Capital Punishment- Part 3
A CRS Liberty Adventure
By: Rooster, Kallysto, Guardian, and Stryker. Edits and slight adjustments made by Bulldog.
Capital Punishment — Chapter 9
The dull hum of the Y-wing's engines left vibration ripples in Max's coffee cup. The old man took a few steps back, giving the rebel pilot a thumbs up sign. "Looks good!" he called out. "Shut it down!"
Guardian nodded approvingly, and settled the Y-wing back to the soundstage floor. "Checks out okay on the telltales, too." He stood up in the cockpit. "Hey, Jeff! Time to finish off this vacation and go home!" he yelled.
From across the hangar bay, an arm waved from over one of the A-wings. Kallysto poked his head up briefly. "Hey Parody. How's the last one going over there?"
At a similar A-wing, Parody stood and turned around. "Just finished. I don't understand why an R1 unit needs a seatbelt, though." They looked almost comical with a lot of their outer casings removed. The little droid looked up at him and whistle-beeped. "Yes, I know, but you're not flying a stunt. You're flying straight back home, just like the rest of us."
"Wonderful. Come help me with this one. I'll admit freely I know next to nothing about droid repair," Kallysto said.
Scant minutes later, Kallysto sat on the hull of his old A-wing, wiping the grease off his hands. "Well, old man, looks like this is goodbye again," he said softly.
Max nodded, a bit lost in thought. "Yeah. I imagine we won't be seeing you for a while after this."
Kallysto chuckled. "Well, hopefully the Alliance will forgive and forget when I bring them these. It's a pity I couldn't see Amber while I was here, though. Tell 'er I said hi, and give her a hug for me."
Max didn't say anything for a moment. "Sure. Next time I see her, I'll do just that." He looked away, and then pulled a datapad out of his coveralls. "One other thing. This is for you."
Kallysto took the pad, and looked at it. "How up to date is this?"
"Oh, this morning," Max replied with a grin. "There should be no problem getting past the Imp patrols with that."
Kallysto grinned, shaking his head. "Sure we can't convince you to come with us? The Alliance could use another fine tech like you, Uncle Max."
Max shook his head. "My home is here. I'd be lost anywhere else."
Kallysto rolled his eyes. "Your home is Adarlon Prime, but the Imps are still looking for you over there. Still, if you like this mining colony, it's not my place to convince you to go." He stood, giving the old man a hug.
"Oof! Okay, okay, I'll miss ya too. Be careful with that cyberarm, yea?" Max said.
"Sorry," Kallysto admitted sheepishly. "All right." He turned, and handed the pad over to the others, who had come up behind him. "Slot this pad into your navicomp. It's a charting of the Imp patrols for the month, and we should be able to avoid them like they weren't there."
Parody took the pad, and studied it. "Not bad, even if there're only two corvettes and a squad of TIEs between us and the jump point. How do you get this data, anyway, Maximillian?"
Max drew a finger alongside his nose. "Let's just say we have a friend in space traffic control."
The planet dropped away behind them as the set of fightercraft left the atmosphere. Mynock looked behind him, chuckling as he keyed his radio. "Hey, Kallysto, looks like we're leading an attack on something."
Kallysto's staticky reply came back almost immediately. "I hope not. None of these things are armed. It's what kept the Imps off our backs so long—we used to paint in the blasters with CG, so whenever they pulled one of their surprise inspections, we didn't have loaded craft, just pretty mockups. But the power servos are in, and it doesn't take but an hour modification to turn one of these babies into a real A-wing, given the right parts. That's the other nice thing about them. You can practically build an A-wing out of salvage."
"Guess the Alliance doesn't get much salvage, then," Guardian's voice broke in over the radio. "Five minutes to nav point. Transmitting jump coordinates now."
"Copy that, got 'em," Parody's voice answered. "Hey, 'Nock, want to buzz the navpoint just in case there are any surprises?"
Mynock looked out past the last of the debris field and beyond, at the faroff planet. "Couldn't hurt, I suppose."
The two Liberty A-wings sped out ahead of Guardian's Y-wing and Kallysto's modified prop A-wings, quickly dwindling in the distance.
From the Y-wing's cockpit, Guardian snorted. Probably didn't like babysitting the flock, most likely, he thought.
"Hey Adam?" Kallysto's voice hailed over the comm.
"Thanks again. For everything."
Guardian grinned. "Just listen, sometimes. That's payback enough."
"I'll do that. I owe ya," he said, clearing the radio channel.
"Nav point's clear," Mynock's voice came faintly over the comm. "Just waiting for you, now."
In no time at all, the Y-wing caught up to the circling A-wings. "Righty-o. Time to go home, gentlemen.", Guardian said, throwing the hyperspace lever over.
As the Y-wing and two A-wings zipped off in a blur of pseudomotion, Kallysto grinned, throttling his fightercraft to full for the first time. "Yeah, right. If they're going to still ground me when I return, I'm at least going to take you for a last spin, old girl."
With a high-pitched whine, the fighter took off, pressing him firmly into the seat. He grinned toothily, watching the speed indicator climb towards the red.
At 210 MGLT, he slowly eased the stick up and to the right, putting the craft into a wide turn. He could feel the pressure of the turn against the harness, until he rolled the fighter on its side. "Yessss," he hissed through clenched teeth.
With a reluctant sigh, he brought the craft back around, righting it as he sped back towards other waiting craft. By the instrument clock, they'd jumped out about a minute and a half ago.
"Time to go home, indeed," he commented morosely. "All right, ya droids. Light 'em and jump!"
He pushed over the hyperspace lever, and heard the familiar whine of the hyperdrive behind his back. He felt the usual motion as the craft turned on its axis, auto-homing on its jump heading. Kallysto had half a second to realize that the ship was pointing in absolutely the wrong direction before it kicked into hyperspace.
All too soon, the stars blurred back into points. Dead ahead, the ISD Chariot sat, a triangular roadblock in space. Behind him, the other five A-wings flickered into reality, and a cold voice spoke officiously over his comm.
"Rebel pilots, you are commanded to stop your engines and prepare to be tractored in. There's nowhere to run."
The left-hand identiscreen flickered, and was replaced by a recorded video message. Maximillian's face looked sadly out at him.
"If you're seein' this message, Kally m'boy, that means the R1 units have subverted the autopilot controls of yers and yer friend's fighter craft, thanks to the sleeper program I gave you all in the avoidance coordinates. I really hope your friend in the Y-wing got away, at least. He seemed like a nice enough chap, and someone should tell 'em what happened to you."
"I want you to know that if there was any other way to do this, I would have. But they've got Amber, you see. That's the real reason why you couldn't see her." He sighed. "I'm sorry. The R1 units were programmed to bring you right to the Imps. It seemed like a fair trade: a few Rebel pilots, in exchange for my daughter. You understand, I hope." The recorded message gave way to static.
The comm crackled with laughter. "This is Captain Babel Torrsh of the Chariot. If I understand correctly, you're going nowhere fast, Rebels. So sit and enjoy the ride. We'll have accommodations ready when you arrive."
Kallysto shook his head ruefully, and tried the stick with no luck. He looked solemnly at the Star Destroyer growing in his forward arc. He shook his head, unbuckling his chin strap.
"Well, at least the others got away."
Capital Punishment — Chapter 10
The mood was a good one on the bridge of the Chariot. After months and months of dealing with petty smugglers, the crew of the VSD Chariot was finally going to give real Rebels some payback.
"Do you think these are the same ones from before, Captain?" the first officer asked his superior.
"Could be. Could be," Captain Babel Torshh replied. "We damaged that Y-wing fairly efficiently in our last encounter." The green-clad officer nodded approvingly at his XO. "How soon until we have them in our hold?"
"Approximately five minutes, sir. Unless you want to drag them in with the—uh, never mind." It wasn't an official fact that the tractor beam wasn't functional, and hadn't been functional for over a year, but everyone on the bridge crew knew it. Still, it was a sore point with the Captain.
Torshh ignored the comment. "Five minutes is plenty of time for me to walk to the cargo hold, as well as make sure we have good accommodations for our incoming guests." He walked over to the sensor pit, looking down. "How many are we expecting, by the way?"
The sensortech looked up from his screen, craning his neck to see around Torshh's boots. "I mark six fightercraft, sir. A-wing class, I think, but I can't be sure until I get a better visual scan."
Torshh nodded. "How many pilots?"
"I'm not sure, sir. The lateral sensor array is malfunctioning again, I think. Sometimes it tells me 1, other times 1.07, sometimes it tells me .96," he said tapping the screen in thinly disguised disgust.
"Not to worry, Technician Rand. I'm sure after we turn in our catch of the week, COMPNOR will refit the Chariot in gratitude." The Imperial supply board had sent them third rate parts to repair the damage caused by the Rebels nearly a year ago, and while the Destroyer was functional, the hyperdrive took ten minutes to warm up, the tractor beam burned out on anything larger than a landspeeder, and half the turbolifts didn't work.
"Well," he said cheerily. "I'm off to greet our visitors. Mister Pikol, you have the bridge."
In the cockpit of the tailing A-wing, Kallysto fingered the ejection lever idly, shifting his knees and causing the helmet in his lap to knock against the joystick.
Pull the lever and you pull a miss on the Imp torture droids, he thought to himself, looking up at the Chariot taking up most of his view, then back down to the lever again. Decompression was a horrible way to go. Not the way I care to go out of the universe.
He shook the stick again, finding it instantly sliding back into position as the R1 unit in the lead A-wing countermanded the course change.
He checked his blaster. Fully charged.
"Not bad. Me, all alone, against a shipful of the Empire's finest troopers," he spoke aloud. "Reminds me of the end of 'Ashcansas Last Action'." He put his helmet back on. The strap still itched. "Let's hope I take out at least as many as I did in that movie."
"Before they get me first."
Up ahead, the square frame of the Chariot's main cargo bay lit briefly with a bright ball of orange destruction. At the same time, the joystick abruptly dropped to the left, slamming his unhelmeted head into the side of the cockpit glass. "Unf!" He grabbed the stick and shoved the A-wing into a wide turn, parallel to the Chariot.
The recorder again flickered to life. "The first two are set to explode. I figure that'll give 'em something to think about," Max's visage told him. "The remaining four are slaved to your stick now, and Starburst Three and Four are armed with working laser cannons. And by the way, I modified the flare launchers to fire some bonafide K-7 magnablast packs, but you only get one shot."
Captain Torshh smiled as the lift signaled the stop for the cargo bay. "Hmm. Shall I say, 'Greetings, Rebel scum?' Or, 'Welcome to the Chariot. Shall we take you for a ride?'"
The doors opened, and he was himself greeted by a wall of flame. Troopers were everywhere, trying to put out the fire.
"What in the Emperor's name is—" he coughed, clearing his throat, "—going ON?"
A deck officer stopped, shielding his face against the heat, clustering inside the elevator. "Rebels set us a trap, sir. That A-wing exploded soon as it touched down. The others are trying to run for it."
Torshh looked around the man at the conflagration in the cargo bay. His cargo bay. "Order the gunnery crews to destroy those Rebels. Now!" he yelled, face turning red from more than just the heat.
"Yessir!", the officer replied, moving away from the Captain as fast as possible.
"Why?" Max's image continued, "Because as long as they have Amber, they have a bargaining chip to hold over my head. I doubt they'll ever let her go, as long as I'm useful to them. I don't even know if she's still alive. But in you, m'boy, and the rest of the Alliance, we have a shot at getting her free someday. Or at least giving the Imps a lot of black eyes while doing it."
"I'm going to go into hiding after this, I think. I'll try to get a hold of your Alliance friends as soon as I can, but I want to be long gone by the time you get this message."
"Good luck, Janno, m'boy. And like I always tell you, never forget to light'em, then jump." The screen went dark.
Kallysto grinned, looking up at the Chariot, noting almost distractedly the incoming fire. Four under-armed A-wings against a Star Destroyer. No hyper coordinates to work with, either, he noted grimly. One thing the old man forgot to include. But then, in the movie business, one never had to really go to hyperspace.
"Well, I always wanted to go out in a blaze of glory," he snarled, teeth gritted.
Capital Punishment — Chapter 11
Space careened crazily about the viewscreen, and the R2 unit complained mightily as Guardian fought to get the Y-wing under control. Apparently the repairs weren't as good as he thought they were.
"Parody to Guardian. What the hell was that? My navicomp's program is corrupted and my autopilot is shot. Is your R2 unit daft?!"
The faint hiss of static accompanying Mynock's voice didn't mask his own frustration. "Happened to me too. Trying not to be sick."
Guardian bit his tongue. "Wait a minute. I'm busy." He felt nauseous as he jammed the stick one way, then the other. "R2, quit fighting me," he told it, then finally reached for the manual controls and triggered them.
He found it easier to right the ship after that. It was only then that he was able to look down at the translation display.
The log read: "Virus program active! Tracing... autopilot, navicomp. Isolating… Attempting to correct course change… Aborted. Manual command."
"Burns to Cintron and Miller. Looks like we had a slicer program trying to muck with our coordinates. Betcha it was from the datapad input."
"I think I agree with you, and unfortunately, he did it right under my nose. That's what happens when you get too engrossed in talking shop," Parody said.
"More bad news, boss," Mynock replied. "Guess who's missing?"
Guardian looked around, then checked his sensors. "Maybe he didn't get hit by the problem."
"Hah. Wishful thinking," Mynock replied. "He jumped after you, right?"
"'Fraid so," Guardian answered.
"I think I know where he is, too. Max said something about the droids autopiloting the A-wings instead of him flying, but I didn't realize exactly what he was saying," Parody said.
"Which means Kallysto is probably heading right into the hands of the Imperials," Mynock griped.
"We have to go back," Parody said. "My navicomp's down. Uplink?"
"Not me. Like I said, it's history," Mynock said.
"Well, fortunately we happen to have an R2 unit with all the coordinates we need in its metal innards, but it's going to be a bit," Guardian said.
"How soon before we can go back?" Parody asked as he pulled his fighter to a halt next to Guardian's.
"My droid says it's putting the last of the virus to the garbage routine, but it'll be at least three minutes more 'til it can download the protected coordinates back to the navicomp."
"Let's hope it's fast enough," Mynock commented.
Red-faced and reeking of smoke, Captain Torshh stumbled back onto the bridge. A technician came up to him waving a datapad, but Torshh shoved him aside. "I know about the fire, idiot! I don't care what it takes, I want those Rebels destroyed! Why aren't we shooting at them?"
He got a bunch of blank looks. The technician approached him again. "Communication's out from decks 7 on down. What happened down there?"
Torshh shoved past the technician and stormed over to the gunnery console. "Don't just sit there, idiot, blast them!!" The gunnery officer nodded frantically and started transmitting orders to any gunnery crews that could receive him. "And launch some Interceptors after them!"
The technician dogged his heels. "Sir, we can't launch fighters; the fire's out of control. And those A-wings can easily outrun us."
His first officer came up from the other side. "I've taken the liberty of calling in the Tempest; she'll be here in minutes, and stands a good chance of cutting them off, if only we can slow them down a little."
"Turn to port and fire everything we've got! And call in the patrols!" Torshh shouted. "Now!"
Kallysto dared a look out his rear window. The destroyer had given up pursuit, but the guns on the capital ship were still trying to find his range. One of the A-wings was struck from behind, and it careened off to the left. A sensor check showed it to be damaged, but still functional. A quartet of red blips showed on his scope, brightening from dull red to solid red. He turned to look out the canopy, straining to see through the visor and the safety glass. Nothing but the faint twinkle of stars, at first. Then he caught the dull glint of light off of tiny metal specks.
"Fighters, closing fast," he spoke aloud, not that the R1 units really cared. He smiled challengingly as the distance meter spun down towards zero on the leader. "So it's not going out in a blaze of glory, but let's see how you dance."
"Feeding coordinates now," Guardian informed Mynock and Parody.
"Hey, these are coordinates for the Liberty!" Parody protested.
"Correct. I'm pulling rank on you two. Parody, your ship is still damaged. I'm sending you home," Guardian said.
"If I remember correctly, sir, your ship wasn't spaceworthy before this trip started," Mynock added.
"Don't argue with me. If I get skragged, you two can't get home. I'm going back long enough to see if he made it. I'll give him the coordinates, and I'll be coming right back here. Cintron, you stay here— you're to relay back in case I get caught in the trap. I may be coming back in hot."
"Roger that." Mynock notched up the shield charge a bit higher, and put his ship into a circling holding pattern.
"I'm outta here. Coming back with the sprint team as soon as I can though," Parody said, then his ship became a streak of pseudomotion as he jumped for the Liberty. Hopefully.
Guardian turned his ship, and punched up the hyperdrive coordinates. "Roo'd never forgive me if I left him to die without trying," he mused.
The stars streaked into motion.
Armor plating gave way with a sickening crunch as Silverfish 2 took a direct hit, then exploded a moment later. The R1 units were taking a pounding. Droids were no match for even poorly trained Imperial pilots.
With almost careless grace, the familiar shape of an Imperial Nebulon-B Frigate slid out of hyperspace in his path even as the Chariot ceased firing.
Kallysto fought back despair as the capital ship blocked his escape. Blast. And here I thought I was home free… not that there was anywhere to go.
He checked his rag-tag fleet of ships. Three left. Not enough to even make a dent if he managed to fly them into the engines. Nowhere to run.
One gunship, two explosive charges. Three Tie Interceptors. One Nebulon-B Frigate.
"What was Captain Solo rumored to have said? 'Never tell me the odds?'" he whispered, setting an attack pattern into his computer.
A distant crackle was the reply. "Hey, Kallysto. Want to go home? Red channel."
He blinked. A single pale green dot marked his scopes, beyond the frigate. "Adam?"
The voice over the comm was both relieved and urgent. "You got it. Now, switch to red channel, get the coordinates and let's scram!"
Capital Punishment —Epilogue
The Lounge was almost deserted during the Liberty's off-shift. While in space, there was no designation between day and night, for the ship activities were roughly planned for when the command staff was all awake.
The door closed behind Guardian and Parody, leaving Stryker in the Lounge alone with Kallysto. Corsair's Acting CO nodded at the weary looking pilot across the table from him.
"Now. I've got everyone's report but yours. Assuming you understood the intent behind the ruling Captain Schock left, why is it I find you flying a craft home, hmm?" he asked.
Kallysto shrugged. "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"Granted." Stryker hid his smile behind the coffee cup.
"Sir, I hired on to fly. I've never had to fly in formation before now, and I was my own commander when I was back home. It was all smoke and mirrors of what we do here, but it's still flying. You risk your head every time you go out there, though maybe not the same way. I've lost some good people in my crew."
"I've brought you some more fighters. They're old, but they're fast. Probably won't make much difference once you put some serious armor on them and load them with ordnance, but there is now no excuse to hold me pending craft availability. Guardian told me," he added to explain.
Stryker yawned. "Mhmm. Well, I'm not Electro, and it's not my place to go against his wishes. But, I imagine your next statement is, 'I came here to fly for the Alliance. If you aren't going to let me fly, then let me go.'" He lifted his cup. "To the dream of flight."
Kallysto shook his head and chuckled. "You took the words right out of my mouth."
Stryker nodded. "Sure. Nice thing about being in the Bantha hut with the CO, is that you don't have to drive a desk like his favored XO."
"I haven't had time to look over the black boxes, if there are any, but as far as I'm concerned, the ban on you flying is lifted, at least until Electro returns. Orders from Alliance Command came in, and we're going to be adding a new Corsair to the ranks next week. She'll need a wingperson, and we're odd-off without you."
Kallysto raised an eyebrow. "You don't say?"
"You're on probation. You follow orders, and you watch your wingperson, clock a few shifts. Don't hotdog things, and you prove to me that you've got what it takes to be a team player. I'm willing to give you one last shot."
"Why?" Kallysto asked. "I thought the sim run was that shot."
"Gave you more than enough room to hang yourself, and you did," Stryker answered succinctly, taking a sip of his drink. "But out there in real life with the chips on the table… I mark that you had your shot at going out in style out there, and you didn't this time. So maybe, just maybe, you're learning, finally."
Kallysto raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.
Stryker smiled. "Show me I can trust you, by not spilling the beans to Rooster before next staff meeting, and I'll put in a good word with the boss when he returns. 'Til then, I expect you'll want the fighter with your name already emblazoned on the side?"
Kallysto's expression was all the payback Stryker could ask for. "You bet." He started to rise, and then sat back down again.
"Dismissed, Young. Get some sleep. You're on sprint duty in six hours," he warned the pilot with a smile.
"Yessir. Thank you, sir." Kallysto had a huge grin on his face, the first one in a long time.
"Light 'em and jump, Jeff," Stryker bade him softly.