February 20, 2180 (New Era Calendar) /
Antilla System, Alliance Research Station Skyline, Arveria high orbit
Captain Gonzo Antreya lay in bed staring blankly at the ceiling of his quarters, the covers bunched down around his waist. Nestled next to him beneath the sheets, Kyra Smalls, rested soundly.
Gonzo's chest rose and fell calmly enough, but the intent in his eyes indeed said that all was not relaxed. There was no telling how long he had been awake.
"What the hell are we doing here, Kyra?" Gonzo asked the sleeping woman knowing full well that she wouldn't answer.
Everyday since being stationed in the pits of the Antilla System, Captain Gonzo Antreya asked himself the same thing, sometimes in his head, sometimes to Kyra or another pilot in Defiant Squadron or Upton Rakes, skipper of the Exped, sometimes to no one at all. Something about this entire assignment screamed to him that a disaster was waiting to befall them all.
Kyra's head rose from the pillow and she sighed as she rolled over and sat up next to Gonzo, pulling the sheet up over her torso.
"Can't sleep?" she asked him, her voice raspy.
Gonzo shook his head. "Not really tired."
Kyra flashed him a wicked grin, "I can think of something to help out with that."
Gonzo chuckled. It was a polite chuckle—the kind someone did when they weren't really listening.
"Hey," she said, turning his face to her with a hand, "talk to me."
"Dammit, Kyra. This isn't right. We shouldn't be here right now. Not while there's still a war going on."
She pulled a lock of dirty blonde hair behind her ear and smiled sadly at him. "As long as I've known you, you've always thought with your heart and flew with your gut. That gets you into trouble sometimes."
"Don't you think I know that? But Winston—"
"Damn Winston! He's the type of windbag that would be proud of being the only survivor of a losing battle. You need to stop being so hard on yourself. If it weren't for you, we would have lost Arcturus." Kyra stroked Gonzo's cheek softly. "And deep down he knows it, but he's too much of a bastard to admit it."
"I hear what you're saying, Kyra. But he's right to an extent. We lost a lot of good men and women that day. It was my mistake, and now it's like I'm taking you and the rest of the Defiants down with me."
"We'd follow you to hell and back. You know that"
Gonzo stared straight ahead. "I almost feel like the court marshal would've been better than being out here relegated to a forsaken corner of some backwater star system."
"Just because we're out in the middle of nowhere, doesn't mean we can't make a difference you know. General Elanger brought you in to work on this Project Nova for a reason. What if it is everything Elanger says it is? Would it be all worth it then?"
"You know something, Kyra. I just don't know."
Without getting out of bed, Gonzo stretched to retrieve the datapad resting on his footlocker. A few key presses and the display shifted to a list of specifications and a small wire hologram of one of Project Nova' prototype starfighters floated inches above its surface. He studied the specs for what seemed like the hundredth time, and each time he discovered some new aspect about the prototypes. This time, he noticed the pair of hardpoints just on the dorsal side of the fighter—their purpose was anyone's guess.
"Is that it?" Kyra asked.
"Nova Prototype Unit Zero."
"Sexy." Kyra said evenly with a smirk as the dim light of the hologram crested shadows along her face. She cuddled up to him to get a better look. Just then, Gonzo closed the file, killing the hologram, then let the datapad rest on his stomach.
"Elanger says that Nova is about the unlocking of potential, whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. To be honest I'm starting not to even care," Gonzo said turning, looking Kyra in her eyes.
The first thing that came to Gonzo's mind, he didn't say—couldn't say. Instead: "I care about what's going on with the unit. I'm worried that Defiant Squadron's growing complacent out here without seeing the front line combat."
"I call bull. What's going on in that head of yours?"
"I don't know Kyra. I've just got a bad feeling about all this. We've got Defiant out here and we've got Upton's Exped and Skyline's defense net is second-to-none. But that's just a stop gap. This biggest thing going in our favor is that no one knows it exists. If this station is discovered and someone has the stones to make a play on us, things are gonna go south in a hurry. I'm talking FUBAR."
Gonzo chucked the datapad to the floor and threw the covers to the side.
"What are you doing?"
The leader of Defiant Squadron rolled off of his billet and stepped into his flightsuit. He looked over his shoulder at Kyra, still in his bed, and zipped his flightsuit up.
"Making sure that we're ready if things go south."
He retrieved a comlink from his pocket. "This is Antreya to all Defiant Squadron pilots. Sim center two. 0600 hours." The message echoed loudly as Kyra's comlink was somewhere around Gonzo's quarters. He stuffed the comlink back into his pocket and stepped back toward the bed. He leaned in and kissed Kyra on the forehead. .
"Damn the complacency," Gonzo uttered to her.
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