Fifty-Six: Freefall

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I could hear Martin gasping for breath as the dropship spun drunkenly towards the deck, half the ship's body alight with flames. It was a miracle that even one engine was still functional, just barely isolated from the fire that threatened to claim the entirety of the ship.

"Getting a little hot in here!" Martin called.

"Down here, too!" Kedrick responded.
I could see the Inquisitor bounding across the deck towards the Carrier's bridge, pursued by a fleet of Hovers. Fire burned all around him, bullets, rockets and plasma beating against his hull. The Red Kettle of Death was tough, but it was damaged from the fight for the Dreadnought. It wouldn't last long at this rate.

The fire was lapping at the edges of the dropship's cockpit, licking hungrily at the ship's one remaining engine. Martin had seconds to land the ship before he lost and control he had left.

Kedrick's Thunder boomed and it's Tarans swept waves of burning plasma towards the enemy Hovers, who danced around him almost tauntingly. For every robot he managed to take down, two more took it's place. I couldn't see any other allied War Robots still alive. Kitt was the last one left.

"Clear a path, Kedrick!" Martin shouted. "I'm going to make it!"

The dropship's left engine went up in a plume of flame as Martin straightened the ship out with a groan of effort. Heading for one of the Carrier's many runways, for a moment I was hopeful that Martin would do the impossible.

Then that moment ended.

The dropship detonated.

I have nothing more to say, I can't give any more description. All I know is that one second Martin was headed for the landing strip, and the next the air was filled with fire as a twisted hunk of shrapnel impacted the deck.

The blue form of a Hover collapsed with it.

"No!" Kedrick shouted.

Around us, the Hovers swarmed in unison, moving as if at the will of some invisible puppetmaster. Instead of shooting down the robots as they dropped, we watched in horror as Hovers flew directly into the path of dropships, bringing them down.

"Barbaric!" Draco screamed.
"These are no soldiers of mine! This is not my TMC!"

He turned to me.
"Jackson," he begged, "you have to believe that this was not my doing. Someone else gave these orders, I would never-"

"You built the robots," I said.

I felt nothing. No sorrow, no anger. I didn't know what to feel.

"You're just as guilty as your soldiers are."

Draco, for his part, remained blissfully silent.

Lucas swung the dropship into a wide arc, activating stealth mode. We were temporarily safe, but a Hover could still hit us by accident.

Kitt's voice was loud over the comms.
"Guys? I don't think I can make it to Mallet."

I turned, staring out the dropship's window in horror. Kedrick was surrounded. The Inquisitor was boxed in on so sides by Hovers.

"No, no, no," I said, "you'll be fine."
I turned to Dan.

"Is there any way I could get to the Carrier's hangars, find a working robot or something?"

Dan narrowed his eyes, thinking.
The dropship swerved, buffeted by air as a Hover nearly struck us.

"It's getting pretty dicey up here, Quinn!" Lucas called.

"I don't," Dan began, but stopped.
He sighed. "I don't know."

"We have to do something," Karen shouted, "or we'll all be killed!"

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