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Gromov led the C Group to brush barely the top of the adversary formation, receiving furious spraying from blaster cannons in the process.

„Keep changing the course,“ he reminded everyone. „Don’t let them predict your direction. Target only the closer ones

“They are too fast, sir.”

Jamal yelled with frustration. No simulation, no matter how realistic, could prepare him for the genuine world challenge; the lack of experience just put him years behind seasoned gunners with his shots delayed and harmless.

“Understood, Jamal. Fire only when the course is stabilized. This is your few seconds to press the trigger. I'll let you know.”

Perhaps he will adjust in the following minutes, perhaps he will not.

Gromov bitterly cursed his decision to bring the youngsters along. Rather than dwelling in self-pity, his overly pragmatic mindset already inspected possibilities. Not that any of them were extremely appealing.

Meanwhile, poor Jamal wasted another shot.

C1 here,” Gromov announced. “C2 and C3, follow me from distant. C1 will play a decoy. Wipe antagonists as they take the bite.”

C2 understands.”

After short hesitation, the female voice blurted: C3 understands. Be careful, sir.

Gromov took a deep breath.

“Jamal, we’re going in. Prepare for the ride.”

Relying rather on a hunch where one of the Q-Field carriers may be located, Gromov started to turn as if decided to go directly for it, neglecting three Plantarian obstacles in the way.

Immediately, after they concluded he was on a suicide mission, their noses kept aligning to his direction. But not only them - they had to warn a few others; five red dots gathered in the response.

Aren’t you a bit too cautious,” mumbled Gromov, seeing the overwhelming attention paid to only one desperate fighter.

C1 here,” he announced. “More guests took the invitation. Need waiters to serve them. Who is available, regroup with C2 and C3.

A16 understands. Coming in your area.”

A16? How could one of Milano's man get here? Fortunately, C10 with his wings was free as well, so the situation did not turn disastrous.

With gritted teeth, Gromov kept changing trajectory while closing the gap. The welcoming blasts of pure energy were crossing black space, leaving afterimage on his retina.

“Stop being so coordinate, dammit!”

The foes were no fools either. Their gunners never shot at once, obnoxiously careful about not providing a chance for him to stabilize and retaliate while their blasters were recharging.

“Sorry, sir!”

Under constant g-force, caused by angle acceleration, nobody would expect Jamal to give a proper shot. But the young cadet, most likely on the verge of vomiting all his intestines out, bravely kept pushing the trigger and apologizing for each blast, which went amiss.

“C2 here. Just hang on, sir. We almost have them. They don’t care for us anymore.”

Not bothering to answer, rather unconscious than anything else, Gromov continued. He had the carrier on sight and although it was far away from the effective shooting range, he gasped: “Jamal, aim at the big thing ahead. That’s the generator.”

From a decoy to a kamikaze was last of his thought. Originally, he planned to attract the attention, but now when the carrier was near enough, his undeniable obligation was to eliminate one of three threats, presented by Q-Field generators.

“C1 here!”

Disgusted, he heard the voice coming out of his mount became hoarse and weak.

“C1 here,” he repeated angrily. Key target in proximity. Setting C1 on the collision course. Once again, setting C1 on the collision course. Use the opportunity to get guests behind my back.”

Not waiting, Gromov addressed the gunner: “Jamal, shoot only on my command. You will have only two rounds to go. If you won’t take the carrier from the sky, we will crash into it. Is it clear?”

“Absolutely, sir.”

The boy did not waver. Gromov suspected Jamal might not know how impossible his task was. The well-armored carriers were unlikely to be blown away in two shoots, provided Jamal would hit the bull’s eye.

“Great. On my command, then. I’ll countdown. After zero, I will stabilize the plane. You’ll have five seconds to fire. If not sure, just skip the shot. We can repeat this few times. Just remember, the blaster re-charging is expensive now. Do not waste it if not sure. And report if you skip.

Teaching gunner’s basics on the go, with handful of fighters tailing him and raging to stop the crash at all costs, Gromov started counting down. He did not rely on Jamal’s performance at all - the last prescribed exercise was meant to keep the cadet occupied unless the unavoidable death becomes a reality.

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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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