CHAPTER 3: DODGING DEATH
When Hesa was close to exiting the Boundary Zone in the Ena System, I noticed four huge Ihta
Warships in the region. I reported to the Captain, then he came to the Navigation Control.
We tried contacting the military people over the ANAK-link, but the storm made all
communications impossible. Giga told me to steer away from those vessels. He was preparing to leave when an object from
the group of military ships started on a vector right towards Hesa. Its speed was so great that I had no doubts: it was
a military missile! I froze thinking feverishly of any possible escaping maneuvers.
Giga said in a tense voice, “Dump the cargo, then change the vector dead on the missile, Rale!
Accelerate to the maximum speed!”
I did exactly as he had ordered, because I understood his plan in an instant. There was no way
our little Glider could run away from a military missile. The only thing we could do was to use exactly missile’s speed
to our own advantage.
By setting a course right towards the missile, Hesa’s apparent speed related to the missile
became the sum of both speeds. That was our only chance to escape pulverization, providing we were sharp enough in
maneuvering the ship . . . in due time. Then, after changing the vector, the barrels of oil were going to appear behind us as
a far larger target, sufficient enough to fool the missile to retarget.
The only problem we had was in dumping the cargo. That operation needed to be executed in just
a few moments, and I was the only person in the entire Nebula Universe capable of doing it that fast. First, I released
the constraining locks of the barrels—it was Giga who insisted on building the automatic release of the cargo, about 3
years before, and I suspect his intention was to be prepared for little petty contraband. Next, I opened the cargo bay
gate, then I locked the engines at maximum power, although that has never been done before on a Glider, inside the
Boundary Zone. However, it was taking time to gain speed, and I wanted to start as soon as possible.
The gate was rather slow to open, therefore I lost all the decompression suction force to dump
the cargo. What I did was, I used a “tail kick” to push the barrels out, and I did that while setting Hesa’s nose
straight on the missile. The barrels of oil went out spreading in space, then I closed the gate.
Hesa was gaining speed fast, and we were both monitoring the distance to the missile
attentively. Soon Hesa went diving into the waves because her speed was faster than the running storm. All structural metal
parts were squeaking and creaking alarmingly, but that was not our main concern.
“Keep the vector dead on the missile, and be prepared for a right turn of 25 degrees—no more
and no less, Rale! I shall re-polarize the fore-left deflector to the maximum charge, and watch out, because I change it
on the aft-right one, after you steer Hesa,” said Giga.
My body was a tense metal spring waiting for his order to change the vector, though I was well
determined to do it myself if he delayed it even for a nick of time. I threw a glimpse at the fore-left deflector,
because I was worried it could break away. Next, what I saw there scared me right to the marrow of my bones, as never
before in my entire life!
The oval shape of the fore-left deflector was missing; in its place there was a black window,
and through that horrible dark gap I could clearly see thousands . . . maybe millions of TINY BRIGHT STARS! With great
efforts I forced my eyes away from that nightmarish unreal image.
“Right 25!” ordered Giga, and my hand moved precisely to the ordered point.
Giga switched the fore-left deflector charge onto the right one, and that came as a great relief
because the entire body of Hesa was shaking terribly under that enormous inertial moment. We were cutting through the
storm waves at 87.163 TOS, which was more than five times the maximum speed a Glider had ever reached inside the Boundary—as
far as I can tell. We were also one and a half times past the maximum Wedhon speed limit, and
it was just sheer miracle that Hesa was still holding together.
Just a flash, and the missile went past us almost touching Hesa’s aft-left deflector. The
missile flared soon afterwards, but we were far away from it: the combined missile’s speed and ours helped us gain a
Captain Giga didn’t cease to amaze me. Although he had been suffering for days in his cabin,
when the situation demanded a quick intelligent action, he was THE CAPTAIN! He had saved my life, and it wasn’t the
first time he did that.
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