"All B-group, Tigress here, we are going for the target. Cover me."
There was nothing much left of B-group, but all remaining fighters re-adjusted their positions, signaling another attempt to break through the tight defense.
Being too far away, Gromov could only watch the spectacle on the radar screen. He and his crews, ironically the largest remaining Space Forces, had no say in the oncoming event. If B-group failed, there would be no remedy. The cruisers' systems would collapse after being exposed to full-powered Q-Field, then Plantarians destroy all remnants of resistance.
"It's up to you, Tigress."

Boldly and skilfully, Akane outmaneuvered several ships, trying to stop her, overcoming layers of defense one after one. Her companions, because of many reasons, being either damaged or deterred, left the formation, thus only her spacecraft approached the carrier.
Drawing enormous heavy crossfire on themselves, Akane and Andrey had probably died before they even reached the target. Still, the collision course, set in advance, was enough to make the last carrier explode.
On the radar screen, two dots simply disappeared as if nothing special has occurred.
"Akane! Andrey!"
Until the very last moment, Gromov stuck to a futile hope that a miracle would happen, but his rational core knew there was no other probable outcome since getting the carrier out of the sky just by one fighter's cannon blaster was unlikely.
Akane's prowess enabled the lieutenant to proceed further than anyone else, but unfortunately, she missed the team firepower in the end.
Gravely, not recognizing his voice, Gromov announced, "C1 here to all units. Mission accomplished. The last target has been destroyed. I repeat..."
"It is over! We did it!"
No one cared for the silence anymore. The radio boiled with happy cursing and congratulations.
But Gromov could not join for unbearable pressure inside his throat.
"C3 here," the female voice asked, "calling C1. Are you OK, sir?"
"Just a moment, C3," Gromov mumbled. "Just a moment, please."
While the rest was celebrating, he once more restarted systems and glanced over the blurred displays of the cockpit. Even after he wiped his eyes and blinked several times, the numbers and indicators he had seen still made no sense to him.
"Sir? Sir?"
Jamal, sitting in the turret, asked hesitantly.
"Yes, Jamal?"
"Ha-has Sergeant Jerzinski died?"
"Of course, he has died!" Gromov wanted to bellow at the youngster. "What else did you expect?" When a space vessel received a direct blaster shot, near the spot where the crew was situated, the temperature inside increased rapidly, immediately turning living flesh into charcoal.
But suppressing growing frustration, he has just answered, "Unfortunately yes, Jamal."
"No chance they could survive? You know you may misread the radar screen, sir."
For a moment, Gromov suspected Jamal could not comprehend the irreversibility of death. In general, cadets were too young to accept that a person they had known yesterday was not there any longer.
"No, Jamal. The situation is clear," Gromov said, hiding the upset tone. "Lieutenant Anbi and Sergeant Jerzinski are both dead."
"I understand."
To his astonishment, Jamal began crying aloud. "Was Andrey so close to his pupils?" Gromov pondered. "They had to have extraordinary relations. Our training sergeants would have hardly caused such a commotion in my time."
Even though he was glad that Andrey had someone to mourn him sincerely, this emotional outburst helped him to get a grip on himself.

Almost calmly and routinely, he inspected the radar screen, collecting information from surviving pilots. Then, he contacted the Space Station.


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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