Chapter 16 – Dead Chaos

«Wh-what?! B-but that’s, that’s impossible!»

“Impossible? MacTavish, this base is about to be obliterated from on high! You can’t tell me that we have to leave a damned intact Aldredian Frigate behind!”

A what? Mote passed Colonel Saito a surprised look as the group rushed through the dark hallways of the outpost. You found a Frigate?

The Colonel nodded. “Yeah. But if we can’t even leave with it…”

«I-I, I-I’ve tried to b-bring it online!» Kirstin responded over the communicator, «b-but, um, like I said e-earlier, i-it needs some kind of, um, some kind of key!»

“Then we need to find a way around it,” Commander Rabine pressed. “The path back to the Interstellar Gate won’t be safe. By the time we could reach the Gate, the Drakkars will likely be in position to bombard us into oblivion.”

We’ll still have time, though, right? Danielle questioned as she effortlessly kept pace with Saito, Rabine, Mote, and the Black Suns soldiers. Orbital Bombardment rounds take a while to actually travel between the ship and the planet, don’t they?

“If you use projectiles or missiles, yes. But the Drakkars use lasers,” Rabine countered. “The moment the Drakkars are in position, we’re dead!”

If it’s escaping we’re worried about, then we have that covered, Mote declared, and nodded toward Danielle. She can get us all out of here, easily.

Well, normally, yeah… Danielle frowned. I can still use my powers here, but it’s a lot more draining… I don’t know if I could manage something as big as a Frigate…

“That’s another subject entirely.” Rabine glanced between the three Earthians, an irritated look on her face. “For both of you to be able to use your powers in Dead Space, and for them to be so powerful, at that… you have to have an Ayas on you, or be using the Chaos State. But SERRCom’s only supposed to have one Ayas, so where the hell did you get the other one?”

Mote grimaced internally. Originally, upon learning that he and the other members of the Eximius Vir could still use their powers in Dead Space, he had every intention of following Director Hamasaki’s directive to not display said powers in front of the Black Suns — but when he arrived on the field of battle and found Saito staring down a Drakkar tank, he decided that saving the Colonel’s life was more important than keeping secrets. But now, it meant that he had drawn the Black Suns’ suspicion, and rightfully so.

But… we don’t have any Ayas, Danielle responded cluelessly. And… what’s the Chaos State?

Rabine looked back at Danielle in surprise. …Say that again. ‘Chaos State’, exactly like that.

Uh…? Chaos State…?

The Commander’s gaze hardened; Mote had no idea what was going through her mind at that moment. But before either she or Danielle could continue the conversation, Saito slowed to a stop and gestured upward. “Let’s save this discussion for later. We’re here.”

Mote glanced around the small subterranean bay they now stood in, and then looked up at the ship before him. She was much smaller than a typical Frigate, but she did appear to be some sort of spacecraft, considering the massive engines that adorned her aft section. What’s more is that she didn’t truly appear to be aerodynamic at all, and sported a fair amount of armor all over her ‘t’-shaped silhouette. But as Mote stared at the craft further, he realized that something about her seemed… familiar.

Hey, Mote! Danielle drew his attention as she pointed at a sword-shaped insignia painted on part of the ship. Look, that emblem! It’s the same as the one on your armor!

“It’s a good thing that you’re here,” Saito added. “MacTavish thinks that this ship needs a key to start, and the way I see it, you’re our best bet.”

What…? Mote stared at the Colonel incredulously. It was certainly true that Mote seemed to be the only one capable of interacting with any of the Aldredian artifacts that they had found so far, but to so quickly jump to the conclusion that he was necessary…?

Mote? MOTE!

He glanced over to the side, where he noticed Kate disembark from the ship and run over to him.

“Kate? You’re already here?” Saito questioned.

Yeah, Mark and I saved the asses of the other two groups and booked it here when we realized what was going on, she replied, and then turned toward Mote, her eyes glistening eagerly. Mote, you have to turn this thing on! Just think of all the shit we could find! Aldredian spacecraft design, engine design, FTL Drive design, weapons design, computers design—

“A way off this planet alive?” Rabine interjected.

Kate rolled her eyes. Yeah, sure, that too. But seriously, Mote! Move your ass and turn the damn thing on already!

Mote simply stared at her incredulously. What? And just why the hell do I have to—?

“You should do what she says, just this once,” Saito urged as he began moving toward the ship’s embarkation ramp. “Right now, it seems that this ship is our only ticket out of here. And we don’t know how long we have until the Drakkars obliterate this base, so let’s get moving!”

“Let’s go!” Rabine ordered sharply, prompting the Black Suns soldiers to follow her onto the ship after Saito. Danielle jogged after them, followed by Kate as she began dragging Mote by his arm.

Hey! I can walk, he snapped as he yanked his arm out of her grasp.

Then fucking act like it! she shouted back as she rushed toward the ramp. If we all die here before I get a chance to study all this sweet new tech, then I’ll fucking murder your ass!

Tch… Mote glared after her, but began jogging toward the ramp all the same. He knew that, objectively speaking, she and the Colonel were right. Given everything they knew, if anything could activate the ship, it was Mote. But even so, something about the overall situation and the craft itself put him on edge. …Or maybe it’s just this constant draining sensation I’ve been feeling, he thought uneasily. …It’s not unlike what I felt when I fought those two robots yesterday. But I’ve never felt this before when in a CENT field… I guess Dead Space is just that different.

As he finished his thoughts and ran aboard, he took a quick look around himself. The interior of the craft seemed surprisingly spacious given her exterior size, but it was also clear that the ship wasn’t built to ferry around more than a couple dozen individuals. Between the Black Suns, CSF-1, the other SERRCom soldiers that had been sent to reinforce the base, and the Eximius Vir, the craft looked to be filled to capacity.

Mote! In here!

He glanced to his right, through a small doorway. Through it, he could see what looked to be a bridge — at least, there was a massive window through which he could see the walls of the subterranean bay. He quickly approached and stepped into the room, glancing left and right to acknowledge Kirstin and Kate, who were sitting at two consoles toward the back of the bridge — and then his attention was drawn toward the center of the room as a giant blue sword emblem on the floor began to glow softly, and the chair located directly in the center of the bridge slowly turned to face him.

“I-it… it’s working!” Kirstin remarked in surprise.

Hurry up and sit your ass down! Kate exclaimed. We’ve burned enough time as is—!

As she spoke, the entire base shook tremendously, throwing Mote off his feet. His world went spinning, and as he attempted to reorient himself, he noticed an abundance of falling dust and collapsing debris through the bridge window. Damn it! We’re out of time! Quickly, he scrambled into the captain’s chair, bracing himself against another tremor as the chair slowly spun to face the front of the bridge — and then, without any action on Mote’s part, the helmet of his armor materialized over his head. The hell?! he exclaimed in confusion, but then began to notice info boxes and various other pieces of information appearing on the helmet’s heads-up display.

Mote! The hell are you doing?!

I don’t know, damn it— Mote froze suddenly as a stream of information began flowing into his mind. He couldn’t recognize most of it, as it was steeped in the Aldredian language — of which he had no knowledge. It passed through one ear and out the other, metaphorically speaking, and only served to irritate him as he found it difficult to focus on anything else. But then, an image appeared on his HUD, overlaid on the bridge window to make it seem like a screen.

An image of a woman with olive skin and red hair, wearing regal armor bearing the insignia of a sword.

That’s…! he muttered in awe, but trailed off as the image began moving, and the woman began to speak. Mote couldn’t understand a word out of her mouth, but as the video continued to play, he couldn’t help but watch. The woman didn’t appear to be much older than he was now, but still she carried herself with the air of an experienced general; her voice was smooth and calm, yet also steady and strong… even without knowing what she was saying, Mote felt himself mesmerized. Just who was this person…? And why did she appear in his vision?

Mote!!

Agh! Mote flinched as he felt something whack him upside the head. He glanced to his side, where he found Kate standing over him with her hand poised to strike him again. The hell are you doing?!he questioned irately.

You zoned out, dumbass! Kate retorted. We don’t have time for you to be sleeping on the job!

Oh. R-right…

God, what’s the matter with you? We’re all about to fucking die, here!

I know, I know! Mote snapped. He glanced back toward the video still playing on his HUD and made a motion to dismiss it, at which point it disappeared. The stream of information into his mind ceased as well, though one final piece of information somehow managed to stick despite the language barrier: the name and class of the ship. …We’re on a Corvette.

“A-a what…?” Kirstin questioned.

That’s… that’s what it says. This ship is a Blade of Raen-class Corvette, named the… ‘Raenaros’—

We don’t have time for the fucking name, dumbass! Kate snapped. You turned on the ship, great! But now we can see the sensors, and guess fucking what? There’s a fucking Drakkar Battleship in orbit! So how’s about we get a fucking move on, huh?!

Mote opened his mouth to retort, but another tremor cut him off — followed by a loud clang as a massive chunk of metal fell onto the ship from above and tumbled off past the bridge window. The Electrotechnic needed no further prodding at that point; he promptly focused on the task before him, that is, getting the ship to move. …But how do I even do that…? he wondered uneasily, and then — just as he did — his field of view went dark and was soon replaced with a view of the subterranean bay that contained the Corvette, and all of the rubble that was steadily falling into it. The hell? Am I seeing through the ship’s sensors, now? Is this some kind of neural dive interface…?

A sickening crack reverberated through the bay as the southern wall shattered and began to buckle. The loud sound of a metallic clang soon followed, as a massive hatch just above the ship began to open. Wait… I can see all of this happening at the same time. It’s like I can see everything surrounding the ship, simultaneously. This is weird… but I don’t have the time to marvel at this. How the hell do I get this thing to move?

The Corvette’s embarkation ramp and landing pads promptly retracted into the ship’s hull as she began hovering in place. Just as Mote noted that the ship seemed to have active anti-gravity systems, he felt a wave of weakness wash over his body, followed by a constant draining sensation. The feeling wasn’t new — in fact, Mote had felt constantly drained ever since setting foot in Dead Space. He had simply assumed that the sensation was associated with Dead Space itself, but as the strain on his body increased in proportion to the number of active systems on the Corvette, he began to have second thoughts. Somehow, the ship seemed to be siphoning energy from him.

An alarm sounded in the bridge, followed by an arrow indicator in Mote’s field of vision that pointed upward. It seemed as though the Corvette was being targeted — and with the knowledge that there was a Drakkar Battleship in orbit, Mote knew just how bad that was. He promptly activated the ship’s shielding, momentarily faltering as the strain on his body increased even further, and then engaged the ship’s engines. By this point, the giant hatch in the ceiling had mostly retracted, revealing a large shaft going straight up to the sky above, at which point Mote realized that there had actually been several hatches throughout the shaft — and most of them had been blown open.

Looks like laser damage, Kate remarked. Mote could tell from the direction of her voice that she was still on the bridge with him, but since his vision was currently decoupled from his body, he couldn’t help but feel intensely disoriented.

…I thought orbital bombardments were supposed to be more powerful than this, he responded as he slowly began to raise the ship through the shaft.

Lasers tend to be diffused, diffracted, or deflected by atmosphere, which is why most of the galaxy uses railguns or missiles for orbital bombardments. If the laser isn’t close enough to its target, or isn’t allowed to charge to full power before firing, then the resulting beam can be pretty damn weak. There was a pause from Kate; Mote couldn’t see what she was doing, but eventually she continued, seems like the Drakkars started firing their orbital strike laser before they were actually close enough to take out this outpost in a single blow. But they’re approaching that position soon, so this next strike—!

As soon as the words left her mouth, an incredible burst of energy exploded across the Corvette’s shields. The ship rocked violently under the blow; Mote could feel his body almost get thrown from the captain’s chair, and he could hear many of the soldiers in the compartment behind the bridge stumbling and attempting to keep their footing. An indicator appeared in Mote’s vision, showing him a sequence of symbols that he could only recognize as being a part of the Aldredian script. Shit. It’s probably telling me just how much shield charge we have left, but I can’t even read it! Even without being able to read the symbols, however, the multitude of blinking icons that appeared across his field of view was enough to indicate that the ship was in trouble.

Mote—!

I know! he shouted, cutting off Kate. Everyone, hold tight! We’re getting out of here! With but a thought, he began to reorient the ship. Until that moment, she had simply been raising through the air using her anti-gravity generators while still being parallel to the ground, but Mote rapidly flipped her around such that the engines were facing downward, and the bridge window facing up the shaft — the shaft that was beginning to collapse due to the damage sustained from the previous laser strike. The Corvette continued to raise through the air at a sluggish pace, but then, Mote engaged the engines.

A shock reverberated through the craft as the engines roared to life; Mote promptly began feeding more power into the inertial dampeners in an attempt to keep everyone aboard safe from the high g-forces of spacecraft acceleration, and as he did so, he recognized a peculiar facet of the Corvette’s design: despite being located in Dead Space, he was easily able to route his electricity powers through the craft. And immediately after that, he realized that he had figured out the location of the inertial dampener systems without even actually looking for them. …This ship has plenty of surprises, that’s for sure. Now let’s see how it handles in an actual flight!

Mote began pushing even more power into the engines, ignoring the further increase in bodily strain as the ship accelerated out of the shaft and into the clear skies above. As soon as he was clear of the shaft, an alarm began sounding in his ear, prompting him to bank hard to the right — just as the entire building below, as well as a large chunk of the forest surrounding it, was obliterated by an incredible blast of energy. The blast wave rocked the ship and knocked Mote off course, but he managed to adjust and swing the Corvette around to begin ascending again. Damn, that was close

A few moments later, an ‘X’ appeared in his vision over a part of the sky, surrounded by three triangles that slowly rotated around it. The hell…? Kate, can you see what I’m seeing?

Yeah, there’s some stuff showing up as holograms on the bridge window! Are you talking about the targeting reticle?

That’s what that is?

It’s a big fucking ‘X’ with shapes rotating around it, what the hell else would it be?!

What’s it targeting? The Battleship?

No, clearly it’s targeting your brain, because you sure seem to have lost it!

The hell are you—?

The ‘X’ promptly shifted in color to red and began flashing. Mote didn’t need a primer in the Aldredian language to realize what that could mean — so he promptly banked left just as a burst of energy hit the side of the Corvette. The symbols that had appeared after the first time the shields were struck shifted to red and began flashing, eliciting a scowl from Mote; the shields were obviously getting dangerously low, and the ship had increased the amount of energy she was siphoning off of Mote to recharge them. And then, just as he refocused on continuing the ship’s ascent out of the atmosphere — now nearly four kilometers over the ground — a large number of smaller ‘X’s began to appear in his field of vision, as though emerging from the large ‘X’.

Shit, Drakkar fighters! Kate exclaimed.

Just what we needed, Mote muttered.

Without knowing what kind of FTL Drive this ship has, you’ll need to get out of the atmosphere before we try engaging it, in order to not risk us fucking blowing up! Which means you’ll have to fight them off!

Of course I will. As if we could ever make a clean escape…!

Mote focused on all of the targets that now appeared on his HUD. He could neither read nor interpret any of the symbols, so he wasn’t quite sure how fast the Corvette was moving, or how quickly they were accelerating — but judging by how small the crater where the outpost once stood now looked, Mote guessed that they were at least a dozen kilometers high. The Drakkar Battleship and her fighters were still too far away to visually see, but as the Corvette continued to accelerate, Mote could tell that the distance was rapidly shrinking.

The targeting reticle over the large ‘X’ began flashing again, prompting Mote to quickly change directions. A moment later, the ‘X’ ceased flashing, though there was no other indication that the Battleship had fired on him. Mote scowled in frustration; he hated fighting against laser weaponry for this reason alone. If a laser missed you, there was basically no way to know that you had been targeted in the first place. On the other hand, he was currently up against a Battleship — and the high-caliber weaponry of large spacecraft were notorious for being incredibly inaccurate against small, fast-moving targets like fightercraft or Frigates. Now that the Corvette had reached a healthy speed, and was high enough in the sky to even see the curvature of the horizon, Mote was hopeful that the lasers from the Drakkar Battleship had become far less of a threat.

A dozen small energy blasts peppered the shields around the bow of the Corvette, drawing Mote’s attention to the Drakkar fighters — which now represented the main obstacles between him and escape. The fighters still weren’t close enough to visually see, but that they were managing to hit him with their lasers regardless was sign enough that a fight was imminent. Just what weapons does this ship even have, Mote wondered, and began rapidly looking over the craft for anything he could use. A moment later, conduits all across the outer hull of the craft began to glow and spark, while two turrets extended out of the horizontal engine banks on either side of the ship. Seeing that the Corvette did indeed have weapons, Mote began to turn the craft toward the incoming Drakkar fighters while still continuing his race to the edge of space.

By the time the deep blue sky had faded to a dark black, the smaller targeting reticles on Mote’s HUD began flashing, and turned blue. Without even the slightest clue as to what that meant, Mote simply hoped for the best and mentally commanded the ship’s guns to fire. Moments later, the two cannons on either side of the ship began to glow, drawing energy from both the ship and Mote for several seconds until finally letting lose with two deep blue beams of light.

Chaos Cannons! Kate exclaimed, just like the Genesis! But how the hell are they working in Dead Space?!

Mote continued to focus on the incoming fighters as the two turrets continually fired their beams of energy, gradually dissipating a few moments later. Once they had shut down, Mote quickly counted the number of remaining fighters — and scowled when he found that they were all still present. The range on those cannons is abysmal—! he muttered, but cut himself off as the opposing fighters finally fell into visual range.

Half a second later, two fighters whizzed past the Corvette; Mote was barely able to recognize their presence before they began turning through space to swing back at the Corvette. A handful of other fighters kept their distance, swooping down to approach the ship from the sides as they opened fire with their myriad laser cannons. Mote promptly pitched the bow down and then rolled to the left, hoping to give chase to some of the fighters. He momentarily recalled some of the vehicle operation training he had received a number of years ago; he knew some of the basics of piloting both air-breathing and space-based fightercraft, but nothing in-depth — and he was currently flying a Corvette, not an actual fighter. Well, it’s all I have to go on for now!

Ignoring the continued strain on his body, Mote forced more power into the Chaos Cannons, charging them in preparation for another attack. He then looked over the fighters in search of a target; there appeared to be over two dozen of them, swarming around and above and below the Corvette as they made passes to attack with their lasers. Mote could no longer make out the details of the outpost below or the forest surrounding it; instead he could only see the general green and brown of the planet’s landmasses, and the faint blue gradient of its atmosphere fading into space. He estimated that he had passed the planet’s equivalent of the Kármán line, and with that, he locked into the mindset of a spaceborne fighter. With a single thought, he cut power to all of the engines except the engine farthest over on the starboard side — and then, to his surprise, the respective engine on the opposite side of the craft spun around and began firing in the opposite direction, rapidly accelerating the craft into a yaw-wise spiral. So the two far engines can pitch and rotate on their own? Good! That’ll make fast maneuvering a lot easier! A moment later, Mote fired the Chaos Cannons, noting that the beams seemed to only reach about a hundred meters out as they tore into two nearby Drakkar fighters and completely obliterated them. Mote then cut power to all the engines, allowing the Corvette’s inertia to carry her up and into space as she spun around.

The swarm of Drakkar fighters began to adjust to the Corvette’s heading, and Mote noted that they were doing their best to stay out of the firing cone of the Chaos Cannons. He cut power to them, noticing that as he did, the conduits across the craft dimmed and ceased to spark. Curiosity nearly compelled him to investigate further, but a Drakkar fighter slamming head-first into the Corvette’s shield and a following screeching alert siren snapped his attention back to the battle. He spun the ship around to face her engines toward the planet and pushed them all to full burn for a few moments, so as to increase their steadily dropping upward speed, and then he snuffed out the four propulsion engines and engaged the two vectoring engines to spin the craft around toward a group of four approaching fighters. They immediately began to disperse, peeling off in an attempt to evade, but the Corvette proved to be faster — Mote fired the Chaos Cannons once again as he spun the bow in a small circle, sweeping the beams through space and intercepting all four Drakkar fighters. He then pitched the bow down and rolled the craft to target four other fighters that had been approaching from behind, and fired the Chaos Cannons once more, ripping through their engines and annihilating them. This is… much easier than I expected. Is the ship auto-targeting and maneuvering along with my inputs…?

By then, the rest of the Drakkar fighters were beginning to back off and out of the range of the Chaos Cannons entirely. Mote quickly maneuvered the bow of the craft around to tag as many fighters as he could, spinning the ship like a gyroscope and sweeping the beams of Chaos Energy across space to snipe another five fightercraft. The rest of the craft managed to escape his reach, however, and began swarming around the Corvette over half a kilometer out. Just as Mote began to weigh his options, the ‘X’ marking the Drakkar Battleship began again to flash. What—? Shit! He immediately spun the craft around, managing to minimize the Corvette’s cross section relative to the Battleship. A moment passed of nothing happening, and then two; then, the ‘X’ ceased blinking. Did it miss? Or did it not fire in the first place? Damn it, this is why I hate fighting against lasers!

Mote briefly turned his attention to the environment around him. Beyond the swarming fighters was the planet below, the curvature of which was readily apparent from the ship’s high altitude. This has to be high enough… good. Time to get the hell out of here! With but a thought, Mote made to activate the Corvette’s FTL Drive, prepared to jump into Subspace and escape the Drakkar onslaught.

Suddenly, a new alert appeared on his HUD. He had no idea what it said, but a wave of unease crashed over him as he heard Kate swear behind him.

What is it? he questioned warily.

What a fucking useless piece of shit! What the fuck!

Kate, what the hell is going on?

Mote could easily hear the scowl in her voice as she replied, this ship doesn’t have an FTL Drive!

…What?

I mean what I fucking said! No Chaos Drive, no Subspace Drive, nothing! This ship can’t enter FTL!

You must be kidding. How the hell did it get here, then?

I mean, it’s not the first time a spaceship’s been built without FTL capabilities. A lot of early SERRCom Frigates didn’t have FTL Drives either, and had to tether themselves to another ship to go anywhere… but still! Mote heard the impact of a fist against metal. To come this far…! Fucking damn it!

Just as Mote made to respond, the targeting reticle on the Drakkar Battleship began flashing again — at the same moment that all of the fighters, simultaneously, turned and accelerated directly at the Corvette. Shit! Hold on! Mote shouted as he spun the craft around again, this time re-engaging the propulsion engines to accelerate perpendicular to the Battleship’s trajectory, in line with the surface of the planet below. He then prepared to cut out the propulsion engines to start attacking the approaching fighters, but before he could, a spectacular flash of energy filled his vision as the Corvette rocked under a massive impact. The strain on Mote’s body spontaneously lightened, prompting an involuntary sigh of relief — and then a frustrated scowl as he realized why the strain had disappeared.

The Corvette’s shields were down.

Mote, the shields—!

I know, I know! He fought to regain control of the craft as the momentum from the laser blast she had just took sent her spiraling. Dozens of smaller lasers from the surrounding fighters found their mark against the Corvette’s hull in that time, scarring her armor and taking out the starboard propulsion engine in the process. Mote responded by throwing the Corvette into a controlled series of rolls and pitches, firing the Chaos Cannons at careful intervals to take out another eight fighters as they swarmed around him — but then, one of the Drakkar lasers hit the port-side vectoring engine’s anchor point, obliterating the joint and tearing the engine off of the Corvette. The ship quickly fell into an uncontrolled spiral that Mote struggled to correct, but with only one vectoring engine, the craft became extraordinarily sluggish.

And then, the targeting reticle marking the Drakkar Battleship began again to blink.

Damn it, not now…! Mote fought the Corvette’s inertia in an attempt to evade the next laser shot, but with two engines disabled — one of them a vectoring engine — he knew he would never be able to move the ship in time. He then looked off to the side; the remaining Drakkar fighters were swooping in for another laser run, presumably hoping to pick off whatever remained after the Battleship’s weapons fire. An exasperated sigh escaped Mote’s lips; there weren’t any further options for him at that point. There was nothing else he could do.

A flash of light momentarily distracted Mote, but he quickly realized that it couldn’t have been any Drakkar laser fire. One split-second later, an additional two targeting reticles appeared on his HUD as two large steel-gray spacecraft shot out of a tear in space and onto the scene. Mote stared at them in surprise as the nearest ship simply smashed through the incoming Drakkar fighters with her superior size and mass, and the other drew the fire of the Drakkar Battleship.

«This is Chief Captain Krick, of the ESC Genesis! Unknown ship, identify yourself!»

Mote’s vision still remained outside of the Corvette, so he couldn’t see any of the Corvette’s bridge or even his own body — yet he could still feel himself involuntarily smile and relax as the Captain’s voice reached his ears. He promptly opened up a line of communication with Genesis. This is Lieutenant Emerson, of the Raenaros! This ship is under my control!

«Oh, it’s you. Well, better you than those no-face bastards.»

What are you doing here? I thought the Genesis and Origin were headed back to Earth!

«Of course not, dumbass! Standard procedure is to park our asses just outside of Dead Space after we’ve spent any amount of time in it, and make sure our ships are fine. Colonel Saito just got fucking lucky that we were still there when a Drakkar ship showed up on our long range sensors! …Doesn’t explain why you’re here, now that I think about it. What the hell happened to the Colonel?»

He’s on board this ship, along with the rest of the SERRCom soldiers, the Eximius Vir, and the Black Suns.

«No, dumbass, I know that. But our life sign sensors say that all but four of you are fucking unconscious! The hell’s going on down there?»

…What…?

Mote heard rustling behind him, and then a sudden impact against his shoulder. The hell do you mean, ‘what’? Kate questioned incredulously, Mote, those moves you were pulling were so fucking high-g, I’m surprised anyone here is still fucking alive! You could feel those turns even through the fucking inertial dampeners! Shit, even I almost blacked out there. How the hell did you not realize that?!

Oh… shit. I can only see outside the Corvette, I didn’t know—

«Well as long as they aren’t dead,» Krick interjected in a huff. «We can go over the details later, but your goddamn ship — if you can even call it that — looks like it’s limping to a junk yard! Can you fly out of there on your own?»

It can fly, Kate replied, but this worthless trash heap doesn’t have its own FTL Drive!

«You’ve got to be god damn kidding me! Figures. We’ll clear out fighter bay one so you can dock up. Don’t you fucking blow up before then! Krick out!»

Mote sat in silence as he observed the two Earthian Battlecruisers engage with the Drakkar Battleship. Mere moments ago, he thought he had been staring death in the face — now that the cavalry had arrived and the enemy’s attention was off him, he finally realized that his body had grown so tense that his muscles all over were throbbing. Or maybe that’s just from the ship draining my energy…

His thoughts were interrupted as he felt another rap on his shoulder, this one softer than before. Hey, he heard Kate’s voice. For an untrained bastard flying a useless piece of shit, those moves weren’t half-bad.

…Not if I almost killed everyone on board without even realizing it.

Oh c’mon, I’m trying to compliment you. Suck it up and accept it! You’re so bad at this.

Some compliment, that you called me an ‘untrained bastard’.

Well you are. Literally. Well, who knows about the bastard part, but I’d be willing to bet we all classify.

Mote simply shook his head in mild amusement and leaned back in his chair. He sighed again in relief; he could still only see the exterior of the Corvette, but now that the tension of the battle had passed, it no longer felt as disorienting as it did at first. In fact, as he looked out over the green and blue planet below, and the soft blue gradient of its atmosphere, he felt a wave of post-adrenaline tranquility fall over him. Even the most beautiful of scenes can become a battlefield

A new message spontaneously appeared on his HUD, distracting him from his thoughts. The new message appeared in blue text, so Mote assumed it wasn’t urgent — that is, until he heard Kate gasp behind him. …Since when could you read Aldredian? he questioned.

I grabbed Kirstin’s AR glasses after she fell unconscious. But holy shit, Mote. This new coordinate is… just, holy fucking shit! Fucking jackpot, bitch!

What? What is it?

Literally all we could ever hope for when it comes to Aldredian tech! The gleeful grin on Kate’s face was obvious through just her voice alone. Mote, if this message is telling the truth — and it damn well better be! — then we’ve got a new coordinate. And this one leads straight to a whole fucking shipyard!

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