What Lanyon hopes will be a simple trip to transport a prisoner who has been giving the Malcosian government trouble ends up in a deadly game of hide-and-seek after his scout cruiser is forced to crash land by the prisoner’s allies. Help comes from two very unlikely sources, but will their help be enough to get Lanyon out of some of the deepest trouble he has yet encountered? In the midst of his own problems, the life of Jophena, Lanyon’s 12-year-old Selenian friend, hangs by a thread at the mercy of Tellurians. Can Lanyon hold his own problems at bay long enough to get Jophena to safe ground?
Lanyon muttered a curse. If he could maneuver the other ship behind him, he might be able to win the race, but suddenly, a second ship appeared on the screen. His wide swing to the left had allowed the second ship, coming in a straight line from the direction of Vermenia, to catch up. The first ship would not allow him to swing around in front of it. He had no other option but to make an arc to the right, try to go under the first ship, and hope for the best.
“You seem confused,” came Turity’s voice. “The ship’s pilots are quite expert at what they do. Marksmen too.”
Turity’s remarks sank in. Lanyon glanced at the console, and as he did, the time of intersection clicked down to twenty-one minutes. He adjusted the console to gauge the approach of the second ship. Twenty-six minutes. He had not overcome the advantage the approach angle of the two ships gave them. So he rocketed on, his eyes darting from the sky around him to the console gauge.
Fifteen minutes later, Turity said, “They will soon fire on you. You’ve done pretty well, by my estimation, avoiding them and delaying the inevitable, but they’ll cripple your ship. I hope you’ll be able to land it safely. At that task, I wish you success. I’m going to lie down and hold on.”
“If you don’t shut up…”
The ship rocked. The shot had come from the first ship, now within visual range. Lanyon altered direction, looking for a change in any gauge foretelling disaster. He descended but still rocketed ahead. A comet-tail of light slashed across his path. A miss. Lanyon had no destination now, simply escape.
The ship rocked again. The second ship had come in range and fired. Lanyon tried to ascend, but the cruiser would not respond. His stomach catapulted. He tried again, but the ship remained reluctant. His altitude remained steady, at least. He zigged and zagged.
The third shot ended it. He could no longer maintain altitude, and a safe landing was his only hope. He needed a patch of open ground free from the outcroppings of rock dotting the plain. There were few, and at his current speed, hitting one of those outcroppings would be lethal. He did all he could to reduce speed, and when the belly of the cruiser struck the ground, the noise of metal being torn apart had him hoping he would survive. The ship began to spin. It flipped over once, and the seat belt slashed into him as it fought the force of the spin. More noise of metal tearing, and as the cruiser continued to slide and break apart, Lanyon glimpsed a cluster of rocks ahead.