Fifty-Five: Powerless

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The mood onboard the dropship was festive. We had nothing to celebrate with but lots to celebrate. Lucas' old CD player cycled through an endless mix of his favorites, we sat in the cockpit and passed around a bottle of water, taking sips to ease our dry throats and chatting amicably. Draco Fisk hadn't said a word since we left, but had accepted a drink from the water bottle with a gracious nod. It didn't make up for his previous crimes, but in a way it was pleasantly surprising to see him acting so civil.

Dropship 0-13 had been the last to leave the scene, following Maxis' squad's unceremonious departure. We would soon be home, bringing up the rear on the victorious return of the dropships.

I couldn't wait to sit down, have a nap in my bunk and a meal in the Carrier's mess hall. Then there was training for my promotion, something I wasn't sure I was ready for. Time would tell. All I knew was that today I had succeeded as a Commander.

I could see the Carrier in the distance, outlined against the silver-grey water of the Atlantic. In the distance the coast of Nova Scotia was faintly visible through the evening mist.

Home.

I really was the luckiest-

A tiny speck.
A dot of flame.
A spark, visible on the horizon for only an instant.

Lucas leaned forward in the pilot's chair, squinting.

"What the hell was that?"

Another spark, a flash of light.
Smoke now, growing larger.
The elation I'd been feeling rushed from my body, and dread filled the empty space.

The light I saw was no sunset. No star.

The Carrier burned.

"Oh my God," Karen whispered.

We were silent for a moment.
Then something near us exploded, buffeting the dropship with a blast of fire.

"Strap the hell in!" Lucas bellowed. Immediately the ship took a sharp dip towards the red-tinted ocean, sending me sliding. Everyone scrambled to get to their seats. The water bottle struck the wall below the copilot's chair and spilled.

"Who's attacking us?" Karen shouted.

Another explosion. The dropship spun to the left.

"Take one guess," I responded. I stared at Draco, my panic hardening into anger.

But Draco didn't look smug or even calm. The mighty Draco Fisk was terrified. Eyes wide, Draco clung to his seat, zip-cuffs tight on his wrists.

We were closing in on the Carrier and I could see the dropship better now. The flames I'd seen came from the Carrier's fuel silos, massive pillars of burning flame. Dropships zipped around like flies, but I still couldn't see anything attacking them from this distance.

Dan turned, crutch strapped to his chest by a thick seatbelt.

"Open emergency frequencies," he shouted. "They must have jammed regular transmissions!"

Almost immediately the cockpit was filled with garbled shouting, the powerful emergency channel the only source of communication between the frightened pilots.

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