“Kay, I can’t dodge all of it! Eyes on the battle!”
“Bite me!” she snarled back.
Her screen was absolutely lit up. The process of this was so unbelievably taxing. Every battle left her so mentally and physically drained. She didn’t like to complain, looking back up and seeing her companion in the seat in front of her, desperately moving to dodge and attack. For whatever reason, command always saw fit to have them right in the thick of whatever fight. The assertion was that since this unit had a shield that was nigh-impenetrable with the right crew, why not have them dealing with the worst of every battle. Enemy armors were everywhere. Just everywhere. Bogeys on her screen and energy lances in all directions. Made sense why her head was killing her.
Quinn was doing everything she could to move and return fire. A unit decided to try its luck and come in close. Bad move. Energy blade sawed it right in half. An enemy cruiser was coming up. This was bad. They could handle enemy fire from units, but beam weapons on these monsters was unstoppable. They hadn’t gotten the order to retreat yet, so all they could do was avoid fire.
“Command, Protectorate cruiser incoming! Request permission to withdraw!”
“Negative, Killer Bee. Keep at it.”
Switching the comms to the ship off. “These fuckers wanna kill us!”
Hard for Kate to argue, but she couldn’t respond. Now things just got worse. Their units were doing the best they could, but already they had lost five. This was supposed to be an elite squadron, yet so many of their best had already been killed. It hurt to see all the racks having to get reassigned.
The cruiser was lining up their guns. It was clear that the Killer Bee was the target. This unit was giving the Protectorate hell, now they wanted it dead. Quinn decided on a desperate gambit. She hit the boosters and flew hard at the cruiser.
“Are you nuts?!” Kate yelled.
“The closer we get the less guns there are shooting as us! I can’t dodge particle cannons and defense lasers! The shield can’t take the cannons, and you can’t deflect all the lasers. I can hear you cracking.”
It was hard to admit, but it was true, She was getting sloppy. They hadn’t taken damage yet, but they would be soon. Her endurance was failing.
“We’re not dead yet. No apologizing.”
Killer Bee swooped in over the gray hull of the enemy ship. Blue beams came like shafts in the black void. Meanwhile, yellow particle beams from massive guns were also coming out. Quinn trained the cannons on the nearest laser emitters and opened up, blowing holes in the hull. They flew right at the nearest cannon and let loose on that as well. The gun was blasted full of holes and stopped firing. This weapon was too big to blow up. At least not without missiles. They used those up during the ambush.
A voice suddenly came onto the comm. “Relax, everybody! The cavalry has arrived!”
Massive explosions suddenly coated the back of the ship, right at the engines. Quinn pulled up and started moving away. The lasers had trained on new targets. A series of bombers had come from a ship that was hiding behind one of the larger asteroids. More explosions. They ignited the drive core! This ship was as good as dead.
“All fighters and armors, return to the fleet!”
“About fucking time!” Quinn snarled. They quickly shifted back and she hit the accelerator as fast as it would go. Just below the speed where their particle field couldn’t keep up. Kate was breathing heavy as she leaned back in the seat, turning off her console. The exhaustion was catching up fast.
“Take a look at this,” her pilot said, pulling up an image on the display. It showed the cruiser they had been fighting. Shimmering particles were flowing out. The drive core was leaking. It was going to blow! Kate leaned across Quinn’s seat. In a brilliant shimmer of yellow and green light, the drive went up. The explosion was massive, sending particles everywhere.
“Beautiful…” she marveled.
“Yeah. Amazing.” There was a string of explosions afterwards. Part of the risk of the Nova Engine is that once the particles are caught up in an explosion, it doesn’t just blow up and then go away. The particles ignite for a time afterwards. Hence why the drive is in the center of any ship with extensive shielding over it. Once a drive goes up, any ship nearby has to flee, fast.
The armors, fighters, and the bombers that joined them headed back towards their ships. Enemy fighters and armors were headed away, now in a pretty pickle. If there were no ships within range, they couldn’t make a jump to sub-space on their own. All they could do is sit and wait. If your ship was blown up and you had no support craft within distress beacon range, it was typically better to just surrender. The alternative was either your power running out and you freezing to death, your oxygen running out and you suffocating, or any emergency water supplies being depleted and you dying of thirst. None of which were good ways to go. The enemy wasn’t surrendering, so they must have known reinforcements were close enough. A good sign to vacate the area, with haste.
Back on the ship, the Killer Bee was docked in its hangar, where the repair technicians looked it over. Aside from heating of the guns and some minor repairs, they were being kept very bored. Kate was a master at what she did.
In the dressing room, the two women were stripping down. Both were utterly exhausted. After they got out of their g-suits, now they were only wearing flight jumpers. Once those were off, Kate sat on the floor. Freezing cold, but she would take it. Eased the tension on her skin.
Looking over, Quinn cocked an eyebrow. She was struggling to put on her underwear.
Shaking her head. “No, I’m not. So fucking exhausted. But my body is so damn tense. My head is killing me, and my body feels like a spring being pressed on. It almost hurts how tense I am. But I don’t even have the energy to get up. So done with today.”
Walking over, Quinn held out her arm to her compatriot. “I can help with that. But first, let’s get that naked butt off the floor. You’ll catch cold doing that. Not gonna have you in our bird sneezing.
Taking her hand, Kate smiled. “Okay, Harley, what do you have in mind?”
“First that you put some clothes on. I can’t take you where I want to go naked.”
Both of them cracked up.
It was dark inside of the Constellation Chamber. One of the most underutilized rooms in the entire ship, this was a place where one could have darkness and see the stars. They could also turn off the gravity inside and just rest. A projection of the stars would appear overhead, along with all sorts of stellar phenomenon. You could see the gaseous clouds of a supernova. It was something they had recorded. What was on the viewer tonight was a brilliant particle clouds from that night. Someone one the ship was nice enough to record it and now it was displayed, making the whole room shimmer.
Kate was on her stomach, with Quinn on her lower back, her hands working up and down. There was soft music playing, with the two just enjoying the silence. For Kate’s part, she was loving it. The tension was easing up. This woman’s hands were magic. The lights reflecting on the floor from the bench they were on was so soothing. Part of her was thinking she was going to fall asleep.
“It’s okay, you know,” Quinn said. “If you start snoring.”
Raising her head up. “Hey! It is not cool to be in my head!” Like she could complain. After all the time they had spent together in training, the two women might as well have the same mind. They were so synchronized that you would catch them finishing each other’s sentences. The two were always together. Always. They were virtually never seen apart. Led a lot of the crew to wonder what their deal was, but no one would say it publicly. After their victories in battle, both had earned a huge amount of respect.
“Just count yourself lucky. My first piece of advice was that we should hit the showers and I would have given you a rub there.”
Kate groaned. “As if we need more rumors about us.”
A chuckle, and she went back to her work. The quiet classical music continued. The mood lingered on, with the quiet suddenly becoming more pronounced.
Another pause. “Why have you never made a move on me? I mean, everyone already assumes we’re together. Why did you never make a move?”
The girl stopped for a moment, resuming.
“Because for the longest time I hated your guts. The two of us damn-near tried to kill each other for our entire time at boot and then for weeks when we met up here. There was just so much negativity. Then things turn around, and we got to know each other. You were always talking about your boyfriends and how close you were to them, so I just figured that you were straight. Why do you ask?”
Kate shrugged. “I don’t know. Just thinking out loud.”
The quiet came back, and now both women were awkward, yet the rubbing continued.
“Have you been thinking about it?” Quinn asked, finally.
Looking down for a moment. “Maybe, a little. I mean, we’re always together. You even came to my rack when you had the nightmare. It was always on my mind why you never expressed any interest.”
She smiled. “It’s not like I haven’t thought about it. But you know all the rules about fraternization.”
“Oh please! As if the rules have ever stopped you from doing something.”
“Fine, you caught me. Maybe it was me wondering if what we had going was something real or just a battle thing. You know? Like we were just bonding over the war and being afraid of dying?”
Wiggling to let her know she wanted up, she looked over at her pilot. “Do you still think that way now?”
Head down, then back up. “I don’t know. Like, it’s always in the back of my mind, but then I think of how we laugh at each other’s jokes and how every time I am away from you I don’t wanna be. Then I think about what will happen when all this is over, if the two of us are alive, and I feel really scared because I don’t want to imagine you being far away and me not being with you anymore.”
Kate grabbed her hand. “Hey now! When we’re done here, I am so taking you back my colony world! I wouldn’t let you go back to that tiny apartment now. You’re too important to me to just leave behind once this is done. And to be honest, I kinda think the same thing. Like, about how I don’t know what I would do if you weren’t with me. And yeah, I guess I have been thinking about it. Before we really started to mesh, after all the negative stuff got out of the way, I never thought about that sort of thing before. I mean, there’s always that one insanely hot girl that everyone is staring at, but it never really occurred to me before now with myself. You’re just so…different.
The two women were so close now, looking right into one-another’s eyes.
“You promise? That you’ll take me back to your home if we survive the war?”
Kate nodded. “I wouldn’t lie about that!”
“I’m not saying you would. But you have talked about how your family is very colonial. Not sure they would dig how I am.”
Shaking her head. “I don’t care about what they would think. It’s what you think that matters.”
For a long time they just sat there, staring at each other. Kate smiled at her companion. Quinn took her hand and kissed it. The two were now closer than ever.
Looking at her seriously, Quinn said, “don’t make the move, if you don’t mean it.”
Pulling her close, their lips touched. After a few moments together, they pulled apart.
“I never knew how much I needed to do that before now,” Kate whispered. And with that, the song ended. Quinn hit a switch, and the image changed to a glowing red dust cloud.
Until next time, a quote,
“Every seaman is not only a navigator, but a merchant and also a soldier.” – William Petty