Raleigh, Granny and Maxwell looked at each other. The blood drained from Granny’s face. Raleigh mentally sifted through a series of options. They watched on the holoscreen as the transport entered the other ship. Then the Polaris disappeared.
Before he could make a decision, Maxwell said, “I’ll take care of it.”
He dashed for the elevator. Lootie sped a pod over to him. He jumped inside and it rushed down to crew quarters.
He jumped out and looked around. The bomb sat on the floor of the corridor nearby, the numbers on the timer floating in the air above it.
Maxwell opened a neural connection to Raleigh.
He said, “I found it! There’s about two and a half minutes left!”
He grabbed the bomb and ran back inside the elevator.
“To the flight deck, Lootie!”
Raleigh said, “What are you doing with it, Max?”
“I’m going to throw it overboard.”
“Can we survive that, Lootie?”
“Provided Mr. Maxwell evacuates the explosive to within a minimum of three meters from our side shielding, yes. The ship should remain intact.”
Maxwell ran out of the elevator carrying the bomb and promptly tripped on a bloody body in the hall. The bomb flew out of his hands and skittered across the floor.
Maxwell groaned, stunned and facedown on the deck.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, Captain.”
He crawled to his feet, shaking his head and regaining his balance. Raleigh and Granny watched him from the holovision on the bridge.
Granny said, “Hurry up, Max! You’ve got less than a minute.”
Maxwell jumped off the floor and scooped the bomb up. He rushed down the hall, jumping over the remaining bodies, and pivoted through the doorway onto the flight deck. In the distance he could see the red glow from the portal’s forcefield, and hazy stars blinking through it.
He ran toward the portal, the muscles in his massive legs straining. With no drones on the tarmac, he closed the distance, carrying the bomb like an athlete rushing for an end zone on a wide-open playing field.
The numbers ticked down, “00:18 . . . 00:17 . . .”
When he reached the portal he pulled his arm back and flung the bomb as hard as he could through the entrance. It sailed through the air, popping through the barrier and flying out into space.
“00:12 . . . 00:11 . . .”
Maxwell’s eyes grew big as a sudden realization hit him. The forcefield was designed to keep air inside and let everything else pass through. If the bomb could be thrown out through the porous barrier, its blast could come back in.
He turned and ran back in the other direction, putting as much distance between himself and the portal as he could.
The bomb floated through space, tumbling in slow motion.
“00:06 . . . 00:05 . . .”
Maxwell reached the door to the corridor and rushed inside, seeking the safety of the metal barricades.
The bomb slowly drifted away from the ship, tumbling as it went. The Mule glowed orange on the port side as Lootie strengthened her defenses, sucking power away from the remaining shields to concentrate maximum protection in preparation for the blast.
“00:03 . . . 00:02 . . . 00:01 . . . 00:00”
A sudden burst of white light ripped through the blackness of space.
The Mule shuddered as the force of the impact slammed against her port side. A few more loose panels in the rear floated free.
Maxwell picked himself up from the floor where he had covered his head, expecting the worse. He dusted himself off and chuckled in relief.
Back on the bridge, Raleigh said, “What’s our status, Lootie? How’re we doing?”
“The Ultima Mule is intact, Captain. All sensors indicate structural integrity remains adequate. Mr. Maxwell succeeded, quite admirably.”
“Good job, Max!”
Maxwell grinned in delight. He said, “I coulda played for the big leagues! I still got it, too. Consistent 90 mile an hour fastball! Now granted, that thing was bigger than a baseball, but still . . .”
He noticed the bodies in the corridor again, and all the blood splattered about from grenade and blaster fire. He frowned, his good humor and the victory of the moment forgotten.
Behind him he heard a moan. He turned and found Skylar trying to open her eyes. Her forehead had split open from the impact with the wall, and blood flowed out of the gash.
She said, “What happened?”
Maxwell said, “Captain, send the droid doc down here. Skylar’s alive!”