Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

I’m impressed: the manufacturer’s claim was true. C-NhD – Compressed Nhildentium – really does make a ship unbreakable.

“Sir, the worst casualty is Engineer Ruson: both legs broken. Apart from that: cuts and bruises.”

I treat Dral to my best expression of disbelief: “How?”

“It spun us, sir. Everyone was pinned to a solid surface. By sheer luck, the majority were backs to the impact.”

I’ll be drinking a half bottle of brandy with our guardian angel as soon as we get out of this.

“What’s our manoeuvring capability?”

“None, sir. We’re embedded in a cliff face.”

“Can we blast our way free?”

“It’s a two-kilometre drop, sir.”

“Use launch boosters?”

“Tubes are buried in the cliff, sir.”

I perform a mental orientation from that info.

“So, presuming we’ve lost both turrets, surviving weapons will only fire along the cliff face?”

“You presume correctly, sir.”

“Looks like we’re going to have a chance to enjoy the view, Dral.”

He stares out the viewport.

“A pity it’s too narrow to climb through, sir.”

“I like the way you skipped the gargantuan task of breaking supraglass.”

Ensign Clemming interrupts: “It’s coming back!”

Barkdanta is a vast planet. The Barkdantim are giants by our standards; their planet is sized to keep them humble. The vistas here are beyond spectacular. Cloud-decked mountains soaring kilometres into the skies, trees that make skyscrapers look feeble.

And ‘Battlegods’. We thought the Barkdantim were threatening us with mythical vengeance because they couldn’t face us. In fact, they were desperately warning us because their Battlegods cause havoc when roused to defend the planet.

I cannot describe the terror of seeing a mountain fall apart to reveal a being that can single-handedly snatch Bastion-class assault ships from the sky and smash them like Grecian guests break dining plates.

We’re part of a defeat that’ll go down in history. I had, briefly, thought we’d survive to read about it. As an immense hand grabs the hull and wiggles the ‘Vengeant’ free, I mentally raise a glass in farewell to our guardian angel. Thanks for trying.

The sensations of movement cease with a ‘thud’ that’s followed by a trio of deafening taps on the upper hull.

Dral peers out and then looks back at me, his face a mask of disbelief: “It’s pointing to the grounded side and making walking movements with its fingers!”

Well, I’ll be: “Abandon ship via any low-side egress!”

The bale-out scramble is a mix of adrenalin rush, mystification and relief. As we collapse, gasping, the Vengeant is lifted away from the plateau we’re now stranded on. The biggest being I have ever seen turns and swings the grasping arm under its opposite armpit, curling itself down into a crouch as it does so. Ye gods – I know that stance!

The Battlegod unwinds and launches the Vengeant toward a distant valley. I hear my crew hold their breaths.

Just as the spinning spaceship clips the far treetops, a huge being leaps from the left and catches it with an outstretched hand. Both disappear from view, a cloud of dust and debris rises, then the Vengeant is, unmistakably, triumphantly brandished aloft. Our attacker claps its hands and points toward the horizon to our right. Another Battlegod jogs into view, beckoning hand raised.

Dral turns to me: “I may need counselling after this.”

I grin at him: “I want our battlegod to step to the left. If he fumbles a catch, we’ll be the first fatalities of a frisbee game this century.”

“Don’t you mean ‘ever’?”

“Who knows how many landed here before us? These monsters have had practice.”