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Encounter at Bie'Lek - Chapter 5

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

 

Encounter At Bie’Lek

By CM Hawkins

Chapter 5

Sergeant Redren’s blaster hammered into his shoulder, dispensing fully automatic rounds down the length of the target range. The target drone, a small, hovering, spherical droid, danced around the beams of incoming fire. Redren had it set to the highest difficulty setting, making the task of destroying it essentially impossible. It was said the maximum level had been programmed to be a challenge for those talented in the ways of the Force, and that only an advanced student of that ancient art would have the ability to successfully destroy such a fast moving, responsive target. Redren was determined to destroy one at that setting. He’d once scored a hit, but the target survived, dodged back into its housing and was replaced with a fresh drone. Redren was under no illusion. He was no Jedi or Sith. He was just a trooper. But frell it, he was going to be a good one. He tried to picture Commodore Chimaq’s face on the drone, hoping it would inspire him to be more accurate. Ultimately, it was more of a distraction. He was also annoyed, meaning his margin of error had increased, acorind to the data read outs on the target range control panel.

Redren had been looking forward to returning to the Warrior. His fellow Naval Troopers all felt the same. Chimaq seemed a relic from the old order of things, not reflective of the more recent glories the naval troopers had achieved in service to the TIE Corps. Had he been back on the warrior, he would have been leading space-born assaults, boarding actions, capture operations. Those flyboys in the TIE Corps may be the poster boys, but it was the Naval Stormtroopers who would be called in to recapture the stations, platforms and other orbital installations the New Republic had shown the gall to try and steal. Whilst they flew around in missile boats capable of taking out a whole fleet, he would stand toe to toe with the Rebublic and beat it down with fist and blaster.

Now, he was stuck here, headed for the Rim. His best hope? Pirates. Sure, they were ok out in space, but in a boarding action? They relied on fear to make any opponent they faced to surrender before a shot was fired. How would they react to organised, well trained and well equipped Naval Troopers? They’d be a walk in the park. Kriff, even Chimaq could take them. On his own. And Redren wouldn’t bet on Chimaq against a ewok pup.

Krelling Pirates...” Redren cursed, and went back to blasting at Chimaq’s floating head.

 

* * * * *

 

High Admiral Frodo March reviewed his strategic map, a holographic, three-dimensional projection hovering in front of him. Highlighted in a blue cloud were those systems the New Republic had either infiltrated, colonised or captured that the Emperor’s Hammer considered their territory. Lyarna, Phare, and others were surrounded by green icons, indicating known Republic forces. Republic forces, thought March. Rebel forces, that is what they were. The Emperor’s Hammer had officially recognised the New Republic in the Pellaeon-Gavrisom Treaty of 19 ABY, but March knew he was not alone in still considering the Republic to be Rebels. He wondered if anyone in the Emperor’s Hammer didn’t view them this way.

He turned his attention to the red icons, indicating the disposition of the fleets under the command of the TIE Corps. With a gesture, he selected those of the Warrior Battlegroup. A number of red icons glowed more brightly, whilst the remainder dimmed slightly, highlighting those vessels under his command. He studied their positions carefully, making minor adjustments to their positions as they readied themselves for the battle to come. Orders were automatically transmitted to each vessel, showing their new orders and co-ordinates. He knew that each would be in place in a matter of hours and then... then they would show the Rebels the full might of the Emperor’s Hammer.

One group of icons stood out – a tiny cluster far from the Republic front. He watched carefully, his practiced eye noting the almost imperceptible movement of the icons across the star map. With a pinching motion with his fingers, the map zoomed in, holographic star systems flowing past as the view closed on the two small, red icons – the Aedgillis and the Cantor. A flick of the wrist and the map flowed forwards, tracking a path to their destination – the Bie’Lek system. Was this where the Eldridge was hiding? After all this time?

His mind warred with itself, thoughts moving like a starship engagement. A thrusting proposition met with a counter attack of rationality or scepticism. If they could find the Eldridge, recover her secrets, then repulsing this Rebel incursion would barely be the beginning. Such a hope moved like a Super Star Destroyer, punching through lines of Rebel defences, right to the heart of the galaxy. But experience had taught March a great deal, and he was quick to reign in his mental forces. Deal with the tasks at hand. The future can be plotted later.

March cancelled the map, and switched to the holographic communicator.

“Admiral Elwood,” he stated. He stood, collecting his thoughts for a moment, before the communicator chimed and an image of Admiral Elwood materialised before him.

“Greetings, High admiral,” Elwood said, his voice clear despite the distance between them.

“Admiral,” March replied, “the Aedgillis and her support vessel are closing on their objective.”

“Good, good.” Elwood spoke slowly. March felt a pang of nostalgia at the intonation of the expression, a remnant of the days of Emperor Palpatine – the real one, and not one of the many clones that had followed him and suffered equal ignominy.

“Do they know what they seek?” Elwood asked.

“No, I deemed the information too sensitive. If they find anything, they will report back. Then we will know if the Eldridge has been found.” March replied.

“Is a recovery operation in place?”

“Yes. Agamemmon Utility Squadron has been attached to the Strike Cruiser Mithras. They are standing by to deploy to the Bie’Lek system, or move to support our forward positions if they find nothing but asteroids.”

“How quickly can we utilise any technology we recover from the Eldridge?” Elwood could not disguise the relish with which he held this possibility. March sympathised.

“That, we do not know. I have spoken to High Admiral Dempsey, and she believes that if the technology is recoverable, her team will be able to make it viable. How quickly will depend on the condition of what is recovered. Of course, we could be sure of a quick implementation if we could aquire the services of mBind...” March trailed off, hoping for a sign that this may be possible. Elwood appeared unmoved.

“That route is closed to us, for the time being at least.” Elwood said. “We must manage with the resources to hand. Keep me informed of any developments.” And with that, the connection was cut.

March stood a moment, allowing himself the luxury of contemplating various futures. The moment passed, and he turned to his communications screen, and began to review the many, many requests for his immediate attention.

 

* * * * *

 

The simulator shook as laser fire strafed his shields. Commander Haytha shunted power from his fully charged lasers to his shields, and reduced throttle, putting his gunboat into a tight spin, trying to pull his opponent into his firing arc. A voice crackled over the simulated intercom.

“Don’t waste laser energy recharging shields.” Suhail’s flat voice spoke with the authority of an experienced pilot. “Redirect your shield energy to your engines. Speed is a better defence than your shields, and the improved engine efficiency will reduce your turning circle. You can evade enemy fire and bring your target into your sites.”

Haytha didn’t respond, but did as Suhail suggested. His shield indicators registered a slow drop in shield integrity, but a noteable boost in speed. Yanking the stick to the left, the craft banked sharply, before rolling on its axis and going into a tight spin. A stream of laser fire passed by the cockpit before tracking behind his craft. In a moment, the target craft, a simulated R-41, was in his front view and closing fast. Haytha pulled into an erratic roll, evading the incoming fire, and at the same time linking both of the laser and ion cannons. Just before he passed, he cut across the nose of the R-41, and squeezed his trigger. The quad-blast slammed into the front shields of the bandit, which sent the craft swinging wildly away, attempting to avoid any further hits. Haytha pulled round, positioning his craft directly behind the R-41. Two more quad-blasts took out its shields, and damaged the hull. Its speed dropped away as energy was furiously redirected to the shields. It was a sitting duck. Switching to missiles, and without waiting to gain a full lock, Haytha released the missile directly into the engine block of the enemy starfighter, ripping it apart.

A green message began flashing in the centre of his view field – Primary Objective Completed, it flashed. Haytha ended the simulation. The enclosing lid of the simulation chamber rose, letting the light of the training room flood in. Haytha climded out, and walked towards Regor and Suhail, who were already running through his combat play-backs.

“Here,” said Suhail, pointing at the screen, “The Star Wing is to slow to out manouver the Z-95s unless more energy is directed to the engines. Haytha was lucky not to lose it there. A real opponent might not be so forgiving.”

“I still took them all out. Six Z-95s, all at once, all by myself.”

“Yes,” said Regor, looking thoughtful, “but those were on a medium difficulty setting. That final R-41 was set to maximum difficulty, and had Suhail not corrected you, it was well position to take you out.” There was no reprimand in Regor’s tone, simply professional interest. They would all be flying these cumbersome assault gunboats into a potential combat zone. Every piece of useful flight data might save their lives, destroy an enemy, ensure victory.

“You over estimate its chances, Major,” Haytha said, confidently.

“And you underestimate them, Commander.” Ions called over from his own viewscreen, his eyes never leaving the play back of his own simulated flights.

“Anyone care to prove me wrong?” Haytha demanded.

“Gladly,” replied Suhail. “Remember, I won’t be advising you, this time.”

“I’ll cope, somehow.” Haytha retorted, already heading for his simulation pod.

“No doubt,” Suhail called after him, heading for his own pod.

Within a minute, two gunships were weaving around each other, each desperately trying to take out the other, whilst simultaneously dealing with incoming waves of simulated Z-95s and R-41s. 10 minutes later, the pods cracked open, and the two pilots emerged. Haytha stepped out of his pod, laughing.

Ions walked over to Regor, who already had the two play backs running side by side.

“So, I take it you won, Haytha?” Ions called.

“Against Suhail? Frell, no. But it was close!” Haytha jogged over to the screen, and pushed between Ions and Regor, scrutinising the twin playbacks. “Look at that move!” He said, pointing to Suhail’s screen, showing his own craft darting away and out of Suhail’s target reticule.

“It was a good move,” Suhail commented, moving up alongside his fellow flight members. Haytha didn’t look away from the screens, captivated by the dance unfolding before him.

“And that was a nice piece of flying!” Haytha pointed again to Suhail’s screen, but this time indicating a move Suhail had pulled that had almost flipped his gunboat on its end, bringing Haytha’s gunboat and an oncoming R-41 directly into his line of fire, taking out both in short order.

“I’m glad you approve.” Despite himself, Suhail could not prevent a small raising of the corners of his mouth. Haytha slapped him hard on the shoulder.

“Next time, Suhail. Next time!” Haytha grinned.

“As you say,” Suhail replied, quietly, and headed back to the simulation pod.

 

* * * * *

 

The Cantor dropped out of hyperspace near the edge of an uninhabited system. It hung silently in space, visible only by the lights of the view ports, and floodlights illuminating sections of hull. It drifted gently onwards, the residual momentum of the hyperspace exit. Silent bursts of stabilising thrusters steadied the ship, before six small craft exited the hanger bay and turned towards the Galactic Rim. Six flares of light, followed by blurs of movement, signalled their departure.

 

* * * * *


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