They’d taken one of the better positions possible. They were far enough behind us that turning around and firing didn’t give us a good chance of hitting while being close enough that if they kept on firing, they might hit us in the rear where the shields were open for our engines.
I kept up evasive maneuvers, but since I was going back to the planet, I also didn’t want them to follow the ship down to the surface where I hoped to hide it.
Marcus’ voice sounded over my implant. “I’m firing at these guys with the small guns, but they can’t do anything at this distance. The main gun could take them out, but hitting won’t be easy. We’re going to have to turn around and chase them if we want to hit them.”
“I know. I might have an idea.” Aware of my surroundings through the implant, I could see his blasts bounce off their shields or miss and disappear into the darkness of space.
Then I realized what I could do. We were in near-space and we weren’t that close to the planet. I couldn’t use blink space to leave the star system, but I could blink out while I was inside the system—probably. I had the ship’s computer calculate what I wanted to try while I continued to dodge.
It didn’t take long. As our shield absorbed another shot and the ship’s capacitors’ showed a higher level of stored power, I decided that now would be a good time to use that power. We were already in near-space. I threw the ship into jump-space and then immediately into blink-space.
Instants later, we appeared several planetary diameters on the other side of Hideaway. I’d transitioned back into near-space and didn’t wait to find out if the fighters would figure out what I’d done. I aimed the ship straight at Hideaway, going as close as I could to it before coming out of near-space.
The coastline where the colony hid was still in the dark but only by a little. I matched the ship’s velocity to the planet’s so that the ship would transition out at essentially zero and set the anti-gravity to turn on as soon as there was gravity to counteract.
That left us a few miles from the caves and the ocean. Marcus and I stepped out of the ship, flying low toward the caves while the ship dove into the water.
On the way back, Marcus and could still see the glow of rockets ascending and descending from orbit. We’d destroyed the engines but not the battleship itself. So they must have been saving people and equipment. This was good in that we’d minimized casualties and bad because they were coming down to the ground where they could be used to fight us.
Lee would have killed them all and maybe dropped the battleship’s burning remains on the Marines’ camp. Many of Lee’s plans had that kind of elegance—if by elegance you mean that you’ve killed almost everyone in one action, an action that you’ve been setting up in the background since the beginning of the fight (or even before it).
I liked Lee, but I didn’t want to be him. I preferred to believe that life was worth something and that the less of it you take, the better for everyone in the long run. Seeing the dropships heading up and down from battleship and knowing that Extinction class ships typically held 5000 people, 1000 of whom were marines, I couldn’t help but wonder if Lee had the right idea.
That was a lot of people to fight.
I knew that that wasn’t how Lee would be looking at it. He’d see the opportunities. The majority of the people on that ship were most useful for running a ship. When it came to surviving on this planet they were as much of a burden as an asset. It was just a question of how to use them.
Wings outstretched, arms hanging onto my legs, Marcus asked, “How many people do you think survived?”
“No idea,” I sent back, “but we focussed on killing the engines instead of the people. I’d bet the majority survived. Their standard uniforms all work as spacesuits for a little while, so even if we depressurized the hull, they’ve got a chance.”
“This is going to be crazy. I know that this is the plan and that taking out the ship means they can’t blast us from orbit, but this means they’re stuck here. I’d be surprised if that agent doesn’t try to finish his mission anyway. They probably used the ansible to send a call for help already.”
We were nearing the caves. The giant rock mounds were less than a mile ahead. I aimed for the cave entrance that gave us the most efficient route.
All the same, Marcus was right. We should have blown up the ansible while we were up there. Now we were going to have a race between the Xiniti, the Cosmic Ghosts, and the Human Ascendancy’s reinforcements to see who gets here first.
Marcus wasn’t done though. “You know what movie this is like?”
We flew into a cave. I slowed down to give myself more time to turn and Marcus let go of my feet and flew under his own power.
“No,” I told him via our implants.
“This is a lot like ‘The Magnificent Seven’ or ‘Seven Samurai’ if you want to go with the original. There’s a small town that can’t pay much, but it’s being threatened by bandits and their leader. Except they hire a ragtag bunch of gunfighters who defend the town.”
I hadn’t seen the movie. “How does that go?”
Marcus gave a lopsided grin. “The town is saved. The bandits are destroyed, but almost all the gunfighters die.”