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Encounter at Bie'Lek - Chapter 4

Written by: Hawkins and posted on: Sep 12, 2015

 

Encounter At Bie’Lek

By CM Hawkins

Chapter 4

Major Regor, the newly appointed Squadron Commander of Rho Squadron, stood beside Briefing Officer Thom on the Flight Deck of the Aedgillis, reviewing the orders that had just arrived from the Warrior, his fists clenched in frustration. Despite Rho squadron being just out of field trials, Regor had hoped for an assignment that would offer the opportunity for glory, for his squadron to prove their worth as a squadron of the TIE Corps.

“We were supposed to report to the Warrior - see some action against the Republic. Now we are surveying asteroid belts?” Regor’s voice has hard. Thom looked at him with interest.

“Are you dissatisfied with your orders, Major?” He asked, calmly. He had served the Emperor’s Hammer for many years, and served in the Imperial Navy before the Empire had fallen. His long experience had taught him that starfighter pilots were an aggressive, ambitious breed, never happy unless they had a target to kill. A piece of space debris was hardly going to satisfy that need, and so he sympathised, to an extent.

“No, of course not,” Regor replied, his tone betraying him. “I am simply keen to serve where our skills can be put to best use.”

“And Admiral March has decided this is where that is, so be satisfied.” Thom told Regor. “You will be more satisfied in a cockpit than in the reserve pilot lounge aboard the Warrior. Her squadrons are most capable, there is no guarantee that your services would be required.”

Regor sighed, straightened himself up, and stood to attention before Thom. The Major out-ranked Thom, but he respected him, never-the-less. His council had been of service to Regor as he took on the role of Rho’s commander, and had helped him to form the squadron into a battle-ready unit.

“Very well, Thom. You are correct. Let’s get the squad in and brief them.” Regor pressed a button on the briefing plinth console, and the squadron sauntered in, standing in rows according to their flight position, facing the briefing screen.

“Squadron,” Regor announced, “I have important news. We are not to be deployed to the Warrior’s reserves.” He paused, attempting to judge the reaction to his pronouncement. The pilots under his command exchanged glances, but seemed alert and ready for whatever came next. He smiled, almost imperceptibly, as he considered the questions that must be flooding each of their minds.

“We have instead been ordered to remain on the Aedgillis, where we will be deployed to the outer-rim, on immediate active duty.” Regor continued. “Briefing Officer Thom will provide full details.”

“Thank you, Commander.” Thom stepped to the podium and directed his attention towards the viewscreen before the pilots. The screen hummed to life, and displayed a holographic map of a star system, before zooming in to what appeared to be a small planetoid in the midst of a wide asteroid belt.

“A deep space probe has made an unexpected discovery; an abandoned space station close to the Galactic Rim.” Thom manipulated the controls, and several icons were highlighted. The probe was noted, as well as the planetoid. “Your squadron has been tasked with the identification and inspection of this unknown facility.”

“So, rather than serve with the Warrior against the Republic, we are inspecting abandoned stations guarded by rocks?” asked a voice. It was Haytha, which failed to surprise either Regor or Thom.

“Indeed,” replied Thom, his tone steady with practiced uniformity. “Such rocks are often the bases for pirates or smugglers, who use the galactic rim as a haven from Imperial Law.” Regor was impressed. This wasn’t part of the mission data, but was true enough, and Thom was experienced enough to both know it was pertinent to the mission, and a hook to capture the interest of his pilots. Rocks may be of no interest, but blasting pirates had potential. Thom turned from the screen to direct the squadron directly.

“The Emperor’s Hammer has been seeking to strengthen its position through the acquisition of systems and resources. This system, the Bie’Lek system, features an extensive asteroid belt and a number of small planetoids. Data from the probe suggests the area may be rich in doonium. We suspect that this is the reason for the establishment of the base in question. However, its abandonment is a mystery. Perhaps it has been taken over by the aforementioned pirates. Perhaps it was considered too remote to be viable for trade purposes. Whatever the reason, such a resource cannot be ignored. We have been ordered to determine if the site is still viable, and clear out any... undesirable... occupants.”

“The system is still a long way off, why are we being briefed so early?” Ions asked.

“Taking the Aedgillis all the way to the Bie’Lek system is unnecessary. We have aboard a small number of recon Xg-1 Star Wings, each fitted with additional fuel storage for additional hyperspace range, at the expense of room for a full missile load. You will fly these craft ahead of the Aedgillis, and determine if the site is worthy of further exploration.”

“That’s a long jump, even so...” Ions responded.

“That is why,” Regor interrupted, “I have requested the use of the Cantor – the corvette that has been attached to the Aedgillis for this deployment. She will carry us half way, and we will complete the journey from there. The Aedgillis will follow as and when she is required.” That seemed to satisfy Ions. Thom then continued with his briefing.

“Any pirates and smugglers operating from such a location tend to use older starfighter variants – Z-95s and R-41s. They may also have adapted transport vessels for a more aggressive role. Such ships may be a threat when flying a slower craft, such as the Star Wing, so be prepared.”

“Dog fighting in gunboats. Always a joy.” Said Haytha.

“A good pilot can use any ship to the best of its abilities to achieve victory, Commander Haytha.” Suhail’s voice was flat, almost monotone. Haytha scowled. Regor looked carefully at Suhail. His face was impassive, but there was a gleam in his eye that betrayed him.

 

“Quite so, Suhail. So, for this mission, what would you prefer? A Gunboat, or a shuttle?”

“Shuttle, Sir, if one is available. It will be good to show Haytha how easy it is to outfly him, in any craft.” Now, even Suhail’s usually stony-expression began to crack. Haytha looked from Regor to Suhail, realisation dawning, before blurting out a short laugh and punching Suhail in the shoulder.

“Alright,” Suhail continued, his voice as dead-pan as ever, “with one arm then, Haytha.”

“Enough, enough,” Regor interjected, smiling at his squadron. “You will all get the chance to prove your worth. Yes, Suhail, even Haytha. I suggest you use the time before launch in the simulators. Re-familiarise yourself with the gunboat’s capabilities. Dismissed.”

The squadron saluted, turned, and exited the briefing room – Haytha attempting to goad Suhail into some form of outburst, and failing, as always.

“Commander, a word?” Thom asked quetly. Regor watched the squadron leave, and the door close behind them, before turning to Thom.

“Yes?”

“The mission, Sir. May I offer some council?”

“Always, Thom. Speak freely.”

“All other exploration missions I know of have been cancelled, Sir, and the vessels involved redirected to the operations on the Republic fronts. We have been redirected from the Republic fronts back to exploration. There may more to this mission that we are aware of.”

“Such as?” Regor asked.

“That I cannot say, Sir. But to be redirected so suddenly, and in apparently the opposite direction of the current thrust of Emperor’s Hammer operations... Just ensure you are prepared for something more than pirates.” Thom saluted, and turned to leave. Regor watched him go, before turning to the viewscreen, still displaying the Bie’Lek system.

“We can but hope,” he said, quietly.

 

* * * * *


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