“Plasma closing,” the sensor officer reported calmly. Lieutenant Steven Donahue was a lifer, a veteran of a dozen engagements against the Skrees; he spoke as if he were ordering dinner. “Impact imminent.”
With a quick hand, Alsace set collision alerts ringing throughout the ship. Then, facing forward, he fixed his gaze on his command display and issued a series of machine-gun orders.
“Positional thrusters, rotate to 70° contraspin. Give me two sets of emergency thrusters online and hot, route control to my board. Side camera! And don’t let up that speed.”
With his eyes, he tracked the approach of the shot on his display and the visual screen. 10,000 . . . 5000 . . . too fast.
Quietly, he said, “No matter what happens, Stephanie, don’t stop what you’re doing.”
He wasn’t sure if she’d heard him. He prayed that she had.
Suddenly, with only a momentary flash of unmistakable light as its harbinger, the massive charge of molten plasma was on the side-viewing camera—and with a hammering fist, he slammed into activation every emergency thruster he had.
The entire bridge of the Winterborn seemed to freeze for a heartbeat.
Then, in the space of one infinitesimal mote of time and the next, it leapt fifty horizontal meters, and cleanly, neatly, the charge of plasma slipped through the gap in the keel of the cruiser.
Thrown against the side of his console with brutal force, Alsace wrenched himself back into his seat, every muscle aching. The plasma was on the screen, then past—coughing, he croaked out, “Aft,” and the sensor officer flicked the main display to the aft camera—there it was, turning in a tight, elliptical arc. Half of the glowing mass was dissipated already into the surrounding maw of vacuum, and the charge was moving more slowly, but it was still very much there.
He coughed around bruised ribs. “Control,” he said, “damage?”