The Ripper came out of the tunnel to face a hail of messages to keep away from the radioactive debris field. More worrying was the three Space Reserve craft merely a 2000 miles away and spread out in a line, moving toward Sirius A at a slow speed, all sensors active. The pilot let the reverse thrusters stabilize the craft at cruise speed and alerted Dr. Fedli . Not receiving any response he went to her seat- as expected Dr. Fedli had passed out. The veteran rebel did well to slow down to minimum speed angling away from the Space Reserves, to give the Dr.Fedli more time and options.
It took nearly half an hour to wake Dr. Fedli and get her to swallow meds. Only then did he update her of the Space Reserves out there along with the Claw. Space Reserves were good graft with extremely good tech. They would detect the Phoenix if it was within a few hundred miles of them, even a thousand miles if they were lucky and alert. Before they could plan anything else they were hailed by one of the Reserves.
Again the veteran pilot showed a sharp presence of mind and replied that they had trouble; some sort of electronic surge had caused a lot of problems. The Reserve craft instructed him to prepare for boarding and inspection of cargo. The pilot pleaded console failure and managed to get twenty minutes to prepare for boarding. Dr. Fedli called the Phoenix.
"We have problems."
"We saw you coming and being stopped by the Reserve."
"Where are you?"
"About seven hundred miles past the Reserves."
"OK I am sending you an override key. You will be able to access the weapons systems partially. Go for the Blitzer. You will need to tag all the four ships farthest to nearest. Let The Claw be the last. The Reserves are the real danger."
"What does the Blitzer do? I can't..."
"It will give a suprenetic sub.... It will overload the circuits, while specifically targeting the sensors on the outside. The ship will stop functioning for a few minutes, that's all. By then we will board you."
"But they will know we are here!"
"Phoenix can handle anything they can throw at you. But I need to be there."
Maaz was feeling the pressure. A choice had to be made, now. Either to trust this Dr. Fedli and consider her as an ally against Shira and the EC. Or, stay out of it and away from them all and hide in some far off outpost.
The codes from Dr. Fedli came through and Maaz had Tank run them and report to him. He was not very surprised when Tank reported that the ship's arsenal included Q-Runs- the dreaded AI governed drone missiles which were capable of destroying satellites while avoiding defensive fire. But it helped Maaz decide, he simply could not handle this kind of destructive force, even if he did not use it there was a good chance that EC or others like Shira could get hold of it.
Maaz sent a message to the Ripper - "3 MINUTES" and asked Tank to power up the Blitzer and tag the four ships which now had formed a loose semi-circle around the Ripper. When the Phoenix let down the shields and fired the first shot, nothing happened; nothing that Maaz could see or the sensors showed. A very brief pulse of electro- magnetic power was all. The ships on the other hand would have surely seen the Phoenix.
The Phoenix fired the Blitzer once more, twelve seconds after the first shot. The ships were powering up the weapons, the turrets and taggers blistering to life. A cold sweat made Maaz feel clammy. Twenty five seconds after the first shot the Phoenix was making her third shot. The ship Tank was targeting was already in motion turning and moving towards the Phoenix. Maaz had stopped breathing, the Ripper had dipped under the first ship and out of the line of fire from the other three and would be along side in a couple of minutes.
"Assailant Lasers locking on." Tank announced.
"Shields will be up in forty seconds"
"Tractor fields deployment detected. Fifty seconds away."
And then the report that helped Maaz breathe again.
"First Blitzer in effect. Assailant ship shields down and weapons off-line."
"Tracker projectile fired from the Claw."
"Second Blitzer in effect."
"Projectile Neutralized." The report followed a blip on the console, denoting lasers fired. Maaz was shocked again. He had not instructed Tank regarding defences. And yet...
"Third Blitzer in effect."
"Fourth Blitzer in effect."
"Ripper slowing down, will match ship side in one minute."
Maaz stirred from his thoughts. "OK. Deploy docking tractor fields and prime and sync the entry tubes."
He lapsed back into silence as the Ripper maneuvered along side and the automated docking procedures initialized. Not being able to contain himself anymore Maaz asked.
"Tank, why did you fire at the projectile Claw had shot at us?"
"With the weapons online, I had switched on the defensive protocols."
"Why, I never gave any instructions."
"My governing parameters required the action. Do you wish to change any ..."
"No Tank, nothing. I was just surprised. the learning subs and logic expansion loops are working better than I imagined."
"Maaz, my functional capacity, data sifting and most parameter sub- circuits have multiplied in the past days. Independent responses are more possible now. The algorithms I assimilated from the ship have create these new capacities."
The inner lock of of the stern dock chimed as the door was pushed aside.