Knowing that most battleships had sensors that extended into near-space, and that my ship’s stealth was more an accidental product of the shields than intentional, I stayed in near-space until I was just past the Annihilation, flipping over when I was past the rear of the ship.
Marcus had started charging the main gun the moment the ship came in sight, so when I transitioned out of near-space and into real space, I felt the shields thin near the nose of our ship and the main gun released a blast of white light. Meanwhile, our other guns targeted the guns in guard position to protect the engine exhaust.
Like most battleships, they had their shields at half-power even when no enemies were visible, a soft blue glow. We’d planned for that. Our ship had been designed to be a small ship capable of damaging battleships even before my grandfather increased its power output.
The main gun shattered the shield, throwing bits of glowing blue into space where they shrunk and disappeared. Marcus had aimed it at the most vulnerable spot—the hole at the bottom of the nozzle. The nozzle melted, the hole expanded, and something inside the ship exploded. It wasn’t the kind of explosion you might see in Star Wars, one where the whole ship explodes. It was flash of red, yellow, and orange that flared, jutting out of the cracks and the undamaged nozzles, followed by smoke.
I’d seen that kind of explosion before in simulations and felt confident we’d damaged the fusion power plant as well as the banks of capacitors that held a charge ready for weapons and jumps. Even better, the ship’s sensors confirmed my theory.
Half of the lights winked out across the ship—the windows near the lines of turrets were still on—and to my surprise the ship’s directional thrusters fired and the battleship began to turn.
“I’m going in,” I told Marcus.
I had a sense that he was shaking his head, but he said, “I’ll be ready.”
We flipped into near-space—which maybe wasn’t the smartest idea or people would try what I was trying all the time. I flew the ship inside the battleship, staying in the nearest of near-space, barely outside reality. We were close enough that weapons we fired would fall out of near-space and hit things in real space.
Not coincidentally, the reason it wasn’t smart to fly through here was that most ships carried devices that could knock us back into real space where we’d then attempt to inhabit the same space as the battleship—which was generally bad for both ships. They’d probably turned off fields like that when their main power plant went down.
We’d flown into the engine compartment—which was large enough that we could have flown inside if the back had been open anyway and also if it hadn’t contained two fusion power plants, a near-space drive and a jump drive, a massive bank of capacitors, and fuel for all of that.
As was normal for near-space, everything outside the ship had a hint of blurriness, but we could see enough. We were near the top of the room to give us the best chance to see the ship’s backup power plant.
It wasn’t that hard. The second power plant was at the far end of the engineering compartment, roughly the middle of the ship.
Marcus didn’t have time to give our main gun a full charge, but we didn’t need one. We didn’t have to break a force field or the hull. All I had to do was fly forward, watch as Marcus aimed the gun at the block-shaped device at the front end of the compartment.
The blast hit about three quarters up the side, making a hole in the gray wall. Fire erupted from the spot, hitting the next drive in line—a jump drive so far as I could see.
Small figures wearing white space suits ran away from the line of massive engines. I didn’t have time to feel guilty or afraid for the people who might be dying because of our actions. I did notice that some of them didn’t have legs as much as a second pair of arms—they climbed down the sides of the drives.
At about the same time, we passed outside of the Annihilation’s hull. Going deeper into near-space, I aimed our ship toward the system’s outer planets, not because I wanted to go there but because I guessed that a few of the fighters might try to pop into near-space and chase us.
And I was right.
Four of them peeled away from Annihilation, firing blasts of energy at us. I wasn’t sure we could outrun them in near-space, but we could probably take them.