“We have less than ten minutes before the plasma breaches the cannon’s hull,” Trak said. “And three seconds before the cannon's reactor containment shielding fails.”
The weapon shuddered as Trak’s prediction came true.
In the cannon's core, an energy barrier, which had been holding back the equivalent energy of 74 main sequence stars, flickered and died. Finally free, the plasma began its journey to the weapon's surface.
“The cannon’s overflow system will now attempt to contain the blast. It will be unsuccessful,” Trak said.
“Do you really have to narrate?” Rachel-7 asked, still singing at the same time.
"Do you really have to sing?" Daniel said.
“We could die in silence…” Trak suggested.
"What a pedestrian way to go," Rachel-7 said.
"I actually agree with her, for once," Daniel decided. "Keep talking, Trak. Keep singing, Rach."
With the reactor shielding gone, the cannon's overflow system shunted the plasma into the emergency containment cells that surrounded the weapon's core.
Weakened by age, the cells couldn't handle the sudden surge of heat and fire rocketing through them.
All 48 cells burst simultaneously, shooting waves of light and ionized matter through the cannon's innards. The internal explosions rocked the cannon like a missile barrage.
The Afterthought’s viewscreens, already struggling to present clear 3D images despite the interference, became almost unreadable as waves of Belmont radiation washed over the ship.
“Boss,” said another of Alitma’s lieutenants nervously. “If we leave now, we can escape the explosion.”
“I will not!” Alitma said.
Wringing its foreclaws in worry, it said, “We must leave before the—!”
Before it could finish speaking, Alitma shoved the crustacean out of viewscreen range. There was a cracking sound as it hit a wall.
"I need that extract, Daniel!” Alitma screamed. “My daughter is dying!"
“Of course she is," Daniel said.
“Send my daughter’s records to Daniel’s pilot,” Alitma said wearily.
A blur of information covered every screen in the Afterthought, replacing Alitma’s reptilian visage with the medical history of a young Rosov female.
Rachel-7 quickly skimmed the data.
“He’s not lying,” Rachel-7 said, pausing in her song for just a moment. “His daughter is very sick.”
She made a tsk-tsk sound and continued singing.
“The information has a Rel notary symbol,” Trak said after his preliminary analysis. “Daniel, the documentation process of the Rel species is next-to-impossible to fake. There is a 99.99 percent likelihood he is telling the truth.”
“Of course, I’m telling the truth!” Alitma said. “Daniel, did you think I would personally track you down for some random piece of stolen property? That I’d learn about your meaningless life and your friends and your past and your lover and your addictions just so I could reclaim a trinket?
“I did this for my daughter. She needs the extract. ... And I need her.”