Logan MacKenzie frowned, sitting up in his bunk. His ship had never exited hyperspace that violently before – at least, he amended to himself, not since he replaced those faulty power couplings that had been giving him trouble over the last few months.
He checked the chrono. Six hours way too early.
“Hey, Logan?” called a voice from the cockpit, down the corridor.
“Yeah, I’m coming. What happened?” Logan tossed a shirt on and hustled out of his quarters.
“You’re going to want to see this.”
When he arrived at the cockpit, his co-pilot stared blankly out into the black of realspace; at first, Logan couldn’t tell what he was looking at. There was nothing at all around; having exited hyperspace early, they were pretty far from their scheduled delivery at Karis Station, but he certainly didn’t remember there being an asteroid cluster this far out.
It was a pretty big asteroid cluster, in any case. There was only one that he could see through the cockpit’s viewport, and the sensors weren’t picking up any others.
The one he could see, however, was moving closer.
“What the Sithspit is that?” he asked, sliding into his chair.
“Blasted thing has been circling us since we got here,” replied Jer, scratching idly at his horns. He was frowning.
Logan glanced up at the gesture. Usually, the Gotal’s horns only started itching when they were near Jedi, but the look on his face seemed to indicate…confusion. “We got saber trouble?”
Jer shook his head. “There’s…no life on that. It doesn’t seem to exist at all.”
“Well, for something that doesn’t exist, it’s coming at us pretty fast. Fire up the thrusters, I’ll see if I can get around it.”
The asteroid moved closer, and Logan was able to get a closer look at it. It was too…symmetrical, too streamlined to be a natural lump of rock. And the way it was moving…
Logan hit the comm. “This is Captain Logan MacKenzie of the Seraph’s Wake. I am an independant cargo vessel and of no threat. Please respond.”
“I don’t think they can hear you,” said Jer, flipping switches and hitting buttons as fast as he could.
“Probably, but the ‘Don’t Shoot, We’re Pathetic’ signal works most of the time. What’s taking so long with the engines?”
Jer looked up at the incoming asteroid again. “They’re working.”
“Then why don’t I have any control?”
The Gotal shook his head. “You do. It’s just not working.”
Logan hit the comm again. “This is an independant cargo vessel, we have no military connections. Please respond!” He cut the transmission. “You ever see anything like this before?”
“There were news reports. Sernpidal, remember?”
Logan paled. “I thought that was a prank.”
He scrambled on his control board, hitting every override he could. “Shields aren’t working, I can’t move.”
Jer leapt out of his seat. “I’m going to try something, be ready to bolt.” He hotfooted down the corridor, heading for the engine room.
Logan turned back to see a swirling bolt of magma heading straight for the cockpit. He pulled hard on the controls, opening the thrusters as wide as they would go, but only succeeded in revolving the ship in place.
The ball of magma splashed across the hull, eating away where it touched the metal. The asteroid’s nose glowed, and Logan knew it was about to make another shot.
“Jer, hang on, we’re about to–”
The second ball struck the same section of hull, tearing its way through to the inside. Bulkheads started slamming shut, protecting other sections of the deck from explosive decompression. Logan was safe in the cockpit, and assuming Jer made it to the engine room in time…
“Logan, I’m here. I’m going to try to fluctuate the output, see if we can tear ourselves free.”
“Free from what? I didn’t read those reports!” Reports that suddenly seemed to be a lot more important now, and getting more critical by the moment.
“Some sort of black hole device they have, they use it as shields and as tractor beams. We can overload it and get free.”
“If the damned weapons don’t tear us apart first!”
The thrum of the engines started whining erratically, and the Seraph’s Wake started rocking back and forth. The asteroid slid around behind the ship – there was no other way to describe the movement, there were no engines to propel it – and Logan got a sinking feeling. He pulled hard on the controls again, trying to rotate the ship. “Get out of there!” he yelled into the intercom. “It’s trying to take out the engines!”
“What?” The asteroid was keeping pace, no matter how Logan tried to spin the ship. Its nose started glowing again. “Jer, blast your hide, get your furry ass out of there now!”
The ball of magma hit the engines; the explosion threw Logan out of his chair and over the consoles. Smoke started filling the cockpit, and he glanced at the damage reports.
One of the two engines was gone. Not just offline; the computer couldn’t recognize it as anything more than a radioactive lump of metal. The entire engine room…
Logan smashed his fist into the console, but the report didn’t change. The engine room had been engulfed in flames. Nothing could have survived that explosion.
The second engine started feathering; it wouldn’t hold up much longer.
“Overload the thing, huh? Okay, I can do that.” He glanced down at the cargo list. Mostly foodstuffs, but there were a few reactor core components that the Wake had been transporting to the station. If those had blown in that last hit, the Seraph’s Wake would be nothing but a few scattered atoms.
The thrusters weren’t powerful enough to escape the gravitational pull the asteroid was giving out, but he could still spin the ship enough to point directly at the blasted lump of rock. He fired the laser cannons at it, but they were sucked up into a void a scant few meters away from the rock. In that moment, the Wake shuddered, before being stabilized once more in the unseen grip.
“Don’t like that, do you? Here’s a little something you can choke on!”
He jettisoned the cargo directly at the asteroid. As expected the Wake started shuddering again as a singularity was opened up near the rock, but he fired the lasers again – this time at the reactor cores tumbling lazily through space.
The explosion washed over the ship, and the hull started screaming as it was superheated; the computer reported multiple breaches as panels started simply tearing away.
The asteroid wasn’t faring much better, though. The first bit of the blast had washed over the rock, until an even larger singularity was created to suck up the nuclear energy. With its remaining engine on full, though, the Wake leapt free of the weakened grip and started speeding away from the asteroid.
It was a charred black lump now, but it gave chase, and the nose started glowing once more. Logan glanced around for inspiration; he knew that he wouldn’t survive one more hit.
There was nothing left to do. No time to prepare. He grabbed the controls for the hyperdrive and prayed as hard as he could that there wasn’t any gravity well nearby to splatter him across hyperspace.
The Seraph’s Wake disappeared in a burst of speed.
Logan held the controls for thirty terrifying seconds. Without plotting a course, it was practically suicide. But uncertain death still looked pretty good compared to the certain death that would await if that rockship found him again, so he held on for another ten seconds.
Finally, his nerve gave out, and he pulled back into realspace. The remaining engine whined, and went dark – one more second, and it would have blown completely.
As it was, the Seraph’s Wake drifted listlessly in deep space. No engines, no way to get to them to make an emergency repair, and most of his food had been in the cargo bay.
Logan laughed at the situation. Escaping a quick fiery death only to starve – or suffocate, if life support gave out.
Still, there was hope. He hit the emergency beacon and slumped down in his chair to wait. Within seconds, he had passed out.
- Logan MacKenzie