"Sava, is it you? Sava, I'm in pinch."
As soon as Gromov was able to connect to G-group, all his hair stood up in horror. Akane broke cheerfully into his earphones, neglecting all rules of military communication.
Being in a desperate situation and having lost the majority of her colleagues could not taint her excellent mood. She was in the middle of battle, threatening to extinguish millions of civilian lives, yet she stayed as playful as ever.
"C1 here," Gromov answered in the stern tone, and to give Akane a gentle reminder, he continued, "Is it you, B7?"
"Yeah, Tigress here," shouted Akane excitedly. "Poor Chi got blown his ass away. B4 down. I am the commander of B-group now. Wait! They are after me!"
Since she left the radio on, Gromov heard all sounds coming from her cabin, including Andrey Jerzinski's yelling, "Not again, you bloody murderer. I haven't subscribed to a circus!"
Even from the radar screen, Gromov could recognize that Akane undertook some serious acrobatics to shook off her pursuers. Not every gunner could withstand such predicament calmly, but Andrey, at least, managed to stay conscious.
"Grrrrr," growled Akane in a low pitched voice, poorly imitating the menacing roar of a tiger.
Andrey probably resigned, muttering in the microphone, "Oh, shut up, you crazy bitch! Here you are, you bastards. Swallow this!"
Hearing that, Gromov had to praise Andrey for his resilience. Not only he had survived Akane's maneuvering, but he kept firing. Many gunners could not help but vomit endlessly, not stomaching the excruciating load of Gs.
After a while...
"Sava, are you there?"
Gromov sighed ruefully.
"C1 listening, Tigress. Report your situation."
"Bad, really bad. Totally the worst," reported Akane enthusiastically. "Our cruisers entering G-Field. We are all doomed. No time left. I have to taran them. Asking for permission, Sava."
[Pavel Morava's remark: Taran (or Aerial ramming) was a term used by Soviet pilots during World War 2.]
With Gromov nearby, Akane obviously put the old shoes on and started acting as a subordinate waiting for orders. In theory, she was an independent commander now, belonging under Colonel Steiner only. In reality, even though she was officially recognized as the ace of Dolzana's base, nobody would let her lead a group of fighters.
"Did she ask for permission because she knew I do not approve suicide missions?" Gromov pondered.
As of lately, Akane had been the closest person to him, but he never heard her speaking in such an over-excited manner before. Almost like she had been hiding something, perhaps the real notion of her mind.
Gromov always suspected her bravado being only an artificial way how to overcome the omnipresent fear of death.
Space Forces' pilot, at least in public, dismissed mortality as no longer threatening because of back-ups. But life was not a game and a back-up was not respawning spot; when a pilot had died, the military laboratory created a mere replacement for the genuine one.
Nobody will find a difference after Akane is revived, not even her. But the copy will differ from the original.
Like she could understand his hesitation, Akane repeated, "Asking for permission, sir. There is no other choice. Trust me, Sava. Sergeant Jerzinski agrees as well."
Although Gromov understood how many pilots and gunners had perished so far, he still could not make himself give the order. Taking all alternatives in the account, he gave up finally.
With gritted teeth, he said distinctly, "Tigress, permission granted."


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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