Fifteen minutes later, the bridge crew watched three of Chiron’s Hygieia ambulance/fighter cruisers manoeuvring in close to the Sapphire Dreams. The dot out the window was magnified on the holographic viewers around the bridge. As the trio grew closer, Woon reported, “Sapphire Dreams is hidden in some long tendril-like plant matter; or wiggling things of some kind.”
“You can’t tell if it’s a plant or animal?” Jack asked.
“Sorry, not a scientist like most of you. I was busy with history and karate medals ’til I was trained up for the war.”
A few minutes later, Woon said, “Cameras are in range. You should be able to see the squiggly things for yourself now.”
Everyone could. “Looks like a sea anemone,” Heather commented.
“We’ve got our hooks onto Seraphim,” Woon reported. “Towing now.”
He spoke too soon. The privateer’s dropship held fast, jarring the cruisers to an abrupt halt as they tried to pull it. “Sucking black holes,” Woon cried, “there’s something coming at us!” There was indeed. The bridge crew watched helplessly as bright lava-red fireballs flew at the Hygieias. Verbal reports stopped as Woon switched his com to talk to his other ships.
The holo visual was good – perhaps too good, as it showed all the details of a hull breach in one of the cruisers. It was a small one, so another cruiser shot a sealant at the hole. As the bombs continued to fly, lashing tendrils wound around narrow regions of the ships, then pulled them in towards the surface.
“What in the universe?” came Woon’s voice. “Sending in a probe.”
“See if you can snip off some tendrils,” Heather said. The medical doctor in her was working on anatomical theories and solutions.
“Will do.” It turned out not to be simple, though.
The ships were manoeuvring as best they could, and firing back. En masse, the three cruisers used their fore and aft railgun missile launchers to fire liquid nitrogen pods that burst open and quick-cooled the burning balls coming at them continuously.
“Info coming in,” Heather reported. “The organisms are rooted in rock, with a hollow metallic tunnel system that connects to the planetoid’s volcanic channels. The stems must be made of something like asbestos. Lava is sucked through them to form membrane-coated balls it can shoot out, I assume for self defense.”
“What damage does it do?” Woon asked.
“There are channels carved into the surface of the Sapphire Dreams as if it’s eating away at the metal of its hull,” Heather reported.
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