The two Zoasian vehicles rushed across the sandy expanse of the Ecosian desert. At times, I was sure that I was gaining on the other transport, but then at other times there seemed to be a widening of the space between us. One thing was for sure. The Zoasian in control of the first craft was a far better driver than I was. I was continually flying out of my seat as I bumped over some obstacle, and I am sure that my Amatharian passengers were similarly troubled.
At that moment a missile fired from some section of my vehicle below me. Evidently Terril Jennofar had found a gunner, or was manning a missile station himself. The projectile impacted just to the left of the fleeing vehicle. Seconds later a second missile shot forth, and this one was better aimed than the first. It hit the right rear wheel of the fleeing vehicle. For a moment it looked as though there would be a great crash, but the Zoasian driver regained control of the now smoking, crippled truck and continued on, albeit at a slower pace. I was sure now that we would be able to catch it.
Just then a massive explosion from below racked my own vehicle. I was lifted completely out of the driver’s seat, and hurled across the compartment, as the car turned first left and then right, and then began to flip over wildly. The cabin spun around and around, and my head was dashed against some piece of equipment, sending me into the darkness of unconsciousness.
When I came to, I was lying in the sand beside the great mass of bent metal that had once been the great Zoasian vehicle. A good half-pound of sand was glued to the side of my face by a mass of dried blood, and my left arm was bent backwards at the wrist, obviously broken.
I pulled my tabard off and using my knife and my one good arm, cut several strips from it. I wiped the mess from my face as best I could with the rest, and then discarded it, keeping only the tiny ornament that Nona Montendro had given me to wear. I straightened out my arm with a great deal of pain and effort, and finding a straight piece of metal from the wreck and the cloth strips, splinted it. I then determined to set the break. I grabbed hold of a bar on the main part of the wreck with my left hand and leaned my body back as hard as I could. As blinding pain shot from my arm to my brain, I once again lost consciousness.
I don’t think that I was unconscious very long. When I woke up, I was dismayed to find that my arm was still not set. I set about trying the same procedure again. I was rewarded with two barely audible snaps, as my bones found their proper locations. Though I didn’t lose consciousness this second time, I was forced to lie back on the sand for several minutes trying to inhale and recover my wits.
Once my arm was stabilized, I began to look around for any other survivors of the wreck. I found two of my companions lying in the sand and another partially buried in the wreckage. All were dead. Near the rear of the mess was the body of Terril Jennofar. He was mangled almost beyond recognition, and yet when I approached, he opened his eyes and looked at me.
“I am sorry,” he said. “It is my fault. I accidentally ignited the missile, as I was attempting to load it.”
“It’s not your fault,” I said. “I will report you well.”
“Rescue her…” Then he was dead.
I was once again all alone on the planet Ecos, but I knew where my duty lay. The path of the other vehicle through the sand was plainly visible, so I set off after it. It was tough going through the desert, as the sand was soft, which made walking a chore. It was not as hot though, as one might have anticipated from such a locale. It was a pleasant seventy five degrees, or there abouts, and had the situation been different, it might have made for a pleasant hike.
It didn’t seem as though I had walked all that far, when I came over a rise in the ground to look on the wreckage of the second truck. It seemed that the damaged wheel had finally fallen off, and the driver had been unable to keep the vehicle from rolling over on its side. There seemed to be a relatively small amount of damage— certainly nothing to warrant the array of bodies, both Amatharian and Zoasian, strewn across the desert floor.
I drew my sword and carefully approached, but there seemed to be no one left alive. Happily, the Princess was nowhere to be seen. So where was she, and were there any others missing? I began to look around to see if I could find any clues on the subject, when I came across the body of an Amatharian woman. She was dead, face down in the sand, but before she had died, she had scrawled something in the sand. It was “UURSH POCH.”