Last Chance (2 page)

“You got it,” the engineer sighed. “I don’t want to hear a thing about how it handles, though.”

Anton realized what he meant as he fought with the controls, shakily flying the Dragon out of the hangar bay.
he thought.
Perhaps I made a mistake. Maybe I can’t fly this thing after all.
He could see fighting in the distance, the flashes of laser fire and the orange glow of explosions.
I have to get used to it. Julian is out there. He needs me.

He pulled the fighter into a loop and tested out the weapons systems. The laser fire was weak compared to the new fighters, a single burst instead of double, but he liked the accuracy of it. Satisfied with his five-minute training session, he found the afterburner control and raced ahead to meet his squad.

* * *

Julian saw a strange ship swoop past him. He turned to fire on it before seeing the Alliance markings on the side.
What kind of a ship is that? Is it some experimental fighter?

His comm unit sprang to life. “This is Songstar,” Anton said. “I managed to get myself a replacement fighter. It’s not shiny, but it’ll have to do. I’m with you.” He fired on an enemy fighter and it exploded.

“Jules, on your tail!” Anton yelled. It took Julian a second to react to his real name instead of his callsign, a second too long as the laser burst hit him from behind and disabled his engines.

“Damn it, you’re a sitting duck!” Anton said, chasing down the enemy fighter and taking it out. “You have to eject!”

“I can’t!” Julian cried. “The ejection system was damaged.”

“Then I’ll stay and protect you,” Anton said, swooping around and taking out another fighter. “I won’t let anything so much as scratch your ship.”

“You can’t leave the unit,” Julian said. “You must protect the Northampton!”

“I’m not leaving you!” Anton said.

“You’re a soldier!” Julian said. “Listen, Anton. We both knew back there that it would be our last chance. I don’t regret any of it. Now go on. Live your life. Destroy the League and take our world back.”

“Not happening, Zero,” a female voice chimed in, the voice of their wing commander Jenny. “We’re a team and we won’t leave a man behind. Unit, form up and protect Zero. Songstar, the Dragon fighter has a laser leash that can be used to pull and tow objects. It’s why they still keep that old rust-bucket around. Attach it to Zero’s ship and tow him in. We’ll cover you!” The fighters swooped around them in a protective formation as Anton found the controls for the laser leash. He attached it to Julian’s ship and carefully moved forward, towing the crippled ship behind him as the rest of the unit provided cover.

We might make it through this, Anton thought. We might actually live to see another day. Hope rose in his heart as they made it to the hangar bay and carefully set down.

“We’re going back out there,” Jenny said. “Stay home for the rest, would ya?” She turned her ship and led the unit back to the battle as the hangar bay doors closed and the bay pressurized.

“Thank you,” Anton whispered. “You’re a real hero, Jen.” He pulled his helmet off as his comm unit sprang to life once more.

“Mayday! I’m hit! They’re all over us! ” Jen yelled. “Mayda--” The comm unit threw off a long stream of static and Anton knew she was gone.

“Raven? Eagle? Come in!” Anton yelled, hitting the comm unit. “Anybody? Anyone?” The only thing that came back was static and he felt a deep void of despair open up inside of him. He slumped on the control panel until Julian climbed up to his ship and released the cockpit controls. The glass rose up and Julian put his hand on Anton’s shoulder.

“It’s not your fault,” Julian said. “It’s mine. It was my mistake that caused my ship to be damaged. My whole unit’s gone because of me.”

“Not your whole unit.” Anton sat up and took Julian’s hand, looking into his eyes. They were filled with tears and his face was covered in red blotches. He pulled Julian into the cockpit and kissed him, needing the warmth and the closeness of him for comfort. “It’s not your fault,” he whispered. “Not your fault at all.”

“The battle’s over!” The engineer called up to them. “The Khartoum’s retreating! Major Tom’s unit took out their solar array!” Julian jumped down from the cockpit and Anton followed, running to the observation window where they could see the Khartoum limping away, fires burning all over it as its fighters backed off and tried to defend it.

“They actually did it,” Julian said, a look of awe in his eyes. The hangar bay alarm went off and Anton grabbed Julian’s hand, pulling him away and they ran across the deck and through the doors to safety. Anton pressed Julian up against the wall and kissed him deeply.

Julian broke off the kiss. “No,” he whispered. “Not now. Not after...”

Anton looked away, shamed. “We don’t know how long we’ll have,” he said. “Tomorrow, there will be another battle. The League won’t let up on us. I don’t want to waste any of the time Jenny bought for us.”

“It’ll always be our last chance,” Julian said. “Today, tomorrow... Who knows when this will end? That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan for the future. I don’t just want this to be a quick thing at the end of our lives. I want it to be the beginning of a new life for us.”

Anton’s eyes were wide and filled with warmth as he leaned in for another kiss. “Okay,” he whispered. “But just in case it’s our last chance, can we start our new life today?”

“Sure,” Julian whispered, a smile on his lips. “Just in case.”

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