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"I dare you to say it again!"

A clear and furious voice reached Gromov when leaving the restroom. After the encounter with Mrs. Corbin, he wanted to find a peaceful place, where the chances of socializing with another delusional person will be close to zero.

The other pilots, grouping along the wall of hotel corridor, probably on similar quest for calm sanctuary, have small talks during break in the official program. Under high statue of unfathomable shape, resembling female torso with abnormal hips and breast, a noisy disturbance took place; the vehement voice he heard before reminded him of Akane.

“That bloody troublemaker!”

He was quite sure it was her. Akane Anbi attracted problems. Short tempered and triggered easily, she enjoyed quarrelling, and despite the small stature and fragile appearance, she did not avoid violence. Gromov called her crazy for good reason, when speaking with Andrey Jerzinski.

The drunkard on the street harassing people, street thugs stealing wallets – Akane loved citizens’ crisis, fighting for poor victims hard, dirty, and very seldom victoriously. Once, they brought her with three broken bones, because she got to the street fight with local mobs, and got beaten until she lost consciousness. Not that it changed anything: to compensate lighter weight and insufficient strength of body, Akane adopted the tactic of preemptive strike.

Gromov had to hurry up. While her voice sounded enraged and emotional, there was still a slight chance to stop the incident. Having no desire to explain the commander why his subordinate harmed a colleague on official summit of Space Forces, he leaned forward, rather running than walking.

“I don’t get what is your problem?”

The endangered man stood in front of young woman with folded hands. It was a subtle blonde lieutenant with blue eyes, sharp face and thin limbs. From the uptight diction he spoke, Gromov deduced he was one of those unfortunate debaters who love to contradict the others just for sake of arguing. In a sense, Akane met her equal.

“I should enlighten you, then,” said Akane, suddenly composed and grinning.

“Oh crap!”

Gromov needed to overcome a short staircase. Just few meters, he thought, while shouting: “Lieutenant! I forbid you…”

It was a mistake because only the blonde looked upwards.

“I should’ve called her by name,” realized Gromov. “Too late now.”

“First,” said Akane, punching the clenched fist into unguarded stomach. “You said there were plenty of crappy officers here…”

The man wavered, taken by surprise. “What…!”

“Second,” Akane grabbed his head and pushed it downward while she was jumping up, “you said you can tell them apart by a glance on their sleeves…”

“Stop it!”

“… like the shitty captain you saw with Colonel Steiner,” finished Akane and kneeled him right into the face. “It was my third, you scumbag. No one will badmouth my captain, understood?”

“You imbecile! Stop right now!”

Gromov came only to prevent her from kicking into collapsed body. The others pilot helped injured man on the feet. Far from defeated, the lieutenant seemed infuriated, wiping blood stained lips.

“Let me go! I’ll show that bitch!”

Shaking off the hands, he sprung forward, aiming at Akane, who struggled to loosen herself. Gromov pushed young woman away and caught the attacker from behind, forcing lieutenant into submission.

“Why are you holding me?” yelled the officer. “I knew you were a coward. Let me fight her one on one.”

“Stay still, damn it,” bellowed Gromov. “It’s the order. I’ll apologize for my subordinate later, but now stay still. I won’t allow both of you misbehave any further.”

Finally, lieutenant ceased to resist, cursing under his breath and calling Gromov a coward or disgrace to military. After being released, he stood slowly, gauging captain with a clear animosity.

“You need a woman to fight for you, right?”

Gromov, one head taller and about thirty kilos heavier, suppressed the urge to laugh bitterly. He had no trouble to subdue the subtle youngster before, so agreeing to the fight would have resulted in another humiliation.

“What is your name?” he asked instead.

“Lieutenant Heinrich Schubert.” Blond man saluted rather mockingly, showing his left sleeve, stained by blood, and the red digit on it. “A battle pilot. Twenty-two confirmed kills. And you are, sir?”

Before Gromov could respond, from behind went a familiar voice. “This is famous Captain Sava Gromov, ace of Dolzana base, over one hundred confirmed kills, the longest serving battle pilot. A true inspiration for children, if you ask me. May I know why he needed to smash your face, sir?”

All of them looked to the left. Panting heavily, Sergeant Jerzinski stood there, accompanied by two members of Military Police.

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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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