Chapter 21 - Defiance

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Valeri's vision was blurred in one eye, the remnant of concussion.  Marcus had apologized profusely for rousing her and Dawn, but underscored the importance of what they had to do. The other man in the infirmary, Tyronden, expressed his desire to participate, but slow movement and slurred speech ruled the man out. When Marcus mentioned Andrew's name, she put her headache, shaking knees, and unstable stomach to the back of her mind.

Dawn had listened quietly to the plan, showing no trace of emotion.

The three were tethered by a security strap attached to torso harnesses in Dawnhammer's cargo bay.  The Captain was surprised to see a smaller ship slotted into a wall with the empty relief of another below it.  Beyond that, the bay was free of obstruction.

She checked her pressure seals.  She checked the massive net that spanned the entirety of the cavernous bay.  She checked on Marcus who's eyes were closed behind his rebreather mask, and on Dawn, who stared vacantly at the bay door in the floor.

Haden, whom she had previously known as Mr. Hammer had shed his gray uniform jacket and was clinging to the center of the net, his body rigid and suspended over the floor.  His muscles stood out in sharp relief, strained by his defiance of gravity, but his face showed no evidence of it.

A bell chimed softly, sounding as if it were coming from everywhere at once.  Terris' voice followed.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for choosing Guardian Express.  Please note the fasten seat belt sign has been lit."

Valeri smiled despite the circumstance. She heard a click and the soft hiss that indicated a hydrogen barrier had been charged.  The bay doors slowly slid sideways under the decking. 

"Alright, people, they'll be coming in fast and hard.  As soon as they hit that net, they need to be moving.  Everyone understands the stakes.  If they get hit by the next team, there isn't going to be much left of them to save.  First team in one minute."

Valeri listened, but her focus was on the stars below the open bay door. They shifted from left to right, up and down, indicating their ship was executing tight, quick maneuvers, but she didn't feel any g-forces.  Her stomach roiled as vertigo struck.

The movement stabilized and she found herself staring at a blast hole in a massive foreign vessel.  Four men were line-abreast at the threshold, brilliant white light outlining their figures.  Even from the half mile distance, the giant of a man that was Andrew John stood out.

Another hiss and a pop reached her ears and all sound outside of her suit vanished.  The red haze of the hydrogen barrier winked out of existence on both Dawnhammer and the carrier.

When the countdown hit zero, Dawnhammer was already in position.  Red lights blinked outside of the docking bay doors.  Wouldn't do any of them much good, as there was no way to change their course.

He grunted as the first seal dropped, forcing the three foot box he was standing in to decompress into space.  Had he not been prepared, he would have been knocked unconscious by the instant acceleration.  Even though he had been, he still felt like he had been kicked by a horse.  He glanced side to the side to checked his jump mates.  Silas was grinning like an idiot, his body slowly somersaulting toward Dawnhammer.  He was about to return the smile when twin spikes of violet light lanced out of the empty space before him.  Dawnhammer hung motionless against the blanket of stars, her mass unable to escape the shot.

Andrew watched as a pit of despair opened in his stomach.  The rounds went through the open hatchway, net and eventually the upper hull of the ship, blowing a hole clean through that a normal sized scout could sail through.  They were close enough to see the body the man designated to clear the net get obliterated by the blast. 

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