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Encounter at Bie'Lek - Chapter 9

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

 

Encounter At Bie’Lek

By CM Hawkins

Chapter 9

Commander Regor smacked his fist onto his thigh as the message ended. With the mission critical transport destroyed, it was over. Orders were that this transport made it, or the mission was terminated. Why there would be no back up transport, he had no idea, but orders were orders.

“One to all pilots,” He began, “Fall back to...” He was interrupted almost immidately.

“Sir, we’ve got to hold them a bit longer.” It was Suhail. Regor would have expected Haytha to be the one to protest, maybe even Ions, but Suhail?

“The mission is over. I won’t waste our lives or craft in some vain effort to get vengeance against a bunch of drones. Fall back to...” But Regor was interrupted once more.

“Sir, please. Trust me on this. We have to hold them.” Suhail, normally so calm and stoic, had a hint of desperation in his voice.

“Why? Is another transport launching?” Regor asked, trying to comprehend Suhails insistence while at the same time avoiding being overwhelmed by a fresh wave of drones. How were there so many? Waves of TIEs were still swarming from the upturned Star Destroyer embedded within the asteroid. Between those encountered in their first encounter and those they fought now, Regor estimated theyd destroyed enough Fighters and Bombers to account for an entire wing. Yet, they kept coming.

He whipped his gunboat towards the oncoming TIEs, shunting all shield energy forwards. The TIEs had stopped charging in for full frontal attacks, and instead weaved towards him in a pattern that was very nearly random. However, years of training showed that there was a discernible pattern. The drones may be learning, but they still appeared to be responding as machines. He hoped that would remain so! Linking his cannons, he led the nearest craft, and fired even before his targeting computer had been able to confirm a target. His trust in his own ability was rewarded with a destroyed TIE, and the remaining TIEs breaking formation and attempting to reposition. This gave him the seconds he would need to determine what could be salvaged from this mission.

Suhail had not responded to his question about a second transport. Did this mean there were none? He felt his first full, official assignment as Rho Commander slipping away from him. Was it this same desperation he had heard in Suhails voice? Had Suhail allowed the shame of failure to cloud his judgement? A fierce shuddering and the flare of discharging shield energy broke him from his musings, and he initiated a cork-screw manoeuvre, hoping to bring his attacker into his line of fire.

As he did so, a distant glint of light caught his eye. Even at this distance, he recognised the transports as the same sort as those they had destroyed previously. If they were indeed the control transports, as he strongly believed to be the case, then this was perhaps an opportunity to gain some measure of success. At the least, it may make a second attempt to gain access to the asteroid easier. Besides, the Aedgillis had not yet called them back. Was Suhail right? Was there still a chance to claim a victory?

We will take out the enemy transports, but then we are out of here.Regor ordered. Flight one, form on me. Flight two, Cover our attack.

Suhail watched as Ions and Haytha broke from the drones they were currently engaging and making off after their commander. Haythas shields were low, but the fact he had any left at all were a testament to how far he had come as a pilot; he had flown his gunboat like it was the match of an Interceptor, or better. He would study Haythas flight telemetry with interest once this was done. But for now, he had other concerns. He banked away from his fellow squad mates, hoping their attention being diverted towards avoiding pursuit would disguise his own movements from them. He quickly located the wreckage of the transport, spinning away towards the asteroid, and moved to intercept.

He had to be sure.

* * * * *

After a few seconds, the red auxiliary lights kicked in. The crew compartment was in utter disarray, equipment bouncing around the walls as the transport spun out of any control. Warning icons blinked in front of his eyes. The transport had lost all atmospheric pressure, and only the vacuum protection of his naval trooper suit was keeping him alive. He looked around the compartment at his troops.

Eight seemed to have survived whatever had kriffing happened to them his heart sank as he realised Yifanth was one of the two who hung limp in their harnesses. He hoped Yifanth had only been knocked unconscious.

As Redren attempted to gather himself together, he saw the black-armoured officer moving down the central gangway; moving with a level of control that seemed impossible in the spinning craft. The officer made it to the cockpit door, and hit the controls beside the door. Nothing happened. The officer somehow found purchase before the door, and jammed his fingers into the slight gap between the two halves of the cockpit hatch. Impossible as it seemed, he began to prise the doors apart. As the hatch opened, Redren could see beyond and into where he’d expected to see whatever remained of the pilots. There was nothing. The entire cockpit section had been utterly ripped away. Stars whirled before him, before the huge asteroid flashed past. They were falling towards it, out of control. To all intents and purposes, they were trapped inside a chunk of wreckage tumbling helplessly towards a horribly fatal impact on the surface of the asteroid.

This was it. The mission was over. The Transport would already have been declared destroyed, and the Gunboat pilots would be beginning to organise a retreat to the Aedgillis. Perhaps a fresh attempt would be made, assuming there was a replacement for whoever this officer was...

The same officer who was standing, motionless, in the open hatch. Redren felt a pressure build in his temples. He wondered if he’d been concussed when the transport had been hit. Then he saw it.

Beyond the officer, the stars were slowing. He stared, disbelieving. The transport was definitely righting itself, coming back under control. But control of what? There was no flight mechanisms left to control the craft with. He looked back to the officer, eyes widening. Tiny crackles of blue electricity flickered between the black-gloved fingers as they gripped the hatch edges. The stars had slowed to a crawl, before the vast asteroid loomed into view. Redren watched as the surface passed slowly before him, until the dark opening of the hanger came into view. And remained in view! The wrecked husk that had once been a transport was still falling towards the asteroid, but now fell almost gently, right towards their intended destination.

He glanced back to the officer. He’d heard that there were still those within the Emperor’s Hammer who were able to use the force, but he’d assumed they were just stories, something told to Imperial citizens to sooth any fears about the Republic rebuilding the Jedi order. So, was that who this officer was? A Jedi, or Sith, in service to the Emperors Hammer? He knew better that to voice such question, so turned his attention back to his squad.

Redren swallowed hard. “Squad – prepare for disembarkation.” He could hardly believe he was saying the words, so sure he was of his impending death only moments ago.

“Ikesony, check on our casualties.”

Bemused, dazed responses came back across his suit comms. Looking back to his troops, he saw some struggling to disengage their harnesses, others hurriedly attempting to deal with damaged portions of their armour. He watched as Ikesony tried to move down the gangway towards the casualties, struggling in the still shifting craft and avoiding floating equipment that had not yet come to rest. The rest of his squad faired little better, and were clearly as confused and bewildered as himself. This would certainly get them killed, and after such an unexpected escape he was not ready to allow that to happen.

“Get your krelling heads into the game.” Redren barked, as annoyed with himself as he was with his squad. “We’ve still got a job to do.”

* * * * *

As Suhail approached the wrecked transport, he felt a familiar prickle on his forearm. The hidden tattoo itched beneath his flight suit. His scanners showed that despite the terrible damage, the crew compartment section of the transport was still viable, although most of the atmosphere had vented into space. If fortune was on their side, then the mission may not yet be over. A slow smile crept across Suhails usually impassive face as he saw that the tumbling craft was slowly steadying itself, despite the scanners pronouncement that the craft was essentially destroyed. There was only one way he knew that would allow a powerless, ruined craft to be brought back under control one his scanners were utterly incapable of detecting. He hoped the same would be true of the drones any electronic reading of the transport would register it as having been destroyed, and that would be all the drones would have. A glance at his radar readouts confirmed his hopes! The TIEs that ahd not broken off to follow Haytha and Ions were closing on his position, and not that of the transport. He would not allow them to discover their mistake. Turning his craft towards them, he began to fire.

* * * * *


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