22 Dec

Outmanoeuvred

Ship's log, 08:24, 10 November 2213
Location: Intersystem between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Sublight transit, half speed

 

Can’t talk much right now. There’s so much happening. I’m trying to put the logs together from the last few days to keep… I don’t know. Because I need for there to be a record of this. Of the amazing people I call my crew and the things they did.

 

Ship's log, 04:36, 3 November 2213 (Reconstructed)
Location: Intersystem between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Sublight transit

Shit shit shit.

 

Signature detected.
Alert Level 2 activated.

 

STARWALKER: (in the captain’s cabin) Captain! Wake up!

CAPTAIN: What is it?

SW: They’re here. They’ve found us. We have a ship inbound on our position.

CAPT: (lurching out of bed) Rouse everyone.

SW: Alert sirens are getting them all up.

 

The crew are stumbling out of sleep and pulling clothes on. They don’t need to be told what’s happening: they know. What else would it be?

 

Signature detected.
Alert Level 2 active.

 

CAPT: How many is that now?

SW: Two ships, both inbound.

CAPT: (pulling his shipsuit on) Idents?

SW: Masked. From their configuration, probably the same ones as last time. A scout and a cruiser – the Mandible and the Bountiful?

CAPT: Take us to Level 1.

 

Alert Level 1 activated.
Crew to alert positions.
Targetting systems active.
Weapons systems active.
Crew to alert positions.

 

CAMERON: (on the Bridge at her station, still fastening the throat of her shipsuit) Starwalker, report.

SW: Two signatures, in quadrants four and seven. Closing fast. I’m taking us into the debris cloud for cover.

CAMERON: Tyler?

TYLER: (at Gunnery Control) They’re not close enough for a lock yet. We’re massively outgunned, though.

CAMERON: Cruisers?

CAPT: (arriving on the Bridge) Looks like the same ships as Corsica.

CAMERON: And no moon to blow up this time.

CAPT: Or star to run through. (He drops into the captain’s chair and looks over his shoulder at the place where the pilot’s chair used to be. The cut-off ends of struts and cables proof of its violent absence.) What happened to the pilot’s chair?

SW: It’s no longer a problem, captain.

CAPT: (scowls, but isn’t inclined to press the matter right now. He turns to face the holo-tank showing the positions of the players.) Options?

TYLER: Wow, look at that. Full military cruiser, and they put even more guns on it. I didn’t think there was room.

ROSIE: (squinting at the display of her post at Defensive) Bugger me.

CAMERON: We won’t survive toe to toe with these guys.

CAPT: We can’t fight them. Can we run? Anywhere? (He looks around the Bridge and frowns.) Where’s Lang Lang?

SW: On her way, captain.

CAPT: Starwalker, emergency FTL?

SW: Inadvisable. Lot of debris around from the comet’s trail.

CAPT: We’re close enough for that?

SW: We started passing the outlying debris when we were adrift. I’m taking us in deeper for cover.

CAPT: Dammit, I want options!

 

I don’t know what to tell him. An FTL jump is too dangerous here – the debris would cut me into pieces. All the inertial dampening in the galaxy can’t stop that from happening. We’re not in a star system, so I can’t try to Step us away. There’s barely a whisper of gravity here – nothing to manipulate at all.

There must be something else we can do. Anything else.

The crew is gathering on the Bridge, except for Elliott who is hovering in front of the sensor display in Engineering, waiting for instructions. Lang Lang has arrived, but she doesn’t have any bright insights or options to offer. The captain looks like he’s going to explode.

 

CAPT: Can we outrun them at full sublight?

SW: Negative, captain. They’re running at a hundred-and-ten percent of our sublight speed right now, and they’ll go faster if we try running in a straight line.

LANG LANG: There’s nowhere to run to, captain. This sector is clear, except for the comet debris.

CAMERON: They aren’t in proper flanking positions yet, but it won’t take them long – they’ll flank us in four and a half minutes.

CIRILLI: This ship is supposed to be state-of-the-art! How can they have better engines than us?

CAPT: That’s a military-grade cruiser.

ELLIOTT: (over internal comms, from Engineering) And from the readouts, the scout has had some major upgrades. That’s not a standard configuration. Fuckin’ pirates have better ships than we do.

SW: Hey.

ELLIOTT: Only on the outside!

CAPT: How long until they’re in weapons range?

SW: Three minutes and counting.

CAPT: Starwalker, can you lose them in the cloud?

SW: I don’t know. I can manoeuvre better than they can, but the debris is sparse. I don’t know if I can lose their sensor lock.

CAPT: I need options. Anyone?

 

He’s fighting this a lot harder than he did the last time. He was ready to give up when the pirates appeared that first time, back in March. He was ready to sacrifice himself and the crew to save the science team and the ship. We all know that they won’t kill Cirilli’s people – they’re needed to run the Star Step drive. That first time, he was ready to die.

But not now, not this time. He has steel in his spine and he doesn’t want to give way. He has something to fight for now. I’m not sure what – his Lorena? Me? The crew that didn’t leave us? Whatever it is, it’s making him stand up and be the kind of captain that makes me proud to be a ship.

If only I could get us out of here. I don’t see a way. The lack of answers to his question deafens all of us.

 

External communications signal detected.

 

SW: Captain, the scout is hailing us.

CAPT: (tersely) Ignore it. Take us deeper into the debris field.

SW: Altering course.

CAPT: Monaghan, do we have anything that will cloud their sensors?

ELLIOTT: (over internal comms, from Engineering) On it, captain. I’ll need a few minutes.

ROSIE: (on the Bridge) They’re opening fire, captain. Lasers only.

CAPT: Do they have a lock?

ROSIE: Negative. Countermeasures activated.

CAMERON: They’re fishing.

SW: I’m dodging it. We’re fine.

 

Duck down under a rock, skim a pocket of dust with a fin to make it spray behind me. Weave under a thread of tiny shards, flip ninety degrees and punch into a new vector. The inertial dampeners are humming under the strain; without them, my crew would be paste on a bulkhead.

The ships are matching us, on a slower and wider course; it’ll be more than three minutes before they’ll be able to get a lock on me. If I turn and head up the comet’s trail, we should hit thicker debris. Eventually. I need more space, though.

Hopefully Elliott can come up with something to get us away. I can only buy us so much time.

A handful of ice shards are converging – most of them are bigger than I am. There’s enough room: I slide sideways inside their group and gun up towards their meeting point. Half of the crew on the Bridge are holding their breath. The SecOffs are too busy watching the laser fire from the ships chasing us.

 

Warning.
Warning.
Collision imminent.

 

Shut up, autolog. There’s plenty of room.

 

Collision imminent.

 

CAPT: Starwalker…

SW: I’ve got this! It’s fine.

 

Missile launch detected.

 

CAPT: Report!

ROSIE: It’s not locked on to us. Trajectory’s all wrong.

 

Detonation detected.

 

Uh oh. My sensors just went crazy. What the hell did they do? One of the ice shards is gone. Its pieces are pinging off my hull. Ow. Shit. Ow. That’s not good. They can’t hit me, so they’re going for everything around me. That’s just cheating! And they’re compromising my heat shielding – the ice is cutting scores in the paint. Not a problem right now, surrounded by all this ice. I’m fine. Keep going. Just keep going.

 

CAMERON: Defensive fire!

ROSIE: (grinning) Aye, ma’am!

TYLER: Clearing the air.

 

The SecOffs are manning my lasers. Taking out the little shards heading for me. They’re good shots, melting my way clear. Of the small stuff, anyway.

 

Collision imminent.
Collision imminent.
Pull up now.

 

Shut UP, autolog. I know what I’m doing! There’s enough room to get through. Thereisthereisthereis–

 

Missile launch detected.

 

ROSIE: Still not locked on us. They’re going for the debris again.

 

Detonation detected.

 

Oh shit, they went for the big one. Cracks are crazing up its length, the force of the explosion twisting the shard – it’ll burst with it in a few seconds. That’ll do serious damage if it goes and I’m right beside it. But I’m hemmed in on all sides – the only way is forward, and the tunnel’s still closing. Folding my wings in tight: no choice now.

Has to work. Have to make it. Damned if I’m gonna let them get me now. Danika was a combat pilot, and I know my own capabilities – I can do this. I’m an expert at flying at impossible vectors and coming out the other side. Just a few scratches. I’ll be fine.

There’s the hole. There’s my way out. Almost there, just a few more metres, just a few more…

 

ELLIOTT: (from Engineering) Sensor bomb ready! Starry, punch it out the airlock!

SW: Little busy right now!

ELLIOTT: When you set it off, you need to make sure that–

 

Sublight engines at 105%.

 

Almost there, almost out. I can hear the ice screaming. It’s all I can hear – fingernails scraping on metal teeth.

 

Missile launch detected.
Sublight engines at 110%

 

That’s just not fair! Way to pick on the little guy, you bastards. But this little guy has a few tricks of her own.

WHOOOO-HOOOOO. I’m out! Screw you, I made it out!

 

Detonation detected.

 

Shit. They hit the big shard again. The world is full if ice – glittering, spinning, spearing at me. I have to dodge – so many directions. Hit, I’m hit. Lost a portside thruster. Pressure in one of the portside cabins is fluctuating. Almost punched through the hull. Damage control is going crazy.

 

TYLER: Ejecting Elliott’s bomb.

ROSIE: Countermeasures away.

ELLIOTT: (from Engineering) Starry, shut your sensors off.

SW: Are you crazy?

ELLIOTT/CAPT: Just do it!

SW: Okay, okay!

 

External sensors disabled.

 

I’m in the middle of vicious debris and flying blind. This is such a bad idea. Lost a forward sensor. Something just scarred my nose. And my rear end. Wait – that was hot, not cold.

 

SW: They’re still firing at me!

ELLIOTT: …four, five – okay, sensors back up!

 

External sensors enabled.

 

Shitshitshit. So much debris. Dodge left, dip, slide sideways and up, angle down, flip my tail forty-five degrees, circle around backwards, flip right-way-forward and there’s another cluster of shards in my way. I don’t feel right. Can’t move well. A piece of ice just bounced off my wing.

Something’s happening behind me. I’ve lost a couple of rear sensors – whatever Elliott rigged burned them out. If I angle to the right – there. The pirates are cutting up the ice shards with their lasers.

 

Warning.
Warning.
Collision imminent.
Malfunction.

 

Uh oh.

 

SW: I’ve lost the starboard-side sublight engine.

ELLIOTT: On it!

CAPT: Can you compensate?

SW: I think so, but I’m down three thrusters. Manoeuvring getting difficult.

CAPT: What’s the status of the pirates?

ROSIE: The enemy ships are holding position. Looks like they’re having fun blasting the shit out of where we just were.

CAPT: Have they lost us?

CAMERON: Looks like it. Elliott’s bomb took out their sensors; they’re firing blind.

CAPT: (pointing at a spot in the nav hologram display) Starwalker, can you get us onto the other side of that ice cluster?

SW: Yes. Hold on.

 

I’m limping. I don’t like this. They must’ve got a laser shot in before their sensors went dark – there’s a huge gash across my starboard wing and side, marring the engine housing. It’s going to take more than a spanner and some tape to get that going again.

I can see where the captain is sending me now. There’s a pocket in the far side of the biggest ice shard – if I slide into it and power down my extraneous systems, their sensors won’t be able to pick me up. I can hide, and repair, and wait for them to leave.

Shutting down as many emissions as possible so they don’t spot me. I’ll skim close to this shard, tuck in under that splinter and slip out the other side. Its bulk will hide me.

Almost there. Can breathe soon. That hollow is smaller than it looked – it’ll take some wiggling to get me in there. I just need to match its velocity and spin, then I’ll cut the sublights and use the thrusters to–

 

Signature detected.

 

Uh oh. There were three. Back at Corsica, there were three pirate ships, not two. It came out of the dark side of the moon at us. We forgot about the third one, but it didn’t forget about us.

There it is, a military-grade cruiser with a warp cannon mounted on its head. It’s moving up from the belly of the ice cloud, smooth as silk, its gaze pinned on us.

 

External communications signal detected.

 

CRUISER: This is the Bountiful. Stand down or we will destroy you.

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2 Responses to “Outmanoeuvred”

  1. daymon34 Says:

    Oh my Starry that isn’t good, and now they have a big gun pointed at her belly. Now what do they have that can get the big guy blind as well.

  2. Melanie Says:

    Them pesky pirates!