“Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
James 4:7, CSB
the noble Tammuz exited the wormhole and slowed into orbit around Kalypso. like a freshly-molted garsnake beneath the surf of the stormy Maris, the Tammuz floated vulnerably in the low-orbit soup of ice and dust around the icy moon. until the crew could find their bearings, exiting the particle fog could give away their location prematurely, ensuring destruction of their precious cargo.
the purple aura of the wormhole illuminated the toxic ice. an invisible heat fence protected the forward viewport, but the shuttle could not withstand being pelted by the tiny acids for too long. the Tammuz sliced a blue laser in front of them, scanning for larger objects. soon the shuttle had its bearings, a clear path, and the courage to emerge.
slowly it lifted, speeding into a higher orbit. the view of the solar system was breathtaking, though its expanse provided little cover to make it to the next wormhole, just past haMa, four phases away. a course calculated, the Tammuz carefully pushed out of orbit and injected toward the red planet ahead of them.
halfway through the first phase, alarms sounded, flashing red in the cockpit. from the opposite side of Kalypso, the defiant Pertho emerged. the forward viewports flicked and dimmed, glowing a dark blue — battle mode.
the Tammuz increased thrust, though outrunning a destroyer would be a challenge for a small shuttle. destroyers were well-armed and heavily fortified with numerous defenses. the Tammuz was betraying its creators’ intent with this attempt at far-phase travel, but it was necessary for the security of the Agreement.
the Pertho opened fire, rocking the Tammuz. the aft shields would hold for a while, but not enough to transit the three remaining phases. and with most power re-routed aft, the shuttle was now vulnerable from the front. using the remaining energy, the Tammuz emitted a high-power distress pulse. radio waves sped through empty space, but would they land in the hands of aid?
suddenly the shuttle rocked, causing screens to flicker, engines to growl. they were stuck in the deep blue glow of the Pertho’s tractor beam. the Tammuz quickly shut down its engines; they were no use against the powerful destroyer’s tow. having submitted, the Pertho ceased fire against the small ship, perhaps hoping to attain its cargo for their own mutinous purposes.
now safe from enemy fire, the Tammuz routed all power to its polarity shield, emitting a high-power magnetic field from the ship. as it neared the Pertho, lights on the destroyer exploded, rooms dimmed, pods jettisoned erratically. the magnetic field was wreaking havoc on only a small portion of the large ship, but it was enough to cause anguish. the Pertho’s blue beam disappeared, and the unpropelled Tammuz drifted in the cold expanse, close to the Pertho, still meddling with the larger ship. a golden beam engulfed the Tammuz, pushing it away. at an ineffective distance, the Tammuz quickly shut down the polarity shield to conserve energy. but they had already spent enough to keep them from making it to haMa, much less the wormhole beyond.
the Pertho seized the opportunity and fired again upon the Tammuz. a solid blast to the aft rocked the shuttle and sent it spinning. there was no choice but to engage the engines and level out. rear shields engaged. and the blue glow returned. the Tammuz shut down and fired up the polarity shield. nearing the Pertho, the blue beam turned yellow and pushed the poisonous little craft away again. how long could this go on? the destroyer could no doubt endure it longer than the Tammuz. but the Tammuz would fight; the mission and the cargo were too precious. the deadly dance would continue as long as the Tammuz could last.
a great shadow cloaked the Tammuz as a giant craft emerged from the wormhole behind them, crashing through the icy foam circling Kalypso. ten times the size of the Pertho, the Erotes floated across the shuttle toward the destroyer. the Pertho fired on the Erotes, having no effect on the powerful shields generated by the flagship’s nuclear core. the Erotes did not fire back — there may be those on board the Pertho who oppose the mutiny, after all.
the giant craft crossed above the destroyer. a vivid orange beam shot from its keel, consuming the Tammuz, pulling it slowly closer. with the Tammuz’s polarity shield still engaged, the orange beam sailed the tiny shuttle over the spine of the Pertho, sending a train of electric anomalies through the ship. soon, every light on the ship sputtered and died, and the ship itself began a slow plunge, pulled by the gravity of the icy, barren Kalypso.
it would be hours before the crippled destroyer could restore itself, but perhaps the defunct electrical system would be sufficient for faithful Unioners to retake command of the Pertho. meanwhile, the Erotes banked toward haMa, swinging the Tammuz with it. pointed squarely at haMa, the Erotes pulled its orange beam forward, thrusting the shuttle ahead, releasing it toward the red orb ahead with enough momentum to cover most of the three-phase distance without fusing a single ion in its energy core. every signal on the prow of the Erotes flashed red.
the Tammuz blinked its aft signals bright red in gratitude. barring no more delays, the Tammuz and its cargo would soon arrive safely at Union Hall on Živa... if it was still there...