“Grrrr” I rolled my ship left, barely dodging the bolts of plasma the pirates had sent at me. I didn’t dodge them all and a bright red smear collided with my shields, resulting in a flash of blue in front of my view screen. ‘At least the shields are holding’ I thought.
“Have they contacted you,” I yelled back at Ian who at the engineering station.
“No” came his curt response.
“Well they’d better hurry. We won’t last much longer.”
“Hold on. I’ve got something.” While I waited I put the ship into a barrel roll. Two bright balls of light flashed by the screen. Hurriedly I pulled out of the roll and hit the thrusters, throwing me forward as I slowed down rapidly. “Watch it, we have breakables. The Navy will be jumping in a couple seconds.”
“If they don’t jump now, we’ll be breakables” I yelled back. A flash of white light penetrated the cockpit. My screen automatically darkened in response to the retina searing light. There, a ship located just ahead and a little above my ship. With our velocity we were closing fast. “Yes! The cavalry has arrived,” I yelled at Ian.
I recognized that ship. It was Nemesis, the old missile frigate Ian and me had served on when we had been in the Navy. I turned up the magnification. Hatches slid open on the ships sides, missiles flying from the depths of the outdated machine of war. Plumes of plasma sped the missiles on.
“Told you they’d get here.” Ian said. He had unstrapped his crash harness and was floating beside me, grinning smugly.
“Yeah, yeah. Check out the tactical. Those cowards are fleeing.” We both looked at the holographic map of the outside. I tweaked it a little. Now the command center looked to be floating in space, the six pirates fighters clearly visible as they fled from their death. The missiles impacted one in a fiery, but also silent, explosion.Plasma shot forward in a massive explosion from the missile’s warhead.
The fighters shield flashed blue, then red, then black, before finally collapsing resulting in a mess of molten metal. The missiles destroyed four fighters; one suffered a glancing hit that destroyed their engines. The last one got to the jump zone and vanished in a flash of white.
“Damn it, they got away”
“Ian,” I said in a reproachful tone. “You know how I feel about cussing.”
“Sorry, it just kind of slipped out. It’s been a stressful time.” He said, looking a little bit ashamed.
“What, being chased by pirates for twenty minutes is stressful? We used to go hunting for pirates, not runaway from them”
“We still would be if it wasn’t for you wanting out. Besides, facing pirates in an unarmed ship isn’t exactly appeasing.” Ian told me. He pushed off the wall and grabbed the arm of his chair. He strapped in and activated the holographic controls. The gloves he had on his space suit allowed him to receive feedback from the hologram. That way it felt like he was touching a button instead of air.
“Hey, can you patch me into the captain?” I asked Ian, turning slightly to look at him.
“Hold on a sec. Gravity re-establishing… now.” A gradual buildup of pressure testified to his announcement. “Yeah, if you want to I can establish video link.”
“Sure, lets see if it’s still Captain Scroggins in charge.”
“OK, give me a sec. Their accepting the video channel, here you go.” A screen popped up on my holo-controls. There, looking straight at me was Captain Scroggins. A look of shock came across her when she saw my face but she quickly changed her face back to her usual stoic look.
“Captain Triton McCallister. I haven’t seen you for over a year.” I had been the only fighter pilot aboard her ship, since it didn’t have room for anymore. As such, I had met with her in meetings a lot while onboard the ship and that had eventually grown into a casual friendship, but not a romantic one.
“Yeah, I know. Ever since I left the Navy. Thanks for dropping by though”
She smirked at me, all facade of uncaring gone. “Well I’m glad I chose the right time. How low did your shields get?”
I grinned back at her. “Only ten percent.”
“Oh my, has my favorite fighter pilot gotten sloppy.”
“No, I’ve got an old dog with arthritis and no teeth. Anyone else would have been scrap ten minutes ago.” Ian tapped me on the shoulder so I turned towards him. He made a hurry up gesture. A holographic countdown floated above his wrist. It was at ten hours. That was how much time we had left till our cargo was expected in. I turned back towards the Captain.
“I’m sorry Captain Scroggins. I have to cut this short, but you have my thanks for saving us. Perhaps we can call later?” I asked her, raising my eyebrow inquisitively.
“Yes, at the usual time though. We’ll see you to the jump zone.” She told me.
I saluted to her, she giggled a little at that, and then I signed off. I turned around to see Ian staring at me. “What?”
“That was very unprofessional of the captain. Besides, no mention of little old me?”
“Well no one wants to hear from a useless engineer who can’t fix an air leak.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault you won’t buy the proper supplies for me fix it with.”
“Your excuses get weaker every time. Anyways, get ready for jump. After we jump you take the helm while I check the cargo.”
“Why do you get to check the cargo? I’m the engineer, I should check the cargo.” Ian asked me. While he did he started entering coordinates for the jump. The humming sound of the reactor had been a constant for the past hour as we had charged for a jump. It would have been charged sooner but we had put everything into the shields when the pirates had attacked.
“Because it’s mostly just checking off boxes. If something’s broke, I’ll call you, all right?”
“Fine, fine. OK, we are ready for jump. I’ll tell the Captain.” Ian activated the comm and started talking. I ignored it while I checked my own screen. Superimposed over the camera feed from the outside was a semi-transparent green wall. This represented the line where gravity was weak enough to form the tachyon event horizon. In other words, where I could start a jump and exit one as well.
The drive worked by capturing faster than light (FTL) particles called tachyons and ‘hitching’ a ride. Gravity disrupted this process so that you couldn’t jump in or out. The Nemesis was able to jump in closer to the sun, by about another thousand miles, because of their military class power plant. With our wimpy civilian one we had to travel farther to jump than most.
“OK we are ready to go. Whenever you’re ready” Ian said. I activated the jump drive as we passed through the green wall. My screen blacked out as the light from the jump hit us. A couple of seconds later we arrived at our next stop, the Aviv system.