The Last One Left
When Gregory Anderson came to, the first thing he noticed was the stiffness on his neck and back. What the hell happened? His mind raced to search for reasons. As he tried to move, he realized his movements were restricted by the cushions that surrounded him, or rather, it was the too familiar sensation of his pilot seat, he was in his fighter bird, his mind supplied. His military training immediately kicked in, he forced himself to get his bearing, trying to figure out where he was and what happened before he was knocked out.
Shaking his head, he leaned back on the seat. Slowly, snippets of memories started to come back, and the last thing he remembered was being hit before crashing. They were in a battle, and they were losing.
"This is Lieutenant Anderson call sign Striker... Anyone out there?" he spoke through his communicator.
He repeated once more and got the same silent reply.
Shaking his head again, he checked for damages next. No damage to his suit. Great. Life support active. Oxygen level. 78%. Also great. He assessed the exterior damage of his bird as much as he could see, it didn't look promising, but he could always try. His hand reached for the controls above his head and flipped a few switches before bringing his hand back down on the throttle, attempting to power up the machine. Nothing happened. Not good.
Hawk model was made to sustain life of her pilot for twelve hours before the life support in the pilot's suit would take over and give him or her forty-eight hours of oxygen time, which was a massive improvement from the twelve-hour window they used to get back in the days when Greg was still training to be a pilot. Greg's hand reached down to the side of his seat, feeling a few buttons until he pressed one of them and heard a 'click' sound. He then turned his attention to the beeping sound on the device attached to his left hand side of his flight suit.
Emergency beacon activated. Enter your authentication code.
Within seconds Greg did so.
Now what? But he didn't have time to think as he heard a 'clunk' noise came from above. Looking up, he found debris of another Hawk model fighter craft. The pilot wasn't so lucky, the only thing remaining from that fighter was the right wing. "Vixen" was written across the top of the wing.
Amelia Johnson. Greg felt a sharp tug on his chest as he realized the fate of his comrade. He made another effort to look around, and saw more debris from whatever he could see from where he was. It was carnage out there. Suddenly, being the only survivor was more of a curse than a blessing.
The squad... He dare not think further. Directly in front of him, was a chunk of what used to be a mighty warship. It only dawned on him then, they have lost the battle.
"Althos! You have an inbound nuke!" the voice of Lieutenant Gregory "Striker" Anderson rang loudly as he relayed his report. The warship called Althos had taken a beating, Greg had launched the minute her sensors picked up squads of Stingrays and the enemy warship. It was an ambush. The Cathalians were already waiting for them the moment they arrived at that jump point.
Greg and the rest of the crew knew the risk before they boarded Althos for their service. It had been five years since Greg began his placement there, five good years. His last mission on Althos was supposed to be an escort for the Serithan government officials to a peace treaty mission. They were to meet with the Cathalian high officials to discuss a peace treaty over twenty years of continuous war between the two planets.
All for what? Greg did warn the Captain that the Cathalians were not to be trusted, but he was only the leader of the fighter squad.
Greg's bird was moving along with the carnage, he noted. Behind them was a planet, a giant planet, and he knew he didn't have much time left. They were moving towards planet's gravitational field. If it was good luck at all, Greg's Hawk wouldn't have crashed into the side of the landing port and got stuck.
His suit started to make beeping noise again.
Warning! Five minutes to red line.
"Yeah, I know!" Greg cursed at the device. The explosions must have propelled them into the direction of the planet. He knew he'd have to pull back before he cross the red line. Once he crossed it, there was no turning back, he'd get stuck in the planet's gravitational pull and would not survive, not like this anyway.
Warning! Four minutes thirty seconds to red line. The suit beeped again.
"I'm working on it!" he cursed again as he looked around his surroundings. It was risky, but he wasn't ready to give up yet.
Looking up, he calculated his odds. It looked better than the alternative.
"Here goes nothing" he murmured as he saw his opportunity and pressed the eject button, crossing his arms in front of his chest and firmly holding onto the straps that kept him in his seat.
The canopy broke off from the body of the aircraft and he felt a push. When he had hit nothing, he let out a breath he didn't realize he had been holding. It was not an ideal move, but he had to do something.
When the upward motion stopped, he found himself by another Hawk, it looked whole and still intact.
"Junior" he tapped on the canopy, hoping that the man was still alive and would respond. But he soon realized the blood that scattered around the pilot. There was a hole on the side of his chest and on the side of his canopy on the other side. The hole was small and unnoticeable from a distance, but he knew Junior was dead.
Regret filled his mind instantly. Junior was a promising pilot, he was talented, and had a good heart.
Warning! Three minutes to red line. His suit beeped.
Knowing he was running out of time, he pushed off from the fighter bird, away from the direction of where the debris was going to. His hands went to the sides of his seat and pressed a couple of buttons before a couple bursts of air pushed him off further away.
He kept watch on the panel on his space suit as he kept throttling away. When it beeped and flashed a green light at him, he stopped, and watched as the carnage slowly moved towards the giant planet.
Greg had a lot of time to think about his life as he floated in space alone.
He thought about his childhood, his time at the academy, and his last five years serving aboard the warship Althos. He had a lot of time to curse and be angry at the stupid idea of a peace treaty. Sure, it sounded good, but he had dealt with Cathalians the hard way. Three years prior, Greg was captured by them while conducting a recon mission that went sideways. After losing his wingman and crash landing into the Cathalian asteroid mining facility, he was imprisoned and tortured for three months before a rescue team managed to locate him and get him out.
He looked at the device on the suit again, oxygen level 9%. He had been floating for almost two days, and there was no sign of rescue. The constant blip kept telling him that his beacon was still active. He had stopped sending audio message for awhile now to conserve oxygen, and instead, concentrated to keep himself calm.
But as his life support system started beeping away every five minutes to warn him that he was low on oxygen, he doubted that rescue was coming at all. Althos' Captain, Gene Lambert had given the order for the ship to take an indirect route to their destination, deliberately telling only a select few people about the route, choosing to go on a forgotten path, but the enemy was one step ahead of them. They knew they were taking another route. A spy within the fleet.
In the last remaining minutes of his life, he pressed another button on the device, and a "Rec" icon started blinking at him.
"This is Lieutenant Gregory Anderson, callsign Striker of Warship Althos..." he almost didn't recognize his own voice as he spoke. The dryness of his throat made it hurt for him to talk, but he pushed through.
"We were on a mission to escort members of high officials to a neutral ground for discussion and signing of the peace treaty. We took route Sierra five zero eight. We were ambushed half way to our destination. We came to the conclusion of a spy within the Serithan fleet" he balled his hand into a fist as dark spots started to cloud his vision.
"The Cathalians have no intention for a peaceful outcome..." his vision had started to blur by then, he had started to feel sleepy as his oxygen level reached zero moments ago, he knew he only had minutes left, and he was drifting off towards unconsciousness.
"Please... Forgive me, Lyra" he regretted that he would never see her again, to never hold her again, to never see his son grow up. He thanked his wife for everything, and told his son that he loved him before ending the record. He didn't regret the path he took, he fought hard for his people, he saved many lives before, and if by some miracle he survived his situation, he wouldn't stop doing so. He silently prayed that if his body was to be found, it wasn't by the Cathalians.
At the thought of his family, his world went black.
"Sir... Extraction team is ready to launch. We found him" Ensign Matthew Drake reported as his system picked up an emergency signal as soon as they entered the system.
"His life support system indicated zero level of oxygen. He's not breathing, Sir" the young Ensign added.
"For how long?"
"Approximately one minute thirty seconds" Matthew's voice held a hopeful tone as he relayed the news. His eyes skimmed through the downloaded information from the Lieutenant's suit. He can still survive.
Captain Taylor Manning nodded, satisfied with the report.
"Pull him in. Get medical on him straight away. We need to find out what the hell happened here"
Maybe Gregory Anderson was a lucky man afterall...