"Glenda? The Space Plane that's coming in? They wouldn't happen to be using the same software I wrote for controlling Abby remotely, would they?"
A silent minute.
"They appear to have added a security protocol to it, Master. Do you want me to take control?"
She sounds so eager!
"Yes, if can do it quickly enough that I don't have to run and hide again, there's still a chance I can do this."
"Yes, Master. Now that I have control, what would you like me to do with it?"
Will blinked. "How large of a crew?"
"None, it was unmanned and already running under remote control from the other Space Plane. Would you like me to take control of that one too?"
Gleeful. Oh. My. God.
"No. How much fuel does the first one have aboard?"
"The gauges read twenty-one percent . . . I do not have the specs for fuel capacity."
"Excellent." Will dropped his gaze to his own fuel gauge. Getting close to not being able to slow down enough to reenter.
He looked back at Mike and Kelly, "All right. listen up. To get Abby back to Earth, once we stop pushing, is going to require a version of what we did to the Telescope array. This time using the asteroid as the anchor point. Kelly? You watched what I did, out there. I caught the widest extension of the frame, so as we passed it, it was pulled into a spin. And we were pulled around in a half circle and reeled in the cable to increase our radial velocity before I released the hook. So we kept our forward velocity, just changed the direction. Actually, reeling in while we did it, we picked up some speed."
Kelly nodded warily. "What are you planning?"
"I'm going up set the electromagnet out on the surface here, and hope it's strong enough to hold. When it's time to leave, Glenda will take the Abby out fifty miles or so, accelerate forward, and get swung around the front end of the asteroid, and released going the other direction, at slightly lower velocity. Leaving enough fuel to land safely."
"Master . . . you're speaking as if you will not be aboard."
Kelly eyed him.
"Exactly. I'll be on board the other space plane, that has more fuel, completing the diversion."
"Master! You are not allowed to kill yourself!"
Will huffed out an impatient breath. "One. I am a Super Human. I can do thing, survive things, that regular people cannot. Two. A few weeks ago I was slowly dying of old age, and you did just fine without me. You will continue to do fine without me. Even if you do get bored, not saving the world regularly."
The bloody computer sniffled.
"Why can't Glenda fly that plane?" Kelly sounded upset, too.
"Because I can sense the center of mass of the asteroid, and correct easily without wasting time and fuel on a major correction." He looked back at the tether controls. "I added that late, and never added them to the system. They have to be run manually."
"Now lets maneuver these two planes and push in concert. Doubling the acceleration will make this doable, and yes, more likely to be survivable."
"Master . . ."
"Glenda . . . I will shift this damned asteroid. Even if I kill myself, even if I kill these two kids. With your help, we all have a good chance of surviving. My chances are lower than theirs. But a long way from zero. So let's get to work."
He reached and turned on the comm. "I'm taking over your plane, thank you for sending her out here. With two planes to push we can do this."
Captain Whatever hissed. "You will return control of USSF 24 to us immediately."
"Sorry, but this is going to take some micro management from up close and personal."
"After this is done, I am going to take the greatest pleasure in arresting you."
"If we all survive this." Will clicked off the comm and looked over his shoulder. "If we fail, you'll head for Australia. Glenda? You got that?"
"If you fail, Master, I won't survive to land Abby, and she's pretty stupid. I'll install instructions for an Australian reentry and landing in the autopilot. But it would be much better if you survive."
"I concur. You might add instructions for Mooney Airport in Butte Montana." Will grinned back at the kids. "The keys to the van are tucked under the front bumper. Get Abby a load of Avgas and Glenda can tuck her away somewhere. In case we need her again."
It was . . . interesting trying to figure out how to balance the two pushes without bumping wings. But with Abby just ahead of the other plane it worked well enough. As the drop dead line on Abby's fuel neared, he suited up, grabbed all the oxygen bottles, strapped a pistol on . . . "What? There's an oxidizer in the charge. It'll work."
Mike gave him an odd look . . . "In case there are any space squids left."
"Exactly." Will sealed himself in the airlock.
Placed the electromagnet. Then climbed up onto the wing of the newer plane and in as both engines shut down. Will backed out and out of the way.
"Glenda, take Abby out. Kelly? You know what to do. And Glenda will tell you when."
Abby floated out . . . the anchor held . . .
He was busy redocking and couldn't spare a glance backwards when they shot past going to other direction.
Now gravity will help slow them, and they have enough fuel to decelerate to safe reentry speeds and land.
All I have to do is finish accelerating this thing and get out before it's too late.
There was still a slight spin. He adjusted position twice. Almost an hour . . . over an hour.
Ran the fuel tanks dry.
Time to leave.
He grabbed all the oxygen tanks here, and added them to his trio from the Abby, bundled them in a net and strapped everything down. Out the airlock and head for a wing edge for a jump start.
The squid hit him and swept him off into the deep nothingness.