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Encounter At Bie'Lek - Chapter 6

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

 

Encounter At Bie’Lek

By CM Hawkins

Chapter 6

The six gunboats dropped into the Bie’Lek system, several klicks from the edge of the asteroid field. Regor’s flight took the lead, heading in-system, with Ions’ flight following close behind.

“This is Rho Leader to all ships,” Regor began, “both flights, close on the station. I’m picking up a good deal of debris. Maintian your shield integrity and set scanners to maximum power. Keep an eye out for bandits.” The squadron called in their affirmations.

“Flight Two,” Regor continued, “you inspect the debris field. We’ll take the station. Watch for proximity traps within the field.”

“Aye, Sir,” Ions replied, as Flight One peeled off towards the asteroid station. “Flight Two, I’ll take the freighter, Two, take the containers. Three, cover us.”

Ions’ flight closed on the debris field. Wreckage drifted in a slow orbit around the massive asteroid at the centre of the field. Most of it was unrecognisable - pulverised by the harshness of space, or lumped together as large chunks drifted together, and held in place by their weak gravity. However, here and there, a piece was familiar; a shuttle cockpit, the wing of some old starfighter. Beyond the debris field, the remains of what must have been the service area around the asteroid station. A cluster of Type A containers hung motionless, and yet in disarray. There was no order to their positioning. A bulk freighter spun slowly around its central axis, one of the rearmost container pods missing, whilst a shuttle sat locked to a service tug.

Ions and his wingmen passed cautiously though the debris field, finding no traps, no hidden sensor nets.

“This place is dead...” Haytha signalled.

“That may be the case, but keep your eyes and sensors open. Let’s not get caught unawares.” Regor replied.

“Scanning the freighter,” Suhail announced. “Its designation is the ‘Furuseth’. No detectable cargo, just the normal spare ship parts.”

“Readings for the shuttle are coming in,” Ions responded. “The ‘Berlitz’, cargo... none. Wait. Organic matter detected, but no life signs, no atmospherics. Frell, nothing but bodies, several of them from these readings.”

“Like I said. This place is dead...” Haytha’s voice was bereft of its usual, casual self assurance. This was a dead station, and it sapped the humour from them all.

 

* * * * *

 

Regor’s flight flew tight across the surface of the asteroid, scanners directed deep within its core. They weaved around rocky prominences, and dived through ravines.

Regor’s intercom crackled to life, “One, this is Two. Am detecting some strange energy signatures. Faint, but definitely there.”

“Confirmed, Two,” Regor responded. “Triangulating – source is a further eighty degrees around the surface. Follow my lead.” Regor changed course to head towards the energy source. So far, they were the only promising sign on an otherwise empty station. His sensors detected a great wealth of doonium still within the rock, so why did the miners leave?

“Coming up on the signal,” Three called.

“Arfirmative,” Regor replied. “Eyes open.”

As the three gunboats crested a ridge of ore-veined stone, they were suddenly illuminated by the distant sun of the Bie’Lek system. Its light glinted off their hulls, and they stood out like sparks in the darkness.

Regor spoke quietly into the intercom, “What the krell...”

Before them, apparently lying upside down and embedded into the surface of the asteroid was what could only be a Star Destroyer. Its distinctive arrowhead shape was unmistakeable, but the hull was patterned with all manner of unusual structures.

“Is that some sort of interdictor?” Two asked.

“I’m not sure,” Regor replied. “There are domes like the gravity well generators, but look at the venting systems covering them. And those smaller arrays covering the prow, I’ve never seen anything like them. Begin a scanner sweep.”

The three gunboats passed low over the hull of the strange starship, their scanners attempting to pierce the strange hull.

“I’m getting some wild readings here, Sir. Never seen an energy signature like this.” Three reported. “Wait, something more... the power signature is fluctuating, I think?”

“I confirm, Three.” Regor spoke quickly. “Hold position here. Flight One to flight Two, close on my position. We’ve found some kind of Star Destroyer embedded in the asteroid. Getting all sorts of odd readings.”

“Flight Two en route, Sir.” Ions responded, his voice crackled with distortion. Was that due to the asteroid between them , or the energy readings from the wreck below?

“Sir!” Two shouted, “Energy readings climbing rapidly! Something is definitely happening.” Regor looked from his own scanners to the vessel below. Lights were coming on across the ship, and suddenly the outline of the craft flickered; hazy, like an object seen through a wave of heated air.

“Move away, it may be powering up its shields,” Regor ordered. They gained height about the asteroid’s surface. Regor switched his viewer to his rear view.

And did so just in time - a hail of green blaster fire flew up from the vessel directly towards the climbing gunboats, filling his view screen with flashes of light.

“Evade! Evade! Evade!” Regor barked the order, shunting power to his engines and slamming his ship over onto its port wing and diving away from the incoming fire. His flight members followed suit, but Three was a moment too slow. Several shots impacted his shields as he turned, causing crackles of lightning to arc across the rear shielding. A lesser craft would have been ripped apart by such a barrage, but the sturdy gunboat held together.

“Where is the fire coming from? The ship?” Two called over the intercom. Regor looked, and he was astonished to find it was not the ship, but a wave of TIE fighters barrelling towards his flight, firing as they came.

“Incoming fighters, break and attack!” Regor commanded. He hit his targeting key on his flight stick, ordering the computer to target the nearest attacking TIE. Nothing. He did so again, and still, nothing. He hammered though the targets on his screen, desperately rolling away from the incoming fire. The asteroid station, freighter, containers, all flashed across his screen. But he could not acquire a lock on the incoming TIEs. He looked to his sensor scopes, and they appeared empty. A thundering jolt proved reality to be otherwise.

“Sir, I can’t...” Two began.

“I know, krell it!” Regor interrupted, dodging more fire. “Use your eyes!” Regor turned his ship towards the incomg vessels and boosted his engines, rolling wildly towards them. Every time a TIE passed before his vision, he hammered the trigger, sending busrts of laser fire towards the TIEs. One was hit, and spun away towards the asteroid’s surface. He had no time to watch it impact.

“Two, Three – close with the fighters, boost your engines. They have no shields, even standard laser charges will do damage. Use your shields to boost your lasers if and when you need to.” Regor dodged and weaved, but even then the nimble TIEs were scoring hits. He took two down with a hail of fire as he spun past them.

“Three here, I could use some help!” Regor heard. At least Three still showed on his sensors. He turned towards his wingman, and saw him spinning away from two perusing TIEs, their blasters tracing a line between them and Three. As Regor raced after them, he saw Three’s shields collapse in a burst of energy, and several hits rock the rear of his craft.

“Hold on, Three!” Regor called, and squeezed his trigger, hard. His own blasts cut across the gap between his ship and the pursuing TIEs, and the leader exploded as he scored several hits. The second craft carried on regardless of his fallen companion. Regor lined up for a shot, ignoring the sudden rocking jolts that told him his own ship was now under fire. He fired a burst, then swung away, hoping his shots would prove accurate. The jolting stopped as he evaded the incoming fire, but his shields had taken a significant pounding, and they showed they were getting low.

“Thanks One!” Three called. Regor allowed himself a momentary sigh of satisfaction at his accurate firing, before turning again into the fray.

 

* * * * *

 

Ions’ gunboat was a blur across the surface of the asteroid. He could hear the combat communications between Flight One, and he cursed the designers of his fighter, cursed the rocks between them, and cursed every obstacle that diverted him from the shortest course. This flight was formed behind him, all of them with as much power shunted to their engines as they could spare whilst still remaining combat ready.

“Closing on Flight One,” he called. “Be ready.”

“Sir!” Answered Haytha and Suhail simultaneously.

Suddenly, a trail of green laser fire crossed the horizon ahead, and the flight climbed, and returned energy to their weapon systems. As they rose, the fight came into view, though only visible by the exchanges of laser fire.

“This is Flight Two, closing on you fast.” Ions called to Regor.

“About...” Regor was briefly cut off, before continuing, “time.”

“Sir,” Suhail spoke directly to Regor, “Can you break and draw them towards us?”

“I can try,” he replied. “Flight One, break and close on Two. Pass between them and the asteroid.”

Flight Two could now see the other gunboats darting towards them, a swarm of TIEs at their heels. Sheer weight of numbers was threatening to overwhelm their comrades. Each incoming gunboat dodged and weaved, but the volley of fire directed after towards them was intense. Ions watched as Two’s shields collapsed, and several hits impacted on the hull. A flare of engine power suddenly burst from the rear of the craft, and then spluttered out, the gunboat beginning to spin away, out of control.

“I’m losing her, I’m losing...” Two’s voice was cut off as the engine reactor overloaded and the fighter exploded, the additional hyper-fuel and unused missiles adding to the destruction.

Ions screamed a curse at the oncoming TIEs and hammered his trigger in anger. At just beyond maximum cannon range, the shots would have been ineffectual had the TIEs not been chasing the retreating gunboats so closely. Their own speed carried them within weapons range, and the collected fire of the three gunboats of Flight Two ploughed through the TIEs, who seemed oblivious to the incoming threat.

“Regor, Orders?” Ions called.

“Hold them here, I need a visual situation check.” Regor replied.

Ions, Haytha and Suhail dived in amongst the TIEs, desperately weaving amongst them, trying to track the swarm of craft without targeting locks or radar signals. Fire lanced out in all directions, as Regor and Three climbed away and shunted a small amount of energy to give them a shield buffer against stray shots. Turning, Regor looked down on the battle. The unidentified Star Destroyer has dipped below the horizon, only the engine block was still visible. The TIE numbers had been significantly reduced by the intervention of Flight Two, but more were moving in, followed by two bulky transport vessels. They appeared to be Escort Transports, but the dorsal pod was exaggerated and unusually shaped. He shaped his plan quickly.

“Three, your ship is barely holding together, head for home, now – no debate. Flight Two, hold the TIEs there, I’m going to try and get some kind of sensor sweep of those transports, then we are all out of here. Understood?” He didn’t wait for their confirmations, but shifted all laser energy to his engines, and switched to missiles. With no lock, they would be dumb-fire, but that would be all he’d need. Linking his launchers, he knew he would have only four shots. He would need to make them count.

Flying high over the dog fight taking place just above the asteroid’s surface, Regor suddenly dived towards the oncoming transports and their escorts. Tracking their progress, he set his sensors to full forwards sweep, and took careful aim ahead of the transports. He fired two salvos, one each in the path of each of the transports. His instincts proved true, as both salvos streaked directly into the path of the target vessels, impacting hard on the front shields, collapsing them in a flash of discharging energy. He was closing quickly, and had little time. Lining up on the first transport, he fired his missiles before banking sharply and releasing the last of his advanced concussion missiles. His second shot, made as he swung away from the oncoming transports, passed the second transport and flew ineffectually away into the distance. The first transport, however, flew on directly into the oncoming missiles. They punched through the cockpit armour and exploded within the cabin, tearing the ship apart from within. As he flew away, weaving desperately, he heard Haytha’s voice over his intercom.

“What the krell did someone just do?” Regor swung his ship around and headed for Flight Two. He immediately saw what Haytha was meaning. A number of the TIEs had cut to half speed and were now proceeding back towards the Star Destroyer. The remaining TIEs were still fighting, but their reduced numbers left them easy targets for his squadron, and they were falling rapidly.

“We are down two ships, and there are more fighters incoming, and these ones are not going at half speed. Use this lull to break away. All power to engines – outrun them, and jump as soon as you are clear of the gravity field.” In good order, his squad broke and powered away from the remaining TIEs, easily dodging the few fighters left still able to shoot. One by one, he saw them jump away as they reached the hyper point. He glanced back at the asteroid, before hitting his own hyper jump.

“Not pirates, then...” he muttered to himself, as the stars flashed by before him.

 

* * * * *


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