Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

The housing of my pilot node rang with impact. I snapped out of my reverie and watched the six targets arc away from either side of my display. Missiles away. My helmet was crooked but I didn’t dare let go of the sticks for a second until I was sure I was in the green.

I wasn’t dead so I fired back. It’s amazing how much of war’s battles could be encapsulated in that single sentence.

Small flowers bloomed kilometers away from me in the desolation. No impacts.

My breathing was ragged. Something must have been damaged in the last attack because it was rapidly getting much too hot in the cockpit. No sensors were whining and hull integrity seemed stable but I was coated with battle sweat.

The six targets looped around. Panic-stricken, I watched their icons hit their apex of retreat and then start to enlarge as they returned for attack run number six.

Immediately the grid flashed up on my screen and the stars blotted out. The enemy ships became red triangles. My targeting comps clacked into life like overactive children.

I could only count four triangles.

I took my hands off the sticks and adjusted my helmet with a sigh. Two unaccounted targets could only mean one thing.

The housing of my pilot node rang again as one half of it pounded inwards, closing on my leg. I screamed as the alert beacon drowned me out.

My screen went to static and my stats came up.

I looked up in agony to the ceiling. Of course it was Andrea who opened the hatch. It just had to be the girl I had a crush on who was next in line. I had no kills, my leg hurt, I stank, and she didn’t even know my name.

I begged God to not let this time be the time that she remembered me.

Her large brown eyes looked down at me in amusement. She cocked her head. Her hair was just an inch longer than regulation but she hadn’t been reprimanded. Her scores were high. With the light shining behind her, she looked angelic.

“You okay soldier?” she asked with a mocking smile.

Later, in sick bay, I came up with about a dozen great replies to that question. All of them would have been better than the answer I stammered back.

“Uh, yeah. I guess.”

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