Two ships cut across the vast, empty blackness of space… they had run a silent chase which had lasted more than half a standard day, and spanned more than a light year.
There was something distinctively camel-like about the lead ship, which was the smaller one. Its main body consisted of two large segments joined by a slightly narrower one that was also appreciably shorter from top to bottom. The canopied forward command deck which protruded from midway up the front of it only aided the resemblance to a desert pack animal.
If the pursuing ship looked like anything, it would have to be something out of a nightmare. It was shaped like a dodecahedron, a sphere-like construct of twelve faces. Each of these faces was a slightly concave pentagon, with a gun emplacement near each point. Various antennae and parabolic dishes protruded from the depression between each of guns. The whole thing was made of some dark metal that could only be distinguished from the surrounding void at extremely close range.
Those onboard the camel-shaped transport ship could see it very well, indeed.
If you had been presented with this tableau, your eye probably would have been first drawn to the immense black juggernaut, wider across any axis than the transport ship was from stem to stern.
Thus, you could be forgiven if your eye did not immediately pick out the tiny dark figure standing on the rear “hump” of the camel, especially as the surface on which the figure stood was itself quite dark. The top of each of the two towering compartments were actually transparent flattened domes which could be opaqued for tactical purposes.
Once you had spotted the figure, of course, you would have wondered how you could have missed so striking a sight as a person in a sleek black vacuum suit, playing zero gravity baseball.
There were a number of balls–softballs, when you looked closely enough–suspended within arm’s reach of the figure, who reached out, grabbed one, and released it at a suitable height and distance, then swung a regulation wooden bat.
There was no audible crack in the vacuum, of course, but the ball went sailing with considerable force in the direction of the dreadnought. The ball seemed to vanish shortly after passing the stern of the ship, only to instantly reappear a short distance in front of the pursuer, where it slammed into the nearest face, exploding into a plasma spray.
Those unfamiliar with the realities of interstellar travel might be puzzled by many elements of the scene. Therefore, some explanations may be in order:
Firstly, the spare balls appeared to float motionlessly alongside the hitter because all motion is relative to the frame of movement… so long as nothing imparted momentum to them, they would continue to move at the exact same speed as the figure and the ship itself, and thus, appear motionless. The same would be true for an object released by a figure standing on an earthbound vehicle, if not for gravity and friction.
Secondly, the reason the unorthodox projectile seemed to “blip” instantly from one ship to another was that both vessels were traveling at over eight hundred times the speed of light. The means by which a ship accomplishes this otherwise impossible feat involves a field which extends a certain distance from the surface of the vessel in every direction. Any object leaving that field is instantly shunted to a speed slightly below that of the speed of light. While the ball lost more than ninety-nine percent of its velocity when it left the transport ship’s field, the pursuing ship caught up to it in almost literally no time.
Thirdly, the reason the flying fortress had not cut loose with its obviously superior firepower was closely related: as soon as the projectiles left its field, they would slow down to sub-light speed and the ship’s field would then catch up with them, over and over again, until the two ships were close enough for the fields to overlap each other.
As for why the ball exploded on impact, that was readily enough explained by the simple fact that the balls, like almost everything else owned by the bat-wielding figure, were packed full of sophisticated explosives.
Of course, given that it was all but impossible for an object even gently tossed to the rear of the ship to fail to hit the massive target which metaphorically plowed through their notional wake, there was still one question remaining:
“What in space is she using the bat for?”2: Extreme Measures » »
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2: Extreme Measures » »