It looked like a moldy orange, putrid, pock-marked with uneven circles of white ash and darker eruption. White and brown blotches unevenly stretched across its surface. Patches of hot dust alternated with glaciers. Pulled and deformed, like a child playing with a ball of clay, Io, was the closest Galilean satellite.
The gravitational forces of its host not as strong as the Sun, it was, nevertheless, ideal for weaker temporal transmissions. Maintained by a skeleton crew of three Tayamni, a tall cylinder, The Jovian Temporal-Portal, bristled with curved dishes and metallic tubes. It was used to send messages and communications from one time-period to another.
The first thing they saw was an explosion of green light in the distance.
Coming directly from the attack at Sol, Ptah assumed the Potacas would come here next. He believed they would strip the portal of technology, reverse engineer its mechanisms, and build a temporal device themselves. But, he was wrong. The mercenaries simply took orders from the Tlalocs. They were ordered to destroy it, to prevent warnings from being sent to the past.
Its shields disabled by the Potacas biological weapon, electron sheeting flickered off and on as metal cones burrowed into its hull. When all systems failed, they used old fashioned blasters and lasers to shred it. Fuel containers ruptured. Explosions consumed oxygen in living chambers. The crew were caught off guard. Burned, bloodied, crushed and torn, fluids in their bodies crystallized by the icy cold of space, organic components joined rocky debris orbiting the gas giant. Along with numerous shards of metal, resin, and glass, their bodies became more flotsam, frozen matter floating in the void.
As Ptah and his crew approached, Potacas mercenaries fled towards the unstable surface of the moon.
“We need those calculations, now!” Ptah yelled as his fighter sped over its surface.
“Almost done, Captain,” Humusi responded.
Ptah looked at her.
Her calm facial expression belied the urgency she felt. Her flesh covered, cyborg fingers moved over controls at blinding speed.
“Captain, again, I advise you, strap yourself into the chair,” Kulla urged, as the fighter banked sharply to the left, vents of lava and steam shooting up in front of them.
Humusi looked at Ptah and nodded. “Sending to navigation now.”
Kulla pressed a control on the console, and sat back with relief, the bony protrusion at the back of her head, dark purple from anxiety. She looked at Ptah, “We’ll steer around the vents.”
“Lure them into position,” Ptah shouted again, moving to the Captain’s chair. Through dust covered windows, he saw lava, rocks, and boulders shooting into poisonous air. Lightning streaked menacingly from dust clouds raging above. On the display to his right, he saw two Potacas vessels pursuing in tight formation.
“As humans say,” Kulla looked at Humusi and smiled, “Like shooting fish in a barrel.”
Ptah’s small fighter slowed, causing pursuing ships to slow down as well. Still viewing the display, Ptah saw a blast of melted rock and super-heated steam hit the lead Potacas ship. It flipped upside down listing downwards in the volcanic spew. The ship’s windows flashed bright yellow from inside. They watched as the Potacas vessel fell downwards, crashing into a morass of lava, rock, and sulfur.
A mechanical voice, generated by Ptah’s fighter craft announced, “Hull temperature exceeding recommended limits.”
Ptah looked at the cyborg female.
“I’m on it, Captain,” Humusi responded. “Increasing shields to maximum.”
“We don’t need weapons,” Ptah responded. “The vents will do the job.”
The second Potacas vessel continued to follow at a distance.
“Metal cones incoming,” Kulla said, referring to the Potacas weapon laden with electron consuming bacteria.
“Kill electron sheeting,” Ptah ordered. “Increase magnetic shields.”
“Already on it, Captain,” Humusi responded.
“Captain,” she yelled, “See the fissure ahead?”
“Do it!” Ptah shouted.
Humusi took hold of a lever attached the console, watching the Potacas behind them, she adjusted speed and trajectory. She knew their enemy’s patterns. Metallic thuds sounded as the cones hit the hull of the ship, and ricocheted away from magnetic shielding. She brought the fighter to a point where the Potacas following them would be at the right place at the right time.
From the display, they saw a geyser of lava, steam and smoke shoot upwards, striking the enemy ship. The vessel moved up slowly, then various pieces, a cylindrical crest, the bridge in one whole section, doors, weapons emitters, flew away from each other.
“Incoming,” Humusi yelled, as the upper crest of the Potacas vessel struck their ship, spinning them to the left. Humusi pressed stabilizing controls on the console in front of her, and the ship began to right itself.
“Vents opening below!” Kulla shouted.
Humusi pulled back hard on the lever, turning the ship sharply to the right. A jet of molten rock, boulders, and dust shot up, striking the ship, knocking them forward, thrusters twisting the fighter around. The ship was vertical, facing upwards. Ptah, pressed against the back of his chair looked towards the eerily orange sky; smoke clouds reflected fires below. She pressed stabilizing controls. Nothing changed.
“Hit the stabilizers!” Ptah shouted.
“Not responding,” Humusi said, looking at him frantically, her own chair thrown against the console.
“Stern blown off. Stablizers gone, shifting to manual. Humusi, take navigation,” Kulla yelled.
“The plateau is bulging,” Ptah yelled. “Get us outta here!”
Humusi pulled the lever hard, pressing controls on the console with her other hand.
Kulla’s hands flew over lighted panel frantically. The ship began to move to a horizontal position, listing, but moving forward. Through the window, Ptah saw molten jets of lava, shooting up all around.
“Now,” he shouted.
The ship’s speed increased.
“Half the thrusters are disabled,” Kulla yelled.
The thin atmosphere around them carried blasting sounds of cracking rock, and splitting granite.
“Go, go!” Ptah shouted as lava shot up in front of them. Explosions drown out all sound, except the high-pitched whine of remaining engines.
Humusi pulled the ship to the left, gaining speed. Below them, they saw the flat plain break into pieces, jagged islands floating on a sea of lava. The ship climbed higher, then shot to the left making a large curve.
“We’re just turning over the lava,” Ptah shouted again.
“Hull temperature exceeding recommended levels,” the computer stated again.
Suddenly, the ship straightened, and shot forward.
Looking below, Ptah saw they were coming to a patch of glacier. He brought his hands to his forehead in relief.
Originally posted on Scriggler.