediately went numb. Jerry threw out his hands and stopped himself.

The parachute settled on the rocky floodplain, began to fill from the constant breeze moving alongside the water. He pushed himself up and jerked the shroud lines, collapsing the silk. His shoulder hurt like hell but he swiftly pulled the lines into a pile at his feet.

Just as his hands touched the silk canopy, he heard a massive explosion from above. He looked up the incredible slope. At first he saw nothing but smoke pouring down from the road on the canyon rim. Then he saw awful movement.

At least nine Russian tanks avalanched down the steep wall, rotating in deadly decent, thunderously smashing flat the rocks and trees before crashing into each other or bouncing farther out into the canyon. Huge boulders and entire swaths of trees boiled in a descending dust-shrouded dance of death.

Behind the maelstrom tumbled a boulder larger than any tank, gouging out sixty-meter-wide swaths of mountainside before spinning out into the air again, following the doomed Russian war machines into the abyss.


A multitude of conflicting thoughts ran through his head as he waited for his companions to finish their preparations for the impending trek. First Lieutenant Jerry Yamato realized he had run out of options. As an officer of the Republic of California Air Force his first duty was to complete his mission.

Well, getting shot down in combat certainly ended my mission.

He would never forget the vivid memory of enemy fire hitting Satori and the sudden lack of control as the P-61 Eureka transformed from sleek fighter plane into burning debris falling out of the sky. Rolling the bird over so he could open the canopy, jerk his seat harness free, and drop out of the cockpit through the flames roaring back from the engine had taken less time to do than it would to describe the actions.

The ache in his shoulder attested to his poor landing.

Of course there had to be boulders all over the ground!

His other choice had been to land in the fast-flowing river that threaded through the boulder field. Parachuting into moving water became a recipe for disaster. He accepted the aching shoulder as a reminder of choosing the lesser of two evils.

His second duty was to return to his command as soon as possible. Well, that was finally about to commence. However he hadn’t counted on being attacked by a survivor of the Russian armored column that his squadron had all but destroyed.

How a man could fall into a valley along with tanks and armored personnel carriers and still live loomed nearly beyond belief. Sergeant Cermanivich had not only survived the fall, he had also tried to kill Jerry with a rifle. Jerry’s aim with his service .45 kept the sergeant alive.

Jerry had aimed at the man’s head and hit the rifle in his hands instead. The blow had knocked the Russian sergeant off the rock on which he sat and in his condition took him out of the fight.

Or took the fight out of him, Jerry mused.

Then things really got complicated. Jerry had an unconscious prisoner who didn’t look as if he could live another hour and he stood in the middle of an unknown, vast wilderness that happened to be enemy territory. The 117th Fighter Squadron had flown many miles over Russian Amerika and the only sign of human habitation or toil had been the road over the mountain pass where they attacked the Russian armor.

To be honest, he had considered putting the damaged Russian out of his misery. For all Jerry knew, this son of a bitch might have shot him down! Killing a man in combat could be considered duty; putting a bullet through the brain of an unconscious man from three feet away seemed like murder.

So he woke the soldier and met Sergeant Rudi Cermanivich, who had been the gunner on the lead tank—which meant he was the son of a bitch who shot Jerry down!—and when he tried to stand he passed out again. With a simple litter, Jerry dragged the mercifully unconscious sergeant back to where he had left his parachute and other gear. After a very long, exhausting time he thought he should be in the right area, but his gear had vanished.

Suddenly a beautiful woman appeared who had enough words of English to ask if he spoke Russian. And then he saw stars when a rock hit the back of his head. Once he regained consciousness, tied securely with his own parachute lines, he met Pelagian, a six-foot-tall, muscular man who had the blood of numerous races flowing through his veins.

Piercing blue eyes and skin the shade of coffee with cream made for a very arresting figure. His wife, Bodecia, stood all of five feet and with her chiseled beauty, looked mostly of Alaska Native ancestry. The beautiful woman who had rendered him witless in more ways than one was Magda, their daughter.

After Jerry and Rudi both explained their presence, Pelagian had freed them and offered them assistance. A great weight lifted off Jerry’s shoulders at that moment. He and the sergeant just might live through this after all.

When he explained he had been shot down while fighting in aid of a Dená revolution against the Czar the effect on his rescuers had been electric. It seemed they were all on the same side, except Rudi, of course. Pelagian and his family had been in the bush for months and knew nothing of the battles fought between Russia and the Dená Separatist Movement and their allies.

Jerry wondered if these people could really get him and Sergeant Rudi Cermanivich out of the wilderness alive. He glanced at Magda who happened to look at him at the same time. Interest shone in her eyes and that buoyed him immensely.

Well, I joined the Air Force for adventure. Mother always told me to be careful of what I wished for.

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