Wilma and Sarah stood on either side of Jack and draped his arms across their shoulders. From there, they began a slow, deliberate walk through the ship and toward the medlab. As they walked, fell silent, his thoughts turning inward and to managing his pain.
He had been hurt before. Injured, even. But this was by far the worst physical condition he had ever been in. Yet, there was comfort in that; his thoughts darted back to his ancestor, and the torture he had endured at the hands of the Omegans all those years ago. Steven Keys had lost pieces of his bodies to these animals, he remembered, and all things considered, he had gotten off relatively lucky in this case.
As they passed through the War Angel’s corridors, their footsteps echoing softly off of the metal floors, every comm. station in the vicinity lit up and activated. “Hello? Hello?” came Kate’s voice, filled with tension and impatience. “Where are you people?”
Wilma and Sarah looked at each other across Jack’s body, and realizing that they needed to answer, they moved in unison with him to a nearby comm. station. Sarah flicked the switch to open the channel and responded. “We’re taking Jack to medlab.”
“Belay that! Get your asses to the bridge! We need to leave, remember? Jack can get a bandage later!”
Sarah’s nostrils flared and she felt her chest expand. She started to scream, but Jack reached out and put his hand on her shoulder. “She doesn’t know,” he whispered. “It’s okay.” Jack coughed a little, then spoke into the comm. “We’re on our way. Desperado out.”
The two women looked at Jack in disbelief. “I cannot recommend you –“ “Of all the stupid, macho posturing –“ He stood quietly while they spoke their piece, not interrupting. Finally, when their anger abated, he held up his hand, cleared his throat, and spoke in a clear, direct voice. “Doctor, if you would, please give me a painkiller and a stimulant. I need to get through the next fifteen minutes, and then I can lay down and let you do your job. Sarah, I understand you’re upset, but I need to be on the bridge to see this through. We aren’t clear of it yet, and I can’t rest until we are.”
“I don’t like it.” Sarah fixed him with a cold glare. “I can get us out.”
“I know. And I may still need you to. But I have to try.” A sharp sting pinched Jack’s shoulder, and he turned to see Dr. Gray withdrawing an injector. “Ow.”
Wilma put the injector back into her bag. “That should buy you some time. Don’t waste it.”
Jack straightened as the medicine coursed through his system. “I won’t.”
The bridge door opened, and Sarah walked in, followed by Jack. Gina, Richard, and Kate stopped and stared as they watched Jack. Torn clothes, blood everywhere, it was not the sight they had expected to see.
Kate spoke first. “Dammit, Jack, I’m sorry. I should have –“
He waived her off. “Nothing to worry about.” He looked at the damaged and messy bridge. “I see you all have been redecorating.”
“We’ve had our moments,” Richard said.
Jack smiled. “What do you say we get out of here? Gina?”
“Ready to continue forward.”
“All guns primed and ready.”
The War Angel’s captain sat gingerly in his chair. “Let’s head for the power plant and the engines.”
Seconds later, the cannons roared to life and once again began carving their way through the interior of the Kan’Tar. As they did, Gina maneuvered the ship steadily forward. The deeper into the ship they went, the more bodies and debris that passed by the ship’s windows. The bridge remained mostly silent, the only noise made by calls for course adjustments and changes in targeting.
It was, Sarah thought, a grim business they were involved in. More killing. More death.
After five long minutes had passed, Richard turned around with a surprised look. “One more round of shots, and we will be right outside the power plant. On the other side of the plant are the actual engines. Wow.”
Jack closed his eyes and absorbed what Richard had just said. This was it. If they could pull this part off… “Sarah, how are the shields looking?”
“Back to 96%.”
“Will they hold up?”
She exhaled loudly. “I have no idea. They were designed to increase efficiency beyond anything else in the fleet. But they weren’t designed to protect the ship from something like this thing blowing up at close range. We’ll get overload, just like we did at Saturn.”
“Which we survived. Just like we’ll survive this.”
Sarah shrugged. “Well, we can’t exactly go back the other way.”
“No,” he replied quietly.
A round of cannon fire and the ship moved forward again, then suddenly, the War Angel was inside the Kan’Tar’s power core. Gina halted their forward progress, and looked over her shoulder. “Richard, plot me a course.”
He looked across his screens and shifted his focus to various areas of the compartment. Various pieces of the Kan’Tar flashed back and forth across his screen, until finally he stopped and settled on one particular section of the massive Omegan ship. He activated the main viewscreen and it displayed a large conduit on the opposite side of the power core. “That,” he said, his voice betraying his nervousness, “looks like our best path. That conduit is feeding energy to the outer engines. We follow it, we should theoretically fly right through them and out.” He shrugged. “Theoretically.”
“All right,” Jack said louder than he needed to, “let’s get this done. It’s all in the timing. No mistakes. You all know what you have to do.”
Gina plotted her course and her speed. Kate set her targets, each cannon programmed for a specific target. Richard readied himself to guide both women through their jobs. In the meantime, Sarah moved to Richard’s side and activated the controls for the tachyon scoop, putting the device into standby mode. Around the bridge, they all nodded at one another once they were prepared for the next step. As it reached Sarah, she spoke up for all of them. “All stations reporting ready, Captain.”
Jack slid forward to the edge of his seat. He clenched his right fist slowly and repeatedly. A long pause held in the air as each member of the War Angel’s crew waited for him to speak. Finally, he did:
“We are go!”