The minute the Angel cleared atmo they appeared, first as bright spots on the scope then twinkly little stars visible through the canopy ports.
"Interceptors." Ben grunted, half to himself, then: "Strap yourselves in tight, kids, I plan to do some moving." The girls headed aft, Cody slipped into the co-pilot's seat and started snapping buckles. "And what do you think you're doing?" Ben asked, dividing his attention between son and 'cepters.
Eyes like his gave back his very own determined stare. "I'm relief pilot." Cody reminded him. "Sonya's in no shape to fly shotgun so it's gotta be me."
"So it does." Ben agreed resigning his paternal misgivings to the nethermost hell. "Port firing controls are the red buttons next to the stick, try not to shoot off our tail."
Cody grinned, showing his missing tooth. "We don't have a tail."
"Good, one less thing to worry about." Ben's attention focused on the oncoming fighters, close enough to eyeball now. "Here we go!"
The Angel rolled sideways, back into atmo and the five interceptors dived right after in diamond formation.
"They're breaking." Ben observed as they split to englobe. "They're trying to force us down - of course they want our lil' darlings alive..." There were interceptors above and on four sides. "Gunner, you may fire at will."
"Yessir!" Cody squinted at the target scope, the lines aligned and he pressed the red button with his thumb. A beam lanced out hitting the engine block on the 'cepter directly in front. It proceeded to wobble while vomiting black smoke, peeled out of formation dropping downwards to an emergency landing.
"Nice shot son!" Ben gunned ahead through the hole in the formation, pulled back the stick into an immelman, flying inverted over the 'cepters scattering unaimed fire, front and back, beam and projectile, with his left hand. Cody enthusiastically followed suit, gleefully pounding his red button.
The 'cepters scattered in all directions, somewhat punctured and burned, "Weren't expecting us to be armed." Ben said in satisfaction. "Now they know they'll be shooting to disable rather than kill. That give us an advantage."
"Yessir." Cody said, eyes shining.
The Angel, unlike the interceptors, had been designed to maneuver in atmo, her stubby wings and aerodynamic design gave her an edge, while the 'ceptors lost both maneuverability and were much more likely to stall out having not been designed for the low speed of atmo combat.
Still they gave it the old Academy try, the four survivors regrouping and swinging back to come at them in formation. Ben grinned a little. He knew what they meant to try and wasn't about to fall for it. Once again he looped out of their way, this time splitting the S to pass below, scattering his fire like before. Another 'ceptor started vomiting smoke and dropped out of the fight.
As the remainder struggled to realign themselves Ben began to 'scissor', pitching the Angel up and down in a vertical zig-zag. The fighters attempted to follow suit but had not been designed for such maneuvers in atmo. After a few seconds of this Ben found himself in attack position and fired a shell right up the 'ceptor's tail-pipe. Then turned his victory roll through the fireball into a rollaway attack that lined him up behind anther 'ceptor, a second fireball quickly resulted.
The phone pinged. "Captain," it was one of the twins no telling which over wires, "engine tolerances pushing into the red."
Cody held the phone towards his father as Ben continued to maneuver. "Understood. Just one more out there."
Unfortunately that one was to give more trouble than the other three combined. No doubt he was a cunning oldster rather than a young hotshot as he knew the tricks as well as Ben himself, even if his boat wasn't as suited to perform them.
He tried to break but Ben broke with him, the two boats skimming side by side, which was not exactly to the Angel's advantage as she had no side-guns but the 'ceptor did, powdering her with small bore projectiles.
The twins were strapped to their chairs before the main board in the engine room. Keri squealed as her half started sparking but recovered almost instantly, hitting buttons to engage the necessary shut downs and surge protection.
Next to her Kimi was already running a diagnostic. "Damage minimal." she reported. "There may be a slight loss of power though."
"Understood." was Ben's laconic reply.
The three older girls were harnessed to their bunks. Sonya and Moon reacted to the jolt and the brief flicker of the lights. Jade, intent on a book, did not.
The 'ceptor broke starboard, Ben rolled port, climbing, then leveled and tried to turn behind his opponent.
The fighter started scissoring, climbing in an attempt to negate Ben's speed advantage.
The two boats jostled for position, getting in shots as best they could. But in the end Ben's timing and technique proved the better and a third fireball lit up Vulcan's smoky skies.
Cody cheered. "Yeah, Dad!"
"And here comes the High Guard, just after the nick of time." Ben remarked, glancing at the quickly converging dots on his scope. "Time to go."
The Angel screamed upward in a steep climb, hull glowing with the friction of her speed, shot clear of atmo and headed for deep space as fast as she could fly.
Ben set co-ordinates then pulled down his phone. "Okay, all, you can unstrap now." turned to Cody. "Good work, son."
His boy's eyes were shining with hero-worship. "The Heng te never had a chance against you!"
Ben smiled crookedly. "As turned out. We might not be so lucky next time."
"Skill ain't luck." Cody reminded him and his father had to laugh at having one of his own favorite strictures thrown back in his teeth.
"True enough." he rumpled his boy's hair affectionately. "Get Jade and start dinner. I'm going back to see what damage was done to the engines."
He found Kimi and Keri well on top of things and justifiably pleased with themselves. "Couldn't have done better myself." was Ben's verdict after he'd checked over their temporary repairs. "This'll hold us fine until we get where we're going."
"Where's that?" Keri asked interested.
"Tell you all at dinner." he answered.
Ben waited 'til they were all gathered round the table and the food dished out before making his announcement. "I've set course for a world called Charity in Red system."
Cody brightened instantly. "Charity!" beaming he turned to the girls: "It's a great place, we have lots of friends there."
"And it's at the opposite end of the 'Verse from Vulcan." his father continued. "Which should break contact with the Heng te."
"Won't be leaving any more data trails." said Moon with satisfaction. "It'll be a lot harder for them to follow us from now on."
"Agreed." said Ben. "Especially as I intend to shift our registry to Charity." he turned to the rest of the girls to explain; "As it happened I didn't quite like your chosen name so I registered our 'Angel' here under her numbers on Fiddler's Rock. Your 'Black 'n Oranges' will be looking for BB239095 not 'The Angel of Wrath' out of Charity'.
Changed your mind about the name then." Moon gave him one of her chillingest smiles.
Ben gave it right back to her. "Strikes me as real appropriate - now."