8. Off Kilter

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Jett dropped out of the sky like a stone, teeth clenched against the blinding pain radiating from his side. The truck rushed up and it was all he could do to flare his wings at the last second to slow his fall. He barely noticed Tarrod and Gant and the others fling themselves to the side as he slammed into the truck box between then. He hit hard, the shock resonating through his ankles and legs.

A long hiss slipped through as he remained motionless for a long moment, struggling against the pain that blackened his vision. Even through Gray had barely grazed him, the Talon had still managed to crack some ribs. Maybe even break them - Jett wasn't sure. He drew in a shuddering breath. The power behind that kick had been absolutely terrifying.

"What the hell?" An enraged voice drew Jett out of his haze, and he glanced up to see several unhappy Crossfires. He realized that his sudden crash landing had nearly hit some of them, but at the moment, he couldn't quite bring himself to feel guilty about it.

"Sorry," he muttered. He glanced back at the direction he'd came from. Even though the distance between them was rapidly expanding, the plumes of smoke and flashes of explosions were still visible. It appeared the Kairg were doing a great job at keeping the Troit flyers busy.

But why? Why are they helping me?

In his mind, Jett pictured a man with cold black eyes, staring through the holes in a metal mask. The man was smiling. Jett nearly growled at the mental image, and imagined himself punching the man in the face hard enough to make a dent in that mask. Of course, that would never happen in reality - Jett would probably break his own fist in the process, and that was even if the masked man would stand still long enough to let Jett hit him.

Ra'Skevvor, Jett thought darkly. What are you trying to do?

"What happened back there?" This time it was Tarrod.

Jett looked at the young man. Tarrod, who had once been someone Jett considered a friend. Or close to one, anyway. Tarrod didn't show any hostility, unlike his other buddies in the truck, but the mistrust was there. Even Jett could see it, lurking within the slightly narrowed eyes, the direct, cool stare.

Grimacing, Jett disengaged his helmet. Immediately, wind blew across his face. He was sweating, he realized. He could feel the cool wind whisking away the moisture from his skin. Carefully, he shifted from a crouch into a sitting position, with his legs beneath him. The movement sent pain lancing through his side and although he managed to keep his expression blank, he went pale.

"Jett," Tarrod said. "What's going on?"

The use of his name was a bit of a shock, but Jett wasn't in the mood to feel happy about it. There was too many questions whirling through his mind, and he was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed.

"Yeah Jett," Gant spat his name like it was a mouthful of phlegm. Hostility oozed from him like oil. "Why don't you tell us?"

Jett ignored Gant. He met Tarrod's eyes. "What do you think?" he said bitterly. "I defected from Troit. They're not exactly happy with me right now. Those flyers were sent to track me down and bring me back."

A frown furrowed Tarrod's brows. He glanced back at the distant smoke, which by now was starting to fade. "You fought them?"

A short laugh made its way to the surface despite Jett's attempt to hold it down. "More like I survived them. I don't think he'll come after me right now, but he'll probably find me again." He looked at his white-gloved hands, which were resting tensely on his thighs. Gray would find him again. There was no doubt about that.

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