tentrevir: I have a sekrit desire to be a Mary Sue
Well, OK, but how does one do that, beyond writing a story? What type of Mary Sue is she? Fortunately, this problem was solved by senji's subconscious, and his decision to tell us about it here. Consequently, I present to you the tale of the origins of the Dread Space Pirate Eni.
This story was originally planned as the prologue to Ex Astris, Ultio: The Tales of the Dread Pirate Eni, but I'm never going to have the time to tell all of them, when my verbosity is sufficient that this one ran to almost five thousand words and is probably only a thirtieth of what I'd originally planned. So, I'm throwing it open to all of you - tell the Tales of the Dread Pirate Eni, leading on from this, or striking out somewhere else (there may, after all, have been more than one). The only things I ask are that you post a link to any tale you write here, or that you email me (isfraser21@ google's mail service) with a link to where your story is posted. If lots are written I might even collect them and comment on my favourites. If nobody else writes anything I'll just add a few more stories of my own occasionally.
Without too much further ado:
Title: Ex Astris, Ultio: The Tales of the Dread Pirate Eni
Part: Prologue, A Dragon's Flight (1/?)
Length: 4,740 words
Copyright: Copyright is owned by Stuart Fraser. You are granted the right to copy this for personal use only, and may not distribute it in either electronic or printed form without my permission. This is a work of original fiction. Well, about as original as Sci-Fi gets nowadays anyway.
Other: See above, also please feel free to tell me how useless I am. Or even be nice about my writing ability, if you're that way inclined.
To enismirdal - Merry Christmas!
Other acknowledgements should probably go to: Timothy Zahn, and Michael Stackpole, for teaching me how to write space battle scences; and Stephen Ratliff and MST3K, for showing me all about bad SF suefic with a female protagonist. I hope Princess Sarah is a little more believable than Marissa Picard. Anyway, on with the show...
“Your Royal Highness?”
“Do you have anything for us, Princess?”
“What do you say about the article on the front page of the Herald, Princess?”
The scrum of reporters – she hardly thought to honour them with the term journalists – fell silent as Princess Sarah Nimir and her minders continued to ignore them and walked from her airshuttle into the Red Phoenix assembly yard. She ignored them partly because it was the early morning, and the Princess was thus in a bad mood at being forced to get up at such an hour, and partly because it was never a good idea to give the press too much attention, if one wanted to keep anything private at all. As uniformed guards opened the doors before her, the Princess strode across the open floor of the Phoenix yard’s lobby, trying her best to keep her gait even and her posture regal, which wasn’t, she thought, as easy as it seemed this early in the morning.
Greeting her was a tall, middle-aged man, whose wiry build barely seemed to fill out his stiff-looking white-on-blue Royal Rilmani Navy uniform. He stood rigidly upright, and offered a formal bow before unbending and saying,
“Greetings, your Royal Highness. I’m Captain Pullman, overseer of the naval sections of this shipyard. If you will permit me to introduce my senior staff…” Sarah had nodded her assent before she’d even realised this was expected. “This is Commander Dubro, my executive officer, and…” The captain’s monologue continued, but her attention had wandered. It was, she thought, unconscionably early in the morning – with the navy’s newest ship due to be launched at noon, New London time, and with the necessary formalities to conduct beforehand, the time was eight a.m., and she’d been up since six; an hour of the day she was more used to approaching from the other direction. She idly wondered why, with a cousin and two uncles who’d had naval careers, she was the one standing here and attempting to refrain from too blatantly ogling the cuter-looking officers, at least some of whom looked positively dashing in the full dress uniform that was, needless to say, de rigueur at such an event. She forced her attention back to the Captain, who was indicating a man unremarkable in height and build, but possessed of a charming smile and impressive flowing blond hair that reached down to his lower neck; no longer in defiance of naval regulations, she knew, but certainly in defiance of naval custom. “…commanding officer of the Electra.”
Half-asleep she may have been, but the Princess was not entirely clueless, and the name Electra immediately brought her back to full consciousness. She was aware that she was expected to say something at this point, and opted for a relatively innocuous question: “Ah, so the crew of the Electra is mostly already aboard ship, then?”
The last of the officers Captain Pullman had named leaned forward to answer her question. He was shorter and looked much younger than the shipyard’s captain, with the subtly different gold trim and decoration which indicated he was part of the deep space navy. “Most of those who are coming with us on the first voyage are, yes. Since it is just a shakedown cruise, we aren’t running a full complement of crew, and a couple of the officers and one of the chiefs are transferring from other vessels and haven’t arrived yet. It ought to be a fairly routine affair. So far as anything in the RRN ever is, of course.”
Sarah flashed what she hoped was a dazzling smile by way of reply to his final comment. “Naturally. So, Captain Pullman, where is this fine vessel which I am to launch?”
“She’s in the outer spacedock, running pre-launch trials and waiting for us to arrive to conduct the ceremonies and launch her. This way.” So saying, the Captain took off towards the rightmost of three possible exits from the wide entranceway, with Princess Sarah alongside, and their respective entourages falling in on either side as was the custom. “It’s quite a walk, but I’m told that your security people decided against using the rail to get there directly.”
“Yes. I think they’re worried about my weight or something. Anyway, it is only a mile and a half, though I admit the view could do with improving”, Sarah said, gesturing at the expanse of featureless aluminium bulkhead to illustrate her reply.
The Captain smiled “Windows on the space side are considered somewhat…unwise, ma’am, due to the risk of micrometeorite impact. And on the other side, since the light from laser welding torches is so bright, we’d have to darken the windows so much you’d not be able to see anything through them anyway.”
“And presumably the naval accounting office frowns upon you spending thousands of pounds to have a nice mural or similar painted on the walls. A pity, really.”
There were a few polite chuckles amongst the assembled naval officers, before Pullman continued his commentary “We’re walking past the inner assembly yards. Some ship systems have to be part assembled before they can be integrated into ship hulls, and not all of them arrive here that way.”
Princess Sarah nodded, becoming more awake as the conversation moved onto a topic about which she was not entirely uninformed “Oh, like the beam arrays, you mean?” Sensing the several surprised looks around her, she added, smiling “It’s called taking an interest, I think. With a good third of your family in or retired from the Navy it can somewhat dominate conversations, and…well, I got curious. So I probably know more about photon cascade inverters than might be considered entirely sensible. I don’t believe the gossip columnists ever did learn why I did applied physics at university.”
Electra’s captain almost giggled at her last comment, replying “Maybe you could fill in for my weapons officer, then, Your Highness; he’s not due to join me for another two weeks yet, when he finishes his rotation on the old Resolve.”
“I did actually want to join the Navy, but this is, apparently, not allowed for the heir apparent, who is expected to train in the arts of being a head of state. Which is why I shall be launching your ship rather than worrying about the torpedo guidance systems. I have been told that it is much more efficient to be polite to foreign heads of state than to blow their ships up, but then none of the people who tell me this have ever actually had to put up with diplomatic functions for six hours on end and still look like they are enjoying themselves at the end of it.”
As they continued to walk down the passageways towards the outer docks containing the Electra, the activity aboard the station became more obvious. The sounds of welding torches and of repulsor fields being used to arrange heavy plates into the correct positions became more apparent through the left-hand bulkheads, and Captain Pullman explained that in the inner airdock the second ship of the Electra class, provisionally named Megaera, was beginning to take shape. Meanwhile, the party reached the outer docks where the name-ship for that class awaited them. As the open doors to the airdock hove into sight the atmosphere became more and more one of expectation – some for the Princess’ visit, for those who were used to the Electra were eager to see what Her Royal Highness would make of it, and some for the crew of the Electra, eager to see their new ship make its way into the void.
Captain Pullman initially lead the party to the outer observation deck, with two purposes in mind. Firstly, the observation deck was where the launching ceremony would be conducted, and he wanted to make sure that the attendant media were safely ensconced there before the dignitaries were taken on a tour of the new starship, and secondly, he wanted Princess Sarah’s first sight of the soon-to-be HMS Electra to be a memorable one. To him, the ship remained a thing of beauty even through the years it had been with him; he would be sorry to see it leave, as he had been every other ship launched from this yards over the past five years. Even so, Electra felt special. From the hard angular “V” formed by the drive system at the rear her lines gradually softened as they swept forwards into the “wings” of the ships superstructure, the ventral and dorsal hulls curving as a scimitar to meet at their foremost points on each side, and the port and starboard sides of the ship arcing inwards in a concave parabola. The designer had likened the fore to a bird landing on the aft section, its perch, and whilst his imagery seemed slightly strained to the naval captain of forty years experience, he could see what was meant.
Her commanding officer grinned at the complement to his vessel, “We rather hope she’ll live up to that expectation, Your Highness, although hopefully only to our enemies. If you would care for a tour?”
“I would be delighted, Captain.” Sarah replied, inwardly cursing herself for having paid insufficient attention when this man was introduced to be able to remember his name now.
Perhaps the more senior captain sensed her dilemma, for he immediately resolved it “Captain Maritz, the launching ceremony begins in an hour and a half. Dismissed.”
Maritz saluted and then lead the way, followed by Princess Sarah and her security detachment, out of the observation lounge and through the docking struts which connected the lowest deck on the newly built starship with the orbital facility which had built her, and would do until they were retracted for launching. The princess paused briefly as she reached the threshold of the ship to ask Maritz permission to board, which he granted.
“Traditionally, Your Highness, I should introduce a visitor as high in status as you to the ship’s officers at this point. However, they are, in the most part, on the bridge, and a sensibly arranged tour starting from here would begin in engineering. Since these two locations are essentially the length of the ship distant, I hope you will forgive this minor breach of protocol.”
Sarah smiled indulgently. “Of course, Captain Maritz. Especially if it saves me having to walk from here to the bridge and back again to get to engineering.”
Maritz returned both the Princess’ smile and her lighthearted comment. “Fortunately, we got the lifts working properly about three weeks ago. You’d be amazed how much that did for morale.” As the pair, with security officers trailing, reached the main engineering complex, the large double doors sliding open in front of them to reveal the twin fusion reactors which powered the ship’s systems, the Captain’s explanation of the sights was rudely interrupted by the keening of a siren and the female computer voice announcing “Captain Maritz to the bridge.”
Maritz stopped almost dead on his feet, muttering under his breath as he headed in the direction of the nearest lift, “We’ve not even launched yet, how can we be at yellow alert?” Remembering his guest, he added, rather louder, “You’d best come with me, your Highness. I don’t know what’s happening, but it won’t be anything good. Your people, too.” Barely stopping to wave at the attendant security detail, he set off at an extremely brisk walk.
By the time they reached the lifts, the tense atmosphere throughout the vessel was palpable. Yellow alert in spacedock, the veterans knew, was almost a sure sign of a fleetwide alert, which meant a crisis was in the offing. Their unease spread to the newly enlisted men aboard, and what had been only moments previously routine pre-launch trials now took on a very different hue.
“Bridge,” Captain Maritz told the lift as soon as they entered, and Sarah felt her weight almost double as they were accelerated towards the top deck of the ship. From main engineering to Electra’s bridge was a good three hundred and fifty metres; over half the length of the ship, and thus it was a good half-minute before they reached the bridge. Sarah’s skin was almost crawling by the end of the ride; she wondered how Ramirez could appear so outwardly calm. She fought the urge to fidget or bounce on the spot to relieve some nervous energy, not wishing to look like a flustered civilian and a mere hindrance in a crisis.
Maritz strode confidently out onto the bridge, with Sarah again trailing in his wake. “Report”, he ordered.
A tall, dark-haired man wearing both a beard and Lieutenant Commander’s stripes spoke up from his seat at the sensor console. “Long-range sensors detected an explosion followed by weapons fire from Rilma. We’ve not been able to raise the Admiralty – Dal is on the far side of the planet at the moment, so maybe one of the satellites is out. We’ve been monitoring civilian news traffic, though, and…” he faltered, his gaze seeming, to Sarah, to come to rest on her. She began to open her mouth, but Captain Maritz was faster.
“On screen, Commander.”
“Aye, sir.” The Bridge’s twin viewscreens lit up with the familiar logos of RNN and RBC, the system’s two major news networks, and rapidly resolved into subtly different aerial images of the centre of Dal. Instinctively, Sarah’s eyes were drawn towards St. Catherine’s Palace; and she realised, weak-kneed, why the sensor officer’s voice had faltered. The rational, scientific part of her mind which had served her well at university insisted on peforming a rough analysis of the plume of smoke and the debris surrounding what had previously been her home, compared it with what she knew of her family’s routine, and informed her that it was highly unlikely any of them would have survived what had to have been a bombing, before joining the rest of her in shutting down in numbed shock. She first staggered and then slumped forwards, knowing that she’d hate herself for collapsing like this but unable to cope with what she had seen and remain standing upright.
Her weakness saved her life. As she fell to the deck, a man who had previously stood over the weapons console drew his personal sidearm and thrust it towards her, the triggered particle beam scything through the space her body had occupied just moments before. The weapons officer had no time to correct for her collapse; the agents of Princess Sarah’s detail, training overriding their shock, acted almost as one – the principal agent throwing his body between the weapons officer and his charge, the other two drawing their own weapons and firing. Half a second later, the would-be assassin lay dead next to what had been his duty station.
“Red al…” Maritz began to order
“Not in spacedock, captain.”, the bearded officer at the sensor console spoke up quickly. Maritz frowned, briefly confused, then his features set into the look of forced calm exhibited previously – a trained professional facing a crisis.
“Wha…oh, of course. Raising shields in atmosphere would not be a career-enhancing decision. Very well. Seal off the bridge. Security to maximum alert. Nothing and nobody are to enter or leave the ship without mine or Lieutenant Commander Moray’s direct permission. Comms, get me Pullman.”
“This is Captain Pullman. Sensors showed weapons fire on your ship, Maritz…is there a problem?”
“I’d say that’s an affirmative, Captain. Lieutenant Ramirez just tried to assassinate the Princess. Are you aware of the position on Rilma?”
“Yes. I’d say we’re dealing with a conspiracy, and given that we can’t raise the Admiralty, a possible military coup against the government. What? From where? –Maritz, sensors are showing incoming Alcubierre wave signatures from the direction of the Asani frontier. Confirm?”
“Confirmed, sir. Signatures show as friendly, for what that’s worth.”
Pullman grimaced. “Not much, I suspect.”, he replied. “Captain Maritz. Under the circumstances, I am bringing forward the launch of your ship. Is your crew aboard?”
Maritz straightened. “Yes, sir. Commander Moray, are pre-launch trials complete?”
“All systems show green, Captain. But….with Ramirez dead, sir, warfare division hasn’t got any officers. Unless there’s somebody we can borrow from Captain Pullman.”
“I’m afraid not, Commander; it’s been a long time since warfare branch has been so well-staffed as to be able to afford reserve officers aboard stations well inside our borders. And I think I’m about to need our primary weapons officer. Standby for launch sequence.”
Captain Maritz wanted to say something like ‘Wonderful. The shooting is quite possibly about to start, I’ve got the last member of the Royal family aboard my ship, and nobody aboard the ship is qualified to co-ordinate the defensive systems. Or even understands how they work…’, but, aware that naval discipline frowned on such frankness, contented himself with “Standing by. Engineering, activate reaction compensators.”
“Reaction compensators on-line.”
With a wry expression on her face, Sarah stood up. She had, after all, come here to launch this vessel, and she wasn’t about to let the fact that she was aboard it prevent this. “As the representative of His Beloved Majesty King William, I christen this vessel His Majesty’s Starship Electra. May God bless her and all who sail in her.” After a brief pause, she added “I thought we ought to do it properly, or as close as possible under the circumstances.” She saw that a few smiles had returned to the bridge following her pronouncement, although Captain Maritz just looked thoughtful. She still didn’t feel much like smiling herself, and sat back down again. Captains Maritz and Pullman continued their formal dialogue.
“Electra, releasing docking clamps.”
“Phoenix Yard, Electra confirms docking clamps released. Helm, thrusters to station keeping”
“Venting atmosphere through emergency ducts. I’ve got bigger worries that my air supply to worry about now.”
“Electra confirms atmosphere venting. Sensors indicate vacuum achieved in fifteen seconds.”
There was a brief pause, with the silence broken only by the sounds of metal acquiring new stresses as the atmosphere fled the airdock chamber.
“Vacuum achieved. Airdock doors opening.”
“Helm, take us out. Fire all forward thrusters.”
The helmsman acknowledged the order “All forward aye. The Electra has cleared the docking bay. Repeat, Electra is clear.”
“Electra clear confirmed, closing the bay doors. Good luck, captain. Now, time to see what our newcomers want. Pullman out”
Both captains, standing in the centre of their bridges, simultaneously pressed the largest button on their personal comm relays and spoke the same phrase. “Red Alert. All hands to battle stations. This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill.” What Pullman did not then do, but Maritz did, was to turn to his guest and say
“Princess Sarah. I originally meant this as a joke…but, can you operate the weapons systems? I know, it is rather irregular, and you’re not exactly in the best state of mind…but you said earlier you understood how the systems work.”
Shaking her head to clear it, Sarah got to her feet. “I think so, Captain. I worked with Professor Albertson on the Type 10X program as a research assistant for five months of my final year, and I’ve operated tactical simulators before. I’m not RN/4085-qualified, though, if that’s what you mean.”
“Lacking other options, I’ll take it, Your Highness. Bring point-defence railguns online, please, forward shields to maximum as soon as you can. Standby on the 10Xes.” Sarah got up and strode purposefully to the weapons console. In the confusion, nobody had yet removed the body of her would-have-been assassin from the station, and she had to fight off another wave of nausea and shock to remain standing. With something to focus on, though, this was much easier than the previous one. As she took her seat and activated the systems, her bodyguard removed the deceased officer’s corpse. It was mostly as she’d remembered; the only controls she didn’t immediately understand were some of the esoterica relating to the ionisation and beam cross-sectional controls for the 10Xes. She rather fervently hoped she wouldn’t be required to fire them. Finding the required settings, she powered the Meissner fields that levitated the railguns, allowing them to spin on their axes to track any incoming missiles, and the railguns themselves. She then checked the local shield sensors, and redirected the available energy in the defensive matrix to the forward shielding. “Point-defense guns active. Forward shields at 137% and climbing. Standing by Type 10X plasma beams.”
Next to her, Agent Holtzman, her bodyguard, whispered, “What does the X stand for?” Through clenched teeth, she replied “Experimental. That’s why this could be very interesting. Electra is the trial ship for the new design.”
“Incoming hail from the Phoenix yard, sir. Captain Pullman.”
“Left viewscreen, Comms. Sensors, Weapons, keep updating the targeting on the three interlopers.”
“I’d say it’s a definite on the conspiracy, Maritz. They seemed surprised to see the Electra launched, and told me they were here to escort the Princess’ shuttle back to Rilma. When I asked on whose orders, they claimed Admiral Blackwell. Last I’d heard, he wasn’t responsible for this sector; that hasn’t changed, has it?”
“No, A/C sector one is still Fitzpatrick.”
“In addition to that,” Agent Holtzman added, “Protocol for events following an assassination would most emphatically not be to return one of the few survivors to what appears to be the most dangerous area right now.”
Pullman nodded “Exactly. I refused to alter my schedules without a direct order from the Admiral. At that point, they warned me that they had been authorised to use force to “protect” the Princess. I paused the transmission.”
Moray spoke up, lines of concern etched into his face. “They’re powering weapons, Captain. Looks like we’ll have to fight. Wait…sir, I’m detecting weapons fire in Rilma orbit. They’re firing on the shipyard, sir.”
Martiz frowned. “Pullman doesn’t have a chance. Phoenix’s defences are antiquated, except for the shields. He’s trying to buy us time to get away from here. Unfortunately, if we abandon him now, his outer shields will never last long enough for all the construction workers to evacuate. We’ve got to buy him time, too. Plasma beams to full power. Helm, ion drive ahead full, come about to cross the yards at 45 degrees to the main hangars. Target the lead cruiser and get their attention.”
Electra swooped away from the shipyards, then corkscrewed around to face the attacking Venture-class ships. The Ventures were old warhorses now; the design that was due to be replaced by Electra and her sisters, but they were still three hundred metres of well-armed starship, and there were three of them. The first of the three Ventures either didn’t notice the Electra coming, or was pinned in place by several of the assembly yard’s many tractor beams, because she barely evaded at all. The pair of forward-facing 10X plasma beams lanced out from the prongs of Electra’s bow, striking at the most vulnerable section of any Rilmani cruiser; the link between the Alcubierre engines and the main hull of the starship. The enemy shielding held, then buckled, the superheated plasma beams penetrating to scorch first the paintwork and then begin boiling away armour; then the shields reformed, as the cruiser’s weapons officer desperately shunted energy to her aft ray shield projectors. On her sensor panel, the top of the target shield sphere flashed; that shield had been depleted to reinforce the stressed aft shield. The Electra moved over the Venture-class warship, climbing to bring the ventral guns to bear on the weakened shielding. Concentrating fiercely, Sarah rotated the shields to focus the plasma beams on the same weak spot she’d hit before, and triggered the ventral beams.
Two white-hot beams of ionised fire lanced from Electra’s belly to what would anatomically have been her foe’s spine. The shields glowed blue with the energy they absorbed, then shattered, and the beams drilled deep into the elderly cruiser they targeted. The Alcubierre engines first flickered, then died altogether, and the ship’s weapons ceased firing.
Meanwhile, Electra had her own problems. The portside ventral plasma beam was losing power to the magnetic containment/condenser lens field. Hurriedly, Sarah shut off power and plasma access to the beam and vented what of the ammunition remained. Before she could report the problem, Commander Moray spoke up “Sensors indicate no power to weapons, shields, or drives. Primary target disabled and probably trying to prevent reactor meltdown. Secondary and Tertiary targets coming about to engage us. I’d say the first field trial of the Type 10X plasma beams was a success, Captain.”
“A qualified success, unfortunately. Primary containment failing in portside ventral accelerators. Venting plasma; beam weapon offline. All other weapons charged and ready.”
At that, the Engineering officer spoke up “Minor fire damage to Deck 14, sir. No casualties, but that’s probably a week’s work to repair, maybe two in deep space.”
“Very well. Helm, come about on a heading for deep space, Alcubierre Drives to standby. Weapons, reinforce aft shields, power aft weapons. Time to lead them a dance.”
Moray looked worried. “Sir, we might be a newer vessel, but we can’t win a two-on-one fight. Especially not that way.”
“But we don’t have to, Commander. Remember, they think that the Princess is aboard the station, otherwise they’d have hailed me, not Pullman. Our new weapons officer is their primary target, and they can’t afford to chase me halfway across the galaxy and let her escape. Especially since they don’t know what’s going on in Rilma orbit. Nor do I, but I’m choosing to ignore it; they don’t have that luxury.”
Electra dove, to place her birthplace between the chasing cruisers and herself, the reinforced aft shields deflecting a glancing blow from the plasma pulse beams aboard the pursuers. The ship shook briefly as the blast hit, and began to streak away; now clear of all obstacles, she was accelerating to her maximum velocity of almost a quarter of the speed of light. “Damage Report.”, Maritz ordered.
“Aft shields at 168% and regenerating, sir.”
“Enemy cruisers have cleared the shipyard. They’re firing!”
Electra rocked again, much harder, as two blasts hit the fleeing cruiser. “Shields down to 45%. Returning fire on the lead ship.” The black space between the cruisers was lit up by beams of ultra-hot matter, as Electra, outgunned but with each individual shot packing more punch, drew the enemy away from the shipyards.
“Helm, go evasive. Try to keep the lead ship between the far one and us. Weapons, see if you can knock out a thruster or two on that leading Venture, make his job easier.”
Six blue-white beams erupted into space again; four from the boxy Venture-class vessels, two from the aft of the more sleek Electra. Sarah slewed the beams across where she anticipated the pursuit course of the Venture would take it; she was rewarded by seeing a minor secondary explosion, but had no idea if it was anything important. Electra shuddered hard as her own shields buckled and the thick plating over the Alcubierre drives was hit; frantically, Sarah shut off the forward shield projectors and reinforced the energy to the aft ones, and blessedly, the shuddering ceased.
“Shipyard is launching two pairs of shuttlecraft, sir. All scan positive for four life forms. Lead cruiser breaking off to intercept. Aft cruiser still on our tail.”
“Helm, Engage Alcubierre drives. We’ve done all we can here.”
“Aye sir. Alcubierre drive online. Warping space in five…four…three…two…one”
“Shields synchronised to drive signature. Firing a final reminder at the aft cruiser.”
The Electra’s aft weapons spoke one more time; striking at the forward weapons array on the chasing cruiser. Again, the powerful weapons of the Rilman Navy’s newest ship were briefly able to punch through the older vessel’s shields before they were strengthened, puncturing the hull adjacent to her own plasma beams. The quick reactions of her weapons officer in reshaping the containment fields saved at least fifty lives aboard the ship; but at the cost of gutting the plasma beam. She attempted to retaliate with her remaining forward-facing weapon, but as the beam burned across space towards her fleeing quarry, the space around Electra bent, collapsing ahead of her and lengthening vastly, impossibly, behind her, leaving the plasma beam far behind as the newest ship in the fleet made her first jump to warpspeed.