Jinn began to black out. But her fingers somehow kept their grip on the shuttlecraft doorway. Her strength and will were equally matched to whatever force tugged at her. It was not investing her as easily as it had Alioth. This might be because Jinn, for all her outward ceremony, had never truly submitted to Vinaserat. She had always mistrusted that moon. Considering its lusty hunger for sacrifices, she had always subconsciously expected it to turn on her. For good reason, it seemed.
But there was something else. Jinn Bellatrix had been spending time in closed rooms praying to something other than Vinaserat. Something other than any of the moon gods. She had heard tell of another one. One of the sacrifices had told her. A boy named Hendrix. He had died as she held him down. Alioth slid his knife over all the right places to make someone gush blood as they died. But he had not died before telling her about a girl called Aurora and a god who was simply called … God. It had felt ludicrous to pray to such a one. That … God … had let Hendrix die. But she prayed anyway for one simple reason. She had seen hope in his eyes. Hope even as his life drained.
She gripped the shuttle wall tighter. Joelle was watching, helpless, waiting.
“The big green circle,” Jinn gasped. “Push it. Then use the stick to aim for the tunnel. It will work and you will escape.” She was willing the words to be true. It had worked before, once, accidentally. She let her mind wander back to that time. Alioth and Jinn, best friends, were briefly more than that. They had been exploring. The shuttle was quiet. One thing led to another which led to a kiss. Jinn had leaned back onto the ship’s console and she accidentally pressed the ignition. The old thing came alive, effectively killing the mood and scaring them both out of their minds.
Jinn let go of the door frame. The pull was too strong. She turned, managing to keep her feet, and faced Alioth.
Joelle clenched her teeth and turned to find the button, whatever a button was. She assumed it was not the same as was used to fasten clothes. Then she saw it. Smooth and green like a gem. She slammed it with her palm and the cockpit roared to life. Lights flashed. A hum rumbled beneath her feet. Her eyes widened but she kept her head. She searched for and then grabbed the stick protruding from a console. When she lifted on it the craft lurched upward. When she tilted it to the left the ship groaned and turned the same direction. The movement made Joelle fall back into a seat that had appeared from the floor. In front of her a cockpit window materialized like magic. She looked out just as one of the walls of the hanger was peeled up and away by the raging storm. The temple was being dismantled. She tipped the stick hesitantly forward and the machine drove ahead with a puttering roar. A couple times it scraped against a wall but she soon got the hang of it. It was easier than she thought it would be.
Joelle noticed a wide door open up in a section of the wall. That must have been what Jinn was talking about. She flew into it and navigated a long tunnel. The driving stick was intuitive. A push forward gave a burst of speed from the thrusters. A tilt forward nosed down. Joelle had no time to practice. The tunnel was falling apart. The storm plucked at metal siding like grapes. But she made it out. Scratched, dented, bleeding billowy black smoke, the aged craft spit out into torrential rains.
Back inside, Jinn slid a bloody palm off the tunnel door release. She had watched Joelle escape. She prayed the girl would make it. Jinn turned to look down at the prone form of her friend, Alioth. She had won that battle but it felt the same as losing. Multiple wounds leaked her insides. If those did not kill her, the storm would. She slumped and her eyes wandered to a mantle in a corner where sat a stone sphere. The orb of Vinaserat. This hanger had been converted into an inner sanctum for the sacred stone.
She cocked her head. The orb had inexplicably shattered in a fit of blinding light. At the same time the maelstrom eased until all she could hear was a patter of gentle rain. Finally, sunlight filtered down through cracks above. She shook her head and smiled.