The world was pain. Swirling all around his head, dim lights danced in his vision giving him the sense that he was tumbling through blackness. He tried to move, but his body would not respond. His body was not there, just a hollow shell of light, trapping his mind. Every time he tried to move beyond it, sharp rods would cut and rip at his fragile consciousness. He pushed until he could bare the pain no longer. Suddenly, as he was about to give up, the prison of darkness broke away under intense white light that flooded his senses. His body grew from nothing quickly as if reanimated by the light.
The light began to fade as Darius’ vision grew used to the stinging light. His skin felt like it was burning. Shapes began to form in front of him as his eye lids flickered, blinking away the haze, and formed the shape of a human. Then another. Trapped by pain, his body unable to move, Darius tried to shout for help. All that came from his mouth was dry air, he was unable to speak. Where was he? What had happened to him? He could not remember where he was, or why he was in pain. Unable to get up, or even move his head, his view was limited to where his body was pointed. Quickly he realized he was lying on his side on a hard cold floor. From what he could see, he was in a small room with several steel crates and barrels stacked against the opposite wall. There were two men in the room with him, both with their back to him. There was also a steel door at the far end of the wall to his right.
A small amount of feeling returned, and he was able to move his head slightly. His ears, though ringing at first, could make out quiet voices of the men in the room as they talked. The words were hard to make out in the conversation. Either they were speaking in their own tongue or he could not hear well enough yet. He focused harder and tried to move his arms. They were behind his back, and though he had some movement in them, his wrists felt stuck together. He was tied up. As he tried to gather more strength to struggle against his bonds, he made an involuntary grunt. One of the guards turned around and noticed he was awake.
“So you’re back in the land of the living then?” he asked. Darius was not too sure what was going on still, and his memory was still fuzzy. The guard sneered at him before turning back around. “Minmatar scum!” The guard quickly spun around again and punctuated the remark with a swift kick to his face. Darius’ vision flashed red with pain as he blacked out again.
Voices echoed in Darius’ mind, off in the distance. Laughter, anger, frantic voices danced back and forth, pulling Darius back to reality. His face was sore as he began to open his eyes. He tasted blood in the back of his throat. Other than that, he felt better than before. His skin still burned, though his limbs didn’t feel as numb as they had. He moved his head around to the direction of the voices that became less of a distant echo with each second that passed.
“Did you have to kick him in the face?” Said one familiar, gravelly voice.
“Why not sir?” That voice he knew. It was the man who had kicked him. “He’s going to get a lot worse in the future you know.” He tried to focus his eyes on the group in the room. It was a little larger now. There were five people in the room with him. He could make out the faces of the men. But only one he recognized. He had seen the man before.
“Don’t lecture me, boy!” Shouted the same man. He was obviously an authority over these men, who now shriveled under the admonishment they were getting. “The man said not to harm him, or the deal is off. And that is what will happen, do I make myself clear soldier?!”
“Yes, Major Tourval.” Tourval? Darius remembered that name. And he remembered he had to meet this man. What had happened then? Why was he tied up? The door to the room creaked opened and another man walked in. A thin, gangly man in a station uniform.
He was familiar too. The port master. Darius began to remember more now. He was shot by this man with some kind of energy weapon because… Ah. These men were Ammatar impostors, and they were all set to attack the Minmatar resistance he worked for. The port master walked over to Tourvel and spoke.
“Sir, he’s here.” The port master seemed different. He carried himself more confidently than he remembered and spoke more clearly with a precise edge to his voice, almost military like. How could he be so dumb as to fall for the innocent approach? All the while he had some form of stun weapon under his robes. Darius remembered it clearly now. He had overheard them talking about some data chips, hidden in his cargo, that contained details of a Minmatar resistance attack into this space that was being planned. Somehow, he needed to get out of here and warn Ramar. He could not help but wonder how those plans ended up in his cargo. Maybe someone at his home station was an Ammatar sympathizer? Or maybe someone in the resistance?
Darius’ head rolled back to face the floor as the door opened again. Both guards dismissed themselves leaving the port master, Tourvel and his two bodyguards in the room. They were greeted by another man who entered.
“Shit!” Proclaimed the newcomer, storming into the room. “What the hell happened!” That voice… surely not. Darius looked up again to see the man. Darius’ blood ran cold when he saw who the newcomer was. Ramar!
“I don’t know.” Replied Tourvel. “Somehow he figured us out.”
“Somehow?” Spat Ramar in anger. “What you mean is, you guys screwed up!”
“Shut up! This is my friend, understand? All I wanted was for him to do this job none the wiser and you guys screwed it up completely.”
“Yes, sir.” Was all Tourvel could say. Darius was confused. What was Ramar doing here? This had to be a mistake. “We cannot let him go though, knowing what he knows now.”
“I know, but he won’t be killed. I forbid it. Otherwise, you can kiss all the intel I have been feeding you goodbye from now on.”
“Understood. I figured as much that you would want him to live. But he must disappear. I have already taken the liberty of contacting a friend in the slave trade. He will see to it that he does not get in our way again.”
“I don’t want him beaten half to death either.”
“His methods are humane. He will be looked after, I guarantee it.”
“You had better.” Darius strained against the pain and began to sit up. Ramar looked at him, eyes filled with sorrow. “This wasn’t meant to happen, Darius. You should have just made this one run, then it would have been over when the real resistance cell tries to move in next week. They would have been destroyed quickly and the true rulers of Matar would have dealt a crippling blow to what has been a thorn in their side. And all the while, you would have been unaffected.”
“True rulers?” Darius croaked.
“Yes, Dar. You must understand, as I have come to. The Ammatar, and the Amarr, are superior to the Minmatar. Our people have been adrift ever since the rebellion and each day, more and more strife is witnessed in our borders. And this is only made worse by the so so-called freedom fighters’ and their dirty war against God.”
“You bastard!” Ramar only looked at Darius, still in obvious sorrow for what had happened. Ramar nodded to Tourvel and the others left the room.
“We could have still remained friends.” Continued Ramar as he took a seat next to Darius, still on the floor, but half propped up against the wall behind. “I still consider you a friend Darius. I am sorry it had to go this way, but I never intended for you to get this involved. If anything I gave you this assignment because it was of the utmost importance that the cargo be delivered with no problems. You were the only person I trusted. After this you would have gone back to your original assignments as normal.”
Darius could not reply. He was burning with rage, Every muscle in his body was tense as he wanted to reach out and crush the life from Ramar’s throat with his bare hands. He had been betrayed.
“How long?” said Darius, still croaky.
“I have always known, as all Minmatar do deep down.”
“You speak just like an Amarrian. That was not what I asked.”
“If you must know, I came to my senses while we were in the tech school. I had a debate with some guy in the military school one night. He was blood thirsty. Belligerent. I had never spoken to anyone like him. Like me, he was going to join a terrorist organisation…”
“Freedom fighters!” Retorted Darius in defence.
“Lets not debate that point, that depends on your perspective. This man wanted to join an organisation that had a sole purpose to kill all Amarr and Ammatar. I only wanted to bring an end to slavery. But it got me thinking you see. I began to wonder if people like him deserved to be enslaved. He was ignorant of the facts as all Minmatar are. The Amarr enslaved us because of this reason. Clearly we have not changed for the most part. Many of our people do not deserve freedom yet, we just abuse it as that man does. These people are Ammatar Secret Services. I have been working with them for three years.”
“So you rationalised betrayal? Good for you.” Said Darius sarcastically. Ramar looked at him for a few seconds. His eyes were clear and unperturbed. Darius’ eyes were burning with hatred.
Ramar stood to leave. “I don’t know what is going to happen next. Only that a slaver will be coming to take you to Amarr space. I am sorry about this. I wanted you to join me eventually. I thought you might be intelligent enough to understand what I do. But I guess that will not happen now. You don’t deserve to be enslaved, but it must be done. You are too much of a threat to us to be allowed to go free.” Darius straightened against the wall as his strength slowly continued to return to him. The two guards made their way back into the room as he opened the door to leave.
“I will kill you for this Ramar, from this day forth, we are blood enemies.” Darius punctuated his remark by spitting his own bloody saliva on the floor in front of him.
“Goodbye Darius. I shall pray for you.” Ramar closed the door behind, leaving the two guards with Darius once more.
Time passed by slowly, and quietly. The guards were sat over by the door, using one of the boxes for a table and small barrels for makeshift chairs. Darius slowly felt his strength coming back, fuelled by anger and a searing desire to kill the man that had left him, and his people, to rot. In his shuffling to get comfy on the hard floor, he felt something behind him scratch his hand. There was an old pipe running along the bottom of the wall where he sits. A part of it must be broken. He struggled to see behind him and as he did, he saw part of a broken clamp that holds the pipe to the wall. The edge had rusted away and become jagged. Maybe he could cut the rope with it? It was worth a try. Who knows how long he had before the slaver got here. Careful not to disturb the guards, he began to rub the thick rope against the jagged edge in an attempt to weaken the bonds.
After what seemed like forever, the rope began to feel looser around his wrists. But it was too late. The door opened once more, and an Amarrian entered the room with an Ammatar man in tow. Both guards quickly stood to attention and the Amarrian waved them out of the room. Obviously he was a holder of some sort. The Ammatar didn’t look as well kept. Most likely he was the slaver Ramar and Tourvel had spoken about.
“He seems in better condition than I had thought, for a terrorist that is.” Said the Ammatar. The holder said nothing and simply stepped closer to examine Darius. He had heard the storied of former slaves who would recount the times they were trotted out in front of wealthy Amarrian and Ammatar buyers and business men so they could be judged for purchase. Each one examined as if the holder was buying fruit at a market stall and was looking for a ripe pick. The very though disgusted Darius to his bones to think that he was being judged like some damned piece of food.
“He looks aggressive Krane.” Replied the holder.
‘Krane? Ah yes the fake name on the station records he signed. He must be a regular then.’ though Darius.
“He might be difficult to tame, I admit. But what slave isn’t?” Replied the Ammatar as he set his case on the crates. He opened it and removed a hypodermic needle gun, and a tube of clear silvery liquid. “But with the right persuasion, he will succumb as they all do.” The vial must contain the neural poison they inject into slaves. The same they had injected into his father when he was captured several decades ago. Damn them for it. He would not allow this.
“That’s fine,” continued the holder, “I want him a little aggressive, as long as he is obedient. He will make a fine training instrument at the academy to teach our young recruits how to fight in hand to hand. As long as he is obedient, it matters not.”
“That won’t be a problem sir.” While they were talking, Darius was still attempting to loosen the ropes behind him. His hands were still tangled in the ropes and it would take more strength than he possessed in his current state to break free.
“Very well, proceed then deliver him to my slave preparation centre once he is ready.” The Ammatar bowed to the holder who swiftly left the room.
“Stand up.” He demanded to Darius, who was still on the ground. Darius hesitated a little. If he stood, he would be out of reach of the jagged brace and unable to free himself. He didn’t know if he could break the ropes with his own strength. “If you do not stand, the poison will not spread quickly through your system.”
“And I’m sure we wouldn’t want that now would we?” replied Darius sarcastically, still frantically grating the rope against the jagged edge.
“Actually you wouldn’t, slave.” Slave! That burned Darius down to his soul to be called a slave. “If the poison does not spread evenly right away, then you would suffer from violent nausea, fever and possibly even death. But not before you choke on your own vomit. I have instructions to ensure that no harm comes to you. Now stand!”
Reluctant, Darius stood up. As he did, he noticed something on top of the boxes near the door he had not seen while down on the floor. His gun and knife. He strained against the ropes with all his might as Krane, the slaver, approached with the needle.
With a cry of pain and anger, Darius broke free of the ropes. The Ammatar recoiled for a second in surprise, and then lunged at Darius to try and subdue him. Darius quickly grabbed Krane’s wrist with the needle gun in it, twisted, and broke his arm. Krane screamed in pain as Darius bent his arm up, and stabbed the needle through Krane’s neck. The gun hissed as the poison rushed into his system. Darius grabbed Krane by his hair and smashed his fist into his face, breaking his nose and knocking him out. Krane landed in a heap on the floor, needle still in his neck, as Darius stepped over his body and made for his gun. Darius picked it up and checked it was still loaded, and not a moment too soon as the door to his right creaked, and the security guard came in to the room.
“You done yet Krane…” The guard went pale as he realised he was staring into the eyes of their captor, gun levelled at his chest, and Krane lying in a pool of blood on the floor behind. “SHIT!” The guard took a step back and started to step to the side behind the door frame while reaching for his stun rod when Darius fired a shell of ball bearings at him. The effect of this gun up close was not a pretty sight, as the guard flew backwards and crashed against the wall. Stray clusters of bearings smashed lumps out of the door frame and the wall behind the guard as his friend came rushing through the door, thrusting the stun stick in his direction. Darius, running on pure adrenalin, quickly side stepped the stick, grabbed the Ammatar’s arm and dragged him forwards, driving a knee into his gut. As the wind sharply escaped his lungs, he lost his grip on the stun stick dropping it on the floor as Darius delivered an elbow to the back of the man’s head, sending him to the floor. Suddenly the man’s body flashed with blue energy as he landed on his own charged stun stick, sending him into violent convulsions. Darius jumped away and towards the door, leaving the poor guard to fry.
The outside hallway led only to his left as he exited the room. The hallway was dotted with rooms either side, most likely either offices or storerooms not unlike the one that he had just escaped. As Darius made his way to the end of the hallway, it branched in two. The sign on the wall was written in Amarrian, and Darius could not entirely understand it. There were also universal symbols under the words that denoted he was in hangar section 6, the same that his ship was docked, and the dock itself was to the left. The Hallway to the right led towards hanger section 5 and was as much identical to this section. As Darius made his way to the door that leads to his hangar, a hiss from down the hall caught his attention. Dropping low, he spun the gun around, a figure at the end of the hall mirrored his movements with equal grace. Staring down the barrel of his gun, Darius glared deeply at his prey, Ramar. His soul ignited in rage; he wanted this man dead. Suddenly, and without warning, a figure rushed out of the side hall from the direction of his former prison. Darius wildly flung the gun around and, without quarter, fired a shell. The shot swung wide and tore chunks out of the wall behind the figure that was moving at incredible speed, slamming Darius against the wall behind. Through the chaos, Darius could see Ramar dash through the hangar door at the other side of the hallway as another blur swung towards Darius’ head. Darius raised his left arm up to protect his head as the blow struck home, knocking Darius off balance. Another blur came up from the floor but before he could react, a knee struck him in the gut. His grip on the gun weakened and his fell from his hand, clattering on the hard stone floor as another blow landed on Darius’ head, sending him to the floor in a dizzy tumble.
“You should have just stayed down and accepted defeat.” The voice was familiar and chilled Darius to his bones. Darius was slightly dazed and could not focus his concentration on anything but the voice, not noticing when he was dragged to his feet quickly as his vision faded to darkness from the sudden rush of blood to his head. Darius was running on instinct as he side-stepped another blow that struck thin air, and followed up with his own attack swiftly cutting down the assailant giving him chance to gain breath. He forced himself to focus on the figure dressed in a black and olive combat uniform as he regained his balance. The man turned around and Darius stared into the cold steel eyes of Tourvel. As quickly as that he lost sight of him again as he rushed Darius at lightning speed. Brutors were not known for their agility over their strength and Tourvel was clearly a professionally trained combatant. Darius managed to block the first punch, however the next two got through, again sending Darius reeling. He was indeed deceptively strong for his build. Darius gained his balance and thrust a kick upwards, only to be caught by Tourvel, twisted and thrown to the ground face first.
Tourvel lingered over Darius for several seconds to revel in the moment.
“I always wanted to pay you back for putting a gun to my head back on that filthy station, Darius.” Sneered Tourvel as Darius tried to get back up. “Do you think that you could actually beat a real soldier?” Tourvel stomped hard on Darius’ back, forcing him down on his face. “For that matter, do you really think that your pitiful rebel army stands a chance against a real army?” Tourvel kicked Darius again, hard in the ribs. Darius coughed up blood on the floor as his wind was forced from his lungs. “You could have lived as a slave, but now you shall simply die as a criminal.” Tourvel grabbed Darius with both hands to force him to his feet again, but Darius quickly rolled over on his back. He trapped both of Tourvel’s arms behind him with one hand, and withdrew his knife from under his coat with the other, driving it deep into Tourvel’s side. Tourvel was too stunned to scream in agony and his face simply creased in pain as Darius released his arms and kicked Tourvel’s weight off his knife. Tourvel stumbled back and fell against the wall, sliding down to the floor as Darius regained his footing and picked up his gun off the floor. Nursing his ribs, several of them most likely broken, Darius raised his gun as he and Tourvel locked eyes for the last time.
“You people talk too much Tourvel” stated Darius plainly before pulling the trigger, the sound of the shot echoing through the halls.
Ramar was long gone by now no doubt. His ship must have been docked in the next hangar and if so he is most likely no longer in this system. The sound of a klaxon reverberated through the station as Darius heard voices coming from down the hallway. Some more guards must have found the others back at the store room and called an alert. Darius quickly pressed the pad to open the door to his hangar, preying that his ship was still there. Sure enough, it was and Darius quickly boarded, locking the door behind him. Securing himself into his pod, Darius quickly powered up the systems and weapons of the ship. He feared that he might have to shoot his way out of the station perimeter as navy ships could well be circling the station any minute now. Darius activated the undocking protocols to release his ship from the gravity well when he got an error. He tried again, getting the error again. The ship must have been secured by station security with locked docking clamps, most likely after he was captured he presumed. He deployed the camera drone and moved it into position to survey the situation. Sure enough several clamps had been attached to the ship, anchoring it to the station.
Thinking quickly, he activated the weapons systems and selected the 425mm auto-cannon on that side of the ship, targeting the brace holding the clamp in place. Double checking the diagnostics to make sure the weapons had not been deactivated, the results came back green and quickly, Darius activated the cannon. A powerful burst of automatic cannon fire ripped through the docking bay with thunderous noise as titanium shells began to slice through the brace with each burst. Pieces of the hangar walls flew in all directions as stray shells struck the walls. On the corner of the view from his camera drone, several troops began to form on the gantry, firing man portable energy weapons at his Stabber. Pieces of his armour began to fail and Darius attempted to raise the shields, only to realise that this was not possible in stations due to built in fail-safes. Normally doing such a thing could cause damage to the station interior as the shield bubble would collide with the structure. As he panned the camera around to view them better, another troop entered the hangar with a portable rocket launcher strapped to his back and frantically began to assemble it. Without his shields he would suffer serious damage. Yet another reason why he was quickly beginning to hate station drop-offs.
Darius activated the forward gun turret under the cockpit area, the other 425mm auto-cannon, and aimed at the walkway where they were deployed. Quickly several of them dashed through the door into the cargo bay area as almost immediately the auto-cannon unleashed a deafening thunderous volley of titanium shells that chewed up the concrete gantry, sending up a cloud of dust and debris in their wake before the guns summarily jammed. At almost the same time, the first auto-cannon chewed through what was left of the last docking clamp, releasing his ship sending it lurching to the right before it stabilised. A flash of light in the dust cloud caught Darius’ attention as a short range rocket suddenly streaked out of the cloud towards his ship. Darius watched the rocket tear through the air on a tongue of ionised gas towards his ship as if it were in slow motion. At the last second, the rocket veered slightly upwards and narrowly scraped past his camera drone, hovering mere meters above his ship, as the small missile struck the wall on the other side of the station showering his ship with chunks of debris. Focusing his view on the dust cloud that was starting to clear, Darius saw that the rocket launcher trooper had survived the auto-cannon fire somehow and managed to fire a rocket blindly through the dust. Lucky his ship had moved since then or it would have struck the narrow support between the engine section and the bridge of his ship. He was already reloading another rocket. It was definitely time to leave.
Darius quickly turned the ship towards the closed airlock hatch. No doubt it too was locked by now. Having caused this much damage already what difference is a little more? Darius loaded his launchers with heavy missiles and, without bothering to lock a target, fired blindly at the hatch. The missiles struck the doors, blowing a large hole in them and decompressing the entire hangar section. The sudden pressure change sent his ship lunging forward towards the fiery explosion that quickly cleared to reveal a large hole in the door. A secondary emergency airlock was already starting to close around the hole in a bid to save the station from the decompression. Darius engaged his primary thrusters and quickly flew through the hole before the doors closed around it. The docking tunnel leading outside was rather lengthy but Darius could see that the outside doors were also closed. With equal contempt as the last, Darius launched two more missiles at the tunnel exit. The explosion ripped the doors clear off the side of the station, the fire quickly evaporating into the vacuum of space. Darius began to move the ship forwards quickly formulating his next move once out of the station. He expected that the stations guns would swiftly open fire as soon as he clears the docking ring. He would not have long to align for warp. However, before he could reach the exit, he caught sight of two, then three golden coloured ships moving into a firing position in front of the airlock exit.
“I can’t get clear in time to warp.” He mused to himself. “I would be cut down quickly.” Darius stopped the ship for a second short of the exit while he thought of a plan. Then he remembered warp physics debates in the tech school where they discussed ways of sending a ship into warp without entering a co-ordinate into the navigation computer. It was theoretical but could be done. His ship would simply warp in a straight line past the blockade. Though it had to be short otherwise his warp drive could fuse and he would be stranded here. Darius quickly set to work as the Ammatar security ships became impatient and began firing lasers towards the tunnel, striking the sides of the docking port and slicing off chunks of metal.
As Darius engaged his warp engine, the ship began to quickly move towards the edge of the port, striking pieces of floating debris in his path each accompanied by a hollow clunk. The lasers were becoming more focused now and began to tear into the armour sending warning messages flashing before his eyes as vital systems started to take damage. Then, with a violent and resounding shudder, the ship was thrust forward and cleared the docking ring taking forever in a split second to pass the blockading ships, whose lasers were still striking the docking tunnel behind him. A warp corridor wrapped around the ship as he was propelled faster with several chunks of debris caught in tow, some pieces from the station others from his own ship. Shortly after the stabber forced its way out of the warp tunnel, rattling painfully as it decelerated. Coming to a gliding halt, the ship lurched slightly to the side as the thrusters engaged, one of them damaged by a final laser blow and now directing its thrust to the side. Darius shut the engines down, stabilised the trajectory of the ship and assessed the damage.
Getting away from the station was not easy, and it was do doubt about to get more difficult from here onwards. It would not be long now before the system is locked down by the navy. If he stood any chance of escape at all, he would have to move fast.