Shane's taking the body of his beloved back to her home, and in the process discovers that the war they'd been fighting might not be going quite the way they thought it was...
I'd probably have made it if I hadn't been injured or if the gravity on Tucson wasn't half again what I was used to, or if I wasn't carrying fifty kilos in a vinyl body-bag over my shoulders like a sandbag.
There's all sorts of excuses I can make. I ain't run out of them yet. But, the plain truth is there: I didn't make it to Tucson.
I'd made the promise years before, curled up in the blissful afterglow of our first personal fireworks. We'd made rash promises, then. The both of us. And I know Keri-Anne would have forgiven me for not bein' able to follow through. But I couldn't. But I'd lost damned near everything, and I was plum out of options.
I'd made landfall five miles outside the old grounds of the colony, keeping low to the hills to avoid Coya detection. I'd twice had to avoid atmospheric interceptors, and the only option I'd had was to dive into the steep canyons to try to avoid their thermals. Ptolemy had only a couple of satellites still in orbit, so I knew I should have been able to lose my tails and make landfall without them knowing precisely where I was.
Tucson was a tiny colony-town on the planet of Ptolemy. It was one of the rising stars of the rim-worlds. Even with less than three hundred colonists, it had started to turn a profit within five years of settlement. That's almost instant when you're talking colonial growth.
The thing about Ptolemy... it had an abundance of what the Concord needed: seven-sided crystals and some of the finest mud you could get anywhere. The mud was used to make high-grade ceramics which was good for ablative shielding and other things every good space-ship needs.
The crystals were the secret to non-rotational gravity. In fact, this planet was the only one in Concord space where the seven-sided crystals appeared naturally. They were stronger, longer-lasting, and far more valuable. We never could understand why the Concord just let Tucson go.
Tucson never grew beyond the original size of the settlement. Their worth to the Concord allowed them to keep in place their isolationist leanings without too much of a fuss. As long as the crystals and the mud kept exporting, Ptolemy would be left alone.
To my mind, these are the things the Concord valued Tucson for. Didn't fight hard enough to keep it. To my mind, though, the most valuable thing to come out of Tucson was Keri-Anne Watts.And that's why we stayed as long as we did.
And that's why I had to go back. Even though the Coya held Ptolemy and had levelled Tucson. I'd made the promise. It didn't matter that I was goin' to fail. What matters was the effort.
One way or the other, I was going to take Keri-Anne back to her home.