Nexus 3, Chapter 10

“I still think this should have been a manned flight,” Bill said.

“And you’re one of two people who are the reason it isn’t,” Elle said, “and I will box both of your ears if either of you complain about it again.”

“Why is she here?” he whispered me, but loud enough she was supposed to hear it.

“Because I don’t trust you,” she said. “And the council doesn’t trust you. And we voted for me to be here officially, to not trust you in an official capacity.”

“You won’t win, Bill,” I told him. “All you can do is try to lose with a little dignity.”

“Is that what happened to yours?” he asked with a smile. “Years of ball-busting.”

“I can’t tell if that’s you joining in on the ball-busting, or deflecting to preserve your dignity.”

“You all know it isn’t actually easy to fly this thing by remote near the Nexus, keeping it within range of our signal but not getting close enough either to clip the ship or ricochet some rocks into our path?” Dave asked from the improvised control setup.

“My sensors indicate an incoming projectile,” Haley said over all of our comms. Most of us looked at Dave, assuming he’d flown enough off course that he’d set off some perimeter alarms. He knew better.

“Projectile?” Dave asked. “No, I see it on the probe’s sensors, now. It looks like one of our probes. I’m going to buzz it.”

Haley shared the view from the probe’s cockpit, including the HUD overlay that a pilot would see if they were flying it. The probe zoomed past the projectile.

“It’s definitely not manned,” Dave said. “No space for a human being, none of the engineering compromises you’d have to make to keep a person alive.”

“Projectile is gaining on the Nexus,” Haley said.

“Can we maneuver out of its path?” I asked.

“Not fast enough,” Dave said. “It’s going to clip us- unless- standby.” I felt the acceleration of the probe as if I was lurching forward within its cockpit. Then I saw the probe zoom forward, impacting the projectile. Suddenly the feed cut, and instead Haley was sharing a diagram, showing nearby worlds, and the three vessels with their trajectory, including the impact of the two. A projected trajectory beyond the impact put the projectile landing on world. “We need to get down there,” I said. “Right now. Dave stays, but the rest of us are going down there. We don’t have time to dink around planning a mission. We need to drop in a shuttle before we get out of range. We’re running, now!”

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