Ascension II: Bed of Nails

Landing the stolen shuttle at an airstrip would have meant the end of his escape. So Bates had to ditch in wilderness; but Juno’s terraforming was too unfinished for him to hide there. Anyway, a city’s criminal underground was his natural habitat. When he saw the land cruiser from above, far from the nearest settlement, he ditched.

Then Bates waited, pistol cocked, for human nature to take its course. Sure enough, the curious driver stopped, walked out to the shuttle and opened the airlock. Calmly, Bates shot him, picked up a duffle of supplies he’d stripped from the shuttle and its dead pilot, and started for the land-cruiser.

But another man stood in the way. Annoyed, Bates raised the pistol. Things blurred, and he found himself lying in pumice. It stabbed him in a thousand places. Later, Pitcher explained that he’d kicked the radial nerve in Bates’ forearm to make him drop the gun, then hit the vagus nerve in his neck.

“Don’t try to push yourself up,” Pitcher warned. He went into the shuttle.

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