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Akane made a question mark in the air and showed an exaggerated face, full of confusion, attracting so the attention of young cadets. They may find Akane cute or whatever, but Gromov felt only the irritation, coming from the fact that military matters should be obvious for lieutenant. Dying only once should not affect her so notably.

“You two,” he addressed the smiling cadets. They didn’t seem bothered much by sergeant’s conspiracy theory as they were rather eying Akane, probably not realizing, she was at least ten years older than them. Or perhaps they just didn’t care. “I know you were listening. What are your opinions?”

“Ours, sir? Sorry, sir. What was the question again?”

“We all shall die if Plantarians break through our defense,” Gromov started explaining slowly, as he was talking to an child. “With light fighters reduced to thirty percent, why might two battle ships on orbit have not been enough? Is it clear enough? I can repeat that for you.”

“No need, sir,” cadet blurted, while Andrey chuckled. He leaned familiarly to Akane and in perfectly audible voice whispered. “This is why I love Sava. He can’t help it, though. Sort of personal charm – to make everyone around feel like an inferior piece of garbage. Steiner could not stand it.”

“I love him, too,” Akane mumbled and blushed again.

Gromov frowned since he thought they both tried to mock him. “Still waiting, cadets.”

“We don’t know, sir. Perhaps the fire capacity of cruisers is not enough.”

“Perhaps,” agreed Gromov. “Or perhaps, you may want to open your engineering textbooks and find out what happens if a Q-Field reach a larger spaceship. Anyone?”

Cadets exchanged looks. An upright posture, slender figure , soft baby face, and the same uniform – for a random observer they might appear almost identical. But they didn’t avoid problem, apparently taking the challenge.

“Is it because the complex systems are hard to recover from Q-Field’s impact, sir?”

“Bingo. Which means…?”

“If Q-Field generator gets near battle ships they may malfunction, sir?”

“They’ll become sitting ducks,” said Gromov. “Very well, both of you. Instructors told you that Q-Field is the ultimate weapon, no shielding possible. Until recently, Plantarians restricted their attacks to simple meteor bombing. Last years, we’ve encountered spaceplanes with human crews. By human crews, I’m referring to subjugated ones. Plantarians have and can use Q-Field now, so they can render any cruiser useless. Understood?“

“Completely, sir. Thank you, sir.”

“Any questions?”

“Yes, sir. Have you ever been in a real skirmish, sir?”

Even Gromov was speechless. Being not particularly proud of his achievements in Space Forces, he still had some reputation. Even if cadets were not aware of his personal records, they should deduce the pilots attending the summit are recruited from senior pilots, involved without doubts in the space battles. Just because I have no red number on my sleeve…

“You retarded flies!”

The skin of Sergeant Jerzinky’s bald head turned to a deep purple shade. With clenched fists and bulging muscles, he transformed into the breathing menace with barred teeth and recognizable intent to kill. The poor cadets started shaking involuntary. Even Akane stepped back, astonished.

“Who you think you are talking to, you malformed products of mother’s womb? This is Captain Sava Gromov, one of top ranking officers with over one hundred confirmed kills. Twenty bloody years in service. The living proof it is not necessary to act like obtuse kamikaze, if you have some brain to begin with. You…”

“Sergeant!”

The outburst of emotional startled Gromov. He did not remember Andrey being mentally labile or easy to provoke. On the contrary, Andrey used to calm people around, when the situation threatened to go overboard.

“Sorry, captain.”

With visible effort, Andrey suppressed the fury.

“I should not get so agitated,” he added afterwards. “I apologize for my boys. They meant no harm, they’re just indoctrinated by morons like Steiner and the others. Honestly, to ask you such question. So ashamed.”

“No big deal,” Gromov patted the friend. “I’ll see you later… Let’s go, Akane. The luxury awaits. That was your line, wasn’t it?”

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About the author

Pavel Morava

Bio: Born in the Czech Republic, Pavel Morava is not a native English speaker. Having been twenty-two years old, he published his first book, which did not become an international bestseller. After a few other attempts, Pavel Morava abandoned the literary career for over twenty years, during which period he has been focusing on processing of plastics, programming, and raising of children.
Recently, with more time at his disposal, he returned to the forgotten ambition, fighting a futile battle with English language, procrastination, and the tendency to give up too early.
Being vivid reader of not Anglo-Saxon origin, Pavel Morava was fortunate enough to experience books from different countries, including Czech, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Swedish, Dutch, Japanese, French, German, and English. Such a vast literary variety heavily influenced his own work, which typically relies on an one-point-of-view narrative, consecutive storytelling, and elimination of unnecessary details.
Web novels and online publishing made him reevaluate his approach to style and building blocks of the text; the result should be, hopefully, lighter, shorter, and more intelligible for reading on electronic devices.

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