10 October 2017

The Doomed Flotilla. Part 5 ‘The Captain’

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- Prepare the jump now!

Dr. Al-Khali was literally roaring, but Dariusz, the Jericho pilot, paid no attention. His gaze was glued to the monitor and the sixteen flashing dots that were approaching the station. If at least one of them reached the station's surface — there would be victims. Considering how many people huddle in narrow corridors... there would be at least dozens of victims.

It seemed that Sam understood this better than anyone else. The mechanic girl lowered the circular saw and released it from her hands. It fell to the floor with a crash, but no one even shook.

‘We will demolish the entire seventeenth sector and everyone in it if we jump now, do you understand, Doctor?’ — Sam's voice was soft but sure. ‘The leap will free up so much kinetic energy that everything around...’ she paused for a second, ‘we need to undock first.’ Then we can fly to a safe distance and...

‘Safe !?’ — ‘Al-Khali looked at her with unconcealed contempt — we are their number one goal! And we do not even have working shields!’

Sam crossed her arms over her chest. The doctor's aggression had obviously hurt her. With another malicious look at Albert, she turned to Dariusz:

— Are they going to attack their shrine?

The servant shrugged and nodded.

— For the sake of preserving its holiness.

Red stripes flashed on the holographic screen, which evidently indicated the station's kinetic gun salvos and return fire of the drones. Several points went silent. The gunner half-heartedly watched this terrible view. He was focused on the audience.

‘The Seventh Seal Generator feeds the guns of the station’ — Nick finally said. ‘Undock or simply turn on the shields — and they will stop shooting.’

‘It's up to you,’ — said the Jericho, looking at the Gunner for some reason. ‘You're the captain now’.

Nick was taken aback.

— What do you mean?

‘Dr. Al-Khali himself called you sergeant.’ — It looked like the pilot would begin to read the sermon again. ‘And this ship, whether or not it's a shrine, is docked to the Imperial station.’ Our books very clearly describe this situation. You are the senior in rank.

‘Actually...’ the doctor began, but Dariusz interrupted him, clapping his claw loudly. The doctor noticeably shuddered.

‘I'm the only one here who can sit at the neurotower.’ And I will do what the captain tells me.

More than half the points on the monitor have already disappeared under the onslaught of the station. But the next second, even more fluttered at the edge of the screen. Nick did not need to count to understand — now there were 32 drones.

Gunner was slowly becoming aware and along with it, a wave of icy fear swept over his body. If he understood correctly, not only his own life depended on his decisions, but the life of everyone who was at the station. The time was running out, but he could not act blindly.

— Is this tub armed?

Dariusz clearly did not like the word ‘tub’, he cringed, as far as his facial implants allowed:

—  Yes, but the guns will have to be managed manually.

Perhaps it was worth respecting the ship to gain the assistance of its pilot.

‘How strong is the hull of... the shrine?’

— Without shields... against four light opponents... — Dariusz counted — the hull should survive for two, maybe three minutes. For thirty more seconds we will be able to deal with the primary depressurization. If there are more of them — there's no point in even counting.

— How is the cruiser connected to the station? — Nick turned to Sam.

— A gateway and a standard high-voltage cable.

— Is the cable strong? Flexible?

The mechanic nodded twice.

The roar spreading through the hull of the station reached the seventh seal. The floor shook beneath their feet.

— This is madness! The doctor could not restrain himself. ‘They'll kill us all!’ We have to jump right now! And not argue about the cruiser's parameters!

— Shut up and find something to do — Nick growled.

— I will not participate in this adventure! — Albert yelled.

— Then you have two minutes to get to the station. We will undock.

The pilot intervened:

— We'll need an astronavigator —  he said dryly, and then turned to Nick: ‘Do you take command?’

Sanctity reverberated in his voice, and Nick felt the full responsibility of the moment. His answer would determine his future destiny.

— Yes.

— So be it. — With these words, the Jericho headed, apparently, to the pilot's cabin, but before he left the room, he stopped and pointed his claw at one of the corridors — the gun turret was there.

The gunner turned to the mechanic:

— Sam. Dock only with the gateway and mooring. Do not touch the cable. We will take it as much as we can. When you're done — run to the engineering compartment.

Through the excitement the girl managed to smile:

— Yes, captain!

This even sounded somehow pleasant. Captain. If they survive, Nick thought, he would not even mind being called that. The mechanic, meanwhile, picked up her saw from the floor and rushed towards the gateway.

Nick had already moved toward the gun, but stopped next to the doctor. He stopped at about a strike distance. The doctor looked at the gunner's eyes. Not a muscle moved on his face.

— My knife — Nick said, holding out his hand. Then he added: ‘Please’

 

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Sincerely,
Star Conflict Team