Cade fired what remained of the thrusters at full throttle and was treated to a final burst that pushed the ship in the opposite direction of its spin. That, combined with the stabilizers being stretched to their maximum limits, worked to bring an end to the Dawn's spinning. Metal shrieked and groaned as the ship fought against its own momentum until, finally, it came back under control. The ship was still free-falling, though, and Cade knew he didn't have a whole lot of time to solve this problem.
Meanwhile, Tristan unbuckled his restraints and carefully got up from his seat.
"What do you think you're doing?" Cade asked, agitated.
"I actually read that damage report, Cade. Our landing gear is stuck. I know it seems futile to fix that, but I figure it's best to have it working—just in case."
Tristan clambered out of the cockpit just as the Dawn began to violently stutter. Cade looked through the muddy viewport and watched as the ship, at last, escaped from the minefield for good. Below, the moon's soft light did a poor job of providing surface visibility, but Cade got a good enough eyeful to know he didn't have all day to figure out how to get out of this mess. Opaque darkness began to gain clarity as the ship hurtled closer to the ground, revealing a long, indistinct swath of brown and green. Cade gripped the stick and pulled back, hard, though it was of no use; gravity had the ship tightly in its grasp, and what was left of the thrusters was already screaming.
Cade had an idea. It was crazy, he knew that, but crazy was a big improvement over certain death. Turning to the dashboard's control panel, he worked his fingers over the ship's status report, getting a comprehensive picture of its vital functions. In front of him, Quarry's topography began to take shape: canyons, riverbeds, and valleys, every stitch of it barren. It was a wasteland just waiting to become Cade and Tristan's final resting place.
All of the ship's essential operations were functional, kind of, except for the rear propulsion engine, which was exactly what Cade anticipated. With a couple of taps on the control panel's touch screen and a double confirmation that this was really what he wanted to do, Cade disabled every other engine. The Dawn groaned like an aggrieved power generator being terminated against its will, and what little bit of resistance the thrusters had offered against the free fall stopped.
Cade's beloved Horizon Dawn was now dropping from the sky. And starting to spin again.
Behind him, Cade heard the cockpit door slam open; using whatever parts of the ship he could grab on to for purchase, Tristan climbed back into the copilot's seat and slapped his harness home.
"What happened to the engines?" he gasped, winded from the exertion of moving about the turbulent starship.
Cade could feel the heat accumulating at the front of the ship, the atmosphere's friction causing flames to spark around its nose. Ahead, a forest populated by black, dead trees rose from the ground like a line of jagged teeth protruding from the maw of a hideous beast. It couldn't have been placed in a more perfect spot. "The engines?" Cade absentmindedly replied as he mentally ran the numbers calculating the ship's rate of descent and their distance to the forest. "Oh, yeah. I killed the engines."
"You what?!" Tristan howled.
Cade shot open the emergency flaps and fired the reverse thruster to get the ship better angled for its approach. He then called up the engine's manual-override screen. "You got the landing gear down, right?" He had to yell now over the noise of the ship melting around him.
"Yes, but that was when I thought you were going to avoid crashing!"
Cade ignored his brother's comment as he prepared to punch a maximum burn to all engines, grinning at this moment of unbridled lunacy.
The very tops of the trees came blistering into view, looking charred and awful. Cade still felt that a hideous monster was just waiting to loose itself from the ground and swallow the Dawn whole. But it wouldn't like the taste of what he was going to do next. He jammed his finger into the control panel's override command, sending maximum thrust bursting out of each of the ship's engines.
The Dawn heaved against its own momentum, pasting both Cade and Tristan to the back of their seats. A hostile swaying motion seized control of the ship, rocking it in every direction as if it were trapped in an ocean current, while the engines, overwhelmed by the sudden jolt of power, tried to find their level. They were still plummeting to the ground at a terrifying rate, but at least now they were flying forward. Cade just had to land before the full power burned out the engines for good. That would be bad. If those engines failed, the landing would be a lot less horizontal
than he would've hoped for. People might even say he crashed.
As the ship fishtailed through its landing vector, Cade engaged the landing vanes—hoping they wouldn't be torn off the ship—and braced for impact with the forest below.
"Cade! We're coming in too hot!" Tristan yelled as he clutched the safety belts that ran over his chest.
This excerpt ends on page 15 of the hardcover edition.