This story is part of the Nihil Rifles Cycle

Meanwhile inside the shuttle, lieutenant Dremmen was working franticly to guide the shuttle himself towards the planet surface. Even though the shuttle was built to keep at least four people, it was still small - and Dremmen felt the panic racing in the back of his mind, waiting to break free. He had never found himself comfortable in small spaces, and this shuttle was certainly no exception.

He threw another glance towards his bag, easily for the fifth time that minute - to make sure that he had it with him. He smiled, thinking about all the hassle he had been through just to get his hands on the little cylindrical object that was now resting within it.

Little beads of sweat was running down his back, but he wasn't bothered by it. He moved over to the control panels and checked the core temperature in the engine. It seemed normal, as far as he could tell - he wasn't really used to the instruments.

A red light lit up, and on the screen, a warning message was displayed. Someone was trying to establish radio contact with him. He reached for something that looked a lot like a transponder, flipped it on and punched in four digits. It completely jammed all transmission to and from the shuttle. Now, nobody could see where on the planet the shuttle was heading.

Back on board Raivas, Fleet Marshall Mergos was trying to sort out his thoughts. Who had launched shuttle #12? Why in the world would anyone do that just a day before planet fall? His mind raced, but he felt sluggish from the wine and couldn't think as clearly as usual.

"It could have been a malfunction," he told himself and looked up. "But why would all the transmissions be jammed then?" He continued, and thinking out loud made it easier for him to see things clearly. He stood up, and started walking towards the bridge's door. He stumbled out in the hallway, as he felt another rush from the wine - or rather, the amasec, and almost fell down. He staggered, but grabbed hold of the wall before he fell. He coughed, but managed to push back the nausea. "Never again..." He thought to himself, as he started to make his way down the hallways as fast as he could.

Captain Rukal, chief of transmissions and communications on board Raivas, was sleeping soundly in his quarters. Mergos entered, and the clanging sound of his boots woke up Rukal, who wasn't a heavy sleeper at all. He was also sober, since he had a shift in just a few hours.

"Sir...?" Rukal asked, rubbing his eyes.

"On your feet, captain. Report in on the bridge in ten minutes!" Mergos ordered, in a slurring voice. Not pausing for a second, he spun around and exited the small room. Closing the door, the room fell into almost complete darkness again. Rukal yawned, and cursed his drunken Fleet Marshall.

Rukal entered the bridge shortly after, now dressed in his usual uniform, but he looked tired.

"Marshall, what seems to be the problem?" he asked.

Mergos smiled. "Shuttle #12 launched not twenty minutes ago. I have no reason why it was launched, who might be on board it or where it is heading. Do you think you can sort it out?"

Rukal stepped up his usual station, and punched in his password. The screen lit up, and a voice greeted him, while asking what he would like for lunch and reminding him of the day's schedule. He ignored it, and instead punched in the security code for shuttle #12, and tried to contact it. "This is captain Rukal on board Raivas, to shuttle #12, do you read me?" He said in a mechanical tone, way too tired for this kind of business. Only loud static replied.

"This is captain Rukal on board Raivas, to shuttle #12. Respond, shuttle #12", he tried again. Again, the only response was from the static.

He switched frequency and tried again. Nothing. He switched to the emergency frequency and called shuttle #12. Still there were no reply.

"Well sir, either the shuttle is completely unmanned or something is jamming our signal," Rukal concluded.

"Could we be too close to the atmosphere?" Mergos asked.

"No, we're not that close yet. There should be no jamming in this area at all actually," Rukal replied and scratched his head.

"Could it be intentional then?" Mergos continued, and noticing that Rukal didn't really want to answer that question.

"Maybe... Maybe someone is jamming the signal with some sort of equipment," he said, and turned to his station again. Mergos watched as the screen lit up again, and Rukal started working with such speed, that Mergos didn't really realize what he was doing. Rukal turned back to him shortly after, with a worried look on his face.

"I can't even access the ship data. I have no idea where on the planet the shuttle is heading. It must be someone jamming us on purpose," he said and Mergos nodded.

"Just as I thought..."

Inside the shuttle, Lieutenant Dremmel was awoken from his daydreaming by a noise from the control panel. A red light lit up again, and a new warning message was shown on the screen. He read it twice, and tried to understand what he had seen.

"Oh, sweet Emperor, no..."

On the surface of the planet, a young woman - maybe in her early twenties - was kneeling down in front of a tomb stone. It stood under a large oak tree, in a clearing in the middle of the woods. She cried softly, as she put down a bouquet of roses, twelve of them. She whispered something to the scripture on the stone that only she could hear, and hopefully he could too, wherever he was.

Little did she know that the tragic that had struck him and her was only one in a long line of tragedies that would soon fall onto the people of the planet.

She dried her tears, and looked up again. As her gaze fell upon the stone, it was lit up by and orange glow. She stood up and spun around, to see a ball of fire lighting up the evening sky. A roaring noise followed it, as it passed right above her.

Her first reaction was that it was either a meteorite, or some space rubble that had entered the atmosphere. It was going way too fast to be a shuttle performing a controlled landing. Even escape pods were easier on the landing. The ball of fire disappeared behind the tree lines, but she soon heard a loud crash.

Thoughts ran through her mind like water in a river. What if it was an alien being? What if it was some kind of shuttle? What if someone was hurt? She started running towards the orange glow that was barley visible through the trees.

Meanwhile...