Penumbra – Part 4: Dangerous Skies6th July 200711th March 2018Iron Wolf

Darkness once more. It was becoming all too common a sight. This was somehow different. He could sense something different in the air, though he could not focus enough to determine what it was. He could not remember where he was or how he got there. But he was… comfortable, somehow. Warmer. Clothing… he was wearing clothes. He had forgotten how they felt. Clean. He was clean too. All rewards from his master. His mentor. The man who had shown him the way. And the man who had shown him his enemy.

He was not alone either. In the darkness behind him, several guards stood their silent vigil. A hum, there it was. His mind was waking to the world around him now. A light? It was dim, orange, above the… door? A door ahead of him. The light barely illuminated the small cubicle room which felt… yes there it was. The room was moving down. And elevator. He was inside an elevator cart, large enough to be a freight elevator. His returning senses further began to realize the situation around him, resolving in gradually hardening detail as he slowly regained full consciousness.

The elevator continued to descend through the bowels of the station with a gentle hum. The cart eventually stopped at the destination floor and the doors in front of them parted to reveal a docking area. His eyes were more suited to the dim orange light in the elevator making the brighter lights beyond a little more bearable for him having adjusted more from… he had no idea how long he was in darkness, now he thought about it. He had always been in darkness. He had been shown a light and the way to redemption for his soul that lay beyond it. In the hangar, several ships were being moved from one section to another via gravity lifts, while others were being fitted with new weapons. There was so much life in front of him, so much activity, that all he could do was simply stand and stare, like a wide-eyed child looking upon something new and grand for the first time. As amazed as he was, it somehow seemed familiar to him. Like a distant life from an age long since past. He tried to remember, compelled by something instinctual to try and force the memory to the surface, to embrace it once more. A sudden rush of nausea overwhelmed him as he tried to remember. A face flashed in front of him, showing visions of death and pain. He went weak at the knees and began to fall, held up by the guards behind him.

“Sir,” shouted one of the guards to an approaching Brutor crossing hangar deck. He came jogging over, shaking his head at the scene in front of him. “Looks like he’s having another episode,” remarked the guard. The other man crouched level with his face and clasped his head firmly in the palms of his hands, lifting his head up and looking into his eyes. His forehead felt damp with sweat and his temples were throbbing as his eyes darted back and forth frantically, as if he were lost in a waking nightmare.

“Look at me young one,” he said, firmly but with no hint of anger. “Remember why you are here. Remember your mission. Trying to remember anything else will only bring you pain again. I don’t want that.” The young man began to calm down, his breathing slowed again. “There is nothing else but the mission.”

“Th…t….” he swallowed hard.

“Say it.”

“There is….” He struggled to compose the words. “…is nothing else…but the mission.” The man released the young one’s head and stood up, contently.

“Are you strong enough to stand?” He waited for a reply. “Show me you are strong enough. I have no time for the weak. You’re not weak are you?”

“No sir….”

“Make me believe it.”

“No sir,” he said again, stronger. “I’m not weak!” He growled.

“He thinks you are!”

“I’M NOT WEAK DAMN IT!” He shouted as he drove a fist against the ground with a powerful thud.

“Then stand up! That’s an order!” The guards let go of the man as he growled and stood on his own.

“Thank you, sir. You have shown me the way to the light of redemption, and the face of my true enemy.”

“You’re welcome, young one. And what have I told you about calling me sir?” He stepped up to his face and smiled. “Call me Ramar.”

The bar was clean, and that was in every definition of the word, including with regards to furniture. It was typical Caldari modern deco design. The tables were long and thin, with bar stools that could be best described as polished metal tubes sticking out of the ground, padded thinly with dark mock leather. Against the walls, smaller couches were recessed into alcoves set no more than a foot from the edge of the wall, with a low table set in front of them and no opposing facing chairs. On his arrival, Darius had attempted to take a place at one of these, not fancying the uncomfortable looking stools in the middle of the room. It quickly became clear they were not designed with Minmatar patrons in mind, especially a Brutor that stood at nearly seven feet tall. His head was uncomfortably close to the top of the curved alcove and he was barely able to maintain a full seat on the chair that was set too low to the ground. Quite frankly, the seats were bloody awful. He chose instead to stand at the bar, catching a glimpse of several Caldari males sitting perfectly in a wall booth snickering at him after his comical attempt to fit into one of those booths. The way he was feeling, it took surprising amounts of restraint to stop himself from heading over there and ensuring that he spent a night in the station’s security cells. Only the speculation that they were most likely as sparsely furnished and uncomfortable as this bar kept him from doing so.

What was beginning to anger him more was that he still didn’t know who he was waiting for or how long he should wait, except that it would be a woman. While he waited, Darius took the time to sample some of the different drinks served here. He rarely visited Caldari stations, and when he did he didn’t bother with the bars. They were un-lively and sterile places, with little defining character to them. Everywhere you went, they looked nearly the same. There were no distinguishing features, as if they had been taken the same section over and over and dropped into the middle of the station. He had been told that Caldari people found this ‘familiarity’ with their surroundings where ever they go to be comforting. To Darius, it was the hallmark of an unimaginative race. Hard to believe that they once shared the same existence with the Gallente. No wonder there was a war. A Gallente bar must seem positively hostile and intimidating to a person who would find this kind of setting to be comfortable. And on a personal level, he felt uncomfortable here and wanted to get this meeting over with as soon as possible.

He scrutinized the light green liquid in the tall thin glass before swilling it down. It was slightly bitter, but he could feel the strength of the alcohol none the less. The sound of fingernails drumming the bar next to him broke his attention. He looked to his side to see a young woman, a Brutor woman with braided red hair, staring at him with a smile. So this must be her.

“What took you so long?” He asked, with a frown clearly resting on his face. She, however, had a smug grin on her face that somehow aggravated him. She was even more annoying in person than over a comms channel, and she had not said a word yet.

“You really have your guard down for a fighter,” she jibed. “I have been standing here for nearly a minute now.” He returned his attention to the bar in front of him and growled under his breath. She extended a hand to him. “I never introduced myself. Shay’la.”

“How about we just get down to business?” He responded curtly, ignoring her handshake offering. “You said Chiron needs help with something. What?”

“No,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I said that I need help with something. You’re not living up to me expectations Darius. Chiron said you were quick on your toes.” He growled again, this time more audible and accompanied by a slow and frustrated grinding of his teeth. “OK, I can see you are losing patience with me so I will cut the chit chat now. For the last three years, I have been working deep undercover in Ammatar space.” The word Ammatar caught Darius’ attention. “My main focus has been to monitor their cross-border activities into Minmatar space. Several months ago I stumbled on something that will not surprise you. The Ammatar have been sponsoring black operations to kidnap Minmatar civilians for their slave camps.”

“Yeah, any Minmatar could take a wild guess at that. Chiron even has contracted me to destroy such raiding fleets. Of course, the Ammatar claim they are rogue elements each time.”

“Yes and, in Chiron’s case, more than likely that information came from either me. Or several of my fellow undercover operatives and other such sources within the Ammatar government and military who are… less than pleased with the state of the government. But what you won’t have heard from Chiron is what they are capturing people and enslaving them for. Haven’t you ever wondered why they need to risk war with the Republic by kidnapping people from their beds at night when their own slave farms can produce more than enough life to meet demand in the Amarr Empire?” Darius lingered on that thought for a moment. Admittedly, he hadn’t even thought of that.

“OK, tell me why.”

“Well, the majority go to slave breeding farms to keep new blood in the pens, so to speak, or are sold by these farms to Amarrians directly. However, I have been involved with one group that has not been making any money from the raids at all. And the slaves that are taken in disappear without a trace. Naturally, I decided to dig a little deeper.” Darius stood staring at the bar blankly while he took in the information. “What I found has major implications for all slaves, and former slaves. These people are being injected with various modified Vitoc injections that have been altered somehow in their chemical makeup. In short, the overall goal is to ensure total loyalty from their slaves through the use of drugs to facilitate brainwashing.” Darius blinked and looked at her puzzled.

“I thought that was the whole idea behind the Vitoc they currently have in the first place. The antidote gives a pleasant feeling, not taking it results in weeks of pain before death.” This was a fact Darius knew about all too well. His ordeal in Ammatar custody, not to mention the information on the side effects of the injection given to him by the slaver, Krane notwithstanding, His own father had died of Vitoc poisoning when the toxin would no longer accept the antidote synthesized by the Gallente doctors. From the moment his father was injected by the cruel Amarrian holder, that fate was sealed.

“Yes, but the loyalty mainly lies towards those that have the antidote. OK, those born in slave farms may have a little more loyalty because it is all they know. But those that have been captured into slavery are a little more unruly. Though they will obey if their life depends on it, if they are freed by someone like you, they will happily live their life back home as long as they have enough antidote. It’s this that they want to eliminate.”


“They are attempting to make a new Vitoc that will suppress the areas of the brain that govern free will. Not only will they become slaves in body, but slaves in mind as well. This will eliminate unruly slaves who have been kidnapped and make them easier to train. Not to mention the propaganda gained from reports about slaves being freed by fighters like your comrades only to claim they have been kidnapped and wish to return. Even having antidote will not change that.”

“Sounds to me like it’s too late to make a difference,” he mumbled.

“Actually, no. They have not got the formula right yet. Unfortunately, the people who have been tested on so far have not proven useful. They either died from the poison when the antidote failed to work, or simply left to die when the batch in testing failed to show the results they were after.” Darius grimaced. He remembered the stories his Uncle told him when he was younger about the way his father died. Even then, words could not paint the full horror.

“So, what has this got to do with me? What do you need my help for?”

“Because of who is running the black ops program to kidnap people. An old friend of yours, Ramar.” Darius’ head snapped round and looked her in the eyes. “I know about your history together. How would you like to finish your business with Ramar? My orders are to bring him in alive, but nothing would give me more pleasure than to see him dead. After all, I am not defying orders if a ‘third party’ gets in the way and kills him before I can bring him in, right?” She winked at him with that same, mischievous grin to emphasize her point. After a moment’s thought, Darius looked back to the bar again.

“You asked me to come with you, simply because you want to help me avenge my brother’s death? Apart from doing the right thing, what do you want out of it?”

“Darius, if he is taken down, we could set back his kidnapping business for months. That would give us enough time to mount a covert strike on the Vitoc research facility and destroy the research while they are busy with administration matters. I don’t have to tell you that many have suffered greatly in this place in the name of their research. It’s barbaric at best.”

“You didn’t answer my question. Apart from my connection with Ramar, why me?” She didn’t answer. For the first time, he could see hesitation on her face. Darius fronted a fake smile as he lifted his weight off the bar. “OK, lots of luck then. I have other things to attend to.” He began to walk towards the door, when she turned after him.

“He’s not dead,” she shouted across the bar over the moderately quiet music. Darius looked back at her for a second, still making his way towards the door.

“Who?” The question came idly.

“Your brother, Kordan.” Darius stopped. He wasn’t even sure he had heard her right. “Kordan is alive Darius. He’s going to be transported to the research facility tomorrow. This is your last chance to have your brother back. After that, he’s gone forever.”

Maggot set himself down in the office on the comfy looking sofa to the side of his desk. In his hand was a small datapad containing details of a raid that was being planned for the next day. In his other hand was a cup of hot coffee fresh from the pot at the other end of the room. It was synthetic coffee and tasted like liquid plastic, but it was a hot drink none the less. For that alone, Maggot was grateful. It had been a long day, and he was considering calling it an early night. The only thing that stopped him was the simple fact that he had to review their tactics for the fight. It was something that he prided his fleet on. Many times they had been commended by both allies and enemies alike for their ability to be creative in battle. Sometimes it did not go the way they wanted, other times it worked a treat sending the enemy deftly into the jaws of defeat. Maggot was absolutely sure that adaptation was the key to defeating the Amarr. An old phrase that had served him well was that those that do not adapt, die with time.

His concentration was broken by a dull beeping noise from his desk. He groaned to himself, not finding the energy to stand, and simply used his data pad to connect to the terminal and view the message. Maggot read the message intently, his mood growing darker with each word. He closed the message down and sat motionless for a second, as if suppressing the desire to scream in frustration. In an instant, his plans had gone awry. He had no other choice, though. He had to act.

He opened his communication line to his second in command, Zoolkhan, and waited for a reply. In seconds, Zoolkhan answered, half-dressed and without his trademark sunglasses. There was the sound of a woman giggling in the background. He should have known.

“Maggot?” He asked, somewhat bewildered. “Now’s…not a good time old friend.”

Another giggle came from the side of the camera.

Two Girls? Thought Maggot. How does he…?

“Sorry Zool,” he replied, shaking off the thought. “We have to gather the fleet. Now.” Zoolkhan looked at Maggot with a mix of confusion and frustration. “We have a pilot heading into trouble. I get the feeling he will need to be picked up before the enemy grab him.”

“Who is it?” Maggot paused for a second and cocked an eyebrow. Zoolkhan frowned and shook his head. They both know who the only pilot out at the moment was. Everyone else was in their bunks in Pator. “Destination?”

“Get the fleet assembled and head down to Odatrik. Hold just short of entering Ammatar space until the shit hits the fan.” Zoolkhan frowned in frustration.

“That boy is getting to be more trouble than he’s worth,” commented Zoolkhan flatly before terminating the comm link.

Darius studied the picture on the pad Shay’la had given him. It was not pretty at all. A man’s head dominated the image, obviously Minmatar, but distinctly missing a large part of his jaw bone. He tossed the pad back to her and shrugged.

“I guess I could recognize him,” he started “If he were all there that is. Shay’la chuckled and tapped the pad before handing it back to him.

“That’s his employment file photo,” she continued “Before our security strike team apprehended him. Take another look.” Once again, Darius studied the face. He finally nodded in recognition.

“He used to be one of the deck crew assigned to my old corp. So why was he arrested?

“When Kordan was killed, Chiron put much effort into finding the people responsible. After all, it was an attempt on your life.”

“I know, she has already told me this.”

“Right. Well, when they tried again by destroying your ship in the hangar at Pator, she looked into possible leads on who was responsible. Chiron ordered a covert snoop of his quarters since he was the only man not there on that day when your ship blew and we found some evidence that he tampered with the pod’s self-destruct system. Obviously, it was meant to blow with you in it, but the unfortunate crew member running a diagnostic on your pod seemed to have triggered it early. Further digging traced this operation to Ramar himself. But that only confirmed what we already guessed.” Shay’la paused a second to let Darius think a moment. He finally broke the silence.

“What I don’t get is, he said in the message to Kordan thinking he was me, and that he wanted to ‘enlighten’ me. How would killing me do that? And how is it that Kordan is alive? His pod debris was recovered from the area by Chiron’s people and his clone was triggered, so clearly his pod was breached.”

“That’s where this gets interesting. Do you know how the pod actually works? How the brain patterns get from the pod to your cloning center billions of kilometers away?” Darius shrugged. In truth, he did not know entirely. “The signal is relayed from one cloning station to the other via faster than light comms. While cloning center computers are rather hard to break into, it is not impossible. Especially at the source. Someone, and we don’t know who, broke into one of the cloning centers between Kordan’s ship in Audensder and the target cloning center in Pator. The signal would have gone through several relay jumps before reaching there. According to the computer records, his brain pattern was intercepted halfway there, and a jumbled mess was sent in its place.”

“How do you know this?”

“Firstly, the tampering was detected and investigated by a separate department. At the time, no flags were raised on the matter due to the lack of information and the events were not linked. Secondly….” She hesitated for a second. “It’s something that we would do as well.”

Darius lifted himself off the bar and looked at Shay’la.

“OK, I’ll help you. Just tell me the plan.”

“Not here,” she replied. “Let’s get into space first. I have a ship in the next bay to yours. Meet me out of dock.” Shay’la quickly turned from the bar and walked to the exit. Darius watched her leave a second. Maybe a second too long as she looked back at him, and then winked. He diverted his eyes, almost embarrassed. He found her annoying and arrogant. She was even a little cold hearted in a way. The way she talked about her work as an agent, the people being enslaved, the experiments being conducted, it seemed almost like she was talking about an average holo-reel she had just seen. But something was different about her, something attractive. He pushed the thought aside for now, realizing he didn’t have time to think about it at the moment, and waited a little longer before heading towards the docking bays housing his ship.

The sound of the cargo ramp opening on the heavy frigate barely reached them as they approached the ship. The fine engineering that went into its construction was evident in every aspect. Ramar stood short of the ramp to admire the ship, a Vengeance class assault frigate. Based on the hull of the venerable Punisher frigate, the Vengeance was a powerful ship, delivered to the hands of the Amarrians to do God’s will. Ramar looked to his side, and his charge, Kordan. He was not fooling himself. Kordan was far from enlightened, or at least what Ramar would consider as ‘truly enlightened’ given the means of his current state of mind. Brainwashed was more accurate a description. And it was far from what Ramar would have had planned for Darius had his people not failed to check the identity of the pilot of that frigate. The plan was simple really. Lure Darius out to a system of their choice, destroy his escape pod, and intercept the neural pattern. It all worked except for one little glitch. Darius was not doing the mission. It took them a while to figure out what had really happened when they uploaded the neural pattern to the clone they had prepared, using a sample of Darius’ tissue they had taken while he was their captive. It was a strange feeling to be stood next to his old friend, yet it was not the same person.

“Time to go,” he said to Kordan. He would have his uses yet. It was a sad situation, but one that had to be played out none the less.

Darius and Shay’la exited the other side of the jump gate in the system of Kenobanala, controlled by the Ammatar. Shay’la had switched to a smaller interceptor class fighter. Much faster than Darius’ wolf, her Stiletto was forced to wait at each gate for him to catch up. As their ships emerged from jump, an ominous sight of an Ammatar fleet Armageddon loomed over them. As if she had felt his tension over the comms link, Shay’la told Darius in their secure channel to ignore them, and assured him that they would not attack.

Together, they would make a good team. Shay’la had briefed him on the plan of attack on their way down. She would hold his ship in place while Darius would kill it with his larger array of weapons. Even then, it was not without risk. Shay’la, having inside information on the transfer, told Darius that Ramar had acquired several assault ships of his own, all Vengeance class Punishers. While not being able to move would hurt his chances, Ramar would still be able to fire his own weapons.

They moved towards the next gate in the system that led to the Bimener system. Their target system of Khabi was just beyond that. That is where they would attack. Ramar would make a stop over in orbit of the fourth planet, and await an escort from there to the surface where the facility was set up. Shay’la had already seen to it with her other assets that the escort would not make it there alive. All that was needed was to kill Ramar. And, as with the escort, ensuring he would remain dead was also in place, and would give him a taste of his own medicine as it were.

And, she thought to herself, both Darius and I will have our revenge.

The system of Khabi was upon them quickly, and Darius followed Shay’la to the fourth planet. On arriving, Darius could see from orbit that the planet was a dense jungle climate. His sensors read that the geology was harsh, covered with mountainous regions that would rival that of northern Matar. Virtually the entire northern continent was split between east and west by a range of sheer cliff edges, some over one thousand meters in height and several kilometers across. His comms line beeped again and he opened the secure channel with Shay’la.

“Darius,” she began, “I have just been informed that Ramar’s escort ships were successfully ambushed two systems from here. They didn’t even have a chance to get a warning out, so all is going as planned.”

“Excellent,” he answered with no hint of joy. “So, we wait for Ramar now?”

“Yes. We will take our revenge.…” She quickly trailed off mid sentence and went quiet. Darius quickly picked up on her comment.

Our revenge? He pondered. What did Ramar do to her?

Darius was going to press the question to her about what she meant but was cut short by his tactical overview flashing a warning informing him that a ship had just arrived on the sensors.

“It’s Ramar!” shouted Shay’la, pushing her interceptor to top speed and closing on him. This was the moment of truth.

“Hold him for me,” commanded Darius. “He’s mine!”

Darius swooped onto his target as Shay’la was already orbiting Ramar’s Vengeance. The distinct blue haze surrounded the ship, indicating his engines were jammed with a webifier. Ripples of light flashed across the expanse of space between Ramar and Shay’la as laser beams struggled to catch the faster and stealthy Stiletto. Darius began to fire his autocannons at the Amarrian ship, pelting it with phased plasma rounds that had little problem eating the shields of the enemy assault ship. Quickly, the lasers tracked towards his ship now, the energy beams crackling against his shields. Darius smiled as he checked his systems. The beams were damaging, no doubt about that, but the modifications made to the shields by Boundless Creation ensured that damage specifically from lasers would be absorbed much more effectively than standard shields. He would win this fight, he would get his brother back, and Ramar would finally be dead.

All debts will be repaid this day. Thought Darius.

As quickly as Darius became sure of victory, a blinding burst of energy quickly filled the dark backdrop of space as a massive explosion cut a disk of energy and fire through the void. Darius felt a wash of triumph through his soul as the vessel exploded…

“Darius!” shouted Shay’la, with some urgency, “I have to break off!”

“But we got him….” He stopped short of finishing his sentence as a glance at his scanners revealed Ramar’s ship was still there, and picking up speed fast towards the planet. Another burst of energy filled the camera drones view, washing over Shay’las ship and hurling it away like a child would throw a toy it was no longer entertained by across the room.

“He has a smart bomb! I can’t stay in range of my webifier!” She pulled further away from Ramar, and out of range of the blast as a third pulse emanated from Ramar’s ship.

Damn you! He cursed, as he set a course to pursue.

“I can still jam his warp core,” said Shay’la, “But he’s heading towards the planet surface. He won’t be able to use his smart bomb in the atmosphere, but I won’t be able to use my webifier either.”

“He must die!” He shouted over comms. “I’m following him through the atmosphere. Get ready to move in close once he is within the atmosphere of the planet.” What was he doing? Giving the orders. It was Shay’las mission after all. Never the less, she responded immediately that she understood, her cold tone showing no hint of offense at him taking over suddenly.

The shields began to fade as both ships crossed into the dense upper atmosphere of the planet, forming a bubble of hot particles in front of the shields energy perimeter like a plate of fire. Ramar’s ship was closing into weapons range, before it suddenly dove near vertical towards the planet. Darius and Shay’la overshot his ship slightly. Darius reacted and threw his Wolf into a nose dive through the remaining atmosphere layer, ignoring the warning shouts and protests of his ship, warning of excessive heat build up. His shield strength plummeted rapidly, and the structure of the ship began to groan as gravity took a firm hold of the ship, like a clenched fist, and pulled him towards the surface of the planet. The warnings subsided as his ship entered the thin air below the edge of space, and the shields began to cool, now at less than fifteen percent capacity, but recharging quickly. Had he lost shields on entry, his ship would have no doubt burned up in seconds. Only the advanced shields’ resistance to heat saved him. Shay’la, now in the atmosphere, was adjusting her course to match, but was nearly a hundred kilometers behind them. She was forced to maintain her angle of attack on entry to keep the heat low since she could not survive the levels of heat that Darius’ ship could. He adjusted his course to match Ramar, who was still diving for a large ridge line covered in a canopy of green forest below them.

The two ships were in freefall, at the mercy of gravity as their ships continued to pick up speed. The gap was closing between them as Ramar was forced to pull his ship out of the dive. Waves of air buffeted across the sleek hull of the Amarrian ship as it changed course. Darius matched again, still closing quickly. The air around his ship whistled as the Wolf lunged through the air towards its prey, almost as bloodthirsty as its pilot. The turret positions on Ramar’s ship pivoted to the rear and opened fire. Darius began to roll his ship away from the laser’s beams, and fired his own autocannons in response. The bullets peppered the back shields as Ramar’s lasers failed to score a hit. The fool had waited too long and now Darius was too close for the lasers to do him much harm. Streaks of light sliced through the air behind him and dissipated in the air as the moist atmosphere thinned the laser’s power.

A second barrage of bullets from behind Darius struck the upper shield area of Ramar’s ship. Darius panned the camera drone around him and saw that Shay’la had caught up with them and was now firing her weapons. They were quickly approaching the ground below them, now less than a kilometer below. Explosions pockmarked the armor plates of Ramar’s ship, blasting off chunks of metal. An engine caught fire and the ship began to list heavily before wobbling off course and finally giving into a flat spin. The Vengeance suddenly flared upwards, instantly bleeding off airspeed like a giant airbrake. A collision alert sounded in Darius’ senses as he instinctively threw the Wolf into a diving roll, narrowly avoiding an impact with the flaming debris. He shot past the stricken assault ship, rattled by the resulting explosion in his wake.

“I’m hit!” Shouted Shay’la. Darius checked his camera and saw her Stiletto trailing fire and losing altitude. Just beyond her, a beacon light was flashing in the sky and began to plummet towards the jungle below.

“I see your pod. I’ll set down and pick you up.”

“I haven’t ejected yet,” she said flatly. A second later, her pod popped out of the bottom of her ship and also fell to the jungle. “OK genius, now I have eje….” Her comms line cut into static as the pod impacted in the jungle canopy sending a cloud of dirt above the dense greenery. Her Stiletto self-destructed seconds later in the distance, disintegrating mid-air. Darius slowed his ship and circled back towards the pod drop locations. There was very little room to put his ship down near Shay’la. But there was also the other pod. It had to have been Ramar. There was a clearing five hundred meters to the east of his pod drop location. He moved the ship over there and began to execute a landing sequence. He thought back to the scene of the explosion. He had not seen anything else escape the ship. No cargo containers had been dropped before the explosion. His sensors didn’t pick up anything else other than debris around the area, but there was no sign of Kordan.