City of Refuge, Episode 10: Fatal Escape

Jer would have given up his favorite walking stick just to see the look on Kane’s face when Yireh powered up. Imperious yawed almost one hundred eighty degrees and darted away.

Jer threw the throttle forward and chased after his brother’s killer. The door behind him whooshed open, but Jer kept his eyes on the viewscreen.

“Want me on Tactical, boss?” Tamar asked.

“Yes, ma’am, but no kill shots unless he starts shootin’.” Jer gritted his teeth as he followed Kane through a tight turn.

She snorted. “You know he wouldn’t be that considerate if the roles were reversed.”

“I know it, but if we ain’t better than him, we might as well let him go.” Jer spared a look back at her, regretting it when he returned his attention to a blank viewscreen.

The radar showed Kane heading across the system. Jer banked into a turn and followed, gradually gaining ground. The door behind him opened again.

“Ethan, have a seat at Cartography and tell me what’s ahead of us.”

“Uh, sure.”

At the far edge of Jer’s peripheral vision, Ethan slid into the seat and called up the map.

In front of him, Kane had stopped trying to shake Yireh and now raced a straight course.

“Gas giant with rings,” Ethan reported.

“What are you up to, Kane?” Jer mumbled.

“Hide in the gas giant?” Ethan asked.

Jer shook his head. “Atmosphere’d crush his ship like a paper cup.”

“Computer say how thick that ring is?” Tamar asked.

The stripy gas giant was the size of a kid’s marble in the viewscreen and getting bigger by the moment. The rings at that distance were thinner than a sheet of paper.

Ethan tapped the consoles keyboard a few times. “Computer makes it about a hundred meters or thereabout. Way too dense to fly Yireh through.”

Jer smirked. “Mama didn’t raise anyone dumb enough to fly through rings.”

“Anything in that ring big enough to trigger a stampede?” Tamar suggested.

Ethan drew a breath through teeth. “Yeah, I think so, but he’d have to get opposite us for it to do him any good, wouldn’t he?”

The gas giant now filled most of the viewscreen. Had Vashti and Nahum gone for reinforcements rather than on a plot to kill the high priest? Was Kane planning to use the planet’s rings as a weapon?

The comm system pinged. In one terrific leap in the half gravity. Ethan pushed off from cartography and landed at communications. “It’s Kane.”

“Let’s hear it.” Jer said.

“Back off, Baruch. The only waiting for you at that planet up ahead is a one-way ticket to join your brother,” Kane’s voice came through the system with just a touch of distortion.

“Shut down your engines or turn back to Shechem,” Jer ordered.

“Yer funeral.”

The connection broke with a click.

#

Kane cut the connection to Yireh. He’d known Jer wouldn’t spook easy enough to fall for a bluff, but there was no harm in trying. Leaving the system on autopilot, Kane called up the ship’s manifest. Yireh was a bigger ship, so a shoot-out wasn’t likely to end well. Plenty of natural weapons circled the planet up ahead, and Kane knew how to use them, but first, he had to buy time to get in position.

The ship’s holds only had a few tons of new ore, some personal effects, wastewater and other garbage. That’d be good for a few seconds.

Kane adjusted course to come in parallel to the plane of the ring but above it. The radar showed Yireh right on his tail. As soon as he was over the gas giant’s ring, Kane jettisoned the ore, wastewater and garbage. He turned down into a dive and  cranked up the repulsor to push a hole through.

The collision alarm registered a strong protest against the plan. Myriad pings and a couple loud bangs rattled Imperious but no hull breach alerts went off. The front viewscreen grayed with static. One section in the top right corner went black.

Lost a camera.

Annoying, but not bad, all things considered. Once through the ring, Kane slowed to a stop and yawed to face Yireh as the bigger ship started toward the edge of the ring.

What’s the matter, Jer? Too scared to follow me through like that?

Kane picked out several of the larger chunks of rock and ice in the ring and aimed the repulsor at them. Some he hit straight on, but others he hit from an oblique angle. The big pieces moved, colliding with each other and with smaller debris. He kept agitating the larger parts of the ring until the whole section ahead of Yireh was a spinning, crashing mess bulging out in Jer’s direction. A smattering of rocks broke away from the ring and shot out like projectiles. Kane smiled and continued nudging his missiles like several-ton billiard balls. More chunks broke loose, hurtling in Yireh’s direction.

Jer dodged the first few, but as the flying rocks became more dense, the pale haze of the repulsor beam reflected off the dust from collisions. Rocks and ice re-entered the chaos from the other side.

Kane watched the screen for stones coming his way and deflected them with his own repulsor. The stampede, now driven from both sides of the ring, became more frantic. He kept one eye on the radar and the other on the targeting system.

His heart raced  and his hands shook. “Too close. I’m too close to the ring.”

Kane deflected a large rock and grabbed Imperious’ controls. The collision alert alarm blared. At the edge of the blackened viewscreen segment, the shiny, white edge of a rock loomed. Some distracted  part of his mind tentatively identified the mineral as silver, maybe even platinum, but he dismissed that thought and scrambled to get the repulsor into position.

#

Jer squinted and turned his head away from the brilliant flare of light.

“Shockwave!” Tamar yelled.

Spinning Yireh on its vertical axis, Jer accelerated away from the gas giant’s ring before the shockwave from Imperious’s exploding reactor pelted them with debris and an electromagnetic pulse guaranteed to fry the computers. He eyeballed a course around to the backside of the gas giant, using the massive planet as a shield

“Ethan,” Jer cast a glance at his little brother. “Set us a course for Gibeah. Let’s go home.”

#

On the way out of church the next Sabbath, Jer stopped in the graveyard at one of the two newest stones. Neither marked an actual burial place, but they served as memorials to the deceased all the same. He took off his hat and a held it down by his side.

Using his cane for support, Jer knelt in front of Dave’s gravestone. “You an’ me never did see eye to eye on much, and that’s a fact, but a man still grieves the loss of his brother. Hope t’ meet up with you on the other side, so’s we can get to know each other proper.” After a couple moments of silence, Jer grimaced and used his cane to lever himself back up. On the way out, he paused at the other new stone. “You were a murderer and a thief, Kane Lindemann, but for your sake, I hope you made your peace with God before your reactor blew.”

As Jer hobbled out of the graveyard, he settled his hat on his head. The Sabbath was not a day for work, but it was a day for planning the work for the week ahead, and there was no shortage of that. He and Pa would spend the day showing Ethan the way of it while Ma and Haddy got Sabbath dinner going. Just wouldn’t be the same without Dave there, but with or without him, plenty needed doing. That hole where Dave used to be might never get filled properly, but they’d have to continue on, just like always.

 

That’s the end of it!  Stay tuned. Not sure what I’ll do here next. Maybe flash fiction, maybe vignettes, maybe something else. Who knows?

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