"Let's finish him?"
The question makes me chuckle. Amell is so into overkill. The rebels' aircraft is sure to crash by itself; its attempts to get away look almost pitiful, with black smoke trailing behind it like a veil. It nearly hits the side of the cliff in its panicked escape effort.
"A waste of ammo," I say into the mic, but at the same time, I'm making a turn to join Amell in his pursuit. Stupid rebels thought they could take us by surprise, and look where it got them. According to our intelligence reports, this has to be their last remaining fighting jet in this area, so perhaps we should take the time to wipe them clean.
The base left behind, the mother ship hovering above it now out of sight, we maneuver between the reddish canyon walls. The earth underneath us is gray and barren from too many centuries of too much radiation, its surface unsuitable for life—at least not for the forms of life you'd care to meet outside of your nightmares. The remaining human population hides underground, which would have been fine if they remained there, instead of occasionally getting out to attack our ships.
"He's mine," Amell's voice crackles in my headset.
"Fuck off." He shoots ahead, but can't quite nail the escaping jet as it swings right, then left in an attempt to shake him off. The jet, now that I think of it, is quite agile for the amount of black smoke coming out of it. I'd expect it to have lost a wing or two by now and be spinning down.
"Where did you hit it, to get all that smoke?"
"I didn't," Amell replies after a pause. "I thought you did."
I frown. If our missiles missed it, why the smoke? It's getting so thick it almost blocks our vision.
Perhaps that's what it was meant for.
"Amell!" I shout, but before I can share my suspicion, the canyon walls make a turn, and from the cloud of smoke two brand new fighter jets burst out, strafing us with bullets.
From the corner of my eye, I see a ball of fire to the left where Amell's craft just was. Before I can process it, something hits me in the side, and I crash into the canyon wall, and then I die.
Or so it feels.
When I open my eyes, the headache and the smell of burned wires are too strong to be mistaken for afterlife. I free myself from the safety belts and remove my helmet. My vision is blurry. Got to get out of here, but I don't remember where the exit is. I shake my head and rub my eyes. Damn it, this can't be happening. How could everything go so wrong so fast? And where's Amell? Then I remember the ball of fire and groan in frustration.
As my vision clears, I realize the exit is pretty much everywhere, since the whole top part of my cockpit has been torn off. It's a miracle I'm still alive. I crawl outside and roll down to the ground, falling on my side. As I try to catch my breath, something pokes me in the head. I look up, and the black eye of a rifle looks back at me.
Rebels. Three of them, one standing closer, two others lingering behind him. I can make out their jet in the background. Seems like they had a better landing than I did. Not that anything matters right now, apart from the rifle pointed in my face.
"No," I say, trying to get to my feet, but due to the nausea I only get to my knees, and stop there. This is not right. I'm royalty. I can't die like this. Father always goes on how we must die standing and proud if it comes to that.
If it comes to that, I don't want to die at all.
"No," I repeat, but it comes out unintelligible, my mouth full of dust and blood. My attention is so captivated by the rifle that the man holding it is merely a haze to me. Still, I distinguish his movement as he presses the gun to my forehead. Then he turns to his companions and says:
"Let's finish him?"
I shake my head, and moan in protest. Damn it, I always knew what to say, I could talk my way out of anything. I can't let these barbarians blow my brains out. I search for words, but my mind is empty.
"Don't do it," I finally manage. Not nearly the level of eloquence I need right now.
"What?" he says. "Are you telling me what to do? You are so dead." I look up, and he's laughing, actually laughing at me, and I know that I will kill this man if I live long enough to get an opportunity. This humiliation is unforgivable. Rage shoots through me, bringing all my senses back.
"Killing me would be a waste." My voice comes out surprisingly clear. "I'm worth more alive than dead."
"Oh yeah? A little shitty pilot that's so easy to trick into a trap?"
I make an effort and get to my feet, his rifle following my movements.
"I'm Julian Maynard," I say. "Lord Maynard's son."
That makes his grin drop.
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