“Well, we got the boots! Only way to the hangar is down there!”
Mickey pointed to a hole in the hull roughly 1,500 meters from where we peered out of the breach. It was close but there were many obstacles before us.
“That’s suicide! We should have taken the shuttle, you dumbass!”
“Ha! Survival favors the bold, I guess! In five seconds I’m going to launch off of you! Make sure that cord is attached, or we’ll fall to our deaths! We’re about to enter the atmosphere! You ready?”
I took a deep breath and exhaled trying not to think of the millions of things that could go wrong. It was 1,500 meters to the hangar bay and with nothing to hold onto, a gravity-propelled freefall to safety.
“Yeah! I’m good!”
“All right! Five. Four. Three. Two . . .”
One. He clicked the heel trigger on the metal frame behind us and we violently ejected out over the hull of the ship.
“How did I let you talk me into this!” I exclaimed as we nearly dodged a flaming ship, gliding across the smoldering and sparkling hull of Rayden One.
We flew across the hull traveling over 300 kph, about twice the speed Rayden One was falling, and dodging every single piece of shrapnel, and fissures, that had twisted the hull of Rayden One.
Then the sound began to gradually return, and we were picking up speed, quickly. But it was still so silent, it gave us that chance to focus. “Collin! We have to dump our speed! See anything we can use?”
There is only one way to dump speed in a gravity free fall, and that is to bounce off something else, essentially no brakes, just a crash.
“Mick! We are clear below!”
Having about five seconds before we passed our mark, and facing sure death, we had no choice but to try and use the surface of the hull. We turned ourselves around, clicked our shock absorbers on, and planted our feet.
We hit, and when we hit, we hit hard. So hard we completely lost control of our trajectory and flew like rag dolls across the empty hangar bay, barely entering the hole caused by a stray crusader shell. We sped through the hangar so quickly before we could come to terms with our surroundings, and before we knew it we crashed into a glass pane.
Five minutes earlier this wouldn’t have been a problem, but Rayden One had dipped into Minerva’s atmosphere, we were in the gravity well.
The cord that he had attached to me launched me straight towards the pane. I spread my arms and caught both sides of the shattered pane, halting us in position. But I was losing my grip. Mickey could see the blood pouring from my palms while I tried desperately to hold him in place.
“Mick! You have to climb!”
“I can’t. You won’t be able to hold me.”
“Bullshit! I’ve blocked for you how many times?”
“Collin, you need to learn to let go!”
“I can’t, damn it! We’re in this together! What did you just tell me? My life is no more valuable than yours, right?”
“You can’t always have what you want, brother; you will always have to choose between the two. I’m going to cut myself loose.”
“Like hell you are!”
Just as Mickey was about to cut himself loose, we were pulled back into the hangar. I’m sure that we made quite a scene when we rocketed through the hangar. My people, we look out for one another—no matter what happens. I wiped my eyes and saw General Wright holding the unconscious body of Coach Cado. Never thought I’d ever be happy to see him again.
But he didn’t respond. Not a word, which I should have expected when I took another look at him; he was missing one third of his body. “He’s out, Collin. We managed to stop the bleeding.”
“Is he all right? Will he live?”
“It’s doubtful. At least we can bury him on Rayden.”
“Where are you all going?” Mickey inquired.
“To Rayden, brother, but first we must override the security doors so we can leave. What are the odds that we showed up just as you two were about to fall? Here!”
Wright threw Mickey an ignition card and looked up at us with that same smile. That one, amazing how some people can keep so calm under absolute chaos. “The keys to my private shuttle!”
“We’ll need a larger one! There are more of us behind the blast doors! I still have a favor to ask of you, Collin!”
“Not a very good time!”
“Ha! Soon then. I will see you both on Rayden! Good luck!”
“Thank you, sir!”
We made our way to Wright’s personal shuttle. We entered the cockpit and Mickey released the door to the hangar. The bay doors began to open and we could finally see the surface. Our entire world was on fire, burning like a star, and crumbling into nothing.
“All right, Collin, ETA to Rayden is about forty-five minutes with the half-light drive engaged.”
We unhooked and shot out of Rayden One, which was predicted to collide with the surface in one hour. Even 150 kilometers above the earth I still couldn’t see any sign of life; it was all fire and smoke.
Sure we were trained to fight in sport, but not in war. They broke the peace and no matter what we could have never been prepared for this. We never deserved this. Sure we were wild, we were sinners, gamblers, drug addicts, and criminals, but we choose to be that way. This was removing the choice altogether, it was a message that I had yet to discover.
(Klaxon wailing) “Thirty-five hundred meters till impact.”
“We’ve got incoming! Bogies at eleven and three o’clock high!”