Particle beams sliced towards the Justice from all directions. An exploding plasma torpedo lit up the darkness as it hit the force-wall.
The six invader ships surrounded them. There seemed to be no escape. No matter which direction they moved, the enemy kept them in the centre. They were liked a trapped animal hemmed in on all sides.
"Humans. So arrogant. Perhaps the legend was more luck than anything else," said the blue leader to his second in command. They were watching their ships pound the Justice with a mix of particle beams and plasma torpedoes. "Perhaps our tests did not find anything because there was nothing to find. The only thing they seem to have is stubbornness and an inability to admit when they have lost."
"It does seem so sir," replied the Second. "At this rate, it should not take long to disable them."
The Second wondered why the Justice had not fired at all. He wondered why the ship had barely moved and why they seemed to be allowing themselves to be hit.
As with everyone else, the Second had watched the broadcast of Argus's matches in the cell. Even though the enemy combatant always lost in the broadcasts, he was always facing more opponents than he should logically have been able to face. The Second wasn't sure if luck was really the entire explanation.
But he did not express his opinion. It was not his place to question a Prime.
"Do we plan to do something more interesting than being a slow, moving target?" Avon asked with distracted sarcasm, as he continued making calculations. "I have given you more than enough vectors to avoid them."
"I'm not trying to avoid them," said Argus. "At least not most of them."
"We've noticed," Avon said dryly as more particle beams hit the force-wall; causing flaring as the particles were scattered.
Two more plasma torpedoes raced towards them from two of the enemy ships. Argus tracked both of them as they approached.
So far the Justice had not fired a single shot. They had only made limited movements and none to indicate they were trying to break out of the circle of ships.
Amidst the numerous particle beams which reached them, the torpedoes were barely noticed; except when they hit. Where the particle beams barely made an impact, the plasma torpedoes rocked the ship.
As the torpedoes neared, Argus made a maneuver with the ship.
They all held onto whatever was closest as one of the two torpedoes impacted the force-wall; the other one missed.
"Force-wall status," said Argus.
"Down thirty percent," said Sester as he got up from his knees and looked at the indicators. The last torpedo impact had knocked him off his feet.
"Energy reserves and damage status?"
"Banks one through seven are still fully charged. Minimal damage."
"Zen shut down all non-essential ship's systems and route all power to shields and weapons."
There were so many particle beams that it seemed like a web of bright threads all extending towards the Justice.
"Sir, our particle beams do not appear to be causing much damage, but they are wearing down their shields," reported the Second. "The torpedoes are doing much greater damage."
"More torpedoes then. I want them taken out."
"If this is a change in plan. I would suggest a new plan," said Avon. "Before we show our friends why it is a good idea to invade this galaxy."
"Just keep sending the vectors, Avon," said Argus. He tracked as two more ships sent plasma torpedoes towards them. This time they were sent in groupings of two and three.
Just a little more, thought Argus.
Argus veered as the torpedoes were about to hit.
One of the torpedoes struck them. The rest missed. Sester was sent crashing into the couch in front of Avon's station. Everyone else managed to stay on their feet.
"Down thirty-five percent. We have begun drawing on energy bank one."
Four more ships sent plasma torpedoes towards them again. This time in groups of four.
Argus smiled. This progression was what he had been waiting for.
"Argus, if you want to do something different, now would be a good time," said Avon.
"Now is the perfect time," replied Argus. He looked down at the data vectors streaming in from Avon's terminal and picked the ones he needed.
"Hang on everyone. This is going to be ugly." Argus knew that if Jenna was there, she probably would have been able to manage the maneuvers much more smoothly. And with much less falling from Sester as the psychostrategist lost his footing again when Argus made a sudden quick lateral drop with the ship.
This time, all twelve torpedoes missed. Two of them hit each other and exploded.
The enemy seemed confused. A so far barely moving opponent now seemed to be trying to escape.
"Don't let them get away. Direct all ships to keep them in the firing circle."
The blue leader smiled. Avon was trying to run. He would soon find out that there was nowhere he could run to.
The enemy ships began making their own quick lateral drops in order to follow the Justice's movements; intending to keep the ship within their circle of fire.
Argus noticed that they had tightened the circle as well. He had expected this.
He quickly made another sudden lateral movement to bring the ship back up and also slightly shifted position. The enemy quickly followed suit. They were very determined to keep the Justice trapped.
Using Avon's calculations, Argus had timed it exactly.
Four plasma torpedoes hit the enemy ships. These were four of the twelve which had missed the Justice just a few moments ago. The enemy had been so focused on the Justice that they barely registered the resultant misses of their own torpedoes; until it was too late to move out of the way.
Sester had a smile on his face as he realized what Argus was doing. It was something he had been observing in the enemy's tactics. As long as Argus kept the ship's movements along a lateral plane, so did they. The sudden change in tactics had confused the enemy enough to lead them into making a mistake.
Argus barely had time to smile. Without a pause, he suddenly increased their speed and headed straight towards one of the ships.
For the next fifteen minutes, Argus made quick unexpected movements with the ship, causing the enemy to move increasingly out of position in order to avoid collision with the Justice, each other or weapons fire from their companions.
Avon was frantically trying to catch up. He now had the ships and increased number of plasma torpedoes to content with. He could feel his body drawing on reserves of energy in order to meet the strain. Avon knew that physically, he did not have much to draw on.
By now all of the enemy ships had suffered at least one hit with their own weapons. One of them was in bad shape after being the unfortunate and unintended recipient of a full salvo of torpedoes. It had stopped firing and had left the field of battle. Another was also heavily damaged but was still firing.
"Reya, on my mark, one shot at ship two, target their engines."
Argus headed straight towards the still firing damaged ship at maximum speed, rolling as he went to avoid the shots from the other ships. At the last second before they hit the other ship, he swerved past it.
The neutron blasters fired. There was a direct hit on the engines. The ship exploded. The Justice continued past the explosion.
They had now escaped the circle.
In the shock of their own ship exploding and the apparent escape of the Justice, the enemy reacted in confusion. They began chasing after their opponent. Argus quickly reversed and came straight at them again, passing straight through them. The enemy barely had time to be shocked and fired a full salvo of torpedoes towards the Justice in order to stop it. Three hit the force-wall and exploded, rocking the ship violently. Inside, they all lost their footing and fell to the deck.
But one thing which was achieved, the remaining enemy ships had begun to bunch together.
Argus made more unexpected movements, constantly rushing at each of them at full speed. They soon learned that firing full salvos when they were that close together was only damaging themselves. This meant they were forced to make the moves which Argus wanted them to make. Each of his vectors was planned so that they would not have a choice except to move closer together.
The pressure on the enemy ships was unrelenting. There was one unexpected move after another.
Avon was reaching exhaustion.
"Sester," he called out to the psychostrategist. His voice was weak. "Adrenaline."
Sester spotted the bio-injector which had been left on Argus's console and went over to retrieve it.
"Me too," said Argus as Sester picked it up. Both men's faces were strained and tired.
"Which one of you is more tired?" Sester asked.
They both gave a brief smile before saying, "He is."
Sester gave them both shots and one for himself before returning to his station.
The remaining ships were all chasing the Justice now.
On the enemy's command ship, there was great confusion.
"Report!" said the blue leader.
"All of our ships have sustained hits, sir. One has been destroyed; one needs repair time in order to be able to continue firing."
The Second wondered if he should mention that except for the single shot which had resulted in the destruction of one of their pursuit ships, all of the other hits had been from their own weapons. He decided not to; the leader was already in a bad enough mood.
It really wasn't luck after all, he thought.
In the shock of their own ship exploding and the apparent escape of the Justice, the enemy reacted in confusion. They began chasing after their opponent. There was no longer any strategy to their movements.
They had begun to bunch together.
Argus made more unexpected movements, each one calculated to draw them closer together. The enemy continued firing full salvos at them. They did not seem to realize that this worked to Argus's advantage. More ships were being hit by their own torpedoes than were hitting the Justice. Another ship was now out of commission and was forced to leave the field of battle. There were now three left, including the command ship.
"Force-wall status," said Argus as he continued to keep pressure on the other ships.
"Down seventy-percent. Energy banks one and two finished. Bank three at forty percent."
Another torpedo impact rocked the ship. The lights went out.
There was smoke as one of the panels shorted out.
"Zen, emergency lighting."
Avon was reaching exhaustion.
"Sester," he called out to the psychostrategist. "Adrenaline."
Sester spotted the bio-injector which had been left on Argus's console and went over to retrieve it.
"Me too," said Argus as Sester picked it up. Both men's faces were strained.
"Which one of you is more tired?" Sester asked.
Without even looking up, both men said, "He is."
The proximity alert signal went off at the navigator's station again. The navigator made a course correction.
A few seconds later, it went off again. This time the navigator decided to move further away.
"What are you doing?" demanded the blue leader.
"We're too close sir. We keep tripping the proximity alerts," said the navigator.
"Then turn them off. We must keep up the pressure, we cannot let them escape. We must keep them within a close range of fire," said the leader. "Communicate this to all ships," he directed his Second.
As the Second was doing this, the blue leader directed the weapons officer, "Another full spread of torpedoes."
Five more torpedoes raced towards the Justice.
The leader could see that the Justice was starting to show the effects of the concentrated fire. Damage was appearing in numerous sections of the ship. He was determined to destroy it.
In the last few maneuvers, the enemy had shown that they were tolerating a closer proximity to each other in an attempt to restrict the Justice's movements.
It's taken long enough, thought Argus.
"Avon, issue a warning. I want more of the torpedoes in play."
"Don't we already have enough?" asked Avon as the ship was rocked by another torpedo hit.
Sester was knocked to the ground again. He was developing a nice collection of bruises.
Any more and I'm going to start looking like Argus. Minus the muscle development.
"I need them. We have to group them closer. It's the only way I can do it," said Argus.
"You realize that it will make it more dangerous for us as well?"
"Well, unless you can provide me with better vectors, it's the only way."
"Zen, open a communications channel to the command ship," said Avon.
Zen answered, "Confirmed, communications link established."
"This is Kerr Avon."
The blue leader appeared on the screen. "Are you willing to surrender now?"
Avon smiled coldly. "I was about to ask you the same question."
"I thought you were a rational man, Avon. You know you cannot win. You will only die in a futile gesture. And take your companions with you."
"How futile will it be if I destroyed your command ship?" asked Avon. He cut off communications abruptly.
Being threatened and then cut off without warning did not sit well with the enemy leader.
"Direct all ships to commence firing and do not stop until that ship is destroyed."
"You can be a very irritating man when you want to be," remarked Argus as each of the remaining four ships sent salvos of torpedoes in their direction.
"I hope you know what you're doing. I would like my last act to be something more than just irritating," said Avon.
"Don't worry, it won't be," said Argus.
With that, Argus began a series of intricate maneuvers, each one designed to confuse the enemy and cause them to group closer together.
More torpedoes impacted the ship, knocking everyone to the ground and filling the flight deck with more smoke as panels burst into flames.
"Energy banks one through four exhausted, drawing on five. Force-wall down to ten percent," reported Sester when he managed to get up again. "Main engines have sustained forty percent damage. We've lost auxiliary engines."
"Hang on," warned Argus.
He was ready for one final maneuver.
"Reya, be ready with the remote detonator. On my mark. Fire two shots at the command ship's engines then hit the detonator."
Argus brought the ship around and headed straight for the enemy ships, aiming for a gap between two of the ships.
"We're not going to make it," warned Avon.
"Did you ever think that we were going to?" asked Argus.
More torpedoes rocked the ship. They all fell to the deck. The panel in front of Sester exploded in flames and sent him flying across the flight deck.
Argus climbed back up and grabbed the controls in order to maintain their course. He glanced over at Sester. The psychostrategist was lying very still, there was blood flowing from a wound to his temple and another larger wound around the abdominal area.
"Sester. Are you alright?" Argus asked.
There was no response. There was nothing any of them could do for him right now. They had to maintain their present course.
The enemy ships moved to intercept and close the gap.
Another explosion rocked the Justice. The ship was beginning to fail.
"Avon, check the force-wall status," said Argus.
"Force-wall has collapsed. Energy banks one through five are finished. Sixty-percent on bank six," said Avon.
"Re-charge the force-wall to half capacity."
"Force-wall back at fifty percent. Energy bank six finished, drawing on seven. That's the last one," Avon stressed. The recharge was just in time as more torpedoes impacted the ship.
"I know," said Argus. The Justice had almost reached the gap which no longer existed. Argus made a hard left, right into the command ship. It left the enemy barely enough time to react. The command ship immediately reversed, backing into the two ships following it.
More plasma torpedoes hit the Justice. It was virtually impossible to avoid them at this range. More systems were failing. More explosions occurred on the flight deck. Both Avon and Reya suffered minor burns but were still standing.
Two neutron blaster shots hit the command ship.
For a moment, nothing seemed to happen; then the command ship exploded and began to break apart. Pieces of it flying outwards with accompanying flashes and hit the other two ships. By the time the other ships realized what was happening, it was already too late.
The destruction of the command ship was very satisfying.
There was now one ship left.
Unfortunately, the Justice's engines were now damaged and were no longer capable of more than standard speed. They were running on the final energy bank, which was at fifty percent and falling fast. The force-wall was at ten percent. Most systems were starting to fail. And the neutron blasters were no longer operational.
"Argus, I think I see an escape capsule," said Reya.
There was a single life capsule in the vicinity of the command ship.
"What do you think, Avon? Do you think our blue uniformed friend survived?" asked Argus
"Let's find out," said Avon, with a wry smile.
"Zen, are there any life signs in the life capsule at grid position E-20291?" asked Avon.
"Confirmed. There is one life sign."
"Can you establish a communications link with the capsule?"
"Confirmed. Communications link establish."
On the main viewscreen, the injured blue leader appeared. He was not happy.
Avon asked, "What did you think of our futile gesture?"
The leader reached for a control in front of him.
Avon said, "If you close communications, we will destroy you now. I only want to talk."
The man put his hand back down.
Avon continued, "You have a decision to make now. You know that you cannot defeat us. We have clearly shown you that."
The leader was visibly angry but he did not say anything.
Avon said, "You seem to be a reasonable man. It should not be a difficult decision to make. Are you willing to risk the lives of your people given what we have shown you today? There may only be one of me but I guarantee you that there are many more like Argus and Sester. Think carefully."