Left. Right. Up. And back.
I twisted through the latticed structure. So fast there were only milliseconds to register where to go. I couldn’t shake my tail. He followed with precision.
Two explosions rocked the Centre.
“Check in,” I yelled down the comms.
Two Martian ships down. Eight to go.
I burst free of the station and started to circle it, turning sharply to go underneath.
Defensive guns started shooting, so did the Martian behind me. Desperate, I flew towards the gun and dipped out of the way at the last second. It shot at him. I took the chance to get lost in the structure again. Searching for weaknesses.
Another craft came upon me. Eyes looked for the tell-tale paintings, saw none. Strung it along. A little further. Looped over and shot from behind. The explosion was magnificent as it tore into the training station.
“Another one gone. Numbers are equal,” I confirmed.
The station was starting to list. My next flight over the command room told me they were panicking. Mirroring my feelings.
It was Vert.
He was here. Fighting us.
He’d painted the wings so Terra and I would know if we met him in battle. But what did he expect us to do?
I couldn’t just back down. I could try and ignore him but as soon as Terra saw the craft she’d know. Some of the others might realise as well and go for him.
Maybe I should take him down. Find him and lead him back to the Centre and destroy his craft before Terra knew he was here.
I was skirting the station now, eyes peeled for him. The sky was lit up with the fight, each side intent on victory. The guns were numerous but ineffective – their weaponry outdated and predictable.
Dean went by me, spinning to dodge the shots aimed at him. Kyle was above chasing a Martian.
I couldn’t lie to Terra.
If I killed Vert I’d have to tell her and she would never forgive me. She’d yell, She’d cry and she’d tell me he was a friend.
I slammed the controls upward, distracting an enemy craft taking aim at Cara. She took the chance to blow it apart, tearing another hole in the station. This time closer to command.
“Thanks,” she called after me.
“Terra,” I yelled into our private link.
She didn’t answer.
More guns. More shots. Frenzied manoeuvres as the Martians realised they were outnumbered. Dean was in trouble, two on one. Anastasia helped him out, they backed off. Spotted me. I tilted my craft vertically and narrowly avoided them both. Span back down and shot wildly. Missing.
“Terra,” I yelled again.
Still no answer.
There was a lot of debris to contend with. Each craft created a storm of metal as well as tearing bits off the station. It was getting difficult to fly. The large structure was still listing and it was only getting worse, its movement didn’t help us. We were outnumbering the crafts but the longer this went on for the worse the odds grew of everyone surviving.
Terra. At last. She was ok.
“Where are you?”
“I was chasing a ship. Scarlett, I think it’s Vert.”
“What do I do?”
“Do I engage?”
“You should,” I answered.
There was a moment’s silence, I spent it tracking her down.
“You know, when I said I wanted to see him earlier, I really didn’t mean like this.”
Just as I was heading back into the maze another craft came at me. I didn’t even give it a chance. It took out two corridors as it exploded. People were sucked out into the vacuum. Arms flailed futilely. They’d had enough sense to wear suits but even that wasn’t much good when shrapnel was flying about.
“Tell me where you are.”
“Near the centre of the core structure. It looks like the Welcome Hall.”
Floors passed me by. Guns readied themselves to shoot but I was too fast. Cara sped past in front. Collision avoided. Marcus saluted as he chased a Martian in the opposite direction.
I saw Terra. She was making no attempt to engage. Vert followed. Shooting. She dodged. I slipped in behind him. He was uncertain now. Sensed a trap. He couldn’t get out, with me chasing there wasn’t enough time to prepare. While Terra was in front I couldn’t shoot, her craft might get damaged in the blast.
Not for long though.
Another explosion shook us all, a quick yell of victory from Marcus and I knew another enemy was down. In the aftermath a large sheet of metal slipped from the corridor above and covered the exit Terra was aiming for.
She came to a sudden halt, trapped. The perfect target for the Martian behind her. There was a small gap to my right, I slipped through and spotted another that would put me between them. I went fast. Knew it was dangerous to navigate such small routes at such high speed. As I turned into the gap I closed my eyes, expecting to crash. There was an explosion far above.
“Anastasia’s gone,” Kyle whispered to us all.
And I was angry. Angry at Vert. If he was any other Martian Terra would’ve taken him to bits ages ago. He’d taken up two of us and now Anastasia was dead. I wasn’t losing another member of my team.
I broke in between the two of them. Terra on my right, Vert on my left. Smoke was billowing from her craft. He’d taken a shot at her.
Incensed. I angled towards him. My plan wasn’t strategically sound. He’d had enough time to shoot at me but he didn’t. I knew my sudden appearance would startle him but thought he’d recover.
He was hesitating.
He finally knew who he was fighting. I could just about make him out and indecision dogged every movement. I saw him reach for the trigger, mind finally made up. So I matched his movements.
“Don’t shoot him,” Terra pleaded.
“He’s going to shoot us,” I yelled. Still furious.
He shot. The lights flashed by. Missing but close enough to distract. Mine hit one of his weapon generators, knocking his firepower down to half.
He backed up and used the gap I had to escape. I followed. He was waiting and shot as soon as I came out. The underside of my craft was damaged.
It beeped angrily at me.
“Scarlett,” Terra screamed.
Over the link I heard impact and on the next revolution saw she’d rammed him. Not the best thing to do considering she’d already taken damage.
Twisting myself to reach emergency controls I brought the craft under control. It stopped spinning and I struggled back up to Terra and Vert. They were both having trouble. She didn’t want to shoot so she tried to stay on the side that his weapon didn’t work. But the damage she’d taken made her slow, while he was faster. She had to be more creative.
“Get away from him Terra.”
Stubborn. But observant, she spotted someone coming towards me and didn’t hesitate to shoot them. One more Martian down. I’d lost track. The latest one was the tipping point. The Centre was under too much strain. It was falling apart.
The three of us were close to it. The standoff was broken by metal sloughing off the station. Vert couldn’t shoot and it gave Terra enough time to move back to his damaged side.
“Scarlett, Terra. Where are you?” Marcus called out to us.
I took aim at Vert, breathing slowly to steady my anger. He was there. Right there. In my sights.
Something crashed into his craft, smashing the back of it to pieces and compromising its integrity. It sent him crashing into Terra. I heard her yell.
There was a lot of confusion. I had to lurch away as more debris floated dangerously.
Terra crackled, something wrong with her comms.
“Where are you?” Marcus’ voice was strong.
I couldn’t see them, there was so much of the wreckage in the way. I had to head out of it for a clear view.
The station was completely destroyed. The core broken apart taking away any power. They knew it wouldn’t have survived the onslaught, escape ships were already gone. It was difficult not to stare, in awe of the magnificent view. So large, the stations always looked intimidating and ever-lasting. To see one crumble and collapse was like watching a glacier fall into the sea.
“Help.” Terra’s desperate voice came through again.
I tore my eyes away, searching for two crafts. Or was it one and a half?
There was something moving oddly about a mile away, just outside the field of desolated training station.
“Oh piss off Marcus,” I said to myself.
Panic was rising fast. The likelihood of losing Terra was settling like cement in my stomach.
I sped up, awful noises emitted from my engine as I did so. I couldn’t make the distance up quick enough. The view made no sense. There was only one craft and it moved erratically, something stuck to it.
“…him.” Terra again.
Then it made sense.
Vert’s craft had fallen apart in the impact, oxygen leaked out, damage too much as bit by bit his craft came apart. He’d enough time to snap his helmet on to complete his suit. I don’t remember an explosion but it’s rare for a craft to be so completely totalled without one.
He was hanging onto Terra’s craft. I can only imagine she flew closer to him to stop him from getting lost in space. He was still struggling though.
“Please,” she called. “…oxygen low…can’t…him.”
The link to her was terrible and getting worse but it was enough to know what she wanted. She was asking me to bring him on board.
From the sound of it there wasn’t long to decide. Marcus was still looking for us.
She was begging.
“Where are you both?”
Both of you shut up. Be quiet. Let a person think. Two extra voices were too many to have.
Vert swung violently, almost losing grip on his salvation. He tried to regain it. He hung there pathetically and all I could see was the mocking tour guide, the friend in the lift.
I flew as close to Terra as I could, she looked me right in the eye and defied me not to help.
Putting on my own helmet and powering the craft down so nothing was lost when I opened the cockpit. I swung it around so I was in a better position to let Vert aboard. Before opening it I clipped the safety cord to the back of my suit. I didn’t want to float away either.
It was a struggle getting him. Zero gravity was always difficult to negotiate. Especially when the other person was in a panic. I clasped my arms around his legs and pulled him down, slowly. He let go, trusting me. I clipped a second cord to him so he was secure.
As soon as he was near the seat he pulled himself down and started strapping himself in. I closed the craft’s cockpit, strapped myself in and restarted everything. Oxygen pumped its way back in and we both took our helmets off.
“It’s been a while,” he said, a broad grin across his face. I could only glower and turn my back on him.
As I started steering there was only one thought going through my head.
I’ve just committed treason.