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Chester Burton Brown

Smashwords Edition copyright 2012 Hemming Media, Publisher; all rights reserved.

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Salt flakes swirl like snow.

Thick ribbons of cloud race across the dark sky, one speeding stream puckering and then tearing aside to admit a falling star. As the light of the tumbling flotsam diminishes, the clouds are once against lost in ink.

Bits of ruined ablative shielding spin away, trailing sparks.

Twin booms report as the ship breaks the sound barrier. Thrusters cough and sputter in a rapid, complex sequence as the pilot fights to regain attitude control. The quickly cooling hull steams, its sides threatening to buckle as they click, groan and flex. A triple pop: parachutes squirt free, then bang into shape overhead.

They are shredded by shards of flying salt, perforated and ragged within seconds, flapping fecklessly in the ship’s vertical plume of smoke and steam and ash and crud.

The pilot’s eyes widen. “Hell!”

His passenger grips her harnesses as she’s thrashed about, lips pressed grimly into a thin, bloodless line. She squeezes her eyes shut and faintly hums.

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