The Hunted Chapter 14 (New Writing)
A quick glance at the tactical computer told Kate everything she needed to know. The frigate had accelerated up to top speed and was closing. For short distances, the fighter was faster and more maneuverable, but not in this system. While the Fleet Captain had to know she was going for the asteroid field, he was too far away to do anything to stop it.
Thank God for small miracles, Kate told herself.
“Asteroid belt?” Loving said. “Are you nuts?”
“We’re more maneuverable,” Kate said. “We can either lose them in there or hide out until they give up.”
“Did nearly dying to something to your sense of self-preservation?”
“No but don’t distract me too much,” Kate said. “I’m making this up as I go along.”
“You’re making this up!?”
There was nothing Kate could do but snort at Jennifer’s comment. How in the world did anyone expect her to be doing anything but? It wasn’t everyday that a massive bounty was placed on your head, which meant any reaction to it had to be winged more then planned in advance.
Ahead of them, the asteroid field loomed. On the sensors, Kate got a better reading for what they were looking at. The field was immense and didn’t move in any structured pattern. While some rocks collided together, still others floated placidly, their meager gravity-keeping opponents at bay. It would be perfect for hiding their fighter from the frigate pursuing them.
“You didn’t think I would have something like this planned out, did you?” Kate muttered. “Who the hell could?”
“You’ve got a point…”
“Good,” she said. “Not let me work.”
Behind them, the Frigate continued to close and it was nearing weapons range. However, the asteroids were going to provide cover before that happened, and it made Kate smile wolfishly. Given the amount of rocks in the field, and the maneuverability of the M-22, she wanted to see how to Frigate’s captain expected to keep up with-or destroy-them.
However, much to Kate’s chagrin, he was going to try. The tactical computer chirped in alarm when the pursuing craft accelerated even more. The frigate was going to do whatever it took to try to keep her from entering the field.
Behind them, the frigate fired a antimatter torpedo. With the range between the craft so great, the odds of the weapon hitting were almost zero, but that wasn’t the reason for firing. If the Frigate could keep her from reaching safety, then it had a better chance of collecting on the bounty it’s captain was after.
A quick jerk on the controls and the torpedo went sailing off into space. While it wasn’t as close as it seemed, the weapon had been targeted better then Kate had given the other crew credit for. Who the hell was flying that ship, and where did they get those kinds of skills? Could that be an Intelligence craft after her instead?
“What the hell?” Loving cried from the back.
“That was close!”
“They just don’t want us going in there,” Kate said dryly.
Kate piloted the fighter around the first few asteroids before she slowed their velocity. There was enough rock between them and the Frigate, so now the ability to dodge the rocks was more important. If she could find the perfect one to hide behind, then they stood a chance to come out of this situation alive.
“What do you have in mind now, Kate?” Jennifer asked.
“A little game of hide and go seek,” Kate answered. “With an emphasis on ‘hide.’”
A particular asteroid caught her attention and Kate looked it over on the sensors. It was heavy in irridium, a material that played hell with modern sensors. While they weren’t going to be able to see the frigate on their sensors, neither would the warship be able to find them either.
If everything works right, Kate thought while piloting the fighter into position behind the floating rock, they will fly right past us. In the worst-case scenario, then it would allow me to cripple them without being spotted.
Once they were in position, Kate rapidly shut down unnecessary systems. Even with the metallic substance around to confuse sensors, it wouldn’t take much to detect the power signature of the fighter if the tactical officer was on her toes. By placing everything but sensors, weapons and engines on stand-by, their energy output would be reduced to where it wasn’t detectable on sensors.
At least according to theory, Kate told herself when she flipped the last switch.
While undergoing Intelligence training, one of the things they had stressed upon Kate was to study history. Armed with the insistence of the drill instructors, she had his the subject with a vehemence that made them shake their heads. After reading those reports, everything that Intelligence taught started to make sense.
Everything has a bad habit of repeating itself, she told herself while waiting for the Frigate to approach.
Kate found her mind thinking back to the histories on Earth’s second world war. Oftentimes during the war, an underwater craft called a submarine would attack and enemy. It would then have to go into hiding to avoid being destroyed or if it was being pursued by another submarine. The men who served on the thin-skinned craft would called it ‘run silent, run deep.’
Those words reminded her of what they were doing at that moment. However, unlike the submariners of earth’s past, if they were destroyed, there was no cool ocean to receive them-only the vacuum of space.
Which is why I need to be very careful, Kate told herself, I don’t want someone collecting that bounty!
Behind her in the back seat, Kate could hear Jennifer’s quiet breathing. It was a bit unnerving to be able to hear something so soft, but it underscored the situation they were in. However, if they managed to get free of the bounty, then she made a personal promise to talk to Loving about everything.
How was it that things like this always happened to me? Kate wondered. Why didn’t other people have to experience the kinds of things she did? Was it just her lot in life to suffer and possibly lose everyone that ever mattered? What was the purpose of a life like that?
“To make you pissed off at God,” Kate muttered to herself.
“You say something?” Loving asked.
“No,” Kate said. “Just thinking.”
A tone filled the cockpit as the passive sensors chimed for Kate’s attention. The frigate was carefully entering the asteroid field, and that brought a smile to her face. What the Naval Captain couldn’t possibly know was the fact that Intelligence weaponry would cut right through his defenses like a knife through butter.
Just keep coming, she pleaded, and give me a good up the kilt shot!
An up-the-kilt shot was something that all combat pilots hoped to get in a battle. Due to the nature of the engines on a ship, and their need to release the energy they created, the shields were weakest there. One good shot at the stern of any capital ship would either cripple it or destroy it, depending on the type of missile used and the marksmanship of the pilot involved.
A single missile on the fighter’s left wing was ready for launch. While waiting for the frigate to arrive, Kate had taken the time to set it to cripple the other vessel. Even though the crew had gone renegade, she couldn’t find it in herself to kill an entire Fleet crew. No, they would just be left adrift for Fleet Security to find them…
The frigate passed over their hiding place, her sensors reaching out to find them. However, due to the high content of iridium in the rock, the fighter was invisible. Unable to spot her quarry, the vessel continued deeper into the asteroid field in pursuit.
And there it is! Kate thought with a smile.
With a quick flick of a finger, Kate brought the tactical system back on line. A chime filled the cockpit when the targeting computer assumed missile lock on the frigate. She depressed the firing button and the fighter shook slightly as the missile launched.
It flew through the space in seconds and impacted against the frigate’s engines. A blinding flash filled the sky when it exploded, a secondary explosion following the first. A horrified expression crossed Kate’s face while she watched the Fleet Vessel crack apart and blast itself apart. Moments later, nothing remained but floating debris.
“Oh my God,” Kate whispered.
“What just happened?” Loving asked.
“I just killed them…”
Kate buried her head in her hands and let loose a primal scream. Rage, grief and guilt racked her body while she fought back the urge to cry. Yes, the crew had been renegades and would have been executed by Fleet Command for their crimes, but they had deserved to die after a trial-not like this! Maybe the damned voices were right…she was a murderer!
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