Part Four - 40 - Jessie

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    "Ito Min-Hee's journal, entry eight hundred and ninety-one: Why do we stay? Half the universe is after us. The Capricieuse is the most wanted vessel in all three nations' territories. And yet, we still fly, we stick together. A smart crew would just disband and hide on different planets. But for us, the idea never even came up. I could see it in their eyes, that it never even crossed their minds. I thought about it, but not because I contemplated the idea, but because it's what I've been trained to do, to think about all the outcomes. I guess we just aren't a smart crew. But what we lack in common sense we make up in tenacity and ferocity."

    Jessie heard Allan curse beside her. She gasped when she saw why: the armada waiting for them on the other side of the gate. Rudra was already screaming orders as the first missiles were heading toward them. Her instincts kicked in and she put them out of the way with a small light-speed burst. Any other pilot might not have dared it - not with so many ships around, you could easily hit one and reduce both ships to dust - but Jessie took a calculated risk and it paid off. They were now out of the missiles' trajectories and also took their enemies by surprise. They surely expected the Lightning Sprite's vessel to fly right back to the gate as fast as possible or try to find an opening to escape at lightspeed, but instead found themselves playing a cat-and-mouse game.

"My scans reveal ships from all three nations!" screamed one of the rebels on her left.

"Why aren't they fighting?" asked Rudra. "Since when are they able to fly in the same system without shooting at each other?"

Allan chuckled beside Jessie, "Since they have a common enemy. I have no doubt that they will fall on the weakest when they've dealt with us. But for now, their entire attention is fixed on us."

The Voyager took the first hits as the three nations changed their aim, but the shield held on. It was a decent shield, much better than the one on the Capricieuse had been. Now it was Jessie's turn to shine. Time to show the skills that made her the best racer of Archana at the age of thirteen. She flew between the enemy ships, taunting them and avoiding most of their attacks. But now the chase was on, and all the players were joining the race. Only the biggest battlecruisers stayed at a distance, spitting out fighters.

Jessie's nails were digging in the steering wheel as she plunged between two europan corvettes, bringing upon them the expanser destroyer that had been close on her tail. The collision didn't make a noise, any sound devoured by the void of space, but the rebels' cheers told her enough. She didn't have time to savor her action before an ushu frigate tried to harpoon the Voyager. Thankfully the shield was still active and repelled it. Allan on her side was sending off missiles with glee, forcing some of the ships to play defensive.

"Three fighters incoming from under!" said one of the rebels.

Jessie reversed the propulsors and suddenly changed direction, squeezing the Voyager between a battleship and a destroyer, from the Expansion Union by the look of them. Their cannons were all aimed at them now, and Jessie dared another small lightspeed burst just as the first attacks were about to reach them. Rudra screamed a series of insults on her right, saying that she would kill them all until Allan told him to 'shut the fuck up and let my Jessie do her job'. This time her calculation hadn't been perfect and their shield grazed the battleship's shield, making it lose four percent of its power. It had been a gamble, and four percent was a very low price to pay.

But some fighters had been waiting just in the shadow of the destroyer and found themselves with their prey literally falling into their claws. A few hits took another ten percent off the Voyager's shield.

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