Day 22. 81 pages, 36,240 words.
The crash-jump, to W’Tan’s surprise and grudging admiration, did not come as a complete surprise to whoever was in charge over on the Black Honey Wings. Who that was, exactly, remained unclear from the bridge of the A-Mod 400 but it didn’t ultimately affect the outcome. Either the Noro Metak had survived and regained control, or he had survived and taken some sort of remote command of the ship, or he was dead and had a rather gifted lieutenant on the bridge. W’Tan didn’t fall into the trap of expecting a hostile crew to be hopeless without their Captain, although it was awfully convenient when the enemy made the same assumption about you.
As they emerged from soft-space on the far side of the Black Honey Wings, they found the misshapen starship already opening fire on them with a nasty array of refraction beams designed for general-purpose metaflux corruption. Nothing critical was hit, but in the first three seconds after return to normal space they suffered some widespread hull damage. Had they been moving at a higher cruising velocity, their shields would have been amped up and the damage lessened. Just the price you paid for not wanting to plough into a starship at high speed.
Fortunately, the A-Mod 400 was also firing as soon as she left the grey, and she was firing her two mini-whorl canons. A tight swing as they tumbled in towards the Black Honey Wings brought them in range of the row of ugly little snouts firing the refractors, and then they were sweeping along and hammering at the hull and other weapons emplacements. The larger ship, or at least the half they were currently fighting, was attempting to manoeuvre and evade on her subluminals – without much success, because of the previously-mentioned fact that she was now two half-ships, but the subluminals would have to be the next thing to go.
The subluminal drive engines, however, were much more volatile than the relative drive. Accelerating a mass through space utilised a whole different set of energy-transference and conversion laws than flipping the whole lot over into soft-space did. The subluminal drive was linked into power relays, heat exchanges, the hull shielding … and taking it out could have disastrous consequences inside the ship. That was one of the reasons the core was so well-protected.
A good dogfight was over before it got too intricate. Ideally, of course, it was over and the enemy ship was crippled or destroyed, because a good dogfight was one you won. But generally speaking, the longer a fight in space lasted, the exponentially more likely it became that neither vessel would survive.
And by far the greatest danger was hesitation. Knowing that you had crewmembers on board the enemy ship made you reluctant to hit areas that might cause their deaths. And that reluctance gave the advantage permanently to the enemy.
“Bring us forward,” she said. “Carve us a hole through the main hold access lock and into the subluminal drive core.”