Delaney’s upper torso was wracked with intense pain.
The black bug vehicle had pounded his chest countless times as it bounced and jounced around in the strong current of water.
And now Kwan, the huge Chinese General, had Delaney clearly lined up for a shot.
“You stupid little American man. You always think you can beat the world,” Kwan raised his golden rifle and aimed at Delaney’s helmet. “You always think you can win every fight… not this time, little American man. This time there is another victor… this time— ”
Suddenly, the tunnel became awash with intensely brilliant light.
Delaney saw it first, and couldn’t believe his eyes. It was the Asteron roaring out of the run-off tunnel.
It rounded the corner of the run-off and entered the main tunnel, right behind Kwan.
Delaney could see Lena clearly through the cockpit window.
“What the— ”
Kwan spun just in time to see the nose of the Asteron bearing down on him. He screamed loudly.
Then the ship hit him. And picked him up!
Kwan had gripped onto the nose of the craft with both arms, and was still holding his rifle.
Lena turned the wheel and the ship spun forty-five degrees, slamming into the bug and knocking it away from Delaney.
Delaney took advantage of the moment and pushed through the water towards the safety of the stone door.
Lena pulled down on the wheel again, spinning the ship further on its axis. It was now facing the wall, with Kwan still hanging desperately onto the nose.
Kwan snarled at Lena with a crazed look on his face, and slid his rifle across the surface of the ship’s nose so that the barrel was pointing directly at Lena through the window.
Lena ducked behind the panel as a burst of automatic gunfire assaulted the toughened screen. Kwan gripped the trigger awkwardly and fired again. This time, small spiderweb cracks began to appear in the outermost layer of the window.
Kwan was yelling psychotically as he dangled from the massive craft, trying to shoot at the woman inside.
He stretched his rifle arm up towards the window as far as it would go, straining to get the end of the barrel as close as he could to his prey.
Lena looked Kwan in the eyes as he was about to fire for the last time. She waited for just the right moment as the ship swung back towards the wall. Then she wrenched the accelerator lever back as hard as far as it would go.
A wall of flame and gas erupted from all engines.
The Asteron accelerated abruptly. And slammed into the tunnel wall at superfast speed.
Lena jolted like a crash test dummy in her seat.
She looked up and saw Kwan hunched over the nose, embedded into the tunnel wall. Then slowly, the top half of his body slid over the nose in a circular motion and fell into the water.
Lena spun the ship back around as it hovered a few feet above the water, so the entrance door was now facing toward where Delaney was standing.
Lena left the ship hovering, as she unstrapped herself and limped to the door. Delaney shook his head in amazement as he looked up at the scientist in admiration.
He trudged back through the water to help her down from the ship.
Right at that very instant, Lena felt a hand grab her around the ankle.
It was Pak.
He was laying on the floor in a pool of his own blood, one arm extended out and gripping Lena strongly by her lower leg.
She screamed and kicked out. Her free boot dug into Pak’s hand.
He wouldn’t let go.
And now the ship was beginning to turn again.
Delaney ran to the side door and jumped up, managing to grab on to the ledge at floor level.
“Grab onto my arm!” he yelled to Lena.
She ducked down and took hold of Delaney’s right hand.
The ship spun violently, flinging Delaney around like a puppet as he held onto Lena, who was now half way out the door with Pak still holding firmly onto her ankle.
Finally, with a great heave, Delaney swung his legs up onto the underside of the door for extra leverage, and pushed off with all his might, taking Lena with him as they crashed into the raging water below.
As they surfaced, they saw a terrified Pak crawling towards the door.
The ship was heading back down the run-off tunnel under its own power, slamming against the tunnel walls from side to side like an out of control remote car.
They watched as the lights from the Asteron faded away into the darkness. Then, without warning, there was a terrific boom! As the ship exploded somewhere down the tunnel.
Delaney wrapped his arms around Lena, then stood back and retracted his helmet.
“What are you doing?” Lena said, still not aware that it was safe to remove her life support.
“It’s okay…,” Delaney said quietly.
Lena looked at him for a second then retracted her own helmet.
Delaney touched her face with a gloved hand and dipped his head. It had been a hell of a long day and he’d been looking forward to this moment for most of it.
Buffalo had gotten to his feet and struggled across to the hole in the stone door. It was the second time he had been shot today, and he was starting to get really pissed.
The big Sergeant stuck his head out through the hole and shook it in mock disgust.
“When you two are finished groping each other, do you think someone could come and patch me up.”