The gleaming airship zipped over the desert sands with a jet-black drone in close pursuit.
“Hang on!” Cine called to the stunned passengers in the back of the craft. “We’re heading into a tight canyon!”
The ship pitched up and then dropped down over the edge of a deep canyon, then rolled hard to the left as it sank, tossing Mills onto Anaxis’s lap.
“Sorry!” Mills said, scrambling to get back up.
“It’s fine, hold on!” said Anaxis.
Before Mills could get himself seated on the bench in the passenger cabin, Cine over-corrected the ship’s position in the narrow canyon with a swing to the right, throwing Anaxis, Mills, and Xala onto the floor. The ship rode up the right side of the canyon, then back up the left before Cine regained control and leveled out.
“It’s still on our tail!” Orn called from the back of the ship.
The drone started firing rockets, which blew huge chasms into of the canyon walls. The airship jumped and ducked to avoid the debris.
“Projectile coming straight for us, Cine!” Orn hollered.
Cine pushed the airship low under a tumbling mass of rock, which the rocket smashed into with a fiery explosion.
“We’ve got smoke cover!” Orn shouted.
“Okay, brace yourselves, everyone!” Cine answered.
He rolled the airship under a wide rock arch. The drone came out of the smoke from the explosion with no time to correct itself. It ran straight into the rock arch, destroying the structure and itself in an instant.
“Got it!” Orn whooped.
“Two more coming in, Cine!” Laquin called from an observation bubble on top of the airship.
The new drones descended blasting away, turning the walls of the canyon into fire.
“We’re gonna pull out,” Cine called back from the cockpit. “Get ready!”
The airship pulled a barrel roll up out of the canyon. The rockets on its tail just missed the ship and hit one another, creating an explosion that engulfed the ship in flame. Cine pulled out of the blast and downward, so quickly that the passengers in the back of the ship were lifted up off floor. They hovered briefly until Cine leveled out, just before smashing into the desert floor, then dropped back onto the floor with hard smacks.
“Sorry!” he shouted. “What’s their position, Laquin?”
“Still hot after us,” he answered.
“I spot an overhang up ahead,” Cine said. “Gonna try to lose them in it.”
The airship rolled onto its side, throwing the passengers again. It accelerated toward the overhang in the distance as the drones came closer and closer. Cine pulled the ship around the curvature of the rock wall beneath the overhang, almost grazing it with the belly of the craft. One of the drones was able to follow him, but the other smashed into the wall and caused the overhang to crumble down on top of it.
“Got one!” Orn shouted. “Still one more with us!”
“Sorry back there!” Cine hollered. “This should lose it for good!”
The airship shot up into an ascending spiral, whirling around the blasts from the drone’s turrets. After three rotations, Cine pulled the airship over a half-loop and into a descending spiral.
“Head for the rock fin,” Laquin called to the pilot.
“I see it,” Cine said. “Here we go!”
The airship came out of its spiral and rotated just in time to miss colliding with the towering rock fin rising up from the desert floor.
“Did we lose it?” he asked.
“Can’t tell yet,” Orn answered.
The drone suddenly reappeared from the other side of the fin and blasted two rockets at the airship.
“It came around the other side!” Laquin screamed. “We’ve got two rockets right on us!”
Cine tried to pull the ship up and out of the path of the projectiles, but they stuck close and struck their target. One of the airship’s wings exploded and the ship began to go into a tailspin.
“I can’t stop it!” Cine called. “We’re going down! Hang on tight!”
The drone continued blasting at the ship as it careened toward the ground. Charges riddled the body of the ship with holes as the passengers screamed in horror.
With a thick trail of black smoke billowing from its exploded engine, the airship fell from the sky. It hit the desert with its underside nearly parallel to the terrain and skidded, before smashing into another huge stone fin. The cockpit crumpled under the force, killing Cine immediately. The passengers in the back of the ship had fallen unconscious in the smoldering ship from the tailspin, and were left in the middle of the desert by the drone, which continued without pause on its patrol.