Aaron watched as the battleships started to descend through the clouds surrounding the Flying City. His gut churned, a feeling of dread trying to creep it’s way up into his mind. His face showed no emotion though. He’d known this might happen despite all that he’d done to keep the Protectors from asserting their presence. It hadn’t been enough though.
The small airship seemed tiny compared to the size of the battleships descending around the Flying City. They were kilometers from the city and it’s attackers, but with the clear sky under the high clouds, it gave a perfect view.
He sensed a presence behind him and Jay’s voice rang in his ears.
“It’s a shame it had to come to this,” said Jay. He held his straw-hat in one hand. Reaching up he placed it on his head and pulled out his pistol with the other hand. Raising it he took aim at one of the ships.
Aaron looked over to him, his face a passive mask. Underneath though, his thoughts roiled. What could he do with that little weapon. Not even the curse could augment my own strength to take out a ship of that size, thought Aaron.
Jay stood perfectly still in the torrent of wind blowing around them, sighting in on the closest ship to the city.
“Bang,” he said, casually, mimicking as if he’d fired the pistol.
Without warning an explosion tore through the battleship hovering just beside the city.
Aaron turned, his eyes going wide as he watched the ship split in two and shatter. Explosions rippled along it’s dying hull, its superstructure mangled as it fell from the sky.
The roar of the explosion reached them a moment later and Aaron heard Jay speak, the roar drowned out his voice, but Aaron could just make out the words.
“Hit confirmed. Target down.”
Aaron watched as he aimed again, a small smirk on his face this time as he struck a pose, widening his stance and making as if to quick-fire.
Aaron turned as Jay mimed several shots at each of the other battleships.
The small taskforce had turned and was starting to fire their thrusters, trying to get back into orbit as fast as possible, discern where the attack had come from, the flying city forgotten.
Explosions ripped through each one in turn. Shredding through their armored hulls as if they were tissue-paper.
Just under the roar of the explosion, Aaron heard a different voice.
“Confirm, task force eliminated?”
Jay responded, “Confirmed. Targets are down. Ground operations are a go. We still have a few targets to take out.”
As Aaron watched the battleships fall from the sky, he saw the clouds start to part. The form of the ship that descended down through them left him in awe. The dreadnaught was massive. Not nearly as large as the Flying City itself, but Aaron had never heard of a ship of it’s size being able to descend into a planet’s atmosphere.
Bays on the underside of the ship opened and swarms of fighters fell from their berths, lighting up their thrusters. They surrounded the city in a defensive pattern in seconds. A small squadron broke off, heading for them.
As they roared overtop of the airship, Jay raised his hand, waving up at the fighters.
Aaron watched in awe and disbelief. “H-how? Where?” Never had he seen such a projection of military power and coordination anywhere. He’d heard stories of battle fleets of massive size fighting among the inner colonies to hold back the Ssin, but no hard facts.
“This backwater planet is my home,” said Jay. “They may not be readily visible, but there are defenses in place to ensure the safety of everyone here, no matter who they are. And though I may have retired and hidden myself away from the galaxy, I will step into the spotlight if I have to to protect what I love. Remember that.”
“I don’t…” Aaron shook his head at a loss for any words.
Jay tilted his hat back with the barrel of his pistol, and gave Aaron a smile. “Don’t worry about it. Whether you were able to stop them or not, something like this was bound to happen. I’m just glad that there was someone who I could trust with this. Van Knight is far stronger than me. I have to leave him to you I’m afraid.”
Aaron gave a small nod. He knew how strong Van was. The extent of Jay’s strength was still a mystery to Aaron, but if he was trusting him with this task, it meant he had complete confidence in his abilities.
Jay twirled his pistol and holstered it in one motion.
“You know where he’ll be. I’ll meet you there in time,” said Jay looking back to the city.
Aaron watched him. What does he mean?
Jay started forward, taking long strides, smoothly transitioning into a run. His foot hit the bow railing and he leapt off the ship as Aaron watched, shocked.
The straw-hat vanished over the side and Aaron bolted forward, grabbing the railing and leaning over just in time to see Jay land on one of the fighters that had passed overhead earlier.
His feet hit it’s nose perfectly and he held onto his hat with one hand, keeping his balance as the fighter accelerated forward from under the ship, heading for the city and the dreadnaught.
Aaron blinked, not believing what he’d just seen.
He has to be an immortal, thought Aaron. There’s no other way.