"Battlestations! Battlestations! Repeat: this is not a drill! Fighter pilots to hangar bays! Launch all fighters immediately!" Cried a shipwide voice.

Pilot Tyler Covington breathed hard. He just finished recovering from the exertion of participating in his first real battle two days ago. Now, the second battle had already began.

The passageways between compartments of the light carrier Hell's Gate appeared ironically pleasant and cool despite the constant roar of the hyperlight engines. As Tyler brushed the walls, they felt smooth.

It took a minute for Tyler to run from his resting quarters to the ship's hangar bay. The hangar bay, a large compartment, basked in red flashing light. Inside, in between the various space fighters, stood five pilots. With Tyler's entry, he became the sixth.

"Tyler!" said one of them, a brutish red haired youth named Berry. "Come, join us!"

He handed him a glass of yellowish wine. Tyler took it.

"Let's toast to our future," said Squadron leader Phil.

"To the crew of the Hell's Gate! Class of '42!" The six pilots, including Tyler, said in unison. "Cheers!"

The toast took less than half a minute, and soon after the pilots tucked themselves into the cockpits of their respective fighters.

Tucked in, Tyler couldn't help wondering if he's seen any of them, again. In the last battle, 2 of their class had died.

It took 5 minutes for the hangar bay doors to unlock. With a rush of outcoming air, Tyler's slim dart-like fighter exited the light carrier in order.

Tyler turned on his fighter's active sensors and immediately his cockpit's map screens flashed with hundreds of enemy positions in space.

So many enemy cruisers, carriers, and fighters layered in three dimensional space outside his one-man fighter. Several hundred thousand miles below, Tyler could see the blue-orange massive sphere of the planet Aribdis II. In front of him, came the white rays of the system's sun located a hundred million miles away. The billions of other stars, like scattered luminescent dust, sprinkled from every direction.

"Hell-fighter 2, follow formation," said his squadron's leader through Tyler's helmet.

"Yes, sir," said Tyler.

Tyler couldn't believe he must fight this many enemy ships. He thought of the difficult task that Admiral Wilks had to make in assigning which enemy Tyler's squadron had to attack.

Suddenly, one of the enemy icons blinked. There, Tyler's target became an enemy carrier.

Immediately, a squadron of enemy fighters altered course and began intercepting Tyler's squadron. So many. Tyler felt his own death approaching.

"Hell squadron," said the squadron leader. "Get your fighters in dogfighting mode. Prepare for close-contact."

"Yes, sir," said Tyler.

"Hell squadron," said his squadron lead. "You know what to do. Listen to your training and you will live. Tyler, take the enemy fighters at 096 mark 222. Spencer and Andromedes, joint attack fighters 4 and 5. Berry, attack fighters 010 mark 200. I will assault fighters 3 and 6."

Tyler tilted his fighter towards his assigned targets. The three enemy fighters suddenly changed course and headed towards him.

Why? Why in god's name did he have to take on 3 fighters at once? Was it because of his skills, or did Phil the squadron lead secretly wanted to kill him? No way, they were all good friends since the Academy.

Tyler felt fear. Then he remembered why he fought. To defend allied colonies from being devoured by the Gulag. The Gulag, the killer beast-warriors that attacked all intelligent life, appeared several thousand years ago, and now they took on the whole galaxy. They feasted on any sentient being.

Suddenly, the three Gulag fighters assigned to Tyler spread out in an ever-enlarging triangle.

Then they tilted towards Tyler, again.

3 fighters, three sides, each equidistant from him and closing.

Dogfighting relied heavily on AI targeting. However, the pilot's decision to use which AI controlled device ultimately affected the battle's outcome.

His instruments brightened to red. On his forward screen, there lit: "MISSLE ALERT".

Tyler scanned his surroundings and indeed each of the three gulag fighters launched 3 missiles at him.

Tyler responded by tilting his fighter towards one of the gulag fighters and launching 2 missiles with programmed instructions towards that fighter. He launched 1 missile towards another fighter and left the last one alone.