Shar could barely speak, whispered to the control panel. “Keep the emergency docking hatch sealed.”
“Hull temperature is rising. 2600 degrees Fahrenheit. 2650 degrees Fahrenheit.”
She breathed heavy. “They’re using torches. Expel Co2 reserves…out the port side vent.”
A loud whooshing lasted less than a minute.
“Co2 reserve spent. Hull temperature is 2700 degrees.”
“Shake off that ship. Corkscrew maneuver. Now.”
The ship turned and bucked, and twisted. Shar’s head flopped like a rag doll. Her stomach tightened and she almost spewed her breakfast.
“Hull temperature 2750 degrees.”
Shar’s vision was growing dark. She laid her head back on the pilot’s chair and took a deep breath. She held the blaster loosely in her hand, resting it on the center console, still pointed toward the hatch, waiting for it to open.
“How many…?” Shar started to say, but couldn’t find the breath to finish.
“How many?” Repeated the AI.
“Pirates out there?”
“There is one life form at the hatch entrance. The superheated elements have expanded enough to weaken the security bolts. Breach is imminent.”
Darkness came upon her. Silence. Weightlessness. Her body floated to the top of the navigation console and drifted through the walls of the ship. She spread her arms, like a condor soaring high above the golden canyon lit in morning sun, then twisting sideways, descending into the blue shadows of the valley. The pristine river that formed the gorge sparkled in the sunlight. Glittering waters ran by warm rocks that lined the spot, into an eddy that leisurely spun the leaves that had fallen there. She landed on a golden, heart-shaped leaf. She was small, the size of the ring on her middle finger. And she rode the leaf, its veins pulsed slowly in steady heartbeats. It yellowed from autumn cool, twisted in the current, meandering down into the faster waters into the narrows, white with churning, foaming energy. Up ahead, beyond the rocks was her house, in the shadow of the tall pines, its roughhewn wooden walls snapping awake in the early sun, collecting pine needles on its roof, the dew lifting in silent transmutation. Peace had come at last.
The hatch door opened with a metallic bang, pulling her back from the peace and of the warmth and into the hard pilot’s chair. She opened her eyes. A menacing shadow hung above her. She instinctively reached for her blaster, but a hand stopped her. The weapon fired aimlessly in the cabin. Sparks flew. Heat lit the space around her. Bolts of energy ricocheted, pinging and gouging her ship. Then the hand grabbed her arm. She kicked and bit, sure she was a mighty force, but the call of the river was strong. She resisted the sensation, but it was overpowering. Pulled back onto the yellow leaf, her leaf bed slowly turned and twisted to the spot where she could see smoke rising above her chimney, and she let go.
To be continued…