Chapter 21

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Braxton gripped the stick and stared at his instruments. This was always the hardest part. He was in combat, but the battle hadn't started yet. Distances were huge in space, and most of the time was spent getting into the enemy's weapons range. The fighter was armed and equipped. The crew of the Boston had likely been prepping it for launch, but had died before they could finish.

This coming fight was for them, the brave men and women of the Boston, as much as it was for anyone else. They'd lost their lives in this pointless and unprovoked attack. Braxton would avenge them. He'd avenge them all.

Even if it killed him.

#

Medics rushed the metal hospital gurney through the corridor and into the sickbay ahead of Les. He caught a glimpse of Haylee's prone form but it wasn't pretty. Les had never seen so much red. The medics were frantic, so the woman must still be alive. There would be no reason to rush if it was all over.

A nurse shoved an IV needle into Haylee's arm. Rashona Clarke stepped out of the prep room, pulling a disposable gown over her scrubs. She glanced at the floor for a moment, the large gold cross hanging from her neck glinting in the light. Then she raised her head, all businesslike, and started barking orders at her team.

A man burst through the doors behind Les.

"Haylee," he yelled.

Les stepped forward and took his arm. "You need to stay back. We have to let the doctor work."

"Ron?" Haylee said, her voice low and weak.

The man's mask cracked. Tears formed in his eyes.

A communication icon flashed in the corner of Les's view. It was Sarah McLaughlan. He let go of Ron's arm and swiped the notification. "Miller."

"Captain," Sarah said, her words rapid. "Is Haylee conscious?"

Les glanced over his shoulder. "Barely."

"I need her help getting this reactor installed."

"She's in a fight for her life right now Sarah. You'll have to make do without her."

"You don't understand, Captain. I can't do this without her. Not if you want a chance in hell that we'll be ready to defend ourselves when the aliens get here."

"Let ... me ... help," Haylee gasped.

"No you don't," Doctor Clarke said. "You're going in to surgery. I intend to save your life."

"If we don't get the cannon working ... it ... won't ... matter. We'll all be dead."

"No," Ron Said. "You have to operate now."

"Please Captain," Haylee gasped.

Les took a huge breath and turned to Rashona. "Can you do this while she's awake?"

Rashona's eyes widened as if to say are you kidding? "Unlikely. We can use local, but with all that's going on she could pass out any time."

Les tapped a few more controls on his wristband. He then faced the surgical bay. "You're patched in, Haylee. Make it quick. You've done a good job saving us, but now the doc needs to save you."

#

The alien ship was dropping out of warp.

"You bloody beauty!" Braxton yelled.

His hope that the aliens would give in to curiosity were being realised. He wasted no time in aiming his torpedoes and jammed the fire control.

The torpedoes burst forth from under his wings and sailed towards their target.

"Fish in the water," he announced to nobody in particular.

The alien vessel was boxy. There was no elegance to its design at all. A great metallic brick. It was massive compared to the Boston, but paled next to Jewel of the Stars. It was heavily armoured. There was little chance Braxton would be able to destroy the thing single-handed, but that wasn't his aim. The task at hand was to distract them. Every second he kept them occupied was another second Sarah and Haylee had to get the cannon working.

Bright green bolts of light burst from the alien ship engulfing both his torpedoes. Braxton yanked the stick, spinning his fighter around, ready to make another pass.

Five sparkling orbs fired out of various parts of the alien ship and all converged in an intercept course with Braxton's fighter. They looked like the plasma balls he'd played with as a kid. Braxton readied his laser. As the orbs came into range, he shot them down one by one. Good thing his shooting skills hadn't left him. Braxton fired his thrusters and powered forward. He'd have to make a loop before he could fire again. And he had to catch them by surprise.

So far it was nil-all. A shot at the engines would slow them down. He turned as if to try another pass by the front, and then banked without warning, heading towards the rear of the ship.

He lined up his sights and fired two more torpedoes. Two green bolts fired but missed their targets. Braxton smiled as his torpedoes neared their targets.

Boom!

A great hemisphere of glowing blue light illuminated the rear of the ship.

His torpedoes exploded against it.

Stars! The mongrels had energy shields. How was he supposed to get through those?

He banked around and fired another pair of torpedoes. A new round of plasma balls headed his way. He shot them all down with his laser. When that was done he glanced down to see his torpedoes had again done no damage.

An energy shield powerful enough to absorb the damage of two torpedoes had to require massive amounts of power. That probably meant that the shield couldn't surround the entire ship at once. That was useful to know. If he'd had a wingman, they could've used that information to their advantage.

An alert blared. Braxton glanced at the instruments. The alien brick was powering up a warp field, though how they did it with no visible warp ring, he had no idea.

"No!" Braxton screamed. They'd realised he was nothing but a pointless distraction. He could do nothing to hurt them, so they were moving on to the prize.

Braxton opened a channel to the Jewel.

"Miller here."

"Sorry, Cap. I held 'em up as long as I could, but they're headed your way again."

"Thirty minutes to intercept," Maya's voice said in the background. "He's bought us about five minutes." Was that all?

"Let's hope it was enough," Miller said.

Braxton's fighter began to shake, then a bright light filled his field of vision. What the hell?

Everything went black.

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