Descent of the Maw
By Erin MacMichael
Excerpt from Chapter V: “Bandu”
The Corum glided upward and slowed, leading the line of Tarsian starships in a sinewy curve away from the large warband while Miros’s laughing voice came over the channel. “Bingo! I’ve pinned Salaal’s ship. All of you, key your holos into mine—I’ve marked the flagship in red.”
Magnus quickly picked up the frequency and zoomed the display in on the warband where one of the discs near the center of the diamond formation was highlighted in bright red. “Damn,” he whispered under his breath, amazed once again at the admiral’s sharp wits.
“I bet Salaal’s mad as hell,” Asta reckoned over the link. “He’s lost most of the new ships he just brought in over this portal alone.”
“Oh, I’m sure he’s in a lather,” Miros agreed. “They’re starting to move. Let’s nail this bastard while we know where he is! Stay with me, people.” The channel went quiet while the admiral issued orders to his crew for a new course.
Magnus glanced around the silent room at the fierce concentration on his officers’ faces. They all knew the ride was about to get bumpy again and that the lives of everyone on board, not to mention the millions down below on Bandu, rode on each of their shoulders. An instant’s hesitation or miscalculation could very well turn them all into vapor and dust particles.
As the Corum came around, leading its long line of shimmering, sleek vessels, the flock of warships moved slowly across the portal space, by all outward appearances in no hurry to engage the Tarsian forces. The Zephyr lurched forward as the admiral’s ship picked up speed. “Here we go,” Rhona announced briskly, setting the controls to keep the Zephyr accurately positioned in the Tarsian lineup.
Magnus kept his eyes pinned on the bright holo while Rhona guided the Zephyr into the curve around the hovering warband. The Corum wove an erratic path, angling the Tarsian dragon inward to make a pass across the gray discs.
“Magnus,” Miros called sharply across the open channel. “We’ve got one shot at Salaal before he transports away. While his eyes are on me, break off your run and come up underneath him. Al, Asta, follow Mag’s lead and pound the daylights out of that bastard. We’ll hit him from above.”
“Got it!” Magnus confirmed, shifting his mic to a channel with the Appin and Loki. “Rhona, keep us on track a few more seconds. Steady—now! Head for Salaal’s ship and bring us up next to the closest rim.”
The Zephyr peeled away from the Tarsian line, bulleting toward one of the discs just off center in the formation as the Corum raced downward, feinting toward the far edge of the diamond before shifting course abruptly to come in for a strike on the opposite side of the flagship.
“Rob, fire everything you’ve got, single point!” Magnus bellowed as the Zephyr shot up from below a few hundred feet from the bulky dark warship. “Ari, aft cannons, same point!”
The Zephyr shook from the vibrations of its cannons as well as a sudden blitz of fire from the Drahkian vessel. As the ship tore up and away, the Corum pounded a stream of blasts at the apex of the disc while the Appin launched its few seconds of heavy assault on the rim and followed close behind the Zephyr.
The warship rocked as a piece of the rim exploded and broke away. The Loki came on right behind the Appin, hammering steadily at the gaping hole in the warship’s hull for several seconds before the damaged vessel and the rest of the warband vanished from the field.