Like the Fancy Rat had been, the ISA Cornelius was a Diocletian-class modular starship, with a detachable spaceplane front end that could lot into an orbital quantum drive section.

The Vyeah had been attempting to turn it into an escape vehicle of their own, and its dock was littered with human and alien technology that was in the process of being yanked out, integrated, and otherwise made to work nicely together.

Jai was able to get the drop on the pair of Vyaeh techs working frantically on it. He had a notion of inviting them to pilot the ship in exchange for their lives, but they both grabbed for their weapons, which forced Jai to drop them both with his own.

The cockpit was a mess, but main power appeared to be operational, with the reentry shutters nominal, suborbital thrusters responding despite the control surface being written in Vyeah script, and the docking lugs stirred when Jai put a little power through them.

Outside the hangar, the sky was broiling an angry red–the last and most intense sunset the planet would ever see, and the temperature outside had already begun rising to an unfathomable degree. Jai whispered a few words of prayer, the first he had uttered in many years, before bringing the Cornelius to life. It responded, shuddering upward on its thrusters and sealing the hatch.

“Five minutes to orbit,” Jai murmured, pushing the craft as far as he could without ratting it apart. If his drive unit was still there, and the docking lugs still worked, there was a chance.

Not a big one, but a chance.

“The sky used to be blue,” Jai said, looking out the window as he closed the blast shield. “With a little luck, I’ll see a blue sky again.”

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