Mahad flew the Hyperion low and fast between two blocks of floating earth. The ship shuddered slightly; he'd just clipped the rock face, leaving a line of dust trailing behind him. It had probably scratched the hull. At the moment, Mahad didn't care.
He was angry. Why did Cortes always have to treat him like such a kid? He was quite capable of taking on – and taking down - a few stray Sphere patrollers. Yet, somehow, it only resulted in Cortes yelling at him for 'rushing in before they'd fully assessed the situation'. Assessed?! This wasn't a school assignment, it was real life – and the destroyed S22s should've been good enough. That was what they wanted wasn't it? And Mahad had done it, without wasting any time 'assessing'. But that wasn't good enough for Cortes. It never was.
Mahad headed the Hyperion towards another block, the left nacelle fully in line to hit it. At the last second he spun the ship to vertical, and the block slipped past inches from the underside of the hull, before he completed the spin.
He flew the ship steady for a few seconds, wondering if the radio would suddenly come alive with Cortes shouted at him for pulling such reckless moves.
The Hyperion was flying ahead of the Saint Nazaire; they were heading back to Puerto Angel. Perhaps the only reason he hadn't been told to dock with the larger ship was that Cortes was too annoyed to want to look at him. That was fine with Mahad. So instead, he made sure he pulled as many dangerous stunts as he could. He knew Cortes would be able to see him. Right now, he was playing with him, and hopefully wearing his already worn patience thinner. Of course, he also suspected that Cortes knew he was trying to irritate him, and was making sure he ignored him as long as possible.
"Mahad, slow down now," Cortes growled from the radio suddenly.
Mahad let the Hyperion coast as he reached for the radio to reply. "Going too fast for you?"
"I'm serious, Mahad. We're getting some anomalies on the scanners. Slow down until we figure out what and where they are."
Mahad sighed in exasperation, and let the Hyperion slow down. "What sort of anomalies?"
"We don't know. That's why they're called anomalies," Cortes snapped. "Just stay put."
Mahad could hear Cortes begin to shout something across the bridge, and then the transmission cut out.
"Stop treating me like a kid!" Mahad shouted at the radio. It was off, and the sentence only bounced around the Hyperion's cockpit, but it made him feel a bit better. Yeah, he'd just sit here and let everyone else figure out what to do. Cortes obviously thought he was incapable of helping. But he wasn't going to just sit around and wait to be told what he should do. "Well…" he muttered, and pushed the Hyperion's throttle forward ever so slightly, "There's an easy way to figure out what those 'anomalies' are…" He wasn't going to be stupid though. He knew he had no idea what could be in there. He would be careful. But it made sense to take a look. Better than sitting around while Cortes 'assessed'.
Cortes was leaning over Cheng's console, looking at the anomalies, now clearly displayed on the screen, when Dahlia called him.
"The Hyperion's moving again!"
"What?" Cortes growled. He activated the radio from Cheng's console. "Mahad! I gave you an order, stop your ship!"
"Look, you want to find out what's out there," Mahad replied. "I'm finding out."
"I'm not just being stupid. I'm getting the job done. I…"
"Stop the Hyperion!"
"You always think…" Mahad started, but then his sentence cut short, and a grinding noise came from the radio.
The radio spluttered with static for a moment. "… been hit by something. There must be other ships."
"Mahad, listen to me, there are no other ships. You've flown into a mine field!"
"Mine field?" Mahad repeated, wrestling the Hyperion back under control.
"They're some of ours from years ago. They're attracted to the Hyperion. Listen to me, you have to turn off the Hyperion's engine and stop immediately."
"What?" said Mahad. Suddenly a flash of blue and brown streaked in front of the windshield. Mahad swerved sharply, and something impacted the side of the ship. "I want to get out of here, Cortes! Not stop in the middle of it!"
"Damn it, Mahad!" Cortes shouted, his voice strained, "Would you listen to me for once? Stop the ship!"
Something slammed into the Hyperion again, and Mahad hadn't even seen it coming. He didn't know how to stop the mines, it seemed impossible to avoid him. So he shut down the engine and let the Hyperion coast to a halt. With nothing running, Mahad could tell the ship was most likely badly damaged. It listed slightly to the side, and the hull creaked horribly. But the frequent impacts had completely stopped.
"Mahad," Cortes' voice came over the radio, "are you alright?"
"Yeah…" Mahad replied, letting out a sigh of relief, "They've stopped hitting me for some reason."
"They're attracted to ships' engine reactors. They can't 'see' you if you've got nothing running."
"So… I'm safe?"
"No. Those mines are still fully active. They're just less likely to hit you."
Mahad exhaled slowly. He'd really gone and gotten himself into trouble this time. But how had he been supposed to know!? "So what am I supposed to do? Sit here?"
"Yes, Mahad. If you start that ship, you're dead, understand? Those are our mines, it shouldn't be too hard to regain control and deactivate them. I'll get Cheng on it. Till then, don't move, alright?"
"I'll stay put, promise." Mahad didn't really feel like getting blown up.
"Good." Cortes switched off the transmission.
Mahad tried calming himself down again. If they were the rebellion's mines, it would hopefully not take Cheng too long to shut them down. He took a look out the window, and his gaze immediately fell on something brown and blue, like the thing he'd dodged earlier. Mahad's heart rate picked up. The mine was spherical, made of metal, though it had probably started to rust, giving it an earthy colour. The blue came from what looked like seijin energy sparking around it. It would've been almost beautiful, if he hadn't known it could also be deadly. But it didn't look too close, and it wasn't attracted to the ship. It just drifted slowly, and looked like it'd just pass in front of the Hyperion. Mahad relaxed, and watched in drift across the blue sky, and then pass in front of the Hyperion's right nacelle.
Wait… in front?! He'd thought it was some distance away. But in reality was far smaller than he'd thought, barely a few inches in diameter. And far closer. A tendril of energy touched the Hyperion's hull.
Mahad slammed his palm on the radio. "Cortes!"
Then the right engine exploded.
"The Hyperion's hit again!" Dahlia shouted. "It's going down!" She could see the warnings on her screen, and looking out the forward window she could see a trail of flame and smoke spinning out of control. It streaked across the sky, and plummeted into a block.
"He's landed on a block…" Wayan said from beside her, looking at the readouts on his screen, rather than out the forward window.
"Mahad! Do you read me?!" Cortes shouted into the radio. "Mahad! Damn it… he's not responding."
"I've got the mines down…" said Cheng.
"Are you sure you've got them all completely down, Cheng?" Cortes turned and asked him. "We don't want to hit any."
"Yeah, positive. So long as we don't go shooting any of them, they're not going to blow up."
"Good," Cortes growled. "Wayan, Dahlia, take the Saint Nazaire to the block the Hyperion's landed on." He paused for a second, and then added grudgingly, "Take it slowly."
The Saint Nazaire began moving towards the Hyperion.