Dallia is a large world and so it’s a long seven hour trip to jump diameter.
Taeva joins Autumn and Max in entertaining the passengers for a while, but the cocktail party breaks up around 1.00 as everyone decides to head for their rooms, leaving just Will and Jie on the bridge and Grim still slaving away in the engine room.
Once the Princess is several hours out from the highport, the amount of traffic diminishes rapidly and so Will and Jie relax. Or at least they do until Jie spots a blip on the radar which attracts her attention.
She performs some calculations:
“It seems as if there is a ship on an intercept course with us,” she says.
“Bring it up on the viewscreen so we can see if we can identify the type,” Will says.
The ship is still far away, and so Jie zooms in at maximum magnification.
“It looks Aslan,” the both say at once with some degree of alarm.
Their fears are immediately realized as they see the ship launching a missile towards them. This is immediately followed by four beams of light that shoot from the ship, two of which connect with the hull.
Alarms sound all over the ship, not that they are really needed after the almighty jolts from the beams’s impact threw everyone out of their beds.
Autumn calmly takes care of the panicking passengers, trying to calm them down as she efficiently starts helping them into the baggy emergency vacc suits.
Max emerges from Suzie’s stateroom shouting, “Shit! We never found a bleedin’ replacement for Arvor while we were in port and so we’re a turret down.”
He turns to Suzie:
“I don’t suppose they taught you how to fire triple StingRay 3000 beam lasers at Ecology School, did they, luv?”
She shakes her head in panic.
Stian overhears the conversation:
“Well, actually, I have fired a few StingRays in my time.”
Max looks him up and down.
“Well it looks likes it’s a choice between me and you to operate it. And I’m shit wiv ’em.”
He winks at Suzie:
“I’m a lover, not a fighter, darlin’.”
“I’ll be happy to give it a try,” says Stian.
“Grab a proper vacc suit then rather than one of them bleedin’ bags and head to the starboard turret. That one’s yours.”
By now the party members are all suited up. Will is left alone on the bridge as Jie runs to her turrets. Taeva already has the spiderbots working on the initial damage caused by the Aslans’ first volley.
Jie rotates the turret in order to bring the triple lasers to bear on the Aslan ship and lets loose. Despite the Aslan ship trying to evade and launching sand, a couple of bolts find their target, raking the ship. Stian feels the familiar grip of the turret array and locks onto it, sending three beams at the ship with unerring accuracy.
Will jolts the ship around to take evasive action as the Aslan Trader fires back. In the engine room, Grim is thrown to his feet as the M-Drive takes a hit and another beam rakes the ship’s armor. Grim immediately gets up and starts work on patching up the drive, not wanting to be dead in the water, aided by the spiderbots.
The crew of the Princess immediately retaliate. In tit-for-tat style, Jie takes out the Aslan’s M-Drive while Stian continues raking its hull, sending slabs of crystaliron flying as the Aslan ship starts to seriously deteriorate.
Grim and Taeva’s spiderbots quickly manage to patch up the M-Drive giving power to Will again so that he can continue to take evasive action.
The crew of the Princess continue with their sharpshooting. The Aslan ship is starting to take some serious damage now which the Aslan’s are trying their best to patch up, but the amount of damage that they are taking is just more than they can handle.
It looks as if the Aslan are tiring as their shots are off target, but Jie then sees a bolt of light heading straight for her turret, she unstraps herself from her seat and rushes to evacuate the turret, but the jolt throws her against the bulkhead and she is stunned. Taeva shouts out for Autumn’s assistance and she leaves the passenger’s in Max’s care while she rushes to help Autumn.
“C’mon everyone, don’t look so miserable,” Max says to the petrified passengers. “Let’s ’ave a little sing-song. Always look on the bright side of life …”
Taeva and her spiderbots soon get to work on Jie’s damaged turret while Stian continues to return fire, blasting away more of the Aslan ship. Once Jie’s turret is functioning again, Taeva steps in for Jie. Although she has no experience with the weapons, she’s no beginner at the art of shooting straight and manages to add more damage to the tally.
More beams are exchanged, with both ships taking each other’s sensors out. There are explosions coming from inside the stricken Aslan Trader now and Stian sees that she is not going to take much more of this as he continues to pile on the pain, making each shot count. Another volley from Stian and the Aslan ship is barely hanging together now and then one last volley from Taeva is all that it takes to finish off the Trader, which explodes in a spectacular fashion.
“Is that all there is to it? Piece of cake.” she grins.
There is still the stream of missiles that the Trader launched that are on a collision course.
Stian meticulously takes each of the missiles out one by one as they approach the ship – one shot, one kill.
The Princess is out of danger.
Stian takes off his helmet and returns to meet up with the others. Max gives him a round of applause.
“Not bad at all for a beginner, mate,” he says. “A bit more practice and I reckon you could make a career as a gunner.”
Will calls all of the party members into the bridge for a conference.
“How are things looking, Grim?”
“Grim,” says Grim.
“I think it’s just too risky to attempt to continue on to Pagaton with the ship in this state,” he continues. “We’d be in no fit state for another fight if we ran into any trouble there and they don’t have any repair facilities there. We should limp back to Dallia and get her fixed. It’s fortunate that they have decent facilities here.”
The others agree. Although all are keen to continue to Pagaton, especially Miranda, they realize that they have little choice and so Will turns the Princess around.
Grim spends the entire journey in the engine room assisted by Taeva as they nurse the stricken engine into giving Will as much thrust as the engine can muster. Eventually, at a little after noon, Heaven’s Gate is ahead of them. Will calls the SPA to tell them that the ship is damaged and requests the assistance of tugs in order to help the ship to dock. The SPA sends out a couple of tugs which carefully bring the stricken A2 safely into port with their tractor beams.
With some embarrassment, Autumn apologizes to the passengers, gives each of them a full refund plus a couple of grand each in return for their not giving the ship a bad review on TripAdvisor.
Once the passengers have disembarked, Max calls the shipyards and arranges for the ship to be brought into a repair bay. There is one available and so the shipyards send a couple of tugs around to bring the ship in.
The remainder of the afternoon is spent with Grim, Max and senior engineer from the shipyard investigating the exterior of the ship calculating how much it is going to cost in order to repair the damage, with much tutting and shaking of heads from the engineers.
The initial inspection is followed by long negotiations in the office as Max haggles to get both the price down and also the length of time it will take down.
“OK, OK,” the Senior Engineer sighs. “So Cr. 75,000 and 48 hours. That’s my final offer.”
Max winks at Grim and then shakes the engineer’s hand.
“You drive a hard bargain, Sir, but we’ll take it.”
They join up with the rest of the party members who take hotel rooms for the next couple of nights at the shipyards don’t want all of the crew going backwards and forwards while they are at work.