Author : Julian Miles, Featured Writer

I flick wing over wing and dive, engines howling as some bright blue nastiness passes through where I was. Half committed in the dive I pull the nose up and jink sideways, broadside to angle of travel. The parachute effect yaws me and I float a moment as the world goes slow. Echo One seems to drift across my nose and I squeeze the teat that causes my railgun to punch a chunk of titanium through his centre section. His drive objects to my percussive realignment and my screens have to flash-compensate as he passes the pearly gates at Mach 9, in pieces.

Even as his pyre dissipates I bring the hammer down and perfectly bullseye the corona of his demise. Wish I could see that in long shot, a ring of energy, a ring of smoke, a ring of fire and pieces, and my exhaust like a shaft through the middle, with me as the arrowhead.

My teller flashes and I corkscrew into an inverse slingshot before even looking. Echo Two coming for the title, out of the sun. Please. In this day and age? I continue the dive until he’s happy, then shut the backdoor and open the flue. Still hurtling surfaceward at Mach 8 I flip apex over base so the sharp end is pointing the right way. Echo Two discovers this as he flies head on into a few kilos of titanium doing Mach 20. Ouch. But this allows me to reopen the back door and hurtle through his expanding debris cloud without a scratch.

This is frustrating for Echo Three as he was expecting me to still be heading down due to the impossible g-forces involved in attempting sudden manoeuvres at these speeds. Of course, any airbreather would be jelly by now. Forty gees will do that unless you’re some sort of cartilaginous predator from the benthic depths of the Pacific, suspended in a hyperconductive saline gel. Handily enough, that’s exactly what I am. I’m callsign Kilo Ten. A revered ancestor was callsign Kraken. Got a proud family history of killing things to live up to.

Echo Three pulls a half loop with a roll out of his attack and ends up screaming down at me, flat out and very angry. Opens fire way out of range. He could have been dangerous if he’d kept his cool. As it is, I release a nanotube braced monofilament net, stand myself on my tail and punch it. Echo Three is about to become a cloud of hundred-mil chunks that will be a bigger threat than he ever was.

The skies clear as the smudges of dogfighting blow away. I click my beak as the blue fades to black and the stars come out. There’s always something magical about that transition. Seven hours to base. One hour debrief while the gel is cycled, then I get to go hunting again. Ocean depths are nothing to the vasty deeps of space, and I like to think we’ve made the transition well. Sleepless predators we’ve always been, but mankind gave me the stars, the enhanced smarts to love them and the means to defend them.

I pass the moons before engaging Hirsch, then flutter my tentacles to work out the kinks while my arms cue up some cetacean jazz and sketch three more kill-kanji for the hull.


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