Through Ash and FireMature

Molten shreds of metal rained in the sky all around them. A shower that burned the sky a sickly, blood red. The fighter in front exploded sending streams of fire roaring in all directions and a shockwave that made the ship shudder. The ship ran straight into the fiery maw and pushed through the other side. The view of the planet, all blue and brown sang into view. There was a slamming judder as bullets hit the ships back. We’re flying too straight.
               “Come on Conrad, keep this up you’ll be flying us straight to our death--“
               “--I’m trying Cap, but there’s too much pressure, if we wanna land safe--“
               “--Cap they’ve locked on, missiles incoming any second now!”
               “Conrad if you don’t move your damn tail they won’t give us the chance for a safe landing. Say something clever right now or I’m taking over!”
               “...Er.”
               “Right. Transferring navigation to the main console. Strap yourself in Sally’s it’s gonna get bumpy.” Warrick pressed a few buttons on his console and a series of holoscreens appeared before him. It took just a few seconds to understand what was going on. With a couple of fast taps he banked left and the fighters matched him. “Good little puppies, that’s right, follow momma.”
               “Cap they’re still following. Locks finalised. Missiles engaged.”
               “Mariah, hit the jammer when I tell you. Conrad, get ready to open the vents and hit the brakes." He opened the comm. "Ashford, go check on our gal, she might be wounded. Now seriously, strap yourselves in.” The ship swerved in a zigzag. Two fighters attempted a flank but had to steer sharp away to avoid her movements.  Another fighter soared on over and ahead. Closing us in, perfect.
               “Cap missiles ready to fire-“
               “--I know, and I know these ships, when I--“
              “Cap if we don’t do something--“
              “When-I-say, Mariah!”
              “Missiles firing... now.”
              “Jam!” the heat bottled up in the chambers of the ship and the coolers were about to activate, “vents!” all the steam and smoke thrummed like water in a pipe out of her, creating a heated smokescreen sending the heat seekers into beserk. The water particles froze instantly on the ship. Warrick pushed the girl down as hard as she could. The missiles scraped over the top and searched for the nearest heat sources. The three ships burst like flaming grapes. The following fighter tried to veer away from the boiling shrapnel. The ship was too small to take the flack and a whole wing was torn off, sending it cascading in grim pirouettes down onto the planet.
              The crew cheered.
                “Hey don’t get complacent,” Warrick pointed to the window. In the time it had taken to do all this, the planet was eagerly reaching for them, mountains and all come to embrace the ship. Warrick banked left towards the water, “brake left!” they opened up and the wind resistance helped speed his ship towards the awaiting sea. They clipped a mountain, enough to send them hurtling dangerously for the ground.
               A voice came on the comm. “Cap the ships right side is torn, I need to lock the chambers but-“
              “Ashford get away and grab a hold of something NOW!”
              “I need to lock them or she’ll be gutted!”
              “Follow my order Ashford!”
              “--but-nearly--“
            The ship cascaded into the sea. The sudden stop knocked them all down. For a second there was a cry on the com and then silence.

***

              “Everyone alright?” there were a few grunts, “Mariah?”
              “Fine cap.”
              “Conrad?”
              “Aye Cap, sorry, I kinda froze—“
              “Don’t matter now.” Warrick switched on the comm. “Triggs, you ok?”
              “Took a bit of a knock to the head but otherwise m’fine.”
              “Blackwell you alright?”
              “Yes Captain, orders?”
              “See to Blackwell, some trauma to the head.”
              “On my way, Captain.”
              “Cavell, how are you?”
              “Buzzing sir, I’ve been checking the ships systems but I don’t have a full report yet. I’ll let you know what I find.” Warrick’s finger slipped off the comm. He didn’t bother asking for Ashford. Instead he stepped away from his command post and towards the door.
              “Conrad, do a scan, only comm. me if there’s something interesting, I’ll be back for a report. Mariah, get yourself ready, we’ll be scouting the planet when I’m back.”
              It didn’t take long to find him. The pressure doors to at least five left side chambers had been locked as he’d wanted. The wires were sparking and heat was venting from the pipes, all the electrics had been wiped out here meaning Ashford would have needed to manually shut them, taking too much time to get to safety.
Ashford lay on the floor. There were several burns on his face and the uniform on his chest was charred. But his chest was impaled on a broken piece of metal. His eyes were open in shock. Warrick knelt beside him and closed his eyes. “Now I’ll have to find a new mechanic,” his teeth gritted. Why didn’t Ashford realise that his crew would be more important than his ship? Then again, if the chambers hadn’t been closed, the air pressure might have broken her in two and they’d all have died anyway.
Warrick let go a held breath and stood up. Brushing his hand through his hair, he went to check on the rest of his crew.

The End

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