Behind Yellow Eyes: Chapter 21

Story by rhenthar on SoFurry

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Chapter 21.

Gravity and lighting have returned to some semblance of normal, if anything on this crazy ship ever is. The Jefferson has reached a Mass Accelerator, a towering structure that looks similar to a nautilus shell. Scattered all over the galaxy, these relics are millions of years old, and no one completely understands their operation or who originally built them. They take ships and dematerialize them, fling them across the galaxy, to another MA that somehow decelerates or re-materializes the ship being moved.

They're enormous.

Inside, they've been adapted for use by current denizens. Pressurized living areas complete with artificial gravity. Most of the original systems have been interfaced with modern computing cores, though some portions remain outside of control. Maintenance, for instance, is a separate, proprietary system that completely takes care of itself.

As they were discovered millennia ago by Terellians, there were no offensive or defensive capabilities. They take damage and can be ruined just like anything else, so modern shields and weapons were retrofitted right away.

Weapons that are currently pointing at The Jefferson, along with a small squadron of attack cruisers homing in.

"You are hereby ordered to turn about, authorization to use this jump point is not given at this time because of previous electronic warfare committed to JP-29 in the Delta quadrant."

Casey and Ash both look at the ceiling and then at the front display screen, where green feline eyes surrounded with black fur stare at them angrily. "Yick. Felines," Ash says. "Can he hear us?"

"Outbound communication channel is not active," the AI declares.

"Good. Now what the hell is this about?" Ash says, looking at Casey with one ear sideways.

"I dunno, but they're not fucking around," he's staring closely at analysis icons, which look almost like crosshairs, tracking the approaching ships. He elbows Ash. "Doesn't that look a lot like a crosshair to you?"

"Um. Hello?" Ash is trying to talk to the AI, but she's not quite sure how. "What uh... do they mean, previous electronic warfare?"

"Destination of jump was required previously, and gained via electronic compromise," the AI informs them with its simultaneously rich yet grainy voice, it sounds like being on the opposite end of a tin-can telephone.

"You hacked it." Ash rolls her eyes. "And not subtly, either. Apparently ." She chuckles. "Now who does that sound like?" She glances at Casey, but he doesn't make the connection.

"AI?" Casey asks. "Why aren't we cloaked right now?"

"The mass accelerator will not process this craft if space time channeling system is active."

Ash smirks at Casey. "It needs to be able to see us before it'll jump us."

Casey blinks at that for a moment, feeling the ship start to move. He finally realizes what the other icon on the display is.

The ship they're in. It's rotating to face away from the approaching squadron of four ships, holding in a diamond pattern.

"Right... that makes sense. But why does that look like a crosshair?" He points.

"Who cares?" Ash says. "We're leaving. See?" Tiny icons spit out of The Jefferson, a dozen microsats capable of giving better views and tactical analysis.

"No." Casey looks at the icons closely. "I don't think we're leaving... AI? Are you plann-"He was pointing at the little tactical icons, when his heads struck the headrest.

The Jefferson brings its engine up to 130% capacity in fusion mode, banking the outlet nozzle to a hard 30-degree angle. White plasma streaks out from the back at a near-relativistic speed. However, most of the energy resulting from fusing heavy hydrogen is invisible X-Rays, travelling at the speed of light. With the right kind of modulation of the magnetic containment field the engine uses to control output, this energy becomes coherent. The beam lases, and carves right through two of the ships in the squadron, the shields of the third and fourth gain a mirror-like surface at the last moment, protecting their hulls just in time.

They both return fire, several banks of heavy gamma emitters turn active and track The Jefferson, dumping gigawatts of current directly into her flight path. The beams are represented as fiery lines of purple.

"Shit, shit, shit!" Casey reaches over and grabs Ash in fear as the AI rapidly shifts its path into a random zigzag pattern. This cuts down efficiency, it has to flare the containment nozzle, expanding the magnetic field for hundreds of meters behind in the shape of a mushroom. The gamma rays bend under the intense force, but the capacity of the engine becomes severely limited in performance.

They start catching up.

The Jefferson arcs around and takes the most logical course: straight towards the Mass Accelerator. The ships following her won't likely fire for fear of missing and hitting the structure.

"AI, why not just warp us out of here? Those ships are pissed off, this isn't a game!" Casey can't believe this is happening.

"I have already established direct control over the mass accelerator's non-native systems, which include both offensive and defensive systems and guidance. I possess the destination of the ship Master Repairer currently resides." It is too distant for my warp drive to reach in any feasible amount of time.

Six small icons break free from the two ships following them, racing forward with 60G of acceleration. Missiles. The AI ramps the engine onboard The Jefferson back to maximum output and lases five of them before they're even a hundred meters away from their launch ports. Brilliant explosions rip up both ships; the pressure waves buckle their propulsion systems from the sudden changes in velocity.

The sixth missile streaks forward, travelling at over two hundred kilometers per-second.

"Um, you going to-"A concussion wave rattles through The Jefferson's hull, cutting Ash's words short. The engine changes in pitch, a deep vibration threatens to break her teeth, the engine sputters and falls silent. Red damage icons rez onto the viewscreens, showing The Jefferson in a cutaway view, they're clustered around the engine room.

"Damage. Warning. Damage." The AI repeats itself. "Repairing. Estimated time for repair," it pauses. "Thirty-seven minutes."

The Jefferson doesn't have much for delta-v. It killed off most of its forward velocity twisting and turning like a goldfish trying to avoid a piranha. Now it slowly drifts past the looming structure of the mass accelerator, just outside of its pickup zone, the area a ship needs to be for it to initiate a transfer. So close, yet so far. It isn't even travelling fast enough to fall into a warp window.

The two ships following The Jefferson, however, are travelling at maximum velocity. They're headed right for the accelerator at 30 kilometers per-second. They mass two hundred tons each. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, since its deflection shield can sustain ten times that with minimal absorption.

The AI already shut down its shields though, as part of its offensive capabilities. It can't get them back up in time. The two ships slam into the structure like kinetic bombs. Casey and Ash both watch this in awe, via video feeds from microsats orbiting the structure. Hellish red fire erupts from the hole the two ships made; lightning rides on the highly ionized gasses escaping.

Instead of fading, the electrical discharge slowly intensifies, gaining a yellow hue. Something inside is burning, hotter and brighter by the moment.

Casey unlocks the shoulder straps holding him into his seat and stands up quickly. "That's a core breach... I read about this once. AI, do you see any neutrino emissions coming from the accelerator, from the hole those ships made in it?"

Ash's eyes are wide, she unlocks her harness too, but for why, she's not yet certain.

"Analyzing," from above. "Confirmed, rising rate neutrino count 1x10 to the 6th."

"What's that mean?" asks Ash. "In dumb people terms, Casey!"

"It means we need to get the fuck out of here, like right now. That thing is about to explode."

"We've got shields, right?" She looks up at the ceiling. "How big of a boom is it going to make?"

Casey draws his paws apart suddenly, for emphasis. "Pretty much the same size as a small nova."

"You mean... like a star?" yells Ash.

"That's pretty much what powers it, yup. AI! Is our damage accessible in or outside the ship?"

"Both," comes the response. "Nanoreconstruction, twenty-five minutes to completion."

"Yeah. That isn't going to cut it. Follow me!"

Together they run from the bridge, towards the engine room.

Behind Yellow Eyes: Chapter 22

Chapter 22. Casey is peering in through a thick window set into the door leading to the engine room section of _The Jefferson_. The door is locked, probably because there's no air in there. Ash is standing behind him, trying to hide her fear,...

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Behind Yellow Eyes: Chapter 20

Chapter 20. Casey and Ash are standing next to Epi, they're both furious. The Lieutenant is solemn and apologetic. His other officers are dispersing behind him, headed back to their various posts. "I'm sorry about that," says Epi. "I figured we'd...

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Behind Yellow Eyes: Chapter 19

Chapter 19. I wake up like a branch snapping underfoot, choking. Trying to open my muzzle only hurts my nose in a deep, sickening manner. I reflexively swallow what's in my throat. Again, and again. One more time. I roll over onto my stomach, being...

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