"Everyone ready?" Captain Wojtek asked the crew. Neural jack cables trailed from the base of his skull into the pilot's chair. Through the viewscreen, the Nagan jungles were lit by the rising sun.
"Ready," Anwar replied.
"Yep." Zahra held her hands ready over her console.
"Yes," Razz grumbled from his pilotting throne.
"Ready." Lujain stood at her station.
Wojtek's two clients were at a deactivated station near the read of the command deck: Cassia, the captain of the former Astrid, sat in front of the blank console; Nigel, her co-pilot, stood behind her the chair. Chaicauhtli, Wojtek's reptilian guest from Naga, stood close to the front view screen overlooking the jungles of his home planet for perhaps the last time.
"I could help, you know?" Cassia rested her arms on the unresponsive console. "Nigel's not a bad pilot either." She nodded in Nigel's direction.
"You wanna help fly my ship?" Wojtek laughed.
"Nigel's got a few years under his belt, and I've got more than a decade."
"That doesn't cut it." Wojtek glanced over to Anwar. "Tell 'em what it takes to fly this thing."
"He put me through a hundred and twenty hours on the sims before he even let me touch a live sub-system," Anwar said to Cassia
Cassia looked back to Wojtek. "Just give me control of deflector management or something."
"Razz mains deflectors." Wojtek said. "Don't get me wrong, I'm sure you know your shit, but we've got this." Wojtek smiled. "We'll manage without you."
"Energy readouts?" Cassia asked. "Sensor data? Anything?"
"Why?" Wojtek peered at Cassia.
"I've been hunting for years. I can help."
"You think you're gonna see something we don't?" Wojtek laughed. "We got three cyborgs on deck. And Razz." He turned to the huge, rocky alien. "How many years you been pilotting now?"
Razz scowled. "Nearly a century."
"If you want to help," Wojtek turned back to Cassia, "just keep quiet while you're on deck. No offense. Knowing how to fly is one thing, but working effectively as a team is another. It takes coordination, and we all know how to work together. We don't need anyone else in the mix.Trust me on this."
Cassia looked away and shook her head. "Fine."
"So Zoojin -" Wojtek turned from Cassia to the blue alien guest at his side "- you mind if I call you 'Jinn?"
"If you prefer," Zoojin replied.
"Alright, 'Jinn -" Wojtek looked to Zoojin's dark purple eyes "- you sure there's nothing else we need to know? About your -" he searched for a word.
"Psychomorphic metamaterial," Zoojin completed Wojtek's sentence.
"There is nothing else you need to know," Zoojin answered. "I will shield us from detection as we leave the planet. We will evade the blockade. Your ship will be completely invisible, but it should function as normal."
"Should?" Wojtek raised an eyebrow
"I am unfamiliar with your technology, but I don't foresee any problems."
"Very reassuring," Zahra interjected.
"I hope you're right." Wojtek looked ahead. "'Cause if they see us up there, we're done for." The Muramasa darted into the sky. The jungle shrank below, becoming a sea of undifferentiated green, then disappearing under thick clouds as their ship rose higher towards the upper atmosphere.
"How do you control that thing, anyway?" Wojtek kept his eyes forward as the blue sky faded into the thick blackness of space, and the stars became visible around them. "The 'metamaterial'."
"In much the same way you control your vessel." Zoojin motioned to the tangle of cables connecting Wojtek to the captain's chair. "Though without the metal ropes."
"How does that work?"
"All things are connected," Zoojin replied. "It is a matter of focus."
Warning alarms beeped on the deck. The consoles displayed the Mangeroma fleet. The many ships orbitted at rapidly, with overlapping sensor ranges, forming an encompassing blockade around Naga. The Muramasa penetrated into the defensive line around the Nagan homeworld, and their scanners lit up with the bright red indicators of enemy ships.
"We're within combat range of those scouts." Zahra's eyes locked on her console. The Muramasa drifted steadily upward, passing among the enemy vessels ships in orbit around the planet.
"Keep your eyes open." Wojtek hit the orbital thrusters. The Muramasa steadily accelerated, well away from the safety of the Nagan atmosphere.