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chest. It reached a panicked claw up, and Vance rolled over, burying his face in his hands. The explosion was not as loud as Vance expected. The gory mess he saw when he opened his eyes, however, was precisely what he had hoped for. Pieces of scaly flesh and shards of armoured shell lay all around for a hundred metres.

Merreck was already on his feet, limping toward Vance. The Minbari helped him up, and silently they stumbled toward the hangar. A glance back confirmed Vance's worst fears. More Ky'Thain were approaching in the distance like giant insects in search of prey. When they reached the freighter, its engines were already running, the roof of the hangar opened. The two wounded Rangers staggered onto the ship and closed the main doors. Jerklenn was already initiating takeoff as they strapped themselves in.

Vance could see the Ky'Thain rushing forward in a suicidal rage as the main thrusters burst to life, spreading molten fuel throughout the hangar and burning the evil creatures as they approached. A few seconds more and they were in the air.

As he was pressed back into his seat, the pain of Vance's injuries started to register. The laceration in his thigh, the numbing pain of his shoulder, and his throbbing face all seemed to grow worse as the roar of the freighter's engines intensified. It lasted for only a few short, painful seconds, for once they broke Zhabar's atmosphere, and the pull of the planet's gravity lessened, so did the pain.

Vance glanced across at Merreck, who was a filthy mess, bleeding from several wounds, but his face was a stone mask. Vance felt compelled to speak and thank Mer-reck for saving his life. Before Vance could utter a word, however, he was interrupted by the pealing sound of a console alarm.

'We are being followed,' said
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