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It's not hard to be a god

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- Fuuuuuuuuck! The rear shield is gone! - Anton Podarsky sounded rather panicked, not at all like the voice of a first officer reporting damages.

- Helm to port side! Jettison all cargo holds! - Pablo Krazian, the captain of Bolthead IV-class pirate corvette, knew there was no chance he could get away from the destroyer that was sitting on his tail. It was a warship from the customs fleet of the Kingdom of the Sacred Tree of Life. But Pablo was only human. He was delaying the inevitable for as long as it was possible.

More rockets launched by the destroyer hit the now unshielded stern of the corvette. They felt the impact of the explosion of the left engine even on the bridge which was equipped with independent gravitational screens. Instead of heading to port side, their ship turned sharply and started whirling. This situation had its good sides too. Four more high explosive shells flying in their direction burnt down only half of the front shield. If they’d hit the stern, there was a good chance that they would have gotten through to the reactor core and that would have been the end of them. Losing the engine bought them almost two minutes of life. Another volley of rockets from the destroyer finished the job of decomposing the front shields.

- They launched another four high explosive shells. Ninety seconds to blow. - Anton’s face was all red. He kept wiping off the sweat that was flooding his eyes but he didn’t stop reporting. - We don’t have a single shield left, the main generator is blown. The right engine is at twenty per cent of power tops, the left engine is gone and we have a fuel leak. Cargo holds are in place. They just didn’t separate, fuck. The system is returning more and more malfunctions. They might have busted our spine.

For a moment he wanted to call up the chief engineer but looking at the little icons flashing red that were located on the left edge of the main screen, indicating the life status of the crew, he realized that after the left engine had exploded, there were only two people left alive on board. Probably not for a long time.

Sixty seconds was a lot of time, surely enough to think your entire life over. That’s exactly what Pablo Krazian, a 39-year-old commander of the ship, who used to be an officer of king Ardun’s fleet and then a smuggler of goods between colonies for the past six years, was doing at that moment. He knew that, sooner or later, they were going to slip up. He knew that in a clash with an armor-clad hammer of regular military fleet their ship was just an insignificant nut’s shell. Sooner or later that shell was going to be crushed to dust.

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Pablo was looking at the tactical screen. He could see the approaching rockets and the 8th generation destroyer majestically gliding behind them. He was expecting another volley of four rockets within twenty seconds after the previous one. He knew that it took more or less this much time to reload bow launchers. However, instead, he saw the destroyer turning around rapidly. The space behind its stern was gleaming with ultraviolet light from shields being burnt down. Strangely the space scanner couldn’t locate the ship that was attacking their opponent. It couldn’t have been anything small since it was ready to face a regular destroyer. He quickly recalibrated the sensors and spotted what he was looking for. The destroyer wasn’t being attacked by a large ship. It was a swarm of small goddamn drones but there were more than forty of them. He could also see small single explosions of drones blowing up after they got hit with the destroyer’s stern lasers. There were so damn many of them! Their carrier had to be somewhere!

- Five to blow! Four! Three! - Anton yelled. He was focusing all his attention on the rockets that were about to reach their corvette. - Two! One! Boom!

But the only boom they heard was the scream of the first officer. None of the four rockets that hit the corvette exploded. A few more orange icons lit up on the damage control screen. They were supposed to indicate damage but they only reflected the kinetic impact of several hundred kilograms of speeding metal rockets. None of the rockets exploded!

Pablo started breathing again. Once again he looked at the battlefield screen and saw something unbelievable. The destroyer was gaining speed and retreating. It was still being shelled by the drones. Even though the destroyer kept firing back, there weren't just forty drones but over two hundred of them. There had to be an entire damn fleet of those carriers there. He was trying to remember which one of the empires could have had such a group of ships in this area but nothing came to his mind.

- Captain, the main reactor’s cooling system is down, it’s shutting off, it’s over - said Anton after a while because he was also staring at the tactical screen.

- How much power do we have? - Pablo asked.

- Only the auxiliary reactor for life support systems is left. It seems untouched. There isn’t a single person left on board that I could send to assess the damage. I’m afraid that our tub isn’t going to fly. Not until general overhaul, if ever.

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Pablo decided to get it out of his head at that moment. They were alive. It was the most important. A tub was just a tub, he was going to think about it later. He focused his gaze on the image of the destroyer retreating. When it finally reached the retreat speed, its stern shields were over eighty per cent burnt down. Pablo changed the scanners’ range again to look for the fleet that saved their butts but there was nothing. Just drones, almost three hundred of them and nothing else. After a moment, some of them scattered in random directions and a hundred or so started flying towards one spot. That’s where the carrier is - he thought - and it has some new cloaking system.

But no, the drones just massed in one area and started linking to one another. After a while, there were no longer a dozen hundred small targets on Pablo’s screen but a large one that looked like a frigate. He simply wasn’t familiar with this kind of ship and he liked to think that he was a good specialist when it came to things that fly.

In the very middle of the tactical screen, in a spot where it shouldn’t, a call signal appeared. It didn’t come from Ardun’s Kingdom’s ship so Pablo automatically made a gesture with his hand to open a channel.

- I would like permission to come aboard - for a moment there was only audio. The voice they heard was calm and belonged to a female. After a second they got visual too.

The woman they saw… He was lost for words to describe her, but his body became tense and the hair on his body bristled. The woman wasn’t pretty. She was… frighteningly beautiful, with emphasis on frighteningly. The cybernetic right hand or three-lens right eye didn’t spoil her beauty. In other words, it looked as these were integral parts of her body since the moment of her demonic birth.

- Who are you? - captain Pablo Krazian asked in a shaky voice.

- My name is Hanna and I’m an angel - she said, smiling as innocently as an overfed tiger smiles when it sees a gross rabbit hopping in front of its face.

And they believed her.