"All right, Renegade Wing. Get up and get to Briefing Room 1A. The mission briefing starts in 20 minutes!" called out the voice of Vince �Stryker� Rambo, Rogue Leader, over the Liberty�s comm system.
Josh �Hellcat� Kinney groaned and rolled out of his bunk, landing on the floor with a resounding thud. He scrambled out of his sheets and padded over to the refresher station inside his quarters.
Four minutes later, he walked out, feeling cleaner but definitely not more awake. As he fumbled for the caf machine's �start� button, he hit his right shin across the edge of his bed. Pain kicked through his nerve system and woke him up fully.
He touched his leg where he had hit it and then stood up and turned on the caffeine pot. He then walked to his closet, slipped into the black Rogue flight suit (without the life-support system) and grabbed his datapad.
13 minutes until the meeting. Good.
Pouring himself a cup of caf into a travel mug, he walked out of his quarters towards the office section of the Liberty.
Marc �Prowler� Desrosiers was already up and stretching when Stryker announced the meeting. He then washed and dressed. He prepared a glass of juri-juice, gulped it down and walked out of his quarters, hoping that escort duty wasn't their next assignment.
In every pilot quarter onboard the Liberty, pilots were dressing and getting ready to go to the briefing.
Eight pilots were seated inside the room when Prowler walked in.
Bulldog, Blindman, Kallysto, Paladin, Wolfman, Vidster, Stryker and Guardian all had mugs of drinks and were sipping away idly, waiting for the rest of the wing. Prowler grabbed a mug of Ithorian green tea (he couldn�t stand the taste of caf) sat down and started to sip the scorching drink.
Five minutes later, 36 pilots were seated inside the briefing room, waiting for the latest information on their mission status.
"All right guys. I see you're all here early. Good." said Stryker, smiling broadly.
"Admiral Ra'kaat has just passed down our latest orders. The Liberty taskforce is going to be settling down in the Tot'ya system."
He tapped a few buttons on his datapad and the holo-image of a green and blue planet appeared, displayed for all to see.
"There's an uprising of support for our cause amongst the local population and we've been assigned to make sure that the Empire doesn't come around and stamp out the ideas creeping along in the people. For that matter, we're not going to be on the main planet (Tot I, by the way) either. We're going to settle inside the Fedorios asteroid-belt, Liberty and all, and wait for the governmental deliberations to come to an end. If an Imp taskforce jumps in to interfere, we�ll be there to make sure they don�t.
We're also going to send an infiltration team, designated Team One, inside the local population to check out the area for Imperial Intelligence activities. If they do find one, they'll attempt to defuse the Imp operation. If unsuccessful, a transport with Rico's Rangers will be dropped off to finalize the operation."
"Almost everybody here is a possible infiltration member."
Stryker looked around the room for any objections to that statement.
No hands lifted up, no gasps emerged from the group of pilots.
Stryker smiled inwardly as he started to speak again.
"The initial inhabitants of the planet are T'yans, an alien species with blue skin, a bony ridge running from their foreheads to their chins. Other than that, they are similar to humans, but have no hair whatsoever. How can humans be possible infiltration members, you ask? Simple, during the seventh century (Pre-Empire date), a small colony-ship from Mantooine, Cardooine and Vardooine discovered the Tot'ya system. They settled on the most pleasant, inhabitable planet, Tot I, and mingled into the population. Nowadays, the T'yan population on the planet is six billion with a 475 million human population mixed among them. The humans do not control the planet, but they are represented in the planetary council equally to the ratio of human population on the planet.
As I said earlier, the T�yan�s support the ideals of the Rebellion, but haven't joined us yet because of the nearby Imperial base on Vet'lik III, which is only 125 light-years distance. Again, our primary objective is to make sure that the Empire doesn't interfere with the deliberations of the Tot�yan government."
Stryker stopped, took a sip of his caf and said, "Are there any of you who don't wish to be part of Team One?"
He looked around; no one raised their hand or spoke up.
Smiling, Stryker nodded, "Good. Besides that, are there any questions?"
Hellcat�s hand lifted tentatively in the air, "Um�yes, sir. Can I go to the fresher? I drank to much caf this morning and I need to go, like, really, really urgently."
Hellcat�s voice was almost a plea, as he crossed his legs one over the other.
The rest of the wing almost collapsed in laughter at Hellcat�s comment.
Stryker grinned and mulled over his answer for a few minutes, agonizing minutes during which Hellcat was turning redder and redder. Minutes during which the wing poured their drinks from one mug to another, trying to accelerate Hellcat�s need to relieve himself.
Stryker eventually nodded and said, "Sure, Josh. I�ll authorize you to go to your kitty litter."
Oblivious of the pun, he ran out of the briefing room as fast as he could go, while the rest of the wing cheered him to run faster. Vince waved them into silence and said, "In four hours, you'll receive notice if you've been selected to be part of the team."
Nodding towards the door, he announced, "Dismissed."
Prowler walked out of the briefing room and headed for the simulation room. Along the way, he turned around and saw Hellcat, who had quickly gone to the �fresher and back. He noticed them strolling along behind him and stopped to let them catch up.
"You guys heading for the sim room?" he asked.
Both of them nodded, "Yeah, we felt like trying out that mission you configured. And since Rogue, Buccaneer and Corsair pilots are required in the mission itself, why don't you join us, to have your butt walloped?" said Condor, grinning openly.
Prowler chuckled, "Yeah right! You�re gonna need a Buccaneer pilot in this mission. We're doing it on the hardest level, of course."
"Of course. Medium and easy levels are no challenge whatsoever for a Rogue." replied Hellcat, lifting his chin in a most Imperial manner. He laughed slightly and smiled, "Just kiddin�. But we are doing it on hard, though?"
"Absolutely, I wouldn�t have it any other way." answered Prowler, as the three pilots walked into the dark chamber, filled with cupolas that glowed in a silver-white sheen, each of them a simulated starfighter cockpit.
The three pilots walked to and entered separate cockpits, starting up the digital mission.
37 minutes later
The canopy of one simulator cockpit popped open, revealing a red-faced Hellcat,
who was muttering swearwords as Prowler walked over to him.
"What's the matter, Kitty?" said Prowler, in a most innocent tone.
"The field of ejected Imperial pilots is the matter, Prowler! There was like a minefield of them. If I swerved in any direction, an ejected pilot would splatter all over my shields and blind me for five seconds! That happened once, and in those five seconds, I got caught in the middle of a half dozen squints, who seemed to fly with the talent of Darth Vader himself! On top of that, there was a Star Destroyer sitting 1,5 km away, firing away wildly. If I stayed blinded for more than 15 seconds, I could've crashed into the STD or been vaporized by one of its turbolaser blasts." Hellcat swore some more and then composed himself.
"That mission is impossible! I don't even think Stryker could beat it."
Prowler had a tight, annoying smile on his face, almost a smirk.
"The whole mission is impossible, he said, even if I take off the ejected TIE pilots. That was just me pulling a stunt on you, by the way. It's not an actual part of the mission. The squint pilots are Jedi AI-class pilots. Not even Luke Skywalker is able to beat seven of those AI. He took out all the way to six of them, but seven is too much, unless you're more than one pilot against them. Where's Condor?"
Hellcat turned and pointed to the next sim cockpit in line, "In there, he hasn't come out yet."
"What! He should be dead by now." Hellcat shrugged in response.
As if in answer to Prowler's statement, the remaining closed canopy hissed and opened. Condor stepped out and removed his helmet.
"Nice mission, but a bit unfair. I just got shot down by a squint. I was flying away from them at 180 mglt, and after five minutes I turned around to try and get some of them head-on. They were waiting for me. I got one of them, but as I dove to get out of their brackets, a laser blast from the ISD cut out my engines. Toast is the name!" said Condor.
Prowler was still smiling when he said, "All right. That mission was a bit unfair, I admit. So I'll pay for a NON-alcoholic drink. For some reason, alcohol is very expensive around here."
The two other pilots smiled quickly and ran out of the room, longing for their free refreshments.
It was a while late and Prowler was reading something on his datapad, a drink on the table in front of him. Hellcat and Condor were standing across the room, betting on their dart-throwing talent. Once in a while, when a cute female crew-member would go by, they would forgo their bets and follow her to her table and try to strike up a conversation for a few minutes. And for the past eight times, after a few minutes, both pilots would be escorted back to their dart board by Mixer, who held a stun-blaster in his mechanical hand.
Mixer had just returned, once more, to the serving bar when Prowler's datapad beeped at him.
Glancing to the lower right corner, he saw that an icon was flashing.
High priority, what the..?
He selected the message and brought it up to the screen.
"Marc �Prowler� Desrosiers....... You have been selected for "Intrusion Team One." You have been chosen due........are requested to present yourself at Hangar bay 3C at 0530, tomorrow. You will be briefed enroute to your destination."
Prowler snorted. He hadn't expected to be part of Team One. It was true that his skills in armed and hand-to-hand combat would be useful, but he wasn't the only member of the Renegade Wing that had talent in that department.
Aside from the fact that they mentioned "You have been selected for your combat and re-programming skills.", he was fairly sure that it was random luck that had made him part of the team.
He looked up towards Hellcat and Condor, whom were both looking at their datapads intently.
From the looks of what they were doing, they had just received some mail too.
Prowler got out of the booth, drained his drink and walked to the dart board.
"You guys are part of Team One, too?" he asked them.
Both nodded silently.
"What�s the matter?" he asked, noticing the glum looks on their faces.
They groaned in unison, "Mission tomorrow, that means no drinking."
Prowler�s smile swept off his face as he buried his head in his hands and wept silently.
The next morning, Prowler was awakened by the insistent beeping of the computer terminal located two meters to the side of his bunk.
He threw the covers aside and slapped a button on the terminal to shut off the neutral, persistent tone.
He shuffled slowly to his refresher station, where he washed, jolted at first by the cold jet of water.
He then dressed in plain Cardooine civilian clothes : khaki-colored loose pants, tied at the waist and a gray-white chemise which wasn�t tucked in at the pants and was left slack and open at the neck.
He then glanced to his chronometer and saw that the mission takeoff was in twenty minutes, so he picked up the bag which he had packed the previous evening, which contained spare clothes, T�yan hard currency, a few intergalactic credcards, several identity cards which had been provided by Intelligence, survival rations, a medkit, a standard-issue blaster with ten spare power clips and a case which contained his SSW-sniper rifle, (SoroSuub Weaponry, Inc.) a memento of his service in the CAA. ( Cardooine Aerospace Academy )
He walked at a leisurely pace to hangar 3C and cleared the slide-doors of the hangar a few minutes later.
He checked the flight deck roster and identified the shuttle the team would be heading down with.
As he walked towards the shuttle, he identified four voices, which were coming from the direction of the docking berth.
The first two were evident, the clear voices that emerged from behind the cargo cases were those of Condor and Hellcat. But he couldn�t tell who else was talking.
Prowler finally walked around one last cargo case and saw that the team was a rather large one.
Members from the three squadrons composing the Renegade Wing were sitting on their perma-duffel bags and talking.
To the side of Hellcat and Condor, stood Chris �Jalb_k� Reynolds, Chris �Animal� Stephen, Alastair �Rancor� Harper, Robert �Paladin� Hasegawa, Micheal �Mighty� Tolle and Andy �Bulldog� Clark. .
Typical commando squad, Nine members, thought Prowler.
All of them looked up as he walked to them, threw his bag beside a cargo case and sat down on top of a box.
"What�s up?" he asked, using his typical begin-the-conversation comment.
Jalb�s eyes widened slightly as he looked at something past Prowler and smiled while doing so, "What�s going to be up and all over the place is your butt if you shake that cargo box too much."
Prowler�s eyes drifted down to look at content manifest of the cargo box, ��Nergon-14 charges. Manipulate with caution.��
His neck tightened slightly as he slid off the box, picked up his bag and walked over to another cargo case.
All of the members of Team One had smiles on their faces or were chuckling lightly.
But before any of them could get off any witty remarks, Stryker walked into view and snapped a precise salute, but softened the crisp gesture with a wide smile.
The nine pilots jumped to their feet in a semblance of good co-ordination and saluted with answering grins.
"Gentlemen, began Stryker, I�m not going to deliver a full-flowered and bouquet-covered speech for you. I know you to be an excellent team of pilots and ground fighters, and I don�t want to bore you into insanity before you even start your mission."
His smile broadened as he added, "Some dictionary definitions would identify the lot of you as brawlers, not trained ground personnel."
"In any case, he continued, I came here to wish you luck on your mission and to give you your full briefings. On datacard, of course."
He proceeded to hand a small disk to every member of the team and then started talking again, "Your mission commander is Jalb_k and I will leave team leaders to be selected at his discretion. So, once more, good luck and don�t forget to call for us if you need help."
All of the pilots saluted and ran up the entry rail into the shuttle, which had just opened.
Mere instants later, the shuttle�s repulsorlifts engaged and it took off through the magcon field, proceeding at cruise speed to their hyperspace jump co-ordinates.
Still standing in the hangar, Stryker sighed, "Lucky bastards, they�re going to get all the fun."
Inside the shuttle cockpit, Animal and Bulldog stood in the pilot and co-pilot seats respectively, with Rancor at the sensor and comm board. The rest of the team was seated in the passenger area of the ship, waiting for their shift to begin.
Jalb_k had written up a crew rotation to keep the pilots in the cockpit sharp and ready.
Each shift lasted for two and a half hours, dividing the flight to Tot I into five shifts.
A computer board beeped at Animal as he checked once more the operational state of the shuttle.
"We�re dropping into freespace to start up our last leg of the trip." he said, as a tunnel of brilliant light blazed in the bridge viewport, indicating that light had caught up with them as they slowed to sublight engines.
Inside the rear section, Prowler, Jalb and Hellcat rose from their seats and proceeded to the front of the craft.
The three replaced Animal, Rancor and Bulldog and seated themselves.
"Fifteen seconds to hyperspace.," said Prowler, seated in the co-pilots spot.
"Confirmed, ready to hyper," replied Jalb, whose hand was poised over the hyperspace lever.
Soon enough, the Lambda-class shuttle leapt forward, matching and then accelerating past the speed of light.
Prowler blinked twice as the shuttle dropped into realspace, through a tunnel of flashing light.
They had arrived in the Tot�ya system.
"Josh, get me a full sensor scan on the system, I want to know if there are any hostile crafts in the area", announced Jalb, his fingers tapping at consoles around him.
Hellcat�s fingers tapped as quickly as Jalb�s, sending searching information to the sensor board.
Nothing showed up on the scan.
He repeated the process.
Still nothing on the screen. The area was clear.
He gave the information to Jalb and then went back to tell everyone to get ready to land and scatter as soon as they touched.
The shuttle glided heavily into the atmosphere, being supported only by its repulsor-lifts.
At five hundred feet, Jalb transferred full reactor power to repulsors, letting it drift slowly towards the ground.
"Jalb, where are we landing?" asked Bulldog, as his head popped into the opening between the rear section and the cockpit.
"In a lake. We�re going to submerge the shuttle, and then use the magcon sealing suits to get out and onto land."
"Oh," said the young pilot, turning around as he returned to his seat.
True to his words, Jalb landed in a lake and submerged the shuttle.
He then flipped a dozen switches, turning off power to the engines, leaving the shuttle�s system on standby mode and activating the magcon field which would keep the water out of the shuttle when they would open the ramp.
Jalb stood up and said, "All right, kids. It�s time to party!"
In a matter of minutes, the nine members of Team One were sealed inside their magcon suits and were exiting the shuttle, swimming awkwardly towards the shore that was two klicks away.
Reach forward, twist arm and lower, shape hand as shovel and pull back.
Change arm. Repeat. Kick legs up and down while stretching them. Breathe.
As Prowler swam, his mind went into a sleep mode, only giving these simple orders to his body. This permitted his mind to rest and left him in good mental shape once he reached the shore.
His body was tired, of course, but his mind was alert, unperturbed by the monotony of swimming for long distances.
The squad was there, emerging from the large lake and walking up to him and sitting down to rest for a few minutes.
Jalb exited the water last, as he was covering the squad�s rear.
He motioned them towards a bushy section of the shore.
There, they changed and prepared for the sixty-eight km trek to the city of C�totyat, capital of Tot I.
The forest in which they walked was dark and musty-smelling. Humidity was abundant and wildlife as well. Deeper into the woods, they could hear leaves rustling in the wind, could see birds of prey swoop low with their talons extended and then lift off again, with a small rodent in their grasp.
Nothing particularly dangerous to a team of fully armed and combat-trained men.
Of course, the ground itself was dangerous: twice, the team had to deviate from their intended course because of deep ravines, which were impossible to cross. They searched for the narrowest area of the ravine and when they found a good spot, they�d fire off a grappling hook, where it would sink three feet into the stony ridge on the opposite side of them. Then they would creep across the falaise, inching their way upside-down on the rope.
Stray tree roots that emerged from the ground were something to watch for too, as anyone could easily break an ankle by tripping over one.
The trek was planned as followed:
Two days have gone by
Dawn on the third morning was a blend of rainbow colors, orange-yellow sparkled alongside pink-red and in turn those two colors drifted off to blue-black if you looked towards the opposite side of the sky.
Prowler�s gaze was set upon the spectacle above, but he kept an eye on things around him as he waited for his sentry shift to end.
He waited for another half an hour before people stirred inside the magnetic tents.
Bulldog emerged from his tent, rubbing his eyes slowly, trying to get rid of all traces of sleepiness. He yawned and walked over to where Prowler was sitting.
"Pretty amazing view, isn�t it?" said Prowler, as he heard the crunching of branches behind him.
"Yeah, beautiful. We sure don�t get to see this often, being inside the Liberty all the time and all."
"That�s why I try to appreciate every beautiful moment life gives me. It lifts my spirits and comforts me when I�m feeling angry or depressed."
He sighed, a sound of regret. He then stood up and went back to the tents to wake up the team and to get his pack ready to go.
Half an hour later, Team One had left its camping spot and was proceeding along rapidly, staying amidst the deep woods, keeping cover all the time.
Two hours after they had lifted camp, a small drizzle started falling and quickly became a complete shower which soaked them through and through.
Grudgingly, they continued, not willing to let simple water to stop them from proceeding.
Eventually, ahead of them, rose up a tower, a spire of ruby-colored that dominated the horizon.
As they proceeded closer, dozens more towers appeared, a myriad blend of gray, dark blue, orange, green, all of which stood hundreds of feet tall, and overlooked the now-visible wall perimeter that surrounded the city.
The approximate distance between Team One and C�totyat was a couple of kilometers.
Jalb had decided that they would wait until nightfall to proceed to the walls of the city.
Their civilian clothes, which were off-landish, would not be as recognizable in the dark.
And so they waited for seven more hours until the sun went down and darkness emerged over them.
Jalb, who was dressed in a plain gray-black jump-suit and dark waterproof cloak, signaled that it was time to move.
The eight of them followed him as they jogged side-to-side, stopping now and then in the heavy underbrush.
Soon, they reached the stone wall that surrounded the city.
They proceeded along the wall, searching for a gate to proceed through.
They found none.
"Damn it!" swore Condor, as he caught up with Jalb, "How are we gonna� get in, mate?"
Jalb simply shrugged and said, "I don�t know. We�ll probably have to use our grappling hooks to get over it. Either that or some friendly soul will drop by with a full-sized hovercar to pick us up and pop us over the wall."
Condor�s glum face brightened slightly, "Leave that to me!"
And he walked off in the direction of an ugly, little tower that sat on top of a section of the wall.
"Hey, anybody alive up there? H-E-L-L-O-O-O? Somebody?" he called, lifting his hands to his mouth and bellowing for all he was worth.
Jalb jumped and ran to Condor, grabbing him by the shoulder, "Are you bloody mad?! You�re going to ruin this mission before we�ve even started it!"
Condor lifted a finger to his lips, a universal sign meaning "Be quiet!"
A shiny helmeted head popped over the edge of the wall, a sentinel, of sorts, "Halt! Name yursel�es and state �ure business!"
Condor jumped slightly in surprise and then recovered, his face contorting, changing his features to the point that he didn�t look like himself anymore. He then cleared his throat and began speaking in a dialect, more of a peasants brogue, that hadn�t been heard in centuries, "Ah, good master. Y�ure savin� me life! Me an� me mates, our lovely travellin� machine jist� broke down, so we had t�walk all th�way back here, and we�d purty much like to git� home to our beautiful wives, �ere they b�come worried �bout us. Would �ye have th�kindness of lettin� us through?"
The sentinel seemed to consider it for a moment and said, "M�afraid it�s too late fer you men to git inside th�city. All them holographic an� magnetic gates �been locked fer th�night."
The nine men below groaned as they understood why they hadn�t seen any gates.
The hologram would place the image of a section of wall where the gates would be, and the magnetic field would render the image solid.
Condor sighed and fished out of his pocket a small pouch of coins.
"Good master, t�show our appreciation of you openin� th�gate, I have a small thing t�give t�you." he said, tossing the pouch up and down, hoping the sentinel would grasp his meaning.
"Ah!", said the guard, smiling, "I jist r�membered somethin�. I�ve got a control fer one of them gates right here. Why don�t I jist open th�gate an� you can give me tha� small purse o�yours?"
The team members smiled as a gate appeared in front of them, through which they rushed in, not wanting to stay stuck on the other side.
Condor ran up the stairs to the tower, gave the sentinel his bribe and jumped back down to where the team was.
"I could sell that man blue butter!" he said, almost crying out with delight.
"Blue butter, what the heck is blue butter?" asked Mighty, as the team strolled down an avenue.
"Swindler�s term, I doubt you would understand." replied Condor.
Mighty smiled a broad smile of comprehension, "The coins in that pouch aren�t worth anything, are they?"
They all laughed and ran into the darkness as the sentinel realized he�d been had.
Along their walk, they found a clothes shop that was still open and elected Rancor to go in, buy them a bunch of spare street clothes that would match the inhabitants daily wear and make up a story for the salesmen, if he inquired what Rancor intended to do with all these clothes.
Twenty minutes later, Rancor walked out of the store, rounded the corner of the block into an alley, his arms filled with sixteen different sets of clothes.
Dark purple was a common color for the cloaks, and the doublets were of shades such as brown, dark green, gray or a mix of all three. The loose pants, contrary to the fashion statement here, was a choice that Rancor had made, for all of the pilots were used to the bulky and slack pilot suits.
All of the pilots thanked him gracefully for choosing the slacks as he described in detail the pink, orange, red, pale blue and indigo hoses that were preferred among men and male T�yans here. He had a positively evil grin on his face when he pulled out one of the mentioned pink hoses and gave it to Condor. Condor smiled ruefully at him and said, "I gather that these are mine."
Rancor�s grin grew even bigger: "Yup, I though you would like them."
Condor sighed, "Damn the fashion statements on this planet."
But before Condor could put the hose away in his bag, Rancor tossed a pair of loose pants and said: "Here, spares. Make good use of them."
The next thing to do was to establish a first safehouse for the team.
And so they headed for a public holonet service booth where they could get such information.
Jalb booted Hellcat inside the booth, urging him to hurry up and oblivious to Hellcat�s complaints about him being a recognizable member of the Rebel Alliance, hero and savior of thousands.
Muttering under his breath, Hellcat slid his credcard into the slot provided and requested customer service.
"Customer Service Department for C�Totyat VisuaNet, How may we help you?", said the image of a pale skinned, beautiful T�yan female.
"Um, I would like have a list of all the "on-sale" residences in a 15-km radius from the booth I�m standing in, thank you."
"Of course, one moment please."
At that, she placed him on hold, leaving the holoprojector in front of him change to the shape of three humanoids that held instruments and that started blasting out metal-scraping sounds.
Hellcat jumped out of the booth, holding his hands to his ears.
The rest of them were chuckling openly as he glared at them.
"Cute girl, huh?" said Prowler.
Hellcat�s face went beet red.
The music then stopped and Hellcat jumped back in the booth.
"Sir, I am sending a data-stream to you containing the list of all the available residences in the described area. Please insert a datacard in the appropriate drive."
Hellcat fished a small card from his pocket and slapped it into the plug.
"Thank you, sir. Data stream initiated�����data stream complete. Do you wish to add anything to your order?"
Hellcat turned slightly towards the group, a questioning look on his face.
Jalb mouthed, Public events, maps of the planet, vehicles stores.
Hellcat nodded and repeated the same to the lady.
She sent another data stream through containing the data in question.
"Will that be all, sir?"
"Yes. Thank you for your kind service." said Hellcat, as he prepared to step out of the booth.
"Oh, sir. I�m sorry, but this isn�t a free service. I�m afraid we have to charge for this. I was about to ask if you want it to be charged to the credcard number you were using or to an account number?"
Hellcat looks went from sleepy to mad, but contented himself with saying, "The credcard number, thank you."
"Done, sir. Thank you for using C�Totyat VisuaNet. Have a nice day." and the holoprojector shut off.
Hellcat was muttering sourly as he stepped out of the booth and said, "You made me use my credcard. Again."
His glare was one of mock anger.
All the others laughed.
Jalb took the datacard, which contained the new data and plugged it into his datapad.
He brought up the list of residences for sale and chose a an apartment building, which according to the map was less than eight street blocks away.
He told this to the others and they headed for the building.
Prowler reached the building first, with Paladin just behind him.
When the team was all there, Jalb_k asked them, "Ok, I�m being serious here. Who has the most money on his credcard?"
Hellcat smiled, "Used to be me, but not anymore. With all of the drinks you�ve been charging on my card, I really don�t have a ton. Plus the last little expense you just made me spend."
Prowler sighed, "I guess that makes me next, then. Most of you don�t know this unless you�ve read my resume. My family had a small fortune and when my parents died, they left me an incredible amount. You know, as their will."
The rest of the team smiled, and Jalb pointed towards the door of the building.
"What?" asked Prowler.
"Well, go in and get us the apartment, you idiot!"
"You want me to charge an apartment on my credcard!"
" I�ll have even less than Kitty after that!"
"So� When you joined the Alliance, you knew you�d have to make sacrifices. This is one of them."
"Can�t I give you my left foot instead?"
"Or my arm?"
"Marc, shut up and get it there."
"Maybe my eyes, now that we�ve got artificial ones and all."
"No. Get in there and get us a safe house."
"Aww, man" he muttered.
Prowler sighed again and walked into the apartment, wrapping his cloak around him.
He emerged ten minutes later with a magnetic card in his hand.
"The lock to the seventh level apartment. There are seven rooms of 15x15 surrounding a 25x25 room, the living room. One of the rooms is the kitchen. There�s also a refresher."
Paladin smiled at him, "How much?"
"Are you sure you want to know?"
His grin broadened, "Yes."
"Well, let�s just say that it�s more than what we�ll earn for working full-time for thirty years strait."
"Only that!" he answered, with a strait face.
"Oh, shut up!"
The team followed Marc inside and they all crowded inside the lift.
They stopped at the seventh floor quickly and walked to the door of their temporary residence.
Prowler opened the door and they all walked in.
The walls were white, the floor was made of soft artificial fur and the doors of spicy wood.
" Fijisi wood!" exclaimed Prowler, " I haven�t smelled this wood since, well, since I was a kid."
The others explored rapidly the apartment and all came to the same conclusion, "I LIKE this place!"
But they were all too tired to continue evaluating the apartment, so they pulled out their packs, set them out on the living room floor and promptly fell asleep.
The all awoke early the next morning and set out to do what they had abruptly stopped doing the night earlier.
That is, getting their apartment furnished and transforming it into a safehouse for Rebel Intelligence teams that would come onto Tot I.
The first thing they did was scan for electronic surveillance devices, also known as "bugs". Two were found immediately, made of cheap material and hidden in the easiest places to find. They concluded that the owner of the building preferred to have discreet security and information on his clientele. Second, they set up their own security measures, which included infra-red holocams to be placed in the hallways, and along the perimeter of the building. They also used decoy holocams, to throw off any infiltrating teams into missing the real cameras. Finally they planned out an emergency escape route, which would be accessible to all of them, and leave minimal traces of them ever being in the apartment.
With surveillance in place, they could monitor hallways leading to their rooms, and the streets and alleys surrounding them in relative safety.
Finally, they planned out the living arrangements, two people per room, with all necessary equipment, they set up a duty roster for daily chores, and they set the last room up with a computer terminal for slicing the T�yan memory hardcore, if the need would ever present itself. The living room was set up as a recreation area, with a holoprojector and comfortable couches.
In the next four days, the team set up two more safehouses, both of them in crummy low-rent areas, but both were more than adequate for the team if the first safehouse was compromised. They set up security measures for both of them and a schedule every day for a two-person team to check them out.
After the settling-in part, their orders were to scout the C�totyat area for Imp Intelligence activities, and if detected, erase them.
The team started by choosing their search pattern and came up with this: they would slice into a comm system and establish a connection with one of the holonet satellites orbiting the planet. Using the constant new imagery and exploring the financial archives of the T�yan government, in a matter of days, they could probably find one or two enterprises owned by the Empire on the planet. From there, they would search all of the residences, storage facilities that the company would own and come up with a set of near-matches for Imp Intelligence safehouses. At that point, they would check out the matches and eliminate the ones that would be safehouses.
To do so, Hellcat sliced into the T�yan main computer database and Animal took control of one of the comm sats, identified as Visua-II.
As they had hoped, they now had a constant feed of images, precise to the millimeter, from above the planet.
Hellcat then sliced into the financial records of Tot I, and downloaded a copy of them, which dated from up to two years back.
The tedious file-exploring had begun.
For the next day Hellcat processed the obtained data through thousands of different data specifications, but came up with nothing. No Imperial traces on the financial record could be found.
It was Mighty that came with a suggestion that stunned him , and made him hope he was right.
"Um, Hellcat?" Mighty said to his fellow pilot, who was sprawled over a chair, snoring.
Hellcat jumped and rubbed his fists in his eyes.
"Yeah, I�m awake, I�m awake. What?"
"You�ve been searching through the official financial archive for the last day, without results. Has it occurred to you that the Empire may have completely side-stepped the official stuff, and perhaps even went through the illegal side of the financial hierarchy?"
Hellcat�s eyes popped open, alive with interest, "Damn, you�re right! I haven�t even tried to tap the local illegal underground database. What an idiot I am!" he said, smacking his hand on his forehead.
Mighty smiled, "Hey, I know you are one, you don�t need to remind me."
"Shut up." Said Hellcat, a smile on his face as he turned to the computer interface.
Hellcat�s fingers flew over the console in front of him, querying the slicer program and setting it to search the illegal underground�s system.
In a matter of seconds, the computer beeped, indicating a result.
"Aha! All right, two matches found. First one is a �.morgue?."
He snorted, " �guess the Imps are providing post-mortem services for their victims."
Mighty answered, "Somehow, I really doubt that."
"Second one is a hunting zone registration building that is logged as abandoned, situated on one of the other continents."
Jalb came in at that instant and Hellcat explained to him what he had found.
" Guys," said Jalb with a grin that could make you wonder if he was a servant of the dark side or not, " We�ve got some ground action coming up."
Hellcat and Mighty looked at each other, their eyes extremely wild.
Dawn, four days later.
It was wet and cold outside. The ground was covered with an inch of snow, which was melting and turning into slush, soaking any garment that came into contact with it.
Team One was spread around the edge of a small mountain range that rose alongside their target. The target lay inside a small valley, hidden from prying eyes but also susceptible to an ambush, due to the secluded area it was in. The main building was made of wood logs, but most likely had duracrete foundations under it. Three secondary building surrounded it and two watchtowers overlooked the camp, placed on the north and south sides of the area.
Two troopers stood in each tower, armed with blaster carbines and flare launchers.
Approximately two dozen more stormtroopers patrolled the camp grounds, leaving evident foot trails in the snow.
Prowler was looking through the sighting device, which was affixed to his sniper rifle and was reporting the patrolling guards as they walked into view.
Prowler flicked a switch on his commlink with a gloved hand, " B-Five here, two more army troops have just walked by. I�m up to twenty-nine guards, including the towers."
A double-click came back, acknowledging the report.
Jalb�s voice then came over the air, "All right, ninety seconds to start on my mark. I repeat, nine-oh seconds to start on my mark. Ready. Mark!"
Prowler flicked the timer of his chronometer to �on� and waited.
The south tower guards were his responsibility to eliminate in the three first seconds.
Jalb had the north tower in his sights and would do the same for them.
The rest of the team would engage the troopers from a smaller distance with their RobbTek .44 medium-range laser carbines and then proceed to bombard the buildings with their concussion-rifles. The whole operation was planned out to take a maximum time of six minutes and forty-seven seconds, but that was only if there were no extra complications.
Prowler sighed, Never trust the promise of a simple mission. If you do, you�ll be unpleasantly surprised.
Those were the words of the ground and air mission instructors he�d had at the CAA. These were words that he ran through his head before every mission he�d done, and so far, he hadn�t questioned them yet.
He glanced at the timer.
Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
" Goodnight." he breathed, as he squeezed the trigger of the powerful sub-sonic rifle in his hands.
A chunky thump erupted from the cannon of the gun and through the crosshairs of his scope he saw one of the guards collapse, a bloody cloud erupting over his chest. He nudged the gun to the right and pressed the trigger again.
Another thump and the second trooper was thrown backwards where he crashed through handrail that, ironically enough, was supposed to prevent him from falling. His limp body landed soundlessly in the snow, six meters below. A pool of blood spread around him.
Yells of surprise reached him as guards ran around, looking wildly for their unseen foes.
Prowler brought his macro-binoculars up and looked around the camp.
Two bodies lay inside the second guard tower and three more crimson-red spots were expanding where the rest of the team had eliminated a patrol.
He saw two men, dressed in white commando clothes, rush out of the woods that surrounded the camp.
They jumped in separate directions and rolled, avoiding a return volley which steamed the area they had just been in.
They came up on their knees and fired, letting bolt after bolt of red, hot death stipple the four Imperial ground troops that were advancing towards them. The four guards fell to the ground, their corpses smoking.
Another figure dressed in white, ran up to the rear of a remaining group of three stormtroopers with a long object that glinted in the faint sunlight.
It swung a low, but powerful slash that bisected a trooper from the right hip to the left rib-cage and kept charging along.
The second guard was turning around when the blade of Paladin�s sword sent the top half of his helmeted head flipping away into the snow.
Paladin drew his blaster pistol, threw his sword away and dove behind the side of a building as the last stormtrooper set his rifle and fired. A stream of bolts crisped the wall of the building where Paladin had dived for cover.
His head peered around the corner as he leveled the pistol and fired. Four shots caught the trooper in the gut and chest, throwing him back and spinning him to the ground. Prowler could almost smell the pungent odor of charred flesh.
Three Imperial ground troops had retreated back inside one of the buildings when Jalb ordered Condor to take his concussion-rifle and take down the building they were in.
The pilot grinned as he grabbed the meter and a half long weapon, set the crude sights of the powerful weapon in-line with the doorway and fired.
A gray blot erupted from the tip of the rifle and jetted away, blasting the door to cinders and splinters.
He fired another shot that blasted through the roof and made the building collapse on itself.
Jalb pointed at the other buildings.
Condor swung the concussion-rifle around, set himself and fired again, and again, and again.
Five minutes later
Three of the buildings were burning, their walls being set afire by the constant bombardment of Condor�s weapon. Duracrete littered the ground and smoke billowed out of the ruins. The two guard towers had had their support pillars blown away by the concussion charges and made neat debris piles on the snow-covered ground.
Only one building still stood, the main lodge. The twelve remaining guards had retreated inside it and were firing bursts of laser fire, their goal to dissuade anyone from coming towards them.
Jalb clicked his commlink four times, signaling his team that phase Two was about to begin.
He saw a figure get up on the rise of the hill strait across from him and jog to the rubble below for protection and a good angle.
Good, Prowler will set up cover for Rancor, Mighty and Hellcat when they go in by the roof by the north side.
He picked up his own rifle and threw it around his shoulder, letting it dangle by the strap and ran down to help his team as they would try to take the last building intact.
Animal had his communications channel scanner working on full, its primary systems scanning all of the known radio frequencies possible in a matter of a few seconds.
Come on, come on. Give me a contact�..damn it! Hurry up!, he thought, as he glanced at the small liquid crystal screen on the device.
The comm-scanner gave a small beep.
Yesssss!!!!, he thought, All right! Ok, its a standard Imp ground troop frequency and that gives us:
" LockJaw One to LockJaw Two. Come in, LockJaw Two. I repeat, we are under attack by an unknown group of commandos, seventeen men are down and presumably dead. Requesting backup now!"
Animal muttered a few choosy oaths and clicked his commlink, " Leader, I�ve just picked up a transmission from the guards on the inside to another group of Imps. They�re requesting backup, so we may be compromised. Over."
"Understood. Proceed to take control of the building on my signal�now!...go! go! go!"
Rancor, Mighty and Hellcat fired off their grappling hooks over the edge of the roof of the main building and prepared themselves to climb.
Jalb clicked the commlink to life, " Distraction One, go!"
Prowler pressed down on the trigger of his rifle and watched as two windows collapsed into shards of crystalline fragments and a door splintered into hundreds of pieces, littering the ground on the south side of the lodge with debris.
At the same moment that Prowler fired, the three pilots climbed the opposite side of the building and got onto the roof in six seconds.
Once on top they crawled to the main chimney and dropped concussion charges down the main and secondary pipes.
The second they dropped them, they dove to the roof�s surface, as to avoid concussion backlash.
A whouff of smoke erupted from the chimney and they ran to the side of the building and jumped off.
When Bulldog saw the concussion charges blow, he signaled to Condor and Paladin and together they ran a zigzag course to the lodge�s side door.
Bulldog signaled again and Paladin swung his booted foot up into the door, splitting it down the middle and then diving to the side.
A stream of crimson bolts flew through the air he�d been an instant before.
Condor rolled sideways, keeping his gun�s muzzle pointed towards the door and fired when he saw the kneeling stormtroopers that lay twenty meters or so down the hall.
His first burst passed over the head of the three troopers, but made them flinch, causing their return-fire to slam into the floor, four meters short of their intended target.
Condor�s second volley found its target however, as a trooper was twirled around by the three shots tugging the left side of his torso. The dead man landed in front of his comrades and took their shots full in the back. His armor began to smoke.
Due to this smoke, Condor couldn�t see the two remaining troopers, so he kept rolling and then crouched as he passed out of the enemy�s line of sight.
Bulldog grabbed a thermal detonator, switched it to �on� and tossed along the hallway.
Flaming bits of stormtrooper armor shot past as the small bomb exploded, eliminating the hostile guards.
The three men got up and ran down the hall, their intent to shoot down anything that came up against them.
On the other side of the lodge, Rancor, Hellcat and Mighty hadn�t encountered any resistance on their way in, which made them hope that all the troopers had been knocked unconscious by the concussion charges.
To their credit, when they emerged into the main room, four Imperial ground troops lay on the ground, blood seeping from their ears and their noses.
Two more stormtroopers were crumpled in the corner beside the huge fireplace, their position indicating that they had taken the brunt of the blast.
Mighty walked through the room and noticed a staircase that headed underground.
He walked to its edge and looked down.. Waving to his partners to come nearer, he said, "Guys, check this one out."
The two other jogged over and saw an Imperial Intelligence officer laying at the bottom of the stairs, his inert body folded in half and his neck bent at an unnatural angle.
"He was probably trying to get out when the blast hit him and threw him down the stairs, where he broke his neck," said Mighty, " He tried to run away, but to no avail. The irony of this is just�"
He never finished the sentence as he saw two guards run down the other staircase that led to the upper level of the lodge.
He swung his rifle up but not in time.
He took a blast strait in the gut, which threw him backwards and to the ground.
Speaking of irony, this is just unbelievable, he thought, as his eyes closed and darkness loomed over his mind.
Mighty awakened slowly, smelling and hearing things in the back of his consciousness. Slowly, the smells and sounds seemed to grow more evident to his perceptions and soon he opened his eyes and lifted his head slightly, only to have dizziness and pain slam into him as blood rushed through his head.
A hand pressed against his chest and lowered him back to the hard surface on which he was lying.
"Mighty, don�t try to move. You were knocked out by a stun-blast and you hit your head against the wall." said a calm voice he couldn�t quite identify.
He nodded a very small nod in answer and soon all the sounds dissipated as he fell asleep.
Paladin tightened the straps holding Mighty to the airspeeder�s floor and was shaken around as another wave of turbulence slammed into Team One�s infiltration transport.
He steadied himself and then sat in one of the forward seats and snapped the restraints into place.
"Nice ride.", he muttered sourly to nobody in particular as the small craft darted through the upper levels of the forest covering the continent.
Two hours later, the team�s speeder flew over the city of C�Totyat and headed for their safehouse. In five minutes, the speeder landed neatly on the roof and the team came out of the small ship with Mighty on a stretcher.
Jalb�s face was grim, but his feelings inside were more in a relieved mode.
We were lucky that blast was only a stun-blast. If it had been on full, we would have had to drop Mighty off at a hospital and the possibility of being discovered there are great, even though we have fake medcards.
He shook his head and headed inside, but not forgetting to press the button on the small remote he had in his pocket, the lock door switch for the newly bought airspeeder.
Inside the apartment, Animal extracted the miniature datacard inside his comm system scanning device and plugged it into the computer terminal.
Time references came up, indicating when a transmission would begin and when it would end. He scrolled through the list and started highlighting a few links, which were situated around the time period when the last stormtroopers had withdrawn inside the main lodge.
From that point he refined the search parameters to return transmission from the second Imp location.
One match popped up and he played it.
Lo�aw One, co�. in �ckJaw One.
LockJaw One here, we are under heavy attack by an unknown commando group. We need backup now!.
Ne�.tive, can�ot send back... We are head� ou.. to sec�ary base. We�re expect� an attack on �..old base�.well. Only explana�.for th�ttack is a Reb�.team.
Understood LockJaw Two, we�ll get rid of��.ahhhh!!!.
A scream erupted over the comm as static blasted through the recorded airwaves.
Animal shook his head, that guy must�ve been beside the blast of the concussion charges.
But at least we know that the second Imp team evacuated its base. Though that�s not great news.
He called Jalb inside and made him listen to the tape.
Jalb didn�t smile, " Damn, now we don�t know where the second team is. They�ll be covering up their tracks and we�ll never find them. Our mission is screwed!"
He bounced a fist of the edge of the duraplast table and then cradled his injured hand.
" We probably should contact the Liberty and inform them about our mission status. They�ll either keep us on this mission, or give us a new assignment. When is the next comm window, Chris?"
Animal frowned in concentration, " If I�m right, it should be in about fifteen hours. We just missed the last one three hours ago."
Jalb nodded, " Good, prepare an automatic message to send just in case we�re not here when the next window comes."
"Sure thing, boss."
Jalb smiled and walked out of the room as Animal got down to work.
That night, Bulldog, Rancor and Paladin were on patrol duty and had left approximately half an hour after the discussion between Animal and Jalb_k.
When they didn�t return after their three hour shift, the team members started to worry and went out after them. They searched fifteen square city blocks for five hours but came up with nothing.
The team headed back to the apartment and found the three pilots there with a T�yan male. They were seated in the couch and were sipping the local equivalent of brandy, vardanai, a strong liquor brewed from the local grains.
"Whassup guys?" said Bulldog, grinning widely.
Condor pointed at the blue-skinned visitor, "Who�s that, and what the hell is he doing here!"
Paladin got up and pressed his hand against Condor�s chest, " Cool it, my friend. Don�t worry about operational security, we never put it in jeopardy."
Jalb strode forward and sat down in one of the remaining single-seat couches.
"Maybe you gentlemen might want to take this from the top, without skipping any details, and telling me why this T�yan is here."
The alien cleared his throat, " My name is Belar, by the way."
Jalb nodded towards him, " Thank you, Belar. Now please let my men enlighten me on what�s going on around here."
"Of course, Lt. Colonel Chris �Jalb_k� Reynolds." said the T�yan, in a slow, descriptive tone of voice.
" Where did you get that information?" asked Jalb_k, jumping to his feet.
" Easy now, Mr. Reynolds. Let�s just say I know a lot about you and your team."
Bulldog coughed to get everyone�s attention and said, " Alright, I�ll tell you what happened."
" About forty-five minutes after we headed out for our shift, we were walking by an alley and we heard some shuffling noises and voices coming from an alley three blocks away from here. We peered in a saw three muggers herding Belar into the back of the alley, where they were probably going to rob him and kill him. But Belar probably could have taken care of them all by himself. His first spin-kick felled the first mugger, but then we barged in and stunned the two remaining muggers and went to see if he was alright. He walked to us, thanked and asked us if we would follow him to his house, where a banquet was being held in his father�s honor, one of the ministers in the governmental council, here, in C�totyat. He mentioned that the banquet was for the supporters of the faction that supported the idea of joining the Rebel Alliance. When he said that, we agreed right away to go with him and we walked over to the tower that overlooks the south side of the city, where the reception was being held.
Once we got there, he introduced us to his father and we asked him the all-around Rebel Alliance password, which he answered perfectly. He brought us to his private chambers and that was where we mentioned that we were pilots of the Rebel Alliance on a mission here, in C�totyat. He told us that he has been supplying information to the Alliance for the last two years about the deployment of Imperial forces in this sector.
To confirm this, he gave us access to his holocomm unit on which we queried the Alliance database about his background and he came back clean. We stayed for another hour or so and then we came back with Belar to wait for you guys."
Jalb mulled over the information for a few minutes, " Good, to my judgement, you did the right things to keep the mission safe."
Bulldog smiled and said, "Oh, and the minister wants to meet you over there. He has information on the human continent, Gontarg, which is where the opposition against joining the Alliance is concentrated."
Belar nodded, " Exactly, my father is concerned that the human population will become violent if the deliberations do not go their way."
Jalb got up and extended his hand to Belar, "I wish to apologize for the way I acted earlier, but my mission parameters gave me very little choice. And as for me meeting your father, we should go immediately."
The rest of the pilots introduced themselves to Belar and then Jalb, Bulldog and the blue-skinned alien left to meet Minister Belgavran, the man that possibly would make their mission a success.
Minister Belgavran was a tall T�yan with piercing cyan eyes and a pronounced ridge that ran from his forehead to his chin. His stood a good six feet and two inches above the floor and was dressed in a pale brown robe that was loose and flowing towards the sleeves and the feet.
Jalb strode towards him and presented his hand at the elder T�yan, "Pleased to meet you, sir. I understand you wished to meet me?"
Belgavran nodded, "Indeed I did, Lt.Col. The situation is grave. Please, take a seat."
Jalb walked to the huge purple couch and sat down, the Minister sat in a wooden chair and Belar and Bulldog each sat on a nerf-skin pouch filled with grain, which took the shape of their body when they sat down on it.
A servant then came into the room with glasses on a tray.
The two pilots declined the drink, but the two T�yans each grabbed a glass and sipped away. The minister and his son informed Jalb and Bulldog about the latest in the deliberations for a half an hour or so.
Finally Belgavran set the empty glass down and said, "I wanted to speak to you this evening because I believe the human population of Gontarg is going to rebel against our government. It�s a poor choice of words, but it describes the situation accurately."
Jalb frowned slightly, "I thought these were only rumors."
The minister winced slightly, "We have been circulating these rumors to avoid alarming the population of the planet, but they are well-founded in fact. If the deliberations are positive for my faction, which is in majority right now, the human population will rebel and will, most likely announce its independence towards our government.
Racism and discrimination will take place all over Tot I and our world will go into internal conflict."
The T�yan minister�s eyes blazed angrily, "I can�t allow this to happen. If a civil war begins, our military forces will diminish and eventually the Empire will come and take advantage of our lack of defenses. I am asking for you to contact your superiors to send forces to help defend us if the Empire comes to attack."
Jalb_k smiled inwardly, Already taken care of, the Liberty is waiting on the edges of the asteroid belt in the system.
"I understand, Minister, but I have problems of my own. Since we�ve been here, we discovered two Imperial Intelligence teams that were settled on the planet. We eliminated one yesterday, but the second team withdrew to a unknown location and now we cannot complete our mission. Before I can offer you any assistance, I have to complete my primary objectives, which are to make sure that the Empire doesn�t use Imperial Intelligence agents to meddle in the deliberations of your planetary council."
Belgavran nodded slightly and said, "Very well, Lt.Col. I understand your point of view.
But if and when our goals meet, we will join our resources together, correct?"
"Absolutely, Minister. But for some reason, I have the impression that we will join forces sooner than we both expect." said Jalb, rising from his seat.
The two pilots then excused themselves from the T�yan minister and his son and returned to their headquarters.
As Bulldog and Jalb opened the door to the apartment, they saw that the rest of the team had taken it easy ever since they had left for the minister�s tower.
They had met Condor, Prowler and Mighty as the three men patrolled the area around the apartment, but they had expected the rest of the team to be working on the computer or something similar to that.
What they did see was the rest of the team, lying about the living room, playing hologames and sabacc.
Jalb rapped on the door, prompting all of the pilots to pause and look up.
"What�s this? We�re on a mission and you guys are playing sabacc! Pick it all up and get to bed, we need to rest after that ground mission."
The pilots grumbled slightly and packed up their entertainment for the evening and grudgingly went to bed. Only the patrol shift stayed awake.
The next morning, when Jalb_k awakened, Animal was at the hypercomm terminal and was programming it to send out the comm signal to the Liberty, signaling them that the team wished to contact them.
Twenty minutes later, a signal bounced back.
Jalb switched it to �on�.
A blue image of Admiral Ra�kaat and Colonel Vince �Stryker� Rambo appeared a meter in-front of him, where it crackled and hissed a little.
"Lt.Col. Glad to see you." said the image of the Calamarian.
Jalb smiled slightly and lifted a hand as to speak.
"I�m sorry to interrupt you, Reynolds. But we have something to report to you before you speak."
Jalb frowned slightly, "Go ahead, sir."
"Half an hour ago, our sensors detected a massive electro-magnetic wave being emitted from this system�s sun. According to sensor analysis, it prevents the use of anything that uses electricity. We came up with this theory when we detected a emergency broadcast being sent from one of the binary moons of Terfa, the first planet in orbit around the sun.
The communications station there reported emergency but was cut-off in mid-message, leaving us to believe that it was fully disabled and that the life-support system went dead.
Due to this, the Liberty cannot remain in the system, we will have to jump out to the next system and wait until this EMI storm ceases. The wave is closing with Tuynia , the second planet, at this moment�.there�.communications with the planet have ceased. The EMI wave will hit Tot I in seven minutes, Lt. I suggest you put those few minutes to good use."
Jalb�s face was somber because of the news, "Aye, sir. I understand. If you�ll excuse me, sir, I have some last minute planning to do."
The Calamarian tossed a salute and then his side of the projector died.
Stryker said, "Sorry we can�t be there to help you and the team, Jalb, but we�ll be jumping right back in the second the EMI storm stops."
"I understand. Team One out."
The projector died and Jalb blurted, "Animal, get Minister Belgavran on the line, now!"
Animal tapped a few buttons on the computer terminal and then a tall T�yan male appeared in front of Jalb.
"Minister, there is no time to waste. My superiors, who are onboard a cruiser that is inside the system, have just detected a ��"
"Silence!", hissed the minister, "I have more important news to tell you."
Jalb groaned inwardly, Why won�t anybody listen to me. First Ra�kaat, now him!
"Have you been monitoring the holonews lately?" asked the T�yan.
"No, sir, I haven�t. As I said, I�ve been busy contacting�."
"Yes, yes, of course. Turn on your holonews projector and switch to channel seven."
Jalb walked out of the room and told the pilots in there what he had just heard.
Prowler flicked the small device to life and a human male appeared, standing behind a desk.
"I am Minister Mywka Looru of the human settlement of Gontarg." said the figure.
"This broadcast is for every single living being on Tot I, as it involves the lot of you rotting aliens!" said the small man, waving his fist menacingly at the holocam. He calmed himself and continued to speak. "During the last deliberations of our planetary council concerning which side we would join in this galactic war, my party has felt unfairly treated by the rest of the Ministry and their factions and believes that we never had a chance to prove our opinion in these deliberations. As a general rule, the humans here on Tot I are treated unfairly compared to the rest of the planet. Due to the lack of consideration shown by the T�yan population, the human colony of Gontarg has chosen to join Emperor Palpatine and his Empire. Even now, Imperial forces have been placed to defend our colony and to take over this planet that is rightfully ours by eliminating its head, the capital, C�totyat. Therefore, as the representative of Gontarg, I declare war on the rest of Tot I! You will feel the wrath������"
The projection crackled and shut down, then the computer and the lights winked out, and the room was thrown into the darkness.
"Damn, the EMI wave is here." said Jalb.
All of the pilots jumped up and out of bed as resounding crashes punctured the calm, morning air.
They all ran to the windows and saw what the EMI storm had started over the city, and quite possibly all over the planet.
Blue electrical fire danced over lighting posts in the streets and over the roofs of the buildings of the city. Lights everywhere frizzed and popped, sending glass shards to crash below. Airspeeder�s that were skimming across the streets dropped suddenly, as if swatted to the ground by a giant hand. Among the dozen or so speeders the pilots saw crash, one was flying ahead at full thrust and when it�s engine died, it dropped as well but kept moving forward until it rolled sideways and slid across the ground, spinning and then crashing full into the lower level of a residential building, two blocks down the road.
Argent flames being fed by the speeders fuel cells lit up the building and then an explosion shook it all the way down to the foundations.
The holographic gates to the city flickered once an then died, leaving the city open to anybody who wished to enter.
Many did want to enter, such as wild animals which ranged from puny rodents to full-size predators were frightened to insensibility and ran through the now-open gates and began to wreck havoc in the city. Packs of beasts ran through the windows of the stores on the ground level, stampeding along the streets, flinging innocent bystanders into the air every few seconds. None of those people got up.
One parked land vehicle was trampled by a behemoth-sized bovine as the animal ran across it, flattening the panels of durasteel and caving in the roof of the transport.
Mighty turned around and stared at Jalb with a wide-eyed look that said all that had to be said.
"What the hell is going on here?"
Jalb winced slightly, "Just before everything went out, Ra�kaat told me about a EMI radiation wave that was emitted from the system�s sun. Every electronic and electric instrument on the planet and in the system is out until the radiation storm stops.
The Liberty had to hyper out but they�ll come back when the storm falters."
Mighty kept on staring at him, "We�re stuck on this planet without any electronic instruments?! If the bloody Imps are attacking us, we�re cooked. Even without electronic instruments, blasters will work!"
Jalb�s eyes widened as his mind raced, "We need to talk to the minister, now!"
Five minutes later, half of the team including Jalb, Animal, Prowler, Mighty and Rancor, was running through the city with their blaster carbines set on �stun�, a safety measure to ensure that no wildlife would threaten them.
They reached Minister Belgavran�s tower half an hour after that, because they�d had to stun two wildebeests that had charged them.
Security was reluctant to let five armed men through, but when the minister�s son, Belar, came outside to see what the fuss was about, they were admitted inside immediately.
The minister was pacing back and forth through the grand hall that the front doors of the towers led to. He stopped for an instant when the five pilots came through and he stared at them, his face a storm of emotions.
"Gentlemen. Good to see you, but you�ll have to admit that the conditions on which we meet are not among the best."
The five pilots smiled slightly and then Jalb said, "Minister, I saw the news a few instants before everything blacked out. C�totyat is in grave danger. The Imperial forces that undoubtedly are marching towards C�totyat will still have functional blasters when they reach us. We need to find a way to prevent them from reaching C�totyat and eventually taking over it."
The minister�s eyes turned icy blue, "Good reasoning, man. Indeed, you are correct. A force of eight thousand stormtroopers is heading for our capital at this moment and will be in sight of our walls within four weeks, due to the breakdown of their transport ships.
Estimates are that they lost approximately nine hundred men when the ships crashed, one transport was still at a thousand feet of altitude when the EMI wave hit,and six hundred more were wounded when another transport crashed from an altitude of six hundred and fifty feet. To that number, add the thousands, if not tens of thousands of Guntarg residents that will join the force advancing on us, and you have a hostile army of approximately seventy thousand soldiers heading for this city. Although this huge army is being unwillingly forced into combat because of the threat the Empire has put on them, they threatened to cut the bacta deliveries to them completely. They will fight us unless we can provide bacta for them. Needless to say that we are in deep trouble, gentlemen. Deep, deep trouble."
The five other pilots were staring numbly at the minister, their expressions disbelieving.
The minister started to pace again, all while rubbing his beardless chin.
"We need a solution to this problem. A good solution, one that will not cause unnecessary loss of life, T�yan lives, as well as humans. Peace is better than conflict. The Guntarg residents are now our enemies, but I don�t want to eradicate them, even though that would leave Tot I free of Imperial presence."
It was Rancor who stepped towards the minister first and lifted his right hand slightly, as if to point out something.
"My education is primarily focused on the history of the Clone Wars, minister, but during my classes I studied many time periods. I believe I have a few ideas that may help."
The minister looked at him and gestured impatiently, "Go on."
Rancor nodded and swallowed, "This situation reminds me of a battle that occurred twelve thousand years ago on the planet of Alderaan, before they began intergalactic travel.
If I remember well, the population of the city of Aldera was being threatened by an advancing army of the nation of Deraano. The army was huge, around fifteen thousand soldiers, and expected little, if any resistance from the city�s population. What saved Aldera was the mind of one, according to records, wiry little man that had a swift and devious mind. His name was Kheral Ferveron, a local nutty inventor. Three weeks before the army would reach the walls of the city, he went to the ruling monarch and suggested that the population form up a team of solid young men that would plant the most evil looking traps in the lands surrounding the city, hidden trenches with spikes, masses of rolling logs tied up in trees, calthrops scattered all over the place and I�m skipping many that would help eliminate opposing forces.
The monarch took the suggestion and in the three weeks the Alderanians had left, they set up the proposed traps and then withdrew inside their walls. Once inside they built up their defenses and waited. Two days after the expected three weeks, the attacking army reached the city, with a thousand men missing and another thousand holding back, obviously injured. The traps had done their job, eliminate a part of the opposing army and demoralize it at the same time. While the traps hardly defeated the opposing forces, the war machines inside the city did. Ballistas, giant crossbows, catapults and mangonels, which threw flaming pitch and naphtha at enemy forces, guarded the walls of the city.
In two days, the hostile force was defeated, and that thanks to the use of technology." The minister was still looking at him, dubious, "And what does this have to do with our situation. Our technology is gone, nothing electric works!"
Rancor smiled, "That�s where you�re wrong, Minister. Technology is still here, but not electronic. But we can do exactly what those people did. Prepare traps, build siege engines which the enemy commanders won�t be expecting. If we do this right, we�ll stop them at the edge of these walls."
The minister started to smile as well, a grin that spread over his face and lightened his features. He turned to Jalb, "You�re lucky to have this man with you, Lt.Col. I do believe his knowledge is going to save our hides. Even though it will kill the Guntargians."
Jalb smiled easily, "Don�t congratulate me. Animal is his CO, you should be congratulating him."
The minister turned to the CO of Buccaneer and shook his hand, "Animal, keep this man alive and you�ll probably end up saving your own life a couple of times as well."
Chris shook the T�yan�s hand, "I intend to keep all my pilots alive."
"Of course, nothing else is acceptable," replied the minister. "But for now, I believe we are going to have to plan our defenses and fort up."
The next month was composed of a frenzy of planning, building, orchestrating and scheming.
To start it all, the commando team explored the C�totyat Manuscript Library, where they found plans, on paper, that indicated how to build catapults, mangonels, a mangonel, by the way, is a gigantic catapult, roughly the size of a house, that was designed to shoot, not only one thousand-pound rock, but a thousand one-pound rocks, ballistas and ancient weapons such as axes, swords, claymores, sabers, etc. Functional non-electronic blasters were heaped from homes and were stored away, as they would probably be the most useful weapons available.
They took five days to come up with hundreds of pages of plans and then set out to use these schematics to build their defenses.
An army recruitment office was working at full, registering approximately three thousand names per day or so, for 15 days, giving C�totyat a defending army of forty-five thousand men and a few women.
This army was immediately put to work. It was divided into forty-five legions that were all put to different tasks. Ten legions were sent out into the great x�fara-tree forest which lay a dozen kilometers to the west of C�totyat, where they would cut down parts of the forest and turn the downed trees into logs, planks, boards and poles.
Another ten legions were sent out after the previous ten and they took the wood and built the siege engines from them.
A temporary workyard was built between C�totyat and the forest and was given the name of Kuvwert, which means Liberty, in T�yan. It was an omen that the population of C�totyat took as what they expected from this war, but for the pilots it was a reminder of a home they still could not go home to.
As the engines were completed, a group of five legions filled with the strongest T�yans in the army would haul them back to the city by pulling on ropes, since other options were not available. Five more legions were building solid gates to replace the now unusable holographic and magnetic gates. Houses were demolished and the piles of rubble they made were placed behind the gates, to reinforce them even more. Another five legions were hauling vats of pitch and naphtha to the guard towers that surrounded the city behind the perimeter wall. These two liquids would be dropped on enemy troops and then put afire. It was a horrible means of killing, but then again, any way of killing is horrible.
The last ten legions were being battle-trained. Trained how to use the siege engines, aim them and reload them. They were also given basic sword-fighting techniques and basic bow-and-arrow skills.
For the four weeks before the hostile army arrived, the T�yans built their defenses, which helped them forget ever so slightly about the oncoming threat. But when the preparations were all completed, they had the leisure and the time to think about the battle and the countless possibilities that could ensue from it. The last three days before the expected arrival of the enemies were the worst of them all.
It was two days after the expected date that a scout ran back to the city shouting from the top of his lungs, "The army is near! The army is near!"
Soldiers ran out of the temporary garrisons and began hauling weapons to the top of the defensive wall. Rocks were piled up beside the five-hundred siege engines that surrounded the city and then a few ( rocks) were placed in the catapults themselves, a first salvo being prepared ahead of time.
The second that the pilots heard the news, they ran out to the walls and looked out to the horizon. Not much could be seen out in the hilly terrain that surrounded the city, due to the foggy air that clung to the ground like a mynock to an electric circuit.
It was Hellcat that pointed out to the north-east area of the hills and said, "Look, over there! I think that�s them!"
The pilot was right, thousands of soldiers were beginning to appear above the edge of the rolling terrain, five kilometers out.
The advancing army literally made a carpet of movement over the land, more visible due to the occasional white patch of armor, indicating the presence of stormtroopers among the enemy ranks.
The eight pilots eyes were all grim as they stared far out into the distance, trying to strike down a hostile soldier each with a �if-staring-could-kill� look.
A voice called to them from below.
They all turned and saw Belar, the T�yan minister�s son, beckoning them with his hand. They proceeded down the stairs to the ground below and listened to him, "My father has just given me the command hierarchy."
Jalb nodded, "Yes, who is going to command this army, anyway?"
Belar coughed into his hand lightly, "My father gave me the command of the army, but I need section chiefs to command each legion, so I�m choosing the eight of you to be among them. Thirty-seven officers from the city�s law enforcement station will take care of the rest of the army."
The eight pilots stared at him as if he had suggested they jump off the roof of a tower.
"Um�Just a minute here, Belar." said Prowler, lifting his index finger up towards the alien.
"We�re hardly qualified for commanding a legion of soldiers, especially in these conditions. We�d probably be better off sniping with our still-functional blasters."
Belar nodded sagely, but said, "I know that you�re experts in technological warfare, but right now, any experience in any kind of warfare is what I need in a legion commander. Most of the officers that are going to be legion captains have barely one or two years of experience in our security force. But that�s two years more than everybody else in C�totyat. You guys have real-time combat experience, you�ve learned to adapt to a situation and predict, more or less accurately, what the enemy is thinking. That�s what I really need with my troop commanders and so you guys are a natural pick."
The pilots nodded in agreement and then Bulldog asked, "Ok then, seems that we�ve been promoted, at least temporarily, to the post of ground troop commanders. What ground troop divisions do we have?"
Belar smiled and settled a roll of paper he had under his arm on the ground. He unrolled it, revealing a down-to-scale map of C�totyat and the area surrounding it within ten kilometers around the city walls.
"All right, now here is where you guys get into action�.."
The first catapult shot was fired half an hour later.
It was a ranging shot to determine if the catapults could hit the enemy troops. And indeed they did.
The projectiles, a mix of wood, naphtha, pitch and rocks was set aflame and fired off into the wave of soldiers that was now less than a kilometer away.
The flaming debris fell into a group of unprofessional looking soldiers, igniting clothes, flesh and blaster power packs. Thirty men ran back through the ranks, screaming like scurrying Jawas and awash in flames, as they were burned alive.
The answer to the ranging shot was a volley of two thousand or so blasters bolts, fired from a distance of seven hundred meters. While the energy in the bolts was dissipated over the distance, they still managed to hit two catapults, bursting them into splinters that rained down into the city. The crews manning the two catapults were skewered through and through and several other T�yans fell to the ground, injured by sharp boles of exploding wood, all inside a one-hundred meter radius of the blasts.
Belar, standing on the edge of the perimeter wall lowered his arm while bellowing, "Fire!"
One hundred catapults leapt forward in unison as they made a twang sound, unleashing rocks and flaming liquid into the forces ahead.
Balls of fire flew high into the morning sky and then arced downward, exploding or crushing whatever they hit. Groans of pain rose up from the ground below as hundreds of soldiers collapsed, crushed by stones.
The advancing army fired another volley, and another, and another.
Seven hours later, the attacking forces retreated, leaving twenty-thousand bodies to litter the crimson-colored battlefield. Occasionally, groups of white-armored bodies could be seen among the corpses. At least a couple thousand stormtroopers had been eliminated.
The defending forces were exuberant, thrilled that they had succeeded in repelling the initial attack.
The army commanders were happy as well, but kept in mind that a second attack could come fairly soon. To plan against that eventuality, they gathered in a building not far from the north wall.
Belar entered rapidly but winced and grabbed his arm where a piece of cloth was knotted in place to stop the tide of dark-blue blood that had already soaked it.
"Report on all of the legions, now!" he said, clenching his teeth tight.
One after the other, the designated legion commanders reported casualties and material status.
When they were done, Belar nodded, "Hm�.I do believe that the enemy army is going to be out of blaster bolts soon, they expended lots of energy packs during the last few hours and are probably running low. Now would be the time to send a group of our soldiers against them, with our blasters. "
Most of the T�yan legion commanders nodded in agreement with the army leader, but the commando team and a few elderly officers shook their heads.
Belar looked at them intently, "You don�t seem to agree, gentlemen. Please tell me what you think of this. I need all opinions to make sure I don�t make any mistakes."
The eight pilots looked at each other, hesitating to speak. Hellcat sighed, looked at Jalb who in turn nodded at him and said, "A few legions of our soldiers against their army, which still has approximately eighty-thousand men, would be crushed in instants. That is simply because they would be seen from far away. I would suggest that we post men on top of the wall with blasters and catapults, and then send a number groups of men with our long-range blasters in silent exit by the south gate, which is not being attacked right now. They would be able to circle to the side of the army, take cover in trees or something and have at least five minutes or so to blast a few hundred men. After that, they would run back to the south side of the city, opposite of the enemy army and enter the city. I might also suggest that outings during the night would be a good idea. Darkness, for a ground soldier, is always an ally." finished Hellcat, with a flourishing bow, as if his simple explanation had been galaxy-wide peace offering.
Belar ripped a new strip of cloth from his sleeve and knotted it tight around his arm, wincing in pain as he did so. He tightened even more the cloth and then sagged down, sliding against the wall behind him. He then smiled, "Brilliant. Excellent. We�ll combine the two ideas. Tonight, four hours after sundown, two hundred soldiers will be divided into twenty teams and sent out with blasters and will proceed along patrol routes and will position themselves at these strategic points."
He got up from the floor and walked to the table where a map was unrolled and pinned into place. He grabbed a writing tool and circled twenty spots, each of them representing hilltops, patches of woods, streambeds. All of them places where soldiers could lay down and wait in near total-invisibility.
"The twenty teams will wait until they hear three horn blasts in rapid succession and then they will open fire. They will sustain their fire for one minute and then will retreat to the south gate. Their main target is the stormtroopers, by the way. If you are compromised before the first shot is fired, blow four-staccato horn blasts and then retreat. All of the soldiers will do the same."
He turned towards the rebel team and said, "I�m asking you eight to go out as a team to eliminate this group of soldiers." He circled a small red area that was at the rear of the drawn enemy forces.
Jalb smiled grimly, "The enemy commanders. Cut the head of a Hutt and all that is left is writhing fat."
Belar laughed, "An apt analogy, Mr. Reynolds. Indeed, I am giving you and your team the hardest target of the twenty, as your team has the equipment and the experience to get in, eliminate the target and get out. I believe that if we eliminate the stormtroopers present, the Guntarg army will surrender."
Jalb nodded, "Excellent idea, and it�s no problem at all. At least I hope not. We�ll get the job done."
Belar smiled again and clapped his hands together in delight, but winced as he remembered his injured arm.
"Gentlemen, phase two is a GO!"
That evening, at the estimated time of eleven p.m., the large commando force crawled out the south gate of the city and followed the crevasses and shallows areas in the terrain to proceed towards the enemy army that lay in wait ten kilometers away.
When the city walls were a kilometer behind them, the two-hundred soldiers split up into teams and headed toward their waypoints.
Team 1 quickly outdistanced the rest of the group. They used their professional techniques to cover each other as one commando would do reconnaissance and the rest would scan the ground ahead. Ten trooper sentries were spotted along the way.
None of them got up from their emplacements. Slit throats are never good for any kind of living beings.
When they finally reached their waypoint, a low thicket of bushes that lay on the flank of a hill. The team saw the enemy forces that were tending to their wounded, building their camps and kicking trees in frustration.
Among this horde was hundreds of tents, all of them small and ugly. All except for one.
This tent was twice the size of all the others, was lighted brilliantly and had at least five hundred stromtroopers that stood in a circle around it.
A bit further out were the thousands of humans from Guntarg which suddenly started to yell and head towards the stormtroopers that were in between them and the Imperial commanders. They were heaving stones at the stormtroopers, who merely ignored the thudding against their armor.
An Imperial captain came out of the tent and yelled something to the stormtroopers. The white-bodied troopers went about-face and brought up the nuzzles of their blaster carbines and fired. Blue waves of energy sent two hundred men rolling to the ground, howling in pain, as the others jumped back, their expressions horrified.
Jalb_k raised his hand above his head, a sign ordering his men to stop whatever they were doing and watch.
The team watched in total silence as the stormtroopers continued advancing menacingly and the Gontargans fell back, stumbling one over the other.
The troopers herded them back towards their section of the encampment and then headed back to protect their leaders. To make sure that the humans wouldn�t try whatever they were doing again, they stunned five hundred more men as an example.
Jalb smiled as the main group of troopers moved to herd the soldiers back to their camp, leaving the enemy command tent unguarded. He lowered his arm. The team crept along, getting closer to their objective every second.
Jalb was lying on his chest in damp underbrush with the seven other members of the team in similar positions in a small half-circle around him.
Checking around for enemies again, he brought the tip of the horn to his lips and let all the air contained in his lungs blast a low moan through the horn.
Blaster fire erupted from two hundred guns at once, cutting down stormtroopers all over the place and igniting the main command tent in a few instants.
After thirty seconds, the blaster fire stopped, leaving the area eerily calm, punctured by the occasional moan of a wounded stormtrooper.
The soldiers for Guntarg had frozen in their stance, their persecutors had almost all been cut down and the remaining troopers were looking around, searching for the enemies that lay in the dense bushes only two hundred meters away.
Then, the horde of Guntarg soldiers began to yell and charged the remaining troopers. In a matter of few instants, only dead bodies of armored troopers represented the threat the Empire posed on the Guntargians.
When Jalb_k saw this, he smiled with pure delight and blew his horn in the "cease-fire" tune. The two hundred T�yan soldiers rose from their hiding places and ran back to the city, saluting to the commando team as they passed by.
Jalb then turned to the Guntarg army and bellowed: "The Empire no longer has a reach on you! March to C�totyat and a truce will be negotiated!"
The army shouted its agreement and turned towards the city that lay beyond the hills, where they hoped to be rid of the Empire�s presence.
A few days later
An temporary truce was agreed upon by the Guntargians and the T�yans, sealing the cease-fire until a more permanent deal could be made. They also signed a temporary document, which would also be finalized later, in which they proclaimed to help the Rebel Alliance to free the galaxy from the scourge of the Empire.
The only thing the population of Tot I was waiting for was for the EMI storm to end, so that the Rebel Alliance could actually come and set up defenses for the Tot�ya system.
Meanwhile, on the CRS Liberty, two lightyears outside the Tot�ya system
The remaining pilots of the Renegade Wing were all on standby alert, remaining in their quarters or relaxing at the Lounge. Though that was a bit difficult due to the fact that the liquor was locked up until the alert was dropped.
They all waited for the order from Admiral Ra�kaat that would tell them to rush to the hangar and get ready to assist their squadron mates.
According to Stryker, an Imperial battle group would not be long in arriving in the Tot�ya system as soon as the EMI storm stopped. For that reason, the Liberty would be remaining in the system as a temporary defense group until Alliance forces would arrive to establish a base of operations and build defenses.
Stryker sat in a seat on the Liberty�s bridge, reading efficiency reports on his pilots and on the Liberty�s personnel in general. Every so often, he�d get up and ask the sensor officer if anything had changed, but so far the answer had always been �no�.
That EMI storm better end soon!, he thought every minute of spare time he had.
He kept on waiting for the report that would make his pilots launch.
Ra�kaat was in his office, requesting a reinforcement group from Alliance Command, hoping that by being persistent, the group would get here sooner.
However, Ra�kaat had an ace up his sleeve if a group couldn�t get to the Tot�ya system quickly enough. He�d had the M/FRG Honor Bound, with Skull Squadron onboard, head to the opposite side of the system, although two light-years outside the system itself.
When, and he knew they would be coming, the Imperial forces would arrive, he�d have the Imps follow him to the opposite side of Tot I and then have the M/FRG jump into the system, absent from the Imperials sensors due to the lack of line-of-sight sensors view. Skull Squadron could then launch, with a full load of heavy rockets, and pounce onto the lightly shielded afts of the Imperial ships.
But he too awaited that report that would allow the Calamari cruiser to head back to assist their team. He awaited it impatiently, in fact.
"Sir, all sensors now have a clear scan of the Tot�ya system, the EMI storm just ended!" yelled the Liberty�s sensor officer, shouting in an adolescent voice that ranged low, then up to high.
As Stryker sprang to his feet, Ra�kaat barged into the bridge at a full trot, "Engage the hyperdrive to enter the system. Get us there fast!"
The navigation officer nodded and soon starlines appeared in the bridge�s viewport, as the cruiser passed the barrier of the speed of light.
Stryker was jogging down the hallways of the Liberty, heading towards the hangar.
He grabbed his commlink and said, "All Renegade Wing pilots, report to primary hangar. I repeat, all Renegade Wing pilots, report to primary hangar bay."
Along the way Stryker met Guardian, Krayt and Kallysto and they ran all one faster than the other to their fighters.
As the Liberty dropped into the Tot�ya system, Renegade Wing was launched to patrol ahead all the way to the planet and then sent patrols to search for survivors of the multiple spaceship crashes in the inner ring of planets of the system.
The commando team was sent up to the Liberty to be debriefed and then allowed a few hours rest.
As the other pilots patrolled the system, one ship was found quickly, crashed on the surface of a desolate moon, no longer in the shape it was designed to have.
Three survivors were found onboard, wounded and suffering from lack of oxygen up to the point that it was a wonder they were alive.
Of the hundreds of other ships that were in the system when the EMI wave hit, only dead hulks of frozen durasteel remained, drifting freely in the void of space.
Such an event could only remind the beings of the galaxy that even nature can be cruel.
Prowler was sleeping lightly in his quarters when the alarm went off.
He jumped to his feet as red lights flashed and klaxons blared.
"All personnel battle station! All personnel to battle station!" yelled the computer�s automated voice.
He ran out the door, adjusting the flight suit he�d been sleeping in and sprinted along to the hangar.
He cleared the hangar door, ran to his equipment locker and grabbed his helmet and personal magcon device.
He then jogged to his fighter, clambered up the ladder that was being held by a helpful technician and prepped the B-wing for launch.
Two minutes later, he formed up with his squadron and awaited orders from the CO of the wing, Stryker.
"All right, Renegade Wing. Corsair Two Flight, with Syntax, Bulldog, Condor and Kallysto detected a full Imp battle group entering the area in the outer proximity of the Tot�ya system. They raced to an asteroid field to wait for us and will be giving us telemetry for the initial attack run on the Imp capships. Preliminary sensor analysis detects three ISD-II�s, three VSD-II�s, one Escort Carrier and nine of Modified-Corvettes. Add the full starfighter compliments of these ships and you have a good taskforce with three-hundred and fifty-four fighters.
We also have reinforcements from the CRS Valorous, who�s ETA is twenty-seven minutes, the four Corellian gunships supporting it, and the M/FRG Honor Bound who will be coming in the battle area just over the Imps. Both ships have their full squadrons. So for now, just be ready for a major assault.
Alright, prepare to jump on my mark�jump!"
Prowler yanked the hyperspace lever, throwing his fighter forwards until it caught up with light.
The fighters of the Renegade Wing dropped into the outer area of the Tot�ya system three minutes later, setting their s-foils to attack positions and getting ready for a major firefight.
Clicking a couple of switches in his bomber�s cockpit, Prowler rocketed alongside Rancor and kept his sensors clear to target the foes coming on ahead.
Two bright crimson dot appeared on his sensor scope.
He selected the closest one, ISD Cyclops, she�s 39km out and we�ll be in range in seven minutes. He set his weapons to torpedoes and flicked them for dual fire.
Just then, Animal came over the comm, "Buccs, stay tight. Corsairs are breaking up the formation and the Rogues will finish off the first wave. We�ll bang on through the second one, disabling what we can without starting a massive dogfight. One torp is allowed to smoke the second wave, use your guns for the anything else. Keep the torps for the Impstars, we�re gonna need �em."
Prowler double-clicked in response and flicked his torps back to single fire.
Off in the distance ahead, he saw several red dots spark and then jet forward, Corsair just fired missiles.
Five or so minuscule stars lit up, then died quickly, indicating that a few Ties had just been destroyed.
He checked his sensors and saw that the first wave had all but evaporated when Rogue entered the fray.
His B-wing jetted along between the Rogues and Corsairs and then he targeted a fighter in the second wave.
A TIE/I appeared on his scope and it was aiming for him, still eight kilometers away.
He waited until he was up to four kilometers and then slowed to 15% throttle.
The squint entered ranger and the box in his HUD flickered yellow and then red.
He pulled the trigger.
The torpedo flashed away to it�s target in the blink of an eye, killing the TIE/I instantly.
He targeted the next closest fighter, brought it into his firing brackets and pulled down on the firing stud.
Two triple laser blasts converged into the port solar-panel of the eyeball, shearing off the rear half of the fighter and blowing it to debris.
Prowler sighed at the incompetence of most Imp pilots and checked his sensors again.
He was now completely free to engage the Imperial capital ships.
"Bucc Five, reporting in. I�ve got a clear view for the Impstars, am I good to go?"
"Negative, Five. Wait for the rest of Bucc to form up for a massive torp spread. We want that baby down with one punch," answered Animal.
"I copy, Lead. Standing by."
He scanned the view of space around him and saw another Imp fighter burst into flames as two X-wings from Rogue herded it expertly.
He then saw the rest of Buccaneer coming up fast behind him, so he engaged his engines and headed towards the ISD Cyclops.
"Rogue Two, go wide!" yelled Krayt to Vidster, as he pulled a high yo-yo to come in on the squint pilot�s tail that was following Vids.
As an answer to Krayt�s call, the fighter looped up to the left and then cut hard down to port, throwing the Imp pilot off guard.
Krayt saw the pilot�s moment of hesitation and fired. The quad burst hit the starboard wing pylon and sent the squint into totally uncontrolled flight.
Buccaneer Squadron was now eight kilometers away from the Cyclops and was ready to blow it to cinders.
As the bombers entered range, a M/FRG popped out of hyperspace two kilometers aft of the rear VSD, the Eternal Flame, and launched a squadron of X-wings.
Prowler grinned as the comm clicked, "Skull Squadron reporting with Major Farr in command. Would you gents like to have a nice view of fireworks?" asked Skull Squadron�s leader.
Stryker�s voice came right back over the comm, "Indeed, Major. Please eliminate that Escort Carrier to your starboard position. They�re being annoying by launching fighters."
The twelve X-wings swooped in, their engines roaring, dumbfiring a dual volley of rockets into the ESC flank. The yellow darts consumed the shields of the carrier and then began eating away at the hull. After two laser passes on the ship, the ESC was crippled.
Buccaneer launched their volley of torpedoes at the Cyclops, letting chaos take over the area of space it occupied.
Twenty-three torpedoes collapsed the frontal shields, letting even more hit the hull.
Bouts of combusting atmosphere vented from the topside hull of the Impstar, killing the crew there by lack of oxygen.
Another volley targeting the bridge area destroyed the controls to the ship, leaving it drift silently towards the rocky moon that lay nearby.
The remaining two ISDs concentrated fire on the M/FRG Honor Bound, while it concentrated on destroying the M/CRVs and the VSDs in the area.
The frigate left husks of crisp, burnt hull in it�s wake, heading for new preys which were fleeing towards the ISDs for cover.
At that moment, the Liberty dropped out of hyperspace on the port side of the VSD Hämn. The cruiser�s gunners fired, unleashing fifty heavy turbolasers against the lightly shielded side of the Star Destroyer.
The red laser bolts concentrated into one spot, piercing the shields and vaporizing the hull of the ship in seconds. After a few more well-placed turbolaser bursts, the primary power grids of the VSD were ignited, sending an explosive shock-wave through the Imperial ship. The lower and upper of the ship split, letting superheated gases and explosions boil over the outer edge of the hull.
On the other side of the engagement, the CRS Valorous finally arrived, launching it�s squadrons; Indigo, Cyan and Crimson, all armed with concussion missiles. It�s escorts, four gunships, roared forward, lighting up space ahead of them with their Sienar laser cannons, as they aimed for the remaining corvettes and Ties. The newly arrived Calamari cruiser let loose orange-red waves of turbolaser fire, consuming the bow shields of the VSD TerraFirma.
The two other VSDs veered onto the Liberty�s tail and began pummeling it�s rear with emerald lasers. Two Tie squadrons proceeded to attack the Liberty their strafing runs targetting weapon systems on the larger ship. Another three Tie squadrons veered off from where the major dogfight was going on and headed for the gunships
Seeing this, Skull Squadron engaged one of the VSDs, the TerraFirma, with their remaining rockets and destroyed it. They then assisted Rogue, Corsair, Indigo, Cyan and Crimson Squadrons in moping up the hundred and thirty fighters that were remaining.
Buccaneer Squadron fired it�s remaining torpedoes into the ISD Charybda, dropping it�s shields to 33%. Now out of warheads, they engaged the corvettes that were making strafing runs on the Liberty.
But although the Rebel forces had succeeded in destroying one ISD, two VSDs, crippling an ESC, destroying five M/CRVs and two-hundred and forty-seven Ties, they were in trouble.
One ISD, one VSD and six more M/CRVs with one hundred and seven Ties remained and now the Rebel fighters had no more projectiles to engage the Imperials with.
Two corvettes, along with the VSD Mace, headed for the Honor Bound, while the ISD Lighting Stab, with the two other corvettes flanking it, headed for the Liberty.
The initial pass on the frigate lowered it�s ventral shields, allowing the corvettes dual cannons to hit it�s weapons control area there, disabling weapons control section.
When the Mace got into range, it opened up with a wave of green laser fire, burning off the tip of the starboard housing area. Explosions rocked that area of the ship and lights went out in the forward section.
The Mace then targeted the four gunships that until now had concentrated on the Ties and had succeeded in killing twenty-one of them.
While gunships are useful against fighters, against capital ships, they�re mynocks.
One wave of turbolaser fire crunched one of the gunships in half, spraying reactor coolant into space and venting carbonized bodies.
Another volley of emerald lasers sliced the engines area clean of one of the gunships, igniting it�s fuel storage area.
The two remaining gunships passed under the ventral side of the CRS Valorous, using it as a shield from the Star Destroyers weapons.
"Rogues, Skulls, engage the Lightning Stab! Buccaneers, Corsairs, take out the Mace! Valorous group, mop up those damned eyeballs and squints!" ordered Stryker harshly into the radio frequency.
The starfighters responded to his order by swerving around, blasting at the strong capital ship shields that definitely wouldn�t be damaged by fighter-grade lasers, or at speeding Ties. Although they�re firing passed didn�t damage the capital ships, they at least kept the gunners in the Imperial ships occupied enough so that they ignored the Rebel ships.
However, the Rebel forces realized soon enough that if they didn�t get any reinforcements soon, the Liberty, the Valorous, the two gunships and the Honor Bound would be destroyed.
For another seven agonizing minutes, they kept distracting the Imperials, hoping that their motherships could still be saved.
"Gentlemen! Do you require some help?" asked the heavy voice of Minister Belgavran.
"What?! Where!?" was the most common comment that erupted over the comm channels, expecting an answer from the T�yan.
"This is Minister Belgavran, commanding the T�yan battleship Jyeeshei. I have three squadrons of Y-wings here to deal with the remaining Imperial ships and a squadron of Z-95�s will be coming to your assistance in dealing with the enemy fighters. Please tag them as �friendlies� on your IFF scanners," said the T�yan force commander.
Stryker answered back, "Get your fighters over here while we hold the door open for them, sir!" You could almost see him smile.
"Quite, Colonel. Jyeeshi, out."
The CRS Liberty�s crew is allowed on leave for a week on Tot I and the commando team spends it�s whole time exploring the history of the T�yan civilization that they didn�t have the time to do during their mission.
When exploring the Museum of History, Prowler asked Belar if the siege of C�totyat was recorded in their history books.
Belar nodded an said, "The siege is now referred to in our folklore as Grand Siège, which, in Basic is, Heavy Siege."
Prowler smiled, "Appropriate."
Two months after the final battle on the fringes of the Tot�ya system, a formal agreement of peace between the Guntarg residents and the T�yan population had been reached. Rebel Alliance diplomats oversaw that the signing was legitimate, and the Tot�ya system formally joined the Rebel Alliance in fighting the Empire.
To ensure that the Tot�ya system will remain safe, early warning systems and light anti-capital ship weapons will provide perimeter defense to surround the narrow entry corridor into the system.
Due to the remoteness of the Tot'ya system a small shipyard and personnel training base have been planned to be constructed in the system using current outdated facilities that are currently undergoing refurbishment by T'yan and Alliance technical staffs. This shipyard will have medium to light starship production capacity to help supply the Alliance with much needed warships within the next few months.
Alliance Command stated that due to the relative remote nature of the Tot'ya system the shipyard will remain relatively unprotected until production rates gather the immediate attention of the Imperium. Until that time several system patrol craft and one squadron of heavy starfighters will patrol the system to ward off pirates. Though the current defenses provide only light protection from attack, Alliance battle groups in transit will always provide extra protection for the system in case of an unforeseen engagement by a large Imperial force.