“She’s not made for travelling this fast in normal space,” Vanna said as the Whisper shot through space in pursuit of the asteroid. She was holding on to the console in front of her and staring at the reading in horror. “I’m not sure the dampeners will continue stopping us being turned into chunky salsa if we keep this up. They’re showing amber already.”
“I know,” Amanpreet said. She did as well, she could feel her poor ship vibrating as it’s normal space engines strained to keep up their acceleration. “But we have to stop that thing hitting the planet.” She took a shaky breath. “We’ll be in range to use the asteroid busters soon.” She watched her own console. “Five, four, three, two, one…” She hit the controls and several lasers shot from the Whisper and struck the asteroid at a slight angle. She hoped it would be enough to alter the trajectory of the asteroid so it missed the planet even though this object was right at their limit and moving way too fast. But as she checked the readings again she realised her luck hadn’t held – at least not entirely. They had made its course deviate but the asteroid must have had a weakness because that wasn’t all that had happened.
“Oh no, its breaking up!” she said.
“That’s always a risk,” Vanna said soothingly. “And it looks like most of it will miss now. We just need to pulverise the ones that won’t.”
“I know.” Amanpreet turned her attention back to the lasers. “Largest first I guess.”
“At least we can slow down a bit now,” Vanna said. The cessation of the excess vibrations and a very slight jolt were the only indication that she’d done just that.
“Good.” Amanpreet took aim at the largest fragment of asteroid that was still heading for the planet. The lasers struck it head on and it disintegrated. “Bullseye!” She took aim at another one. “This is going to take a while.”
In the end The Whisper was still cleaning up asteroid fragments when the escort returned. With multiple ships on the job they cleared up the fragments quickly and pulled back to compare notes.
“We can’t spend long on this,” the escort commander said. “We found another mass driver of the same technology type as the ones in the Talis system. Just the one this time so we think it was precautionary rather than place because they knew anyone was here. We need to get to Corona as quickly as possible.”
“There was more than one railgun at Talis?” Amanpreet asked.
“Yes,” he said. “We got a report while we were scouting. So far the Mez home system, Earth-Venus and Ishtar-Damkina are clear but several other systems had one or two weapons. Only Talis is known to have multiple ones, we think because Talis was perceived as an actual rather than potential threat by this enemy, but that’s just a guess. If Corona – another system we know they attacked – has multiple weapons it’ll give strong support to that hypothesis.”
“We need to get there fast and hope nothing has happened yet.” Amanpreet scowled thoughtfully. “How long can your navigators stand hyperspace?”
“Huh, most are about average – six to eight hours…. though our best can do twelve hours at a push – which is ridiculous.”
Even in spite of the situation Amanpreet and Kayla exchanged a glance. “Do you happen to know is they have spaceborn syndrome?
“Hmm… yes, he does actually. How did you know?”
“Because Kayla and I both have extremely high hyperspace tolerances as well,” Amanpreet said. “Which is interesting but it does suggest a solution. Promise can carry most of the ships and Kayla, your navigator and I can handle the navigation. A single 12 hour jump will get us there.”
That’s not a bad idea,” the commander said, As long as Promise can hold enough of our ships.”
“I can,” Promise said. “Even large Sticks are quite small.”
“That’s what we’ll do then. Can Kayla transfer over to the Windflower to navigate it.”
“I can!”” Kayla said. “Give me a minute.”
“And while we’re in hyperspace on separate ships we can do some testing on the singing thing,” Amanpreet said.
â€œGood idea,â€ Kayla said and ran out the door to jump aboard her Dreamsong and transfer.
â€œYou mean that singing I hear sometimes isn’t an hallucination?â€ Rick, the escort navigator, asked as they prepared to jump.
â€œNo,â€ Amanpreet confirmed, â€œIt’s how the sophont Fish like Promise communicate.â€
â€œWow! We should try and learn their language. Imagine how useful that would be.â€
â€œIndeed,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œAnd that’s why I want ro run some tests while we’re on route even though we need to hurry. I’m going to sing while we navigate and you and Kayla can write down what you hear if anything.â€
â€œWell that won’t slow us down at all,â€ Rick said â€œSo I don’t see any harm in trying it.â€
â€œOkay,â€ she said. â€œYou both ready?â€
â€œReady,â€ Kayla said.
â€œReady,â€ Rick echoed.
â€œRight then, let’s do this,â€ Amanpreet said and they jumped.
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