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    Home / College Guide / The Lights In The Sky
     Posted on Monday, February 12 @ 00:00:04 PST

    | No edit summary | |Line 106: |Line 106: | It wasnt glamourous. The jobs barely paid enough to cover fuel, but at the end of it all, they were fed, warm, and together. Which were things Davien swore hed never take for granted again. | It wasnt glamourous. The jobs barely paid enough to cover fuel, but at the end of it all, they were fed, warm, and together. Which were things Davien swore hed never take for granted again. |? | So when the Marie Jocks old slipspace drive broke down, that left them all in a pretty tight spot. A transport with no FTL drive had little prospects. Luckily, the drive had failed while the crew were still in an inhabited system, Menkent. Its one colony, Arsenal, was the |+ | So when the Marie Jocks old slipspace drive broke down, that left them all in a pretty tight spot. A transport with no FTL drive had little prospects. Luckily, the drive had failed while the crew were still in an inhabited system, Menkent. Its one colony, Arsenal, was the the systems third planet, and a favored hangout of pirates, smugglers, and rebels. | Davien had thought they could fix their little problem by borrowing money from a shady man who insisted he wasnt a loan shark back on Arsenal, and using that to fix the Marie Jock.

    But then those Jackals had tried to pull a fast one on him, and the whole thing went from bad to worse. | Davien had thought they could fix their little problem by borrowing money from a shady man who insisted he wasnt a loan shark back on Arsenal, and using that to fix the Marie Jock. But then those Jackals had tried to pull a fast one on him, and the whole thing went from bad to worse. Latest revision as of 00:54, 12 February 2024 | AlphaBenson. Please do not edit this fiction without the writers permission. Blurb My relationship with Halo has taken a lot of twists and turns over the years, but when it comes to writing fiction set within the universe, there has always been a constant: the focus on a rag-tag gang of misfits. For some, their ideal power fantasy is to be superhumanly powerful, or the ultimate military tactician. My fantasy, as embarrassing it is to admit: is to have a group of friends, and experience exciting adventures with said friends. Hence, the, now former, ODSTs of Fireteam Wolf). But over time, Wolf evolved from simply a stand in for me and the friends I wished I always had, into characters that formed a single family unit, and who gradually gained more and more facets to their character and backstories.

    Its easy to laugh at the writer who is very obviously inserting himself into the story, but I think theres always going to be a piece of me in these characters. How could there not be, right? In this particular story, set in 2561, I wanted to explore what Wolf would be like after theyve retired from the UNSC, having survived the Covenant War, the Created Uprising, and the events of Zeta Halo. When I first started writing Wolf, I of course wanted them to be badass ODSTs forever. Fighting aliens until the heat death of the universe. But now, Ive come to appreciate the things in the Halo universe outside of that narrow list of possibilities. As well as the ability for the characters to know more in life than simply conflict and strife. Kelly Gays Rion Forge trilogy is a clear inspiration here, for it too features a gang of misfits living together in what is obviously a found family dynamic. Originally, the story would have perhaps resembled Gays trilogy even more so, as Davien Calson would have had to come face to face with the lingering resentment-- and longing for a genuine connection he has felt towards his father for years. But, honestly, this story was long enough already, so Calsons homecoming will have to wait for another time! The Lights in the Sky The sulfur sting of propellant burned in Davien Calsons nostrils as he kicked the Jackals body over.

    Its bulbous eyes were glazed over, and its scrawny neck was bent at an unnatural angle. Brandts work, for sure. The big guy must have slammed into the bird with all his might at some point during the firefight. Against 112 kilograms of raw muscle, the bird-like alien never stood a chance. If negotiations keep ending like this, nobodys going to make any more deals with us. Said Allison Lloyd. When Davien turned, he saw the woman typing away on a comm pad, before taking a moment to brush a rogue strand of straw blonde hair out of her face. Jackal ships were always damp, putrid places, a lot like public restrooms in the dead of summer. But Lloyd stood there, cool, collected, and like she didnt so much as whiff the horrible odor that pervaded the cargo hold. You say that like its MY fault, Doc. But I wasnt the one who pissed them off by telling the birdbrains their merchandise was shit, Davien said. Lloyd only made eye contact long enough to cock her head, before gesturing towards the large container to her right. It housed perhaps the most complicated and important machine ever engineered by humans: a Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine. Or, if you werent bullied in high school: a slipspace drive.

    I only stated the obvious. The original slipspace capacitors have clearly been removed and replaced with those from an older, inferior model. At best, the drive will never power on. At worst? She made a show of pantomiming an explosion with one free hand. Ka. Boom. The Cygnus Incident, all over again, He huffed. Even when Lloyd was being helpful, there was just something about her explanations that ticked him off. So, a lemon. Of course, Davien groaned, and kicked the container. A bit harder than he meant to. But he managed to hold back the furious scream that was building inside. They needed that drive. They really, really did. Okay, okay, whatever. We can still salvage this, And hows that, Davien? It was Jerome Brandt who asked now. For some reason, he was dragging the bodies to the far wall, and lining them up all prim and proper. Did he think they were going to give the Jackals their last rites or something? Because Calson sure as hell wasnt. Second they were out of range on their own freighter, he was going to blow this ugly craft to smithereens. Im thinking. Hold your horses, okay? And stop touching the aliens, you dont know where theyve been, The big guy let go of the scrawny bird, with a look of dejection on his face.

    Brandt was as strong as an ox, and there was no one Davien would rather have watching his back-- but keeping him out of trouble was exhausting. Despite having been on the same team of badass Helljumpers as Lloyd and Davien, Brandt was still a big softie at heart. Most of the time, that little quirk of his was amusing. But right now, Davien just didnt have the energy to deal with Brandt thinking aliens were people or Lloyds flatly delivered sass. Sometimes, he missed the days where he all he was supposed to worry about was the target, himself-- and the shot. Hey there, team. Marie Jock here. Yall having fun without me? I heard gunshots. A smile tugged on the corner of Daviens lips when he heard the southern drawl on the other end of his ear piece. When he noticed Brandt was staring with a knowing grin, he shot daggers at the giant, and spun around. No fun here, Hayes. Deal went south. Jackals dead, and the drives a dud. Oh. That aint good. Whats wrong with it, Cali? The, uh, What had Lloyd said, again? The slipspace balancers... Theyre bad. That does sound bad. He heard the squeaking of Hayes leaning back in her seat over comms. Well, thats it, aint it? Without an FTL drive, Maries about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.

    Jessica Hayes didnt let it show often, but Davien heard the tinge of sadness in her words all the same. And no wonder. At the end of the day, the Marie Jock was HER ship, her investment. Her dream. After surviving not just the Covenant War, but all the crazy shit that came after, a lot of UNSC survivors had decided that they had tempted fate enough, and elected to return to the families that needed them during such uncertain times. But, what about the people who didnt have families to go home to? Brandt didnt have anybody and hadnt ever since Arcadia fell in 49. Jessica Hayes was a similar story, losing her folks even younger. Lloyd had a brother, but he was a grown man now with a life all his own. Last Davien heard, Malcom Lloyd reenlisted with the Marines after serving his mandatory two-year service. Malcolm had told her that he was thinking of trying out for the ODSTs, just like she had done at his age. If he was expecting praise or respect from that, he was sorely mistaken. Davien had rarely ever seen Lloyd angry, or really exhibit any emotion at all in the heat of battle, but during that call with her brother, her shouting and cursing was loud enough to wake the whole ship. Malcolm stopped calling after that.

    Hayes might not have been an ODST like the other three, but she had the heart-- and guts of a Helljumper, that was for sure. But instead of getting down and dirty with the enemy, Hayess calling had been in the sky and stars. Her flying was top notch, and honestly, her skills were probably wasted as a mere Pelican pilot. She pushed the lumbering troop transport to its absolute limits, and when Jessica was in the zone, flipping and weaving through blossoms of plasma fire-- it was breathtaking. And, admittedly, harrowing. Every bit a baptism by fire as any combat drop Davien had ever been a part of. What about this ship? Brandt murmured, more to himself than anyone in particular. But that didnt stop the other ex-troopers in the cargo bay from turning to stare at him. What did you say? Davien asked, eyes wide. Brandt tugged at the collar of his shirt, nervously. The big guy never liked being in the spotlight, which was funny, because his immense size meant he caught more than his fair share of stray glances and double takes. Especially out here, in the free systems. Where the fear of Spartans was very much alive, among human and alien colonists both. Not that Brandt was one of those puffed up tin cans, but deals tended to go.

    .. smoother, when clients or competitors believed the crew had an ex-Spartan. Though, it didnt help this time. I just meant-- Brandt paused for a moment, searching for the words. This ship. It had to get here somehow, right? Its gotta have a drive. But, I know its dumb. Im sure you cant just slap a super advanced, alien machine that bends space-time to the Marie Jock-- Sure we can. Brandt was starting to laugh at himself during the last part of that sentence, but Lloyds words froze him in place. Davien was staring at the woman now too, mouth agape. No way. Youre full of it, Doc. A Covenant drive on a human ship? Davien knew how absurd it sounded, but what was crazier was that he wasnt entirely sure if Lloyd was joking or not. I would have to see it myself. Its all the same steps, at the end of the day. Give the capacitors time to charge, a nav computer that can handle the calculations to maintain the quantum field, and a valid destination solution... Lloyd closed her eyes for a minute, and opened them again when she was satisfied with whatever calculations she was running in her head. Dont see why not, She looked at Brandt, and gave him a curt nod. Good idea, The big guy looked confused for a moment, but returned Lloyds nod with a slight smile.

    Uh, thanks? Davien, however, was still taking the time to parse all this. He only had the faintest idea idea of the sort of mathematical expertise it took to make a journey through slipspace possible. There was a reason why UNSC astronavigators needed to go to college for this shit. NAV computers and AIs handled the worst of it, but human nav officers still needed to plot and input the proper destination solution. And all it took was one wayward digit, one teeny tiny mistake for a ship to reappear in normal space millions of kilometers off target-- and in the heart of a burning star. Lloyd could handle plotting the course, he knew. But it wasnt Lloyds math skills he was questioning. What about the Jocks nav computer? Davien asked. Lloyd snorted. Even if I could establish a connection between the drive and the nav computer, it doesnt have nearly enough processing power to handle the quadrillions of equations per second. Maybe if we had an AI. A smart one, that didnt want to kill us. But that toaster isnt going to cut it. Hey! Dont go insulting the old gal! Shes been carrying your sorry butts for months. Show some respect! Hayes chimed in, only half-serious. She knew the Marie Jock was hardly state of the art.

    Just an old civilian freighter that Jessica and the ex-troopers had worked so hard to furnish into a new home and livelihood. With the old gal, theyd been shipping cargo, messages, and sometimes even live passengers from one free world to another. It wasnt glamourous. The jobs barely paid enough to cover fuel, but at the end of it all, they were fed, warm, and together. Which were things Davien swore hed never take for granted again. So when the Marie Jocks old slipspace drive broke down, that left them all in a pretty tight spot. A transport with no FTL drive had little prospects. Luckily, the drive had failed while the crew were still in an inhabited system, Menkent. Its one colony, Arsenal, was a hollowed out asteroid seated in the belt between the systems third and fourth planet, and a favored hangout of pirates, smugglers, and rebels. Davien had thought they could fix their little problem by borrowing money from a shady man who insisted he wasnt a loan shark back on Arsenal, and using that to fix the Marie Jock. But then those Jackals had tried to pull a fast one on him, and the whole thing went from bad to worse. He slammed his hand against the large container. It rang with the sound of metal clanging against metal.

    You seem upset. Lloyd said, more a statement of fact rather than a show of concern. Yeah, Doc, Davien responded, throat tight. He pressed his forehead against the cool metal of the large container, and stared at the toes of his boots. Thats what absolute despair does to a man. I dont know why. Why? Davien spun around, nostrils flaring. Because were a quarter million credits in the hole, and no goddamn slipspace drive to show for it! Thats why! Brandt clasped a hand on Daviens shoulder, his grasp somewhere between comforting, and restraining. The smaller man tried to shrug him off on instinct, but it was no good. Whatever Brandt held in his iron grip, he did not surrender easily. Especially not when he had that serious, hard look on his face, so unlike any of the faces he normally wore. Davien. Take it easy. For a moment, Davien was about to turn his ire on the giant-- but the rage drained out of him by then. And in its place poured cold resignation. He felt Brandt let go, and he slunk to the floor, his head dipped between his legs. This was it, then. Even if the loan shark allowed them to return the money without charging a hefty origination fee, the Marie Jock was dead in the water without that drive.

    Theyd have to sell the old gal for scrap just to pay for passage out of Menkent. And then what? Spend the rest of their days scrubbing floors or toiling in the mines? Is that what you want, Davien? To just waste your youth? You want to die in a ditch somewhere, penniless and alone? It wasnt his own voice he heard in his head when he recalled those harsh words. But a voice he hadnt heard in a very long time. A voice he had hoped once he would never hear again. What I... meant was, Lloyd began, slowly, as if she was choosing each word carefully. We wont have to use the Jocks nav computer. We can just take the Kig-Yars unit, along with their drive, and hook it up to the ship, Davien stared up at her, blinking. You can do that? I can. We can. Its just that easy? Its just that easy. -------------------------------- Shutting off the artificial gravity made it easier to transport the drive, but it was all slow-going. It took almost an entire day to cut the drive free and remount it to the Marie Jock. Not exactly as fast as anyone would have liked. Half the problem was how heat-resistant the nanolaminate plating was, slowing their progress with the plasma cutters. Like the rest of their tech, the Covenant drive was encased in a smooth purple carapace that gave the large truck-sized device a silhouette akin to a sort of deep sea creature.

    The other half was just because of how damn dangerous this whole ordeal was. What part of this was supposed to be easy? There was no shortage of nasty rumors about slipspace technicians mysteriously vanishing on the job. Lloyd herself had brought up the Cygnus Incident earlier, in which an improperly mounted drive split a cruise liner in half, killing hundreds. All stories Davien did his best to keep out of his thoughts as they worked. Fact was, translight engines were delicate but extraordinarily volatile machines. A powder keg, just waiting to blow. Fail to show them the proper respect, and the only thing youd be jumping to was an early grave. Consider all that, and factor in that this was an alien powder keg they were affixing to their own ship, and the danger doubled or tripled. The fact that the drive turned on at all-- and without blowing them all to Kingdom Come, was nothing short of a miracle. Capacitors are charging steady, Lloyd reported, hunched over the Covenant NAV computer. It was a bit of a mess, with sections of exposed circuitry and wires connecting the alien box to Lloyds comm pad. But nothing in the Marie Jock was there to look pretty anyway. A strange mix of geometric symbols and the familiar alphabet scrolled across Lloyds display.

    Davien had come across Covenant script plenty during the war, but try as he might, he couldnt gleam much meaning in the flow of rotating triangles. Well, this is why they had Lloyd, after all. She may have been a medic back when she served, but it was clear to anyone with eyes that Lloyds true love was all things technology. Lloyd may not have shown it on her face, but judging from how fast her fingers were tapping, she must have been as giddy as a kid in a candy store, getting to work on an authentic Covenant nav computer. Back during the war, the UNSC would have given anything for a steal like this. The Covenant had been kicking their asses six ways to Sunday for thirty years, and their superior control of slipspace travel was a big reason why. But even on the rare occasion where the UNSC were able to board Covenant ships, the bastards would just self-destruct anyway, to make sure the heretics never got their filthy human paws on their many secrets. And now, here one of those secrets was. Just sitting on the bridge of their ship. Davien had to admit, now that they hadnt blown up, he was starting to appreciate how much of a boon this was. With a drive like this, they could span the entirety of human space in less than a day.

    And he knew plenty of clients who would pay out the nose for that kind of express shipping. Capacitors will be fully charged in... forty-eight hours. Then we can jump. Daviens fantasies of drowning in credits were brought to an abrupt halt. thirty-six hours?! He repeated, dumbstruck. If we divert all power from auxiliary systems, I can make it thirty, Shucks, that aint too bad. Figured itd be a lot worse. Jessica said. It would have been, but we lucked out. The Kig-Yar had already been charging their drive for a while by the time we showed up. Probably trying to leave as soon as possible once they had the credits. Normally, it should take the Marie Jock ten days to charge the capacitors. Ten days... Davien slumped in his chair. But once were slippin for real, well be just as fast as any Covenant ship, right? Faster than we were before, yes. But not as fast as a Covenant vessel. The drive folds space-time far more efficiently, but were still using the Jocks engines for propulsion. Well, thats something, I guess, After everything theyve been through, Calson sure wished they had more to show for it. At this point, maybe it would have been smarter to have just taken the Jackal ship for themselves.

    Putrid stench, and all. Then again, would any of them have really been able to leave the Marie Jock behind, unless they absolutely had to? Something on Jessicas display flashed. Heads up, folks! Radar just picked up a ship on the edge of our sensor range. Corvette-sized, judging by the signature. Heading right towards us! Shit. Had the Jackals called for backup at some point during the firefight? Or did their pals just come sniffing when their fellow scumbags failed to check in? Either way, this wasnt good. The Marie Jock had a missile pod and a couple of autocannons for self-defense, but it was no warship. Not reading any Tau particles. They didnt jump here. Probably came from Arsenal, Lloyd said, running back and forth between one display and another. I dont think thirty hours is gonna cut it, Doc! Jessica shouted, tying her auburn hair back in a hastily thrown together bun. Lloyd apparently remembered Davien was in the room as well, but she barely glanced in the mans direction. Wheres Jerome? She said, her fingers a blur at the work stations keyboard. The overhead bulbs flicked off, leaving only the dull red glow of the emergency lights as she diverted power from all nonessential systems to charging the slipspace capacitors.

    Brandts below, retracting the umbilical to the Jackal ship, Davien responded. She cursed under her breath, before turning towards him. Move it! I have to stop him! Stop him? She shoved past him without another word and disappeared down the access shaft before Davien had a mind to stop her. Theyre hailing us, Jessica glanced over her shoulder at him, and jabbed a finger at an empty workstation. Hows about you see what they want? Give them the ol Calson charm? The what? Davien had been called a lot of things by a lot of people, but charming? That was a new one. Aye, aye, maam, Davien slid into the chair, and grabbed a headset. Ill be sure to charm the pants right off them, Patching it through now, To his surprise, it wasnt the beaked image of an angry Jackal that appeared on his display, but that of a bald man, with a hard-set jaw and icy blue eyes. You are not ChurR-Jith, He stated. It was difficult to discern any emotion from the mans face. Whether he was a friend of this ChurR-Jith or not, Davien hadnt the faintest idea. But, the fact that the corvette wasnt firing upon them was a good sign. Right? No, Im not. Friend of yours? More like... The man paused for a moment. Business partners.

    So, where is the Shipmistress? Davien debated internally whether or not to lie to the man, and if so, what kind of lie he should go with. When he wasnt satisfied with any fib his mind could conjure, he decided to do the craziest thing he could think of, and tell the truth. If this is all business like he says... Dead. The Jackal tried to swindle us, and wasnt too happy when we found out. She sicked her goons on us, but, well, they bit off more than they could chew, The mans face was a stony mask, and it felt like he was staring right through Davien with his icy gaze. Finally, he spoke: Always knew her overconfidence would come be the end of her one of these days. A shame. For all her failings, she was a valuable asset. They got a lock on us, Cali. Davien heard Jessica warn through his headset. Dammit, what were Lloyd and Brandt doing? If this is about money, Davien interjected. We got plenty. Everything we were gonna give this Churn Jit. Let us go, and its yours. He saw Jessica look at him out of the corner of his eye. That was more than two hundred thousand credits-- all the money they had borrowed from that loan shark back on Arsenal, who would surely be none too pleased if word ever got back to him.

    But dealing with trouble down the road was better than dying here and now. The man in the video feed waved a hand, dismissively. Youd be paying us with our own credits, Mr. Calson, Davien felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. He had never mentioned his name before, had he? You... son of a bitch! In a rage, Davien struck the display hard enough to crack the glass. He knew their game now. The loan shark had been in cahoots with the Jackals. The birdbrains didnt start a fight because they were offended the humans discovered their sham-- it was part of their plan all along. The loan shark on Arsenal would target those in desperate financial situations like the Marie Jock crew, dangle the solution above their heads-- and the Jackals would kill and rob anyone that took the bait. Jessica yelled something at him, probably for messing up her bridge, but at that moment, Davien didnt care. Goodbye, Mr. Calson. Was all the man said, unperturbed by Daviens outburst, before the feed cut out. Missiles inbound! Jessica shouted. A feed appeared on Daviens cracked display, showing the perspective of the Marie Jocks external cameras. He saw the twin plumes of exhaust slicing through the void, speeding towards them.

    Better hold on, Cali! Jessica yanked the flight controls hard to port, and the Marie Jock responded with a lurch and a metallic groan Davien really didnt like the sound of. It was like the melancholic moans of a dying whale. The docking tube. Were still docked with the Jackal ship. Before Davien could warn Jessica, the entire ship shuddered. He would have flown clean off his chair and headfirst into a bulkhead if he hadnt strapped himself in. Was that from the missiles impacting? Surely not-- the Marie Jock would have been gutted if a blow like that connected. But as far as he could tell on his readouts, there hadnt been any hull damage. None at all? He only realized what Jessica had done when he looked out the starboard viewport. The Jackal ship, with the Jock still attached, had swung around just enough for the nose of the alien craft to take the brunt of the missile volley. Now the ugly thing was even uglier, with its nose bent and venting atmosphere. A swath of red burning along its side. The Jock kept turning, and the docking tube swayed and bent until it snapped off, flailing like a salamanders severed tail. That little stunt had saved them, but what about Brandt and Lloyd? Had they been aboard the Jackal ship or the docking tube? For their sake, he hoped not.

    Guys, where the hell are you?! Daviens voice blared in all decks of the ships via the intercom. Right behind you. Came Brandts meek but deep voice. Not from the intercom, but from the access shaft at the opposite end of the bridge. His shiny bald head popped up into view, followed by the rest of him. And Lloyd-- on Brandts back, her blonde hair stained red from a nasty gash across her head. What happened to Doc? She hit her head when everything was shaking so hard, Im f-fine... Second Brandt had both feet on the floor, Lloyd slide down and stood on her own, wobbling legs and stumbled her way to where her comm pad laid. She paid little mind to the streaks of blood she was leaving on her screen as she typed something out. You dont look fine, Doc, you look concussed! Thats what I said! Brandt followed her every step, arms ready to catch. Good thing too, since the moment Lloyd finished whatever she was doing, she nearly collapsed. The big guy held her with one arm, slid her into her chair, and buckled her in like a fussy dad putting their kid in a car seat. Hayes... Lloyd said, weakly. She was clearly struggling to keep her eyelids open. I sent you a new heading. Doctors orders, huh? Jessica replied, her tone cheerier than Davien expected somebody in her position to be.

    She looked down at her console and smirked. Sounds good! The Marie Jock kept turning hard to port, until its rear was facing the damaged Jackal ship-- and the Corvette repositioning for a better firing angle. That was when Jessica hit the gas, and the Jocks engines roared to life, squeezing the ships system for every last bit of juice to redirect to the engines. As evident by the wave of weightlessness that washed over them. Artificial gravity wasnt necessary right now. Brandt, you better take a seat while you still can! And just what the hell were you and Doc doing down there? Davien couldnt help being curious about what was so important that Lloyd thought it was a good idea to run off in the middle of a space battle. She said she was going to use the Jackal ships own reactors to supercharge the slipspace drive or something like that! No kidding? At this point, Davien needed to stop wondering if what said was really possible or not. So, what, are we good to jump? Doesnt look like it, Cali. Were no closer to a fully charged drive than we were before! It was Jessica who spoke up. Alarms wailed again. Crap, more missiles! And no Jackal ship to shield them. What now? Davien cried. Marie aint out of tricks just yet! Just watch! The feed from the aft camera popped into view.

    The Marie Jock deployed a sweeping, thick white cloud from its underbelly that reminded Davien of those old crop duster planes he had seen in vids about life on Earth in the twentieth century. The missiles from the corvette veered off target, blossoming into burning petals that could only lick and lap at their targets exhaust trail, and little else. You never told me the Marie Jock had chaff dispensers! Never came up til now! Jessica threw her head back, and laughed. They had survived again, but their situation hadnt exactly improved. Out in the vastness of space, there was only so long they could play this cat and mouse game. Especially without the ability to jump to the safety of slipspace. In the aft camera feed, he watched as the corvette continued after them. Apparently they had run out of missiles, for now they started firing their coilguns instead. Coilguns didnt pack as much of a wallop, nor the guided capabilities of a missile, but for a simple freighter like the Marie Jock, those accelerated slugs would be more than enough to rip her apart. The harness around Daviens torso caught him as the ship lurched hard again. Now they had flipped around 180 degrees, facing the corvette head on, but still moving away in the same direction thanks to Newtons First Law.

    An object in motions remains in motion. With no air resistance in the vacuum of space, there was nothing stopping Jessica from maneuvering like this without losing speed. But what the hell was her plan? Hang on! With their engines now facing in the opposite direction, Jessica fired them full force, essentially hard braking the space craft. The reason why became readily apparent when the accelerated slugs from the coilguns missed them by a couple hundred meters. Of course, the corvette had been aiming where they were going to be, assuming a constant acceleration. By slowing down after the guns had fired, Jessica had tossed all their calculations in the trash. Missile away! Jessica hollered, with more than a hint of glee in her voice. When she thumbed the big red button on the flight controls, the Marie Jock fired its entire payload all at once. A dozen streaks of exhaust traced a path through the stars. Right into their own wall of lingering chaff from before. Were not gonna hit anything like that! Davien said, voice cracking. We dont have to! Before he could process Jessicas words, the missiles detonated. Either because of what remained of the chaff from before, or by the corvettes own interceptor missiles and point defense guns.

    The enemy ship was unscathed, the missile volley having done little more than slow their pursuers down. Which might have been exactly what Jessica had been trying to do. For barely a heartbeat later, Daviens display registered a sharp spike of radiation. And then, for but a moment, there was a second star in the Menkent system. It lit up the bridge brighter than Daviens eyes could handle, and he had to shield himself with an arm. The lingering image of the Jackal ship erupting burned against his eyelids. When he opened them again, the Jackal ship and the aft half of the enemy corvette were gone. And in their place was not a second star, but more like a small moon of pure inky darkness, blacker than the void. Thats a slipspace rupture... He heard Brandt murmur in astonishment. Jessica was still laughing. Davien turned towards Lloyd, and saw the slightest hint of a smirk on the womans blood-stained face. She pantomimed an explosion by making a fist and spreading all her fingers outward. Ka-boom. Unbelievable... It was Daviens turn to be astonished. It hadnt been the drive on the Marie Jock Lloyd had supercharged. It was the crappy one the Jackals had in their cargo hold. Just like Lloyd had promised-- it was another Cygnus Incident.

    He knew there was no shortage of irony in having the scammers torn asunder by their own faulty wares. But for some reason, he found it hard to laugh. -------------------------------------

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