The Adventures of Captain Arcolier, Part Eight

(Welcome back. In our last installment One-Eye struggled to repair Assault Pod One while Sergeant Riker fought off Cantrellan foes. If you're new to our tale you'll want to start here.)

     Captain Arcolier forced herself to sit still and kept her face impassive as she reviewed the situation. The engine pod had struck a fierce blow and the Beauteous Revenge had closed the gap while the Cantrellans focused on damage control. She could grapple the destroyer at this range and force a boarding action but the question at hand was whether it was worth the risk. There wasn't going to be much of value on a Naval ship and it would be a hard battle for little enough reward. The Cantrellans had been hit hard but the Revenge wasn't in top form right now either. Of course, she couldn't leave until she had rescued the First Marines and if they couldn't repair their Assault Pod she would have no choice but to attempt to take the destroyer. She studied the still glowing crater where the engine pod had exploded against the Cantrellan hull. "What do you think Stinky Pete? Can they take another hit without coming apart?"

     "It doesn't look good," replied Stinky Pete. He nudged a control and a smaller screen pulsed brighter. A schematic rotated there, showing the Cantrellan's hull in translucent panels and interior structure picked out in blue wireframes. "The second powerplant looks to be dead center of the ship. It will take a pretty good bash to hit it, and I just can't say for certain whether the ship would break apart."

     Captain Arcolier glanced at One-Eye's viewport, only recently back online. The shock waves from the antimatter explosion were dissipating and the reduced range had meant the control signals were able to punch through the interference. One-Eye was still a few minutes away from finishing the weld that would hopefully make the craft spaceworthy again. She nodded decisively. "We'll let them bring power back online then. If they do have a second tractor beam we should be able to slag the gunport before they do much to the pod." She clicked One-Eye's viewport as she continued speaking. "You hear that One-Eye? If they pull some other superweapon on us, I will personally hound you through all the planes of hell for not getting out quicker. I want to see that pod in the deep black soonest."

     One-Eye nodded even as he paused the welding and spread sealant over another leg of the seam. "Aye, Captain. Believe me we're not staying because of the free drinks and willing women. As soon I think this bucket of bolts will only leak slowly I'll take her out for a spin."

     "Energy readings are spiking, Cap'n," said Stinky Pete. "Looks like the backup plant is online." Even as he spoke the dim emergency lighting in One-Eye's viewport flickered and was replaced by a full-spectrum fluorescent glare.

     "We'll soon find out how much fight the Cantrellans have left in them." Captain Arcolier drawled. "Port Battery, make sure you have a firing solution trained on that hole in the hull and be ready to fire on my mark. I'm hoping they aren't going to fight, but if they seem likely I want to hit them where it hurts." She clicked on Stinky Pete's schematic simulation which slid to the center of the screen, and studied the rotating wireframe. "Stinky Pete, give PB a best-estimate on what energy levels would cause a catastrophic loss of integrity. PB - be ready to fire either a full strength shot or a crippling shot that would stop just short of total breakup."

     Stinky Pete saluted and then his hands flew over the console. Simulated fire from the Revenge began to stab at the spinning computer model, incrementally stronger until the hull shattered under the blow. "Mind you Cap'n, this is just a best guess simulation. I advise adding a safety margin for the weaker shot." He paused briefly, only to resume calculations at Jaimie's curt nod.

     A communications icon blipped on the screen just as Stinky Pete finished his calculations. "Incoming message from the destroyer Cap'n. Shall I acknowledge?"

     Captain Arcolier shook her head. "Not quite yet. We're trying to buy One-Eye as much time as possible." Wait two minutes and then put the call through. She clicked One-Eye's screen again. "Hear that? We're running out of time here One-Eye."

     One-Eye shook his head, flinging zero-g droplets of sweat away from his forehead. "I know it Captain, almost done here." He turned to scan the rest of the crew. "Wilson, get everyone except for the combatants with Riker inside the Pod and strapped in. Once I finish we're going to leave in a hurry!" He turned to his final seam, his welder flashing closer to the incandescent line Michaels drew from the other side. "Michaels, as soon as we finish here I'll power the bird up. I need to you grab a couple of grenades and a satchel charge and take them to Sergeant Riker. We're going to need to close off that access for a moment while the last of us get aboard. Tell Riker I said to do whatever he feels necessary to keep them off our backs, and I don't really care if he ruins their decor in the process."

     "Aye aye, sir." Michaels grinned triumphantly as the two plasma beams from their welders met. They held the fire for a second longer and then shut off the torches. One-Eye quickly scanned the weld and decided it would pass for spaceworthy under the circumstances. Around him the remaing Marines pounded into the lock. Williams passed by, carrying a wounded unconscious Marine and nodded at One-Eye.

     "This is the last except for you, Michaels, Rodriguez, and Sergeant Riker. I'll have all the casualties strapped down by the time you have the engines hot, sir."

     "Excellent." One-Eye straightened up and surveyed the bay. Michaels lumbered out of the pod's hatchway, encumbered by enough explosives to destroy a small continent. One-Eye bellowed in a loud command voice. "Grab whatever you can, because Marines - WE ARE LEAVING!" He quickly made his way inside the pod and began to power up the major systems. It took a couple of minutes to get everything online and just as the last of the engine sequence lights went green there was the loud CRUMP of major explosives from the mouth of the bay. Riker, Rodriguez, and Michaels all ran inside the pod, Riker slamming the door close signal with his palm as he moved past.

     "First Marines, ready for departure sir!" barked Riker as he strapped his still-bloody sword to the wall. One-Eye throttled up and as Assault Pod One hovered he fired the small shipboard laser at the irised-shut portal that cut the pod off from the vacuum and the Beauteous Revenge.

(Tune in next week to see if One-Eye can burn through the hatch and if the Cantrellans have any fight left in them!)

(See the next installment!)