He’d tried everything he could, and he was down to a choice between two options: jettison the cargo hold and make an emergency landing, or crash, killing everyone on board. Abe had no desire to be responsible for anyone’s death, most of all his own. It was a crucial decision, and to him, not a particularly difficult one. He pulled the ejection lever and then dialed the safety knob. The shuttle tumbled at first with its burden gone, but he quickly stabilized it. He spiraled down to the ground, maximizing aerobraking, and the shuttle settled to a final rest on the planet’s surface. Before he could finish sending an all-channels SOS, the passengers were beating at the cockpit door.
“One minute,” he yelled, and to himself said, “Shit, I was just in a crash landing, too.” He finished keying the distress signal and opened the hatch. He only had two passengers—it was a privately chartered interplan shuttle—a couple of young, big-looking guys who were especially skittish for their size. They looked ghostly now; the landing must have really shaken them.
“What did you do?” asked the one with the lighter hair.
“I understand you’re shaken up, but that wasn’t my fault—”
“No. I mean, tell us—step-by-step—everything you just did.” His voice was grave. It was an odd line of questioning, all things considered, but Abe walked them through how he’d managed to save their lives. The second man, with the dark hair, pulled out a gun.
“Do not use the distress beacon.”
“I already did,” Abe admitted. “We should get out; who knows if this thing is still safe? And put that thing away.” He shifted over to reveal his own sidearm. “The insurance will cover your filmmaking equipment.”
The two men exchanged glances, but the dark-haired man did not lower his weapon. The other man explained, “That was a cover, you dipshit. We’re not filmmakers. You just ejected classified wormhole tech over a remote desert where anyone with a satellite and a little curiosity can easily find it.”
Abe thought this over. He turned off the distress beacon and then presented them with a choice between two options. “Well, you can shoot me now, or I can help you recover your cargo. But the cockpit’s for the pilot only, so if you want to move fast you’d better take your seats.”
They exchanged glances again, and Abe added, “Either way, insurance isn’t going to cover this.”