“There isn’t no alien scum who can out-fly me!” Lucas calls out, his nerves thrumming with adrenalin as he banks his fighter hard to starboard, green energy bolts lancing past mere centimeters from the crafts belly.
Oh hell that was close! He thinks to himself, almost feeling the lethal energy from the concentrated plasma bolts.
“Wake up and fly right.” Lucas says aloud as he stomps his left pedal causing the nimble space craft to bank hard in that direction.
All dogfights before this one seemed like a walk in the park, but this guy, or gal, or whatever it was on his tail, was giving him a run for his money. Initially Lucas thought he had this one in the bag, but just before he pulled the trigger, his prey pulled a maneuver that left Lucas dumbfounded long enough for the hunter to become the hunted. Now he is in the fight of his life.
“Not much fighting going on,” he grumbles, “my tail is firmly between my legs.”
For the briefest moment, a part of his mind wonders how he got here. What is a south Minneapolis kid doing in a space fighter so far from home? Then another succession of plasma energy bolts pass close enough to his canopy to tint everything green, snapping him from his musings.
“This guy has to be their top ace.” Lucas says as he hits reverse thrusters, puffing hard against the g-forces that crush his chest into his harnesses.
With his vision tunneling, he pulls up hard, expecting the pursuing craft to sail below his. Lucas levels the nose of his fighter, shakes his head to clear his vision, and scans his scopes for the enemy.
Once again, his opponent seems to have anticipated the move. Maybe not the violence of it because it did sail past him. Just not with the momentum he was counting on. As Lucas floats like a space faring sitting duck, the enemy ship banks at an impossible angle, pulling g-forces that would turn Lucas into a puddle of goo, and before Lucas’s mind can fathom what is happening, the enemy fighter is once again setting its sights on him.
Forcefully Lucas slams his throttles to their stops and holds his breath. G-forces press him into the acceleration couch as green lances of pure plasma energy race towards him. No matter how many times his brain recalculates angles and closure rates; the math comes up the same. His goose is cooked.
One of the plasma energy bolts hammers into his port engine violently arresting his forward momentum. The shielding holds for moment, then collapses under the direct hit. A second energy bolt hits further aft of the same engine, and the world around Lucas explodes into chaos.
Painfully his harnesses cut into his torso as the ship spins violently in a different direction. In the fraction of a second it takes his visor to adjust, blinding white light burns black spots into his vision. His head rings from the savage force of his helmet bouncing off the port side of his canopy.
Within the chaos, time slows to a near standstill. As Lucas attempts to blink away the holes in his vision he thanks the ships designers for his life. The cockpit is heavily armored and shielded. Though the fire around him was fierce, its fuel and oxygen supply is limited. The ships fuel cell ejected immediately after the collapse of the port shields. Unless his assailant makes another pass, he just might survive.
After all, he concedes, that was the intent of the ships designers, do all that they can to ensure a pilots survival, so that he may live to fight again.
Another explosion rocks Lucas from his oneirism. Spots still obstruct his vision as he searches about for the enemy craft. Yet, all he can see was a whir of stars flashing by as his disintegrating space fighter spins through the vacuum. Then, a series of explosions arrests the rate of his ships gyrations.
I am harder to hit now, than when I was flying, he admits.
His peripheral catches something in the streak of stars. The g-forces still make it difficult, but he twists around to try to decipher what it was he saw. Yes another explosion rocks the ship and further nullifies his rate of spin. Frantically he whirls in the direction he thought he spotted the threat.
His stomach sinks, and the blood in his veins runs cold the moment his brain comprehends the object rocketing towards him. Not satisfied with destroying his ship and taking him out of the fight, his conqueror launched a proximity fused missile at his tumbling spacecraft. Lucas knew there was no shielding from the fusion warhead that races towards him. He will not live to fight again.
He did not look away or close his eyes, he watches as the missile traces through the void, acknowledging, if not accepting that this is the end. Part of him recognizes that this day would come, while another part cannot believe it is here. Every dogfight before this one seemed easy. Like one of those arcade games at the bowling alley. The only difference, he did not need an endless supply of quarters to achieve greatness. He was a natural, him and his craft working together as one. Yet, now he let his ship down, she was dying, and soon he would too.
There was no warning, just a blinding light so intense; his visor could not protect him from instant blindness. The heat came next. Lucas’s skin crawls in anticipation of the building torridity, first baking him as the upper temperature threshold of his suit reaches its maximum. Then the searing fire that follows as the suit fails, consuming his skin, his muscles, devouring tissue with ravenous ferocity, and shortly thereafter, his existence.
That single word fills his mind as intensely as the light that burned away his eyesight.