“Yuri, I want you to keep taking readings of that thing,” Ophelia continued. “Patch them though to Grace.” She grabbed her communicator. “Grace, prepare for readings on an unknown ship type. I want any potential weaknesses as soon as you notice them.”
“Understood,” Grace said.
“Umm, Captain,” Farah said. “Shouldn’t we deploy in the fighters? We might be able to get in close and do some damage.”
“Not unless I find a weakness that you four can get to,” Ophelia said. “That thing is way too massive. Too heavily armoured. You four might be small targets in your fighters, but you also don’t have much defence. It’s simply too dangerous. Put me on speaker with the other ships, please.”
It only took Farah a couple seconds to comply. She nodded at Ophelia.
“Attention all ships,” Ophelia said. ” Ophelia of the Cerberus speaking. If we’re going to complete this mission and get back in one piece, we’re going to need to work together. In the interests of cooperation, I’m asking your advice in how to approach.”
A response was forthcoming. “Yolli of the Tiikeri. I recommend an exploratory D12 spread. We go in, quickly pull back and hopefully get some data on its abilities.”
“Any objections?” Ophelia asked. There was silence.
“Then it’s agreed,” Yolli stated. “I’ll be the centre, flank me.”
“We’ll keep the comm link open,” Jivun said. “Better to confer on the go.”
The five ships moved forward, cautiously, swiftly. Closer and closer to the target.
“Captain, I am reading a massive energy build up,” Yuri reported.
“Disperse,” Ophelia shouted. Her hands already frantically working the controls.
The enemy ship fired. The Cerberus narrowly evaded the beam.
“Status?” Ophelia asked.
“The Tiikeri & Zivotinja were both destroyed,” Yuri reported. “The Pantera has taken heavy damage. Correction, enemy vessel has fired a minor laser burst. The Pantera has been destroyed.”
“Damn,” Ophelia gasped. “What did they hit us with?”
“It appears to have been a wide area plasma burst,” Yuri stated. “The technology required to make it functional is not in my data banks.”
“I’m pulling back for now,” Yuri said. “Duplith, are you with me?”
“The Levhart is with you,” Duplith answered. “Not like we have a bloody choice. It’s fight together or die separately at this point.”
“Grace, did you get anything?” Ophelia asked.
“I may have something for you,” Grace answered. “But…”
“Hurry,” Ophelia said.
“They have to drop their shields for a couple of seconds to fire their plasma weapon,” Grace reported. “In theory, if you got a ship close enough to fire directly at the weapon, you could destroy it, possibly even bring the ship down with it. But neither the Cerberus nor the Levhart has enough fire power to pull it off. We could do some damage, but nowhere near enough.”
“The fighters?” Ophelia asked.
“I’m factoring in their power as well,” Grace answered. “Even with the four of them, it’s not gonna be enough. If we could use the tractor beam to crash an asteroid into it or something, that might just work.”
“Too bad we’re not near a field,” Lucy said. “I don’t suppose we have anything else to crash into it?”
“We might at that,” Ophelia said. “I have a very stupid, crazy idea. but it might be our only chance.” She grabbed her communicator. “Grace, I want you to route all the ship’s power to propulsion and to shielding, especially around the engine room and bridge. Then report to the docking bay. Take both the Baron & Hyper with you. Everyone else, to the bridge. Now.”
“Don’t leave us in suspense,” Duplith said. “What are we doing?”
“Take the Levhart and retreat,” Ophelia said. “No need to risk both of us.”
“Fine, but I’m keeping the log of you saying that,” Duplith said. The Levhart turned about and retreated.
Ophelia turned to her crew. “I’m going to crash the Cerberus into that thing’s plasma weapon,” she said. “It’s obscenely dangerous and I don’t like my odds. That’s why I’m going to have all of you evacuate. Kat, Leon, Allison and Farah. You four will take the fighters and get to a safe distance. If this doesn’t work, scarper. Get as far away as you can. Kat will go first and select a rendezvous point for all of you. Paul, you and Grace will take the animals and go in the shuttle piloted by Yuri. Lucy…”
“I’ll unload the weapons to soften them up,” Lucy said.
“I can’t have you…” Ophelia began.
“Stop,” Lucy interrupted, her eyes opening. “Together always. Through times of danger and safety, good and bad. To only be parted in death. That’s what we vowed. that’s why I’ll stay with you.”
“All right,” Ophelia nodded. “All of you, get out of here. Quickly. We’ll only have a small window for you to get away before they close in. It’s been an honour to serve with all of you.”
“Captain,” Kat knelt down and hugged her. “I’ll definitely see you again.”
“Don’t you dare die on us,” Leon said.
“The odds don’t exactly favour you,” Paul sated. “But losing the two of you would be devastating.”
“Just hurry!” Ophelia ordered.
The crew hurried out, making their way to the docking bay. In short order, the ships began trickling out.
The shuttle was the last to leave. By the time it had disembarked, the enemy ship was upon them.
“The Cerberus is moving about to face the enemy,” Yuri reported.
“Just get us out of here,” Grace muttered. “I don’t want to see this.”
“Understood,” Yuri stated. “The enemy is firing its smaller lasers. The Cerberus is taking evasive manoeuvres. We…”
the shuttle rocked.
“What was that?” Grace asked.
“We have taken a stray blast,” Yuri reported. “The shuttle is damaged. There is a planet nearby. I will effect an emergency landing. I suggest that you two strap in and cushion yourselves as much as possible. It will not be a pleasant landing.”
“Hold Wolfgang,” Grace said, handing the pup to Paul. “I’ll take Hyper. do not let him get hurt.”
“I’ll do my best,” Paul promised.
The shuttle began its downward spiral to the planet.