In the cockpit of the fighter, Vincent and Marcus were assaulted by the muffled sounds of weapons fire and the vibration of the reactor and engines while on the outside they were bombarded by the flash of exploding mines. Their vessel was thrown harshly in sharp maneuvers as Vincent piloted to his best ability to evade the deadly clouds of debris. He pushed the left control stick forward which caused the ship to fall vertically, pulled the right stick toward him which caused the ships nose to tilt upward and then pulled the left stick to the right which shifted the vessel in that direction laterally. He turned the nose of the ship to the left so that the ship spun counterclockwise as if it were tied at the front with a cord and was being spun around by a child at play. All while plunging toward the center of the star system at over fifteen million meters per second.
    Marcus grunted from the forces being exerted on him. “For Christ sake Vincent.” he said quickly between sharp breaths. “Don’t make me pass out.” Marcus locked on to a new target, firing away with the machine gun turrets at the end of each of the fighters two booms, firing a particle beam every two seconds when the coils were not overheating.
    Vincent locked on to an incoming mine, one of the many that had reached their acceleration. He waited for the lock to complete and fired a missile as soon as possible. Another mine came out from behind the first as it attempted to evade, but the missile exploded between them, detonating all three warheads at once as a third mine circled around the fireball and continued toward them. “This one’s going to be close” Vincent said, pulling the ship up vertically and twisting it into a helix maneuver that arched away from another explosion. They narrowly dodged other mines as they blurred by, invisible to the human eye at their current velocity. He smiled at the fact that the data screen before him just informed of another targets destruction. “Eat it.” he thought to himself, pulling the ship into another swing that pivoted around a countermeasure he dropped.
    Marcus waited, his mind in the perfect state of awareness. It seemed to take forever for the mine to come up from beneath them and follow their path around the countermeasure. When it came into view his fingers tightened around the triggers. While Vincent maneuvered, he had fired only the rounds from the machine guns, saving the recharging coils for this closing mine. It came up from beneath the countermeasure and began to circle, following the trail of exhaust from their engines. Marcus squeezed slowly, leading the target as much as he needed to.
    Vincent felt the drops of sweat on his forehead being pulled in different directions each time he moved the ship. “Marcus, you’re making me nervous.”
    “Just wait.”
    “It’s coming fast Marcus, just fucking shoot it!“
    Marcus squeezed tighter; the hull shook as the coils discharged, launching the particle beams with a force that pushed the ship backward. They both watched in a timeless moment as the dark spherical mine became visible to their naked eyes for a short moment, moving full speed toward their vessel while the particle beams raced toward it like two spears of light. Suddenly contact was made and an immense explosion ensued as the micro-singularities that were both the mines propulsion system and its warhead decompressed. The immense shockwave pushed the ship backward. Small pieces of debris from the countermeasure skipped off the top of the cockpit as Vincent struggled with the controls, attempting to keep the ship stable as more mines came toward them. “Two more just came into range.”
    Marcus pulled his control sticks , the ball point turrets spun over, aiming the barrels of the six guns toward the incoming targets. “I see them.”
    Finally the soothing sound of the communications system bellowed through the cockpit in a static burdened transmission. Delia McFierson’s face came up on the monitor and her thick Irish accent poured out of the speakers *Unit four, this is Unit two, need a hand Exile?*
    Vincent grunted, pulling another sharp turn. “Good to see you Dizzy, I’ve got two on my -” the light of an explosion caught his eye and he turned as far back as his helmet would let him. “One, On my ass, thanks.”
    Marcus laughed, “She’s gonna steal the show from us now.”
    *The rest of our wing is on their way, hang in there.*
    “Nah, we’ll just give up.” Marcus stated sarcastically while targeting another mine.
    The Major’s face came on to the screen, its image slightly distorted and hazy from the interference *Squadron three this is Major Vance, we have about six minutes until the Zerachiel plows through this field. We have to make as deep a hole as we can before she gets here. Squadrons one through six will be coming up fast on our tail, including both bomber squadrons, so I expect us to keep up the pace. I’m sending you the vector map right now. Exile, what’s your status?”
    “Madman and I are fine, we’re just running a bit low on ammunition... and there’s a slight discrepancy in our particle flux.”
    *Don’t be a smart ass Exile, I’ll have you shot.*
    “Aye-aye Ma’am, but if this keeps up the Ehud will take care of that for you.”
    *Let me know when your ammunition is at the red line, I’ll have you relieved for a reload.*
    “Will do Ma’am.”
    *And Vincent.*
    “Yes Ma’am?”
    *Good job, you may have saved the entire ship.*
    “Thank you, and you should thank Madman too, he just took another mine off your hands.”
    Major Enora Vance moved her fighter up, firing missiles ahead of their position to clear some of the way, her gunner fired and took out a few mines as they continued to catch up at incredible accelerations.  As she spoke the visor of her helmet slightly fogged up. “Try to hit as many mines as you can, this is probably the worst case scenario for running a mine field considering our current velocity, but we can still make enough room for the Zerachiel’s shields to take care of whatever we leave behind. If your shields get low take up a slipstream formation behind someone else while they recharge, I don’t want any peppered pilots.”
    The hailing tone rang and Vincent’s voice came over, with his bobbing head on the view screen *Lance, my pods are getting low, I have four missiles left.*
    “Ok Exile, peel back at your discretion to reload.” she said to Vincent.
    *Yes Ma’am, we’ll be back in a jiffy* He said, firing the remaining missiles ahead to divert more of the mines.
    James fired another particle beam, “Turn over to the left Enora, one just locked on to us at five thousand clicks. Enora twisted the right control stick yawing the ship to the left. Two blinding bolts of accelerated particles discharged into the darkness and the ship moved on to another target. The charged particles continued for several minutes, gliding in the empty silence before igniting in a fireball after finding their target in the vast expanse of space.

    The captain watched the view screen as they closed in on the contact point. The fighters ahead were becoming too saturated with mines, those that could not be dealt with began locking on to the Zerachiel. One after another mines slipped through the firefight and fell toward the Zerachiel. “There’s a lot more than I expected.” He said, turning to Holman. “Fire at will Commander.”
    “Aye-aye sir.” Holman turned to his console and opened a channel. “All hands, fire at will.” A new vibration joined the symphony as the particle beam cannons of the Zerachiel began to fire upon the minefield.
    The captain watched his view screen as targets began to be destroyed, nevertheless the velocity at which they were traveling impeded the accuracy of the gunners and a few mines remained in the ships path.
    Lieutenant Sutler grunted from the heavy weight of the inertia. She looked at her monitor quickly and then turned to the captain. “Captain, the first of the fighters is inbound to reload”
    “Thank you Lieutenant, give them a bay in ring B so that they don’t have to fly any further under this stress.” replied the captain as he continued to strain. “What’s the status of the wings?”
    Adderly turned to the captain, “They’re all reporting in green except for bomber six, they just took some damage to their right boom, one of their P.B.C. turrets are down.”
    The captain looked at the view screen once more. The targets continued to break through their defenses. “Here they come.” He said while quickly opening a channel. “All hands, brace for impact.”
    Vincent returned some of the systems to automated control and set a course to rendezvous with the Zerachiel. He entered the data into the screen and  accelerated to five g’s to catch up to the decelerating mother ship.
    “Ugh, man... Norman’s got it at four g’s?” Marcus said, sucking in sharp breaths as he forced against the inertia. “I’ll bet you fifty credits the Counselor passed out.”
    Vincent laughed, “He probably did too.”
Vincent opened a channel. “Command, this is Unit Four Squadron Three requesting permission to reload.”
    *Request granted four three, proceed to bay two zero bravo.*
    “Confirmed, bay two zero bravo.”
    Vincent and Marcus looked up as the Zerachiels particle beam cannons began to fire.
    “That’s a pretty sight.” Marcus said as the light of the charged rounds flared past them toward unknown targets.

The End

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