They crash

Jax grit his teeth and did everything he could to stabilize the small craft, what Dela liked to call his "Puddle Jumper," but the entry into the planet's atmosphere had been difficult, and suddenly emerging in the midst of some terrible storm was about the worst luck he could have experienced on this entire God-forsaken mission.  The chunky atmo clogged the filters; Jax winced as the engines screamed their displeasure at such maltreatment.  The clouds were too thick for any kind of visuals as well.  He'd have been better off leaving the entry shield encapsulating the whole windshield for all the good it did.  Normally he would switch to flying via instruments only -- no big deal.

Except the ferocity of this storm, coupled with the ship's navigational system's inability to find the right planet, shot that contingency all to hell.  The cabin shook with great intensity, and Jax wondered if he would get whiplash before -- or after -- the ship was torn to pieces.  A kaleidoscope of lightning blasts of varying colors produced a strobe-like staccato of light inside the black clouds surrounding them, further hampering their descent.

Jax looked at every display flashing impotently before him -- alarms everywhere, nothing worked, the whole ship was in critical status.

Plus he couldn't see.

Jax Barked over his shoulder, "McClendon!  Get your ass up here!  NOW!"

Within seconds, a young man settled into the empty copilot's seat next to Jax.  He looked like some prep school dropout too young to shave.  His hands trembled but his eyes were sharp, and what Jax needed more than anything at that moment were the eyes of the youth to get them down safely.

"The instruments are shot and I can't keep this rig steady and watch the skies at the same time!  I need you to find a gap in the clouds so I can navigate by sight!"

McClendon looked terrified; he actually recoiled in his seat away from Jax, "But I don't know what the regular sky looks like."

"Not this!" Jax snapped, and contorted the stick to fight a sudden pocket of turbulence which dropped the Puddle Jumper's altitude a thousand feet in a matter of seconds.  Every single passenger in the back felt their stomach rise into their throat.  Some of them moaned.

More lightning, kind of pinkish in color, followed by some ball lightning.

"Terrific," Jax muttered.

McClendon looked ill, held his arms open to brace himself against the shimmying of the craft.  He asked something but his voice was lost in the roar of the descent through the storm.

"What is it, boy?!"

McClendon bit his lip and scanned through the clouds for some glimpse of something other than the thick, black death which surrounded them.  He asked again, louder, almost a scream, "Are we still pointed down?"

"I think so!  Maybe.  Why?"

"Um... because I'd really like to not crash into a mountain or something!"

That was a good enough reason as any.  Jax actually burst out in a loud guffaw and had to agree, "Me neither!"

Lightning hit the Puddle Jumper just then, and the extreme surge of energy blew through the ship with a shower of sparks and electric destruction.  Jax held on to the stick with white-knuckled fists and grunted a long, drawn out scream from the back of his throat as he fought to keep them alive on this foreign planet.  More sparks, the ship was falling apart.

McClendon almost missed it, but his eyes were sharp, as Jax had known, and his reactions were quick, even for a kid.  His left arm shot out and he pointed through the blackness and called out, "There!"

Jax followed where the kid's arm but saw only blackness, "Where?"

It was gone, covered by clouds now, but McClendon was sure he had seen it, a quick glimpse of a lighter purple or pink which was most certainly a different hue from their current atmospheric placement.  He said again, this time with more assurance, "There!"

Though the area to which the kid pointed looked as lethal as the air in which they presently hurtled, Jax had wanted the kid up front with him for a reason.  Now was definitely the time to trust him, so he jerked the stick hard to port.

They bounced and rolled through the shattered air with the same efficiency as would a dinghy in a typhoon.  The Puddle Jumper screamed and popped, and shook with the death throes of a convulsing patient.  Just when it seemed the shuttle craft was about to break apart due to its abuse, the clouds parted and Jax and McClendon looked out upon a mountainous magenta skyline under angry black clouds.  They whooped and cheered and gave each other hugs.

And then the other lightning bolt struck the ship.

The End

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