Episode Eleven: A Problem of Proportion
Captain Sophia Coloma’s first thought at registering the missile bearing down on the Clarke was, This again . Her second was to yell at Helmsman Cabot for evasive action. Cabot responded admirably, slamming the ship into avoidance mode and launching the ship’s countermeasures. The Clarke groaned at the sudden change of vector; the artificial gravity indulged a moment where it felt as if the field would snap and every unsecured object on the Clarke would launch toward the top bulkheads at a couple hundred kilometers an hour.
The gravity held, the ship dove in physical space and the countermeasures dazzled the missile into missing its quarry. It blasted past the Clarke and immediately began searching for its target as it did.
“The missile is Acke make,” Cabot said, reading the data on his console. “The Clarke ’s got its transmitter in memory. Unless they’ve changed it up, we can keep it confused.”
“Two more missiles launched and targeting,” Executive Officer Neva Balla said. “Impact in sixty-three seconds.”
“Same make,” Cabot said. “Jamming them now.”
“Which ship is shooting at us?” Coloma asked.
“It’s the smaller one,” Balla said.
“What’s the other one doing?” Coloma asked.
“Firing on the first ship,” Balla said.
Coloma pulled up a tactical image on her console. The smaller ship, a long needle with a bulbous engine compartment far aft and a smaller bulb forward, remained a mystery to the Clarke ’s computer. The larger ship, however, resolved to the Nurimal, a frigate of Lalan manufacture.
A Conclave warship, in other words.
Damn it, Coloma thought. We fell right into the trap.
“These new missiles aren’t responding to jamming,” Cabot said.
“Evade,” Coloma said.
“They’re tracking our moves,” Cabot said. “They’re going to hit.”
“That frigate is moving its port beam guns,” Coloma said. “They’re swinging our way.”
The Conclave thought that other ship was us, Coloma thought. Fired on it, it fired back. When we showed up, it fired on us as a matter of defense.
Now the Nurimal knew who the real enemy was and wasn’t wasting any time dealing with it.
So much for diplomacy, Coloma thought. Next life, I’m getting a ship with guns .
The Nurimal fired its particle beam weapons. Focused, high-energy beams lanced forward and tunneled into their targets.
The missiles heading for the Clarke exploded kilometers out from the ship. The first missile, now wandering aimlessly nearly a hundred klicks from the Clarke, was vaporized mere seconds thereafter.
“That…was not what I was expecting,” Balla said.
The Nurimal swung its beam weapons around, focusing them on the third ship, lancing that ship’s engine pod. The ship’s engines shattered, severing from the ship proper. The forward portions of the ship went dark, power lost, and began spinning with the angular momentum gained by the force of the engine compartment eruption.
“Is it dead?” Coloma asked.
“It’s not firing at us anymore, at least,” said Cabot.
“I’ll take that,” Coloma said.
“The Clarke ’s identified the other ship,” Balla said.
“It’s the Nurimal, ” Coloma said. “I know.”
“Not that one, ma’am,” Balla said. “The one it just wrecked. It’s the Urse Damay . It’s an Easo corvette that was turned over to Conclave diplomatic service.”
“What the hell is it doing firing on us?” Cabot asked.
“And why is the Nurimal firing on it?” said Coloma.
“Captain,” Orapan Juntasa, the communications and alarm officer, said. “We’re being hailed by the Nurimal . The person hailing us says they are the captain.” Juntasa was silent for a moment, listening. Her eyes got wide.
“What is it?” Coloma asked.
“They say they want to surrender to us,” Juntasa said. “To you .”
Coloma was silent for a minute at this.
“Ma’am?” Juntasa said. “What do I tell the Nurimal