Trying to ignore the horrible pain in his chest, Dutch grabbed the manual controls and took the crippled remains of the ship down through the atmosphere.
The screaming of the starboard drive pod was all but drowned out by the roar of super-heated
air blasting past the hull-or what was left of it.
"WARNING GROUND CONT-" There was the sudden, wrenching shock of impact. He must have blacked out for a moment - then the cabin seemed to spin sickeningly.
The last thing he remembered was a world shattering CRUNCH! Blackness returned with a vengance.
In a red agony of feeling, Dutch slowly became conscious.
He was dimly aware of strange odors mixed with the harsh fumes of burning insulation and super-heated metals. The anamorphic grids were dead. No shields.
No power. Nothing.
He tensed, trying to see Neville and Mitzy through the smoke. Movement off to his right, then...
*cough* "I'm over here Mitz, the DC-3's had it. We're actually breathing the planet's atmosphere.
All systems are off line, including shields."
"Well, at least we're still alive," coughed Neville.
"Yeah, for how long? Someone blasted us, Neville. It was dumb luck we grounded in one piece...
more or less."
A sudden wave of pain swept through him and awareness fled, leading him into darkness once again.
From the distant edge of a forest, two mounted figures stay well back in the shadows, watching. They are a strange looking pair of green humanoid squirrels. Not only are they dressed in green field gear but they appear to be green themselves! They sit astride bipedal reptiles that watch the crumpled remains of the ship with as keen an interest as their riders.
"We must report this at once to Lord Talus!" whispers the male.
"Wait. What if the crew still lives? Should we not attempt to aid them?"
A moment later the grim answer to her question comes in the form of two black plate-ships that moved in low over the hills behind the crash. The ships close quickly above the stricken vessel.
What follows is swift and brutal.