Chapter 34 - Named

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The moment Archangel passed into the field, Haden activated the gravity drive.  Dex stood back and exchanged glances with his invisible friend.

"This better work."  He growled.

Shift gave him a long-suffering look.  "When have I ever been wrong?" he asked, innocently.

"Let's see, there was that green-haired woman from Pandora."

"I wasn't wrong that she liked you."

"You were wrong that she was a she."

"A minor detail."

"It was quite a large detail."  Dex didn't turn his head but flicked his eyes over to his friend.  "And that mission to Ventian 44?"

"Even I couldn't have possibly known that it was going to explode."

"I was holding the detonator, Shift."

"I analyze random information that everyone passes over.  But I have no idea what the hell you're up to half the time, Dex."

"You are me."

"You're unpredictable and volatile." Shift announced.

"But I'm never boring."  Dex's smile curled one side of his lips and he threw a wink at his imaginary friend.

Haden glanced over.  "That is the truth."

"Here she comes!"  Dawn shouted.  Whatever levity was generated by Dex evaporated.  Terris turned and looked over his gunner's shoulder.  Archangel's hull glowed bluish-white, leaning more to the latter as intensity increased.  Individual light strands were web-worked across the expanse of her curved, graceful wings and gave the impression of linear metallic feathers.  Haden had confessed that the ship was built as much for combat as she was to inspire those who followed her.  And, Terris thought dryly, sheer terror for those that were unlucky enough to earn a position in her weapon's sights.

Despite her ethereal appearance, long scorch marks decorated her fuselage and wings.  Hardly an inch of her hull was unscathed.  Terris had hammered into her with everything, including the twin starfires that could have annihilated a space station on their own.  Dawnhammer had suffered several direct and indirect hits, but was still flying true.  For the moment.  He looked around, wondering what Dex and Haden were up to.

There was a pattern to celestial movement.  Even in an asteroid field, rocks obeyed the laws of physics.  In the distance, Terris saw them begin to stray from their natural inclination.

"All targets have been acquired."  Haden announced.  For a moment, it seemed as if Archangel were going to delicately traverse the field in order to get to them, but a moment's hesitation passed and she simply plowed into the asteroids between them.  They began sailing off in different directions.

"That complicates things."  Dex whispered.  "I realize that, thank you for your vote of enthusiasm."  Then after a moment, "Neither of us have seen a giraffe, how in the hell do you know what kind of hat it would wear?"

As one, the Guardians aboard slowly turned to look at the old warrior.  He was moving his hands through the miniature arcmap so quickly that Terris only saw a blur in the dim light.  This went on for several seconds before he looked up sharply at Haden.

"Execute it."

A low roar instantly infused the command deck.  Terris felt the deep vibrations shake bone and his teeth began to rattle against each other.  

Asteroids from all directions changed trajectory and started to move directly for the their ship, some slow, some impossibly fast.  Archangel slowed her approach, but did not stop.

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