“Jack, fire PSI cannon at the Shadowstar’s drone launch port.”
“Aye, sir. Targeting Welder Drone launch port.” After a minute, he said, “Dang it. I’ve been prepping verbal descriptions, but hearing a stream of co-ordinates and connected ship anatomy in the pitch black isn’t good. Confirming target without being able to see graphics is going to take a while. Do I have permission to skip targeting refinement protocol?”
“Computer reports a Welder that was launching was destroyed.”
“Ok, let’s see how mad they get before firing repeatedly.”
“Standing ready, sir.”
A strange vibration passed underfoot, and under any hand in contact with a ship part. “Was that an attack?” Walsh asked.
“Report of damage in the weapon’s bay,” Heather’s voice said from her station.
“How bad?” Walsh asked.
“Just a minute, sir.” There was a silent, dark, wait. “The retractable PSI cannon was disintegrated,” she said.
Walsh whistled. “That would take some doing.”
“Well, we know how mad they got,” the Ambassador’s voice said from right behind Walsh, making him jump. “That was a firm slap on the wrist.”
“Hmm,” Walsh said, then not wanting to give O’Bien a chance to order something, he said, “Jack, target their weapon. Whatever they just used. A barrage of explosive bullets from the railgun followed by lasers.”
“Good plan, sir.” He spoke to the computer, then said, “Firing. I wish I was better at brainwave control, like Woon.”
“Captain,” an uncertain voice suddenly said from beside Walsh. It was Sufra’s voice, he realized, more tentative than usual.
“What is it, Sufra?”
“Sir, I think I should offer you the option to tie in my drone assistant, Arfus. He has some…advanced AI features that could be very useful under the circumstances.”
“What do you mean ‘advanced?,’ Dr. Shahal?” the Captain asked suspiciously.
There was a pause.
“Lieutenant, there’s no time,” Walsh said sharply. “Report or get off the bridge!”
“Sorry, sir,” she said quickly, then in a rush, “My drone has off-book artificial intelligence that could speed up and increase accuracy of targeting. The downside is, once he’s set to task, he won’t take any more orders until completion.”
“He won’t take orders? That’s a big downside!”
“Yes, sir, but he will relinquish control when the battle’s over.”
“Sucking black holes!” Walsh said. “Jack?”
“I’m willing if you are, sir. We could use all the help we can get.”
Walsh turned to where he last heard Sufra’s voice. “Tie in the drone computer, lieutenant Shahal,” he said.
“Arfus, come,” Sufra said. She gave instructions, then said, “Ok, he’s good to go.”
O’Bien spoke up. “You might be good to go to the brig after this, Dr. Shahal. We’ll talk later.”
“Of course, ma’am,” Sufra said in a small voice.
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