by M. E. Garber
Jandara's famed purple-red plains swelled in the antiquated pleasure cruiser's windscreen as the ship lurched downward. The explosion that killed Seema's husband, Arun, had damaged the steering mechanisms of his beloved antique, and Seema fought the craft as shudders wracked it. Vibrations from the steering gears tingled, throbbed, and finally shook her arms. In the passenger compartment, Natesha, her seven-year-old daughter, wailed, echoing Seema's fear: Without Arun, I cannot survive.
The ship's belly bumped the ground, rose up, and dove hard. Tearing metal shrieked louder than Natesha. Seema buffeted in her restraints as a series of booms shook what remained of the ship. Then it settled, hissing, to the ground.
She freed herself and raced through the chaos of debris to Natesha, who sagged against her restraints. Trembling hands touched her daughter's cheek, her neck. A pulse! Natesha's eyes fluttered. Seema's clenched body released, and she placed a kiss on her daughter's bruised forehead.
Tears welled in Natesha's eyes as Seema's hands flew over her, loosening her restraints.
"Daddy wouldn't have crashed us," her daughter said, then threw herself into her mother's arms and wept.