Author’s Note: This is the fourth excerpt that I am publishing from my latest book Jade’s Dish. Here are links to the prior excerpts.
“Get yourself up to 38,000 feet and I’ll join you there. I need to get my ship up and I’ll meet you there. I can follow you on the navcomputer transponder and from there we’ll see each other to exit the atmosphere and get our throttles opened wide to reach our jump off point. Ready?”
“I’ll see you up there.”
Her hands caused the thrusters to roar as she powered up the Eclipse. The craft’s VTOL thrusters lifted it up to three thousand feet and then she impressed me by taking the craft out of VTOL and the afterburners’ glow lit up the early morning sky I watched her progress with the wristcomm. She handled the ship well. In seven minutes, she arrived at thirty-thousand feet. I felt good about her having charge of the Eclipse now. I wouldn’t like I was a little hesitant, but she proved me wrong now. I walked over to the Celestial Dart and ran fast through my pre-flight checklist. After two minutes, I was now seeing Jade there on my wrist comm. I sent her a text message via the ship’s computer to let her know I was going to take off within the next two minutes.
I powered the thrusters on and I lifted off immediately afterwards. I took the ship up vertically to six-thousand feet. I looked down at the bright lights of the spaceport and the enormous city that was Goharti. It was not as bright as the Peninsula of BT but it was an incredible sight to behold whenever you were leaving before daylight. I could see Complex 96 and Building 447 as I switched from vertical flight to horizontal flight at six-thousand feet. I began my ascent by veering to the left and putting my nose up slowly. The Celestial Dart bounced up and down and shook and rattled several times as I pushed through some stratus clouds. This was a fast ship, but the small sized of this vessel made turbulence a pronounced feeling. At thirty thousand feet I turned the ship right and climbed further up with the throttle opened wide. After twelve minutes of flight I could see Jade’s vessel through my canopy’s bubble. I spoke to her through the ship’s computer’s microphone.
“How’s that craft handling?”
“Good. I like it.”
“Great! Glad there are no issues. What’s your power plant reading?”
“Green across the board, Rod.”
“Good! Ready to exit the planet?”
“Great. Let’s do it. Follow me.”
I put the nose of the ship up slowly and then I fired up the afterburners and activated the exit package within the main engine drive. I could see and hear the reactor output levels alert me from the touch screen display to my front above my joystick. The sky disappeared and the blackness of space quickly emerged. Stars shone all around us. Little space rocks were pushed out of the way as jade’s craft behind me to a hundred yards caught up with me. Nebulae came into view as the two of us accelerated further from the planet. I spoke to her again through the microphone.
“Okay. Get ready to punch in some numbers into the computer. I’ll text them to you soon. Stand by.” “Roger that.” She replied.
The throttle was two-thirds open on my craft. I was travelling at three hundred miles an hour. While admiring the moons of Goharti to the right in left with their green, blue, and red glow I punched in the coordinates to prepare to make the jump. I had never been to the green moon: Tenebrak: it was a forest preserve. It made the Goharti Arboretum look like a hobby shop. The blue moon was an ice giant named Goharzk, it was famous for being an ice-fishing destination for outdoors people and other enthusiasts. The red moon was a mining colony and I have long forgotten its name. However, its minerals are a big help to Goharti’s diversified industries.
“I just sent you the numbers, Jade. Go ahead and enter them in and make the jump on my mark.”
I transmitted the numbers to her. Unfortunately, I could not just punch in the numbers for both of us. The Celestial Dart has an older navcomputer that does not have the capability for the joint entry of coordinates to calculate and facilitate the jump. “Did you get them?” “Yes.” She replied. “Ever made a jump before, Jade?” “Yes. But it has been a while.” She said this with ease and likely honesty. I believed her as I leaned back up against my padded seat within the cockpit of my Starfighter.
“Okay. Once you punch them in open up to full throttle, all right?”
“Let’s do this.” I replied as I opened up the throttle to full power. The ship climbed in speed until I heard the klaxon of the ship being ready to jump. I then spoke to jade via the microphone. “Engage.” “Roger.” She replied. And I watched as a bunch of stars turned into blurbs of light and bursts of specks in an expansive blackness that was in between each particle of light that was passing me by at speeds that were beyond conceivable centuries ago.
After three hours, I saw the lights of Glisterli Station. This was a fueling/refitting station closer to Camp Moon 22. Its structure was nearly identical to Thomka Station’s. Jade had not exited the jump. It was doubtful she would until a couple more minutes; she was still about one hundred to two hundred yards behind me prior to the jump. I decreased the throttle to two thirds power and maneuvered past some outgoing vessels from the station. I was about to hail Glisterli Station via my microphone but shortly before speaking I heard Jade via the speaker.
“I’ve got trouble, Rod. I think that navcomputer on the Eclipse is broken. I’m by some green nebulae and there’s a big warship that may have tractor beam or gravity good projector locked onto me. I can’t jump out of here and I’ve tried some evasive maneuvers but they are not helping.” She sounded calm, but at the same time I could hear urgency in her voice that wasn’t quite lending itself to panic, but it was almost saying that she was panicking. Just not quite yet. “Hang on.” I added.
I opened the computer and tracked the eclipse to a point one hundred and ten light-years away. I was not sure why it was off kilter but I would have the techs at the station look at it. The main challenge was getting to Jade. I put the Dart in a loop and then opened the throttle to full power. I then made the jump and within a minute I arrived at the coordinates. Upon my arrival, I couldn’t see the Eclipse I could see it on my sensor scope though.
“Jade, I’ve just arrived. What’s your status now? I’m about fourteen miles from you. Is the ship closer?” “It is getting closer. Should I fire upon it? It isn’t responding to my hails from the microphone.” She was beginning to panic now. I had to calm her down. “Send me a picture of the ship with the camera pod. You can do that in a voice command. Do that now.”
I saw the picture on the touch screen. This was a ship like a kronan. But it was smaller. Was this the Dar-Shawn pocket battleship? It was not a United Earth ship or a pirate vessel. I said to jade these simple words. “Open fire with that rail gun. If they aren’t responding, light them up.” She replied at an instant. “The tractor beam pull is getting stronger. I’m trying to get out of it.”
“Light them up.”
“Fire. Use the rail gun. They’ll stop I’m getting closer, but you need to fight until I get there.” “Ah! Okay!” She was panicking to where she could think about the situation at hand. I pushed the ship forward towards the vessel, by throttling the ship forward. I reduced power from the shields to the engine. The engine was now at 175% and the shields were now at 25%. I had to catch up and shields were not as important as I neared the ship.
I said this aloud as three Star fighters were coming at me. They were six miles out. My cannons were in range. I locked on them with my gun pips. These were Dar-Shawn one seat interceptors. As fast as my Dart, they only had missiles though, no cannons. The best strategy was to engage them at close range I accelerated towards the one on the right as they came at me head on. In a second my cannon was in ranged. I opened fire with my dual barrels. Green beams of light were projected from my two barrels and the first of the fighters was destroyed with a terrific fragmentation: a quick flash of red and orange and then nothingness. I then veered left and up using my high-powered maneuver jet thrusters.
I could see Jade’s rail gun at work. I now just remembered that it was loaded with the tracer explosive rounds at the top. I had put those in yesterday. I watched some more as I kept the two remaining bandits off me. I activated my ‘Brimstone’ missiles and acquired a lock on the target. I then fired my missiles. I heard the rotating missile bay move the projectile into the launcher before-hand. A terrific set of blue flames flashed forward from my ship and towards this compact kronan. Soon the flames disappeared as their fins deployed. I fired again for good measure. I could see little fireballs from where the rail gun’s rounds were slamming into the vessel.
She was doing damage these missiles could very well collapse their shields making those rounds more devastating than they could be. In four seconds, they impacted with white flashes and then chain lighting as the shields of the warship collapsed. I put my ship in an Immelmann and lit up the second fighter simultaneously as I deployed decoy flares as the son of a bitch launched a god damn missile. My lasers irradiated my adversary and again a brief, bright orange flash appeared. Fire and then it’s extinguishment by lack of oxygen!
For the final ship, I did a barrel roll and pulled up again into almost loop but I veered left and then down to use my cannons again. They were doomed before they ever got out of bed this morning. Once the third and final fighter was finished I increased the throttle once more and then I diverted power into the shields again since this warship could get desperate now that it’s shields were down. The rail gun’s projectiles were fragmenting inside the compact kronan and the spalling was likely causing the whole of their crew to be exterminated like the enemies of Bonaparte meeting his whiff of grapeshot.
The ship’s point defense weapons were trying hard to save it, but the gunners were likely tired and demoralized by our surprise attack and the fact that these Star fighters were being piloted by freethinking humans and not religious zealots. I don’t know much about the Dar-Shawn cults, but I do know that organized religion is one of the biggest mafias around. I fired another two missiles at the craft and watched it explode into hundreds of little fireballs. Jade was smart enough to pull up and out of the way though.
“Good work, Jade. Now, let’s get ready to jump to Glisterli Station. How are you holding up?”
“I’m a little shaken, Rod. But I’m okay.”
“Never thought you’d help take out a capital ship. Did you?”
“No. I did not. Well you did, and good work.”
We were interrupted by a patrol craft from the United Earth Navy coming into view.
“Unidentified pilots, good work. We were about to catch up with them. This is Lieutenant Martin Thuringer, Commander of the SV-1991. To whom do I have the honor of speaking to? That was some fancy flying.”
“Lieutenant, this is Private Investigator Rod Veska, and my wing person is Jade Novorisk. We’re on our way to Glisterli Station and we had a navcomputer error to how we got over to here.”
“Glad you two are all right. Thanks for dealing with our friend. We had been hunting him and his crew for two days and he’s the last of his squadron. Best of luck in your endeavors and I’ll mention you both in my dispatches. We’re going to return to base. Thanks for your help.” He paused for a moment and then added this. “Godspeed in your endeavors and the United Earth Navy is in your gratitude.”
“You are welcome, Lieutenant. And likewise, with your travels. Take care.” The SV-1991 disappeared in a flash of white and blue light as it jumped out of the sector we were maneuvering in. I hailed Jade. “You okay?” “I’m fine.” She replied. “The ship seems fine too. The shields held together well.” “Good. I had the shield generator upgraded last year for optimized output. You have better shields than what I’m flying. How are the other systems checking out? Can you run a diagnostic via the computer touch screen?” “Yes.” She replied in a calm tone. Despite looking at her reflection in the grim reaper’s scythe she had recovered swiftly. I was proud to be flying with her in this grim sea of black and other strange dim and bright hues called space.
“Everything checks out to be running okay.” She said this after a few minutes. “What do you mean okay? What’s the problem?’ I said this in an urgent voice. I feared not only for her safety but also the Eclipse’s condition. Unfortunately, that was my most important asset and I didn’t want lose that along with her. I highly doubted my employers would pay for its replacement and my own insurance policy likely would not cover Jade’s use of my starship. The least of my worries at this point was making it to Camp Moon 22 on time. As I was wondering if I would make it there at all a few moments ago,
“I mean it is fine. It’s a green light.” “Oh.” I disguised my true feelings with my tones. Say it is good not just okay. Ah well, not a problem. “Jade, punch in these coordinates. Repeat after me.” This was going to be an easier way to do this likely. She repeated the coordinates correctly. “All right fly parallel to me on my right. We’ll advance in a line to Glisterli Station, Ready?” “I am.” She replied. We both opened the throttles to their full output and we were back to Glisterli Station within fifteen minutes. It was good to be over with that ordeal. I was eager for a meal and some coffee.