The crimson space fighter and its wingmen attacked Invincible, laser cannons blazing. Maada’s vessel dived at high speed, pulled its nose up at the last moment, and did a firing run close to the starship, hitting her repeatedly from bow to stern. The gray space fighters followed it, raining deadly laser bolts on the Akaki ship. Energy bolt after energy bolt tore into her, scoring devastating hits. As soon as the Xortaag vessels veered off, a massive ball of multihued fire engulfed Invincible, and in a flash, she blew up into millions of minute glowing shards shimmering in dark space.
Five thousand sailors, vaporized. Just like that.
The thought of his daughter made Tarq feel his hearts were about to give out. His only child, who could not wait to grow up, was dead. Varina, who loved his pranks, and who never got tired of listening to the stories of how her father had saved the galaxy multiple times, was gone, and it was Tarq’s fault.
The command ship was under attack. Someone shouted, “Brace for impact!” The vessel shook violently. Tarq did not pay any attention. He stared at what was left of Varina’s ship, and overwhelming grief cut through him like a thousand sharp knives. Trying to use physical pain to block his mental anguish, he grabbed his two front antennae and pulled them so hard the agony made his vision blur. That worked. For a brief second.
His PDD beeped. It was a video message from Varina. With terror in her eyes, she said, “Father, we did our best,” and the message cut into static.
His daughter’s last thought before being murdered by the Xortaags was how she had disappointed him.
The thought made his gut churn. He twisted his antennae as hard as he could. The severe pain pushed him to the brink of losing conscientiousness.
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