But They Told Me This Would Be Easy

Rio Grande and Mystic Destruction fly to the attack

Rio Grande and Mystic Destruction fly to the attack.

The pounding, heavily amplified beat of some ancient heavy metal reverberated through the interior of Erbo’s pod, providing a counterpoint to the rhythmic thump! of missiles and energy blasts, which could be sensed through both the pod’s hull and that of the Rio Grande. The ship pressed on through the deadspace pocket, towards the acceleration gate, still kilometers ahead of him.  The Arch Angel ships closing on him were too tough to fight, as Erbo knew only too well; he’d tried on a previous occasion, and had lost the previous version of the Rio Grande, after which he’d been forced to abort the mission.  Vedulef Gekegala, the Republic Justice Department agent he’d gotten the mission from, had not been pleased about that.  Now, though, he had another chance, to correct the mistake he’d made the first time around.

“They’re hammerin’ me!” came the voice of Selenalore, a few klicks behind him in her own cruiser, Mystic Destruction.  Both ships were screaming towards the exit gate at full throttle, afterburners engaged.  Erbo kept watch on his tac display, showing the gate coming ever closer, as well as the shield indicator, now down to about 40 percent.  He made ready to activate the armor hardener and repairer subsystems, should the Angels’ weapons start biting into the Thorax’s armor.  He called out distances: “Nine thousand meters!…Eight thousand!…Six thousand!…”

Finally, the ship approached closely enough that he could activate the gate.  Calling out, “Activate! NOW!”, he felt the warp drive engage under the gate’s control.  The Rio Grande, its shields reduced to almost nothing by the battering of the Angels’ weapons, surged ahead, leaping tens of thousands of kilometers in the span of only a few seconds to wind up…in another pocket.

And he wasn’t alone.

His display showed a series of red blips ahead of him, some too large for comfort.  “They’ve discovered our hideout!  Don’t let them escape!” came another voice over the comm channels, unmistakably the leader of another gang of pirates.  The tac overview registered Selena’s arrival behind him, but not even her help would be sufficient to beat this crowd.  Fortunately, he didn’t have to fight them either.

“Bug out!” he yelled over the comlink. “Now, now, NOW!” He hurriedly pushed through the command that would warp the two of them back to Gekegala’s station, circling the fourth moon of Tollus X.  A few shots streaked by the two of them, but soon enough, the warp drive had engaged, and their adversaries were far behind.

On the capsule’s sound system, the heavy metal song was just reaching it’s climactic end, as the female singer’s voice hit an operatic high note.  Erbo let out a sigh of relief…and hoped the next mission wouldn’t be quite so dicey.

(Music for this post: Nightwish, “Planet Hell,” from the live album End of an Era.)

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