All of us looked at each other. I don’t know what the others were thinking, but in that moment I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t know how much force Vaughn and Sean could create between the two of them, but I doubted they could stop the ship from hitting the ground—not if it were under power at any rate.

If we knocked the power out, it was still an open question.

Not to mention that I remembered how they handled a ship during the training exercise. It wasn’t the same situation, but it was still a disaster with a big ship.

For a second, it seemed like the best option might be to see if the Hrrnna would give us a second chance at letting them go.

I didn’t think that letting them go would be the best choice, but between letting them go and exploding the ship in the middle of a city, letting them go seemed better. The problem was that Travis was right. Over the last couple months they’d tried to give terrorists bombs that would cause humanity’s extinction, aimed asteroids at the planet, and come up with a way to force the Xiniti to destroy us.

There was no way that the Hrrnna wouldn’t use extra time to burn us another way.

Besides I could think of a way to slow us down, and maybe if we were lucky avoid turning the ship into a fireball.

“Izzy,” I said, “you remember what I said earlier about—“

Izzy blinked. “The boat. I know.”

She floated upward, stretched out her arms and put her hands against the white ceramic ceiling, pushing, her muscles visibly straining. She didn’t break through, but creaking noises came from everywhere around us.

The inertial dampers clicked on, humming furiously. I tried think whether or not that was ultimately a good thing.

Tapping my right palm, I began to contact Vaughn and Sean to ask for help, but I didn’t have to. Travis’ voice came over the comm, “Power, Storm King, keep this ship up! Aim—”

Even before he’d finished, Jaclyn tapped me. “We need to go.”

She nodded toward the hallway, and she was right.

I turned toward Rachel who turned more transparent as I watched. “Coming?” I asked.

“No,” Rachel said, now nearly invisible, “I’m heading for the bridge.”

And then she was gone.

Vaughn’s voice came over the comm, the sound of roaring wind along with it. “We’re trying. It’s still flying. You know it’s still flying, right?”

Travis growled, “Not for long.”

“Now,” Jaclyn said, and ran down the hall, a blur, and I followed, taking two steps, and turning on the rockets. Not that I had any hope of catching Jaclyn, but arriving close behind her would help.

The walls blurred. If they hadn’t already been all white, they would have seemed that way anyway.

The hall ended in an upwardly curved section of hull. Hrrnna bodies in power armor lay sprawled across the floor. A purple blur threw the last to the floor as I flew up. Then Jaclyn entered what had to be the backup engine room.

I started my turn in time to avoid smashing into the wall, but only barely. I scraped it, and passed through the door, following Jaclyn into a hail of blue and white beams.

The HUD started displaying damage reports, and I let fly with the killbots. I didn’t have a lot of them left, but this wasn’t a situation where conserving resources would be much help.

The three Hrrnna in front of me exploded in a blast of armor and burnt Hrrnna body parts.

I flew over them, turning and hovering as I crossed half the room almost without realizing it. One of the Hrrnna began to turn, and I shot his head with the laser. It fell over, all eight limbs twitching.

Only in that moment did I manage to get a good look around me. I’d notice that the room expanded upward into the level above it. Not that that was a surprise. It was an engine room. A catwalk went around the upper level. I hovered at approximately the same height, giving me a view of not one but two big engines. I recognized the fusion plant instantly—if only because it had pipes and cables coming out of it everywhere. The other engine only had one cable coming out of it. That cable went directly toward the fusion plant.

I didn’t know for sure what it was, but I had a pretty good idea.

It had to be a hyperdrive. Between the long cylindrical body, and the greenish-gray metal domes that stuck out of each end, it looked exactly like the pictures Grandpa had taken.

Judging from what he’d written, and what I’d seen in the jet’s space combat simulator, this wasn’t one of the best out there. My bet was that it could access the lowest, slowest, levels of hyperspace. It was best used for in-system jumps—the kind that saved you time after coming through the jump gate, or alternately, tactical jumps that allowed you to get past a system’s defenses the easy way.

I wanted it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any great ideas about how to get it. It wasn’t as if I could rip it out of the floor, and fly it back to Grand Lake. Even if I could grab it somehow, the government would have first dibs.

I stopped thinking about it. With Jaclyn darting about in a flash of purple, keeping all of them busy, I had to handle the fusion plant. There were still more than twenty of them, more than we’d be able to take care of before the ship hit the ground.

I couldn’t do the shutdown technique we’d used with the last one because that didn’t work with one person in a ship this size.

I had one option—destroying the cables and some of the pipes. I’d avoided it last time because of the possibility that I might release superheated plasma instead of cutting off the power.

Activating the radar, sonar, and thermal sensors, I scanned the power plant as quickly as I could. I didn’t have much time to make a decision, but I could try.

I loaded the last of the killbots, gave them their targets, and hesitated for a moment as I realized that we had no backup plan if Izzy, Vaughn and Sean couldn’t keep it in the air.

Then I fired, feeling the smallest pushes as the bots shot out from under my arm.

Explosions ringed the plant. With each gout of fire, I expected plasma to cover the room, but it didn’t.

The lights went out, plunging the room into darkness.

12 Responses to “Stardock: Part 36”

  1. Jim Zoetewey Says:

    We are so close to the end of this. Each time I started writing the post for the last couple updates, I thought I’d get to the very end of this section, but it turns out my judgement is rather poor.

    Ah well, maybe next time.

  2. Roger Willcocks Says:

    See, redundancy. Go Rocket.

  3. Someguy Says:

    The Hrrnna must have installed an E-Gel Thermal Conduit aboard the ship to prevent the core from venting plasma into the Engineering compartment.

  4. farmerbob1 Says:

    Heh, Jim, I can sympathize. Every time I get close to what I wanted to start writing a week ago, I find some new bright shiny thing to chase that bounces off in a different direction.

    Sometimes I wonder if my writing style reminds people of a kitten chasing a piece of yarn with a feather tied to the end.

  5. Jim Zoetewey Says:

    I like think it makes the story less predictable for readers when things aren’t as straight ahead as I expected, but who knows?

  6. dwwolf Says:

    Were not complaining, except the need for Moar Updates! Cant you cut of superfluous things like family ?
    .
    .
    .
    No ? Well damn.

  7. Charles Says:

    Please, please, please let Nick figure out a way to get a hyperdrive!

    *50′s announcer voice* Rocket in space!

  8. Psycho Gecko Says:

    I think the opinions of Nick and the rest of the team regarding these aliens can best be summed up by this handy clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_M-BcQLEAJY

  9. Notto Mention Says:

    Curiosity wonders where (and if) you’ll break this chapter up when it comes out in book form…..

  10. Jim Zoetewey Says:

    I’m not sure how I’ll break it up, but I’m sure that I will.

  11. Curious George Says:

    Man, I didn’t even know I was wondering that.
    Huh.

  12. Farmerbob1 Says:

    I see what you did there, George.

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