Chapter 10 - Fallen Angels

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A tiny probe dislodged from the side of the Jules Verne, oriented itself with several subtle bursts from its tiny thrusters, then shot off like a bullet. Its destination was a stable orbit on the far side of the moon, where it's sensors would allow it to fill in the Jules Verne's blind spot.

Eve watched the direct feed from the probe on the central pane of the main viewing window. She barely dared to blink. The bridge was filled with a weighty silence as every pair of eyes was glued to the viewing window.

If the imperial ship had followed them, it would likely have jumped into the system somewhere within their blind-spot. That was the entire reason they had positioned the ship as they had, to take similar advantage of the sensor shadow cast by the moon. Metaphorically poking their heads above water with this probe was a risk, but it was the only way to know if they had been pursued.

"The probe will be in position in a few minutes," announced Goliath, breaking the silence "We're already getting readings from the far edges of our blind-spot."

"If it senses anything, on any spectrum, I want it on that screen!" insisted the Mayor-Captain, pointing at the viewing window as though there were any doubt as to what he meant.

"It's the Imperial Carrier. They've followed us," said Goliath.

"Get that probe out of there!" yelled the Mayor-Captain "Bring it back around."

Goliath quickly keyed a few commands into his console, and the probe began more tiny course adjustments, all the while still casually scanning the ship while it was still in range.

"They're powering up their Seraphim launch systems!" Goliath announced.

On the viewing window a red overlay appeared over the relevant section of the enemy ship.

"They've spotted us!" yelled Ophir.

"Launch Seraphim," said the Mayor-Captain "We'll have to intercept them before they get to the ship. Eve-" he began, turning to face her.

"You don't need to ask," said Eve "If they destroy this ship I'm as dead as you are."

The Mayor-Captain had wanted to say something back, something reassuring and thankful, but before he could formulate a reply Eve was already running down the corridor towards the Seraphim Bay.

* * *

Eve came rushing into the Seraphim Bay just as Chloe was being loaded into her Seraphim. It still bore the wounds of their previous battle.

Eve hadn't forgotten about Chloe since coming aboard the Jules Verne, but the woman hadn't been present in her mind until now.

The cockpit to Chloe's Seraphim sealed shut with a hiss and began to move along the rails, ready to be launched.

Eve decided that she didn't have time to deal with any of this at the moment. It was a life or death situation. As much as it pained her to even form the thought, she would fight alongside Chloe.

The cockpit of her own Seraphim opened to greet her and she stepped up inside. Before long it had sealed shut and she was being moved along the same rail. An electromagnetic wave fired both Seraphim along their respective rails like a mass driver and ejected them out either side of the ship already at speed.

Eve couldn't believe it. A red blinking light indicated that Chloe was attempting to open communications with her. She ignored it for a moment, but couldn't help herself. She clicked open the communications channel.

"You need to understand what you're about to do," said Chloe, in a tiny window "These pilots are Imperial citizens. They have loved ones. Are you sure you are prepared to kill them? If your aren't absolutely certain of your conviction do not come. You would be a liability."

"I see what you're trying to do; don't you dare compare yourself to me," snarled Eve "I'm willing to fight to defend myself, that's different from killing an unarmed civilian, which is what you did."

"You were an unarmed civilian as well, and yet you eventually defeated me," replied Chloe "I think my original assessment of the threat was accurate."

Eve clicked off the channel more forcefully than necessary.

Eve and Chloe's Seraphim continued along the same orbital path as the probe. With long range scanners essentially scrambled in this system they first became aware of the enemy when it was detected visually.

The two humanoid figures had the white-and-gold coloring of the Emperor's own Seraphim, the Praetorian Knights. A wingspan of 8 delicate thruster wings gave them preternatural speed and grace. Their golden helmets were carved to give them the faces of saints, the beautiful visages spoiled only the by three spider-like sensor eyes.

Each Seraphim carried a fiery orange force sword in one hand, and a long, glowing, triangular shield in the other. Decorative eagles, or else the impression of eagle feathers, covered every part of these elegant machines.

These were the same Seraphim Eve used to imagine herself piloting. She had never imagined fighting one.

Chloe took off towards the Praetorian Knights with a sudden burst of speed as soon as she caught a glimpse of them. Eve increased her own speed to try and keep up.

Rather than immediately engage, the enemy Seraphim each fired a volley of autonomous missiles.

Chloe goaded the first volley by pretending to change course before slamming her shield into them, destroying them harmlessly before they could detonate. Eve, less experienced with these things, arced out of formation fleeing the second volley.

Chloe continued to charge one of the Praetorians, who was forced to shoot backwards to avoid several wide swipes from Chloe's force sword. Both went flying past the other knight, who spun around to face Chloe's back.

Meanwhile Eve desperately coaxed her Seraphim into spinning around 360 degrees, allowing it to only-just-barely cut down the volley of missiles with her force sword before they came into range. She reversed course and prepared to re-engage.

The Seraphim Chloe was pursuing suddenly stopped, and parried her next attack with its shield. This left her vulnerable to an attack from the second Seraphim, which came flying up behind her and slid its force sword into the back of her Seraphim. Chloe pulled away but not before the attack cut a gash straight through to the pressurized section of her Seraphim. She was visibly leaking air.

The Seraphim withdrew its sword with enough time to parry a new attack from Eve, who had come dropping down from above with her sword blazing. Chloe was forced on the defensive, having to parry a series of rapid attacks from her original opponent with her sword. There were bursts of illumination each time the swords clashed.

The Praetorian Knights maneuvered around so that they were fighting back-to-back, and Chloe and Eve disengaged in opposite directions.

Without missing a beat the knights launched their shields off like missiles, one at each of their opponents.

Eve and Chloe were forced to focus on trying to evade the shields. They were glowing with force edges capable of cutting through any Seraphim and moved as though they were self-guided.

Eve began dodging at odd angles, trying to confound whatever guidance systems the shields had. While she did so Chloe arced around and flew straight past her, successfully causing the shield chasing her to switch targets to Eve.

Eve was forced to fly further and further from the battle in order to continue dodging both intelligence, self-flying shields, cursing Chloe out loud the entire time.

Chloe feinted towards one of the Praetorians before aiming a wild sword swipe toward the other. It easily parried with it's shield.

Eve could see the red blinking light again. She ignored it this time, focusing on avoiding the two shields.

The second Seraphim maneuvered behind Chloe while the first one kept her attention with a series of quick attacks. While Chloe was busy parrying these the second Seraphim jammed it's sword into her back, straight through to the cockpit.

Chloe had already deactivated the containment field of her Seraphim's antimatter reactor. The explosion from the resulting matter/antimatter reaction engulfed all three Seraphim. 

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