She saw Vohne's ship began to disappear in the thick cloud of ionised gas. All sensors were already activated but the signal wasn't good. She couldn't guess where Vohne would head. She only knew both of them would head towards the direction of the Booster. But with all the clouds around, anything could go wrong.
The blip was still tailing them tightly. Nothing had come out of it yet. But Sylvina wasn't taking any chances. She got those weapons in defensive mode and sat tight. Ion cannons could not be deployed yet, she feared that the shield might disrupt and bloom the ion shells.
Her screen flashed red. She looked at it. It was the Angel's Scorch. The ship was telling her that the Scorch was growing in size and the threshold point was lowered. Anytime now the thing would explode and incinerate everything on its path.
'Vohne, you seeing this?' she could not stand the silence in her ship.
'Yup, the Scorch is rapidly growing. I think I need to deviate my path a little,' he replied. His voice crackled. The wavelength was disturbed by the strong EM field.
'Make sure you get to the Booster.'
'That's not even a question,' he replied. 'Weird shit is going on right here. I am seeing something shifting in and out on my sensors. It is unidentified.'
'Artefacts and debris?'
'They are moving swiftly like a bug. It's impossible to have a fix on them. I think it is something we need to pay attention,' he said.
'I am not seeing anything here. Perhaps your sensors are - '
'I am hit! I repeat, I am hit!' Vohne exclaimed.
'Light your beacon. I am coming,' Sylvina said quickly.
'ID antenna is out!' Vohne shouted panickly. 'Those things are hostile! I think they are Vapidus.'
'Vapidus are not found in this sector, Vohne,' she said, trying to be calm. She was now tracking the last exhaust signature from Umbra. 'Defend yourself while you can. Three more minutes and I'll be there. Just hold on.'
The signal was getting weaker. Vohne was trying to utter a complete sentence, but all she could hear was: '... dark... small... quick...' Then the transmission ended.
'Vohne!' she cried out. Her siren rang. Something large loomed over her ship, like a monster had shadowed over her. She checked her sensors for a display. But none came. The ship told her that the object had jammed the sensors temporarily maybe because of a strong magnetic field lines. She was scared because of both reasons: the monster was huge like a starship and it was moving at fifty percent of the speed of light and gaining.
That was what the sensors told her. If she slowed down the camera frame, she could see the shadow was actually moving at ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine nine nine eight percent of light speed. That was hellishly fast for a monster. Either data could be wrong.
For now, the monster was gone, ignoring her. She accelerated towards Vohne's last detected direction. She didn't care about the tailing target. But when she did, she realised the target had mysteriously disappeared.
Another set of sensors made her jump. The volume ahead of her ship had an increased concentrations of trace atoms and metalicity. She shuddered. She feared it was due to Vohne's ship exploded. Her sensors crackled and silenced after that.
She knew what was happening: one of the Scorches was approaching her. It was condensing more and more cloud to grow. But it didn't erupt. Unless it touched the metals of the hull debris. Then, she would have less than four minutes to escape. The only way to make it on time was to accelerate her ship to five thousand gees. But it was impossible.
She had to make choice again. She shut her eyes and thought about how she met Vohne at the first time. It was at Oroligath, the human city at Othripus planet, when she was investigating the rise of the machine kingdom. Through pikes and spears, both of them had been together till this very day.
She opened the communication window and set it to an omnidirectional signal. She lowered down the privacy channel settings and spoke: 'Vohne, I don't know where you are right now. I can't see you in this mess. I wish I could find you sooner but the Scorch is going to kill us both. We need to make it to the Vapidus. That is our promise to Rimdi. We must honour it. If it comes to a difficult decision, then... then I hate to say this. I am going to leave you now and continue the journey. Even if I managed to find you, we are both doomed before we could get out. Either one of us have to complete the journey. If it isn't you, then it's me. It's tough to be together. But I enjoy it. I like the time we have together, especially when fighting against the machines on Othripus. I never thought this is the end of our story. But the universe has more tricks up to its sleeve than we can ever imagine...'
She sobbed. She was crying now. 'I know. I never cry. You call me a brave woman. I thank you for that. Now, I have to leave you. If you are still alive, I hope you can make your way to the Vapidus to meet me and Rimdi there. If not... never mind. I am sorry for what I have done all these times, especially now. I shouldn't have split the ship like you have said.'
The sensors warned her of the approaching Scorch: Two minutes to impact zone. 'Vohne, listen to me. Listen carefully. I love you, Vohne. I never said that to you. But I really mean it. I find no guts to tell you this and I am telling you this. I might leave you forever, but my heart stays with you.'
She shut off the communication window and sent the message in all directions. She ramped up her ship's acceleration and zoomed away, never to look back.
The universe is cruel. Either you have this, or that, but never both.