"Where is the extract?!" Alitma bellowed.
"The thing about that is —” Daniel said.
"Fire on them," Alitma said, to an offscreen subordinate.
"Wait!" Daniel said.
"No," Alitma said.
"Trak, how long till we’re hit?” Daniel said.
"Point three sec—” Trak said.
The L42 missile smashed into the Afterthought's secondary shield, the emergency forcefield that had snapped into place after Alitma's pulse weapon downed most of the ship's systems.
Powered by the barely functioning backup generator, the secondary shield had almost none of the strength of the main shield. And the main shield had been very weak.
So, after deflecting the missile, the secondary shield popped like a bubble, sending greenish whorls in all directions.
“Sec shield is gone, Daniel,” Rachel-7 said. “And Trak, Daniel, Alitma, in my final moments, I just want to say, you’re all idiots.”
“Thanks, Rachel,” Daniel said resignedly.
“Thanks, Rachel,” Trak said without emotion.
“Why do you let her speak to you that way?” Alitma said.
“We can’t make her stop,” Trak and Daniel said at the same time.
“Daniel,” Trak said, turning to his companion, “we will survive only one more hit.”
“One hit,” Daniel whispered.
“Apologies. I mean Rachel and I will survive one more hit. Your body will be starpaste,” Trak said.
“Ha,” Daniel said. Trak did like his gallows humor.
"Your antique Mek is right,” Alitma said. “You will not survive another attack. I ask again, where is the Garna extract?”
And then Daniel had an idea. It was a risky bluff ...
"Alitma, did you happen to scan the object we’re attached to?" Daniel asked.
"I don’t need to scan it,” Alitma said, exasperated. “I know my ancient weaponry well. It’s a Z-klik Fusion Cannon."
Before Daniel could say anything else, Alitma leaned closer to the viewscreen and said, "You were going to bluff your way out of this, weren't you? Let me guess, you planned to say something like 'Leave or I'll fire the cannon?'"
Gods, Daniel cursed silently. Alitma had always been perceptive.
"And from the look on your face, I can tell I guessed right," Alitma said. He leaned back in his chair and laughed. "You know, that cannon could do some serious damage to my dreadnought ... if I lived 37 million years ago."
Alitma let out another raspy laugh.
"Sorry, Daniel. It's old and broken and it's not going to fire," he said.