As the Skyreign crew passed through the same passageways and elevators, then completely powered and illuminated, they hugged the walls to avoid the hundreds of crewmen and women that rushed from place to place. The computer screens’ edges throbbed a fiery red, and the floor, seen before as translucent, lit up with arrows of numerous colours that guided those on their way to their stations.
Laura looked back to her crew for the space of a second, just to be certain they still followed and weren’t lost in the stream of people.
Most had not noticed them.
Rose scanned every single person they came across, particularly those of her own kind, Oasiians. Real, living Oasiians.
“We’ll come back, Rose,” Laura said aloud, weaving around a few crewmates who had stopped at one of the computers to find their way.
“I hope so,” said Rose, her eyes meeting a few of the male Oasiians. She couldn’t help but smile their way, pivot her head and smile some more.
“They’re all so short,” said Darrick, as his eyes pretended not to notice her.
“Aww, I was only looking,” said Rose, wrapping her arm around his as she continued to grin sheepishly, “I’ve never seen my kind before. All this time, I thought I was alone.”
“Just the only one awake,” said Elsie, “how much further?”
“Not far now,” said Laura.
Spaceport Eighty-One seemed like a wholly different room, then. The six of them entered, to see that the door where the elevator was, was far to the right side of the dock. In fact, the room extended much farther to the left, and the whole of the wall was in fact a gate, one that was wide open, showing the endless expanse of space.
The same lights in the floor guided pilots, mechanics, engineers and the crews for larger vessels, docked further down the spaceport.
The eleven Dragonflies were still there, though pilots dashed for each one. Rose recognized all of them as Oasiian.
Before the Skyreign, still anchored where they left it, stood twelve men and women, of various races. They appeared to be loaded with tool belts, the tools as diverse and strange to the Skyreign crew as the Skyreign itself was to those mechanics.
“You’re up,” said Laura to Darrick, tucking one side of her hair behind her ear, “take whatever we could use. Bentor—use the armour plating if it’ll help.”
Darrick nodded, stepping forward, speaking out in Behraanese, “Do you understand me okay?”
The mechanics nodded, saying out of concert, “yes.”
“We start with the engines,” he pointed to the Silverstar, “we’re putting those,” he pointed then to the Skyreign, “in there. All four of them.”
One of the Oasiians scanned the Silverstar about as quickly as Rose would have, “that’ll never fit.”
“We’ll make it happen,” Darrick smirked, “the Skyreign is a special ship. We’ll make it happen.”
The Oasiian shrugged, “okay.”
Another Oasiian, particularly one of the pilots, ran over from the Dragonfly perched in front of the Skyreign. He scanned the crew, then looked to Rose, speaking in Oasiic, “Are you Roselii Khental?”
“I am,” Rose replied in kind.
“I have received orders directly from Captain Wilhelm to assist you with piloting the Maak,” he bowed that Unity bow, “I am Fraemaal. Maal will do.”
“I never did say my full name,” Rose cocked an eye at him, “how did you know my full name?”
“Crewmember 1-3-8-6-4-2-9, right?” said Maal, “your name’s in the registry, silly.”
Rose slowly allowed herself to think of what that implied, her face blank, as with those of Laura, Olsein, Savath and Elsie.
“I, um...I’m here to assist you?” Maal said remindingly.
“Oh, I found it weird that you were registered as a child of six Oasiic years,” said Maal, waving her over to the Dragonfly, “but, the registry’s been wrong before. The Captain assures me you’re capable of this, so let’s go over the basics.”
As Rose followed, her face was still contorted with puzzle. The four remaining crew stared.
“You know what that means, right?” Laura said aloud.
“After today,” Olsein crossed his arms, “I have no idea what anything means. Janeth was their Admiral!? That means she’s been alive for—millennia.”
“We’ll have time to figure it all out,” said Laura, shaking her head, “but not right now. Nywan needs us.”
“The Terraniia has numerous spaceports, loaded with fleets,” said Elsie, “would it not make sense to send an attack force to assist us?”
“We’d stick out like a sore thumb,” Savath shook his head, “get the shit kicked out of us before we crossed the asteroid field!”
“Good point, Big guy,” said Olsein.
“We sneak in,” said Laura, “we have the advantage of a low signature profile. Maybe we’ll confuse the Behraanese with the Silverstar’s components. We should be able to make planetfall without any trouble.”
“Less trouble than the first time, I hope,” Olsein reminded.
Laura eyed the Skyreign, “She’ll hold.”
“Laura,” said the distinct voice of Grace from before her, as a three-dimensional, near-perfect hologram of Grace appeared, wearing only a matte-black skintight suit that covered from neck to toe, “I would speak with you.”
Laura nodded, noticing that mechanics and pilots alike stopped in their tracks to stare at the image, as if enthralled by it.
“I have not publicized this to all of the crew,” said Grace slowly, “but long range scanners have detected a mass of signatures leaping in. Those signatures are emitting strong signals on the frequency of fifty-five kilohertz. I therefore believe it is yet another wave of Bentorii, trajected towards planet Earth.”
“Kabaiila be cursed,” Laura groaned, “will we never get a break?”
Grace stared helplessly.
“We estimate under five hours,” Grace said, “you will have until that time to evacuate Nywan. All other alternatives will lead to certain death at this time.”
Laura sighed, looking up to the mechanics on deck, and over to the Silverstar that had started to look more and more skeletal as Darrick and the mechanics tore it apart.
“We’re going to need more firepower,” said Laura lowly, swivelling to Darrick’s direction, “Grab cannons!”
“We can mount four of the heavy plasmar turrets,” said Olsein, “I’ve been in the Silverstar once or twice. Those turrets should give us full coverage. Much stronger than those little deck guns we have. Better coverage, too.”
“Do we have the time?” Laura crossed her arms, looking into space, “do we even have the gunners?”
“Just five of us,” Elsie reminded.
“We’re not going there to fight,” Laura concluded, “we’re going there to emit this signal. The Nywanese will take care of the rest, and the Ophelian fleet will evacuate them. I just hope this all wraps up under five hours.
“Belay that!” she yelled back to Darrick, “no cannons!”
Darrick visibly nodded.
“As you now lack a medic,” Grace continued, “I suggest against any unnecessary irrational actions. Please, be safe.”
“If I followed that, we’d never leave the dock,” said Laura as Grace faded away, that smile being the last thing she saw.
“Laura!” Rose shouted, then standing up from inside the open cockpit of the Dragonfly, “I’ll comm you when the coast is clear!”
“We’ll still need something for the Bentorii,” Olsein warned quietly, “much of those craft will be formerly Behraanese.”
Laura waved to Rose.
“Diinshtago, Captain!” said Rose, before sitting in the front seat and pulling down the canopy.
Audibly, the spaceport began to rumble with starting engines, crackling lifters and sounding alarms that echoed throughout. Visibly, the Dragonfly fighters quickly flexed their four wings out, in a foreswept-and-backswept pattern, slits opening mid-wing and emitting thrust, promptly lifting the fighters off their feet, which retracted into the undercarriage.
Then, their fore engines activated, the wings flexed to point the lifters in opposite directions so that the fighters would pivot on a point, facing the dock. Additional power, accompanied by a high-pitch whine, screeched at a near-deafening decibel. As they approached the gate’s energy field, one after the other powered their twin engines behind the cockpit, the thunderous roaring being the last Laura heard of them. Once they crossed the field, they were completely silent. Seconds later, they disappeared into the eternal night.
Rose, the last to leave, did so much faster, rolling the fighter a few times before throttling all the engines to the maximum, leaving behind a cacophonous explosion-like sound.
Laura then looked to Olsein, “Fine. Have it your way.
“Darrick! Yes to cannons!”
“How many?” he called back.
“All of them! We’ll tie them into the co-pilot console!”
Darrick stared for a long moment, then looked back to his engineers, “you heard her, all of them!”
Just half an hour later, the Skyreign had transformed. Four hefty engines then were mounted into the rear quarter of the vessel. Two had replaced the dead Nywanese ones; the other two had been planted just underneath the first, eating into the cargo space in the lower deck.
All of the lifters were replaced, even those that functioned fine before. Even though the Silverstar’s lifters were aged, they were still a superior model and could take a great deal more punishment.
The interior portions of the Noregite hull were reinforced with the silvery ablative shards from the Silverstar’s armour plating.
The four long-snouted turrets were mounted onto the sides of the Skyreign, one above the other, and made accessible from the console. They were able to cover all but the direct rear portions of the ship, but, for the sacrifice, covered the flanks and fore arcs perfectly, as well as above and below—an advantage the Skyreign had gone so long without.
Finally, in the stead of the Silverstar’s dying core, the Unity engineers supplied a reactor for their own time. An Energium Stardrives, original, authentic Energium reactor. Just two grams of the Energium molecule was enough to power the Skyreign for ten Earth years, assuming the Skyreign was at full leap at all times.
As Laura stepped onto the bridge, the Engineers were just packing up their tools and closing up all the electrical panels. Their work was done.
“Three thousand years, and they still have Behraanese engineers beat,” said Laura aloud.
“But not Khrynthoss ones,” Darrick said as he sat at his console, his eyes wide with glee as he ran his hands over all the new information scrolling the screens, “the computer is way faster now.”
“So how do we control those nice new guns?” Olsein rubbed his hands.
“It’s all in the co-pilot console,” Darrick pointed to his right, “can you multitask?”
“I can,” Olsein sighed, “but not well enough to control four guns.”
“Leave that to me,” Elsie said, sitting next to Darrick.
“Thanks, folks,” Laura said to the engineers, “send my thanks to the Admiral, and to Captain Wilhelm.”
“No problem,” said one of the engineers. The others responded in nods as they exited the vessel.
Savath came around from behind the cabin, giving the nod, “those guys are clear.”
“Take us out,” said Laura as she sat in her chair.
“Fasten your shieldbelts,” Darrick said as he did so with his, then began going through the startup sequence, flicking touch switches and powering the various systems, old and new.
The one thing that sounded completely bizarre to Darrick, was the starting of engines one through four, as they started a lowly grumble, then moderately ramped up to higher and higher pitches, intensifying and causing the ship to shake and shudder.
“And, dampers,” Darrick flicked a switch, causing the shuddering to dissipate and the cacophony of roaring engines to dull to under a tolerable level.
Laura smirked widely, “this is much better.”
“Not done yet!” Darrick looked back with a grin.
“Don’t let me stop you,” Laura shrugged, easing into her seat.
“Lifters,” he decisively pushed on a lever next to the yoke, pushing the craft up. He retracted the anchors and opened the sails, “sail ring, unlocked. Could never get this to work before.”
With that, the ring upon which the three sails were mounted, swivelled ever so slowly, making a full revolution every five seconds or so.
Once the Skyreign was raised high enough that engine wash would not affect anything or anyone, Darrick eased the throttle forward. The engines responded by screeching and jolting the ship forward and out of the dock, into the starry void of space.
“Shell and field are holding,” Darrick stated, looking straight-up to look into space, “this is the weirdest feeling....”
“Yeah,” Laura stood up, looking beyond the seemingly roofless ship, then back to her own feet, “just glad the artigrav is working.”
“I could almost touch them stars,” Savath said aloud.
Laura then looked back, seeing the spaceport they just left—among the dozens of others like it. As the Skyreign distanced itself away, she realized the spaceport was in the lower stem. The main fuselage was well above it.
Other ships, as small as fighters and as large as battleships, were pouring out of the Terraniia.
“I feel so small,” Laura whispered.
“What now?” Darrick asked.
“Now?” Laura shook her head, leaning back to her chair, “we wait. Get the leapdrive ready. Coordinates: Earth, low orbit.”
“Right,” Darrick began the necessary commands.
“Actually,” Laura leaned forward again, chin on her propped fist, “the primary distributor feed is still directly connected to the hull, isn’t it?”
“Uh huh,” Darrick replied.
“Another hunch of yours?” Olsein asked, with one brow raised, “Captain Vinfield?”
Laura could only smile and stretch her netted hands out, cross her legs and nod.
Answer enough for Olsein.