The twenty green SF models on the3d monitor symbolized Gromov's comrades and a dissipated cloud of about one hundred red generic vessels, which kept conic formation to protect the three Q-field carriers, depicted as prolonged tubes, represented Plantarians.
The captain restrained himself from loud criticism of Steiner in front of his team because of two reasons: firstly, he did not want to undermine the trust between soldiers and their superior; secondly, he realized that Major Milano, evidently a capable commander, was trying to pull any trick to postpone the inevitable collision.
To Steiner's dismay, expressed in the open communication channel, Milano ordered a slow detour instead of a direct approach.
“Sir, he probably intends to strike from the side angle to avoid being surrounded by the enemy.”
Gromov, who had been granted (as a leader of one squadron) access to communication, stepped in as to explain the intention of the major.
Steiner, well aware of Milano's goals, did not muster the courage to throw Milano's group into a suicidal mission, so he just snorted: “Thank you, Captain. Next time I'll be in need of your expertise, I let you know. Do not interfere now! As for you, Major, I want you to hit the bad guys as quickly as possible.”
Once again, Milano's microphone recorded the enraged humming of pilots who concluded what Steiner was aiming for, and did not appreciate that obediently.
“No need to be afraid,” barked Steiner. “They’ve only stolen our obsolete technology, spacecraft old over twenty years, unmaintained pieces of junk, amassed from looted depositories. One to five is still unfavorable to them. Get'em, girls and boys!”
The proclamation raised astonished silence as if the personnel were evaluating Colonel’s words, not able to find the rhyme and reason within, as technology and high-tech gadgets rarely brought an upper hand to fight under Q-Field.
Pilots and gunners of the third wave, gathered around Gromov, quizzically sought his eyes, almost like hoping he, despite all odds, will soothe their worries and confirm Steiner's reassuring.
Before he could open the mouth, a distant voice sounded.
“Hooray, I do feel sorry for the cockroaches now!”
With no doubt, it was Andrey whose triumphant roar passed through the speaker of Anbi, then that of Chi, and finally to the ears of all who have been listening.
“Oh shut up,” cried Akane before she switched the microphone off. “I’ll get deaf -we have to pay attention.”
With uncertain parental feeling of a father whose daughter grew up responsible and independent, Gromov nodded in satisfaction.
Meanwhile, Steiner used the opportunity and ordered pilots to put their helmets on, which eliminated unwanted transmissions.
“Starting the countdown for second squadron…”
Local mechanics performed marvelously when they readied Chi's unit under thirty minutes, but the chances of any meaningful assistance for Major Milano appeared as unthinkable.
“Sir, can we do it?”
Cadet Jamal, sweating profusely with sticky drops over the pale face, watched him from above, since he did not dare to sit down in the presence of high-ranking officers.
But not only him, everybody waited for the answer, patiently avoiding to disturb Gromov’s thoughts as they were expecting the leader to come with a bulletproof miraculous stratagem that would revert forthcoming disaster into a surprising victory; in a way, they resembled spectators of a movie with an inevitable happy end.
“I am no magician you know,” he was about to say but swallowed the remark, straightened up and filled his voice with confidence, “the inspection of destroyed Plantarian vessels showed the lack of maintenance of manual systems, not to speak about missing spare parts which they were probably unable to obtain. From undergoing analysis we know that Plantarian pilots underperformed. We believe they haven’t established proper training facilities yet, so in dogfights, we shall prevail, especially if our elite gathered here.”
Jamal flashed white squared teeth in obvious relief, “Glad to hear that, sir. I don’t mind dying here, even with no backup, but honestly… I would rather be of some use if possible.”
Blankly, Gromov stared at the cadet hiding hysterical laugh which threatened to surface from deep of his stomach. What an inadequate reaction to innocent words! After getting a grip of himself, Gromov tamed the curving lips and with a somber tone appreciated the resolve of a young man.
“Look on my sleeve,” he said finally. “I have no red number there. I guess I suck at dying. Don’t you mind if I keep it this way?”
Jamal and the rest grinned. However, the truth, they were not aware of disturbed him greatly. In theory, they could have the upper hand here, but only under the condition of sticking to tight careful tactics, precisely executed and coordinated. The key principle was never allowing enemies to outnumber friendly fighter too vastly, in the worse ratio two against one.
“We should engage and lurk the enemy out to get the local advantage, biting off piece by piece their formation. They may want to sacrifice a few fighters; their main objective stays to break through our defense and infect ground targets. The protection of Q-Field carriers will remain their priority. If one of these gets close enough, then our cruisers and unmanned satellites will become sitting ducks.”
After realizing he was talking aloud, Gromov stopped and looked around. All women and men were seemed hanging on the words with strange, pious scrutiny, almost like being offered with the recipe on how to surpass unfavorable odds.
Colonel Steiner, however, perhaps under the impression that there is no time for such guerilla maneuvers, undertook a completely different course of action.
Gromov sighed silently. To his sheer relief, Chief of maintenance entered the preparatory room and announced: “Now it’s your turn, Captain. Please proceed into the launching area.”
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.