Two people in a space race get entangled in a interplanetary war.
Raven - Through the Eye of the Needle
Excerpt: ppg. 139-146
Escape From Tamin Rin
“Wait!" Daern turned back toward the wall. There was movement at the guard station. Fiery torches flared in the darkness; a shadow was barking commands which rode on the brisk winds. Several figures appeared on the parapet of the south wall. They had been discovered.
"Let's get to the ship?"
"But if they know." Lita hesitated.
"They know I'm gone. Not where we are. Let's go!"
For half an hour, the two fugitives scrambled across wet grass, leaves, and downed tree trunks as they pressed on toward the Raven. When they emerged from the tree line near the ship, an active flurry of lightning flashes lit the sky above as crackles and booming lightning strikes shattered the night.
There was a clanging noise riding on the gale which whipped off the blackness of Come on!" Daern yelled above the wind. "We'll be safer on the Raven."
"The Raven?" She asked looking somewhat puzzled, but she kept on moving saying nothing more. "How will we get on board? Kolak's men were unable to open the hatch."
"We'll get aboard." Daern gasped. They weren’t far from the ship now. The sound of hoof beats came on the wind. Lita turned to Daern. “Mounted warriors on Brontos will be on us soon."
Daern had seen Brontos in the underground cavern, large powerful animals standing twice as tall as their riders. Knarled tusks protruded from either side of their jaws. These tusks extended forward and curled upward, ending in sharp points. The vision of these animals coming at him at a full gallop through the darkness was scary. He hoped his laser pistol would stop them.
The Attack and a Surprise
One lightning bolt fractured the clouds over the sea lighting up a small hill in front of them. Daern immediately recognized the place where he had landed the Raven. But, it also looked different. There were more tree branches than he remembered. The Chebrons had added more camouflage on the tree covered hill.
Lightning continued to shatter the night sky as they got closer. Daern strained his eyes to pick out the familiar outline. The roaring sound of the heavy downpour on the metal hull helped locate the Raven. Streams of water cascaded off the fuselage as sheets of rain poured onto the black ship.
Raven lay hidden beneath brush and tree limbs. In broad daylight and up close, anyone could recognize the ship. However, it would be less visible from the air? Kolak wanted to hide the Raven from detection from above.
The Chebron riders rumbling along the road as Daern fumbled with the keypad cover under the Raven’s nose. The downpour obscured the riders' approach, but made them sound closer than they were. The hatch whined open and two drenched escapees scrambled aboard. "We need time to activate the reactors." he thought aloud.
"Lita? Have you ever seen one of these?" He held up a laser pistol. She looked at the weapon, but did not reply. "You’ll have to buy me time to get the Raven operational."
What she said next surprised him. "I'll start the engines. You hold off the riders."
"But, how do you…?
Lita ignored his question. "Trust me!"
In seconds he was outside with a porta-scanner. There were six riders on the road four hundred yards away. Lightning flashes diffused the readings, but the riders were traveling fast. He did not want to kill them. Maybe, a laser bolt would shatter a tree trunk or start a fire, distracting their mounts.
As he watched the six warriors stopped their approach at two hundred yards; they sat atop a rise in the road. One of them motioned to the others and they split up. Two riders moved to the left toward the sea; two more headed into the brush in the opposite direction. The remaining warriors came toward the ship at a gallop.
Their leader was smarter than Daern expected; this Chebron suspected that Daern might ambush them in a group. The four which circled around his flanks worried him; the rain covered their moves. They could approach from any direction.
Daern was relieved when the Raven's engines hummed to life behind him. He didn't know how, but Lita had started the reactors. However, his problems were more immediate. What weapons did these Tamins have? Kolak was an ally of the Agrons. Would his men have modern arms?
He watched the two riders approaching straight on and close enough that Daern flipped the switch on his weapon. A pin point of red light on the power pack flashed twice; a high pitched tone signaled a fully charged weapon.
On They Came
The thunder of the Bronto hoof beats pierced the rain and the wind got louder with every second. Janis leveled the pistol to his front toward the rumbling sound and squeezed the trigger twice. Two thin bolts of bright orange energy streaked from his weapon and seconds later two explosions erupted seventy yards north of the Raven.
One bolt blasted a small tree in front of the two riders. The tree trunk ignited into a roaring blaze bathing the two riders in yellow glare. Their armored Brontos suddenly reared; one veered toward the other. The animals bucked in terror, hurling their riders from side to side as they ran away out of control, the warriors struggling to stay in the saddle.
Not sure where the remaining the remaining four riders were as the rain pummeled him, Daern estimated their location to his right and squeezed off two more bursts. Pivoting quickly to the opposite side, he fired again at his imagined targets, fifty yards in that direction.
Back to his right another shrub ignited, but the thunder of hooves moved closer and he saw them. Two riders raced toward him out of the fire, charging forward at a gallop. The armor clad warriors held large battle axes which gleamed in the fire light as the warriors twirled the weapons high over their heads.
Lightning again lit the night sky; Daern caught sight of their yellow and red helmet plumes streaming behind them, caught in the vortex of the stormy winds. He imagined their faces, like the evil Montar’s, grinning behind their metal face shields. On they came through the thunder, lightning and rain, up the hill toward the black ship.
Again the Captain of the Raven aimed and fired. The metal spike on the lead animal's armored forehead exploded in a shower of sparks, tumbling the Bronto sideways onto its rider. The fallen knight lay lifeless on the rain soaked ground, smashed into a lifeless lump.
Daern's second shot was cleaner stripping the second rider from his mount; his metal shield disintegrated under the force of the laser bolt as he rolled backwards over the Brontos rear and landed squarely on his head, but there was no time for celebration. Daern spun around to face the remaining Chebrons behind him, but he was a little late. He'd taken too long with the third and fourth warriors. Their comrades were already on top of him.
Before he could turn to face them, he felt the rush of the wind as the galloping Bronto passed close by. Instinct made him drop to his knees and flat on his face on the wet grass. The whirling battle axe barely missed his head as the Chebron thundered past. The sixth rider never reached him as Daern jumped to his knees and snapped off a shot. Both rider and Bronto collapsed in a shower of sparks as the laser bolt shattered the animal’s armored headgear.
The last warrior wheeled about to charge again. Daern Janis confidently aimed and squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened; his weapon was discharged. Sensing Daern's dilemma, the remaining Chebron Warrior let out a loud war cry and kicked his mount, urging the Bronto forward at a dead run.
The lightning streaking through the clouds outlined the Chebron Knight in eerie silhouette charging at Daern as he knelt on the ground. Another glaring flash of lightening gleamed off the cold steel of the broad axe held high. The Bronto thundered through the rain as Daern tried to jump to the side, but he slipped on the wet grass and fell flat to the ground.
Only managing to get only one knee beneath him on the wet turf, he realized that his luck had run out. The Bronto closed the distance as the Chebron swirled his axe, ready to strike, when suddenly, a loud roar erupted behind Daern as an invisible force blasted through downpour splintering the warrior's breastplate.
The impact of a projectile hurled the warrior's battle axe high into the air; his plumed helmet leapt high into the air as the rider fell pulling the Bronto sideways to the ground. His gleaming axe blade tumbled through the air amid the fierce lightning and lodged itself in the ground less than two yards from where a Daern knelt exhausted. The blade reflected the dying fires of the burning shrubs.
For several seconds the fires flickered in the rain, sputtered, hissed and died. The battle was over. Daern stood peering into the darkness and rain toward Tamin Rin. Then, he realized that the explosion had come from the Raven's open hatchway.
The black ship's engines hummed in the Chebron night as he looked back over his shoulder. Lita stood inside in the doorway outlined in the red glow of the Raven's control room. Her arms hung limply by her side. Daern couldn't see the girl's face, but he knew that she was crying.
He climbed the steps looking up at her; rain water dripped down his face. He gently took a strange weapon from her hand as Lita moved toward him. Laying her head against his chest, she was sobbing, shocked by what she had done. "I killed him." She whimpered. "I couldn't see his face, but I know he was one of the palace guards."
The storm still raged as Daern moved her inside the ship and looked into her tear filled eyes. "You saved my life, Lita. And probably your own; they were Kolak's men."
"I know, but…"
"You heard Kolak order me killed. Do you think they would have spared you if they found us together inside the palace or out here?"
Lita’s eyes were wet as she looked up into Daern's face. "You're right, but it is so awful. I never want to see that thing again." Lita nodded to the metal weapon Daern held in his hand.
It was an ancient pistol which Tajen had collected decades before from a world many parsecs from the Planet Hon. The revolver, as it was known, fired lead pellets propelled by an explosive powdery substance.
Daern raised the barrel of the six shooter to his face. The odor of burnt gunpowder wrinkled his nose. He placed it back in the wooden case which housed it.
He remembered how Tajen had graciously allowed him to handle and fire the weapon on the Planet Hon. Daern was fascinated by the primitive, but deadly efficiency of this gun known as a “Hog leg”. Apparently, Lita knew how to use it, too, another unanswered question for Lita.
Daern replaced the weapon in its case and put his arm around her trembling shoulders. "We have to rescue Thera." He said calmly. He moved to a locker nearby and took out two towels, handed her one and used the other to dry his head.
Lita wiped her face and arms. "I know; I'll be okay."