“Well, at least now we know who we are dealing with,” Timothy said.
“Do we?” Sornia asked, not so sure.
“More than we did a moment ago,” Timothy said with a new determination in his voice. “I beat them in the Battleship, I can beat them now too.”
“It makes sense,” Slicky added.
“What does?” Timothy asked, suddenly twitching as a spasm of pain cramped his whole lower body.
“Well, they were probably there to get the same item you were after. And now that you have it, they are after us.”
“Well, now it's ours, and they can’t have it,” Timothy answered.
“And the way that guy sounded all pissed, I think even if they get the item, they will not be appeased," Sornia said.
“Well, but now that we know they want an item, we know what they will try to do,” Timothy groaned all in pain, taking his pistol out and checking it if it was fully loaded.
“Board us!” Sornia said.
“Yes. Most likely. And I’ve got only five more cylinders. That might not be enough for all of them.”
“If they are looking to board us, they won’t fire heavy stuff at us. The energy of our shields… you can power it to the jump drive, can’t you?” Slicky suggested.
“A good idea. Let’s see what that does,” Timothy said and took a fifty percent load of his shields and threw the juice inside the jump drive.
“Can this freighter even make a jump?” Slicky asked, looking at the statistics suddenly being displayed on the controls.
Timothy's fingers worked hard over the keyboards, and in a few seconds, the AI announced,
“The jump drive has been activated. However, it is not recommended to facilitate it. The probability of success is twenty percent.”
Slicky rubbed his head and mumbled in understanding to himself. "So you disabled the safety protocols. On Union ships, you could not even activate the jump drive unless the probabily of the jump was at hudnred percent. Why do it otherwise? Just to blow up?!"
Timothy chuckled. "Too late to pull the trigger now. Hey, Marv, how are you doing with those transmitters?”
“We have two of them in a storage, but they are old and only partially functional, like twenty percent each,” Marv answered instantly. “We’ll plug them in, that should give us some more juice. The power plant is also working at only twenty percent. We have a lot of capacity to spare.”
“We are currently accelerating at 10 T. AI, if we shut our engines down and stop accelerating, how long till they reach us with their present acceleration level?”
“And how long till they are within the firing range, calculating that their firing range is the same one they had when they destroyed the droid?”
“Shit, Marv, put those in. I’m not sure they will not open us up first and then board us.”
“I’m trying. It will be another ten minutes till the bot refurbishes one of the transmitters as well. Give me at least that much time. We may have another one by then.”
“AI, calculate the probability of the success if we take all the juice from the engines and with another transmitter working?”
“The probability of the jump success under such parameters would be forty-five percent.”
“Fuck. I don’t like those odds,” Timothy muttered.
“A way better than twenty percent.”
“So, why don’t you just route the power from the engines to the jump drive now?”
“Are you nuts? If they see us not accelerating anymore, what do you think they will think?”
Slicky shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe they will guess we are ready to jump. And then fire at us. No, transmit the extra juice we have now into the engines. Let’s see if we can accelerate a bit more, give us more time, make them think we are trying to outrun them.”
“Please state how much would you like to raise the acceleration?” AI asked.
“Give me 11 T and see if the ship will take it.”
They nervously held their seats, fingers digging deep inside the armrests as the AI started to fuel the engine with the new energy, raising its performance and their acceleration.
There was a little tremble, but before Timothy could give an order to bring the acceleration down, the tremble stopped, and AI announced, “I have optimized the parameters and now the ship is accelerating at 11 T.”
“Good,” Timothy said, satisfied that at least something is working fine. “Are they matching out acceleration?”
The AI did not answer and Timothy looked confused at the screen. “Where the fuck are they?”
“I cannot detect any vessel around,” the AI announced.
“Did they drop out?” Timothy asked.
“We would still see them,” Slicky said. “They would still be on the monitor.”
Sornia sighed. “We have no idea what tech them may have. I would not dare to think they are gone.”
“But, but, where are they?”
“Remember a few years into the war with Miths how there was a rumor in the military that we were experimenting with some stealth technology…”
“Yeah, but those were just rumors, and nothing ever came out of it.”
“Well, our military might not have developed it. But that is a long stretch from believing that nobody else did.”
“Who the fuck are these guys?”
“Maybe the kind that has the cloaking technology. It also addresses an issue that has been bothering me. I mean, how the hell did they sneak into the battleship? I mean, we did it through deceit. But, the way you described them, they did not look anything like the Union space troopers.”
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe their cloaking technology allowed them to sneak up on the battleship,” Timothy said.
Slicky wanted to say something and raised his finger. “But why did they not use the cloaking technology right from the start? I mean, they would be on top of us and we would not even see them at all.”
“I do not know,” Timothy answered, feeling a sharp pain hitting his head. “Maybe the cloaking device uses a lot of energy. I have no clue. But… there must be a thing we can do. If I could just… think.”
Sornia got up from her seat and shoved a box of pills into Timothy’s hands. “That should help with the pain.”
He swallowed half a dozen before continuing. “The first of them I killed was with an explosive mine ball. Maybe I can do the same here.”
“It does not mean just because it worked on them in the Battleship, it would work here too. Their ships might use more protective shields.”
“Yes, they probably do. But this is our best guess. We go mechanical. If they had energy-absorbing weapons tailored for personal use, you can bet your ass, they would have it mounted on those vessels as well. I would not dare hit them with any energy weapon at all. All the energy we throw at them would get absorbed and probably be used against us. Might as well power that down as well. AI, you heard me. Power down all five of our laser cannons. And you know where to send all the energy, don’t you?”
“Please state where you want the available energy to be channeled to?” the AI said.
“To the jump drive, to the jump drive,” Timothy said annoyed with weariness in his voice.
Slicky leaned over and pressed a few keys. “That should help us with a jump as well. Five percent boost there.”
Sornia said. “I still hate to make a jump unless we are a hundred percent.”
Timothy had other things on his mind. He said. “Now, let’s get some presents ready for them. Marv, can you mount some space mines and send them out. Also, let’s dump all the garbage from our dumpster together with them. And… that neckless we gave to Slicky… it should still be in the transporter, should it not?”
“Yes,” Marv answered.
“What is its range?”
“It does not have a range. It’s light-activated. We sent a light beam with an embedded code through our comm devices, and it activates it, no matter where it is.”
“Good. And those mines… Load it will all the explosive you have, but without any electronics working on it. I do not want them to detect them at all. Let them think it’s all just garbage. And, let me know when it’s done.”
Suddenly Slicky had an idea. “Send one more droid out. Do you have any with any kind of mechanical machine guns?”
“Oh, I like how you think. But we do not have anything like that, but… I may not want to use it anyway.”
“We could test and see if they need to get out of their stealth drive to shoot,” Slicky tried to explain.
“I know. But… I would rather them think that maybe, maybe, we can’t see them so, maybe we are thinking that we have lost them. Let’s power down the engine, stop the acceleration. Bring us down to 5 L safely while channeling all the extra energy to the jump drive.”
“The engine has been slowed down, currently running at forty percent capacity. The current acceleration is 1 T.”
“With the new numbers, AI, project how long till they are in the firing range?”
“Marv, where are you?” Timothy asked eagerly.
“Just dumping everything inside the dumpster. It’s sealed!”
“AI, mark the spot where we dropped the garbage. Countdown the time till the disappeared vessels are projected to pass through it.”
“Fifteen seconds, fourteen,” the AI started the countdown.
Timothy rushed to get to his comm, but the pain suddenly shoot through his whole body, and his hand just could not get it out of his pocket.
Slicky was the first one to jump to him, and pulled out the comm out of his pocket.
“I can’t believe it will be I who activates that neckless,” he said.
“Wait,” Sornia shrieked as Timothy was in so much pain he could not even utter a single word.
“Use his thumb. Use Timothy's thumb!” Sornia screamed at him, and Slicky understood it right away. Not waiting to hear anything else, he pressed Timothy’s cramped thumb against the comm, finding an app that said 'Necklace' and pressed the skull and bones symbol that suddenly popped out.
"You fuckers were really ready to kill me," he muttered to himself as he did it.
Instantly the screen lighted up, explosions going off in clusters.
“Did we hit them, did we hit them?” Slicky asked.
Suddenly the flyers appeared on the screen as an answer, a few of them on fire, a few nothing more than burning rubble. But at least a dozen seemed unscratched.
“Timothy the Seventh, you will pay for this travesty,” the voice came over the open comm. And then dozens of bolts of green light suddenly lighted the space around them.
“They are firing at us! Some kind of energy weapons!”
“AI! Shields up to MAX!” Sornia screamed as Timothy was unable to even open his mouth.
The bolts of traveling light hit them an instant later, shaking the ship up as if it was nothing more than a small soda bottle in the hands of an angry child. Two explosions then echoed through the ship.
“Warning, warning,” the AI came on.
“AI, Seal the ship!” Sornia screamed. “Seal all the rooms!”
“Warning, not all the rooms can be sealed.”
“Marv, are you there?” Slicky asked.
Marv coughed before answering. “I’m back in the Engine room. A hell of smoke here. Our engine is out!”
“What rooms cannot be sealed?”
“Upper observation deck, garbage depo, and docking bay…”
Sornia quickly glanced at the camera views of the stated area seeing the damage the ship suffered.
“They targeted them,” she muttered to herself. "Skillfully."
“Went through our shield as if it did not exist,” Slicky added.
"It seems they can do whatever they want with us."
“AI, activate the rail gun!” Slicky suddenly yelped with vigor. “They are within shooting distance now!”
“Sir, your voice is not command enabled,” AI warned him.
“AI, activate the rail gun and pass the control to the manual joystick,” Sornia said.
“That order cannot be completed. The rain gun has been blown off the ship.”
“Fuck!” Slicky cussed and angrily move his hand off the joystick he so readily embraced a second ago.
Timothy's pain spasm seemed to have subsided, and he pulled himself up in the chair again.
“Options, options, give me some options, what can we do?”
“We’re going to get boarded. But we can use the transporter to try and make a run for it,” Sornia said.
“I don’t like that,” Timothy said.
“Why not?” Slicky asked.
“They won’t all board the freighter. Some of them will stay behind. Probably three or four of those fighters. And what kind of odds do you think we’ll have in one transporter against three of those fighters? Did you see how easy they blew up that droid and from what distance?”
“It’s not an ordinary transporter. Strong hull, shield, and it has… about ten missiles still left.”
“Yeah, because you waisted like three of them on us.”
“Seeing that look on your face there means it was not wasted,” Sornia said with a smile.
“This was not the plan,” Timothy groaned.
“When do things go according to the plans?" Sornia asked.
"Now, if we booby trap this freighter, we lose the ship. And put all our hopes on fighting multiple enemies with technologies we do not know. Besides, this ship… with all the upgrades we put in it, we could not buy for less than five hundred grand.”
“That means, this job would have been for nothing.”
“Even if we make it out alive. So, I say…”
“Maybe it’s time,” Marv voice came over the speaker. “To get physical with these bastards.”
Timothy took a long breath. “No. That is not our best option.”
“We can’t run. The engine is gone. Our thrusters…”
“We still have the jump.”
“Still less than fifty percent,” Slicky reminded him.
Timothy nodded his head.
“If this is the last thing I’m going to say,” Timothy started to speak, turning his head and looking straight at Sornia. “I want you to know…”
Slicky interrupted him. “Their ships are within one mile from us. They’ll be leaching to us in less than sixty seconds."
“No, no, we are not done yet!” Sornia screamed at Timothy, her eyes suddenly watering up, seeing the softness and vulnerability in him she did not like at that particular moment. "We will fight!"
“And lose. Those fellas, they mean business. I need to tell you, even if you live, I probably won’t. I need to tell you, I need to say it,” he fought every word to come out of his mouth. Sornia ran to him and held his head in his hands, tears swelling even more in her eyes. “I need you to know, I’m so sorry, sorry for everything…”
“I know, I know,” she said as she held him tight.
“I always thought, I always thought there would be more time, more time for me to put things right. But... I'm sorry, so sorry..."
“I know, I know,” she smiled, the drops of tears falling down on Timothy’s face as she held him tight. “Don’t need to say it, I know…”
Then Timothy took a deep breath, understanding and accepting that it probably is his last. As he let it out, he uttered. “AI, engage the jump drive, now.”