The Adventures of Captain Arcolier, Part Nine

(Welcome back. In our last installment One-Eye got the Marines back in Assault Pod One while the crew of the Beauteous Revenge prepared to cripple the Cantrellan ship. If you're new to our tale you'll want to start here.)

     One-Eye fired the small lasers on the Assault Pod at the portal for almost a minute, yielding nothing more dramatic than a dull red glow. He shut off the beam with a growl of disgust. "That isn't going to work." One-Eye frowned for a few precious seconds as he thought. "Sergeant! What kind of explosives do we have left. Enough to blow a hole in that hatch?"

     Sergeant Riker frowned in turn. He stared into space for a moment as he mentally ran an inventory of their supplies and what he had used earlier. "Maybe. If you give it a little tap with the lasers." Anticipating the order he unstrapped and stood up. He clapped Rodriguez on the shoulder as he passed, heading to the small arms locker by the access hatch. "Once more into the breach, eh Rodriguez?"

     Rodriguez unstrapped and shot an impish grin at One-Eye. "If it's all the same to the commander I'd prefer to get back in the ship and then make a breach. But I'll go out and help blow things up, that's always a good time."

     One-Eye chuckled grimly. "Hurry back and I'll save you both ringside seats. Hopefully the Cantrellans will be too busy to attend to us." He craned his head to peer around the bulk of the pod. "If not . . . I might be able to rotate this bucket of bolts enough to shoot down the access hatch. Teach them to tractor about the First Marines, what? More trouble than any scruffy pack of Cantrellans can handle, that's for damn sure."

     Riker and Rodriguez moved out of the pod with alacrity and grabbed explosive packs from the arms locker as they went. One-Eye took advantage of the pause to catch up with the Beauteous Revenge. "Captain? We're trying to bust out but they didn't leave the door open. We're going to knock politely but it's possible we'll need a hand."

     Captain Arcolier nodded brusquely, her attention focused on the tactical display before her. "What do you think Pete? Can we get a shot on their hatch without losing the solution for Port Battery?"

     Stinky Pete studied the wireframe model of the destroyer and rotated it several different ways. "Negative Captain. We breached the hull opposite the bay in question. We can blow that door out for One-Eye, but we'll have to orbit the target to do so." He squinted at the display and tilted his head to the left. Captain Arcolier repressed a fond grin as she watched his eyes dart to and fro while his lips silently moved. Stinky Pete talked to himself inaudibly when he was calculating something that rode the razor edge between brilliance and recklessness. She gave him the moment he needed to work his concept through.

     A new pane blossomed onscreen, the now-familiar wireframe of the destroyer centered. On this one a dotted oval sketched out from the simplified icon that represented the Revenge. Stinky Pete grinned as a timeline at the top of this display began to move forward. "We could preprogram an attack in. If we automate we can whip around the ship and fire a double blast while orbiting. We should be back on position within a minute, before Port Battery would have even recharged. Total downtime in our main firing solution would be only two minutes."

     Captain Arcolier grinned savagely and nodded. "Program it in." She returned her attention to One-Eye. "Slave your detonation and laser codes to Stinky Pete's remote. We'll orbit and hit the bay with all our weapons synchronized. Let us know when your crew is safely aboard."

     A second orange arc sprang out from the ship as the Revenge's orbit expanded slightly. Stinky Pete looked questioningly at Captain Arcolier. "Captain? We can do even better than that. If One-Eye will accept this flight path he can dock with us at high speed. With the slightly slower orbit Port will be recharged before we cross the firing solution. We can disable them and then slingshot right through the jump point."

     One-Eye guffawed as the flight schematic came up on his display. "I love it Cap'n."

     Captain Arcolier nodded, her eyes twinkling. She turned to the young helmsman who shifted nervously in his seat. "William lay the course in from Pete's console."

     One-Eye scanned the stubborn bay doors, watching Riker finish attaching the detonators. Riker and Rodriguez came back to the ship in the fast and low movements of hardened zero-g combat veterans. They boarded and closed the airlock. "Good work boys. Wait 'til you see what Stinky Pete came up with to get us out of here."

     Riker grinned as he feigned faintness, pressing the back of hand melodramatically against his forehead. "Let me strap in first XO. You know I'll face off the entire crew of this mangy destroyer if you ask me, but a plan of Stinky Pete's? I'm liable to wet myself right here!" Throughout his banter he and Rodriguez prepared for departure and he nodded decisively at One-Eye just as the Stinky Pete's mock-anguished cry of "Hey" echoed back from from the Revenge.

     "We're ready to go, Captain. Execute at will."

     Captain Arcolier nodded at Stinky Pete, "Now put the destroyer comm through." She smirked at Stinky Pete as he complied and the priggish face of the Cantrellan Captain appeared onscreen.

     The Cantrellan took a deep breath and launched into an obviously prepared speech, "Jaimie Arcolier. That was a clever little trick with your engine, but we are far from defeated. Surrender now or we will be forced to destroy your ship and execute your marines who were apprehended attempting to illegally board a commercial vessel."

     "Oh my, whatever shall we do?" Captain Arcolier drawled derisively. "I sure wish we had another 'clever trick' we could use." She turned theatrically to the left which moved her arm out of the camera pickup. As soon as her hand was offscreen it pointed straight at Stinky Pete in clear command of execution. Stinky Pete jabbed a button on his console and Jaimie grabbed the arms of her chair as the Beauteous Revenge sharply accelerated to the side.

     One-Eye let out a sharp whoop aboard the Assault Pod. "Hold on boys, this ride is going to be fast and probably a little bumpy." The pod fired attitude jets and backed up to the rear of the bay, crunching into repair consoles as it went. The Revenge continued to accelerate, engines always firing at an angle to their travel and continually reshaped the orbit. As it reached the far side of the destroyer both main batteries fired. Multiple cinnamon beams stabbed out from both sides of the ship and converged on a single point on the destroyer's hull - the precise center of the hatch trapping Assault Pod One. Aboard Assault Pod One the smaller lasers fired in perfect synchronization fired and the explosive charges detonated. A gigantic explosion erupted as the bay doors melted away in the savage energy interplay. The explosion would have engulfed Assault Pod One except the sudden exposure to vacuum sucked all the fuels out into space. The fireball traveled outward as the vacuum smeared the oxygen out and snuffed the flames. Assault Pod One followed microseconds after, using the pull of the decompression as a launch and firing all engines at the same time. Inside some of the Marines groaned as the ragged edges of the destroyer's hull slide by a scant foot from the observation window.

The Beauteous Revenge continued to accelerate as it described a taut arc of orbital physics around the destroyer. The smaller lighter Assault Pod flew an even tighter arc as its relative mobility let it fly a closer orbit. The closer orbit meant the Pod gained ground relative to the Revenge and the Revenge's tractor beam quickly grabbed the Pod and hauled it back into the proper docking bay.

     The maneuver came to a close as the Revenge lined up on the jump point. A quick spin with attitude thrusters faced her towards the destroyer and Captain Arcolier delievered her final taunt as Port Battery fired again. "We need to run, so I'll have to say ta-ta Captain. We'd ask you to go with us, but I think you'll find your ship will need some emergency repairs before being jumpworthy. Give my regards to the Empress!" The shot struck true, right on top of the hole where the engine had impacted. The destroyer bent as a key piece of the superstructure gave way.

     The Beauteous Revenge spun again and this time began furiously decelerating. With precision only available to computer pilots she came a precise stop at the jump point, just for a moment at rest relative to the theoretical line between two distant stars. An eerie iridescent glow limned the hull and then the ship shrank into an infinitely small and bright point which winked into nonexistence.

(That brings our first episode to a close. I'll post more soon about my future web serialization plans!)