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"Fighters?! But that isn't possible!" Ray said with alarm.

They drifted closer and fired. Everyone was thrown forward a little.

Ashe growled behind the controls. "Ugh...the shields won't hold up forever!"

She turned to the left and back to right, attempting to elude the pursuers, but they were too fast. Lasers pelted the Dragonfly's rear. The ship's energy shields prevented damage, but they would deplete quicker with the more damage they took. One fired a missile. It connected, breaking what remained of the shield. Ashe continued to maneuver. "Just because I know how to fly does not make me a pilot!"

"Calm down Ashe! Focus!" Glenn attempted to calm her, but in the midst of the situation it seemed impossible.

"I don't know what to do anymore! I'm out of tricks!"

"Do something!"

"Shut up, Ray! Not now!"

"Figure something out, or else these fighters will have us rolling!"

Ray's eyes widened. "DO A BARREL ROLL!"

Ashe pitched the ship to a hard right. It began to flip over itself in a series of motions. Surprisingly the maneuver confused a missile into hitting the other fighter, destroying it on impact. The remaining jet grew more aggressive. Making use of themselves, the team opened the doors at the side and shot toward their attacker when they got a visual. They stayed away from the edges to avoid falling out while Ashe maneuvered. Ray stepped a bit closer to get a better shot. He managed to say far enough from the edge, but another missile caused the stern to rise suddenly, throwing Ray overboard.

Jace yelled, not realizing his radio was on. "Oh, sweet honey iced tea! Ray!"

Ashe's voice cut in suddenly. "What? Ray? What happened?!"

Glenn grunted. "He went overboard. We are low enough that he should be fine, but we can't turn back now. We need to lose this guy!"

Ashe hesitated, but continued to try to shake her attacker. She got an idea, but Glenn and Jace didn't foresee the stunt she was about to pull. "Glenn! Get those doors closed, NOW!"

"Ashe? Where the hell are you flying! You can't steer straight into a cliff!"

She said nothing, and stayed sharp. At the last minute, she tilted the ship sideways. Jace and Glenn were thrown toward the side. It was impossible to see earlier, but there was a narrow gap separating the cliff face, and Ashe flew right through unharmed. The other fighter had tailed too close and collided with the rocky cliff. Ashe circled back around, but the dense woods below made it impossible to see where Ray had fallen. Glenn huffed in frustration.

"We'd better head back. They'll have to dispatch a search party. We won't find him like this."




"You were WHAT?!" Shadus asked.

Jace looked down. "Yes. We were ambushed. And we lost Ray. He fell overboard. Not sure where he is or what condition he is in. He also had the Gem Claw."

"Never mind the Claw. We can find that later. We need to search for Mr. Hadron immediately! I'll contact the military officials!"

Shadus hit a button on his desk and a holographic screen pulled up in front of him. He looked up before tapping a few places on the screen.

"Ambushed by fighters? I don't believe I know of any type of alien able to pilot such a craft. This does not bode well......"

Glenn knit his eyebrows together. "I don't care what I have to do. Tell me what needs doing and I'll have him found."

Ashe said nothing and pretended to be interested in her Energy Glove.




Ray arose suddenly. With nothing but trees in sight and no idea as to where he was, he began to freak out. He took deep breaths and accessed his surroundings. He picked himself up off of the ground.

"Ow! Sonnuva...!"

His right arm seared with pain. Attempting to move it made it worse. Fractured. He carefully slipped his gauntlet back on. It would serve as a makeshift splint. He also noticed he'd still had the Gem Claw inside his bag. He didn't have much energy, but he attempted to walk. The GPS sensor in his helmet pointed him toward the northeast. Ray stopped when he heard rustling. He checked to make sure he had his weapons. He did, but being right-handed would make Collision unreliable. He drew the LIT07 he'd taken from the fallen Perseus soldier. Energy flies swarmed. Ray fired an nailed two right of the bat, but instead of returning fire, they launched themselves at Ray. They hit him from varying directions. It was already hard enough to shoot a close range target. He quickly changed weapons. His cutter was broken on one side, but still in good enough shape to be used. He started swinging randomly. He wasn't very coordinated left-handed but managed to whack quite a few. One hit him from behind and he fell forward. The Gem Claw fell out of his bag. He released his blade and grabbed the Gem. He attempted to rise despite his bombarding attackers.

"Stop! That's enough!"

Much to his surprise, the alien insects stopped their onslaught and hovered in place. He waved the claw in his hand, watching them follow it. They wanted the mithril! Ray got another idea.

"I am not your enemy. These guys are not your friends."

Seeming to listen to his words, energy flies turned and attacked one another without hesitation. Ray put the Gem Claw back into his bag, picked up his weapon and ran off. His adrenaline only carried him so far. Too weak to carry on, he dropped to his knees. His arm prevented him from crawling.

"Well Ray. At least we made it this far. But it cost us everything..."

He tried to keep his awareness for as long as possible. The last thing he noticed was an approaching figure. It appeared to be a man. The shadow stopped when it reached his position, and Ray's consciousness faded.




"I'm afraid we've lost transmissions from both pilots...my apologies my lord."

"I'm well aware they failed to deliver us the Gem Claw. But I do have insight that those operatives failed as well."

"I played back the cameras from one of the fighters. It appears one of them fell from their airship. Perhaps he had the Gem Claw?"

"It's no possibility. It's a definite answer. The military by now would have had the Gem Claw otherwise."

The hooded man cleared his throat. "That aside, how is production coming along?"

"Smoothly my lord. Soon they will all be ready."

"Good, very good indeed. Keep it up. The military is powerful, but they are blind to what is truly happening around them..."

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