[Originally written by Foln]
Imperial Army Chronicles: Defiance
“Let’s make this quick and by the books. I don’t care much for this planet.” Just inside the main airlock of a small Republic Transport stand four figures, two male and two female, all clad in the white laminate armor of the Republic military. Bright glowpanels light the interior almost too well and, considering that their armor is remarkably well polished, it is easy to distinguish the orange insignias of the 207th “Wardogs” Infantry Regiment emblazoned on their shoulders and their helmets. Each of them carries a standard-issue blaster rifle slung over their shoulder. “And lock it down this time, Defiance Two,” comes the same voice as before, from the man in the front-left of the four-person formation as he nods to the woman in the front-right. His prim Imperial dialect still manages to convey a sense of propriety and elegance of speech even as it is significantly modulated by the helmet transceiver. Turning to the whole squad, he says, “And move with a purpose. We’re already running behind schedule.” “Sir, yes sir,” reply the other three, in regimented unison. The four brace themselves against the walls of the airlock as the ship shifts and spins during its landing descent. Soon they hear the clank of the landing gear on the pad and the status light on the wall switches from red to green. The four bodies jolt slightly as the floor underneath them begins to descend below the vessel. The four clean hydraulic pistons on the lift’s corners barely make any noise of their own as it slowly lowers the squad onto the landing pad, and soon the lift stops gingerly on the surface below. Over the squad’s helmet comm, the same voice quietly orders, “Forward… March.” The formation steps off in unison, left foot first as is militarily proper. Their cadence, though unspoken, is congruent as they make their way down the length of one of several parallel catwalks leading from as many transport pads toward a long building with an equal number of ray shielded warehouse bays. After marching the length of the catwalk, the man in front-left orders, “Squad… Halt.” A Mon Calamari dock official in Republic Military field dress approaches the unit, flanked by a pair of lightly armored Corellian Security personnel. “You’re late,” he says condescendingly, the irritation in his voice practically palpable. He motions to the datapad in the hand of the man on the front-left. “Let me see that authorization. The sooner you’re out of here, the better. We’ve got three freighters waiting on you right now. What took you so long?!” “We had a systems malfunction upon exiting hyperspace,” replies the man on the front-left with the Imperial accent. “Procedure maintained that we power down main engines for troubleshooting. Took us a while to isolate the power fluctuations to the hydrillic converter coils.” The Mon Cal eyes the trooper suspiciously upon hearing the Imperial dialect. The speaking trooper on the front-left stands perfectly still, his eyes front for what seems to be longer than the few moments that actually passed. As the pause drags on, the trooper turns his head to look at the dock official and asks, quite irritated, “Is there a problem, sir?” Just as the dock official opens his large, fish-like mouth to respond, the datapad beeps and flashes in an approving manner, begging the Mon Cal’s attention. He studies the message on the pad for the briefest of seconds before he returns the device to the trooper. “No, not at all. Everything checks out. Hurry up and load the shipment, then get out of here. We’re very busy, you know.” “Trust me. We’ll be out of your hair in no time,” the trooper jabs, much to the Mon Cal’s disdain. The four jog over to the cargo bay as the ray shield disengages. A large sheet with the 207th insignia covers a number of cargo crates in the middle of the front of this bay of the incomprehensibly large warehouse. Behind the covered pile stands row after row and stack after stack of containers, crates, and loose items on endless shelves and racks. The trooper who had been on the front-left pulled the sheet off the pile to reveal two dozen crates underneath. “You know, Defiance One, perhaps next time we try *not* pissing off the dock workers?” asks the other female in the group, who also sports an imperial accent and had been standing in the back-left. “I thought the point here was to be forgettable.” “What, you mean that bit about hair? He’ll get over it,” replies the trooper from the front-left. “We have to make it believable, Defiance Three. Now cut the chatter and get this stuff loaded. The clock is ticking.” The four of them set about the task of loading the crates onto the transport. The small repulsorlifts on each crate make the work simple, but the long catwalk meant a long turnaround time. Overhead, three cargo freighters hover impatiently before a fourth joins them. Upon its arrival, it attempts to slide in front of the other three in the queue. Whether this was on purpose or not is undetermined, but after what was assuredly an intense exchange of some rather vulgar comm chatter between the four pilots above, the newly arrived freighter withdrew to fall in line behind the others. Several minutes pass as the armor-clad group of four move quickly to load the crates. They manage to load fourteen of the twenty-four containers aboard the transport, with two more on the catwalk, before a new voice comes over the squad’s helmet comm. “Hey, Defiance One, this is Five… You might wanna hurry this up, the babes are waking.” “What?!” replies one, incredulous. “They should’ve been down for two hours!” A blue-faced female Chiss stands casually, her shoulder leaned up against a bulkhead. Her blue hair gelled into a mohawk and her black duster’s tall collar nearly completely concealing her neck from all but a frontal angle, she looks through a viewport into an escape pod that held two men and two women inside, all bound and gagged and out cold. Though their eyes were shut, the chiss could see some reflexive twitching in their fingers that forewarned their imminent return to consciousness. The Chiss nonchalantly reaches up to her wrist comm and activates the transceiver. “Well, you say that, but I’d say this past hour and a half is all that we’re gonna get on this lot.” “Blast!” curses Defiance One as he steps up the pace to get back to the warehouse for another crate. As another of his squad snags a crate and heads off toward the ship, he counts the remaining seven containers. “We’ll have to dump the pod early, One. Launch it across the city,” comes the assertive female voice of Defiance Two over the comm. “Even if we leave now, we won’t make it through the atmosphere before they’re awake.” “I say we kill them,” came a previously unheard male on the comm. His voice sounds more regally Imperial than the others, but carries a note of crude pragmatism with it. “Just have Five put a bolt through their skulls and we’ll jettison the pod later.” “Negative on that, Four!” yells One. Quieting down so as not to draw attention from any warehousemen or droids in earshot, he explains “Leaving them alive implicates any of a number of benign outlaw relief efforts within Corellia or even the Republic. Killing them will only direct blame closer towards us.” He barely pauses long enough to inhale before he commands, “Defiance Five: If you see any of their eyes even crack open, you send that pod straight into the heart of Coronet City, understood?” The Chiss woman on the transport depresses the button on her wrist comm as she affirms “Understood, One.” Defiance One continues, his Imperial dialect thickening with the tension, “Defiance Two, Three, and Four: when you hear that pod launch, get back to the transport as soon as you can. And remember, if it comes to it, BLASTERS ONLY.” Defiance Two mutters under her breath, “Blow our cover once and Nasho never lets you hear the end of it…” They hurry and manage to get another three crates on board. As One, Three, and Four hastily push three more crates across the catwalk and Two rushes back for the last crate, the chiss’ eyes narrow as she struggles to get a closer look through the plastiglass on the escape pod. Her hand hovers over the ejection control. One of the bound males in the pod had barely twitched an eyelid before she hit the button. Defiance Two stopped suddenly as a wave of premonition washed over her. “Oh, no…” she said as she turns around, her widened eyes concealed by the heavy white helmet. A hiss nearly immediately preempts a loud detonation that can be heard and even felt across the catwalks and landing pads. It surprises everyone. The four armored individuals rushing with their crates, the other landed crews, the handful of dock workers, the myriad of loading droids and even the freighter captains overhead all jump a little at the sound. Perhaps the most surprised of all is the fourth freighter pilot in the queue, as his vessel had hovered a bit lower than the others, and on the same side of the grounded transport from which the pod was launched. The chiss woman on the transport had just the shortest of moments between the pod launching and the containment bulkhead sealing the transport’s exterior layer to witness the pod ricochet off the freighter’s aft section and sail skyward. Defiance Three was loading her last crate and couldn’t see the fireball, but One, Two, and Four all had front-row seats. The entire aft of the stricken fourth freighter swings away and explodes in brilliant, chaotic glory as its port side dips from the force of deflecting the pod upward. The pilot, whose total obliviousness to the cause of the emergency offered no bliss nor solace, frantically and reflexively slams the thruster controls to all-ahead full. With the port thruster completely annihilated and the ship already turned halfway toward the transport on the pad, this action only succeeds in launching the vessel on a crash course with the catwalk that Defiance One and Four were pushing crates across. Defiance Two watched the explosion with alarmed apprehension. Sensing the impending collision with the catwalk that would spell certain doom for One and Four, she gathers herself and releases a powerful force wave along the catwalk toward the transport, sweeping her two compatriots and their crates down the walkway just in time to avoid obliteration by the freighter. Defiance Four manages to land feet-first on the ship’s lift, but Defiance One’s chest strikes hard against one of the hydraulic pistons of the ship’s loading platform, which only deflects his flying body into another of the pistons. He strikes the second piston squarely with his back and falls limp, his form a motionless collection of laminate armor now hanging off both sides of that corner of the platform. The catwalk erupts into a shower of sparks and shredded durasteel as the freighter erases it from existence and disappears below the floating warehouse platform in a trail of billowing black smoke. Defiance Two looks on as the group’s transport and its pad give way, now unsupported by the catwalk, and begin their inevitable plummet toward the surface. Amid shrieks of horror and panicked cries coming from all around, she turns around and sprints towards the warehouse, setting her eyes and her resolve on that last and final crate. -- Inside the ship, Defiance Five had narrowly managed to get to the cockpit before the freighter destroyed the catwalk holding up the landing platform. At that moment, the transport pitches forward as it begins its gravity-fueled descent to the surface of Corellia. The sudden shift causes the woman to lose her footing and she is thrown face-first onto the forward viewport. -- With one hand, Three holds desperately onto one of the loading ramp’s pistons. Her other hand relentlessly clutches the wrist of the unconscious Defiance One as the pad falls away from the vessel and the ship itself rolls forward. Defiance Four’s helmet came loose from the Force blast and now falls away to the surface of the world, revealing a deep red skin on his snake-like pureblooded sith face. Himself nearly weightless and his feet only precariously planted on the plunging ship’s lift, he summons his focus, embracing the chaos of the moment. The commotion of residual explosions and the howling wind serve to light his eyes ablaze and, in their ferocity, they turn downwards to see the two crates almost hanging, but falling slightly faster below him. The red-skinned male reaches out with his white, armored gloves as the pad falls away and the two unsecured crates slow their descent, then gradually start to rise toward him as his face contorts into a strained grimace. -- Her back now pressed against the plastiglass viewport and her right side awkwardly laid upon the dashboard on the cockpit, Defiance Five’s fingers fly across the controls, booting the ship’s systems and energizing capacitors for a large compensation burn. A black and red astromech droid rolls in from the main deck of the ship, it’s head spinning and a stream of obscene binary flowing from its circuits. -- The red-skinned Defiance Four loses his footing and slides towards the lift’s edge as the ship continues to pitch forward. He briefly loses his hold on the crates below as he hooks his arms around one of the four pistons. Restoring his focus, sweat starts to build on his brow as he barely manages to keep the crates right-side-up through the force. Defiance One stirs and then awakes with a shock to find himself dangling over nothing. He looks up to see the thin female form of Defiance Three, barely managing to hold a grip on both his wrist with one hand and the nearly horizontal hydraulic piston above her with the other. “About… time…” is all that Defiance Three can manage to say, more grunts than words. “Blast!” says One, more annoyed than angry or shocked. “Can’t move my legs again.” “Major!!!” Shouts Three, with what seems to be near the last of her strength. “A little... help here?!” “Right,” says Defiance One, who lifts his other arm and retrieves an item from the utility belt on his laminate armor. He aims the pistol-shaped ascension gun toward the ceiling of the cargo bay of the vessel and fires. A satisfying, piercing thud followed by tension in the line signals the shot’s success, and One begins to reel himself in, pulling an exhausted Three with him. -- “Not now, Cait!” Defiance Five screams at the astromech. Still laid up sideways with her back against the viewport, the sight of the planet’s surface growing clearer through the glass couldn’t bother her. Near enough raking her hands across the dashboard like a methodical madwoman, she shouts “Shut up and engage the stabilizers!” The droid turns and rolls toward the starboard side of the cockpit. It falters for a moment, beeping incessantly until it chooses a port to jack into. “I know nothing’s in the right place, Cait!” shouts Five above the noise of the engines firing up and the wind resistance building with speed outside the viewport. Her right arm, mostly underneath her own body, awkwardly pulls the throttle to maximum toward her and the viewport. At the same time, she extends her left arm over herself to grab the steering shaft at the wheel and pushes it as far away from her as possible in a bid to pull the vessel up. “Take it up with KDY!!!” -- On the warehouse platform, emergency crews start to arrive as Defiance Two stands nonchalantly over the final crate, well removed from the catwalk or the warehouse bay from which she was previously working. Tapping her foot, she hums to herself and waits. -- Inside the cargo bay, Defiance One lets Three loose and yells to her over the wind and the engines roaring to life, motioning for her to help the struggling sith pureblood hanging over the lift piston. His legs useless after that blow against the piston with his back, One elects to hook the ascension line to his utility belt and simply tether to the ceiling of the cargo bay where his broken body is out of the way. -- Her left arm across her chest, left hand pressing against the steering wheel while using her right hand to hold the throttle control at maximum, and with her blue mohawk getting in the way, Defiance Five attempts to look over her left shoulder to see outside the viewport. She can barely make out the tops of some skyscrapers below… and that the craft is starting to pull out of its stall. The astromech screams and beeps and wails as its magnetic locks hold it to the nearly vertical floor of the cockpit. “We are too gonna pull up in time” says the chiss woman, her voice almost childishly and comically reassuring even as her back presses against the plastiglass, outside of which is a rapidly growing cityscape. “Have a little faith, C8.” -- In the half-inverted cargo bay, Defiance Three removes her helmet and reveals the soft white skin of a rattataki. Her face, lightly tattoed, was rather sightly, even as she grimaces and fights to get a solid footing on the side of a magnetized crate that is now a vertical surface, thanks to the transport’s dive. Once successful, she pulls her own ascension gun from her utility belt and aims it at one of the crates that Defiance Four was slowly bringing up to them. She fires, giving it a little lead to account for the great deal of wind below them, and watches as the barb narrowly misses the crate. Four notices her attempt, and looks to his right to lock eyes with hers. “She’ll never make that shot in all this wind,” thinks the red-skinned Defiance Four. “And I doubt she could haul it in if she did. No… I have to do this. I have to do this… Now!” With that thought, he wraps his right arm down and around the piston and reaches out with his left hand toward the two crates below. He summons every bit of strength that he has, and in one fluid, tense motion, clenches his fist and pulls his left arm backward. The rattataki woman, focused on retracting the ascension gun for another shot, soon realizes that the crates are suddenly and speedily headed right for her. -- Defiance Two watches as news crews begin to arrive on the warehouse platform. Still humming, she moves the crate even further away and up against a small extrusion in the warehouse wall, gaining distance from and breaking sight with where the press starts to congregate. -- Defiance Four’s burst of strength and force of pull nearly costs him his hold on the piston that he hangs from. Its ferocity left him hanging only by his fingers, his feet suspended by and over nothing but air and the approaching planetary surface below. The two crates violently fly past Defiance Three and into the cargo bay, just scarcely missing her unhelmeted, bald white head by a matter of centimeters. The energy with which the crates strike the inside of the cargo bay separates the lids and sends their contents showering down past Defiance One and falling to rest against the forward bulkhead of the bay. Blaster rifles, charge packs - and to One’s horror, grenades - all fall and slam hard into the durasteel below them. Wincing in anticipation of a fiery death, One feels a wave of relief wash over him when the sharp noises of impact all cease without serious incident. Three shouts a series of incoherent curses at Four over the din for several moments before her words became intelligible again. By now, they could all feel that the craft is slowly pulling up, but Three didn’t care to notice. “I KNEW YOU HAD IT OUT FOR ME, RYTHEON!!!” She shouts at the precariously hanging pureblood over the noise of the roaring engines and the deafening wind. “YOU LOOKED ME SQUARE IN THE EYES BEFORE YOU DID IT, TOO!!! GIVE ME JUST ONE REASON… ONE REASON WHY I SHOULDN’T BLOW THAT ARM OF YOURS OFF RIGHT NOW!!!” “Kriff, now he’s done it,” Defiance One thinks as he remarks at how quickly the rattataki had unshouldered her blaster rifle. “She is accustomed to longer weaponry, after all.” “Stand down, Three,” ordered One, his voice barely audible above the noise and seeing that the pureblood’s grip on the piston is slipping. “Help him aboard.” -- Defiance Two does her best to stand out of the way and not raise notice, but she unwittingly sticks out like a sore thumb. Being the only one on the platform not scurrying around like an alarmed insect, she eventually catches the attention of a passing CorSec officer. Moving between catwalks with a datapad in his hand, a mere sidelong glance toward the stationary armored female arouses his suspicions. His hand on his holstered blaster pistol, the CorSec officer approaches her. “You there!” he shouts. “What are you doing? Have you been questioned?” Defiance Two sighs heavily. Straightening up and gathering her best soldier imitation, she replies, “My transport is delayed, thanks to the emergency. I’ve been ordered to guard this crate until my unit arrives to claim it." Somewhat placated but still suspicious, the officer asks, “Do you mind showing me the orders? Or the manifest of the shipment?” “Oh, well, you see,” Two says, stumbling a bit over her words, “They’re top clearance orders, you see, and I don’t personally have the manifest on me…” -- As the ship gradually levels out, the acceleration from the incline puts more stress on the red-skinned Rytheon’s already overexerted fingers. The force of it causes him to lose his hold on the piston, and he falls away with a panicked shout. The female rattataki in the cargo bay, seeing Rytheon’s predicament, tosses away the standard-issue blaster rifle with one hand and again pulls her ascension gun with the other. As the wind drag pushes the falling pureblood further behind the vessel, Defiance three knows she only has one shot, and must make it quickly. She takes aim, and with no time to make any kind of an appropriate windage adjustment or trigonometric calculation, embraces the feeling in her gut and fires. She watches at first as the barb on the projectile seems to dip too low, but doesn’t watch long. With no way to resist the force of Rytheon’s momentum herself if her shot lands, she frantically looks around for something to hold on to. At that moment, she feels a pair of armored arms wrap around her from behind and she realizes that Defiance One had lowered himself on his own cable to take hold of her. The two of them both watch as both Rytheon and the barb at the end of the ascension line disappear from view. A tense moment passes, both of them unsure of whether the shot would find its mark or not. -- “See?!” the overextended chiss lying on the dashboard said as the vessel starts to plane out. “Everything’s gonna be fine…” The transport continues to improve its angle as it draws closer to the skyscrapers below. Hundreds of sentients freeze at their desks in terrified apprehension as the still-descending vessel grows larger in their office windows. Some shriek and scream, but they all either run or brace themselves, as though they could escape or at least make less painful their impending doom by doing so. -- “Who are you?” demands the officer of Defiance Two, drawing his pistol. “What’s your operating number?!” Two raises her hands in a submissive manner and quickly pleads, “Whoa, whoa whoa…” before she takes in a deep breath and composes herself. Lowering one hand and slowly waving the other in front of her, she says, slowly and with purposed emphasis through the helmet transceiver, “You don’t care who I am, and you’ll leave me to my business.” The CorSec officer looks a bit confused as he stands still and silent for a moment. With a fairly blank expression he repeats her words, “I don’t care who you are... I’ll leave you to your business.” With that, he turns and resumes his previous task. “Whew” breathes Defiance Two, her relief soon shifting to concern. “They’d better get back soon. I can only pull off so many boring conversations.” -- Defiance One and Defiance Three wait on baited breath as Three’s ascension gun continues to unspool, nearing its ultimate length. Their increasing doubt as to their success instantly vanished and, in its place, rose a fair amount of surprise when they were both ripped off their feet by a sudden and forceful tensioning of the ascension line. The joined pair now hung over the cargo lift, suspended by Defiance one’s painfully stressed line attached to the ceiling of the cargo bay. Once both he and the white-skinned Defiance Three shook off the shock of the moment, they started to retract their ascension lines in unison. The line squeals unnervingly as it bends around the lip of the cargo bay, threatening to sever. Relief struck them as they saw Defiance Four come into view. The pureblood amazingly manages to pull the line over itself and close more distance, even against the considerable force of the wind, and even as Defiance Three is retracting the line. Once within reach of the cargo lift, a desperate sense of urgency pushes Rytheon to press his feet against its platform and launch himself with the Force upward and into the cargo bay. Just mere microseconds afterward came the loud crash of impact as something abruptly rips the cargo lift from the bottom of the ship. -- The chiss in the cockpit grits her teeth, helplessly watching over her shoulder as the top of the skyscraper approaches and disappears below the nose of the ship. She knew it would be close, and C8’s frenzied tones do nothing to soothe her nerves. Soon the ship lurches forward ever so slightly, and the quick loss and gain of speed knocks Defiance Five off the dashboard and she rolls onto the cold durasteel floor of the cockpit. C8 gives a prolonged, relieved beep and quickly follows it with a short string of bland tones. Groaning while raising herself off the deck, the chiss replies, “I’m fully aware that we lost something,” and sits with a tired but victorious plop in the pilot’s chair. With no further danger in sight, she pulls up on the yoke, increasing altitude while directing her attention to the myriad of alarms and calls coming in. -- In the cargo bay, Defiance One, Three, and Four all take a moment to regain their composure after realizing the close call they just survived. An emergency ray shield activates where the lift had been only seconds before. Defiance One, still suspended from the ceiling, maintains his hold around Defiance Three as they fearfully hope that there aren’t any taller buildings in their immediate path.The vessel continues to incline as the three of them in the cargo bay wait silently. “Good shot,” Rytheon said sarcastically after enough time had passed for them to breathe again, pointing to the ascension line barb firmly planted in the upper left breast of his white laminate armor. Looking up to her, he continues, “I’m assuming it’s only embedded in the armor and not my heart, since I’m still alive, but Kriff me if it doesn’t hurt…” He groans as he pulls off the chestplate to reveal that the barb had indeed penetrated his skin, made evident by the dark blood running down his shirt. “That armor really won’t stop anything,” jokes Defiance One as he releases the rattataki woman to the floor. “It stopped too much, if you ask me,” spits Defiance Three after she sets her feet on the floor. “Call it payback for trying to take my head off with those crates.” “Oh, right… I am sorry about that, Skirmish,” Rytheon apologizes, bowing his head slightly to her. “We needed those weapons; I only did what I had to do.” “Look, I get it” the woman replies. “But the next time you try to kill me, be sure you succeed. Because if you don’t... “ she holds up a finger gun as she backpedals away from him and towards the bay entryway, “Bang.” She turns around and continues to contemptuously say “bang” several more times, and continues to do so even after she had passed through the doorway and out of earshot. Rytheon looked up to the ceiling to see that Defiance One was still dangling there, but had removed his helmet to breath in some fresh air. Doing so had revealed his weathered, dry, human face in the process. “I never can tell when she’s being serious…” Rytheon says, admittedly. -- “So?” The rattataki pokes at the chiss pilot who is still silencing alarms and managing the transport’s vital functions after the strain it was put through. “What took you so long to level out, huh?” The chiss woman pauses - a longer than brief pause, at that - and turns to cast a silent and malicious look at the pale visitor in the cockpit. “I was led to believe that you were good at this kind of thing, Torpedo,” said the rattataki with a sly smile. Before the pilot could respond, Skirmish shouted, “Oh! And when were you planning to go back for Thara? Or are we leaving her? I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave her.” The chiss breaks her death glare as her eyes widen. “Kriff! Did she not make it on board? Do we have everyone else?” “Nope, and yep. I *assume* that she’s still at the warehouse,” replies Skirmish. “That is, so long as she hasn’t been imprisoned or anything.” “Oh, if I know Thara…” says the chiss woman as she banks the ship in a u-turn, “She’d kill everyone on Corellia -and us- before she’d let that happen again.” -- The transport rockets up and back to the warehouse platform at nearly full speed. As they approach, Rytheon helps Major Nasho down from the ceiling and into the medical bay as the chiss pilot and the rattataki look out over what seems like the site of a minor battle. The crashed freighter had struck and structurally compromised three different skyscrapers on the surface, causing them to collapse and wreak untold amounts of collateral damage below. The smoke and dust rose high into the atmosphere, even above the high altitude distribution center. CorSec forces start to spread over the warehouse, their interrogations only beginning. Defiance Two sees the transport approaching from afar and activates her locator beacon, which the chiss pilot immediately locks onto and approaches. After temporarily deactivating the failsafe cargo bay ray shield, she nearly sets the ship down on top of the woman on the platform. Calling on the force, Thara lifts the crate up through the gaping hole where the lift once was and quickly leaps up into the bay after it. Dozens of heads on the platform turn to observe the vessel’s peculiar behavior before it jets off higher into the atmosphere. Thara repositions and magnetizes the final crate, then enters into the main deck of the transport. Noticing heavy breathing, paralysis, flesh wounds and some cases of bad hair day all around, she removes her helmet to show her well-kept, short brown hair and bright red crescent tattoo across the right side of her human face and asks, “What’d I miss?”
“I want that transport detained!!!” shouts the Director of the Corellian Security Force. The high rise building occupying 1 CorSec Plaza resembles a disturbed hive of insects, with people in office attire and uniforms alike scurrying from one place to another in a maddeningly complex dance of diligence. The Director watches as the security footage plays a third time, showing a transport launch an escape pod into a freighter, which then careens out of view. The officer behind the image deactivates the holoprojector in the office and states, “They have failed to report the incident and instead have fled the planet.” “Get me everything we know about that vessel!” the Director commands. The officer nods before he promptly turns to exit the Director’s office. On the Director’s desk rests an active holocommunicator with a small blue image of another CorSec officer hovering above it. The Director picks up this holocommunicator from his desk and addresses the miniature figure. “Give me good news, Captain,” the Director says, sternly. “We have alerted Republic Orbital Command. They have fighters already en route to intercept the vessel, Director,” replies the man in the small blue image. “I want those terrorists detained.” The Director repeats. "And bring me the passengers... I want them alive!” -- After exiting the atmosphere of Corellia, the Republic transport proceeds at full burn in an attempt to jump to hyperspace. “I’m reading three… no, five targets, all closing fast,” says the white-skinned Skirmish as she intently studies the targeting readout in the cockpit. “Small profile, probably fighters.” “The capacitors are all still drained,” says the chiss pilot Torpedo. “It’ll be a few minutes before they’ve charged enough for us to make the jump.” “We don’t have a few minutes,” replies Skirmish nervously, turning from the console and quickly leaving the cockpit. She arrives in the medbay, where she finds the paralysed body of Maj. Veer lying on one of the infirmary beds, face-down. A square section of the skin of his lower back is pulled away and inside can be seen a number of metallic rods and electronic implements where his spine should be. The red-skinned Rytheon sits beside the bed, slowly and carefully using a long, thin instrument to manipulate the components through the dermal window. Thara stands next to Rytheon, her arms crossed over the white laminate chestpiece as she observes Rytheon’s work. “We’ve got company,” Skirmish states. “Thara, you’re up front, and Rytheon, I need you on the guns with me.” Rytheon hesitates a moment as Thara nods to Skirmish and makes her way to the cockpit. Veer lifts and turns his head to look at Rytheon, then tells him, “Go ahead, I’m not going anywhere.” Rytheon collapses the long, telescopic instrument and sets it on a magnetic tray. He checks the buckles on the straps holding Veer’s torso and legs to the bed, then follows Skirmish to the gun turret access points. “Take bottom,” Skirmish yells back to Rytheon as she clambers up the ladder to the top gun. Soon the both of them are strapped into their turret controls and Thara takes her place in the copilot’s chair. Torpedo flips a switch and activates the ship’s intercom. “Get ready,” the chiss says into her headset. “And don’t expect too many evasive maneuvers from this flying brick. Just keep them off me for a few minutes more.” Soon the Republic fighters come into view. “I have a visual,” says Skirmish on the intercom. "Heads up, Defiance Four, two are going low!” With that, Skirmish lets loose a few bolts from the ship-mounted turret. She spreads the fire out evenly across the three fighters in her field of view, more to push them away than to do any real damage. Rytheon, on the other hand, clamped down on the trigger the moment he saw the first fighter come into his view. Plasma flies all around the small fighter, but none of his shots find their mark. His cannon fires constantly for a solid ten seconds before an angry voice claws its way through his earpiece. “Short bursts, Defiance Four!” Torpedo shouts over the intercom. “Every shot you take drains the capacitors and delays our departure even more!” Rytheon reluctantly lets off the trigger and replies, “Roger that, Defiance Five.” The fighters open fire on the transport after they split apart from each other to avoid the turret fire. They make long, sweeping passes by the ungainly transport, dancing nimbly around it without trouble. Torpedo turns her attention to the shields status on the console after the first volleys from the fighters land. “They’re targeting the engines,” she says on the intercom before turning to Thara and directing her to divert power to the aft shields. “Focus fire aft, Defiance Four,” Skirmish says into her headset. “Try to keep them off the engines.” “They won’t hit the engines,” Rytheon replies, his targeting readout chirping alarmingly as his finger squeezes the trigger, “if they’re dead.” “Good shot, Four!” Torpedo calls out over the comm after one of the fighters disappears from the navigation screen. Soon the crew hears little pieces of debris clattering across the transport’s hull as the chiss continues, “Capacitors nearly charged, just a little bit longer!” Another volley of blasts rakes the transport, knocking items from shelves and jolting the crew. Sparks fly from a wall panel on the main deck, soon leading to a small fire. X2-C8 quickly takes notice and rolls over to the panel, dousing it with retardant. In the cockpit, Thara turns to Torpedo and says, “The aft shields can’t take another hit like that. One more pass and we’re dead in the water.” “We need more time…” Torpedo says in desperation. Skirmish continues to fire her turret in short bursts, putting just enough plasma out there to make the fighter pilots think twice about their courses. One of the small ships ventures in pretty close, blasting away at the transport’s hull, causing the vessel to rock and shake a little under the barrage. Skirmish sees an opportunity and sights in, her targeting computer flashing and indicating a lock. Just as she pulls the trigger, her controls go dark and the gun goes limp. “What the…” she starts, before she realizes that the intercom is dead, too. She looks out over the top of the transport and watches the exterior lights flicker. Then she notices that the interior lights shining through the viewports are intermittent as well. Rytheon curses as he bangs his fist on the de-energized targeting computer in front of him. “What’s happened?” Thara asks, her concerned face looking over to the pilot. “Are we crippled?” Torpedo’s hands roll back and forth across a pair of rocker switches, turning them on and off in an irregular, erratic fashion that was in tune with the flickering vessel lights. “No…” she responds with a sly grin. “But it sure looks that way, doesn’t it?” Skirmish watches as the fighters circle and observe the darkened transport. She keeps her hands on the turret controls as though they might spring back to life at any moment. Rytheon unbuckles himself and dismounts from the turret, climbing up the ladder to the main deck of the transport. “Wait for it…” Torpedo says, watching one of the few lit panels in on the dashboard. “Almost there… Here we go!” she shouts, her hands a furious storm on the dashboard as she reactivates different systems and restores power to the transport. Rytheon is in the hallway when the engines roar back to life. The sudden shift in momentum causes him to lose his footing and fall over backwards, sliding across the floor. “Full charge, make the jump to hyperspace!” Torpedo yells as the fighters turn, bringing their guns once more to bear upon the vessel. Thara reaches over and engages a lever, and soon the star-studded backdrop outside the viewport stretches into a streaked tunnel. -- “Confirmed. The transport has jumped to hyperspace.” The Director of CorSec lifts his hands in exasperation from the central table in the situation room. Around two dozen beings, most of them human, surround the table and the holoprojector embedded in it. The Director lets off a litany of curses before he turns to a twi’lek male in Republic military dress. “Commander!” The human Director shouts. “You are to blame for this failure! Your men failed to apprehend those terrorists!” "With all due respect," the twi’lek replies, his voice calm and collected, “I don’t believe in blame, Director Gahan.” “You…” the Director starts, indignance nearly consuming him, “You don’t ‘believe’ in blame? What in the name of the Force do you mean by that?!” “Blame won’t solve this problem, Director,” the Commander explains. “Solutions, however…” he continues as he retrieves a holocommunicator from his belt. A small, blue image of a female trooper materializes above the device. “Solutions will. Won’t they?” “Consider the problem solved, Commander,” assures the female in the holograph as she gives a curt salute and disconnects.