Chapter 22 - The Field

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Dawn, Marcus, Silas and Andrew were ripped from their feet and thrown violently onto the command deck as Terris shot Dawnhammer into a tight, furious bank.

"Break formation!" He shouted.  A massive rolling asteroid of razor-edged rock threatened to crush the ship, but Terris' focus was absolute.  A network of deadly spires protruded from the surface but the young pilot lowered his head and slid through them all, the ship spinning on all three axis.

His eyes scanned the formation behind them.  Several flashes erupted as the leading vessels met their end.  The cone began to collapse in on itself as the forward pirates detached and rolled toward the rear.  Patricia's voice echoed over the communications system as she shouted orders to the fleet.  Dawnhammer rolled through another bank and Terris shot them back toward the main cluster of ships, spraying cannon fire into the approaching asteroid field.  The hellish blaze hammered into the leading edge of rock.

Without looking away from the thin barrier of space between the battle group and certain death, Terris knelt, grabbed Marcus by the hood of his robe and pulled him up, facing the rear.  "Haden, give Marcus rear fire control."  From the corner of his eye, he saw a small asteroid and whipped the tail of the ship out of the way a heartbeat before contact.  "Marcus, protect the fleet.  They are your new little ones."  His voice was calm and left no room for argument.  The priest looked down to see the red holosphere in his left hand.  A second appeared in his right.  Marcus looked at a Terris who was already turned around.  He nodded to no one in particular and opened fire.

"Dawn, on me." He stated.  She lifted herself off the deck and moved into arms reach.  Between banking manuevers, he grabbed her by the waist and stood her in front of him, her back to his chest.  "Haden, on my mark, transfer flight control to Dawn."  He reached quickly under her arms and slid the back of his hands down from shoulder to elbow to wrist until his hands were in hers.  She was surprised at how soft his skin was.  The young man continued to move his body and arms, Dawnhammer responding as if they were a single entity.  Captured between his outstretched arms, she had no choice but to move with him.  He cycled through a treacherous maze of thickly clustered rock, using the wings to swat smaller debris and the forward battery to blast apart larger boulders.  While he was piloting, he manifested confidence and unnatural grace. Dawn was swept spinning across the deck in a whirlwind of movement thay carried Dawnhammer through multiple rolls and banks.  She felt his body move against hers, anticipated his movements and the two danced to the silent song of flight.

"Now!"  Terris let go of her, the throttle sphere remaining in her left hand as he ducked and spun under her arms, sliding to a stop on his knees.  The cannons articulated wildly as he sent light shot in more directions than should have been possible from a single gunner.  As he glided away, Dawn was filled with a sudden shock of emptiness.  The smoothness of his piloting transforming into her own, trained precision was jarring.  She turned the task over to instinct and lost herself in space.

"Dawn, keep us close to the fleet.  Marcus and I will maintain a barrier.  They need enough time to pull back."  His voice was almost a whisper as he concentrated.

The black was shredded by Dawnhammer's weaponry.  Exploding rock flew in every direction.  Marcus was beginning to sweat under the pressure, but his accuracy with the mass drivers on both the upper and lower fuselage was impressive.  Terris, still on his knees spun around Dawn, came up behind Marcus, took over the rear cannons for a brief moment, sprayed an arc of silver into three asteroids that made it past his forward fire, then went back to his knees, continued spinning and came to a stop again in front of Dawn, red fire lancing out to claim more rock.

Someone behind the holosphere swore loudly.  Dawnhammer's hull was showered by the remaining dust and debris.  Dawn, focused on piloting the massive warship back to the fleet was stunned by his move.  She began to weave the Hammer through the formation.  Terris laced the cannon fire through the ships, shooting above, behind and around them to clear space on the other side.  To their credit, not one voice in the fleet cried out in alarm that Dawnhammer was firing into their formation.

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