Chapter Thirty Eight

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"Step out!" shouted a male voice, altered by a helmet. Gaylen thought he recognised it from that brief conversation when he was flying away from Chukata Mog.

"Hold your fire!" Gaylen shouted back.

"I said step out!"

"And I said hold your fire!"

He leaned out just enough to show them what he had in his hands.

"Or you'll have come here for nothing!"

It was Blue Strike. All seven of them. All wielding rifles.

A light on top of the tram shone out over the scene. The overbuilt gully concealed either rock formations, the foundations of very ancient ruins, or some combination thereof. The mercenaries were lined up among the uneven terrain, about ten metres in front of him.

Keep calm and survive.

The stocky man in the middle, the one with the officer's pauldrons, was the first to speak.

"Drop it!" he demanded.

"No," Gaylen told him firmly. "I am walking off into the gully and you boys aren't going to do a thing about it."

He stepped out of the tram, doing his very best to watch their body language for immediate precursors to violence. But there were seven of them to watch.

"You're not leaving," the captain sneered.

"Yes, I am," Gaylen said, and took the first step off to the left.

The captain fired. His bolt struck the rocky ground in Gaylen's path with a burning hiss. A jolt of adrenaline shot through Gaylen's body, screaming for immediate action.

"You're lucky I'm a seasoned hand at all this," Gaylen said with calm he was able to force into his voice. "Or my finger would have jerked just now. You idiot."

There was a formation of some kind just twenty steps away. And those seven gun muzzles remained on him.

"Just put it down, and we'll let you walk," the captain said.

"No. I told you: I'm seasoned. You'll silence me as soon as you have this."

He took another step, and another.

"It can take a shot," the one on the far left of the band said.

"No, it can't," Gaylen said, and risked another step. "Or you would have fired the moment I showed myself."

He took another step. He was a quarter of the way there.

"I didn't come all this way for nothing," the captain said dangerously as Gaylen continued to move at a careful pace.

The man's rifle stayed on target with the smoothness of steady nerves. Gaylen wished he could see his face.

"Me neither."

"I'll take revenge, if nothing else."

"Go on then..."

Gaylen twisted slowly as he walked, keeping the cylinder between himself and the group.

"... destroy your treasure."

He was almost there. Almost to that formation. Gaylen tensed his body to bolt, to sprint with all of his strength.

It all happened very quickly.

The captain fired. The shot hissed home, straight at Gaylen's gun hand... except it stopped as the energy shield on his belt crackled into being. Herdis emerged from the tram and fired a shot as she ran to the right.

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