When the airstrip comes into view, I know that we’re in deep shit. Jenica, Blythe, and the Professor haven’t even made it to the craft yet and are ducked down behind a row of hover bikes, taking cover. I can see our hijacked government craft several hundred yards away, its guns raised and swiveling on their turrets as Dax and Sayer try to help us pick off the MPs one by one. It is an impossible task—there are too many of them. The smart thing to do is run, but I know Dax won’t leave without the others. As I weigh my options as quickly as possible, I realize that there is no way we’re getting out of this together. I start across the tarmac, gun in one hand, raising my COMM device with the other.
“Janner!” I bark as Dax as I make a beeline for a craft parked on the other end of the airstrip. With so much manpower concentrated on the others, this craft is unguarded. I’ve never piloted a hovercraft in my life and what little I do know has come from watching Jenica at the controls, but I can’t think about that now. The MPs are closing in on Blythe and the others and there is nowhere for them to run. “Do you know how to fly one of these things?”
Dax’s voice—or rather, Sergeant Barnes’ voice—crackles over the speaker. “Not that particular model, but Strom does. What are you thinking, Bronson?”
“I’m thinking you need to get out of here and get our rescued prisoners home,” I say as I reach the hovercraft and proceed to climb up toward the closed hatch, all the while praying that it is unlocked.
“That’s a negative, Bronson,” Dax answers, yelling to be heard over the sound of gunfire. “We’re not leaving without our team intact.”
“That’s not exactly an option,” I answer, trying the hatch and find it open. I quickly scramble inside. “We’re going to have to split up. Put Strom on the line and tell him I need a five-minute piloting lesson. I’m going for Jenica, the Professor, and Blythe.”
Dax hesitates for a split second before I hear his heavy sigh over the speaker. “You’d better not get them killed,” he grumbles, and I can picture him grudgingly handling the COMM device to Sayer. “Or I will seriously kick your ass.”
“If I don’t do something, we’re screwed either way,” I retort before Sayer comes on the line.
“Strom, give me the basics,” I say as I run up the hovercraft’s center aisle and find the pilot’s chair. Rows of foreign buttons, gauges and screens line the panel in front of me. I watch through the window while the space between Jenica, Blythe and the Professor and the MPs grows smaller. I don’t have much time.
“See that clear plastic box to your right near the throttle?” Sayer asks over the COMM device.
I nod. “Yeah.”
“Pop it open and flip that red switch.”
I do as he says and immediately the hum of the hovercraft tells me it’s turned on. “Done.”
“There’s a series of silver switches to your left.”
I locate them. “Yeah, there are six of them.”
“Those control your elevation. Each one will lift you higher into the air. Flip the first two and that’ll get you high enough that you’re flying but still low enough to swoop down and grab Jenica, Blythe, and Professor Hinkley.”
I quickly follow his instructions and the hovercraft jolts as I flip the two switches, then it ascends, hovering several feet over the ground.
“Now what?” I ask, dropping into the pilot’s chair and fastening the harness. My hands shake as I grip the throttle.
“Fly,” Sayer answers before the connection is cut.
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