“We need a place to hide. Go to wide scan and let’s see what’s out there.”
“How about this.” Amy zoomed in on a nebulous cloud of space dust. Streaks of static electricity sparked across it’s surface. “Some sort of nebula. Not very big but it could work.”
“Okay. Let’s go for it. Maybe we could sneak out the other side on a new course before they can get onto us.”
“We’ll have to use shields. And we’ll be as blind as they are.”
“That’s all right. We’ve got to try something. We can’t spend the rest of our lives chasing around the galaxy. And we’re not going to let them follow us to the oracle.”
“Activating shields.” The ship slid into the cloud of gas as spears of electric energy bounced off the invisible force field that protected them.
“They’re in the nebula. Guess they’re going to try to give us the slip out the other side.”
“Bring us in close. And send out the sentinels. It won’t take many to surround this little fella.”
“Got a course laid in?”
“Yeah. We can’t see so it’s based on sketchy data. I hope we don’t fly right into a planet or something.”
“Thanks for that thought. Okay let’s coordinate. I guide us out under impulse. The second we clear interference you drop shields and I go to light speed.”
Sam guided them into the open, Amy shut down the shields, and they went to light speed.
“Amy starred at the view screen. “What was that?”
“What was what?”
“Lower left of the screen. Just as we came out. It looked man made.”
“Play it back.”
The screen rewound and started to advance in slow motion. Even in slow motion the device only showed as a flicker.
“There. Freeze it.”
It was a small metallic cylinder. A red beacon light winked coolly at them.
“There they go.”
“You got them?”
“Got ‘em. Thirty degrees left, ten degrees up.”
“Okay. Let’s tag along.”
“They’ve got us.”
“I’m sure. They’re still not being aggressive about it but they’re on us.”
Sam got out of his chair and started pacing and chewing on the cuticle of his left thumb.
“Stop sucking your thumb.”
“I’m not sucking my thumb.”
“Well whatever you’re doing it’s not helping.”
Sam stopped chewing and looked at Amy. “You got any suggestions?”
“What about the computer?”
“Or course. The computer.” Sam returned to his seat.
Silence. Sam leaned in to the console and pronounced slowly and clearly.
“Maybe you should ask a question.”
“Computer what is the velocity of…”
“No a real question.”
Sam looked at her with a crooked grin. He turned back to the console.
“Computer, how can we escape our pursuers?”
An emotionless male voice answered. “Use the light speed decoy.”
“A small device that can be launched at light speed. It transmits the signature of your ship.”
“How do we use it?”
“Launch it, wait till your pursuers follow, then escape on a different course.”
Amy leaned in to join the conversation. “How do we access the controls?”
The panel in front of her flashed and reconfigured itself to display the decoy’s controls. Amy looked them over.
“Well all right. This looks pretty simple. Lay in course here. Precharge. Launch. Let’s do it.”
Sam got up and paced again. “Wait a minute. Let’s think about this. I think we need to stare them down for a while. Let them get a little nervous.”
Sam sat back down. “Let’s go to all stop.” He manipulated the controls. “Then let’s have a look at them.” The ship rotated to face the back the way they had come.
“Okay. Let’s do the same.”
“They’ve turned around.” Grose turned to the Captain. “They’re looking at us.”
“Wonder what they’re up to now. They’re not equipped to fight us.” Captain Rice glanced at Scarecrow to see if that brought a reaction. It didn’t.
“Stay alert. Watch them close. No telling when or where they’ll go.”
“How long do we wait?”
Sam leaned back and stretched. “How about five hours. That should get them primed.”
“So what do we do while we wait for them to get primed?”
“I want to find out about this computer. You know I thought we ordered the optional personality. This one doesn’t seem to have one.”
“Maybe he’s just shy. Maybe when he warms up to us he’ll loosen up a little.”
“Could be. I hope so. Computer do you have a name?”
“I am called computer.”
“Well see that’s just not going to work. I think you need to have a name.”
Amy said, “My father’s name was Edgar. We could call him Edgar.”
“Does he remind you of your father?”
“In no way shape or form. My father was a joker. Always telling jokes. Life of the party.”
“Computer can you tell a joke?”
“So it looks like Edgar doesn’t fit.” Sam stroked his jaw as he looked thoughtfully at Amy. “How about Edward?”
“Edward. I like that.”
“So computer. Amy likes Edward. From now on you should answer to the name Edward. Also Eddie for short. Got it?”
“So Eddie tell me something. How can we expect our adversary to take the bait if we’re sitting here in plain sight, not moving?”
“The procedure would be to initiate cloaking at the same time as you launch the decoy.”
Sam looked at Amy with a mischievous sparkle in his eye. “Now Eddie, do I detect a tone in your voice? Are you laughing at us?”
“I thought I heard a tone.”
“I am not programmed to have a tone.”
“Because that’s something I can’t abide. To be laughed at behind my back. To be ridiculed by a mere computer.”
“I do not laugh.”
Sam folded his hands, twiddled his thumbs. “How long has it been?”
Amy smiled. “All of thirty minutes.”
“Five hours was your idea.”
“So Eddie. Do you know how to play tic-tac-toe?”
Amy rolled her chair back. “You boys have fun. I need to read up on this cloaking device.”