At least I could take them in video games. Hal had thrown ships from the Human Ascendancy, the Alliance, machine race clans, various independent human groups from inside the Quarantine, and Abominators (just in case) against me.
I tried to think about fighting in near-space. It was weird because your weapons didn’t hit as hard because they leaked into other realities—including ours—in small amounts. You could fly through starships and even asteroids If they were small enough. Plus, you’d eventually be moving faster than light, allowing your battles to cross the solar system, while also allowing you to get close enough to planets to use their features to hide your ship—within limits. If you got too close, a planets’ gravity would pull you out of near-space and into real-space.
What was the practical application of all that? I flew straight toward the system’s gas giant. It had upwards of 10 moons. I hadn’t counted them all, but it was enough to hide behind. The only bad point about the idea was that we’d have to dodge weapons during the trip. On the bright side, it would only take us eight minutes to get there—longer since I’d be taking evasive maneuvers the entire way.
I didn’t have a choice. The ship’s shields hid the ship at night or in normal space (provided the sun wasn’t in the background), but in near-space, a shielded ship stood out more to a ship’s sensors. We weren’t going to lose them.
The main gun was on the front so we couldn’t use that as easily as we’d have liked to. Marcus had to use the smaller guns that could be pointed backward in order for us to fire at anyone or anything at all. Their shields helped them the same way ours did us, absorbing the hit.
We did even try the main gun and I say “we” because it was complicated. Marcus charged it and I flipped the ship around in place, letting the forward momentum carry us but turning the ship around completely. He fired, hitting once. In that one shot, he happened to fire as the fighter jerked to the left to get out of his direct line of fire—exactly what it needed to do, but not as quickly as it needed to do it.
The shot hit the side of the engine compartment, taking down the shields in a burst of blue light, and destroying something inside, probably their near-space drive to judge from how the ship disappeared, turning blurry and distorted as it reappeared in normal space.
Even though we might want to try that constantly, we couldn’t, each time we tried, we lost a little more of our lead. The constant evasive maneuvers meant that we couldn’t fly at our fastest speed. Still, even then we were staying ahead. When we flipped around to fire though, we used the near-space drive to keep us in near-space, but couldn’t continue to accelerate. They, of course, could keep on accelerating the entire time, slowed only by their attempts to dodge.
We were a little faster than they were—just enough that if we fired once and kept accelerating for a while, we could make up the time we’d lost. So, we did try it two more times, flipping the ship over a different way, turning left then flipping upward… We didn’t hit with either of them, but we got them used to the idea we’d do a 180 degree turn and fire.
I’d decided that we weren’t really trying to make it to the gas giant. All we were doing is trying to do is make them believe that we were heading for the gas giant, using our attempts to fire at them to show that we were trying to keep them behind us until we reached the gas giant’s moons at all their potential cover.
A couple minutes in though, I sent Marcus the overall plan I was using, one that Hal had tested. Even though it wasn’t inevitable, it had a good enough chance.
“We’re starting now,” I told him. “Are you okay with it?”
“More than I would be with heading to the gas giant for real,” he said. “Besides, we already got one of them.”
“Okay, then. Step one…” I flipped the ship again only this time I wasn’t flipping the ship over. I was pointing the ship’s nose down, heading away from all the planets instead of turning around to fire. They’d done what they’d done the other three times, spreading out to avoid the inevitable shot from the main gun.
As they realized that I hadn’t done the expected, I flipped the ship again, aiming the main gun upward at one of the fighters just as it began to turn to aim at us.
Marcus fired first and unlike last time, he hit something explosive. The fighter disappeared in a ball of fire, the burning remains blurring and phasing back into real-space.
Meanwhile, we headed back toward Hideaway, hoping to make the planet while we still had some night to use to hide the ship. The remaining two fighters were still behind us, but they appeared to be hanging back even if they were still firing.