(This short story takes place before the events of Book 1: No Place Like Home and will not spoil the contents of that book if you haven’t read it yet, though it will provide some helpful context if you have.)
Recording fighter log 322661 – Pilot: Aruba Denio – Callsign: Sprinter –Please stand by…
31X was on fire. Aruba stared at the circular craters ringed with fire that were so big they could be seen from her vantage point in space. No matter how bad it looked from above, she knew it was far worse for anyone still stuck on the surface. She had limited her com reception so she wouldn’t have to listen to them anymore, especially the mercs who had lost their composure and were screaming for help to anyone who would listen. Aruba couldn’t help them, but she could help the survivors if she succeeded on her mission.
“Sprinter! You keep the lead you got,” Trudge ordered over her com. He was only two floats behind her. “Don’t slow down for nothin’. You got that merc?”
“That isn’t the plan,” she responded. “You know I stick to the plan Trudge.”
“That’s what I like to hear! It’s you and me now. We overran their blockade, but they’re right behind us. I’m gonna r…”
Trudge’s transmission was cut off as Aruba’s cockpit shuddered from the force of his fighter’s explosion. It was up to her now. Up ahead the Coalition’s fleet grew larger. Their sub flakkers would tear her fighter apart once she got into range, but she’d get as close as she needed to succeed. Dariat himself had ordered her flight group to break off from defending the transport evacuation so that they could identify ICO’s superweapon that was currently raining destruction onto the entire planet. So that’s what she was going to do. That was the plan, and she was sticking to it.
Her eyes jumped from each capital ship, to her console, and back again, searching for a sign of the weapon. She flinched as a spark burst to life in space near the planet. The spark grew larger and twisted with tendrils of violet and red energy. It looked like kaja, but she had never seen kaja make a ball of energy that big. Where was it coming from? Once it grew to the size an entire capital ship, it flew towards 31X like a comet.
As the enormous energy ball entered the atmosphere, Aruba finally caught sight of something near its initial starting point. Smaller than her fighter, was a black speck in the middle of the red and violet energy. If it hadn’t been between her, and the energy ball, she wouldn’t have noticed it. None of her equipment was even registering its presence, but it wasn’t designed to detect kaja energy.
They didn’t call her Sprinter for nothing. She surged towards the object confident that she would reach it without the Coalition fighters on her tail being able to catch her. Yet a quick glance at her console showed that she wasn’t being chased anymore. The fighters had broken off, and the fleet was well out of sub weapon range. It was just her and the thing. It looked like a coffin standing upright with two large metallic orbs attached to both of the long sides.
“I hope you’re seeing this Command,” she muttered into her com.
“Copy that Sprinter,” Command responded. “Make a pass and then get back over here.”
Aruba fired another set of thrusters on her fighter and strafed around to the front of the coffin thing. She shouted in surprise, and completely stopped her fighter when she reached the front. The front of the coffin had a clear permaplastic wall, and staring back at her through it was Sergheed Idane. Harnessed to some kind of machine inside, he was the source of the weapon. He was also one sub weapon blast away from being exposed to the vacuum of space.
Aruba fired her subs without a second thought. The orbs flanking the coffin flickered blue and intercepted her shots with a blue energy, causing them to dissipate almost instantly. Idane shook his head, as if to scold her. Someone shouted though her com,
“Sprinter, this is Dariat. Disengage now! Get back here!”
Aruba ignored Dariat, running away wasn’t the plan. The leader of the Coalition, a single male who was responsible for thousands of Tourniquet mercenary deaths just that day alone was floating right in front of her. The plan was to kill that kaursed wastrel, and she was sticking to it. She fired up her thrusters, and surged forward to ram Idane. Static…
End of fighter log 322661.