The first clash occurred after the third wave left Space Station. Major Milano's fighters attacked the left wing of Plantarians formation, trying to break through toward one of the Q-Field carriers.

Having enough time to adjust the protection in the threatened area, Plantarians defended their crucial spacecraft with easy.

“We got outnumbered,” reported Milano calmly. “Retreating all units.

“We are on the way,” Captain Chi and his crews maintained full speed.

“Denied, denied,” yelled Colonel Steiner. “Captain Chi, keep the accepted schedule. Engage right wing to make them scatter. Major Milano is on his own.

“Understood. But should not we…

During several minutes the seven fighters were destroyed, three of them belonging to Space Forces.

“This is gonna be quick,” mumbled Gromov. “We have to regroup, you bastard. They'll obliterate us one by one.

“I can’t copy, sir!”

One of the pilots caught the murmur.

“Is your mission clear, Captain Gromov?

This one came from Steiner.

“Yes, sir. Absolutely.”

“Target the middle carrier. This is your ultimate priority. All means allowed.”

By all means allowed” Steiner understood going suicidal through the defense line and attempt to crash into the targeted heavily armored carrier.

“Confirm the order, Captain.”

After the requested confirmation, Gromov noticed the quantum indicator reached the low bottom of the orange area.

“Entering the Q-Field,” he reported, mainly for the ears of his crews. “Switching to the radio. All units, perform checks of manual systems.

Under normal circumstances, the need for radio communication would raise later, but right now the delay in messaging from Space Station felt like temporary blessings.

For a moment, the distant echoes of undergoing battle reached the audio. Space Force fighters coordinated their attacks in a desperate effort to dent Plantarian thick defense, like hungry wolves around steadily proceeding herd of livestock.

“A6 covering A1A7, you are to close.”

“A7 here. Can’t help it. Bad guy targeting you, A6.”

Under radio protocol and given they hardly knew each other, pilots were calling their designated codes.

“A1 here, retreat once again!”

Major Milano, the A1, failed in another attempt, so he decided to relieve the pressure.

Then Captain Chi stepped in.

“B1, in position. Attack on my command. B13, keep our back safe. B4, follow me on right. B7, on the left.

B7, the tigress, on her way!

Gromov recognized Akane's voice and rolled his eyes. As her number was 7, she had to be in command of numbers 8 or 9. She had never acted as a leader before, being dangerous even for herself.

“Just be responsible, dammit!” he prayed inside.

Fearlessly, the green dot on the monitor situated left behind the leading fighter, rushed towards four scoundrels, as if to take them in one go.

In terms of raw fighting abilities, Akane Anbi was undoubtedly an extraordinary pilot, especially when maneuvering with manual systems when her innate capability to withstand multiplied Gs shined. Many consider her acrobatics impossible. Lacking discipline, she needed to be held on a very short leash, or she just went bananas.

While Gromov never failed to control her, Captain Chi with no similar experience must have been taken aback when in an instant, she just cut through the enemy chain, avoiding skillfully any fire sent her way, miraculously followed by her wings.

Nonetheless, seeing the unexpected opening Chi did not hesitate to take the chance.

“Tigress, B7, slow down, we are coming for you. Don’t get carried away!”

Don’t call her tigress, howled Gromov silently, it makes that idiot cockier.

As expected Chi's demands stayed ignored. Akane was enjoying herself and aimed deeper into the red cloud of antagonists.

Gromov could not take it anymore.

“AKANE!” he roared into the radio. “You insolent piece of garbage, follow Chi's orders or I’ll tear your head off!”

“Sorry, Chi, for meddling with your business,” he added in afterthought. Then, not waiting for radio response, he addressed his people.

“C group, report your status. C2?”

“C2, all manual systems green. Just ringing in my ears!”

“C3 here, all green. Just a little bit scared, you rough animal… I mean sir.”

It was a female chuckling voice.

“C4, all green. Just don’t kill me, sir!

C5 up to C12 confirmed status, adding some inappropriate remark. Only Jamal had no courage to do so.

All green, sir!

Understood. Everyone, counting down ten minutes to encounter. We gonna relieve Milano's side if possible.

Given that A crews will last for so long, Gromov thought. They suffered heavy casualties by now, with their numbers already halved.

C1 here. A1, A1, we are going your direction. Do you copy? Detach from the main enemy corpse and wait for the coordinated attack.

A1 understood, C1. We'll hold back. Hurry! They are after us.”

According to the protocol, Gromov should switch the transmission to inform Steiner, but he decided not to as he was afraid that the colonel would object.

With nothing to do for remaining moments, he glanced over the monitor; the screen became almost unreadable as with proximity of three Q-Fields, the complex automatic systems became unstable. Most of the battlefield darkened, only screams from separated skirmishes echoed in the audio. None of the overheard voices belonged to Akane.


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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