Double Duty: A Medical Tale
An orderly brought the datapad into the conference room and as unobtrusively as possible handed it to Admiral Ra'kaat, Commander of the Star Cruiser Liberty, as the skipper listened to the status report being given by his chief of operations. Ra'kaat glanced at the information on the pad with one bulbous eye, taking in the information before returning his full attention to the junior officer. He handed the report to the section chief sitting next to him who took his own turn looking the information over:
COM-SAT TRANSMISSION START
TO: CRS Liberty, Admiral Ra'kaat, Commanding
FROM: Alliance High Command-Ordnance and Supply
AHC reports that the raid on the Ipsid-12 staging area
was a success and resulted in the capture of two
cargo containers. In addition to the parts and ordnance
that was expected to be found in the containers,
a shipment of R2 units was found as an added bonus.
The report went on and discussed the ships and manpower used in the raid, the casualties, which were light, as well as an itemized list of captured Imperial supplies. Skipping down to the bottom of the report, the Chief found the data that interested him most - the disbursement of the supplies to the Alliance fleet. His eye caught the single paragraph that caused him to smile.
To the CRS Liberty:
- 16 KDY main thruster maintenance assemblies
- 2 Dodonna/Blissex hyperspace motivator calibration unit
- 1 Phylon Q7-Tractor Beam Projector
- 13 R2 Astro-mech droids
There was an impressive list of items earmarked for the Liberty, but the first four items were critical. The cruiser was in great need of a thruster overhaul and had lost two of their tractor beams at the battle of Ronin Sectus. The flight crews were always short of R2 units for the fighters, and a new calibration unit would go a long way to restore morale in maintenance. This was shaping up to be a fine day.
Sergeant-Major Tuttle Dundee barked orders left and right as the Liberty crew began unpacking several large steel containers. The Liberty's main hangar was crowded with people and droids unpacking and inspecting the latest shipment of captured Imperial supplies. A Lambda-class shuttle lazily made its way out through the magnetic field, having safely delivered the last of its cargo. "Careful with this equipment, men," Dundee said, carefully inspecting the thirteen R2 units. "Make sure that they are all deactivated before you load them onto the auto-hauler."
"Where are they going, Sergeant-Major?" asked one of the newest recruits, not yet familiar with the Alliance standard procedures.
"They are going to the repair bay to have their memory erased, private!" replied Dundee in his drill-sergeant tone. "Surely you wouldn't trust one of these units without checking for any booby-traps, would you? Who knows what those Imps have programmed these things to do." The private looked warily at the droids. They had already been checked for hidden explosive devices, but he hadn't realized how necessary it was to have their programming checked by the Alliance techs.
As the automated hauler floated away on its repulsorlift cushion, the ocular receptor of one of the R2 units began to glow. Two more of the captured Imperial droids came to life as the hauler approached the maintenance area of the hangar, a good distance away from Sergeant-Major Dundee's watchful eye. One of the units managed to extend its interface jack and connected to the automated guidance system of the hauler, causing it to slow down. The droids chirped and whistled softly to each other as they spotted a group of Alliance R2 units which were plugged to a row of power outlets in the back of the maintenance area. The hauler's magnetic loader picked up three of the inactivated flight droids and placed them in its cargo bed, then proceeded to unload each of the three active R2 units in turn. Before it was unloaded, the last R2 erased all evidence of its tampering, and reprogrammed the hauler to continue on its original mission.
Just as the R2 droids took the positions vacated by the hijacked Alliance droids, two crewmen walked into the maintenance area.
"Stubbs, pick up one of those R2 units and plug 'im into that training X-wing, will you?" asked Corporal Mike Hawkyard, one of the Cruiser Liberty Support Squadron X-wing technicians.
"You mean the one with the fried firing circuits?" asked Corporal David "Stubbs" Fono, rubbing his hands on his CLSS technician's jumpsuit.
"Yes. Commander Simmons came up with the idea of using it for flight training of new recruits until we can get some parts to repair its weapon systems. Tell the little chap to move the ship to the third takeoff position. There's some new Calamari pilot waiting to fly it. Hurry up, now. Maybe we can squeeze in a few hands of sabacc before the next flight check," grinned Mike, as he began unhooking the other R2 units.
Stubbs winced, recalling their last hand which had cost him a week's pay. "Come on, pal, your pilot's waiting for you," he told one of the R2 units, who seemed to be already recharged and ready to go. The Imperial droid chirped contentedly as it headed for the ship.
Lieutenant David "Greywolf" Rollins and Flight Officer Eloy "Mynock" Cintron stood at the foot of Faus'tus' bed. The cold lights of the Medbay lent an unwholesome pallor to the Twi'lek pilot's skin as he moaned and clutched his stomach. Private Lumi Rus'ti, the Officers' Mess Hand, held the convalescent Corsair's hand. Her receptors were aglow with a mixture of green and white, her alien beauty marred by a worried frown over her near-human features.
"Y'know, for a guy who likes his Uvena whiskey, he sure can't handle much else," commented Greywolf.
"His physiology is different from ours, but Twi'leks can process alcohol like humans. I think he's just highly allergic to the contaminants in the drink. He should stick to that Uvena stuff, or maybe vodka, which has almost no contaminants," mused Mynock, the local Xenobiology expert.
"You're probably right. His lekku do seem swollen..." added Greywolf, inspecting Faus'tus' head appendages.
"Mynock? I'm really worried. Is he going to be all right?" Rus'ti asked. "I told Mixer not to serve him that Ion Sucker... I feel just awful about all this."
"Don't worry, Roo. He's going to be just fine," said a calm voice.
Rus'ti's receptors intensified into a warm, amber light, as she turned to face her friend. "Guardian, I'm so glad you're here," she beamed at him.
Lieutenant Adam "Guardian" Burns, Buccaneer Squadron's Executive Officer, approached Faus'tus' bed accompanied by a Mon Calamari doctor. "Any changes?" he asked.
Mynock nodded. "He stopped vomiting, finally."
"We gave him some medication and are running some allergy tests now," added Doctor Banarj, the Liberty's Chief Medical Officer.
"Bed rest will do him some good. Gentlemen, a word?" said Guardian, motioning the other pilots to follow as he and Doctor Banarj moved on around the medbay. Roo stayed behind changing the wet rag around Faus'tus' forehead.
"Dr. Banarj and I have been talking, and Medical is seriously understaffed. I've already set up a regular schedule up here, but I think the two of you would also be invaluable. This would also help you to keep in practice, for when our skills are needed on the field."
"Sounds good to me, Guardian, but when are we going to do this?" Greywolf sounded doubtful. "With the recent increase of Imperial activity in the area, won't it interfere with our piloting assignments?"
"I'm sure Raven and I will find some space in the schedule," said Guardian, referring to Buccaneer Squadron's Commanding Officer, Captain James "Raven" Lee. "As Executive Officer for Buccaneer, I have a…sizeable say on the duty assignments," he added with a grin.
"What about you, Mynock?" asked the Mon Calamari physician, turning his large, bulbous eyes to the Corsair pilot, a former graduate of the Coruscant Medical College.
"I haven't practiced in a long time, Dr. Banarj. I am happier flying with Corsair, but Guardian is right. We could really help everybody. If Corsair Leader agrees to it, you can count me in."
Eloy hadn't quite finished when alarm klaxons began blaring. "Alert, alert," a mechanical voice droned over the ship-wide intercom. "Fire in the hangar. All emergency personnel please report to the main hangar." Without hesitation, the three pilots grabbed medpacks from the wall and raced out of the medbay.
"Oh my, what else is going to go wrong today?" cried Roo, her receptors turning white with worry. She turned to the nearest RN5 Nurse droid. "Tell me where the bandages and first aid kits are. You're going to need all the help you can get!"
Guardian was the first to reach the Main Hangar blast door, cracked open on a hellish scene. Amber emergency lights flash cut through the black smoke as warning klaxons blared. The three men pulled breath masks from an emergency locker, secured their medpacks, and entered the bay, scanning for wounded victims. Two figures emerged from the smoke-filled maintenance area.
"Lieutenant Burns?" wheezed Mike, half dragging a coughing Stubbs.
"What happened, Mike?" asked Mynock, as Guardian and Greywolf gave the two technicians a once-over.
"A training X-wing crashed into a stack of power cells... they blew up. There was a rookie Calamari pilot. He must have taken the worst of it..." replied the battered technician.
"Takeoff position three..." Stubbs added, gasping for breath.
Guardian ran into the launching area, followed closely by Greywolf. "Mike, both of you go to the medbay. You seem fine, but we can't do a full run-down here," added Mynock, turning to follow his companions. Mike nodded and began limping out, dragging Stubbs along with him.
Greywolf lost Guardian quickly, the billowing smoke making seeing anything past two meters impossible. Waving his hand in front of his face to try to clear a visual path, he fought through the cloud. Shapes moved past in the smoke, other rescue personnel and support staff trying to get a handle on the emergency, and then another shape, a human man in a bloody jumpsuit sprawled on the floor. Greywolf knelt by the wounded technician as the hangar's ventilator system was frantically trying to clear the air.
David dropped to a knee to examine the technician, who had a strong pulse and was breathing adequately. Pulling some tools from the medkit, he injected a surfactant compound, which would prevent the man's lungs from swelling and collapsing due to the injury caused by smoke inhalation. He noted that the man's left hand had been almost completely severed at the wrist by a piece of shrapnel.
Time to work.
Greywolf injected a powerful anesthetic into the arm's nerve plexus, thus blocking the technician's pain. With a laser scalpel, he proceeded to make a clean amputation of the extremity and cauterized the arm's blood vessels. He then applied a coupling unit to the stump, and carefully opened the large, cylindrical preservation unit in his medpack. Greywolf attached several tiny electrodes to the amputated hand, which would electrically stimulate the nerves and muscles to prevent any degeneration. He then carefully placed it in the bacta filled cylinder of the preservation unit. The bacta would nourish the hand's cells and ward off infection until the reattachment surgery could be performed.
Mynock was weaving through his own swirling smoke maze until he heard a frantic howl. He raced towards the noise to find Lieutenant Groznik, Buccaneer Squadron's Wookiee pilot, desperately shifting chunks of metal off a pile of wreckage.
"Groz? You all right?" asked Mynock, making his way to the Wookiee's side. Groznik grunted and growled, pointing at a spot under the wreckage. His translator/vocabulator unit had obviously been damaged in the explosion. Mynock struggled to understand what the Wookiee was saying. Groznik continued to dig under the scrap metal, revealing a wounded pilot. With a triumphant growl, Groznik pulled out his commanding officer, Captain James "Raven" Lee, Buccaneer Leader.
"Raven! Talk to me, man!" called Mynock, as he examined the unconscious pilot's pupils. Raven moaned. "Put him down, Groz, we'll need to find a stretcher to take him down to the medbay and run a brain scan on him," Mynock said, noting with satisfaction that Raven could move all four of his extremities. A good sign. Groznik howled angrily, and took off towards the exit corridor, with his wounded friend clutched to his chest. "Wait, you crazy Wookiee!" cried Mynock, "I said get a stretcher!"
As he picked up his pack to run after Groznik, he heard Guardian calling for help.
Guardian had found the Mon Calamari rookie in the tattered remains of a standard orange flightsuit near the wreckage of the crashed X-wing. Plasma burns covered part of his face as he drew raspy breaths. The pilot's leg was missing at the thigh. Guardian had applied a cauterizer and stopped the bleeding, but was struggling with much more. "Stay with me, c'mon!" he said, as he obtained venous access and started an IV line. The Mon Calamari stopped breathing. "Damn!" thought Guardian, drawing a resuscitator unit from the medpack.
"Mynock!" he shouted, "I need you here! Greywolf!"
Guardian had little experience treating Mon Calamari. He placed the disk shaped device on the wounded pilot's chest. It was large enough to cover most of the Mon Cal's upper torso. Guardian activated the cardiac monitor and the imaging system. "Three chambers? Is that how his heart is supposed to be?" he wondered, looking at the image appearing on the resuscitator's screen. The monitor showed no electrical activity. Guardian flicked a switch and the resuscitator began to project a low power tractor/repulsor field, which compressed and expanded the heart, restoring the circulation. Miniature needles protruded from the resuscitator, injecting drugs into his system.
Guardian tried to make sense of the alien heart image as Mynock finally appeared. "Wounded Mon Calamari in cardiac arrest. Tell me what's different," said Guardian.
"Three heart chambers instead of four. Everything else is more or less the same. The windpipe's different, though. I'll take care of that," answered Mynock, whose medical specialty was in non-human lifeforms.
"Should there be any fluid around his heart?" asked Guardian.
"No," replied Mynock, as he placed a tube into the Calamarian's windpipe and activated the portable respirator.
"Then he is in cardiac tamponade," Guardian said, flicking a few more switches. The trauma to the Calamarian's chest had caused fluid to accumulate around his heart, which compressed it and prevented it from pumping blood adequately. The resuscitator extended a long needle from its underside, and drove it into the Calamarian's chest. Guardian guided the needle with the help of the image screen, and began to draw the fluid out. The monitor beeped as electrical activity resumed, and the heart started beating again. Guardian breathed a sigh of relief, and flicked a switch on his comlink. "Cutter? Get in here. We need a stretcher."
Roo's receptors turned pink as Guardian finished Raven's brain scan. "Just a concussion. No permanent damage," he announced. "Well, nothing that wasn't there before."
"See, I told you I'm fine," Raven growled. "I'm going back to the hangar, there may still be wounded crewmen there." As he started to get up, a pair of hairy paws pinned him down. Groznik huffed and grunted a rebuke at his commanding officer.
"Groznik is right, my friend," said Roo, applying a bandage to a nasty cut in Raven's forearm. "You shouldn't be going anywhere for a while." Groznik growled in agreement.
"Oh, all right, all right, I give up," Raven sighed resignedly, and dozed off to sleep.
"We'll have to make sure he stays here under observation for at least twelve hours," Guardian told Roo and Groznik as he put down the scanner and went to join Mynock near the bacta tanks.
Cutter, the Liberty's 2-1B Medical droid, was finishing up with the control panel of the bacta tank the wounded Calamari pilot had been placed in. "How's he doing?" Guardian asked.
"He's stable," replied Mynock. "Cutter and I altered the electrolytic balance of the bacta to better match his race's biochemistry, but Banarj should check it. He knows better than I do, of course. Where is he, anyway?"
"He is in surgery with Greywolf. They are reattaching a severed hand. What's the Calamari's name?" Guardian asked, glancing at the patient's chart.
"Erratic searched the ship's roster. Says his name is Rkard, a flight cadet. The schedule had him on a training flight." Mynock replied absently, as he adjusted the tank's temperature controls. "The security crew is inspecting the wrecked X-wing to find out what went wrong."
"Probably something wrong with its navigational thrusters or the repulsorlift drive. That X was one of Rogue's old fighters that was damaged and then turned into a training vehicle." Guardian added as Greywolf joined them, removing his surgical scrubs. "How did it go, Greywolf?"
"He's going to be fine. The reattachment was successful. No complications." He smiled. "Now what are we going to do about him?" Greywolf tipped his head to indicate the injured Rkard. "I spoke to Banarj and he says there are no prosthetic Calamari limbs on board."
"How long is he going to be in the soup, Cutter?" Guardian asked his longtime companion.
"I estimate one week, Master Adam," replied the Too-Onebee droid. "I'll have Erratic run a search on nearby Alliance medical facilities. We should be able to find something, sir."
"I understand your point, gentlemen, but we have another problem here." Admiral Ra'kaat leaned back in his chair as he continued addressing the pilots gathered in his office. "The fact is that we are on full alert, due to the presence of the Star Destroyer Inquisitor in this sector. We simply cannot spare any starfighters or pilots."
"Admiral, Erratic has located a prosthetic leg for Cadet Rkard aboard the Frigate Redemption. All we need is a shuttle. The one we recovered from Vertigo Outpost is armed, armored and refitted to accommodate medical equipment and supplies. I'll fly it myself, so that's only one pilot." Guardian volunteered.
"It's too dangerous, with all these Imperials in the area. I don't like it," replied Raven sullenly. "I won't have my XO flying alone on this mission."
"There's no need to go alone. I'll go with him and provide escort in my Y-wing," Greywolf added. "Besides, Rkard's my patient too, and I'd like to assist on the prosthetic attachment procedure."
"But this is only a prosthetic leg, the surgery can be accomplished later," Ra'kaat answered in exasperation.
"That's not entirely accurate, Admiral," Mynock stepped forward. "The fact is that Cadet Rkard's nerve endings are deteriorating in spite of our best efforts. If the leg is not attached in the next few days, the damage could be permanent. A cybernetic prosthesis contains specially designed electrochemical stimulators, which would prevent any further deterioration. If we don't attach a prosthesis soon, he'll be crippled. Sir, I could go with them and provide reconnaissance and backup cover."
"No! No more pilots can be spared. The Star Destroyer must be found. The Redemption is simply too far away. We can't risk it." The Admiral placed both hands on his desk with a gesture of finality.
"Ra'kaat," Doctor Banarj spoke in his raspy voice. "Be reasonable. It is another one of our proud sons who needs your help. This boy is the pride of our people. A promising hope of fighting back against our oppressors. Do not let his spirits be crushed, or the hope of his race crumble because of an accident. I'll go with them, to ensure his safe recovery. Surely you can spare these few brave souls, who have volunteered for this duty."
"Admiral, I'll just assign two of my pilots." Commander Peter Simmons, Rogue Leader, spoke. "Jedi and Predator can escort them and they'll be back in no time..."
"No! Absolutely not, Commander. The roster for Rogue Squadron is not even full. All of your pilots need to concentrate on that Star Destroyer." The Admiral shook his head, slumping back in his chair. "Lieutenants Burns and Rollins can take care of this. And Flight Officer Cintron can go, if it's all right with Corsair Leader." Ra'kaat turned to Captain Chris "Electro" Schock, Corsair Leader.
"Can you spare this pilot, Captain?"
"I'll rotate the schedule, sir. He can go," answered Electro, failing to keep a slight grin off his face.
"Good! Then that's settled. You can leave as soon as you're ready. Now back to your posts, and find me that Star Destroyer. Dismissed, gentlemen." Ra'kaat replied gruffly, turning his attention to a stack of datapads.
As the pilots left the Admiral's office, Electro winked at Rogue Leader. "That was a smooth move, Peter. You panicked him into making that decision rather quickly."
"Yeah, well, after all this time, you kind of get to know how he thinks." He turned towards Buccaneer Leader. "Just make sure your boys make it back in one piece. Okay, Raven?"
Raven grinned. "No problem, Pete. No problem."
Mike sat in a corner of the maintenance area, watching Stubbs and Jeff "Porky" Leddy, one of the A-wing techs, as they loaded the bacta tank into the battered shuttle. "Poor bloke," he thought, as he played with a hydrospanner, and turned to the remains of an R2 unit. "All right, little fella. There's really not much left of you after that accident, huh? Good thing you're not one of those new R2 units we captured, or you would have been the first suspect. Let's see if there's anything we can salvage."
Guardian and Roo approached the shuttle, making their way among the various repair crews. Raven stood by the entrance ramp of the retrofitted craft, as Doctor Banarj and two RN5 droids climbed aboard.
"Well, everything looks like it's in order," Raven started, grinning at his XO and the Lumi, straining in an ill-fitting bright orange flight suit. "Electro has a Corsair flight launching to escort you to your hyper point. From there you should rendezvous with the Redemption in the Antera system. The system has no real value to the Empire so there should be no trouble.
"Doc Banarj says that the patient is doing fine, and the bacta tank has been anchored to the bulkhead." Guardian nodded, then slipped past and onto the shuttle. Raven turned to Ru'sti. "Well, Roo, you've been asking Rogue Leader to assign you to the post of Search and Rescue pilot. If you do a good job as Guardian's co-pilot, I'll see what we can do about that transfer." He winked at the beaming Lumi.
"I won't let you down, Raven, but I've got to have a talk with Sergeant-Major Dundee about cutting me a bigger suit. I just know he did this on purpose," she exclaimed, self consciously hiding her chest. Porky climbed down the ramp and grinned at Roo.
"Looking good, Roo. You're gonna love what we've done to this ship. It already had extra armor plating, and modified laser cannons, but Stubbs, Mike and I have been playing with the engine pods and the maneuvering thrusters, and we've managed to increase its speed."
"Thank you, Porky. You're always so kind to me," she smiled, her receptors turning pink.
"Ahh, it's nothing," Porky replied, feeling a bit embarrassed. "I've got to go help Stubbs with Lieutenant Rollins' R2 unit. Have a safe trip, and I'll see you soon."
Greywolf approached his Y-wing fighter as Stubbs brought up his R2 unit. "Hello, Stubbs. How goes it? You working on the Y-wings now?"
"Nah. We're a little short on personnel. Just trying to get these R2 units ready for a couple of missions."
Greywolf turned towards the R2 unit. "Quin5, we need to go, I need your help to do a systems check on my Y-Wing."
The R2 droid turned his head, and let out a series of short staccato chirps. Greywolf noticed that the scratch on his right sensor was missing. "Hey, you guys finally fixed that scratch I've been complaining about."
"Yeah, I guess someone did," Stubbs replied absently. "Well, what are you waiting for?" Mike turned his attention back to the R2 unit. "Let's go."
The droid hesitated, as its Imperial programming evaluated the different possibilities for sabotage. After considering several possibilities, a course of action was chosen and the droid started forward.
"Quin5, what's wrong with you?" Greywolf asked, climbing into the cockpit and strapping on his flight helmet.
"I guess he's just anxious to get on with the mission, Lieutenant," answered Stubbs, as he placed the droid into the ship's socket. "Right, little guy?" The R2 chirped in agreement, and started a routine preflight check.
"Liberty flight control, this is Escort Group. We're ready for take off," Guardian squawked over the com channel.
"Roger, Escort Group. You are cleared for take off. Corsairs 5 and 6 have already launched and are waiting for you to clear the hangar. Proceed to destination 3 by 3 by 5."
"Copy Liberty control. Shuttle Vertigo is a go. Bucc 4, Corsair 4 are you ready?"
"You betcha," Mynock replied, as his ship rose on its repulsorlift cushion.
"Following your lead, Guardian," said Greywolf, firing up the converters. The R2 unit whistled to itself as it searched through the ship's computer system...
Three ships dropped out of hyperspace in a remote area of the Antera system. Guardian opened the intercom channel to the cargo hold. "Doctor, how's our patient? Is everything all right after the jump?"
Banarj answered promptly. "Yes, Lieutenant. The bacta tank's diagnostics check is green across the board, and the RN5 droids report stable vital signs on our patient."
Guardian breathed a sigh of relief, switched off the intercom and turned to Roo. "Well, Private, how does it feel having just completed your first live hyperspace jump? And quite successfully, I'd say."
Roo smiled. "Oh, I could get used to this. I like it a lot. Where is the Redemption supposed to jump in?"
"A bit closer to that moon. I'll have Mynock check it out." Guardian flicked a switch, opening a com channel. "Vertigo to Corsair 4. Run point for us, Mynock."
"Roger that, Vertigo," came the reply over the com, as Mynock's A-wing sped off towards a small moon.
"Guardian? Why is Greywolf's holonet beacon on?" observed Roo, her receptors turning white as she looked at the readouts on her screens.
"Buccaneer 4, what's going on?" Guardian asked, a chill running down his spine. "I've got a bad feeling about this," he muttered under his breath.
"Quin5, what the hell are you doing?" Greywolf yelled, as he tried to shut down the holonet beacon. A steady stream of coded signals was being sent to some unknown destination in space, using the universe-spanning holonet interface. He frantically flicked switches and pushed buttons, but the controls were not responding.
The droid was in control of the ship.
"Mynock, something's wrong with Greywolf. He isn't answering on the comlink. Stay alert," said Guardian, looking at Greywolf's Y-Wing, which had drifted slightly off course. "What's going on?" he breathed worriedly.
"Commander Kendall," an aide approached the commanding officer of the Imperial frigate Adamant.
"What is it, Lieutenant?" he answered, staring out of the viewport.
"Sir, one of our R7 Saboteur droids is signaling us from the Antera system. It seems it has taken over a Y-wing fighter. And, sir, the fighter appears to be assigned to the Rebel Buccaneer Squadron."
"Buccaneer? Are you sure?" a smile spread on Kendall's face. "Set course for the Antera system, Lieutenant. Full speed, and get our fighter pilots to their stations immediately. It's time for a little revenge!"
Greywolf pushed the droid ejector control over and over, but nothing happened. "Damned droid, it's taken over the whole ship. Blast!" He looked to his port side and saw the Vertigo shuttle approaching slowly for a closer look. "Guardian! Go away, it's a trap!" he gestured in vain. The comlink was inoperative. "I've got to do something!"
"Guardian, I'm reading a ship coming in from hyperspace," Mynock said, looking at his sensor screens.
"I hope that's the Redemption," Guardian said, as he eased the shuttle closer to Greywolf's Y-wing. A frigate entered the system close to the moon.
"Alert, alert! IFF transponder registers an Imperial ship. It's launching starfighters. I'm moving to intercept," Mynock yelled into the comlink, as he opened up the throttle and his A-wing shot forward. A flight of six Imperial TIE Interceptors roared out of the FRG Adamant's hangar bay. Mynock switched power to his shields, locked on to the lead Interceptor and fired a missile. As the T/I burst into flame, the remaining fighters broke formation and scattered around the A-wing. Mynock pulled into a tight loop and began tracking the closest ship. His sensors indicated that two of the remaining fighters were still on an intercept course for the shuttle. The other three were still on him. "Guardian, two squints, coming your way! I'll try to stop them." Mynock said, as green light bathed his canopy.
Two of the Interceptors were on his tail. "Blast!" he thought. "These'll keep me busy for a while." He pulled on the control stick, spinning furiously to evade the incoming fire.
"Roo, Doc, brace yourselves! We're going evasive," Guardian spoke into the intercom. "Welcome to starfighter combat, private." He hissed through clenched teeth.
Roo's receptors went white as the ship dove suddenly. "Oh my god!" she said, holding on to the bulkhead.
"That's it!" Greywolf yelled, noting the two incoming fighters. He pulled out his blaster pistol and shot the control panel on his left.
Mike sat in the back of the maintenance area. The whole hangar was mostly deserted at this time, as the flight crew changed shifts. The technical crew replacements would be having the customary refreshments before reporting in. This was Mike's favorite time of day, when he could sip a little vodka without the Deck Officer yelling at him, and tinker with a few private projects. There was the old datatape viewer with the faulty decrypter, the blaster pistol he was modifying, the misaligned hydrospanner, and the remains of the R2 unit from the accident.
He was working on the latter, when he noticed something odd with the droid's electric arc welder. The capacitors were melted, but something was definitely wrong. Mike frowned and continued taking the thing apart. In another corner, one of the R2 units took a new interest in Mike's activities. It focused its photoreceptor on the technician, and boosted its auditory receivers. "What the blazes?" Mike muttered under his breath. "This thing's rigged to deliver blaster bolts." The R7 Saboteur unit's programming evaluated this remark and determined that a class 4 threat to the mission was evident. Silently, it extended its own modified arc welder and aimed it at the unsuspecting technician. With a high pitched whine, the saboteur droid charged the weapon's capacitors and fired a deadly blast of laser energy.
Mynock banked sharply to the left after destroying another Interceptor. The remaining two ships adjusted their trajectory to remain behind the A-wing. "Let's see if you can keep up," Mynock thought, as he opened up the throttle and pulled back on the stick. The ship began a fast barrel roll as it climbed.
The two TIE Interceptors climbed after it, cannons blazing. In mid spin, Mynock pulled hard on the stick, breaking off in an unexpected direction. He pulled into a tight loop and circled behind the startled Imperials. As he was getting ready to fire his laser cannons, the ship's computers detected a new group of signals emerging from the frigate. "TIE Bombers... blast!" Mynock squeezed off a few wild shots at the Interceptors, and turned to face the bigger threats.
The TIE Bombers were armed with concussion missiles and proton torpedoes, which could be fired at long ranges and would make short work of the shuttle and the unresponsive Y-Wing. "Damn, Greywolf, what are you doing?" he wondered, switching to missiles.
Greywolf pried open the busted panel and began searching through the mess of exposed cables. "All right, you walking toaster. I'd like to see what you're gonna do now." He crossed a few wires, and the hyperradio went silent. "Hah! There you go," he muttered, reaching for yet more wires. Sparks flew as he hot-wired the controls.
"Watch the shields, Roo," Guardian said, as he banked the ship away from the stream of green energy blazing in front of them.
"We can't outmaneuver them, Guardian. What are we going to do?" Roo pulled several switches, transferring more energy to the weakened shields.
"Porky and the rest of the tech team made a few modifications to this ship, Roo. They were keeping it as a surprise for you, but it's gonna come in handy now. Watch the rear camera."
Roo noted that one of the readout screens showed a view of the rear of the shuttle. A TIE Interceptor lined up on that screen and opened fire. "It's right behind us, Guardian!" Roo stared in desperation.
"I know. I'm gonna bring him in a little closer," Guardian said with a grin, slowing the shuttle.
"You're gonna do what?"
He flicked a switch. An aiming reticule appeared in the rear view screen. "When that goes red, press the button on your stick," Guardian told her. Roo did as she was told, and the TIE blossomed into a ball of flaming gas. "One customized rear firing twin concussion missile launcher, courtesy of the tech team."
Roo laughed in exhilaration, but it was caught short as she noted another ship on the screens. "Guardian, another frigate at point oh-three!" she said, her receptors turning pale in despair.
"Yes, that's the Redemption. Right on schedule," Guardian smiled, adjusting his course towards the Alliance frigate.
Mike heard the high pitched whine increase in intensity. He turned and saw an R2 unit with its arc welder pointing at him. Without hesitating, he sprang for cover behind a stack of crates. A red bolt of energy blasted the spot where he had been standing. "Blast it! We got Imperial droids in that shipment. They must have sneaked through security," he thought, as he looked for a way out of this mess.
The droid moved to block the exit, and searched for his target. Mike heard the droid spout a burst of short staccato chirps as the high pitched whine built up again. A blaster bolt followed shortly, hitting the stack of crates next to Mike's head. "It's blocked the exit," he thought. He yelled for help, though he knew it was unlikely that anyone would be close enough to hear his cry at this hour. Then he remembered the blaster. He had left the pistol he was working on by the power cells in the corner. If he could get to it, it would be an easy thing to blow the R2 unit to bits.
"Redemption, this is shuttle Vertigo requesting assistance. We are being pursued by Imperial TIE fighters," Guardian spoke on the comlink. The shuttle wove back and forth, trying to evade the laser fire from the remaining Interceptor.
"Rear secondary shields collapsing, Guardian," Roo informed him.
"Switch all power to the rear deflectors, Roo," he replied.
"Roger, Vertigo. Rescue 1 and 2 are being launched," came the reply on the comlink, as two X-wing fighters left the Redemption's hangar bay.
"Just two ships?" Roo asked.
"It's a medical ship, Roo. Not a combat vessel. It's all she has. Let's hope it'll be enough."
The second TIE Bomber exploded as the missile hit it. Mynock targeted the last dupe and dumb fired another missile. The alarm klaxons blared as Mynock's rear shields collapsed. The two squints were still on his tail, firing constantly. Mynock pushed the ship down in a tight loop, narrowly avoiding the spinning fragments of the last TIE Bomber, as it careened off encircled in blue lightning. "Only a couple of squints left," he thought, switching some power to his rear deflector screens. Green laser bolts flashed at him from an unexpected direction. The Imperial frigate, now identified as the Adamant in his Combat Multiview Display, had joined the fight.
"Oh boy, I'm in trouble now!" Mynock said to himself, and pulled the ship into another spiral.
The wires made contact with a spark. The R7 droid screamed in anguish as its interface jack was ripped off. The ejector system jettisoned the droid away from the ship.
"Yeeehaa!" Greywolf yelled, as the ship's systems came under his control again. He surveyed the sensor screens. The shuttle was approaching the Redemption and two X-wings were taking care of a squint on Guardian's tail. He saw Mynock's A-wing trying to evade two squints and the Imperial frigate. Greywolf turned his ship towards the frigate, switched all power to the engines, and opened up the throttles. "Hang on, Mynock. Hang on," he thought.
Mike counted the seconds as the R2 unit recharged its blaster. The high pitched whine grew slowly and Mike thought he had the rhythm worked out. "It's now or never," he thought. The laser blast exploded on the bulkhead behind him. Mike ran towards the power cells. He grabbed the blaster and ducked as the R2 fired another blast at him. The force of the blast knocked him down in the open. He aimed the blaster at the droid and pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened. "Oh great!" Mike thought, throwing the useless blaster at the droid. The high pitched whine built up again as the droid prepared to fire. Mike closed his eyes as the sound of a single laser bolt echoed around the empty repair bay.
The Y-wing quickly covered the intervening distance. Greywolf was soon on top of the Imperial frigate, and opened fire on the large ship. The frigate's turbolaser batteries targeted the new threat. Mynock noted that the turbolasers eased up and targeted the nearest squint. With a few laser blasts, the Imperial ship exploded in a flash. "Glad you could join the party, Greywolf. It was about time," Mynock told his friend, as he maneuvered behind the last Interceptor.
"Had a little difficulty with my R2 unit," Greywolf joked back. "Watch it, Mynock. More ships leaving the hangar." Greywolf fired two proton torpedoes at the emerging ships. He caught the last squint, which exploded just as it was leaving the hangar bay.
"Commander Kendall, the flight deck reports an explosion at the hangar. We have a technical crew trying to repair the damage, but it will take some time. No more ships may be launched for at least…twelve minutes," the aide informed his infuriated superior officer.
"No matter. We can destroy that medical frigate with our turbolasers. Still, signal the Inquisitor that we have netted some Rebel fish and request reinforcements.
"Yes, sir," the aide replied, as he signaled the communications officer.
"Mynock, finish those fighters so we can get out of here!" Green laser beams showered the Y-wing's shields repeatedly. Greywolf took aim at the frigate's communications antennae and fired a third salvo of ion blasts. Lightning danced on the surface of the communications array as the bolts struck it again.
"All clear, Greywolf," came Mynock's reply on the comlink. A quick check of the sensors revealed no more enemy fighters. The two Alliance craft turned tail and shot off at full speed towards the Redemption.
"Sir, we've lost our long range communications, and fire-control reports some ion interference affecting our targeting computers."
Kendall quivered with fury as he turned to the helm officer. "Then we must fetch reinforcements ourselves. Set the coordinates for the Inquisitor's scheduled location and jump to lightspeed." Kendall clenched his fists. "There'll be another time," he thought, watching the fleeing rebel ships.
A laser blast penetrated Greywolf's shields and struck his left engine nacelle. Fortunately, the Imperial frigate's energy bolts were accompanying its retreat into hyperspace. "Mynock, my engines are hit. My speed has dropped down to twenty MGLT," Greywolf informed his wingman. He ran a quick diagnostics check. "Without an R2 unit, there's not much I can do to repair this in flight."
"We've got to hurry, Greywolf. Those Imperials will be back soon. With reinforcements, I bet. The Redemption's already proceeding to the nearest jump point at full speed."
"I know. It's a good thing Guardian managed to reach the ship. At this speed, I don't think I can reach the frigate in time. Without an R2 unit, I can't make the jump to lightspeed," Greywolf noted grimly.
"I won't leave you, buddy. We'll think of something," Mynock replied, glancing nervously at his sensor screens.
"We've got to turn back and pick them up," Guardian snapped angrily at the captain of the medical frigate.
"We cannot, Lieutenant Burns," the captain replied. "This ship is too valuable to risk in combat, and we have very little defenses. We also have no tugs on board. We'll have to signal another ship for assistance. The Imperials will return soon, in greater numbers."
"Then at least give me clearance to launch. The patient has been delivered safely onboard and Doctor Banarj is taking care of him right now. I will not leave my men out there alone."
"Very well, Lieutenant. You may take your shuttle." Without a word, Guardian turned around and raced to the flight deck, pulling on his helmet.
Roo met him at the entrance of the hangar bay. "Good luck, Adam."
"All in a day's work, Roo. Stay here, stay out of trouble." He squeezed her shoulder, grinning, then resumed his run to the shuttle.
"Bring them back safe," she whispered after him.
The shuttle raced towards the crippled Y-wing and the circling A-wing. "Buccaneer 2 to Escort flight. Guardian here. Status report, gentlemen."
"I got a couple of stabilizers loose, Buccaneer 2, and my rear deflector's out of commission. Other than that, I just have a few scratches." Mynock answered on the comlink.
"How about you, Buccaneer 4?" Guardian asked.
"No R2 unit, and a damaged ion engine, XO," Greywolf reported. "I'm barely limping along here at 20 MGLT"
"We'll just fly as fast as we can to rendezvous with the..." Guardian stopped in mid sentence as a large, wedge shaped ship filled the sky. An Imperial Star Destroyer.
The Inquisitor had arrived.
"Corsair 4, accelerate to attack speed. The Star Destroyer is launching multiple starfighters. Greywolf, best speed and head for the Redemption. Mynock and I will cover for you," Guardian ordered his wingmates. It was futile, and they all knew it. They were hopelessly outnumbered without the possibility of rescue. At least 12 TIE Interceptors and twice as many TIE fighters were headed their way. Guardian stabilized his deflector screens and braced himself for what would surely be his final battle, when a loud growl was heard on the comlink.
"Groznik?" Guardian said in disbelief.
"Yeeehaaa, looks like you mateys need a hand over here, eh?" Faus'tus' voice was heard.
Guardian breathed a sigh of relief as he noted the multiple Alliance starfighters registering on his sensor screens. All over the sky, Rogue, Buccaneer and Corsair ships were engaging the enemy.
"Vertigo to all Alliance craft. Somebody tell Admiral Ra'kaat that we found his Star Destroyer."
"Sir," reported the Sensor Officer. "Sensor scan reports three squadrons of Rebel starfighters, as well as two Calamari Star Cruisers, the Liberty and the Defiance, in addition to the medical frigate reported by Commander Kendall."
The Imperial Commander glanced at the ships on the bridge's view port. "We are outnumbered. It would be unwise to engage the Rebel forces under these conditions. Alert all commands. Full retreat."
The lights in the Liberty Lounge were dimmed. The three pilots sat near the round porthole, where the Redemption and the Defiance could be seen slowly making their way to their respective jump points.
"So, Greywolf, how did the operation turn out?" Guardian asked, sipping a mug of his favored Ithorian Green Tea.
"Pretty well, actually. The MD-4 microsurgery droids they have on board are incredible. We had those electro-neural interfaces hooked up in no time. He should be out of that bacta tank in less than a week. Will probably be back in flight training in a month or so." Greywolf replied, propping his feet up on the empty seat beside him. "It's a good thing the Liberty came to our rescue so quickly. How did they find out we were in trouble so fast?" he asked.
"Corporal Hawkyard is the one who figured it out. He was tinkering with the remains of an R2 droid when he discovered it was an Imperial saboteur. He was attacked by another saboteur droid in the maintenance area, too. Armed with a blaster, I understand. Had him cornered." Guardian told them, as he watched the ships speeding away.
"Really?" Mynock said. "How'd he get out?"
"It seems Porky was coming over looking for a sabacc game. He heard Mike's cries for help, grabbed a blaster rifle from his locker, and blew that R2 unit to bits, just as it was about to shoot Mike. Good thing Porky likes to play with heavy artillery." They all chuckled at that. "Anyway, they told Stubbs about it, and he recalled that the droid that he had put in your ship had been acting a bit odd. So they put two and two together and went to the Admiral with their story."
"And a good thing they did, I'll say. I'm just glad they reprogrammed Quin5. Had his memory core erased. Poor guy. But he's gonna be fine now." Greywolf smiled fondly as he mentioned his R2 unit.
"You know, Guardian, this Green Tea is really good. It sure helps you relax after a tough day like we just had. This double duty stuff is hard, but we're gonna get a good night's rest for a job well done."
The words had just left Mynock's mouth when an alarm sounded throughout the ship. "Alert, alert," a mechanical voice droned over the ship-wide intercom. "Coolant leak in the engine room. All emergency personnel please report to engine room five."
Guardian's eyebrow arched, and Greywolf barked out a laugh. "You were saying?"
"Oh boy," Mynock groaned, as the three pilots leaped up and raced towards the door. "Here we go again."