Part 4: Shiva - Chapter 12

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The universe was about to change forever.

Alone on the bridge of the Shepherd Moon, Rix gazed at the asteroid on the screen, not at the Earth below. All his life he'd waited for this moment—he'd been born to it, almost; the final revenge against the Sapes. He felt his stomach churn with hatred. The people on Earth would have noticed the huge rock plunging towards them by now. But there would be nothing they could do. The asteroid was only minutes away from hitting the planet dead centre. It was hurtling down against the direction of the planet's orbit, so Earth's velocity would combine with Shiva's to make the force of the impact even greater. A head-on collision of two mighty worlds.

The final numbers from Zeus appeared on a screen. Rix fed them into the ship's AI.

The final course correction, the last burn of the engines on the surface, and it was done. The trembling in his hands ceased, his stomach suddenly settled. There was nothing more to do, and nothing in the world that would stop the deaths of billions.

Rix's smile broadened as he started programming the AI for self-destruction. It wouldn't be needed once Shiva had entered its final course. Even if those prisoners had managed to avoid being thrown into space then there would be no way they could control the engines on the asteroid that were now pushing it to its final collision speed.

Thirty kilometres per second.

Fast enough to kill every stinking Sape soul on the planet.

***

Maddy wished Marshall would stop breathing down her neck. The man was hardly allowing her space to think, and she needed to think a lot. The lock on the door was sealed with a complex code, more complex than she'd anticipated, and unless he moved back a little her fingers couldn't obey the commands her brain was trying to give them.

Then she managed to make something work, and the door opened. Marshall charged forwards, leading the way out of the room. Maddy followed him, a little more carefully. By the time she looked again into the short corridor leading to the lounge and the bridge, Marshall was engaged with fighting a male Helot who had been lurking in the engineering bay. He was putting up a determined fight. Marshall had a wounded left arm, but that didn't seem to affect his enormous strength. The two bounced off the walls, a desperate mass of muscle and ferocity barring Maddy's further progress towards the rest of the ship.

A noise made Maddy turn, raising her gun. A female Helot was there, staring at the group, mouth open. Maddy was the closest to her. Her open mouth began to make a sound that might shortly turn into a scream. Maddy lunged towards her and the woman turned and ran.

Marshall had concluded his fight with the Helot, thrusting him against the wall of the corridor and firing his weapon point bank at his head. Maddy pushed past and looked out into the lounge.

'No one here!'

Marshall walked into the deserted lounge, where the holovision was blaring a news report about the arrival of an asteroid near Earth and how it represented a new form of mining technology.

'What do we do now?'

'Stop the asteroid!'

She stared at the door that must lead to the bridge. It would be locked, of course, encrypted, more complicated than the door to the engineering bay. I need a fone, she thought. And a miracle.

'Do your best,' said Marshall, and actually smiled and clutched her shoulder for a moment.

The man was right, of course. The Earth was at stake, although what she was supposed to do if she opened the door was beyond her. She moved across the room to examine the lock. Marshall remained in the lounge on guard.

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