Author : Bob Newbell

The sound of the ship’s klaxons faded over a span of a minute.

“Air pressure is at zero, Captain,” Ramirez heard a female voice say in south Vietnamese accented English from the speakers of his space helmet. “We’re in hard vacuum throughout the vessel.”

Typical Consortium tactic, thought Ramirez. Having the crew don spacesuits before the engagement was the right decision. Ramirez looked at the twelve men and women whose faces showed fear and despair emerging from a thinning facade of courage and determination.

“They’ll be boarding the Juneau any minute,” said Ramirez. He was surprised at how even his voice sounded given the fear he felt. “McKinney, rig the reactor to blow. Be sure to take out both the primary and secondary coolant systems. Novikova, weld as many of the hard point contacts around the reactor as you can so the Consortium won’t be able to jettison the reactor before it detonates. Hurry!”

The two ran down the corridor.

“Captain, in case your bluff to destroy the ship doesn’t work, I suggest we take up defensive positions in the–”

“I’m not bluffing, Nguyen. We are destroying the ship. That’s why we’re leaving. Now.”

The captain led the crew to the nearest airlock and began cycling the chamber.

“Go to camo mode as you emerge. And follow me,” said the captain.

The spacesuited figures became all but invisible as they floated out the airlock. The surfaces of their spacesuits were covered with countless microscopic cameras and projectors. Any given surface displayed an image of what the microcameras on the opposite side of the suit was seeing. After three minutes, they reached the Consortium ship’s port stardrive impeller.

“Iqbal, can you hack into this ship’s sensor net?”

“From the outside, Captain? I don’t think so. If we could get inside and I could establish a direct connection to their intranet, then maybe.”

“What if you could plug into their communication array?”

Iqbal consider the idea. “Their com-array to their quantum entanglement switch to their main metaprocessor and then access the sensor net. Roundabout way to do it, but it would work. But without that direct connection…”

Iqbal fell silent as he saw Ramirez pointing at a thin rod that jutted out from the impeller’s housing. A secondary hyperwave antenna. Iqbal smiled.

“Engine’s sabotaged, Captain,” said a voice in Ramirez’ helmet. “She’ll go in about ten minutes.”

“Abandon ship. Go camo and meet us at the enemy vessel’s port impeller.” Ramirez turned back to Iqbal. “Go!”

Seven minutes later, a dozen men and women watched Iqbal furiously tapping at the control panel on the left forearm of his spacesuit from which a data-cable extended to the base of the hyperwave antenna.

With a tired voice, Iqbal said, “It’s done. They think their port impeller is about to go singularity. They’re abandoning ship.” Thirty seconds later: “Internal sensors show no one’s on board. They’re all either on our ship or en route there.”

“Iqbal, quickly!” said Ramirez looking back at his doomed vessel. “We’ve only got a few seconds until–”

Before the captain could finish his sentence the Juneau appeared to recede into the distance until it could no longer be seen. A few seconds later a new star seemed to flare momentarily in the heavens.

“I switched on the impeller drive for 50 nanoseconds,” said Iqbal. “We were close enough to the ship to be inside the field’s inertial reference frame.”

“Muy simpatico, Iqbal,” said Ramirez with a smile. “How about opening an airlock?”

“One minute, please, Captain”. Nguyen was burning “Juneau II” into the hull with her sidearm.

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