Dragos could see the two battle cruisers coming to intercept them, but couldn’t do anything about it yet. He focused on memorizing the layout of his console, and learning the functions of the different controls. He only had a few minutes before the shit hit the fan, but fortunately, he was a quick learner. That was all the time he needed.

Henry opened the doors of the lift and stepped into the engineering section. There were bodies everywhere, but none of them seemed to be moving. He didn’t take any chances, though. He fired his pistols, and destroyed them all. The main engine room was relatively small, so he made a quick circuit, double-checking to make sure no undead were around to surprise him. Satisfied that he was alone, he went over to the main instrument panel. He heard Artemis’ voice over the comlink.

“Henry, are you there yet?”

“Yeah, I’m here. What am I supposed to do?”

“The Tesseract Drive needs to be manually rebooted. There’s an access panel next to the instrument panel. I’m going to open it for you now.”

The panel slid open, revealing a red toggle switch. Henry said, “Ok, what now?”

“Flip the switch, then wait ten seconds, and flip it back to its original position.”

“You mean that’s it? All this advanced Peri technology, and fixing this ship is nothing more than ‘turn it off and turn it back on again?”

“If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to unplug it and plug it back in again,” said Artemis.

“Oh, I see. AIs got jokes. Maybe I’ll just leave the switch off,” grumbled Henry.

“That would be inadvisable,” said Artemis.

“I know, I know,” said Henry. He flipped the switch, and the entire ship went dark. “What the hell?” he asked, but there was no response. He counted to ten, then flipped the switch back to its original position. Nothing happened. Cursing, he looked around, and saw a blinking red light. In the darkness, he stumbled over to it. Sure enough, it was next to a giant wire plugged into the floor.

“Son of a bitch! I thought she was lying about that,” Henry said. It required two hands, but Henry managed to get it unplugged. He waited a few seconds, then plugged it back in again. The light glowed with a steady red light for a few moments, but then turned green. He fumbled his way back over to the toggle switch, and flipped it again. The lights came on, and a few seconds later, the instrument panel came to life. Henry sighed in relief, then stepped into the turbolift.

An explosion rocked the ship just as Henry stepped onto the bridge. “Guess our guests finally arrived,” he said. Through the viewport, he could see thousands of Peri fighters engaged in a huge battle. The other cruisers were nowhere to be found. Henry started to sit down in the captain’s chair, but Artemis stopped him. “Go over to navigation,” she said. “Start plotting a course for Earth.”

“Me? I don’t know how to do that!” Henry said.

“You’re pretty smart, for a human. You should be able to figure that out,” said Artemis.

“Alright, alright. No need to be smug about it. Freaking computers.” Henry went over to the navigation station, and looked at the screen. It was, as the computer said, easy to figure out. Everything worked just like he thought it should.

Another explosion hit the ship, and he accidentally clicked on the wrong planet in the database, and had to back out and start over again, but he managed to get the course plotted soon after that. Once he was done, he asked “What now?”

“Go back to the captain’s chair, and accept the navigational suggestion,” said Artemis. “The captain has to approve the inputs made by the other stations.”

Henry stood up, but was knocked back down by another blast to the ship. He got to his feet again, and went over to the captain’s chair. He sat down, and the computer screen next to his arm displayed the navigational inquiry. He pressed “accept” and sat back in the chair.

He watched the battle raging outside. He couldn’t figure out what was happening. It was too chaotic, and all the ships looked alike. He just hoped the good guys were winning. After a few seconds, however, there was a brief pause in the action. Henry watched as everything seemed to stand still for a moment, then disappeared in a flash of spiraling light. “What the hell?” he asked.

“We have made the jump into the fold,” said Artemis. “If everything goes well, we should arrive in your solar system in 6 months.”

“What about the fighters?” asked Henry. “Did you just leave them all behind?”

“Yes. They sacrificed themselves so we could escape.”

“Sacrificed themselves?!?”

“Without the protection of a battle cruiser, the fighters will be easy targets. All of them will be destroyed, but they have given their lives so that we could escape. If any survive, they will join the effort to disrupt the Peri systems and delay their attack on Earth. The war has started, Henry. Those fighters are the first casualties.”

“Then let’s make sure their deaths mean something. Let’s get this ship back to Earth.”

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