Super Space Battle
Ernie hovered behind the crew's seats. The captain had cut thrust, so SF 23 was coasting, to keep a safe distance from the Russian missile attack. SF 24, being unmanned, was closer and still under thrust.
Our ram. Hopefully not needed.
"If they can break it up, we'll pinpoint larger chunks and take action." The captain glared around at Ernie. "Your buddy's got it aimed straight at DC."
"Because he lost time dodging missiles." Ernie turned back to the visual, and saw Abby's thrust cut off. At this distance he couldn't spot the little maneuvering burns, but Abby drifted up then around behind the asteroid. From their vantage they could see the slow rotation as it brought the 'top' side around to face the missiles, the lines of spheres were clear, with a lot more gaps than Will's transmissions had shown.
"No sign the missile's maneuvering. Looks like it's going straight in."
The debris from their first attempt to kill Doctor Inferno had dispersed, most of it left behind--barely--as Will had pushed the asteroid faster and northward. The huge mass was impossible to affect quickly, but Will's long careful burns had just slightly changed the angle of the asteroid's approach.
For better or worse, the first Russian missile missed all the remaining junk and hit almost in the center of the top. A brilliant flash, dozens of secondary flashes. The radiation alarms flashed. Ernie could see debris, some dark, some reflecting light . . . some exploding . . .
Ernie squinted at the screen. "Zoom in. I want to see if those are the spheres exploding."
The Captain shot a glare over his shoulder. Scowled. "Do it."
Damn good optics. Specialist Kaufman caught a sphere, opening like a blossom, a spidery robot unfolding as it emerged, a brief glimpse of whirling debris hitting it.
A bright flash as the radiation alarms blared again.
"Right. It looks like they've got a power source that emits radiation when ruptured. I heard rumors of antimatter, but I don't know if that's been confirmed."
"And here comes the next missile." Kaufman tapped his radar screen and zoomed out.
Ernie spotted Will's space plane edging into sight, and then back behind the asteroid.
We are a pack of idiots, making it impossible for the only man capable of saving us from doing the job.
A second large explosion, followed by the smaller, brighter secondary explosions.
Scotch snorted. "Better they set them off up here than down on Earth. But damn, even at this distance you guys are going to accumulate a lot of radiation damage."
Lt. Owens glanced at him. "The sensors are exterior to the hull. We aren't taking much. The Russians are a lot closer . . . but they may have thicker walls than the planes."
"There goes a big chunk!" Kaufman zoomed out as nearly a quarter of the nose broke off.
The third Russian missile hit, with a much lesser cascade of secondary explosions.
"Are we running out of spheres or are they just so dispersed they aren't getting with by debris?" Ernie looked around, but got only shrugs.
"Inferno's got his main engine running." Kaufman frowned. "Is he pushing it down, now?"
Ernie eyed the plume of exhaust coming from behind the asteroid. "He could be trying to slow the spin, so he can resume moving the asteroid."
"Why are you so trusting, Ernie?" Scotch frowned at him.
"Because if he wanted it to hit, all he had to do was . . . nothing. Or slow it so it hit Europe or Russia. Or . . . just about anything except what he is doing."
"He's aimed it at the Capital!" the Captain called from the front.
"DC is built on a swamp barely inland. The tsunami was going to destroy it already. IF we let him continue, there's a chance to make it miss."
Captain Hendricks frowned, looked over at Kaufman. "Are they sending in any more missiles?"
"No . . . they're dealing with damage from debris and radiation pulses."
"Right. Lt. Castro? Send SF 24 in. We're going to help with the push."