Richard’s head snapped up from his instruments. “Oh, no.”
Kate looked up from the tactical display, her eyebrow raised. “Now what?” she wondered, immediately running through ideas of what Richard could be worried about now. The list, she decided, was too long. She ran her fingers through her hair and exhaled, then replied. “How bad an ‘oh no’ are we talking about?”
The War Angel’s mechanical savant felt a bead of sweat trickle down his forehead. “Sensors are picking up movement. The ship we shot before moving inside here didn’t back off. It’s making its way toward us. It’ll be at the entrance we… carved… in about a minute.” He noticed that Gina was now staring at him as well. Richard thought for a moment about shutting up, then decided that someone had to speak the obvious. “We’re sitting ducks right here.”
“Can we divert extra power to the rear shields?” Gina asked, her throat dry.
Kate bounced her fist off of her forehead. I’m sure we could do a lot of different tricks with the damn shields if the person who created the stupid things was on the bloody ship!”
Gina began pressing buttons on her console. “I can change our profile, give them a smaller target…”
“Doesn’t matter. At this range, they won’t be able to miss. They will give us everything they’ve got, and there’s a good chance that they’ll just shove us through a bulkhead whereupon we’ll get stuck and then explode.”
“You’re a ray of sunshine, as always,” Gina replied flatly.
Suddenly, Kate snapped her fingers and pointed at Gina. “Belay that. You had the right idea. Re-orient us so that we’re facing the opening. The only real option is to hit them first. With all four cannons. We’ll even shove debris at them, and that should confuse their targeting.”
Richard raised his hand slowly as Gina began shifting the ship on its axis. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if we fire at them, the risk to Sarah and Jack is…”
“The same as it is if we sit here and take a pounding. One threat at a time, Clover.”
Sarah wrapped her arm around Jack’s waist, and he draped his across her shoulder. She was careful to avoid squeezing near his midsection, aware of his broken rubs. “Easy does it, Jack. Lean on me, and I’ll get us back to the ship.” She handed him a gun. “Can you still shoot?” He nodded. “Good boy. Let’s go.”
They stumbled into the damaged corridor and began slowly walking the path back to the War Angel. Every few steps, they would stop and Sarah would adjust her grip, and Jack would swing his arm back across her shoulder. It was not speedy, by any means, and soon enough, they were walking through the path that Kate had created for them. “She’s just ahead, Jack. Almost there.”
“How does she look?”
“Beautiful and deadly. Richard did his work well.”
He coughed out a small glob of blood. “Heh. Knew he had it in him.”
She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “I think you were the only one who thought that.”
“S’why I’m captain,” he said, gargling a laugh.
The Serr’Donn approached the inner breach of the Kan’Tar. Alarm claxons rang out as the ship’s computer warned of an immanent collision with a hull that no longer existed. B’thah K’alat swore under his breath, annoyed at the sound, and far more annoyed at the entire situation. What treachery had these Earthers committed that they were able to cause this damage? Where was the great F’ath M’isti? Was he captured? Fighting inside his own ship?
Dead? It was inconceivable.
It was all inconceivable until this moment. This ship had shown bravado unlike any like it in the annals of the war between these two planets. K’alat smiled. “And now its destruction will be at my hand. It is I who will be written of in the annals of our people. My reward in Erestia will be beyond imagination!”
His reverie was interrupted by a nearby officer. “Firing solution achieved!”
K’alat sat back in his chair with a satisfied grin. “Fire at will.”
Kate’s fingers danced across the targeting system. “Firing all cannons!”
Separated by only a short distance, the two war ships simultaneously opened fire on one another. Two of the Serr’Donn’s guns spat bright blue energy across the gulf of ship debris, pounding the War Angel across her bow and directly striking the shields right above the bridge. The impact sent Kate and Richard sprawling across the deck, Richard smashing his forehead on the edge of his station as he went. Gina held on only because her seat back was directly behind her and helped absorb the impact. The ship itself was thrown backward, and only by having the engines fired up did that prevent the War Angel from being propelled into the shattered deck and stuck there.
All four of the War Angel’s cannons erupted in a red blaze of fury. Two were fired at full power, and those struck their target true. The Serr’Donn now had an open wound in her side. At the same time, the other two cannons had fired on low power and hit already damaged sections of the Kan’Tar. This had the effect of stirring up an enormous amount of debris and flinging it into the air near the attacking Omegan ship. For a moment, at least, her targeting system was clogged.
“Down!” Sarah yelled, dragging Jack to the floor with her as the Omegan energy bolts ricocheted off of the War Angel’s shields and dispersed across the nearest space… which included the tunnel containing Jack and Sarah. The energy swirled over them and passed through the entire area before seeping into the hallway at the far end.
Jack gingerly lifted his head from the floor and looked toward their escape hole. “Looked like… the Angel fired at the same time.”
Sarah sat up. “It did. No way of knowing if they beat the bad guys, either.” She mentally calculated how far they had to walk until they could board the ship. “That we can’t board if it’s being fired on anyway,” she reminded herself. “I think we’re in trouble, Jack.”
He slid himself over to the wall and propped himself against it. “Doubly so, yes. Can’t get onto ship. Very bad.” Jack shrugged. “Radiation exposure from both ships’ weapons not so great, either.” He saw a panic begin to rise in her eyes. “One problem at a time, right? We don’t get on the Angel, we die no matter what.”
Kate struggled to her feet and wobbled back to the tactical station. She noticed Richard trying to regain his position as well, noticing the blood pouring down his face, and decided to treat him gently. “How are we doing, Clover?” she asked gently. Kate saw Gina nodding at her out of the corner of her eye, approving of this method.
He balanced himself using both hands and leaned forward to begin checking readouts. “We cut a hole in them. They are… on fire. But intact. The debris must be confusing their targeting.”
“It isn’t doing wonders for our, either,” she said through gritted teeth. “Will just have to do it the old fashioned way.” She hit the firing mechanism for cannon one twice, sending blasts at the wounded enemy. As she did, she stared at Richard, expectantly.
“One hit… second shot missed!”
She blew the hair out of her eyes. “Dammit!”
“I have an idea!” Gina’s voice rang out with excitement. The other two looked at her expectantly. “Yes,” she beamed to herself, “that just might work...”
“By all means, enlighten us,” Kate said, her patience wearing thin.
The War Angel’s pilot smiled in response. “Time to think a little more three dimensionally,” she replied, not looking up as she engaged the thruster controls.