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Redemption: Part 2
By Bulldog, Guardian, Shadow, Silence, and Zippy

Yavin Deep Orbit

Zippy momentarily glanced toward the orange gas giant visible through the ventral cockpit viewport of his U-wing. He had never been deployed to the Yavin system before, but how could any Imperial Naval Officer serving on that terrible day forget its hateful name. Transmitted over the Interfleet SecCommNet as encrypted bursts between farflung hyperwave repeaters; news of the disastrous defeat at Yavin 4 had quickly spread between Imperial Fleets scattered across the Outer Rim and Inner Worlds.

As news of the Death Star's destruction reached them, wardrooms from Kuat to Rodia buzzed with rage over the grievous loss suffered by the Imperial Navy and hate for those who had destroyed the newly operational battle station and its naval escorts.

Following so closely after the news of the emergency suspension of the traitorous Imperial Galactic Senate, Zippy thought in retrospect that it had inflicted a deeper, subtler, psychological wound upon the Imperial Naval Officer Corps from which it had never recovered. That wound, once infected by doubt, could never be healed; unlike a station, which could be rebuilt.

Zippy's thoughts returned to the present as his gaze shifted and swept over the instrument panel and out through the forward cockpit viewport to the rest of Mayhem flight. His gloved hands on the control yoke made minute adjustments to the U-wing's position, stationkeeping as the three U-wings loitered at the edge of the system; listening for the signal to proceed with their mission.

Nervous thoughts of what might await during the imminent boarding action brought beads of sweat to Zippy's brow. Beads of sweat which then rolled slowly down his face, unreachable beneath the distinctively shaped helmet he wore. As a career combat Search and Rescue pilot, this would be his first boarding action; both his assault insertion approach and onboard close combat skills were about to be tested.

He shifted uneasily in the pilot's seat of the U-wing, his plastoid armor reducing any comfort afforded by the modestly cushioned seat to an imperceptible level. Issued to him during the Clone Wars as a LAAT/i-a pilot for the Republic Navy, the Phase II Clone Trooper armor he now wore had been phased out of service before some of the commandos in the back of the U-wing had been born if he was any judge of the fresh young faces among them. It seemed likely that this boarding action would be a first for some of them, too.

Taking his right hand off of the control yoke briefly, Zippy moved it to his holstered GL-77; a small blaster of Pantoran manufacture with a powerful punch. Resting his hand lightly on the butt of the blaster, he silently recited the six actions of the Mandalorian Resol'nare to himself in Mando'a. The recitation of the traditional prescription for a life honorably lived eased his nerves somewhat. Coming to the end of the list, he continued on, adding the motto of his martial Pantoran ancestors, "Die fighting, never surrender!"

With his mortality acknowledged, Zippy's nerves dissipated— an honorable death holding no fear for a Mandalorian of the Old, True Faith; a member of the family Ojima.

"This is Talus Leader, calling for immediate assistance."

Zippy heard the call for help over the shared Joint Task Force communications channel and keyed his microphone, transmitting on Mayhem's intraflight comms channel. "Mayhem 3 to Mayhem Lead, requesting permission to render assistance. Over."

"That's a no-go Mayhem 3. Maintain your position until further notice. Acknowledge. Mayhem Lead out."

"Roger that, will comply," responded Zippy just as a new voice sounded over the JTF comms channel.

"Captain Antilles with Vanguard Squadron. We're here to help."

Zippy felt a wave of heat wash over him as his skin flushed beneath his armor. A high pitched whine filled his head, blocking out all thought for a moment as his heart rate and blood pressure both spiked. Hatred and rage welled up from a dark abyss within him at the name Antilles. He silently struggled to maintain his composure; succeeding, as he had on numerous previous occasions since joining his former enemies.

Talus Leader responded, relief flooding through the speaker's tone. "It's damn good to see you Wedge. We've taken heavy losses. We need that Star Destroyer stopped."

"Don't you worry, we're here to hijack it," a new, gravelly voice replied in a cocksure manner.

Zippy's eyes widened slightly at the news, but more in reaction to the lack of comm discipline. The confirmation of the target their group was boarding was secondary in his mind, as he was sure the Empire had sophisticated comm decryption running at all times. It may not work immediately, but given enough time, the codebreakers would find a way past the encryption scheme and translate everything. While their mission would likely be completely done before the code was cracked, being so cavalier about saying the mission objective so openly bugged him. It was begging for Hod Ha'ran, the ancient Mandalorian trickster god, to materialize and thwart their plans.

"You're what?!"

Zippy smirked. Apparently Talus Leader wasn't privy to the entire plan that had put their Corvette into such a dicey situation. That smirk slowly turned into a frown, though, as this was the sort of thing the Empire had done to him and his colleagues time and time again. If the New Republic that had followed the Rebellion he'd joined began to enact the same policies, he would need to think long and hard about his continued participation. It wasn't that he was afraid to die or do his duty, but he felt it was important to be told why he needed to hold fast in the face of danger for the greater good.

"Be ready," Wedge replied in a calm tone, belying his years of experience under fire.

Zippy nodded to his co-pilot and pointed at the sensor panel. 1st Lt. Josh "Hellcat" Kinney punched a few buttons to boost the forward gain on their sensors, magnifying the picture of the skirmish near the embattled New Republic Corvette.

Vanguard Squadron and Wedge Antilles cut through the TIE fighters and interceptors like the Darksaber through metal. After one pass, the Imperial fighters that had been haranguing the Corvette and its paltry fighter escort were halved. Vanguard wheeled around, effortlessly chasing down and destroying the remaining fighters without taking any losses of their own.

"Hot damn that was fast," Hellcat mused aloud at the display of ruthless efficiency.

Once the last Imperial fighter was destroyed, Talus Leader came back on the comms. "Wedge, we've taken heavy losses. We need to make a few repairs, then get ourselves out of here."

"Roger that, Talus Leader," Wedge replied. There was a click, indicating the veteran pilot had shifted to a private frequency, and immediately Vanguard Squadron formed up on his wing and struck hard at the targeting system of the Star Destroyer, destroying it with ruthless efficiency.

The result was immediate, as turbolaser batteries began to fire wildly into the space around the fighters, unable to calculate anything close to a killing blast. While it wasn't carte blanche for fighters to flit around the surface of the Imperial behemoth, it certainly made their death a lot less likely.

Zippy watched as Wedge and Vanguard circled around the bridge tower of the Star Destroyer, and pulled up at the last moment and struck at the left shield generator dome, strafing and destroying it just as quickly as they had the targeting system moments before. Even as shrapnel spread out in all directions, the fighters flew through it and looped around, striking at a target at the base of the tower.

"What did they just hit?" Hellcat asked aloud.

Shadow appeared, sticking his head into the cockpit. He squinted at the sensor display, and then chuckled. "You're not going to like it," he replied.

"Right in the trash chute," a female voice cheered.

"The trash compactor?" Hellcat whined.

Wedge's voice responded, not hearing Hellcat's public complaint. "Now, push those last fighters back. Clear the skies."

"Ok Mayhem flight, get ready," Bulldog's voice called out.


Outskirts of Yavin Prime Orbit

Bulldog watched the scene closer to Yavin unfold with a growing feeling of unease. While he'd initially felt buoyed by the fact that THE Wedge Antilles was in the system leading Vanguard Squadron as the cover for this mission, his elation gradually waned as it got closer to the time for the strike force to make their move. With each TIE Fighter destroyed, the time to push off inched closer. For the hundredth time since they'd arrived in system, he found himself gripping the yoke of his U-wing while wishing he were back in his Y-wing and joining that part of the fray.

Wedge's voice jarred him out of his nervous jitters. "That's it, all fighters destroyed. Great work! U-wings are on the way. We can bring the boarding team in safely. Follow me to the rendezvous—we'll give them cover."

Bulldog nodded to Guardian as he started to push the throttle forward. "It's go-time. Let the rest of them know to follow me in, and then let the commandos know it won't be too much longer."

Guardian nodded as he relayed the order from his seat in the co-pilot's couch to the two other ships in their flight. He craned his neck around and echoed the words again for the commando team in the hold of the ship. When he finished speaking with the commandos, he turned back to the cockpit and flipped a switch in front of Bulldog without warning or permission. The ship shuddered as the lengthy S-foils deployed into their swept-wing flight configuration.

Bulldog shot Guardian a glare, receiving an apologetic wave from his co-pilot. "I was assuming we'd be going through a tight fit and hadn't planned to deploy the wings."

Guardian held his hands up and nodded. "Sorry. Not used to being a co-pilot on one of these babies."

Bulldog's mouth hung agape at the implication that Guardian had had previous experience in one of these ships, but before he could inquire about his companion's previous U-wing experience, the comm interrupted them.

"Vanguard, let's go," one of the female Vanguard pilots called out.

Bulldog maxed out the throttle and double checked the ELS settings to have his shields maxed out. "Looks like it's going to get real." Up ahead, he saw the five mixed-fighter flight element of Vanguard Squadron forming up on Wedge's position.

Guardian nodded grimly, his cybernetic eye glowing eerily against the dark of space outside. He hadn't interacted much with Guardian back when the veteran pilot was Buccaneer leader and Bulldog was a new Corsair pilot, and he was having a hard time reading him now. The length of his co-pilot's mysterious time going AWOL only added to the mystique of the man, who was all business once the mission started and didn't seem ready to share anything.

"Boarding team, we have you in our sights. Ready to take on a Star Destroyer?"

Bulldog's jaw hung open. A nudge from Guardian brought him back to reality. He shook the elation of being addressed directly by the most decorated pilot in the New Republic and keyed his mic on. "Copy, Captain Antilles. Just get us there and we'll do the rest." He shut his mic off and coughed nervously. He looked over at Guardian. "You think they bought my confidence?"

"What choice do they have?" Guardian replied in a muted voice as he checked the sensors intently. He keyed a few commands on his console. "Putting a white box around the friendlies on your HUD."

"You heard him Vanguard. Guide those U-wings into position. Stay Sharp," Wedge commanded.

"What about the Star Destroyer's crew?" a different female Vanguard pilot asked.

"If our boarding party takes the bridge, they'll slice internal security systems. The crew won't be a problem without computer access and all the blast doors locked," Wedge explained.

"These guys sound... untested to you?" a new voice asked. A mustached man in commando rigging had stepped up on the cockpit ladder, pulling himself up to be head-level even with the pilots. "Amateurs," he scoffed. Bremmer Gorlund was the dashing senior officer of Kintan Squad, the commando group stuffed into the back of the U-wing.

Bulldog hazarded a glance at his co-pilot. Guardian's face had fallen into a deeper scowl, so he looked to Gorlund. The lieutenant was grinning. While most beings put you at ease with a grin on their face, the bared teeth illuminated by the eerie red light from Guardian's cybernetic eye sent a shiver racing up and down his spine. It looked like the commando had a mouth full of bloodied teeth and he was showing them off to the entire cockpit without a care in the galaxy. He hurriedly looked away, and mentally made a note to stay out of Gorlund's way once they boarded the Star Destroyer.

"We've got an Imperial Carrier. They're launching reinforcements," Vanguard Leader reported.

"Where did they come from?!" Guardian cursed, leaning forward and examining the sensor log intently.

Bulldog chinned his mic to the squadron channel. "Ok guys, we have to hustle it up. Get behind me, pattern delta, and follow my ship into the breach!" He steered his ship toward the jagged hole in the back of the bridge tower's base, glancing down briefly to check if his wingmen were complying.

"They're not giving up the Victorum without a fight. Vanguard, take out that cruiser," Wedge ordered.

"Let's hope they can take care of that carrier, or we're never gonna make it to board," Guardian said grimly. "I wish the rest of the Wing were here running the screen. I'd feel a lot better knowing the pilots responsible for buying us time."

Bulldog grunted in agreement, unable to devote any brainpower to a more eloquent vocal response as he was fully focused on making sure he didn't crash the ungainly U-wing on the jagged edges of the breach. He toggled the S-Foil switch, and watched as the lengthy wings folded forward, narrowing his profile significantly as his ship now made the U shape it was named after. "Much better," he said, relaxing more now that he knew he had plenty of room. "Keep an eye out for a good place to set this bird down."

"Scanning," Guardian trailed off, staring intently into his console. "Should be about 15 meters ahead and up slightly for our bridge team. The other two ships will want to look lower to be closer to engineering and the auxiliary bridge."

"You two catch that?" Bulldog asked over the comm as he found a sturdy-looking spot to set the U-wing down.

"Roger," Silence replied. "Found a spot 5 decks down for our engineering team."

"We're two decks above you, Si," Zippy responded. "Deploying to the auxiliary bridge in 15 seconds!"

Bulldog eased the ship down to the deck, clenching his muscles as he waited to see if the damaged decking would hold the fully loaded U-wing. He held his free hand over the repulsor control just in case the deck gave out, but aside from a lengthy low-pitched groan of metallic stress, the decking held. He looked over at Gorlund and nodded. "You're up."

The commando nodded, dropping back from the cockpit ladder and turning to his troops. "Kintan, Deploy for the bridge. GO GO GO!"


ISD Victorum Superstructure

Silence settled the U-wing into a clearing in the deck that was several sizes too small, shouldering aside a broken wreckage in the process. Fitting it in while only scratching the paint was a feat in itself.

Her satisfaction lasted only a moment. Bex and his team were already out of their seats, waiting for the U-wing to open up and let them out. She watched them pile out. "Engineering team deployed."

As part of the team rushed to sweep the area for threats, quickly subduing a few hapless techs, two of the commandos waited by the U-wing. The vast difference in their heights left no doubt which two they were.

Jak beckoned at Silence. "It's clear. Come on out."

"What? No." Silence waved a denial with both hands. "I'm just the getaway driver. I'm staying here with the ship."

"That's not what we were told." Bey's bright grin shone from beneath her helmet's visor. "Don't worry. We gotcha."

"This wasn't in my briefing."

"It was in mine." Bex lumbered up the ship. "We can't secure this deck and Engineering. You're coming with us."

"But the U-wing—"

"We need the Star Destroyer, not the U-wing." Bex waved three of his four hands impatiently. "Now move it."

"I hate all of this." Silence climbed between the two pilot's seats and into the back of the U-wing. Before she stepped out, she noticed an orange glow behind one of the benches. She rolled her eyes. "Come on out, Jobber. I know you're back there. Even though I told you that you weren't allowed to come this time."

Jobber wasn't the type to hang his head in guilt, not even figuratively. He immediately popped out from behind the bench. "Was I supposed to let you go get yourself shot up? If it weren't for me—"

"If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have been charged with treason by the Empire and would still be peacefully working as QA for Arakyd Industries instead of in the middle of all of this!"

"You're welcome." The disembodied R2 head floated after her and the three commandos escorting her.

With sweaty palms, Silence pulled her sidearm out of its holster. It hadn't seen much action. Neither had she. She hoped that wasn't about to change.


ISD Victorum Middle Decks

Zippy and Hellcat took a back seat as Shadow led his cobbled-together commando team through a myriad of twists and turns through the bowels of the Imperial Star Destroyer. Only once did Shadow stop and look around with a slightly confused look on his face, but a quick head nod from Zippy with the proper direction to their target got them moving again. He supposed his Imperial experience paid off once again, as he was quite familiar with the layout of the standard ship of the line.

They encountered a few Imperial personnel, but Shadow's team silently dispatched them with lethal precision that awed the man of Mandalorian faith. More than once, Shadow even appeared to know somebody was nearby without any sort of sign that Zippy could deduce. It was as if the man had a sixth sense that told him things before they happened.

Growing up a part of the Old Mandalorian faith, he knew of the Force and the Jedi of old, but Shadow didn't strike him as a Jedi in hiding. There was plenty of uncertainty in Shadow's movements and decisions, indicating that the Force wasn't guiding him in the way the Jedi were said to be guided by the unseen power. As he mused about the improbability of a Force connection, a fist in the air stopped him in his tracks.

Shadow made a few hand motions, and his squad immediately leapt into action. They covered both directions of the corridor while Shadow moved toward a sealed doorway and frowned. He looked back around and said one word: "Locked."

Zippy cracked his knuckles and rolled his shoulders, finally prepared to do something other than play follow the leader, but he was jostled aside by Hellcat. He stared daggers at his co-pilot for this mission, but they landed on the back of the man's head as he trudged forward quickly.

Hellcat stepped forward hurriedly as he rummaged through his small shoulder satchel, pulling out a heavily modified datapad. "Imperial locks are my specialty," he said cockily, motioning for Shadow to step aside. The commando leader eyed the ex-Rogue pilot dubiously, but relented and moved out of the way to allow the amateur slicer access to the door control panel.

"What should I do?" Zippy asked quietly as he sidled up to Shadow, safely in the center of the formation of commandos watching all three approaches. With his electronic espionage skills apparently not needed, he suddenly felt incredibly superfluous for this part of the mission.

"Be ready to disable any alarms he triggers if he fails," Shadow said as he nodded over his shoulder at Hellcat, who was feverishly tapping away at his datapad and muttering curses.

Zippy pulled out his own modified datapad, and smiled at the sleek look of his own design compared to Hellcat's cobbled-together machination. He set down on his haunches and began connecting to the ship's wireless feed so a subroutine would start probing the encryption passively while he looked through the openly available information. The weekly menu of the mess showed that feeding habits hadn't changed since he'd defected, which drew a wry smile to his lips.

"Got it," Hellcat rejoiced quietly, pumping his fist in the air.

"Gambana, Gerzem, entry on my mark," Shadow hissed. "One on each side, I go up the middle."

A brown-skinned Asogianan padded forth and extended his neck, giving an unnatural proportion to his body. The one plus side to this action was that it drew attention toward the wedge-shaped head perched atop the elongated neck rather than the two IB-94 blaster pistols held tightly to the stubby arms of the commando.

Next to the diminutive commando stepped a green-skinned Kalleran, who cracked his knuckles before shouldering his A280C. He kept the rifle pointed toward the door, and nodded at Shadow to indicate he was ready.

"Mark," Shadow hissed, lunging forward before the door was open.

Hellcat slapped the door control as he scurried out of the way, and the three commandos thundered into the room. A few blaster reports later, and silence reigned supreme.

"Clear," Shadow called out.

Zippy jumped up and moved into the Auxiliary bridge with a purpose, deliberately ignoring the 5 Imperial corpses with smoldering holes in their uniforms, only focusing on one long enough to pull the dead man off of the console he needed access to. As the body thudded to the deck, he connected his datapad directly to the nearby port and let another subroutine work its way inside the security system.

"I'll get into the engineering systems and disable the process for scuttling the ship," Hellcat said excitedly as he parked himself into a neighboring console and got to work.

Zippy ignored the feverish tapping of his companion and continued to work at his measured pace. He wormed his way through the security system and began locking doors in heavily populated areas as fast as he found them, being careful to avoid hindering the progress of the other two teams working toward their own objectives.

After he finished, he began rifling through security feeds and smiled. Each camera showed Imperial troopers and crewmen in varying states of dress banging on their now sealed bulkheads. He didn't need to pull the audio to know that there were curses being flung about in anger all across the ship. Two particularly large crowds were stuck in the mess and hangar.

Zippy frowned at the second group, seeing that they still had quite a bit of craft available for them to fly, so he began tapping away again until he managed to not only lock out the launch controls and crane operations, but he also managed to seal the main hatch that was only ever used in the event of a magcon field failure. He lounged back and put his hands behind his neck. "Annnnd... done."

"Got the reactor safeguards in place to prevent any loose Imperials from making the entire ship go nova," Hellcat said quickly thereafter, giving Zippy a casual salute for the Pantoran's computer skills.

"And comms?" Shadow asked as he moved closer.

"Disabled," Zippy reported. "Can't do much about personal comlinks, unfortunately, but anything with any sort of power to reach extrasolar ears won't work unless we allow it."

Shadow nodded, and then looked intently at one of the security feeds on the bigger screen. "Status on the other teams?"

"Team Three is almost Engineering. Team One is moving on the bridge."

Shadow took in the information and seemed to think for a moment, and then cocked his head to the side suddenly. He looked back at Zippy and Hellcat with a grim look on his face. "You two stay here and keep them from hacking the system from anywhere else." He pointed at the two commandos that had entered and taken the Auxiliary Bridge with him. "Gambana and Gerzem will keep you safe."

"What are you going to do?" Hellcat asked, his face a mask of confusion.

"We're going to set up some party favors and hunt the ones that are loose," Shadow said as he stepped back out into the hallway and whispered commands to his remaining squad. He spared a glance over his shoulder as they began to move out. "Tell me if you see any stragglers on the vids and we'll take care of them. Lock the door."


ISD Victorum Bridge Tower

Bulldog watched in awe of Bremmer Gorlund in his element. While Bulldog felt like a fish out of water being in combat outside of his cockpit, the commando veteran appeared to be a prized Fathier set loose upon the open plains of Cantonica. He looked alive, his face oozing vitality in measures that Bulldog had never seen outside a cockpit.

Guardian was at the rear of the column, running drag with Bulldog. The former Buccaneer had grabbed Bulldog before they left the cockpit— "Look, out there, you're a medical assistant. Just stay with me, help me out, and don't try to be something you aren't." They'd gotten to the hatch and found two commandos waiting for them— Gorlund had left his sniper team to babysit them, as the twisting internal corridors of a Star Destroyer made long shots impractical.

Bulldog had been somewhat comforted in the knowledge that Guardian seemed to know them— at least one of them. They were both women; the one Guardian greeted warmly and called Wonderful was a human, lean and mean, her hair short, dark, and spiked with a flare of bright blue above her left eye, ears and nose sporting a number of decorative piercings. The other woman was a Twi'lek, trying hard not to be cute, blue skin accentuated with swirling designs in bright yellow along her lekku. The commandos eased in with the pilots, jogging along behind and watching for trouble from the rear.

The rest of the squad worked seamlessly, as if they'd been working together for years. Each intersection was approached with speed and efficiency with proper measures of caution. Bulldog found himself struggling to keep up with their speed, assuming they'd be taking a slow and steady approach to the bridge.

Gorlund threw up a fist, calling for a halt silently from his position at the front of the unit. He waited for the rest of the group to establish a perimeter and close the distance before speaking, kneeling in the center of the hallway. Once everybody was assembled, he spoke quietly. "We're about three intersections away from the bridge. I fully expect the resistance to start at the second intersection, and then it'll be an uphill fight the entire way. Torch, I want you and Gundark to hang toward the middle with your fusion cutters ready to go for that bridge door. It'll definitely be locked. Once we reach the door, the rest of the team will set up to repel any counter attacks from the rear while the door is being cut."

Bulldog got a strange feeling, but decided to voice his unease rather than swallow it. "Won't cutting the door open make it harder to defend the bridge once we take it?" He asked, fidgeting with his RSK-44 to distract himself from his unease. It wasn't working.

Gorlund nodded gravely before speaking. "Most definitely. Unfortunately, time is of the essence and slicing will take too long. We've got to go in fast and loud."

"Fastest method would be to just blow the door off the hinges," another commando chimed in.

"Yeah, and then we'd have a helluva time defending the bridge as opposed to two smaller openings that will double as firing ports for our defenses," Gorlund replied tersely, looking at Bulldog with an expression bordering on exasperation. "Any other constructive questions?" Looking from face to face and seeing none, he nodded and stood. "Good, no time like the present," he said as he turned and started trotting toward the expected resistance.

As Gorlund had predicted, there was no ambush waiting at the first intersection. One of the commandos muttered a comment about Imperial protocols being so predictable when he took a blaster bolt to his chest, pitching him back mid-remark. He slid to a stop at Bulldog's feet, a gaping hole smoking from his chest.

Bulldog crinkled his nose at the smell of cooked flesh, but he couldn't stop staring at the shocked expression frozen on the Sullustan soldier's face. It wasn't pain, just a look of complete shock that was frozen on the face's death rictus. A blaster bolt slammed into a bulkhead nearby, jarring him back to the current situation.

"Cover!" Bulldog heard Guardian yell. Blaster fire erupted from their close escorts, Wonderful and the Twi'lek, throwing deadly energy down the hall towards the unseen Imperials. Bulldog's pistol snapped up and started shooting as well, blindfiring down the corridor. In the withering fire, Guardian leaned out away from the wall, grabbing a strap on the stricken commando's gear, and dragged the body out of the middle of the hall.

Once out of the line of fire, Guardian began checking for life signs on the fallen trooper. Practiced fingers felt for a pulse, and then any reaction from the man's still-open eyes.

Bulldog watched the medic-turned-pilot work, then remembered the fight going on outside of the Star Destroyer and decided that it would be prudent to report their progress to Captain Antilles. He tapped into the main comm channel with his portable rig and put the headset over one ear, leaving the other uncovered so he could hear any commands from the commandos. "We're taking fire, but we're almost to the bridge!"

Wedge's voice replied back, but not to him. "All right team, let's finish up the rest."

Guardian was shaking his head, turning away from the body. "We'll have to come back for him. He's gone."

Up ahead, Gorlund and his team had cleared the resistance at the second intersection and were rushing toward the last intersection between them and the bridge. They halted, checking the offshoots thoroughly before reaching the door. He waved the trailing team and the two designated door breakers forward as he kept his blaster rifle at the ready with his other hand. "Set up a beachhead here! Squad two, cover this intersection. Squad one, cover the door team. Once they're done, you're the first ones up!"

The two door cutters instantly set about their tasks with their massive cutting tools. It looked like a cross between an old clone trooper's Z-6 rotary blaster and an industrial welding tool. The jackhammering sound emanating from the two machines as they began their tasks was loud enough to deafen Bulldog.

He could only imagine how hard it would be for the rearguard to hear any lurking counterattack while the door was being breached. He decided to give another report to Wedge, not worrying about being quiet since those door cutters were louder than anything he'd ever heard before. "Bridge is sealed! Cutting through the blast doors!"

The counter attack came almost the moment the lances of heat were seen from the other side of the bridge doors. Troopers came from both offshoots of the main intersection, but were met with a coordinated defensive pattern of fire that repelled them back down the hall with heavy casualties.

Bulldog looked back over his shoulder and saw that both cutters had managed to get three sides of their openings cut, and they were working on getting the last part of the rough square to meet back at the origin. "We're almost through those blast doors!"

"We've got another Imperial Carrier," the leader of Vanguard squadron's voice called out. Bulldog's heart caught in his chest as he mentally willed the cutters to move faster.

"Make that 3 carriers," another pilot reported anxiously.

The cutters finished their work. They stepped back while two of their comrades stepped forward and planted a booted foot hard against the cut sections, sending the heavy door fragments clattering inside the bridge. The two kicking troopers were through the new holes before the fragments even settled, and the cutters lunged through hot on their heels, tossing their cutters to the side while they drew their blasters and joined their squadmates in subduing the bridge guards.

"That's... a lot," Wedge replied, the halting pattern to his speech belying how long he thought the odds were about to get. "Get ready everyone!"

Fire from the intersection intensified as the Stormtroopers renewed their efforts now that the New Republic commandos were inside the bridge subduing all resistance. He felt a tap on his shoulder, and looked up to see Guardian motioning for him to move into the bridge.

"Hold this intersection as long as possible. Fall back inside the door by pairs if necessary!" Gorlund ordered his last few troopers as he stepped inside the bridge with his head on a swivel, his blaster tracking with his eyes.

Bulldog followed Guardian inside, and saw a flurry of activity as the commandos set upon all bridge officers in sight, disarming them and securing their hands and feet with binders. He ran over to the main walkway, but was at a loss for what to do next. He had zero expertise in this arena.

Thankfully, the commandos were prepared. As Gorlund began handing out assignments— two troopers to watch the trussed up crew and guards in the hologram pod alcove. The rest of the team took defensive positions inside the door, while one of the commandos— a Duros hauling an assortment of technical gear— started setting equipment on a series of different stations. Guardian settled in at the navigation console and started tapping away rapidly.

"We're in! Taking control now!" Bulldog said into the comm. Looking around, still unsure what to do, he sidled up to Guardian. "What do I do?"

"Keep communications up. If you think you can help specifically somewhere, jump in," Guardian replied without looking up from his task.

Bulldog bristled at the dismissal, but walked away rather than make an issue of it in the middle of a time-sensitive mission. He cycled through the comm channels. "Team Two, status?"

"Team Two is in the Aux bridge, setting up shop. No casualties and little resistance," Zippy replied. "Shadow is setting up some sort of a defensive perimeter."

"Copy," Bulldog replied, resting easier knowing that both points of direct control were under their power. "Team Three, status?"

"We're coming up on Engineering," Silence replied quietly. She didn't sound terribly thrilled. "Light resistance and no sabotage detected as far as we can tell. But the department is huge, Lead. Bex says there's no way they can check it thoroughly before we need to leave the system, nor secure it properly at the same time."

Bulldog nodded and set the comm down. "We've got control of two objectives— and Team Three is almost at Engineering. No other casualties aside from ours so far!"

"We've got multiple carriers closing in," Guardian announced from the navigation station.

"Wait till they get a load of this," the Duros replied darkly. He'd set up what looked like a master control panel near where Guardian had stationed himself. He punched a few buttons into his console and then stood back up to look out of the viewport.

The ship thrummed with activity as the topside turbolaser batteries started pumping out sheets of green energy at the approaching ships. Concussion missiles leapt forth from their tubes, crushing the Imperial reinforcements before they could launch any fighters.


ISD Victorum Auxiliary Bridge

"Got anything?" Hellcat asked as he leaned over from his console.

Zippy shook his head. "Just a boatload of confused and angry cross-talk on the airwaves. They seem to be under the impression this is one of the captain's lockdown drills."

Hellcat scoffed. "What kind of a captain would conduct a drill like that during a battle?"

Zippy pursed his lips. "Imperial discipline in play, Lieutenant. Most of them aren't questioning what's going on, they're just angry about it."

Hellcat nodded thoughtfully as he mulled over the response, looking back through his own security responsibilities. "Not much for individuality or proactive thought, are they?"

Zippy nodded his head from side-to-side. "It's not... encouraged behavior, no. If you gamble and fail, y—" Movement on the feed he was watching drew his attention.

Hellcat frowned and looked back up at his companion. "If they gamble and fail, what?"

Zippy shushed him with a curt wave. He leaned in close and saw the door on the screen begin to rise slowly. He muttered a series of Mandalorian curses as he began tapping away quickly at his console. "Blasted free-thinking Impies!"


"Somebody in one of the trooper barracks managed to defeat my lockout," Zippy growled, tapping more commands. The progress of the door halted, only giving about a foot of clearance. Hands began probing through the new gap as they attempted to force the hatch open by sheer manpower.

Hellcat's eyes widened. "Lock it back down!"

"Already done," Zippy replied, sighing with relief. On the screen, the hands continued to try and find a grip at the bottom. He tapped a few more commands into his datapad to disable the series of keystrokes required to defeat his encryption, and then created another quick monitoring program to keep an eye on that door specifically and all electronic devices within. After a quick check, the program should alert him the moment the person in that room attempted to subvert his code again.

"Should we tell Shadow and the rest of the team?" One of the commandos asked from his post.

Hellcat shook his head. "Nah, not unless they get the door open more."

Zippy disagreed visibly. "That location is on this deck. We should let him know."


ISD Victorum Middle Decks

Shadow left the auxiliary bridge with a handful of commandos carrying inactive auto turrets. Gesturing one group to go left he took the rest to the right until they reached an intersection and the commandos immediately began setting up the automated weapons to cover as many angles of approach as possible.

He had insisted upon most of his team carrying one. It had led to a massive amount of griping amongst those that got assigned the heavy extra piece of kit, but now that he'd been proven correct in their necessity the biggest complainers were happily whiling away while they set up the portable death-dealing machines.

No resistance so far, can't complain about that but it doesn't feel right. I hope the others are doing as well as we are.

He checked the magazine of his slugthrower and maintained a watch while the soldiers worked. In the opposite direction, the other half of his team was setting up similar defenses, all in order to ensure the secondary bridge was secured while he and the team roved the halls to round up any stragglers that hadn't been trapped in a room somewhere when Zippy had enacted his lockdown.

"Got a situation," Zippy's voice whispered in his ear via the small earbud Shadow and the rest of his team wore.

Shadow's heart dropped at the report. He'd been waiting for the other shoe to drop after hearing that each team had secured their objective, and here it was. "What is it?"

"Some Imps managed to temporarily subvert my lockout, but I caught it quickly. They managed to get their door up less than a foot before I got it back under our control, but they might be able to force it the rest of the way given enough time."


"Same deck, trooper barracks A15, that's A One-Five."

Shadow pulled up a schematic, and frowned. It was close to the auxiliary bridge. Too close for comfort, and would put their objective at risk if the troopers managed to escape. He put a hand on Corporal Urek Ost'shen's shoulder to stop the eager young Bothan from unloading and deploying the last auto turret.


"We need to put that turret down the hall so it can watch the hallway out of a trooper barracks," Shadow explained, nodding over his shoulder to indicate the direction. "And after that, we're hunting for stragglers."


ISD Victorum Engineering Department

The commandos moved so fluidly, they hardly seemed rushed, yet Silence had to run half the time just to keep up. They'd met some opposition, but by time Silence saw any stormtroopers, they were just bodies on the floor. She scurried past them, pointing her blaster at each of them in turn just in case. The corridors of the capital ship seemed endless and every turn led down another corridor that looked the same as all the rest, to her eyes, but Bex seemed to know where he was going.

Despite this, even Silence recognized when they reached their destination. The final door opened into a massive room of machinery. The heat and noise was oppressive, and made her feel exposed and vulnerable. She'd never be able to hear approaching footsteps over the thrumming and rumbling. She felt the vibrations of the hyperdrive through the floor and in her very guts.

"This way!" One of the commandos waved and pointed up a flight of stairs that connected to a mess of catwalks. He had to shout to be heard.

"Go, go!" Bey nudged Silence, who had stopped to stare over the edge of a meager railing and into the cavernous room.

Silence needed no additional encouragement. She darted up the stairs, not wanting any part of being left behind. Doc Jobber sailed erratically after them, pausing at every corner before whipping onward. Silence was pretty certain Jobber was moving in time to some spy flick theme song.

"Secure the area!" Bex's voice boomed over the din. A brief spat of blaster fire broke out in the middle of the maze of catwalks. A stormtrooper yelled as Jak shouldered him over the railing. A spray of blaster bolts streaked upwards as the trooper crashed and bounced off machinery below. Silence crouched in place, all too aware of how little cover there was to be had.

"Captain, there's no way we can cover everything," one of the commandos replied, gesturing to the myriad of walkways and exits.

"Figure it out!" Bex started bellowing orders, directing soldiers to key positions. "Make sure none of those Imps get any bright ideas about sabotaging our new prize."

Before he could even finish, something above flickered. Electricity arced down from the levels above.

Jak blinked, staring as blue light lit up the area and the thrumming turned into an agonized whine. "Well... frak."

Jobber pulled up next to the big man. "Nice going, meatbag."part 3

"Shut up, ya tin can!"

Bey stood back-to-back with Jak, and she chimed in dryly. "Yeah, nice going, ya big oaf."

"We're coming out of hyperspace." Silence felt the shift, despite the compensators. No one heard her, but judging from all the sudden swearing, they all felt it too. She grabbed for her comm. Time to state the obvious. "Uh, Lead, we got a slight problem."

"The hell was that?" Bulldog cursed over the comms. "You guys break something down there?"

"Er, Lead, we just got here." Silence grimaced as she visually scanned the area around her. She had a strong suspicion the sudden failure had exactly everything to do with the stormtrooper Jak had bowled into the machinery, and all the resulting blaster fire. "Would you believe it was like this when we found it?"

There was a long pause on the team comms, and then Bulldog returned. "I've sent a Code Yellow out. Get this karking thing fixed so we don't have to wait for the cavalry to show up!"

To be concluded...