Everyone is up pretty late the following day, having slept badly cramped up in the staterooms without any bedding, their injuries causing them constant pain.
Will heads to the bridge and takes over from O’Neill, who managed to pilot the ship through the night. The drugs have worn off now and the Captain’s true character of being a cantankerous perfectionist starts to come through. He is now aware of the devastation that has been caused to the ship while he was under house arrest and is very pissed off.
Jie is in a philosophical mood as she keeps running back the highs and lows of the combat in her mind. Jie realizes why the stevedores totally sucked at rifle combat. She is an expert at carbine weaponry but has absolutely no ability to train. The best she accomplished in the week she spent with the cargo handlers was to show them that the end of the gun with the hole in it should point away from their body. Knowing this (and the fact that they should not need to use a gun again) has a mellowing effect on Jie towards her ex-students. She no longer calls them “Flaming Turds Of Incompetency” but now hails them as “Friends”. At least she does until some of them start taking her change in attitude to them the wrong way, at which point she threatens to break their arms.
Jie’s banter with the stevedores is interrupted by a call from Arvor asking her to come to the bridge.
When she gets there, she finds him and William looking over the sensor display. At the very edge of the display at maximum magnification is a blip – a blip that seems to be on an intercept course with them.
“The SDB?” Jie asks.
Arvor nods, “I presume. It’s too far out at the moment to say for sure with these civilian sensors. It would definitely have identified us with it’s superior sensors though.”
“How long to jump?” Jie asks William.
“About 3.00am tomorrow morning at our current trajectory and velocity,” he replies. “So about 15 hours.”
Jie models the intercept course through the 1/bis.
“Interception estimated in 13.86 hours,” the computer’s inappropriately cheerful and calm voice responds.
Jie shoos the others away and sits down in front of the screen and models several different variations. After half an hour, she selects the best one and gives William the new coordinates, and William adjusts thrusts to move the ship on a slightly different course.
Half an hour later and the SDB has also adjusted course in response.
The three of them spend the rest of the day playing a cat and mouse game with the SDB, trying to delay intercept time as they constantly alter course to buy them a little more time, with the SDB then also changing its coordinates. The SDB is gaining all the time;it’s vastly superior thrust ensuring that it closes the distance to the Falcon all the time. Grim is back in the engine room, trying to eke out any additional thrust that he can get out of the M-Drive.
It’s going to be a close run thing for sure, despite the best efforts of Jie to keep one step ahead of pursuing Gazelle. As the evening progresses, everyone on board has heard about the Gazelle’s pursuit and the relief at having escaped from Avastan is replaced by a new fear.
Knowing that the Far Trader can never outgun the Gazelle, they realize that their only escape would be to allow the Gazelle to dock and then repel the boarders. Taeva starts putting defense plans together.
Midnight rolls around and the SDB almost appears on top of the Falcon on Arvor’s screen. Everyone is really sweating now. Jie is giving William a new course every five minutes now as they try to keep the gap as wide as possible.
A little over two hours later, the jump distance is so close now, but so is the SDB – it’s going to be a very close race to the finish line, for sure.
It’s 2.45am now. The SDB is so close that Arvor is starting to count the distance between the ships in km.
“Four missiles launched – smart missiles.”
Arvor stops the countdown as he tries to jam the missiles. He manages to jam three of them, but one is still on target. The SDB launches another salvo of four.
William says nothing, his focus totally on the monitor showing jump diameter agonizingly close ahead.
“Just a couple more minutes.”
The first of the missiles is getting very close now, and Arvor is only able to jam one from the second salvo.
He calls out, “Four beams fired!”
Less than a second later, a klaxon calls out as the ship hits jump diameter and William smacks the button to send the ship into jump. He is rewarded by the stars on the viewscreen turning into a blur as the Falcon finally slips into hyperspace.
No doubt their pursuers on the SDB are cursing their bad luck as they see their lasers harmlessly burning into empty space.
“Nice one, everybody!” says Max, who saunters onto the bridge slapping everyone on the back. “The distilled waters are on me!”