"Are you sure this'll work?"
"It better. If not, then..." Bolt slashes his hand across his throat and Raen shudders. He pats her on the shoulder. "Don't worry, we're not gonna let that happen." She swallows nervously, then nods. "Good. Everybody ready?"
The crowd around them lets up a cheer.
"Then let's get the clock started!"
Fyer pulled his headset on, and started running system checks. In the earphones, he could hear the rest of the crew doing the same. The displays around him slowly lit up. Everything checked out. "Stoked and ready," he called into the mouthpiece. Spinning to the main control, he grasped them carefully, waiting for the go ahead.
Bolt walked down the length of the bridge, listening to the reports coming in. He sat before his screens, slowly filling with affirmatives. Finally, everything was up and running.
"Okay, crew, this is an older ship, so don't expect the response time or capabilities we're used to." He signed in to the computer, and turned on all visuals. "This is it, guys. We're going in!"
CHAPTER ONE: UPLOAD
The grid built slowly around them, distant nodes flaring into existence and disappearing behind nearer ones. Occasionally, they could catch a glimpse of another ship homing on them through the maze. Bolt pulled his captains up on the display and set them to work. "Grownd- get the shields up to maximum. Fyer- get us moving; set up a chase cycle and map it. Raen- Raen, are you alright?"
She shook her head. "It's too much. The system is too much. The filters are down." A light blossomed in front of her eyes.
"Raen, hold on." He pulled back from his station, shouting to the bridge support, "Get us moving, Computer. Random Flee program access requested!"
"Dammit! Fyer- get us moving. You're on top 'til Raen resurfaces or I jack out. Got it?"
"Get us moving then!"
Bolt reached the control center and flew inside. Raen's pod was locked, so he slipped into the next one and dialed in to direct access. "Raen! Listen to me: you can do this. Flood the other pods with overflow." He synced in and the pod slowly came to life. Taking the override controls with his sweaty hands and poising his foot over the emergency kill switch, Bolt dove into the net.
The flood let up slowly, and Raen could navigate again. she started up the AI and ran simulations. Eventually, she calmed enough to call the Bridge.
"Raen? Are you ready?"
"He's in with you. I thought--" She pulled up the pod-status display and saw him.
"Let's go. I've got the sims running." She used the pod to reach Bolt. "Boss? Are you there? Bolt!" No response. "Fyer! Get the Flee sim running, then set an assault position. Get Grownd to set the parameters, but run it on random. Keep our options as wide as you can."
"Take control, Fyer, I'm going deep." Slowly this time, Raen dropped herself back into the static, pulling it away from Bolt. "Bolt!"
"Raen? What's the status?"
"I'm pulling you out."
"Can you handle it without the filters?"
"I can hold it long enough, just get us out of here. Go back to the bridge, Captain, that's where you're needed most."
"Fine. But keep in touch. Don't overload again." He dialed out and she smiled.
CHAPTER TWO: STAGE ONE: BAIT AND TWITCH
The Storm ship finally began to maneuver, racing away through the infinite labyrinth, cycling randomly through passages, looking for one to a postion and attack in. Bolt returned to the bridge out of breath, and began to send out more orders.
"Twister -get us spinning. Circle the edges of the tunnels. Fyer -lead us into a secluded straightaway. Winnd -be ready to drop mines along the shaft."
"Bolt!" Raen called a map onto one of his screens. "Is this what you want?"
"What's at the other end?"
"Looped maze but no exit. This is the only way out."
"Perfect. Take us there."
"Mines ready for deployment."
"Set one on immediate contact destruct, drop it before the tunnel entrance; line the straightaway with delays and activate them after they pass through."
"Clowd -when we get to the entrance, send them a blip of our location. Make it a viable computer error. Let them know we're here, then hide us."
"Combatant nearing. We'll make it, but just barely."
"Good. Spiral through it, then lose us in the maze."
"Done and done."
Bolt closed off the displays and took a deep breath, then opened a private channel.
"How're you doing?"
"Oh, hey Captain. Alright, I suppose. It's hard," she paused, inhaling sharply through her teeth, "but I've got it under control."
"Good. We're almost there, and then you can jack out. Take your time. As soon as they're in the tunnel and
Winnd activates the mines, pass around a map of this place. After that, dial out."
"Radio silence, Raen. I'll be shutting down the ship."
"Oh. -Yes sir."
"Take care of yourself."
"You too, Bolt. I'll see you later."
CHAPTER THREE: STAGE TWO: DEAD WOOD
"Everybody know where we're going?" They all nod. "Good. Everybody but Fyer and Raen, dial out." Four menus on his display fade to black. "You two ready?"
"Yes sir." "Ready Boss."
"Then take us down. As soon as we hit, blank everything and dial out. Radio silence now." Winnd and Grownd walk into the bridge as Bolt shuts down his controls, and Clowd was close behind them.
The ship settled gently, and they could hear the last engines powering down. Soon after, Raen and Fyer slipped in, closing the battle doors manually behind them.
_Goggles and masks._ The seven pulled them on together, before Bolt continued his briefing in hand signals. _We know where they are. They're pretty sure where we are, but not pinpointed exactly. Winnd has the remote weapons control, but it'll take some time to boot up. Fyer has the remote engines control, and same there. Raen's got our map. Let's move out: to the pods. Raen, take us to the mouth._