He had never experienced true turbulence. He first realized it as his ship fought to leave the atmosphere of that forsaken planet.
“This is insane!”
“Get off the comms, Kyle!” Blasted kid. “Spinz, tell me we’re not blowing up.”
“I know not?” The high-pitched voice replied, a bit out of sorts. “I see ship from window of mine.”
“I mean the engine, Spinz! The engine!”
“Oh. Engine holding, yes.”
“How many ships left?” He asked to the side.
“Three are catching up,” his co-pilot told him, “we have two engaged.”
“Nice!” He slapped the panel in celebration. “Hannes, you okay in there?”
“NO!” the gruff and angry voice replied, angry.
“He’s okay,” he said to the side.
“I’m boilin’ alive in ’ere!” Hanned protested.
Daigo looked across his panels, his prosthetic eyes reading the data on them and interpreting it in real time. He imagined they were gyrating, glinting the characteristic gold people normally associated with his face, a visage he would never get used to, not really.
He sighed in exhaustion, burying one hand in his messy black hair, irrationally feeling that it helped him concentrate.
“Take the helm, Kiyin!” Daigo said.
“This plan of yours is at a whole new level of screw up, Daigo,” his co-pilot said in reply, still taking the helm.
“That is an appropriate observation,” Daigo said absent-mindedly, his mind unable to multi-task a cleverer retort.
Calling them plans had always felt a bit too over the top. Daigo wasn’t one to second-guess himself, which resulted in plans which were more like ideas. Ideas under appreciation and forever in mutation.
“New ships coming in range,” Kiyin reported back after him.
“I’m going, I’m going!”
He ran past the Hornet’s cybernaut, who was lying on her back with head and hands inside some panel, doing last-minute optimizations to the targeting system. Nothing was visible of her except for a thin layer of pale white skin between trousers and shirt, and that was because her dark robe was plastered open like a sheet beneath her.
“Are we going to die?” Sára casually asked.
“Not yet,” Daigo replied.
“Sorry to disappoint!” He yelled back.
He got into a gun and immediately felt how hot it was, Hannes had not overstated. With a grunt of effort, he put his hands over the red-hot scalding equipment and made the gun traverse the ship. He found himself placed right next to Hannes’s gun, shooting back at their pursuers.
“Are you okay, Daigo?” Hannes questioned with a growl.
“You’re not funny,” Daigo stated while locking into targets.
Daigo rolled his eyes, mentally, and kept his nerve as green plasma shots splashed against the hull of his ship, or rather, against the few inches of shielding that was thankfully still holding. They were trying to hit their guns, but the surface was rotating and thus so were they. However, that didn’t upset his locking. His eyes were straining his brain to zoom in on the ships so he could better follow them with the targeting system of the gun. Times like these, he wondered if prosthetic limbs would do a better job of keeping up with his sight.
And whether it was correct to even call it sight, and not targeting.
“Sará,” he called out into the general comms, “will I have this calibrated anytime soon--ok, there we go.”
“You’re welcome…” a foreboding and bored voice put out, with effort, as if pulling itself out of the communication system.
“Yeah yeah, thank you.”
The panels beeped happily, and he saw reticles around the three ships. He steeled himself for the expenditure. Firing the homing missiles was going to hurt him a lot more than the burns did, they were so expensive.
Daigo saw them propelling themselves towards the enemy ships, who switched on perpendicular thrusters to dodge. One of them exploded in the silence of space, and the other lost all its lights in a telling way—it was disabled. The final one was still moving despite taking a side hit.
“Oh, gods…Daigo!” Kiyin’s voice called out, distressed. “Get back in here! Right now!”
Daigo sighed and nodded, knowing Hannes would take it down. He moved so the gun would return to docking position.
“On my way,” Daigo said.
He left it and ran to the cockpit, tapping his hands against his pants to the sound of involuntary grunts. He waved them, opening and closing, feeling the need to get them used to functioning properly as fast as possible.
Another day, another narrow survival by the skin of their ship. Or so he thought. It was a confidence that was extremely diminished once he reached the cockpit.
“Am I… seeing this right?” Daigo asked, glaring out the window.
“You are,” Kiyin said spitefully.
He didn’t have any funny quip. There was nothing funny about what he was seeing.
Representatives from every faction in the known galaxy were right there on the horizon of his vision… and the silence of their anticipation, as they stared down the Hornet’s Nest, could be heard across systems.
United Republics of Humanity. Jinari’kos. The warrior reptiles of Muena. The Centauri Monarchy. Aslac Tralud. The Seventh Empire. The League of Independent Planets. He didn’t have time to voice the rest in his head as hails and communications started piling through to his ship.
“You’ve really outdone yourself,” Kiyin again complained.
Daigo covered his mouth.
He was certain none of them knew what the Hornet’s Nest was, or who they were, nor had a real clue about why the situation was what it was. However, they did know what they had, and each one of them would want it for themselves.
Daigo’s mind wasn’t coming up with any scenario in which they would survive the confrontation they were in. And the real kicker was they didn’t even have what they all wanted.
Daigo really had outdone himself.