Recovery of Power Station Theta
Word Count: 4325
Private Jennih "Charmer" Golo allowed herself to be lulled into a momentary trance by the thrum of the U-wing's engines. She and the rest of 2nd Platoon of D Company, were en route to the outskirts of Theed. There was a power station, designated "Theta" that needed repairs in the southeast sector of the City. That's all she knew from the hasty briefing they'd received at the assembly area on the CRS Restoration 30 minutes ago.
"Five minutes out!" the pilot gruffly called out, breaking into Charmer's trance.
Next came the voice of their squad leader, Gunnery Sergeant La Enopa. "Saddle up people!" he barked out with authority, as he looked around at his charges.
"Somebody wake up Skich..."
Charmer looked down her row to see what the Sergeant meant. Private Skich had fallen asleep, slumped over and lightly snoring in his seat. Suppressing a giggle, Charmer looked away and brought her gaze to meet the eyes of each of her squadmates. As a group, they had just started to build an experience together. They were about to be dropped into only their third engagement since leaving boot camp. Some of the squad members met her brief gaze, giving a shy smile or a thumbs up. Charmer smiled to herself. They were good people. Whatever was ahead of them, they'd figure out a way to get through it.
Charmer's interior monologue was suddenly, rudely interrupted by green blaster bolts and flack erupting outside. The U-wing was buffeted roughly, but the pilot kept them on track.
"LZ is too hot! Have to—" the pilot's voice abruptly cut off as the U-wing was hit by a close blast wave of flack.
"Everyone hang on back there, this isn't going to be pretty..." the pilot yelled into the radio.
Suddenly they were diving...
Close...yet so far...
Despite the pilot's warning, the U-wing somehow fought its way to a hover position near the centre of a random plaza that the pilot had managed to select. Suddenly La Enopa was shouting again.
"Everyone out now! Go, go, go! Asses and elbows! MOVE IT MOVE IT!"
Charmer unstrapped herself and moved toward the exit, watching the door gunners furiously blast away at unseen targets as she passed. As she hurriedly got into position to jump, she was suddenly shoved forward as if by an invisible hand. The air behind her erupted and she was suddenly flying, blacking out somewhere through the air.
She awoke about 5 minutes later, at the hands of her squad leader, who roughly shook her awake.
"Charmer, wake up...snap out of it you nerf!"
"What happened sir?" Charmer asked, groggily, pushing herself up onto her elbows. She looked around and noticed the rest of the squad going through something similar. Apparently, they'd all been dumped out and denied the ability to land properly on two feet.
"The Imps hit all of us short of our designated LZs. D is especially scattered and we have to re-group," he said, not disguising the tension in his voice. "Hitting our LZ means our stuff is gone. We're going to have to be ready to improvise for the rest of this dance party," he said matter-of-factly. "We can bet the Imps are dug in and prepared."
Everyone got quiet for a moment as they reflected on the gravity of the situation, a lot of their firepower was waiting at those landing zones. Now it wasn't.
"We're in some pretty shit now man, we're done, game over man, game over!" squealed a young private near to the conversation.
"That's enough Private, stow the bantha crap and find your frickin' choobies!" La Enopa snapped, flashing a venomous look at the soldier. He had a little difficulty hiding his true feelings in his eyes, which Charmer immediately saw. Charmer was almost back in the game now, the fuzziness was fading. She suddenly was aware of wetness on her right cheek. She checked it and her hand came away red.
Her squad leader had observed the gesture. "We called for our medic about two minutes ago, but he never came. I hope he's up ahead and having comms trouble."
Charmer took off her helmet and felt around a bit. She couldn't quite feel where the blood was coming from, and there was no obvious lump.
"I think it's just a scratch sir, no problem." She put her helmet back on. "Let's get on with this...I'd like to show these Imps a thing or two."
The squad leader looked at her with a wry grin. "Ok people, let's take stock. The U-wing was wrecked pretty badly, but some of our gear might still be intact. First things first, let's scrounge what's left before we move out. We're short of time and we need to haul ass..."
Slow March up the Street
Charmer's platoon salvaged what they could from the U-wing wreck, under sporadic fire the entire time. They found more than they expected, and while the U-wing couldn't fly, its gear storage racks were blessedly intact after crashing from errant blaster fire. The flight crew and door gunners were dead, but she had little time to reflect deeply on that.
"Private Skich!" yelled La Enopa as they rummaged through the U-wing.
"Yes sir!" Skich responded, turning and coming to attention.
"Grab the left-side repeating blaster from the door, it looks to be in good shape. It's yours the rest of this party, put it to good use."
Private Skcih gave a sharp salute and turned to the task.
Ten minutes later, they'd stocked up and Charmer and her squad formed up and started up the street. The civilian population had long since melted into the shadows of their homes and buildings. No one was on the streets. Modern weaponry is scarily able to reduce structures to rubble, so the soldiers had to carefully pick and thread their way along. Weapons fire from the Imps was sporadic but steadily grew heavier as they progressed. The New Republic soldiers grabbed cover when needed, and returned fire.
Eventually, they caught up with other squads from D Company and more or less reformed halfway to the power station, which loomed ever larger in view. La Enopa disappeared for a time, presumably to a meet-up of the Command staff. Charmer's squad found the remains of a coffee shop and holed themselves up. The windows were broken, so they moved toward the back of the shop, which was deserted.
La Enopa eventually returned to them with marching orders. He beckoned Charmer and the rest of the squad into a huddle.
"Ok grunts, here's what we know... Our LZ is confirmed ash, so there's no point going there. The power station is about two klicks up. E company is shepherding the technicians and keeping them from getting killed. We need to get that power station back online ASAP. It's one of several that feed an ion pulse weapon near the Theed Royal Palace. We need all the city power stations back online to fire it. If we're successful, the weapon will take away the Imps' ability to fight."
He looked at his squad each in turn, and especially hard at Charmer. "Charmer, we might need you to, how do you say it?"
"Sir?" Charmer asked, looking puzzled.
"Creatively remove a problem..." La Enopa continued. "C Company was brought down short of their LZ just like us. All our LZs...and supplies, including any heavy weapons, are gone. The C's did manage to advance and find that the Imps have indeed fortified the front door... with an E-Web."
"What about air power?" Private Skich blurted out, randomly.
"No way," La Enopa said. "Air power is too busy keeping TIEs off our backs. In case you hadn't noticed, the skies are blessedly clear. No, this one is on us. We're going to support C Company's assault while E Company tries to quietly shepard the techs through the back streets to the power station."
Charmer looked thoughtful for a moment. "Sir, if we can find and hit the power cell, the E-Web is done."
"My thoughts exactly. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of intel on where it is or how far away from the main emplacement. We also don't have a lot of time to figure those things out. We're going to have to wing it, understood?"
"SIR YES SIR!" Charmer and the squad called back in unison.
La Enopa grinned. "I appreciate your enthusiasm. We move in two minutes. Check your gear and get ready to lock and load..."
Two minutes later, Charmer and her squadmates cautiously made their way out of the coffee shop and turned to continue the march up the street. They stayed low and steadily followed La Enopa to their designated rally point. Radios crackled to life, with messages bouncing in from the other companies as they advanced. Suddenly, the messages and chatter took on an obvious tone of desperation. The platoons of D Company had gotten together again and were advancing behind C Company, clearing pockets of stormtroopers they found along the way.
La Enopa, famous for not trusting radio comms and using sign language, put his left arm up at 90 degrees and balled his fist. Instinctively, Charmer and the rest of the squad dropped to cover. They all listened intently to the chatter. Up ahead, the unmistakable "THUMP, THUMP, THUMP," of a heavy blaster could be heard— and felt.
"I think the C's are in trouble," La Enopa whispered. "Give me a minute and stay sharp. Make a perimeter here and be ready to provide cover fire." With that, he disappeared up ahead.
Charmer and her squad hastily dug in, using the plentiful wreckage to conceal themselves. She pulled out her macro binoculars and pushed herself up to gain a field of view. She saw a lot of smoke, blaster fire, and explosions from thermal detonators, who's she wasn't sure. The chatter over the radio continued. Then, all of a sudden, it grew quiet.
La Enopa returned after what to Charmer seemed an eternity.
"I was right, C is down and pinned. They've taken serious losses and can't advance. It's our turn. We have to be smarter than they were though. Command isn't admitting it yet, but it's pretty clear to me the Imps are all up in our comms' business. No more radios for this platoon, no sound, just like I've trained you...understood?"
"SIR YES SIR," Charmer and the squad responded in a strong yet quiet fashion.
The squad reformed with the remainder of the D Company platoons and they steadily fought their way into the battle zone where C Company lay in tatters, hanging on by a thread.
As she advanced, ideas about blowing things up floated through Charmer's mind. The heavy demolition gear had been waiting for them at their LZ, but that ship had sailed... and sunk, so she'd have to figure out something else. Then, suddenly, she saw a storefront and broke into a grin.
La Enopa noticed her expression. "Charmer, what the heck is so funny?" he hissed under his breath.
"Sir, if you'll bear with me and give the tiniest bit of slack, I have an idea," she answered, as La Enopa brought the squad to a halt. Weapons fire from the Imps had started to pick up again and become more determined as they advanced, so they immediately looked for cover. Charmer shepherded them into the hardware store that had caused the mental light bulb to flash.
"Ok Charmer, what's the deal?" La Enopa asked, barely concealing his impatience.
"Look around sir, it's a hardware store!" she replied excitedly.
"So what? I don't think any of us are working on home improvement right now!" he snapped.
"Sir," Charmer said, trying not to sound too impatient. "You asked me to be ready to get creative. Well, this is it." She got to work combing the aisles for bomb-making supplies.
La Enopa looked slightly dumbfounded for a moment and opened his mouth to say something, but decided to give Charmer the slack she'd asked for. Eventually, she returned with a backpack full of supplies.
"Done?" La Enopa asked, eyeing the backpack she carried.
"Sir yes sir... gonna blow up that E-Web real good," Charmer responded, a little too happily.
D Company reformed in full in the blocks outside the hardware store where Charmer had done her "shopping". The fighting had been sporadic as they moved from the wreck of their U-wing toward the power station. Now, increasingly they hit the sharpest teeth of the Imps. They had found the E-Web. It had been installed at the pointy end of two streets that met in a V, inside a bunker of a building with an excellent field of fire. C Company had found out about this the hard way and was now scattered in defensive positions, pinned and bleeding badly. It would take hours of picking through side streets to reach their destination, hours they didn't have.
E Company was behind them waiting to usher the techs through, but all easy routes were funneled to the zone guarded by the E-Web.
La Enopa had learned their situation in bits and pieces as it filtered down the chain of command. Worried that the Imps were monitoring comms, communications between the New Republic soldiers had slowed to a crawl as they tried to carry on with message runners and hand signals. Their front had dramatically compressed, so the distances weren't prohibitive, but still, it wasn't as efficient as radios.
Charmer's squad was engrossed in a firefight with all the Imps they could see. Somehow, D Company hadn't taken enormous losses, but that luck wouldn't last forever. The thumping blasts of the E-Web up ahead would see to that.
"We have to be smarter than the C's," La Enopa said out loud to no one in particular, as he dropped his 6th stormtrooper from behind cover. As if to echo his random musings, his Platoon Commander suddenly emerged from somewhere behind and grabbed La Enopa's attention between shots. Charmer watched the two men drift away into a close-quarters conference of some kind. She and Private Skich exchanged looks, but quickly returned to the business in front of them.
"Charmer!" La Enopa called, motioning her over.
Charmer broke from the line, safetied her blaster rifle, and crawled over to where the Gunnery Sergeant crouched.
"Where's your backpack of goodies?" La Enopa asked.
Charmer turned and pointed behind her, it was tucked into a hollow in what used to be a wall.
"Good, grab it and come with me... the rest of you, sit tight and keep up the pressure on." The rest of the squad in unison gave a look of mild annoyance, but carried on as ordered.
Charmer and La Enopa found their way around to a concealed corner out of the worst of the firefight. "Run me through what you can make Private," La Enopa asked.
"Basically an improvised satchel charge sir. I'll need about ten minutes in a quiet place," Charmer answered, looking eager.
"Great. Right here is about as quiet as it's going to get. Get to work. When you're done, I'll fill you in on the plan. I'm going back to the squad."
Charmer saluted, moved a bit deeper into the concealed area they'd found, and began to work.
Ten minutes later, Charmer came out and crawled low back to the frontline. They managed to advance all of six metres from where they'd been before. The E-Web was starting to reach them at its maximum range, so they were careful to melt away into cover. Debris showered over their heads and kicked up clouds of dust as it landed.
"Ready sir," Charmer said, holding the backpack that once held supplies out gingerly in front of her. It looked ridiculous. Skich let out a barely suppressed snort, immediately covering his mouth when La Enopa shot him dagger eyes.
"Shut it Skich," he snapped. Skich went quiet and looked at the ground.
Charmer ignored him and briefly explained her hastily assembled creation. "It's got a 30 second fuse. We don't need anything to detonate it when we set it. I improvised a timer and got it all wired up," she added.
La Enopa looked at her for a minute and pursed his lips. "Impressive Charmer, I just hope it works."
She looked slightly saddened about the lack of faith. "It will sir," Charmer responded, in a confident tone.
"Ok people, here's the plan..."
Charmer and her squad pressed onward into the street battle that had continued around them. New Republic radio traffic had gone quiet, eyeballs, hand signals, and even hastily scribbled paper notes were ruling the day. The plan had been distributed via runners, so nothing remained to be said.
C Company was still pinned, and almost combat ineffective by the time D linked up with them and sprinkled themselves amongst their lines. D split into its four platoons and parked themselves in concealed positions about 500 metres downwind of the E-Web emplacement. Charmer and her squad could see it clearly. The Imps had created a hasty series of fortifications out of a building and adjacent debris at the point of the V. They'd dug a simple trench network which provided cover for stormtroopers to repel a frontal assault. The neighbourhood buildings were dense enough behind that an assault from the rear was impractical, it would have taken the time they didn't have to go around. The power station beckoned a short distance beyond, raised on a small hill like a jewel.
The E-Web had been set up in a bunker-like building with thick walls and a relatively narrow slit carved to serve as a firing port. Charmer speculated that they must have a spotting team somewhere else calling the shots because the slit was just too narrow to offer a clear field of view.
E Company had worked its way up to the front and lay in the shadows just behind D, waiting to leapfrog through the hole that their comrades were hopefully about to create.
The streets had been generally cleared of stray stormtroopers. Those that remained lay ahead, fortified and charged with not letting anyone pass.
The E-Web had been steadily thumping away, forcing the New Republic soldiers to stay in cover and only offer sporadic return fire, which was mostly wasted due to the Imp fortifications. Suddenly, it went quiet. La Enopa snapped his macrobinoculars up and focussed them on the bunker. He was in close enough proximity to his squad that he was able to just whisper and they heard him.
"This is it...barrel change," he calmly stated.
Randomly, from somewhere ahead and above, Charmer became vaguely aware of a whining hum. It grew steadily louder until it was a deafening roar. Randomly, the distinct shapes of TIE fighters began to appear in the sky in front of them. Before they could open up on the New Republic soldiers who were preparing for their assault, three X-wings roared in to save the day. They made quick work of the TIEs, clearing them out. Imp air defenses roared to life in the X-wing's wake, and a swarm of missiles rose into the sky after the New Republic fighters. They popped flares and jinked, but didn't have a lot of room to maneuver at low altitudes. One of the fighters was hit and went down into the streets below. Charmer didn't see an ejection seat or parachute in the sky anywhere near. She winced, briefly saddened at the loss.
With the skies cleared, up ahead, the remnants of C Company let loose on the trench network with a flurry of blaster fire and thrown thermal detonators. They started a distraction on the right of the E-Web emplacement. The Imps took the bait and began to concentrate their firepower in that direction.
"GO, GO, GO!!" La Enopa yelled, without further need for the subtlety of sign language. "Charmer, with me!" Charmer was immediately on her feet, satchel charge backpack safely around her shoulders and blaster out and firing. The rest of her platoon was behind them, forming into a V in an apparent frontal assault on the bunker. They began to take fire from the Imps, with several of the D Company troopers going down. They got within throwing range of the main trench line, hurling a mixture of thermal detonators and smoke grenades into the Imp line.
Taking advantage of the confusion, half the D Company soldiers carried on straight in their frontal assault, La Enopa, Charmer, and the other half hooked left and disappeared into an alley between buildings. The alley went straight for a time but then hooked back in the direction of the Imps' defensive line. They encountered stiff resistance, as the Imps were clearly aware of the hole, but apparently didn't take it as seriously as they should have. Charmer and the D's blasted out the defenders with rapid violence.
They marched steadily to the end of the alley, emerging at the left portion of the Imp trench line, which had been fortified by a sloppy yet impassable wall of concrete debris.
"Charmer, do it!" he yelled, barely audible above blaster fire and explosions.
Wordlessly, Charmer came up into the area while her comrades picked off stormtroopers that suddenly saw their vulnerability being exploited and rushed to deal with it. Charmer set her satchel against the debris wall and activated the timer.
"MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!" she yelled, rushing away from the area. Her comrades followed.
The E-Web lit up again... the crew completed the barrel change, but before it could do real damage...
Down the debris wall came.
The New Republic soldiers poured through the smoking gap the satchel charge created, entering the trench network and carving through the remaining Imps in a tough, close-quarters battle. Outside, the remainder of D Company reached the bunker and hurled another flurry of thermal detonators into the interior where the E-Web lay, silencing it once and for all.
In the aftermath of flanking and taking care of the E-Web position, Charmer and her squad had a few precious moments to catch their breath. They walked slowly up the last metres to the entrance gate of their target power station.
"Sir, how did you know about that alley?" Private Skich asked.
La Enopa didn't look back as he led the squad forward. "The recon squad of E Company found hints of it. Command guessed the rest and decided to take a chance," he responded. "It was really our only hope of getting past. Thanks to Charmer's... hobby, we were able to pull our choobies out of the flames."
Charmer winced at the sudden mental picture, shaking her head to try to get rid of it.
The New Republic forces had gone back to standard comms in the aftermath of clearing the E-Web. The Imps had managed to listen in after all, and a lot of C Company's losses could have been avoided had that fact been realized and acted on sooner.
"Alright grunts, pick up the pace. What's left of E has made it inside our objective and the techs are getting to work. We need to set up defenses right quick. We've got another wave of Imps inbound..." La Enopa couldn't finish the sentence as explosions erupted behind them and the loud whine of more TIEs could be heard in the distance. The terrifying, crunching thump of footsteps of something dreaded began to drift ever closer.
Oh great, Charmer thought. Not gonna be able to whip up satchel charges big enough to deal with those...
She turned to see a swarm of Imp craft heading their way. Looking left and right from the hilltop vantage point, she could see similar scenes off in the distance playing out, presumably near the other power stations. It didn't look good. They'd expended much of their ammo and energy to get here. Suddenly, Charmer started to feel an odd sensation in the air, almost like it was being electrified. The hairs on the back of her neck began to stand up.
"Down!!" La Enopa yelled.
The squad immediately dropped, taking cover in whatever their immediate surroundings offered. The electrical feeling in the air rapidly intensified, and the entire area around the power station was bathed in blue light. Then, everything was silent. In the distance, Charmer heard a few muffled crashes, like something big had tipped over. She looked up, a wave of relief washing over her as she caught an Imperial Walker that had suddenly lost power mid-stride, lost balance and tipped over.
Private Skich lept up and started whooping like a crazy man.
"Holy happabore! Ion cannon... the mother of all ion cannons! Wooo!!!" he bellowed.
"Skich, you moof-milker, quit it and get a hold of yourself!" La Enopa hissed, not quite ready to reach the same conclusion. He looked up and surveyed the scene ahead of them, eventually realizing that the celebration wasn't unwarranted. I didn't take much to see the Imps were done. All their weapons were fried. He too broke into a wide grin.
"I take it back, Skich, carry on," he said, as he got up from the prone position he had been laying in.
Charmer got up and stood beside him, savouring the scene and their victory. She could see Imp soldiers seemingly wandering aimlessly in the distance, confused and obviously lacking orders. "Sir? Can we go round up the bastards?" she asked, looking hopeful.
La Enopa raised his palm to her and took a moment to respond. Just as Charmer spoke, messages had begun flooding into his earpiece over the Commnet.
"Yes Private, the Imps have surrendered. Let's go get 'em, the hard work here is done."