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Eve Online - Blazing

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

Even while physically crippled and morally devastated, the Sardaukar fleet put up a valiant fight. 
For every ship they lost they took one with them, as long as they played it on defense... 
Victory would've been much more certain if only they weren't outnumbered ten to one. 

"Rotate targets and re-engage!" Tegrin ordered, noting his enemies were adapting their tactics. 

'That fleet is changing tactics way too fast' he thought to himself. 
'Going to have to try something different...' 
"Sir!" one of his bridge officers yelled. 
"Got another warp signature inbound, it's a small one, looks like a frigate." 

'A lone frigate, this can't be good' 

"Get me a visual." 

The large overhead projector was damaged and offline, forcing the officer to put the images on a small terminal normally used for secondary communications. 
As Tegrin stared at the monitor he saw the blurry bounds of the interdiction field's outer edge, then saw the engine streaks of the incoming vessel. 
The Inexorable's directional scanners were knocked offline in the Tengu attack, so an indemnification could not be made in advance. 
He saw the little ship coming to a quick standstill... Then immediately vanished. 
"What just happened?" Tegrin inquired. 

"Looks like he cloaked, sir." was the response he got. 
"Did anyone get a handle on that ship, name, class, pilot, anything?" 
His sensor operator looked up. 
"Only the class, sir... Anathema...." 

A glimmer of hope rose up in Tegrin as the communications terminal suddenly sprang to life, there was a message incoming on one of the Sardaukar's contract channels. 
He was even more pleased to see James Paladin's face appear as he opened the channel. 

Before he could speak a word, Paladin immediately started. 
"Burseg, something wrong with your subspace array?" 
"It was disabled, that thing made our stern's signature radius look massive." Tegrin joked, trying to make himself feel better, but knowing a sole Anathema could never carry enough equipment or firepower to even the odds they were facing now. 

"Whom's idea was it to fire up those interdiction fields, makes jumping in my friends a bit more tricky." 
"That was my idea, please tell me you have something a but more intimidating than a cloakerfrig." 

"I sure do." 
Paladin cut the channel and decloaked his ship. 
He maneuvered his ship as close to the field as possible without coming in contact. 
Because he was not flagged as Sardaukar enlisted, he figured, this unknown enemy wouldn't fire upon him. 
"Just a little more..." Paladin said to himself. 

Twenty meters.... Fifteen... Ten.... 
"What the hell is he doing?" Tegrin asked himself out loud, looking at the small ship through the view screen. 

Right then, for all to see, the little Anathema class CovertOps frigate did what none of the Sardaukar or enemy ships ever could. 
Right beneath it's bow, the bright red bloom of a cynosaural field flared up. 

For a brief moment it seemed all the fighting had stopped, taken aghast by the small but violent energy field that appeared from this seemingly innocuous Little ship. 

In an instant, over two hundred ships jumped in, cordoning off part of the interdiction bubble with their number and sizes... Each and every single one of them Ammarian in origin. 

Paladin opened the channel again, smiling. 
"Mr Tegrin, allow me to introduce you to the Amarr Praetorian guard, the empress' finest." 

As the many golden curved vessels moved into firing positions, Tegrin snapped more orders. 
"All Sardaukar forces, break off and regroup behind the Amarrian fleet!" 
As the Amarr fleet swept across the enemy formations, Tegrin turned to Paladin. 

"Are Epion and Hasarith with you?" 

"Negative, Epion ran off taking putshots at my Orca, Hasarith and Dave went after him." 

"He did what?!" 

"Just as me and Dave busten the two of them out and were headed to the exit gate, something broke our warp drive and he fired an EMP shell at the Murphy's Minion, shields were knocked offline, armor is severely damaged and propulsion's restricted to sublight... I expect to be fully compensated for repairs, by the way... Hasarith and Dave chased after him with our Pilgrim and a Talos." 

"Did he tell you anything, before or after he fired on you?" Tegrin asked. 

James thought about it for a minute... something unusual came to mind... 

"Yeah, come to think of it, before we left he mentioned paperwork, then after he shot us he told Hasarith to look at the bigger picture, that mean anything to you?" 

Tegrin closed his eyes, recognizing the delicate use of words... where had he heard them before? 

Definitly Deetex who used those words before, but when? 

"Sir?" Paladin poked, waiting for the Burseg to respond. 

"Code phrases, Epion's trying to tell Hasarith something, lets hope he realizes it before his Talos wrecks that Typhoon Epion's flying. 
Where's your Orca now?" 

"My crew's looking after it, hid it behind a moon, would take a narrow band D-Scan to find it." 

"Transmit those coordinates to one of my Logistics cruisers, they'll patch it up... your payment will have to wait until this is over however." 

The sardaukar and a ammarian fleets mingled, battleships and frigates firing while repairs were being affected, the enemy forces uncertain how to continue. 
"Why aren't they firing on the Ammarians?" Tegrin wondered. 
"Maybe their targeting systems aren't programmed to look at non-Sardaukar forces, could they be using a line-of-sight method?" a bridge officer commented. 

"Can't be that simple, can it?" 
It was hard to believe, but Tegrin did notice some of his ships were surprisingly exempt from enemy fire, each one of them hidden out of sight behind an Ammarian ship. 

At long last Tegrin figured out how to win this fight. 
"To all Sardaukar forces, new battle plan, listen up." 

Epion, Hasarith and a few medical and tactical officers were hauled up in the conference room, discussing the situation. 
The Atlas, having worked its way out of the station's massive interdiction field, had warped it's way to a distant asteroid belt and was casually cruising towards the exit stargate. 

"The induction process has been successful, his nervous system is recovering nicely with no apparent side effects from either the operation or the traumatic event that facilitated its necessity." The chief medic reported. 
He looked at Hasarith. 
"He may inherit some minor character traits from mr Hasarith Seraphine, however, but judging by what I've heard of your origin, the changes may be minimal." 

"Very well, now..." Epion started 
"Hasarith, how exactly did you manage to get in here anyway?" 

Hasarith looked at his friend. 
"Well, took a few minutes for me to realize what you were saying, paperwork as a code-phrase isn't a common one these days..." 

"I figured you'd understand eventually." Epion retorted. 

"Right, when you fired on us you damn nearly blew a hole in the maintenance bay, which would've been bad, seeing as Sobani and Paladin had some valuable assets in there." 

"His Pilgim...and your Talos." 

"After you left sensor range we immediately disembarked and pursued, Sobani under cloak and myself fully combat ready, no battleship captain in his right mind would engage a fully fitted third-tier Battlecruiser at point blank range, so I had smooth sailing." 

"But this system has a gate camp set up, ordered to apprehend and disable any unescorted ship that jumps in." one of the tactical officers inquired, a puzzled look on his face. 

"Yeah, we noticed"Hasarith continued. 
"Sobani did quite a number on those campers with his Pilgrim, mean little ships, those Ammarian force recon cruisers... But what really helped what the fact that Deetex, in his infinite wisdom, left us a stealth bomber with a Lockbreaker bomb waiting at the gate, right underneath their noses..." 

Hasarith paused, noting Epion started to grin broadly. 
"Why are you laughing?" 

"No, it's nothing, I'm just starting to understand the relationship between Deetex and Veerex." Epion replied. 

"Just what is this relationship, sir?" the tactical officer inquired. 
"They're both crazy well-prepared, instinctively doing what would otherwise take hours of careful planning, seemingly whimsical actions result in lasting repercussions... They share a similar, if not identical school of thought, only their objectives differ." 

Epion gave Hasarith a long glaring stare. 
"Could it be they stem from similar means that have birth to you, Hasarith?" 

"If your accusing me of being a second generation clone experiment, you're sadly mistaken, however there is a kernel of truth..." 
Hasarith sighed, then continued. 

"About a decade ago, before the unfortunate incident that severed me from my brother, Deetex, Veerex and two others, Azriel Storm and Nicole Vedgren shared a position as students to a very exclusive education, it was our intent to pioneer technological and biological evolution from that point. 
Infomorphic cloning, cybernetic implants, warp drive, shields, Artificial Intelligence... It would've ment nothing compared to what we had in store for our universe. We would've reached a level of understanding that rivaled even the Jove empire at it's prime, and we would've used our knowledge and expertese to breach the fudal rivalry between the four empires." 

"But Veerex wanted to use the new tech for conquest?" The Tactical officer asked. 

"Almost, a series of events took place first, kicking off our seperation." 

Hasarith got up from his chair and streched his arms. 
He started pacing the room as the clouded memories started clearing up. 

"First, before anything was solid, we concluded that the current empires would obviously not surrender their borders just because we told them to, many radicals have tried, even groups a thousand times our number, and all had failed, either crushed by the empires themselves, hunted down by Concord or even strategicly neutralized by Capsuleer freelancers and privateers. 
So, Deetex and Veerex started designing plans for a galactic scale coup de grace... while they were off scheming Nicole and Azriel designed the technology we would need." 

He paused for effect, noting he had the attention of everyone in the room. 

"When a plan was drawn up, the requirements were transferred to Azriel and Nicole who designed hardware, limitations and suspected flaws were then brought back to Deetex and Veerex who redesigned accordingly. 
Eventually we had two solid strategic masterplans drawn out, named operation Checkmate and operation Nemesis." 

"Names to match their intent I'm sure." Epion muttered, interupting Hasarith in his train of thought. 

"The nemesis plan involved, to put it simply, all out war, using each of the four Empire's weaknessess against them and countering their strengths, sweeping from one point of the universe to the other and getting rid of all opposition... not very elegant but doable. 

Operation Checkmate would've taken a bit more cunning, effectively deploying our would-be forces thruhought the colonies covertly, placing tactical units at key junctions and employing deterrents to keep the four empires from retaliating." 

"You're talking about the MAD princiciple, mutual assured destruction?" the Tactician asked. 

"Not dissimilar" Hasarith answered, continueing. 

"At this point, two artificially intelligent computer cores were developed by us... them." 
He shook his head, the memories were so vivid he kept forgetting he was not Deetex. 
"The two computers, named Damocles and Mars, would each be responsible for it's own part, Damocles would oversee the deployment of the Deterrent forces and would manage them in realtime, while Mars would be responsible for in-field command when the fighting would inevitably start." 

"But self-learning AI is illegal, has been for centuries, Concord would destroy you if they ever found out." the tactician noted. 

"We were aware of that, Concord wouldn't find out because the two computer cores were developed with such an architecture and countermeasures, unless you had a look at the actual core, any observer would've seen and scanned a living person." 

Hasarith stopped, placing his hands on the table and started leaning on them. 

"Actually, Concord proved more useful than that, gone mad with the concept of power, Veerex began forcing our collective efforts towards conquest, becoming ever more settled in the idea that mass-slaughter and genocide were the only resolution to our dilemma. 
Nicole figured this out first, and wanted out... She turned to Deetex and Azriel for help, who had her rolled up with the Concord witness protection programs, claiming she was being hunted by Sansha's minions... She went into hiding, and we've never heard from her since." 

"She still alive?" Epion asked. 
"Not that we know of. 
Deetex believed he could keep Veerex in check, as both of them had equal authority in their covenant, and had mostly the same mindset... but when Veerex learned of Nicole's defection, he snapped, became more reclusive and very much more aggressive." 

"He felt betrayed" one of the attending medics muttered. 

"Now, the second event proved much more dramatic, the discovery of Wormhole space." 

"Ooh wait..." Epion interupted, suddenly more attentive. 

"Let me guess, you found a nice spot to call a new home, a base of operations... until you found out about the native residents?" 

"Not quite, but you're not far off, the discovery of the Sleepers served as a warning to most of the universe, but Veerex and Deetex both saw potential in them... the idea was to send Damocles in as diplomat with Mars serving as bodyguard... alas. 
We underestimated the Sleeper's firepower, and overestimated their tolerences, by a sheer stroke of luck did a privateer fleet jump in and engaged the sleepers giving our forces a chance to escape with a derelict drone in our posession." 

"You brought back a sleeper?" the tactician asked. 

"Just fragments of the hull, the AI was destroyed, as were it's weapon systems and much of it's propulsion, but enough to reprocess it into basic raw materials. 
When Azriel got his hands on the Fullerene we brought back he was ecstatic, the possibilities were limitless... And the key element in our plans, as fullerene based armor and support systems would've given us the edge in battle should the nemesis protocol be initiated." 

"So what happened?" 

"Veerex happened, when he learned of the alloy's capabilities, he could think of nothing but weapons of war, and wanted to put Nemesis in motion before Checkmate. 
Deetex and Azriel finally realized what kind of man Veerex really was, yet another warmonger, a tyrant in the making. 
We took Damocles and Mars, injected them with nanite paste infused with fullerene and leaving them with Azriel for safekeeping while Deetex confronted Veerex, a fight broke out between the two and we had hoped to have seen the last of him... Sadly we were proven wrong when he spearheaded an attack four years ago." 

"Four years, when Deetex lost his wife?" Epion asked. 
The pieces started falling together, Epion was starting to see the pattern, a vendetta between the two men. 

"That's right, we, the Sardaukar, managed to stop his attack back then, but now..." 
"But now he's back and gunning for us, the one force in this galaxy that could possibly put a dent in his plans." 

Hasarith took a seat again, and concluded his story. 

"If Veerex has deemed the destruction of the Sardaukar messes are to proceed with this plans he will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, we need to take him out, Now!" 
He slammed his fist on the table. 

"I'll contact Sobani and the bomber pilot, we'll head back to the station, shoot down anything in our way and kill him on the spot." Epion added. 

"Won't.... Work..." a raspy voice from behind gasped. 
Everyone looked back, gazing upon a pale but living Deetex, leaning his weight against the doorframe. 
"You should be resting." the medic stated. 

"I'll manage... somehow.." he replied, right as he started collapsing, the doorframe not offering enough support. 
Hasarith and Epion both jumped up and jolted to his aid, catching him before he hit the ground. 

"You crazy bastard, you heard the doc!" Epion muttered, helping Hasarith drag the limb man to the nearest chair. 

It took Deetex a few minutes to regain his stamina, he wasn't exactly tired, but his energy was completely exhausted from the trip between the conference room and the medical bay. 

"You alright?" Hasarith asked his brother, actually concerned for his health. 
Slowly and uneasily, Deetex lifted his arm and placed his hand on Hasarith's shoulder. 
"I'll be fine." 

All eyes were on Deetex, nobody spoke a word until he would... He did hold the highest rank in that room after all. 

He kept his quiet, eyes closed and breathing heavy, rubbing his leg slowly. 
"Any permanent damage, doc?" Epion asked the attending medic. 

"Not from what we could detect, he may hold a stiff limb for a few months but that'll heal over due time, his body is quickly recovering the physical ordeal..." 

"What about mentally?" Hasarith asked. 

The doctor sighed, having dreaded that particular question the moment they patched their patient's nervous system. 
"Aye, that depends entirely on what kind of a person he was, and what specific traits he will inherit from you... As for the events that facilitated the need for the operation, that's a different story altogether... Chemically augmented torture is tricky business." 

Deetex inhaled deeply, his aching chest straining. 
"Epion..." he muttered. 
Without hesitating Epion snapped to attention, recognizing the authoritive undertone Deetex had used. 

"Get me back... Home..." 
He paused for a moment. 
"She hunts... Get me away from this place... I can't face her again... Not... Yet." 

"Yes sir." 
As he responded he reached for a pocket communicator and ordered the bridge to prepare for departure. 
Hasarith gazed into his brother's eyes, trying to see what the plan was. 
"You should go back to your ship." Deetex responded. 
He was becoming more articulate, Hasarith noticed his eyes becoming more focussed. 

"Bad news." Epion started, putting his communicator away. 
"Sobani send word, our mutual 'friend' has send in some heavy weapons to camp at the gate, he and your bomber pilot are currently cloaked and in hiding." 

Hasarith got up, standing firm. 
"Then we blast our way through." 

"Easier said then done, they have a carrier on site... Not sure about the Cinderfall but I know my ship doesn't have the firepower to go up against one." 
"Then we run." Deetex muttered, straightening in his seat. 
"s'cuze me, Sir?" 
"Hasarith, does your ship have a warlink command sub processor?" 
"Yeah, but how..." Hasarith paused mid-sentence, realizing what Deetex was inferring. 
"Epion, move everything and everyone to the Cinderfall, we'll send the Atlas in as bait, flown by wire." 

"Woah, wait a minute, even with a command processor it still takes one person on the ship to maintain the connection through warp, you can't..." 

Hasarith slapped his friend on his back, smiling. 

"You're a capsuleer, remember?" 

Epion could not answer, he knew what Deetex was referring to, and could not decide if it was a good idea or not. 

"Won't the enemy expect you have switched ships?" the tactician asked. 
"Were it any other vessel that might've been an option, but not a Talos class, it lacks in speed and wouldn't stand up to so much as a single cruiser." Hasarith answered. 

A brief silence fell, consequences settled in as the plan was considered. 
"Alright" Epion finally stated. 
"I'll issue the order, but we had best get going before they send out scouts." 

Within minutes a flurry of cargo drones and shuttles flitted between the massive battleship and the nimble battle cruiser, carrying with them the content and crew of the typhoon. 
Everything they could afford to lose, anything that would slow them down was stored on the Atlas. 

Epion stood on his bridge, arms crossed as he watched the last of his officers unlocking their consoles and requiring controls to the central column. 

"We're gonna miss you, sir." one of his officers had commented. 
"Bullshit" was all he could reply with. 

He had put his crew and ship at risk so many times he honestly could not understand why they still kept signing up for active duty under his command. 
'Maybe Deetex had something to do with that' he wondered at times, considering all the favors his...'master' had granted him, all the strings that were pulled. 

"Cinderfall to Atlas" Hasarith spoke through the commline. 
"That's the last one, we're bursting at the seams over here." 
"Understood" Epion replied 
"We're moving out, wait one minute then follow me" 

Slowly the two ships moved to align to the jumpgate, the mighty Atlas' massive engines burning violently, the Cinderfall following quietly. 

Within seconds the Atlas started accelerated intensely, flying off at high warp, it's sole crew, it's captain, heading headlong into a fight it could not possibly survive. 

Within seconds Epion reached the jumpgate, staring at the gate camp without flinching. 
A single carrier, flanked by cruisers and battleships... With not a one friendly ship in sight. 

"Alright old man, this one's for the count" Epion said to his ship. 
It didn't take long for the enemy ships to notice him, the cruisers were the quickest to respond, turning rapidly and heading towards him, engine flares hot and bright. 

Epion gazed over to the sensor console, noting signature radii ten times what they were supposed to be. 

"Microwarps? Tisk tisk..." he muttered, locking up all four incoming cruisers. 
Within a moments notice his quartet of artillery guns opened fore, tearing the cruisers to pieces with little effort and only a few shells, the enemy's use of Microwarp Drives proving too much of a liability for them. 
Only one cruiser survived, decelerating rapidly and turning to a near 90 degree angle, keeping a fixed distance between the two while staying mobile... Epion's guns could no longer track it, he released the firing controls. 

Now the battleships came in range. 

A volley of torpedoes spead towards the Atlas, sending sirens and warning lights in overdrive. 

With a hightened sense of alert, Epion ran over to the Damage control console and initiated the system, putting bulkheads in place and readying the forcefields and sealing foams for action. 

Several long-range shells struck the Atlas' outter shields, disappated by the multiple layers of reinforced shield emitters. 

They knew better then to use energy weapons against a ship of Minmatar design, even if they broke through the shields, the super-conductive armor would resist without breaking a sweat. 

Two of the battleships came closer, Bristling with blasters and autocannons, already firing in the hopes of scoring that one lucky hit. 

Epion paid them no head, instead turned his ship straight towards the onlooking Carrier, Thanatos class. 

"Keep it together old man, we can do this" he muttered. 

As though hearing his utterence, the Carrier launched its lethal payload, three full wings of Fighters emerged, fifteen firbolg class fighters were heading at the Atlas at blinding speeds. 

Suppressing a smile Epion let his guns fire once more, the massive shells barely missing the tiny ships as they sped closer and closer. 

Not a minute later the Cinderfall followed, it's powerful engines flaring as it cruised in and halted behind the Atlas. 

Feigning interest, the Cinderfall headed towards the lead battleship, it's afterburners blazing, it's guns unlocking and taking careful aim. 

As the Cinderfall reached the lead battleship the fighters reached the Atlas, their weapons blazing. 

The bridge rocked and trembled, warning lights started flashing all over the abandoned consoles. 

"Come on, Has... GO!" Epion yelled, readying his ship's Smartbomb compliment. 

Both the Atlas and the Cinderfall were closely matched in speed, but Hasarith's ship and it's considerably lighter mass accelerated none the less, slowly but surely moving further away. 

Somethign exploded behind Epion, deafening him momentarily, he sensed the searing heat of a fire in his back, but he remained standing, his finger hovering over the fire button. 

Suddenly his ship jerked sideways, almost throwing Epion away from his now critical console. 
From the corner of his eye he could see a decompression alert on the Master systems Display, somewhere along the ship's bow. 

He saw the Cinderfall opening fire, it's massive cannons tearing apart the shields of the unwavering battleship. 

A single green light started flashing on Epions console, a moment later it was solid. 
Without hesitation he slammed his palm down. 

The ship started humming all around him, his shields recalibrating for the outbound shockwaves. 

Within seconds the Atlas was surrounded by a trembling and ever expanding field of static and fire, engulving the tiny fightercraft in forces of explosions and pressure causing massive damage. 

Epion kept the button pressed down, his fingers and wrist aching with force. 
He glanced over at his ship's MSD, noting the Capacitor charge dropping fast with every consessive pulse. 

A bright flash in the distance drew his attention. 

The Cinderfall, it's mirriad of cannon barrels still glowing, sped hurridly away from a burning wreck and towards another battleship. 
Hasarith had devestated his target, and was moving towards a new foe. 

Epion could see Hasarith had picked his targets and headings carefully, drawing ever closer to the jumpgate but maintaining the illusion that he was clearing a path for the Atlas. 

The first of the inbound torpedoes reached the Atlas, just as another smartbomb shockwave emerged, incinerating the deadly missile. 
The rest of the volley made it through, pounding at the Atlas' shields. 
Another wing of fighters emerged from the distant carrier, this time heading to the Cinderfall instead. 
Hasarith stopped discharging his ship's guns for a few seconds, as the fighters drew closer. 

As the dozen of tiny ships reached the Cinderfall short of a few kilometers, the Cinderfall's guns, grouped differently, started firing at them. 
The massive cannons shouldn't be able to Track those small ships, nor able to reach them at that range, yet each shot struck true. 

Hasarith had been paying attention, having retrofitted his ship with superior tracking computers and stocking up on exotic long-range blaster ammunition. 

Epion took note of the distance, and reloaded his howitzers with Quake rounds, short range artillery shells intended for close range. 

With only a a split second to waste he let his four guns fire, sending the shells soaring through space, hitting true. 
Two of the remaining fighters were instantly wiped away, their debris scattering as the massive specialty Sabot shells pieced through their shields and armor with ease. 

Hasarith broke off and headed to another battleship, a Megathron class. 
It would be blaster versus blaster, the Cinderfall at a disadvantage through its lacking armor, the Megathron at odds for its shortcoming accuracy. 

More torpedoes struck the Atlas, it's armor now critically damaged, damage control systems strained beyond capacity. 
The enemy's railguns weren't doing much but they were adding to the damage, punching holes in his hull and knocking out systems from afar. 

Hasarith was almost in the clear, just a few more seconds and there would be a massive opening between the Atlas and the jump gate. 
The hostile Megathron was taking heavy damage from the Cinderfall's excellent cannons, but did not apply any repairs. 
After a few more salvoes from Hasarith's ship, the Megathron stopped firing, it's guns still locked on the small ship but silent. 

Suddenly there was an eerie calm over the battlefield, none of the enemy ships fired a single shot, no torpedoes remained in flight, even those over zealous fighters returned to their carrier. 

Deetex and Hasarith glanced at each other, thinking the same thing. 
"They know" Deetex muttered. 

Without pause Hasarith reached for the communications console, and broke radio silence. 
"Epion, go, while they're reconsidering!" 

It was a massive gamble, either success or utter failure, Epion would have to react in an instant. 

Suddenly the Atlas lurched forward, it's engines burning hot as he pushed his afterburners into overdrive. 
Hasarith saw his friend's reaction, and turned his ship to face the enemy forces, heading his ship straight to the enemy carrier. 
This would take him past the jumpgate at roughly ten kilometers, their gamble would have to pay off. 

Yet the enemy did not react. 

"They're not taking the bait, we could be in trouble" hasarith muttered, readying his weapons for another fight. 

As both the Cinderfall and the Atlas moved the enemy forces regrouped and applied repairs, shield boosters and repair systems flickered on. 

Purposefully Hasarith moved his ship slower than it was capable of, making sure the overheating Atlas could catch up. 

It took only a few seconds of free flight, but the enemy took the bait. 

All at once the remaining cruisers and battleships opened fire, sending missiles, torpedoes and railgun volleys hurdling towards the crumbling Atlas. 

Deetex checked the ship's sensors, not a one ship had a target lock on the Cinderfall. 
He gazed over at Hasarith, and nodded once. 
Together they worked at the control panels, fiddling with the ship's power systems and safety measures. 

"Engineering, prep for damage" Hasarith yelled into a communications channel. 
On a holographic console at appeared next to him, he turned a virtual dial fully, boosting engine output beyond its safe parameters. 
Overheating a system was an art, the benefits gained, while often short-lived were tremendous. 

Within moments the Cinderfall, firing it's afterburners at nearly 300%, accelerated to a breakneck speed, it's crawl transforming into a dash... Heading straight for the jump gate. 

"Less then a minute until we're in range!" Hasarith shouted. 
Deetex was fully occupied with keeping the systems from melting, venting the heat buildup and realigning redundant systems as best he could. 
"What about the Atlas?" 

Hasarith checked his system briefly. 
"Can't lock on his transponder, but definitely detec...." he was cut off by a short beep. 
The ship trembled briefly as a shockwave overcame them, adding a few precious meters to their velocity. 
"He..." Hasarith started, Deetex finished his sentence. 

"He's gone, time?" 

"Just a few more seconds" 
Suddenly an alert sounded, the rim if Hasarith's flight console flashed red. 
"We're being targeted!" 
Hasarith raised his hand, letting it hover over the flight console, as a small button started blinking... First slowly, but speeding up. 
He stared at the button, motionless, for what felt like hours. 

Finally the button dimmed completely, then lit up and stayed on. 
Slamming his hand down with all his might he might've even smashed the console, had the entire ship not simply winked out of existence. 

They had made it. 

As the Cinderfall rematerialized on the opposite end of that vast gulf of space, Deetex immediately cut off all overheating systems, their damage nearly crippling. 

"Get us to the Sardaukar home base, shortest route possible." he ordered. 
Hasarith exhaled, relaxing his arms and shoulders, releasing the control levers, his knuckles still white. 
"Right away sir."