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“Evasive port!” Captain Amara Black’s voice rang out clearly over the wailing sirens, her voice crisp and clean despite the fear boiling just below the surface. She couldn’t afford to let any of it out now… panic and they were all going to die. The ship swung to the left… lurched more than it swung really. The Midgar-6 was not a remotely maneuverable ship, or an especially quick one. Most of its drive came from ion engine reactive drives with fairly low impulse, and what chemical-fuel thrusters it had were insufficient to move the behemoth quickly. Nevertheless, it moved at the pilot’s commands. The sheer mass of the ship meant that Amara could all but feel its ponderous movement as it shifted in space… just before a trio of explosions rippled just off the starboard side.
In space, explosions worked very differently. Without oxygen, fire couldn’t exist. Unfortunately, fission required no oxygen, and without particles to absorb the energy a nuclear detonation was even more powerful and efficient in space. True, the explosion radiated in all directions rather than being focused by the ground, and there was no atmosphere to carry a shockwave… but the sheer magnitude of radiation and energy made it a significant…
The view out of her command deck suddenly became entirely blue as the destructive force impacted against the high energy magnetic shield protecting the ship. The glare turned her dark skin nearly to blue for a moment as it flooded the bridge. The shields spread the force out, dispersing it, making it hit the entire ship at once rather than just one spot, and it stopped about 95% of the energy of the attack so that only five percent of the destructive force made it to the ship.
The deck lurched up at Amara like a bucking horse, heaving her three inches off the ground and to the side before she came down, sprawling and seriously wishing she had been strapped in like her crew had been. The captain shook her head, red hair flying as she tried to shake off the dazing effect of the impact, forcing herself back to her feet.
“Shields down to 68% captain!” said Evy, the science officer on duty. “We are approaching hull breach danger. Estimated blast force of those bombs is 200 petajoules. A single direct hit has a high likelihood of shattering superstructure, even through remaining shields.”
“Damnit!” Amara hissed, hoping no one could hear her.
The attack had come out of nowhere about an hour ago… a mammoth ship had come out of orbit around the moon Uripites-4 shortly after they had emerged from their Lilis hop into the system. With their velocity drained away by the jump and no way to get back through the now-closed wormhole, they had done the only thing they could… pointed the ship directly away from the new arrival and flew, solar panels deployed to catch what radiation they could.
Combat in space was not a thing that humanity had much experience with. Humanity had only just begun to colonize the galaxy, stretching its reach out beyond first the grip of Earth, then beyond the Sol System entirely. While they had only produced six of the vast colony ships so far, their scouting vessels had traveled far and wide, mapping many of the sectors within about a hundred light years of Sol and creating the Lilis network of artificial wormholes. In all that time, life had been found a few times, but the only sentient aliens that had been discovered so far were the Sethis, and they were anything but hostile. Pirates were rarely a problem… trade between the six worlds that they had founded was commonplace enough, but the ships that made the voyages were vast, vast and expensive beyond belief… and far larger than a ruffian’s ship could hope to grow. Moreover, pirate’s smaller and weaker ships lacked the ability to generate sufficient gravitational and kinetic force to open one of the Lilis wormholes, so they lurked inside the system they came from… which almost always meant the Sol system, home of the vast majority of the ships Earth possessed.
A colony ship like the Midgar-6 would be impossible prey for a pirate. True, she had wealth aplenty… the high density rations alone she carried were worth a fortune, not to mention the terraforming equipment and genetic material that was nearly priceless, but it would do a pirate no good… the ship was simply too big to attack. Her shields were strong enough to shrug off nearly anything a smaller ship could wield against her, and even if they managed to get aboard, the cargo was just too large to haul away. Commandeering the ship would take too long, and there was almost nowhere it could be hidden.
Captain Amara had been selected for this prestigious assignment by being a masterful leader and excellent captain, but she hadn’t expected to need to do much of anything. No direct threat to a colony ship had ever occurred.
“Chart a new course,” she ordered Evy. “Evasive action to break contact. We need to use the gas giant to slingshot us and generate enough speed that we can get that Lilis warp point open again.”
The order had been given to Evy, but Atalanta knew that it was actually for her. The Exalted woman didn’t wait for Evy to relay it to her. Instead, she slowed down her frame rate.
Thousands of cameras and tens of thousands of sensors fed her data like her eyes and ears, and everything happening on them slowed to an almost imperceptible crawl as Atalanta sped up her processing power. The world wasn’t really getting slower… she was just thinking faster, in a way that no human could match. That was the benefit of being one of the Exalted, after all. How much she could jack down the frame rate depended on the power of the computer she was in, of course… but the Midgar-6 had one of the finest that humanity had ever produced for a spaceship. It couldn’t match the 1200 to 1 ratio of the lab she had been “born” in, but 500-1 was more than enough. Five hundred seconds for every one that passed in the real world… that meant in the time that it took for Evy’s lips to begin to twitch to relay the command, Atalanta had already had more than 7 languid minutes to think. It gave her time to solve the problem.
She was sure this was Captain Amara’s fault.
Atalanta didn’t think much of the captain. Oh, certainly, she was competent, the AI supposed… but she hadn’t gotten this job because of any special gift or skill, regardless of what the human woman thought. It was nepotism. Her sister, a real hero of the Federation, had disappeared exploring this sector of space, and her story was played over and over on documentaries back on Earth. When Amara had sought command of the colony mission to the discovered world here, Atalanta thought they must have considered it a dream come true for public relations… the sister of the missing hero, heading off into space to make good on reaping the seeds of her sacrifice.
But Amara didn’t seem to think of herself that way. She took herself dead seriously as Captain, like she didn’t know anything of the behind-the-scenes machinations that had elevated her to this position. Atalanta didn’t believe that… which made the woman manipulative and dangerous. Not like Atalanta. She was a real hero… or at least, the original Atalanta had been.
A veteran of the Wars of Unification, the original Atalanta had been renowned for her courage and skill and intelligence, both in the field and as a commander. All of the Exalted were… the Federation couldn’t afford to go through the effort and expense of digitizing a brain into a neural network of anyone who was less than perfect. Amara certainly didn’t measure up to that.
All her annoyed thoughts about the captain took nearly a full second, so Evy was beginning to push out the first syllable of her order. Atalanta shook her head. She didn’t have time for this… she turned on her endocrine control subroutine.
Not being biological life any longer had its perks. Thoughts and emotions were mental, and could be felt by one of the Exalted as easily as by a living human, just as strongly and as accurately… if they wanted them to be. Strong emotional responses, like panic, or fury, or grief, however, required reinforcement… quickened breathing, an accelerating heart rate, a flood of adrenaline. Her systems could replicate that…
Or, if she wanted, turn them off.
No longer feeling anything more than slightly annoyed at the Captain and vaguely concerned about the ship chasing them, Atalanta was free to turn her mind to the problem, calculating course, marking probability of enemy action, and accounting for it. Before Evy had finished the second syllable, the AI was finished.
She let it scroll across Evy’s screen as she turned her framerate back down to 1-1, appearing as a holographic woman on top of her board… humans interacted best with someone they could see. Atalanta had plenty of images of what she had looked like in life, and only had to improve them sliiiightly to make herself into something that would have made Aphrodite stare in jealousy… a blue-haired goddess sitting on the console at life size, seemingly unconcerned.
“Course provided,” she said, flicking a glance to the captain.
“Thank you, Exalted One,” Amara said, not taking her eyes from the navigation displays as the AI’s course began to appear on it. Her display screen pinged twice, drawing her eye from the viewport. “Evasive starboard!” she yelled, fastening her own belt around her waist just in time to stabilize her as Ri’she’a tore the ship into another harsh turn, far most swiftly than the behemoth ought to be able to maneuver… proof of the pilot’s skill. The next barrage of nuclear weapons detonated barely a mile off their bow, pitching the ship a quarter turn leeward and rocking it. The artificial gravity gave out for a moment, and Amara felt her stomach lurch before she fought it down, surprised by the sudden weightlessness. A moment latter, it came back on and she sank back into her chair, eyes narrowed.
“Damage report!” Amara called.
“Shields to 61… port shield array seven reports catastrophic failure. The shields in that sector are offline!” Evy’s voice was understandably tense. With a section of shield down, the force of the explosions was no longer being perfectly distributed across their entire body. Best case scenario, other arrays would need to share more than their fair load, making others more prone to overloading now. Worse case scenario, the next attack would hit where the shields were down. At least then they would all likely be dead before they knew what was going on.
“Leila!” Amara called into her comm, voice tense but controlled as she brought up the frequency for her chief engineer. She was, like most of the officer and worker corps of the ship, female. Space, solar radiation, and low gravity did nasty things to the human body, and for reasons that no one had entirely figured out yet women simply suffered these effects slower and less. It meant that ships were crewed predominantly by women, with men included mostly to avoid any potential unforeseen problems that affected women worse.
Amara’s mood grew tenser as Leila’s comm remained silent. “Chief Engineer, report!” She called, sharpening her voice. Only silence filled her ear, drowned out by the sirens on the bridge.
The captain swallowed, closed her eyes, then opened them, hard and focused. “Ki’an’i… head down to the engine block. Find Lieutenant Commander Evangeline… quickly. Keep your comm on and linked to mine.”
“Of course,” the green-skinned security officer responded, already halfway out of the bridge.
The lights flickered in and out, but fortunately, Ki’an’i did not have to rely on sight alone. If Sethis were in an area for a long time, they would eventually begin to shed spores, no larger than dead skin cells, which created a trail making sure they’d never get lost. By now, tiny sets of spores had blanketed every surface in the ship, and while tiny AMI controlled drones worked to clean the ship, they did so far slower than she naturally replaced them.
The dual physiology of her race still baffled most human scientists, especially since the Sethis in their current form were a very young species. In fact, they had only begun to exist about 80 years ago, when a team of xenobiologists first landed on their homeworld, Set-3. It baffled the Sethis too… they had had no more time to consider it than their human discoverers had.
Originally, no sentient life had existed on Set-3, although the world itself was brimming with plant, fungal and animal life… or so the scientist has thought. As it turned out, all species on the world were basically different versions of a fungus that had assimilated every single lifeform, not by eradicating it but by bonding with it and mimicking it, creating a new, separate lifeform with a fusion of floral and animal traits.
Despite their scientists’ best efforts to prevent it, several of them became infected… and from them, the fungus learned to become sentient and humanoid. There had been some mistrust at first, especially since the Sethis were technically considered infectious. But, as it turned out, once sentient, they could control the fungal parts of their physiology and keep it from bonding with other lifeforms. The fact that they held humans in high esteem as the ones who brought them sentience helped a lot as well. Sethis were practically never hostile and, while extremely resilient, almost never entered violent conflicts.
Most of them, anyway. Some of them were like her… there weren’t a lot of Templars in the Terran Federation, but nearly half their members were Sethis.
Ki’an’i raced through the hallways, running as fast as she could. The Sethis benefited from higher endurance compared to their human “siblings,” something that was critical to get around quickly aboard a ship of this size… the Midgar-6 was enormous, but during their voyage it was running on essential systems only… the turborails that could have moved her around faster than an Earth freeway were not operational, especially not with every bit of power needed to power the engines and the shields. She would have to run… thankfully, she could run fast enough to put even the greatest human distance runner to shame.
Anna Constantos looked up from her console as she saw the green-skinned woman go sprinting by, the medical officer sparing a moment to wonder what the Sethis was doing before turning her attention back to the console… she had far more critical things to worry about.
She ran her gaze up and down the walls… rank after rank of clear crystal tubes containing naked men and women, the vials frosted in cryoanimation.
There were far more women than men, of course… that was how colonization worked. Most of these people were never going to leave the planet they were bound for. Only fit men and women would be selected, young, no older than 25… well educated and skilled in a wide variety of disciplines. One million of them, 800,000 of them female. It had to be that way because they were going to need to populate the world, and women were frankly going to be in much higher demand for the process. Part of being selected was a willingness to submit to the requirement that each and every one of them would have no less than 3 children in the first 5 years… either by fertilization from the sperm bank or the old fashioned way.
One million lives were a lot to be responsible for, and while she didn’t know the details of the combat the ship was in, she knew enough to be afraid. Cryostasis was taxing to humans at the best of times… it required a constant supply of power, power that was in short supply with the ship’s engines running full blast and the shields up. She needed to monitor it closely, adjust it, make sure there were no spikes. It was half engineering, half medicine… and a single screw up could kill the entire colonization crew, ending the hope for Earth’s newest colony… and making her personally the murderer of more human beings than any single other person in human history.
Anna wiped a frock of black hair from her sweaty forehead. No pressure, right?
Ki’an’i nodded towards Anna, but had no time to chat. Fortunately, the ship was mostly empty, run by a skeleton crew, which meant that she at least did not have to worry about anyone else. Right now, all she needed to do was find Leila and make sure that she was alright and could keep the engines running long enough for them to escape.
Another blow shook the ship, almost making her lose her footing again. They really had no time to waste. And the ship seemed to be endless. When she finally saw the entrance to the engineering section, she allowed herself to breathe a sigh of relief.
The doors swished open when she stepped in front of them, allowing her to see the dimly lit engines, those wondrous machines that allowed them to not exactly break but dodge the laws of physics. Ki’an’i had not shown much aptitude for engineering or quantum physics and so had little idea beyond the basics what these things actually did. But, fortunately, it was not her job to know.
“Leila?” she called into the twilight, the red emergency lights giving the entire room a dismal, foreboding quality, together with the smoke curling from one of the consoles. The Sethis hoped that the damage had just been superficial. “Lieutenant Commander?”
“She’s not here,” a male voice responded. Ki’an’i turned around to see a man standing there. The tag on his uniform identified him as Engineer first class Thomas Shale. The security officer had seen him before… in fact, she had been keeping a close eye on him.
“Where is she, then?” Ki’an’i asked. As much as she liked humans, Shale had always rubbed her the wrong way, so to speak. There was a quality to him that she did not like… something about him that didn’t seem right. She tried to put that aside. She couldn’t afford her reservations about him right now.
“She went to the power node in section 5-B. Something shorted there and we need it back online.”
“Thanks,” Ki’an’i said, quickly leaving Engineering again.
“Dumb shroom,” Thomas snarled as she was out of sight, shaking his head.
Thomas Shale wasn’t his real name, of course. He had adopted it at significant expense to escape earth ahead of being arrested again. One of his whores had escaped, and the manhunt for him was underway in Hong Kong. It was time to be elsewhere, and being a thousand light years from Earth sounded like a magnificent way to start over again. He would have preferred to be one of the colonists, but in an ironic turn, the background checks on the colonists were significantly more intense than the identity verification of the military crew manning the ship. The real Thomas Shale roughly matched his build and height, and had a good enough of a record, so when he met his end facedown in an alley, the new “Thomas” was more than happy to take his place.
The problem was, the son of a bitch had been an engineer. Thomas didn’t know enough about Starship Engineering to paint the outside of one, but he had figured that he was charismatic enough to get out of most work, and fake it as best he could… he knew how to make money, and could use it to bribe others into doing tasks for him, turn a blind eye, generally let him get away with making this a year long vacation cruise.
Or that had been the plan… until he had met his superior officer.
The moment the green-skinned bitch of a security officer took off running, he smirked in disgust and threw down his work gloves. He wasn’t going to be doing any more work. He didn’t know how to fix the fucking engines. It was just his rotten luck to end up on the colony ship crewed by incompetents. He didn’t know what that pretty whore of a captain had done… probably flown them through a moon or something… but if the flashing lights and the panic on the face of every engineer he had seen were enough of a sign, his escape had come to a bad end.
And he would be damned if he went out like that. He knew the codes to some of escape pods… but he wasn’t going to die alone in space, oh no. He knew he was several lifetimes away from earth by now, so if he was going to drift until his food ran out, he was going to have company. He had a fucking score to settle with Lieutenant Commander Leila fucking Evangeline.
The bitch was too perceptive by half. He had planned to find all sorts of way to make money for himself on this trip, enough to live on this new world they were heading towards when he arrived, but he hadn’t been able to get any of his usual rackets going. They’d been shut down practically before they’d even started by Leila noticing, and then paying close enough attention he didn’t dare try much of anything else. She’d been riding his ass since the day he arrived on board, making sure he did his fair share of work, which was a problem since his knowledge of the machinery ended with being able to tighten fastenings and plug in a console to take a reading that he couldn’t understand. It was almost like she knew… but if she knew, she’d have brought him to the captain by now. No, she was just a pain in the ass with too much work ethic, and ever since he’d stepped on board he’d had no room to stretch his muscles.
He had always been planning on getting revenge on that bitch, but he’d just planned to beat the shit out of her. Break her nose, give her a black eye, maybe a broken rib or two. He would have loved to indulge in his darker vices, but if he had raped an officer of the Human Expeditionary Fleet, he doubted they would ever stop looking for him. Now, though…
Well, like he said. He didn’t plan to drift through space alone.
Walking fast, he headed deeper into the engineering bay. Leila had left her communicator on the desk when she had run off… he had noticed she always seemed to forget it. There were only one or two places she could be in that direction… and he found her, buried in her work fixing a smoking bank of electronics. He admired the way her smudged white uniform pants clung to the contours of her ass as she was bent over, her arms and most of her head buried in the complex conduits and systems circuitry. She had a slim, athletic figure and he could feel his cock hardening as he looked at her.
He had planned on dragging her to the escape pod first… but this was just perfect.
Thomas bent over her. She had barely began to twitch at the sounds of his footsteps as the big man grabbed her by her blonde hair and shoved her further forward, into the circuit housing. “Wha…” She probably started to say more, but just then the sirens started blaring. No one was going to hear her. Thomas couldn’t hear her from two feet away.
Still, he took the time to mock her, keeping his weight on her. “Been dreaming about doing this to you since I got on board, bitch,” he sneered. “Rubbed out a hundred loads thinking about raping the tight ass of yours. I’m not going to wait a moment longer.”
Leila Evangeline didn’t know what was happening.
It had started less than twenty minutes ago, when all of the sudden almost every sensor on her status boards had begun lighting up. Dangerous levels of gamma radiation, dangerous levels of beta radiation, dangerous levels of alpha radiation, over strained shields, over strained engines. She hadn’t stopped shouting orders and instructions since. Their engineering crew made up most of the crew members on the ship who were still awake, and it was their responsibility… and hers… to keep the ship running. Leila wasn’t sure what had happened to her communicator… she was always losing the damned thing… but she had absolute faith in Captain Black to keep them safe, as long as Leila could give her a functioning ship to do it with.
The main computer relay systems were critical. They had overloaded when some of the shields had failed. If that relay went down, the bridge wouldn’t be able to have fine control over shielding systems or their thrusters on the starboard side of the ship. Leila wasn’t about to let that happen. She knew she could fix this, if she could just… get… a look at it…
The sudden hand on the back of her head came as a shock. “Wha-” She said, before her cheek pushed against the hot electronics and she gave a surprised scream… one that she almost didn’t hear herself over the sirens. Then she felt a hand on her ass, grabbing at her uniform trousers, pulling them down. She wasn’t wearing underwear beneath them… she hated how apparent the panty-line was in the white pants, so her ass was exposed to the bare air as soon as her pants fell. And then, before she could even really process what was going on, she felt the the heat as someone positioned a warm, hot dick at the tiny entrance to her ass… and began to push in.
“NO!” she screamed. “What are you DOING? STOP IT!” Leila wasn’t a stranger to sex, but she hadn’t had a boyfriend since she learned that she had won a place on this ship, and she had never, ever so much as considered anal. It felt like the cock pressing against her was impossibly large, unbelievably hard and thick, and Leila’s back door entrance was small so it took some strength for the man to force himself inside, pushing her down further into the computer casings as he did. Then pain flashed as she felt something give, her eyes went wide, and the chief engineer let out a guttural scream as the man forced himself to the hilt in her asshole.
The sounds of sirens filled her ears, the scent of smoke filled her nostrils, but still the pain was the most pressing problem. “Take it out! TAKE IT OUT!” she screamed. She could barely hear herself speak, but apparently the man must have heard her, must have had some mercy, for she felt the pain slowly diminish, the cock backing up out of her, pulling out. “Thank you, thank you thank you thank you than-”
Her rapist pulled back until only the thick head of his manhood was inside the officer’s ass, then he violently thrust into her again. It hurt more than the first time, and Leila screamed in agony as her tight hole was plundered by the uncaring man. Again he pulled back and thrust in, and again, building up a rhythm of ever increasing speed. She could feel a bit of blood flowing out around his cock as his violent intrusion broke her ass, most likely a tear caused by the too large man intruding into her where a man was never supposed to go. Far from inspiring any mercy, the blood provided lubrication so he could fuck Leila even harder, and she felt it drop down her thighs to stain her white uniform further.
“Oh please… nooooooo! Aghhh… mercy! It hurts so… so badly… stooop… oh please stop… I will do anything… Aaaaaiiiiiigggggghhhh!” Leila screamed. If anything, though, the cock in her seemed to grow harder, her rapist growing more aroused by her pleas for mercy. In and out he thrust, and all concern over the ship, the smoke, the emergency… it all disappeared as her world narrowed down to a tight tunnel of hurting flesh, the pain of her rape dominating her mind as her rapists smashed his monster cock brutally into her tender asshole before pulling back and thrusting again, impaling her over and over and over.
Leila screamed again and again, gasping new pleas, begging, but none of it made a difference. He just kept raping her asshole. It was almost a mercy when he gave one more powerful thrust to bury himself completely in the Chief Engineer’s sore rear, then she heard a scream from her rapist join hers as he violently came deep inside of her ass.
The cock ripped out of her, scraping violently against her insides. Leila, too weak to move, remained bent over and buried inside the metal casing that had been used to trap her, moaning and sobbing as her asshole twitched to try to recover from the violent treatment, streaks of blood and semen running down her slender legs.
Leila wasn’t sure how long she lay there when she felt hands on her again, but however long she had to recover, it wasn’t long enough. “No, no, please, no!” she cried as felt herself being pulled on, dragged out of the casing, into the open…
“Empty Skies, Leila!” Ki’an’i said as she came into view above the engineer. The Sethis security officer… she had been the one pulling her from the wall. She was safe. She was safe! Leila sobbed harder.
“What happened?” Ki’an’i said, horror in her voice.
“He hurt me,” she choked out, too devastated to speak, too hurt and horrified and ashamed to think…
The ship lurched hard. Once. Twice. Then the captain’s voice on the intercom filled the hallway. “Brace brace brace!” she ordered, and with no where else to go, nothing else to do, the Sethis woman hurled herself down on top of Leila, covering her body with her own as much as possible…
“Captain,” Ri’she’a said, squinting at one of the monitors displaying sensor data. “Sector 7, 37 degrees down, 4th quadrant. What is that?”
The Sethis woman gripped the activator yoke hard enough that her own green skin was going pale. The Sethis do not panic, her parents had always told her. Her race had a reputation for even tempers and disciplined minds… but she felt terrified. Every member of her race knew that they had been born out of mimicry of the first human scientists to land on their world, but the copying hadn’t been perfect… for example, while her brain had a gag reflex, her muscles didn’t have the inbuilt triggers to obey it; and while she had the physical ability to blink, the mental instincts weren’t there. There was a lot of that in the Sethis… things about them that weren’t quite right. Fear was supposed to be one of those things. The Sethis weren’t supposed to have the same kind of brain chemistry as human, they weren’t supposed to feel fear as intensely. If that was true, Ri’she’a felt horrible pity for the humans… if it was worse than this, it must be horrible for them.
Her eyes focused on the sensors, relaying information back to her at near the speed of light. Combat in space wasn’t like old films… there was no swooping, dodging, diving dogfight of ships. Everything was happening at speeds that boggled the mind, and even tiny adjustments in course from the impulse drive seemed ponderous… especially by comparison with the truly ridiculous acceleration that the missiles were capable of, reaching nearly a tenth the speed of light in the time it took them to reach the ship At that speed, she didn’t have much time to react before…
Ri’she’a set the thrusters to jerk them port, getting as far out of the way of the visible missiles headed for them as she could. It was fortunate that there was no atmosphere in space to carry a shockwave, or the fission missiles would have long since obliterated them… as it was, the burst of EM and Gamma radiation made sensors flare all over her board. She didn’t pay attention to that… that was Evy’s problem. Instead, she studied the forward data to take her mind off the fear as much as possible, taking refuge in the analytical thoughts.
The ship chasing them was huge. Not as big as the Midgar-6, but larger than any other ship that humanity produced, nearly half the size of the mammoth colony ship. Its sleek lines reminded her of nothing so much as a predator, some aquatic slayer out of Earth’s oceans. The ship had been chasing them since just a few minutes after their most recent Lilis hop.
The planet they were using for the gravity sling was a huge gas giant, mostly blue. She had a dozen moons, spaced out really quite far, but as the preposterous speed that the Midgar-6 was traveling at presently, they were racing between them in the space of minutes. And ahead of them…
It looked at first glance like a moon. Then, she had thought it was a space station. Given that there was a ship waiting to attack them here, the idea of there being a space station waiting in orbit wasn’t laughable. But the more she looked at it…
“Is that… a derelict?” Amara said, staring at her own console. “It’s too big to be a ship… far too big. What is that?”
Evy spoke up. “I think its a mess of ships, captain. Dozens or hundreds of ships, space stations, satellites… all crushed together.”
“How the hell does something like that happen, Evy?” the captain asked.
“Unknown. It seems unlikely that it occurred naturally… but it also seems unlikely that it was done by our pursuers. It seems to serve no function that a smaller, more efficient station wouldn’t perform better.”
The captain seemed to make a snap decision. “We are being pursued by an unknown enemy, better armed than us, faster than us, more maneuverable than us. Evy, Ri’she’a… do you see any way for us to break away from this ship?”
The bridge was silent other than the sounds of sirens. Ri’she’a gripped her yokes harder.
“Ri’she’a… make for the station.”
Throat dry, the Sethis bridge officer nodded and changed heading, adjusting course. The captain continued to give Evy instructions, adjustments to the shields, power flow changes. Things Ri’she’a didn’t need to know, didn’t need to pay attention to. She kept watching the scanner, taking in the increasingly detailed information on the mass of ships. “There’s a gap, captain,” she said suddenly. “More than big enough to fit us.”
“Gently?” Amara asked.
Ri’she’a shook her head. “Not a chance. Not at this speed.”
Amara breathed deeply. “Take us in, helmsman.”
The Sethis woman knew that she couldn’t be sweating. Humans sweat. The Sethis didn’t. It felt like she was, the instincts in her brain telling her she should be even if she didn’t physically have the parts to do it. The distance between the Midgar-6 and the station continued to shrink, alarmingly fast. They were going more than 135,000 clicks per hour. There was no time to try to flip and burn the engines, and the ion drives were so low impulse they wouldn’t make any meaningful difference anyway, so Ri’she’a instead pointed every single maneuvering thruster forward and blasted them full, not needing the order… they needed to start slowing the ship down by any means necessary. Thirty seconds.
Amara turned to Evy. “All shields forward full. Inertial dampeners full. Artificial gravity to 5g.” She turned on the intercom. “Brace brace brace!”
Ri’she’a made her final course adjustments, stealing a glance over at the Captain where she sat, beautiful and intense, bravely staring forward at the onrushing station without flinching. If she could do it… so could Ri’she’a. She took a breath, and held it.
As a rule, the Sethis didn’t believe in God, considering it an artifact of a more primitive human time, before their species had been born.
Ri’she’a prayed anyway.
Technical Entry – Magnetic Shields
Technical Entry – Lilis Wormhole
Technical Entry – Midgar-class colony ships
Technical Entry – Cryo-stasis and Life Extension
History Entry – The Terran Federation and the Human Expansionary Fleet
Galactic Encyclopedia of Races – The Exalted
Galactic Encyclopedia of Races – The Sethis