Grace held onto Hyper, wincing as the kitten’s claws nervously dug into her arm. “We’re losing altitude awfully fast,” she called.
“I am attempting to adjust,” Yuri stated. “I believe that I can bring us in for a survivable landing but it is highly unlikely that it will be soft. Please, continue to protect Baron Wolfgang Andres von Erstein and Hyper.”
They continued their descent. Gradually, Yuri managed to slow them from a plummet into a more controlled crash. They still came down hard, their shuttle tossing dirt around as it skid across the surface.
Paul was out of it for a moment when he felt two tiny paws press against his chest. He gingerly opened his eyes to look into the face of Wolfgang. The little dog was looking worriedly at his face and started enthusiastically licking him while pawing at his goatee.
“Wolfie, calm down,” Paul muttered. “I’m fine.” He talked softly to the dog, eventually managing to calm him. He unstrapped himself and looked around. The shuttle window was mostly covered by sand, making it impossible to get a good view outside.
Hyper was on the floor, licking his paws and looking over at Grace. Grace’s arm was bleeding from superficial cuts. She was examining Yuri. As for the android, she was completely still. Her head casing was damaged, circuits exposed.
“How is she?” Paul asked.
Grace shook her head. “Tough to say. I don’t have most of my equipment here. I can’t do a full diagnostic nor can I reboot her systems to bring her on line. The damage may be easily repaired or it may be bad enough to permanently damage her systems. Given that we all survived the crash, I’d say it’s probably more minor.”
Paul moved over to check the flight data. “There’s more bad news, I’m afraid. We seem to have landed on Arkasis and, unless things have changed for the better fairly recently, that means we have little time before scavengers come to tear the shuttle apart.”
“Then we should get out of here,” Grace said. “I’ll send up a beacon so that they can find us, assuming they live through this. You can help me carry Yuri out of here when that’s done.”
“First I’ll clean and bandage those scratches,”Paul said. “Just as a precaution.”
“Can’t we do something to help?” Farah asked.
“We can stay back and not get in the way,” Kat answered.
“I don’t like waiting,” Leon muttered. “More importantly, where the fuck is that shuttle?”
“Did they decide to hide somewhere else?” Allison asked. “It wouldn’t be like Yuri to ignore orders, but I could see Paul and Grace wanting to stay somewhere closer so that they could hurry onto the scene.”
“Don’t go blaming my Paul for this,” Leon snapped. “We should look for them!”
“No,” Kat ordered. “I understand how you three must feel, but if we move in close enough to search, we’ll also be in the line of fire and we can’t afford to distract Ophelia and Lucy right now. We’ll wait until the Cerberus makes her play, then we’ll move in and search for them.”
Ophelia moved the Cerberus around, making her movements as erratic as possible. Lucy fired their weapons,not bothering to look at where they were hitting or aim. She kept her focus on the readings of the enemy ship.
The juggernaut unleashed a barrage of missiles and lower-powered lasers. Ophelia mostly avoided them, taking some damage to the shields.
“You don’t suppose they can’t use the plasma burst again, do you?” Ophelia asked.
“They can,” Lucy said, certainty in her voice. “They just want to save the power. They’ll try to finish us with small arms until we make enough of a nuisance of ourselves.”
“My sister always said that I was good at that,” Ophelia joked. “I’ll just avoid taking damage until they decide we aren’t worth the time. Shouldn’t take long.”
“Agreed,” Lucy stated. “They’ll want to get past us and continue their pursuit before the trail gets cold.”
The Cerberus continued darting and weaving past the enemy ship’s fire, occasionally getting shaken by a near-miss or having their shields buckle from a hit. They had the advantage in manoeuvrability, but the enemy was larger, stronger and had a massive storehouse of weapons.
Fortunately, their opponent didn’t have the luxury of wearing them down slowly. “They’re charging,” Lucy cried.
Ophelia went in. Directly for the plasma weapon. Lucy waited until they were close and unleashed the full fury of the Cerberus’ arsenal just before they rammed the larger ship.
From a distance, Kat, Farah, Leon and Allison saw a breathtaking explosion.
“Are… are they?” Farah choked, unable to get the words out.
“I don’t know, but we’re finding out,” Kat said. “Move in!”