Hull no. 721- a fanfic

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Eleventh Century Remnant
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Joined: 2006-11-20 06:52am
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Hull no. 721- a fanfic

Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2006-11-20 02:06pm

This is slightly-impure Star Wars so far, set basically between Yavin and Hoth, with some continuity deviations, mainly to do with starfighter availability and just how much an Imperial Starfleet Captain can get away with. I found it lurking in a backup folder and decided to update it with some of the things I've found out from SDN- here beginneth chapter 1.

Ghorn system, Vineland sector, a minor offshoot of the Perlemian run.

As fitted a system so close to one of the major arteries of galactic trade, there was a fleet presence.

Around a dim, red- orange star near the end of it’s life, planets; two gas giants, with their horde of moons and asteroids clustering and flustering around them, three smaller worlds huddling close to their dying sun.

It had been burning itself down for longer than there had been star- travelling life, and the living creatures on the little lumps of rock were in no danger just yet. Except from each other.

A large slice of that danger, made actuality in durasteel, hung in latticework repair bays over the small blue- green haven of Ghorn II. It hovered protected by the guns of the planet’s north polar defence station, a fleet tender standing by the much- scarred ship, shuttles and tugs and work platforms roaming over it.

Imperator I-refit-II Star Destroyer Black Prince did not look much like the pride of anyone’s navy, least of all that of her crew.

A grotesque patchwork of faded parchment yellow, gleaming white replacement hull, bare silvery metal, a few slabs and patches that were the colour of her name, angry heat- red emergency field repair and dots of fused blue- black scoring all across the much abused hull.

She would never feature on any recruitment poster, was lucky not to have been condemned as beyond economic repair, but she was one of the Twenty-Five Thousand, and far from the least, except in numerical precedence.

Beneath the registry number, 721, were a line of non- random black dots- silhouettes of ships. They were the boast, and the gun crews’ skill the living proof, that for all the damage abundantly visible she had given out far more than she had taken.

The tender Sahallare’s job was field repair; in theory this was nothing out of the ordinary. In practice, most of them were spending as much time boggling at the ship as working on her. How was she still in one piece?

‘What in stang happened to her?’ One of them said to his workmate.

‘Lots of things, lots of times.’ The second technician said. ‘You ever seen anything this badly beat up and still flying?’

‘Yeah, a YT- series, but that was on a wanted poster.’ He was looking up at the kill markings beneath the starboard- side row of heavy turbolaser turrets, in particular the bulged oval that represented the Mon Calamari cruiser Irrepressible. The Rebellion had not forgiven nor forgotten.

A pressure shelter had been hung over the section of dorsal hull they were working on- deep-annealing a fusing line between two replacement hull plates.

They could work faster, and with a lower accident rate, that way than by wielding the clumsy jackhammer- looking heat projectors in spacesuits.

It also meant they could be kept under observation more effectively, and the work shed erected on the outer skin of the destroyer had a stormtrooper detail watching them.

The first workman was getting increasingly jumpy, glancing at the stormtroopers, glancing up at the kill score. There was a lot of blood on this ship’s hands, and some friends of friends of his would be interested to know that she was here.

Concentrate, he told himself, just do the job, don’t draw attention to yourself, keep your head down.

Finish the shift, get out, and then he could go to the com center on the Sahallare, use his allowed call home, to which he would add certain phrases and emphases, which would be passed on to a man codenamed Starshine, and from there find their way to Third Mid-Rim Theatre Command.

Taking an Imperial Starfleet tender would be a shining achievement and a real practical gain for the Alliance; probably not going to happen, but they would settle for a chance at a beached Star Destroyer.

The rebel spy kept working, quietly, trying to avoid drawing attention to himself, hoping not to feel stormtrooper eyes on his back.

The destroyer’s own crew were working on their ship from the inside out, dealing with the softer tissue inside the heavy armoured shell. Most of the problem was with control systems.

The actual damage had not been at all severe, this time- not by this ship’s standards- mainly ionization. Half the consoles in the main bridge pit were still dark, clusters of operators round others.

One of the turbolifts opened, and a very junior officer bounced in followed by two engineering ratings carrying a large box.

‘I’ve got it!’ the probationer lieutenant said. ‘El Fuzz says that it’s the-‘ He had expected his classmate to be the only one there of importance; he had failed to notice the tall, thin vulturelike figure of the executive officer at the back of the bridge. He realized he was in trouble when everyone else turned to look at the exec.

‘Carry on.’ The exec told everyone else, pointed at the lieutenant, pointed at the deck in front of himself. The probationer gulped, slunk over.

‘Who sent you up to the bridge?’ the exec asked, coldly.

‘Uhm, er,’ the probie tried to wriggle out of it, ‘I was told you were on board the tender, Sir, I really wouldn’t-‘
‘Is this really a line of defence you want to pursue?’ the exec loomed. ‘That you would not have expressed extreme disrespect of a senior officer, if you had realised that you might get caught?’

The poor, raw lieutenant was visibly squirming. ‘Sir, I meant no-‘

‘The proper response under the circumstances,’; the exec advised him, ‘is- repeat after me- “I am guilty of gross insubordination, I apologise, I will accept the mandated punishment, and I won’t do it again.” Say it. And do try not to make it worse for yourself.’

The lieutenant looked left and right; apart from the rest of the repair party, the only other people on the bridge were a four- being stormtrooper detail. One of them was wobbling slightly, trying and failing not to laugh.

The poor probationer gabbled through the words, and then broke orders again by asking ‘But Sir, how did you know I meant-‘

‘Who else would be sending you here, to say that it’s the-? Context, probationer, context. What does the chief say the trouble is?’ The exec would come back to attempting to entrap a senior officer later.

‘The secondary nav system, Sir. When it was ionized it went into full reset, and the only uncorrupt backup was the initial dockyard settings. It, ah, isn’t accepting that the ship’s been modified, and is trying to override the primary nav system, which it thinks is obviously still damaged.’ He parroted.

‘A hardware patch?’ Not normal procedure.

‘Um, I think so, Sir.’

‘Do you actually understand any of what you’ve just told me?’

‘I, I think so, Sir.’

‘Hmmm. Let us review the charges.’ The exec began pacing up and down in front of the main viewports. ‘Disrespect of a senior officer. Compounding the offence by asking me to refer to said officer in the same terms. Disobeying an order- not to make it worse for yourself, which you did. That is a technicality, however- where are you from?’

‘Pomolthooine, Sir.’

‘ ‘-tooine’ means ‘Barren wasteland’ in some language or other, I swear. Your only authority there would have been your family, which you disobeyed in any case to go to the academy.’ The exec did not know this, and was making it up as he went- accurately, it seemed, from the probationer’s reactions.

‘Poorly brought up, crammed through an abbreviated training program. Insufficiently prepared.’ The exec paused for thought, pacing up and down.

‘The daily bread of a starship is training and exercise. For all elements. Practise prepares us for the reality of working the Emperor’s will on the reluctant to obey.’

That much at least was doctrine; what came after less so. ‘Our onboard stormtrooper group has a deep probe interrogation team attached. They, too, need training and practice.’

The exec dropped his voice to a whisper. ‘If I had any reason to think that you weren’t simply a loose- tongued fool, I’d hand you over to them to use as a torture dummy.’

‘Sir, please don’t sir it was just a slip of the tongue, I genuinely meant no disconscious resp, I mean no conscious disrespect-‘

‘My duty,’ the exec stated, ‘is to make competent starmen out of people like you. At the moment, you’re alive because I’m assuming you’re an idiot. That is not a long term survival strategy.

A punishment that fits the crime- I think I’ll make you use your brain. I want a full rundown on the ship’s hyperdrive systems. How and why they work, evolution of hyperdrive, navigation systems, how they integrate with ship sensors and electronics, new experiments in hyperwave theory- I want you to prove, not to me, to the Chief Engineer, that you’re worth more to the Empire alive. Report back to engineering- Dismiss.’

The poor probationer, almost in shock, stumbled off the bridge.

The exec walked over to the port sub-gallery, the ship’s com centre, out of earshot of all but the sensors in the stormtrooper helmets; and released his own repressed burst of laughter. El Fuzz, indeed. He shook his head, went to the intraship terminal. ‘Engineering? Get me Commander Mirannon.’

A few moments later, an extremely hairy man in dirty overalls came to the other end of the terminal. When he had time to perform personal grooming, at best in other words, Engineer-Commander Mirannon looked like a wookie disguised as a human. When he had other priorities, like now, he looked more like a human disguised as a wookie.

‘Ah, Commander Dordd. What is it?’

‘Do I look like a waste disposal unit to you?’ the exec said.

‘I rebuild ships, not men- talk to Medical.’ The bulky, grease and dust stained engineer said.

‘You seem to think I am; you keep trying to dispose of unwanted junior officers by feeding them to me.’

‘Oh, you mean the work crew.’ Mirannon’s expression was not easy to read behind the beard.

‘Why are you using a hardware patch for a software solution?’

‘It’s temporary, it deadends the interference from the secondary nav computer. I have all the processing power I can get my hands on running finite element analysis for the ion drive calibration, hyperdrive’s a straightforward derivation of the same analysis. Eight more hours to work the balance out and twelve to set it up.’

‘So the engines are sound, then?’ Dordd asked.

‘It’s the firing controls that aren’t. We can make full acceleration, if you don’t mind a line of thrust, and relative inertial field, around eighty milliradians off the centerline of the ship. Probably not in the same direction, either.’ He sounded as if he didn’t expect Dordd to know the difference between a milliradian and a microchloridian.

‘Primary nav is functional, it’s sublight drive that isn’t.’ Dordd stated what he thought the position was. He was about to go on when the bridge PA called him.

‘Commander Dordd, report to the Captain’s day cabin. Repeat-‘ and he was moving already.

The day cabin was basically a cubbyhole just off the bridge for a cot and a desk, where the ship’s commander could get datawork done, catch a catnap, and still be within thirty seconds of the bridge.

Very few Star Destroyer’s captains let it remain that basic. It was a common joke that, as the ship’s offices were in the command tower, if the rebels did blow it off you might be better not restoring emergency control, just go down with the ship.

Otherwise, you would only spend the rest of your life paperchasing through the navy bureaucracy trying to rebuild the lost records, medical files, requisition and stores reports, status sheets, personnel records- it was the bane of the navy’s life, and more than one captain wished he could do his filing by turbolaser.

On the other hand, it meant there was lots of room to expand more important facilities into- just squeeze the offices up a little tighter. Preferably with the staff still in them.

Many Imperial warships spent more time fighting the bureaucracy than they did the enemy. Between a tremendous stroke of luck at the beginning to build on, and a combination of interest, brown-nosing, judgement and blackmail, ISD-721 had won victories roughly comparable to a certain infamous proton torpedo entering a certain poorly shielded exhaust port.

The Black Prince’s commander’s day cabin had expanded into a full scale penthouse suite including small swimming pool under a previous captain, but it was under new management now.

The entryway had been converted back into something resembling the original purpose- desk, computer terminal, flanking datawalls and holodisplays.

An abstract, multi- belabelled image of the ship was being spun from one holoprojector; ship status display. It hiccupped occasionally, as if refusing to believe the image it was showing.

The captain had one foot up on the desk, and was frowning at the image. He was a man of above middle height- not the stick- figure of his XO, not far off either- and leanly built, dark hair turning grey at the temples, chiseled face, dark, dark eyes.

Appallingly badly dressed- looking more like a sea- surface fisherman than a captain of a major warship, uniform tunic (faded) flapping open over a jersey of some palaeolithic material and grey- green uncertain colour.

‘You sent for me, Sir?’ Dordd asked. The captain nodded, waved him to the other chair.

‘Yes…where would you be now, do you think, if no-one had shown you mercy as a loose- tongued probationer?’ the Captain asked, tone well at odds with the words, speculative rather than punitive.

‘About the same place I’d be if no-one had pointed out to me in time that there are limits to mercy.’ Dordd said, still standing, not even bothering to wonder about how the captain had managed to overhear.

The captain nodded. ‘Narrow line, is it not? Encouraging them in some directions, stopping them in others, shaping young mynocklets like that into the officers the fleet needs- especially when they arrive thinking they know it all.

It was easy for us; the short sharp shock is less painful in the long run…someone thinks you’re doing something right.’ Captain Lennart handed his soon to be ex- executive officer a hardcopy of a recently received file.

Dordd read the first couple of lines, then his mind went blank. The Captain swung his foot off the desk, stood up, grabbed Dordd by the hand and shook it. ‘Congratulations.’

The exec was still boggling. ‘Thank you, Captain, I had thought-‘

‘Sit down.’ Dordd collapsed into the chair. ‘I did recommend you; it’s not been an easy cruise, she can be a demanding old bitch, and you did well enough.’

The Captain’s steward arrived then, as well timed as usual, with an iridescent metal tray, a crystal decanter and two glasses on it. Lennart poured the cobalt- blue liquid out himself, two full shots, and the two officers gulped them down.

‘What’s in that?’ Dordd asked, reeling. It felt like a river of molten ice being poured through his head.

‘Alien biochemistry’s a wondrous thing- not a clue.’ Lennart said, deadpan, and lying. Dordd’s eyes went wide before he realised it was a wind- up. Lennart went on;

‘I read it, of course,’ meaning the hardcopy, ‘Dynamic’s one of the Arrogant- class. Not a new ship, which might be just as well.’ Both of them knew exactly what he meant. The sort of people who were getting priority over new construction, neither of them felt comfortable around.

‘Weird little ships, seventy- five percent our- well, a standard Imperator’s, anyway- length, thirty- six percent the volume and forty- five percent the mass.

Supposed to be derived from the old Venator class- the pure combat version without the fighter bays. Half way through they realized they were doing it backwards, KDY turned the design study into a separate project and Rendili built the Victory class round the old reactor plant.

Dynamic’s a fast fleet hunter-outrider- once again, congratulations, Captain-designate Dordd.’

Delvran Dordd, very recently promoted Captain in His Imperial (and sith) Majesty’s Navy, started to think about his new job. What was the size- for that matter, who were- the crew of the Dynamic? Where was she?

‘Normally,’ Captain Jorian Lennart told him, ‘I’d do a fast flyby of her last reported position and drop you off, but supposedly she’s been on boundary patrol on the outer Rim edge for the last year, and you’ll remember how trigger happy we got on that detail.

Especially right now with our drives in this state, best thing to do is for you to take a shuttle- no, better an assault transport. One’s prepping now. You’ll probably miss that.’

‘Fighter support?’

‘Everything it implies. A million worlds in the galaxy. Capital ‘W’ worlds, anyway.

Another fifty million colonies. Four hundred billion stars- and tomorrow Black Prince could be on her way to any one of them. Engineering permitting.

Even moving from exec to captain, you don’t realize what that means until it hits you- like one of them, a small planet in the face. You don’t have to be ready for anything, you have to be ready for everything.

Arrogants don’t have the multirole capacity to be sent any-and-everywhere, so it should be easier for you. You’ll just be chasing ghosts all along the outer rim.’

‘Does it say anything about fleet, oversector group, assigned op-area? Or crew?’ Dordd asked, mind still reeling.

‘Eleven thousand, seven hundred and twenty- four, leaner manned than an Imperator.’ Jorian poured another set of drinks, drank one of them. He was talking about the crew.

‘So many, and probably the same unlikely blend of heroes and halfwits, starry- eyed idealists and black hearted thugs, overgrown children and dead- spirited cynics, blunderers, chancers, wasters, risk- takers, egomanicacs and lost souls, fools and rogues, murderers and paladins, and Bodgit and Scarper doing business as usual, changing face of the galaxy be damned.’

Dordd was worried. The captain was getting unusually maudlin; this wasn’t like him. Most of the time, anyway. ‘Are you sure this is safe for human consumption?’ he said looking at the shot glass.

‘I’m pretty sure it isn’t. Maybe I am getting sentimental about my crew; but- what’s devotion to duty, if not a sentiment? What’s loyalty, if not a sentiment?

Numbers are one thing, but you look out of the window down past the turrets and tell me we fought for the empire, and achieved that for the empire, on the basis of nothing more than reactor rated output.’

‘Captain, I believe, but I don’t understand. I’m not sure what I can do with what you’re trying to tell me.’

‘Well, on one level, you don’t have a choice- no stormtrooper detail. I’m telling you that in addition to the worlds outside the ship, you’ve got another twelve thousand on the inside to worry about, one- or more- inside each crewman’s head.

They might actually be the most important. The universe is too big to cope with on your own.’ Jorian Lennart shook his head. ‘I must be far gone- more narcotic than drink in this.’ Which was his excuse, anyway.

‘Still, better a blinding glimpse of the obvious than a blinding flash of turbolaser fire. You need your crew.’ He had one foot back up on the desk.

‘You need them to work for you, you need them to think for you, you need them to believe for you. The best built fighting ship in the universe is pointless if the people running it are half trained and scared out of their wits.

The worst- and the tender crew seem to think we come pretty close- is invaluable if it’s properly used, and those twelve, or thirty- seven, thousand are as much the weapon as the ship is. You’re probably going to make a better captain than you did an executive officer.’

‘What do you mean by that?’ Dordd asked, slightly stung.

‘As exec, you have an answer for your problems. You have your part of the picture to look after and keep in order, you know what you ought to be doing.

As Captain, you finally get to see all of the picture; and you realize that it’s a puzzle. I am generally prepared to put up with far more, from this crew, than you are. Did you never wonder why?’

‘It’s deliberate, that much I got, but I never understood why you think it’s a good idea.’

‘If I was being appropriately cynical, I would call it the illusion of freedom. I need their belief, their pride and commitment in the ship and in the cause. As a captain, you depend on your crew- only fractionally less than they depend on you.

One thing; your last official duty as executive officer of the Black Prince. Who do you recommend I promote to replace you?’

For a brief moment, Dordd was tempted to recommend Mirannon, if only for a taste of his own medicine. ‘Lieutenant-commander Mirhak-ghulej.’ The Chief Divisional Officer, midships starboard section.

‘Interesting. Your logic?’

‘He’s done well in a difficult situation, keeping the most diverse part of the ship in good order, displaying what I think are the necessary qualities for the job.’ Dordd answered.

‘The crew loathe him. A man doesn’t get ves daubed over the inside of all his uniforms for nothing. At first glance, I would have opted for Brenn. However, exactly because he would have been my personal choice, that could mean he’s wrong for the job. Recommendation accepted.’

Dordd was still standing there trying to work that one out when the captain’s steward came in again with a datapad and two antidote pills. Lennart read it, thought about it, handed it to Dordd.

‘On the other hand, you may not want to miss this. It’s from your favourite stormtrooper.’

‘I don’t have a-‘ Dordd started to protest, then got involved in what the message said. It was a report from one of the security troopers, concerning one of the tender’s work teams. ‘She doesn’t even have a name.’

‘Her being named Omega- 17-Blue-Aleph-3 might make whispering sweet nothings a bit more difficult, true- question is; is her judgement trustworthy?’

Omega company was special attachments to legion HQ; things like seismic demolition teams, deep probe units, propaganda and destabilization, ugly, dirty, messy jobs. 17 was the team number, blue the specialization- Scout, officially, but clearly not exactly so- Aleph 3 was a personal number.

‘Dockworker with high stress levels, trying not to draw attention to himself and getting it wrong, looking up repeatedly at the splotch for that damn’ rebel cruiser- that doesn’t make a spy.’

‘I’m inclined to take it seriously.’ Jorian turned to one of the subconsoles on his desk. ‘Engineering? Mirannon.’

The huge man covered in red- brown hair and grey- blue grease came to the terminal, grumbling. ‘Flarding interruptions, can’t I get- oh, it’s you, skipper.’

‘How many decimal places are you running this analysis to?’ Jorian asked him.

‘As many as I can. Tender’s got the tools and parts for me to fix a couple of long standing gripes, and synergy effects are going to take an unpredictable time to sort out- so many ifs and buts in the estimate, it’d make no sense. Sir.’

The Chief Engineer had a ship model on his seldom- used desk, which looked something like a cross between a normal star destroyer and a swan- wide, sweeping curves, streamlined, graceful.

The rest of the engineering crew said that was what he was trying to turn the Black Prince into, one major refit at a time. And he knew perfectly well how long it was going to take.

‘If you were Rebel Theatre Command, and you found out about an unescorted imperial fleet tender patching up a disabled star destroyer, what would you do?’

‘Kriff.’ Mirannon swore.

‘Don’t think of it as losing time in calibration; think of it as saving time spent in damage control. How soon can you give me manoeuvring thrust?’

‘We can thrust, with a moderate to high chance of becoming pate in the process, and we definitely can’t steer. It’s not the only problem- I’m doing that the long way because there are other jobs needing done in the mean time.

Power distribution forward of the hangar bay is shot, we’re using DC’- in this case, Damage Control- ‘portaconduits that won’t take long duration at full power. They need a proper rebuild. Overlapping shields burning each other out. It’s all do-able, but it’ll take time. Can’t we just call for support?’

It was possible that by arresting the rebel agent, they could avoid contact entirely. Lennart hadn’t even seriously considered it. It wasn’t their job to avoid combat, and he was still in fighting temper after the clash that had landed his ship in a repair bay.

Capability was the only question. ‘We’ll notify fleet- how much notice they’ll take I don’t know, we’re strangers here. We’re not far off being able to do the job ourselves. I know perfectly well, chief, we’re not going to be a hundred percent in less than twenty days. I’m thinking ambush. How soon?’

‘I can knock a couple of hundred decimal places off the calibration and patchwork it- six hours, and the compensators will be redlining. Don’t push it. Another twelve past that to be able to hyper, well below full speed though- stable at point two five, best rough estimate. If I can borrow half the legion to do the donkey work with my people directing, shields in eight hours.’ Mirannon groaned inwardly, but stated the facts.

He was not an unhappy man in his job, usually. Imperial Starfleet engineers fell into one of two categories; peacetime, or at least civilian university, trained with general and comprehensive background knowledge- in other words, overqualified; or military academy trained and thus barely qualified- too narrow, too specific, skipping too much of the groundwork and basics to get to the workaday details.

Gethrim Mirannon fell very firmly into the former category, and it would have been difficult to prevent him reassembling the ship to suit himself, if in fact Lennart had wanted to stop him. For all that they snarled at each other occasionally, they were in effect partners in crime.

‘No support from the tender?’

‘The equipment I can use. The people-no. They’re why we’ve got the interaction problem.’

‘OK, chief, that sounds good enough. Get on with it.’ He dropped the link to engineering, and typed in an access code. ‘OB173, this is Black Prince Actual.’

‘You’re not supposed to be on this network.’ A female voice came back out of the speakers- deep, contralto, amused rather than offended.

‘Tell me more about this rebel of yours.’ Captain Lennart asked.

‘Probability that he has something to hide; unity. Probability that it is Rebellion related; 0.92. Do you want me to take him in?’ she asked, phrasing it purely as a question.

Lennart looked at Dordd. Dordd wanted to. Lennart decided against it.

‘Negative, OB173, he hasn’t had time to get the word out. Take him now and we’ll have nothing to trap. Your team has the ball on this one. Monitor him, let him communicate, then grab him and brainburn him.’

‘Yes, Sir.’ She said, clearly looking forward to it.

Captain Lennart backed out of the stormtrooper comnet, turned to Dordd. ‘Don’t know what you see in her. Personally I’d be more inclined to run away you want to leave for the Dynamic, or do you want your old job back- in an acting capacity- to see this one through?’

Dordd stood there, thinking. Technically he shouldn’t even have been given the choice, but he had. On one hand, his own ship; on the other hand, combat against the rebellion- and he would just as soon put off the chaos of taking command for another day or so, to get his head straightened out.

‘You might need the assault transport.’

Lennart smiled. ‘Good.’

There was a lot that was not as it had been originally specified about the Black Prince. As part of an experimental program, she had her main hangar bay compressed.

A quarter of the pads expanded out to full maintenance bays, and the rest reduced to virtual wingtip to wingtip storage. Ceilings lowered, floors added, waste space eliminated.

The Oversector Fleet command she had been operating with at the time had been obsessed- more like traumatized- by rebel starfighters, and Black Prince had been in for major refit after taking a kamikaze rebel gunship-corvette in the flight bay. A bay that had been suspiciously empty of personnel at the time.

Strings had been pulled and reputations traded on, and the end result was that the veteran destroyer had the support for a double normal strength fighter wing.

There was actually an Imperator- conversion that did this anyway, and it had proved easier, administratively, to get one of their heavy fighter wings assigned, but that variant lost too much capability as a warship for Lennart’s taste, and this way he had the best of both worlds.

The pilots were not busy at the moment. This was officially safe space, and the space they had come from had been decidedly unsafe.

They had taken losses, and needed time to draw breath, reorganize, and have the ground crews assemble replacement fighters from parts storage.

Most of Epsilon squadron had passed through the mourning stage, and got just about as far as ‘Thank the force it wasn’t me.’

Their unit bay held, on the lower level, their actual fighters, launch racks, maintenance pads, stores and spares, on the upper level- separated by a comfortingly thick armoured deck- the squadron ops room, office, ready room, rec- usually pronounced ‘wreck’- room, mess- which it was, ground crew barracks, pilots’ cabins.

The squadron leader’s cabin had black bunting around the door; half of it had been torn off and was now draped over the shoulders of Epsilon-3, he had a drink in one hand and with the other he was playing a kazoo. After their fashion, it was a wake.

In the squadron office, the only pilot not participating was sitting behind the desk, one hand holding a soother-pad over her forehead, stylus in the other, looking at three datapads and wishing her head would stop throbbing, or Three would stop playing that thing.

She had lost her own element leader, and been lucky not to have her own head ripped off when a lump of engine from a detonating rebel fighter had caved her cockpit viewscreen in.

The senior flight commander of Epsilon squadron was therefore in a black mood, and wondering if anyone had ever in fact been beaten to death with a kazoo. Surely it had been tried.

She knew that if she did stand up and go to get some quiet out of them, she would probably end up doing some of the rebellion’s work for it.

‘Flight lieutenant Rahandravell?’ the door opened, and a misshapen figure said.

‘If you don’t shut that door, I’ll start blasting on the count of three.’

The lopsided man came in and closed and sealed the door; he had the same rank insignia she did, although rather less of a body to pin it on. The squadron adjutant was a grounded pilot; he had been on an atmospheric strafing run when a minor hit had caused his laser power cells to split.

That had cooked the blaster gas off, which had burnt off too many nerve endings for regeneration therapy to do much good.

‘How do you do this, Yrd? How do you stop yourself accidentally telling the truth to the poor silly bastards?’ Rahandravell poked at the datapads with the stylus. They were three letters to next of kin.

‘Lady Lyria Tellick; dear lady, your son died when a rebel heavy fighter blew the front of his cockpit off. I saw him drifting there in space with no legs, and I don’t know whether loss of blood or loss of air managed to kill him first, because I could still hear him screaming and thrashing round, so I know that shock didn’t.

Malomik Inturii, rust farmer; dear sir, your brother gave his life for the empire. Actually, he threw it away because he couldn’t stand it any longer, he ejected and was caught on the tail of his fighter, I should have given him a clean death there and then myself but I didn’t, the impact broke every bone in his body below the ribcage, they tractored him in before he could decompress but he killed himself in the med bay because he couldn’t take the pain any more. How do I not say that? How do I make them think it didn’t happen?’ she was crying.

Yrd was afraid to comfort her; he didn’t know her all that well. She was a highly competent pilot and an excellent shot, but had a reputation as an ice maiden; she kept whatever drove her sealed up deep inside. Now that was cracking wide open, and it made him squirm.

He didn’t know how to cope with it either. He started by rambling.

‘When I got shot up, I could have invalided out. Maybe should have, but home, for me, is Kuat. What would be the point? Every time I looked up, I’d see a sky full of star destroyers. I wouldn’t be leaving anything behind.

That and I couldn’t stand the thought of being back among the normals. They wouldn’t understand if-‘ the first thought that came into the adjutant’s head was ‘if you beat them to death with the squadron leader’s blown off legs.’ He knew better than to say things like that. Shock wasn’t going to work.

He was saved by the link terminal. It was no less a personage than the Captain.

Lennart had not simply been venting steam when he talked about believing in his crew; it was impossible to know thirty- seven thousand individuals, but he could keep track of section leaders, the senior enlisted rates- and the handful who screwed up badly enough to merit his attention- and at least the top layer of the ship’s fighter and ground combat attachments.

‘Flight lieutenants.’ Lennart began. His attention had been drawn by an incomplete item of paperwork- notifications to next of kin still to be sent off. He took one look at the state of the two officers on the other end of the terminal and decided there might be a problem.

‘The ship we were sent to rescue survived.’ He cut straight to the chase. Given the strike cruiser’s ineptitude in managing to need to be rescued, it was probably only postponing the inevitable.

‘The Rebel ambush failed. This ship survived. That doesn’t make it any easier to bear when it’s your friends and colleagues that didn’t. Talk to me.’

She stumbled through it again.

‘Your private griefs are your own, and no-one can, or should, help you with that.’ He knew perfectly well that she had been sharing a bed with the squadron leader.

‘When we come up against competent, determined opposition, some of our people will get killed. That much is certain, and I have two hundred and fourteen of those to send myself. My consolation is that I have twenty- two hundred not to.’ The crew of the strike cruiser.

‘Necessity determines whether we take the risk or not, chance determines who pays the price- insofar as anybody can be responsible for such a self- willed, contrary creature as a fighter pilot, I was responsible for him, and for you. I asked him, and you, to take that risk, and he did not die to no cause nor, considering the mauling we gave that rebel bastard, unavenged.

What’s important now is to do our best to avoid having to write any more. As Franjia Rahandravell, you mourn- as Epsilon Five, your squadron mates and the ship need you. It is that simple.’

She sniffled a little more, wiped her eyes dry- still bloodshot red, though.

‘Two other things. Tellick‘s mother- I met her. I reckon she has a certain secret sympathy for the Rebellion. Tell it as you please- I don’t think she deserves the truth- but make sure she knows who killed her son.’ Franjia nodded.

‘Other thing- do you need stormtrooper support to deal with that kazoo?’ Lennart asked, deliberately changing tone.

‘Captain.’ She said, reproachfully- he was trying to lift her mood, she didn’t immediately realize that.

‘It’s been so long since they got to do anything, they’re getting stir crazy. I have manhunter teams pulling rank to demand jobs even as mindnumbing as walking security; if I sent a detachment down there to keep order, I’d have difficulty stopping them trying to use an AT-AT.’ He paused for a couple of seconds. ‘Seriously- you’re going to be all right.’

‘Yes, Sir. What was it you wanted?’

‘Already taken care of, flight lieutenant. Carry on.’ He broke the link.

If he had been stupid enough to accept Lyria’s invitation, and if Ezirrn Tellick had thought he had a future, she could easily have been his daughter in law.

She probably was good enough to move up a rank, he thought, but not now, not until her heart resumed normal operations, and not in her present squadron. Replace Tellick directly, and give her the next or next-but-one available squadron leader’s billet.

Depending on what happened- time for their spy to contact the alliance, time for them to analyse the information and make a decision, time for them to get a capable unit here- that billet could be open in twenty to thirty hours.
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2009-11-08 10:36am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Redleader34 » 2006-11-20 04:36pm

Nice style, and its odd, it implies that the Empire cannot get proper supplies to these Star Destroyers. I like how you explained the two generations of Engernerrs, and their phlospies/styes/ Will we be seeing more of this random trainne? This female pilot that you introducd, she seems like a nice character but a bit flat. By the Way, Welcome To SDN, you will never find a more wrecthed pile of villany here. (in before Batman). This tale is a nice work, I hope that you update it, and edit it to add more page breaks.
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Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2006-11-20 05:54pm

Why, thank you kindly, Red Leader- believe it or not, it was a trekkie friend with a sense of humour who actually pointed this place out to me, describing it as 'A wretched site of scummy physicists.' I think he had lost a vs. debate.

I'll try to fit as much of the tech into the text, find reasons for these things to come up in the story, but as far as the supply side goes, the tale runs roughly; as an early- production Star Destroyer, Black Prince comissioned more or less during the changeover from the old Republic Fleet to the new Imperial Sector Group structure.
She missed completion date for the fleet she was supposed to be assigned to, went into strategic reserve, and basically ended up being used as a reinforcement, to fill in for cripples, serve as a skeleton for new groups to be organised around, called for on missions that a permanent sector fleet can't afford to divert units to, jobs like that.
Organisationally, she is an orphan, although one that's been around long enough to be quite good at taking care of herself. The miserable condition of the outer hull is protective colouration against being asked to stay or, worse yet, assigned to some highly visible propaganda unit with officer casualties through the roof like the Imperial Death Squadron.

I plan to follow Lennart, Mirannon and some of his juniors, Epsilon squadron including their ground crew and new CO, OB-17 and at least one rank and file stormtrooper unit- Lennart calls them manhunters; he doesn't know the half of it- and one of the HTL turret crews.

Bigger section breaks, check. I reckon on three to five thousand word segments, a week apart, more or less. Would smaller and more frequent be better?

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Post by Redleader34 » 2006-11-20 07:49pm

Correction there Remmant, I meant using standard indentation to start off new paragraphs, and otherwise this ship is the equvlant of the USS kitty Hawk, a general ship that is used for when you need a stopgap?
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Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2006-11-24 09:14am

The shuttle meandered it’s way through hyperspace, with most of the crew asleep.

The course was plotted and the nav computer was looking after it, so there was nothing to do but doze, amuse yourself in the privacy of your own quarters, or someone else’s if you were lucky, or sit on the flight- deck and watch the streaks of stars go by.

The seven- man crew had done this times beyond count, and although they were carrying a relatively valuable cargo- heavy servos for the secondary turrets, blaster gas for everything that went ‘zap’, and a replacement squadron commander- just let the ship get on with it, even this near breakout.

The replacement was on the fight deck, along with the co- pilot, who had drawn the short straw. Both were looking out of the radically- sloped main viewscreen.

‘Are you sure you should be doing that? It starts to play wierd tricks with your head after a while.’ The shuttle officer said, lazily. Best to make it sound as unofficial as possible; his passenger outranked him.

Privately, the passenger agreed. Somewhere past the screaming blue- white nodes racing at them, there was a capital ship waiting with a squadron of hyperspace capable fighters. He would probably be seeing far more than enough of this view, and without room to so much as turn over.

‘I mean’, said the shuttle pilot, struck by an idea of his own, ‘are they really stars?’

‘What are you on about?’ Peremptory enough, and it would have been worse if half his attention wasn’t on the future.

Lieutenant- Commander Aron Jandras, proceed to Ghorn system Vineland sector, take command of Epsilon squadron, composed of Starwing fighter- bombers, of Strike Wing (Provisional) 721 based on board ISD Black Prince, and for doing so this shall be your warrant, to fail at your own risk...although the last part was really superfluous.

‘All the streaks. Could be anything- could be dust, meteors, interstellar gas, some kind of leakage from the hyperwave. If they are stars, we must be covering a lot of space. Could have gone half- way round the galaxy without really noticing. Wouldn’t that be something, to have seen the universe without ever realising it.’

No real point in jumping on him, Aron thought. Don’t have to make an impression; he’s not directly under me. Although if this is a fair example, they must be a pretty loose outfit.

He had a point; the nav computer did it all. You told it to go from point A to point B, it came up with possibilities, and you picked one. It was the act of an expert to go through the advanced options like short- cuts and mapping to realspace.

‘Then it happens to everybody. You can still know enough to get to where you’re going.’
True enough, but not really worth further comment.

The ten- minute warning sounded, and the rest of the crew appeared. Neat enough, and they went through the drill with no appearance of incompetence; manning the piloting and all the gunnery stations, standing by to make a sensor sweep and raise shields.

‘How bad is this sector?’

‘Huh?’ the copilot answered.

‘You’re preparing to make a combat drop, into the middle of a subsector HQ and major naval base.’

‘Pretty bad, but that’s not it. Captain would roast us if we didn’t.’

‘Just how literally do you mean that?’

‘Well, he has been known to use lazy or stupid crewmen as jury rigged heat exchangers.’

Although they probably would try to put the wind up him, there was every chance that it was literally true. Star Destroyer captains were judge, jury and executioner on board their own ship, and the megalomaniac count was very high indeed.

Not much fun to be on the recieving end of, but the alternative was...impossible. No-one less than superhuman could keep track of and motivate thirty- seven thousand men by any other means. At least, so ran the doctrine.

The shuttle dropped out of hyperspace. Ghorn was a more than usually red- orange star, dim and well through it’s life off in the distance on the port bow, and the planet in front of them was far more than usually built- up for this far out in the mid- rim.

Orbital platforms and manufactory modules littered the nearby space, and there were three blobs hanging above one of the poles of the planet.

‘There she is.’ he said, once he had found the destroyer, and waved Aron over to the station. The co- pilot could still be heard going through identification and traffic control procedures in the background while he examined what the sensors were telling him.

1A2-class Star Destroyer. Built early, rearmed with the new gun fit. Veteran. At first, he swept the narrow- arc optical finder right across it, not quite believing when the direction pointers told him otherwise.

As he zeroed in on it, clear from very slightly above it’s beam, he realised that was because he hadn’t instantly recognised it as an Imperial fighting ship.

He had half- expected it to be black. What parts of her original hull remained were faded yellow, mostly, and marred in many places by blaster scars; large parts had not remained.

The forward four hundred metres of the ship was brilliant, regulation reflective/conductive white- with an unpleasant series of irregular hummocks just behind the unpainted area that probably marked the ends of major structural members, as if the entire forward quarter of the length of the ship had been torn off and a new one mounted.

There was also a huge unpainted patch low on the starboard midside, with charred edges, where the kamikaze damage had been repaired but never cosmetically aligned.

A deep shredded carbon- marked segment above the starboard vertex marked an attempt to chew it off by turbolaser. There was a tangled heap of molten metal where one of the main scanner domes had been, and a new one mounted on the forward edge of the superstructure, as well as a direct replacement just inboard of the molten lump.

The main superstructure was less impressive than usual, shot up and rebuilt in SSD-black durelium rather than standard durasteel; it also looked off centre, as if the bridge module had been moved- closer inspection revealed that it was the port side of the ship, a mix of bare and some strange red metal, that had been extended outwards, leaving the destroyer lopsided.

There was also a jagged scar at the base of the bridge module, as if someone had tried to blow it off and only just not succeeded.

‘Galactic Spirit...’ battle damaged wasn’t the term, he decided. At a rough estimate, if the ship had taken all of that damage at once- there were numerous blaster scars- she would have been blown apart three times over. Battle fucked was nearer the mark.

‘Look under the superstructure.’

There were scars and craters there too. The ship’s name and registry number- hull 721. And a series of black blobs that resolved themselves into silhouettes. He looked, and kept looking.

An Old Republic Procurator class battlecruiser. Two Hapan battle dragons. Three alien craft he did not recognise. Two Victory- class Star Destroyers. A Rebel MC- 80 Starcruiser. An Imperator- class Star Destroyer with a phoenix mark. More than a dozen lighter capital combatants.

‘How did that- that flying junkyard manage to take out a kriffing republic battlewagon?’

‘Dumb overconfidence on their part, very smart shooting, and a lot of luck with the terrain.’

‘A fair kill tally for a ship that looks as if it crawled out of a junkyard.’ he said, impressed but refusing to show it. If they were all directly claimed, the Black Prince had seen a massive amount of combat, even for a ship her age.

‘You’ve got no idea how much work it takes to keep her that way.’ he said, enigmatically.

‘Yes, Sir.’ the pilot could be heard responding to someone on the com link, and he leaned forward to push all the throttles past their safety stops.

Turret 4-Port;

‘I get this not.’ Pellor Aldrem announced, from the gun pointer’s console. He was a fair haired man dressed in a quasi- regulation armoured spacesuit that had been customised to take a gunner’s helmet; if their turret did get hit, chances were they were toast, but flukes did happen and he wanted to be ready to take advantage of them.

Technically, he was a Senior Chief Petty Officer; in practise, he was the best shot with a turbolaser on the ship, and held rank as a turret commander accordingly.

‘I really wish I just didn’t. That slimy jizzbucket Lomarel, he’s left half a rationpak smeared over the power monitor. At least I hope it’s a rationpak.’ The next most senior member of the gun crew, ‘Fussy’ Fendon, grumbled.

‘Yeah, well, he is the guy his own turretmates bought an inflatable nerf for.’ Aldrem made an effort to be tolerant. Lomarel had been a member of his own gun crew before being punted up and out, and the chubby, smelly freak sort of grew on you. Then again, so did fungus.

‘And a sound damper field. I don’t care if he makes a dianoga’s nest out of his own turret, if he does we might be rid of him and it would probably do a better job, but why’s he allowed to make a mess out of our turret, hey?’

‘That’s what I don’t get. We’re in dock, right? Caution, maybe, keeping us busy, maybe, but it’s the after turret in each battery that’s kept manned. The one with the best all round field of fire.’

Two quad- barreled heavy turbolasers, thermal shroud around each tapering down, adding to the perspective and making them look like a clutch of lances to stab the stars with.

Each of the quads elevated independently, traverse of about three or four degrees on it’s own sub- platform, against a barbette and back- plate hardened to withstand planet- shaking shocks, anchored in suspension- film neutronium.

Wondrous stuff; it’s hyperdense fluid nature made it the most perfect shock absorber in the universe, the only material substance that could take the recoil a heavy turbolaser battery kicked out.

Aldrem ran a hand over the pointing grip; with this, he could make countries disappear…it was fortunate for the planet underneath them that he was a stable individual. Whatever his file said.

It had happened, hadn’t it? Star destroyer in the inner rim, permanent defence orbit around the sector capital. One of the gunners had fallen in love with a local, he had two- timed her, some said stood her up at the altar.

She had waited, seemed over it, divisional officer hadn’t caught it in time, she had simply climbed into the turret one day, pointed it down and made the cheat’s home city into a green fireball.

Some of the newer ships had monitors installed to prevent someone in an unbalanced state of mind getting into the turret; apart from the fact that most people tended to be in an abnormal state of mind when shot at anyway, Black Prince had never received that particular upgrade.

Just as well, Aldrem thought, thinking about the team he was in charge of. Fendon’s nitpicking precision had saved them from malfunction and flashback more than once, at the gun status monitor board, but he wasn’t a man you could go and paint the town purple with.

Wasn’t he a member of some obscure mid rim cult? Still busy vehemently denying the existence of things everyone else had forgotten about.

Number three was Areath Suluur, a dark- haired, warm brown- skinned man of indeterminable age- always armed, always coldly, fluidly precise on the job, and his service record was a pack of lies.

Whatever he had really been and whatever he had done he, on the other hand, was a good mate off the job, even if he did occasionally look longingly at stormtrooper armour, and react strangely to a few things. He was comms and sensors op.

When things went well, that was all the turret needed to serve it’s guns. Unsurprisingly, it often didn’t run that smoothly.

The other twelve turret crew were there to deal with problems as they came up, and were supposed to be capable of any running repair up to and including replacing a shocked- loose barrel in it’s recoil cradle. Also capable of replacing the alpha team if they were the ones that got hit.

‘Yeugh. This- it’s almost whole.’ Fendon held something up for inspection.

‘Look, that console’s sealed and hardened to stand vacuum and light flashback. You won’t break it if you hose it down.’

Just then, the sky started to move around them. There was a small ball indicator, a space globe that showed two highlighted sections- their target- finder’s current slice of sky, and their potential arc of fire. The ship pitched upwards.

‘Manoeuvre jets function, and we have objects in arc.’ Suluur said, looking past Aldrem at the globe. ‘Control?’

‘You call them- Fendon, don’t do anything yet, but stand by to spin her up.’ Aldrem told the power-tech.

‘Fire Direction Control, this is Papa Four.’ Suluur com’d to them. ‘We have a line of fire to the station and the tender, IFF is still green, weapons are secure.’

‘Papa Four- FDC. Weapons safe, repeat, weapons safe.’

‘Zarri, what’s going on?’ Aldrem asked his friend in fire direction.

‘We’re pitching round to cover them, don’t ask me why. Probably just Mirannon blowing off plasma.’

‘Probably just getting ready to cover the tender if we are jumped, you mean.’ Aldrem stated grimly.

‘You could be right, Pel. I’ll let you know if we get any real news.’

‘Feel free to give us fake news, it passes the time. Papa Four out.’ Suluur said, breaking link.

‘So we are expecting trouble.’ He said to the rest of the team.

‘Stang, yes. Rebels think we’re weak enough to jump, they’ll send something to have a go at us.’

‘Not surprising.’ Fendon stated. ‘The ship looks ready to come apart.’

‘The guns are in perfect working order.’ Aldrem stated. He was right, too. In the ambush that had landed them in dock, both sides had been heavily ionized, and after the initial clash the rebel cruiser had been shifting power and rerouting data to keep one system in working order- her hyperdrive. Black Prince had been doing the same- to protect her main battery.

‘Maybe, but we look more like something that belongs to the rebel alliance.’ Fendon declared.

‘You joined after that, didn’t you? That operation was a lot more fun to look back on than it was to go through, believe me.’ Aldrem reminisced.

‘Go on.’ Suluur said, grinning.

‘New Eguria sector, about, what, eight years back now? The sector group commander, it was Admiral
Demorak I think, went rogue, refused an order and defected to the Rebellion. Well, what of it already existed by then.

He was Republic navy from way back- real stuffed shirt. We pretended to join him. You’re right, we do look like something out of the alliance fleet- we weren’t as bad, then, but they still welcomed us with open arms. Poor suckers. Talk about a target rich environment.’ Aldrem chuckled.

‘I wonder how fast people die, or quit, in the rebellion. I wonder how far back their memories go.’ Suluur pondered.

‘You wonder if we could get away with it again, you mean.’ Aldrem said. ‘That’s the main reason we can look like this; command knows we’re loyal.

We get the edgy, dangerous jobs, places the rebellion’s won itself an advantage, situations another ship might not come back from, we get the job. We don’t always bring all of this ship back.’

‘You and Captain Lennart.’ Fendon said.

‘I’ve met him, which is more than I can say about the skippers of some of the ships I’ve been on.’ Aldrem said, glossing over quite a lot of the details.

‘So what happened to the rebels?’ Fendon asked.

‘They were still using a lot of old Clone Wars kit, we picked up two Recusant and a Victory kill, but so much of the superstructure got blown away, it was as easy to refit to Imperator- II as it was to fix up as was.’

‘Most of the rebels are just a gang of pirates anyway, aren’t they?’ Fendon pointed out. ‘Their big ships are rare- we see a lot more of them than we ought to. I mean, the initials of their proper name are A-R-R. What does that say about them?’ He said contemptuously.

‘Don’t read too much into that. I mean, what would it make us, ninja?’ Aldrem said.

Suluur laughed quietly and said nothing.

Lennart had requested the presence of the tender captain and the defence station commander. Both of them came, largely out of curiosity to see what sort of madhouse this mongrel ship was.

Their Lambda shuttles arrived at the same time as Jandras’. Because he was riding one of Black Prince’s own, they gave him priority.

What he wanted to do was look around the pad, inspect the strange arrangements here. He had served with a Star Destroyer’s fighter wing, and competently otherwise he wouldn’t have been up for promotion, but not with an outfit like this.

He picked up his baggage, wandered out down the ramp, realized who his shuttle had been given priority over and decided to run away and hide before his career was irreparably damaged.

He should have known better; nothing on this ship was ever thrown away as irreparably damaged.

Two people came up to him; one male, mid height, solidly built and wearing a tool belt, the other female, neatly and precisely dressed- he didn’t recognize either of the insignia, but he guessed he was enlisted, she was an officer.

Franjia had taken the captain’s advice, and joined in the wake; she had a fair amount to drink, grief turned to anger, she had verbally savaged half the squadron, and the rest of her felt much better for it- her skull was still complaining.

She didn’t remember if she had hit anybody or not, but her head felt bad enough to have spent most of the night headbutting stormtroopers; what Aron took for a ramrod up the spine was in this case her trying not to fall over.

‘Welcome aboard, sir.’ She said, extending a hand. He took it. He was short and broad shouldered, round faced and dark haired, she was taller than he was, hair so fair it was nearly white, oval faced, pale green eyes, looked like an icicle in a uniform. Physically fit, endurance rather than strength.

‘Epsilon squadron?’ He asked.

‘Yes, sir- I’m Flight Lieutenant Rahandravell, Epsilon Five, this is Squadron Technical Master Sargeant Oregal.’
‘Run that one by me again. Flight Lieutenant?’

‘Sargeant Oregal, as this explanation is technical, you should deliver it.’ Franjia smiled, as the squadron ground crew chief got to make the only form of attack he was officially allowed; unleashing a steaming mound of bullshit.

‘As a carrier based strike wing operating off a non- carrier, we are technically Starfighter Force rather than navy.

Most of our personnel are in fact navy crossbadged to starfighter force, some of them are actually army hat jumpers but if this ship were ever to be officially classified as a carrier the naval personnel of the wing would revert to their permanent ranks whereas the army personnel would have to resign their permanent and have ratified their temporary commissions in the starfighter force in order to be allowed to serve with the navy.

The upshot of this is- congratulations, you’ve been demoted. Although nominally O-equal the administrative responsibilities consequent on the rank mean that a squadron leader acquires effective juniority under a naval lieutenant commander. Do you know where that falls in the starfighter force rank system, sir?’

He’s starting to look like I feel, Franjia thought. She would have snapped and told the sergeant to shut up before he got to ‘technically’. Either he has an unusually and exploitably high gibberish tolerance, he is very patient and forgiving- also exploitable- or his brain is so fried that all of this is rolling right off him.

Oregal continued. ‘We’re a wing, therefore we’re commanded by a group captain, who has multiple wing commanders under him to command the tactical groups. A group captain is considered equal in rank to a colonel but junior to a naval captain, which is anomalous because naval captain and colonel are considered nominally equal, it comes from the fact that the army recognizes the equivalence of the senior lieutenant’s rank and the starfighter force doesn’t, which should put a group captain higher on the pay spine but you know how the navy are.

A squadron leader- you- commands a squadron except when such squadron is composed of heavy or multicrew craft in which case he commands a flight, normally the job of a flight lieutenant, and the squadron is commanded by a wing commander. Do you understand all that, sir?’ he said, totally deadpan.

Aron had been letting it roll over him, but his brain wasn’t that far gone yet. ‘I don’t need to, I have junior officers to do that for me.’ Franjia and Oregal shared a look. Perhaps he wasn’t totally hopeless.

‘Tell me about something I care about. Over normal strength, over normal weight, right? So what have we got in the wing, group, whatever?’

‘Two squadrons of TIE Avenger, except Alpha-squadron lead flight is an experimental group- commanded by an actual group captain, just this once.’ Franjia told him, pointing across the bay.

‘Triple wings, each wing splits again? Preproduction models, except GpCp Olleyri- Alpha One- liked them so much he refused to give them back. They’re supposed to receive a D-codename, Devastator, Dominator, some such.’

‘The Commander Air Group- don’t you start-‘ that directed at Oregal- ‘leads from the front? Good- but I don’t recognize a lot of these things. They can’t all be experimental.’ Aron said.

‘We do get a lot of flight testing work.’ Oregal told him. ‘Some of them are regional specialties we liked and picked up, the rest- I’m the senior crew chief, by the way. I don’t fly them, I just fix them- are odds.’

‘The rest?’

‘Two Bomber and three Interceptor squadrons, one of the interceptor squadrons is Xt- light shield units. One other Starwing squadron- Delta, we’re junior- Hunters, Gamma squadron, are a regional specialty, folding winged. Fighters- more or less. Mu and Nu squadrons are experimental, and the other side of the credchip. The D- birds are a winner; those- aren’t.’ Franjia told him.

‘The Ravagers are escort fighters. See how all the wing hangs down below the body, and it looks like two eyeballs welded together? That’s because they are. Everyone in the wing who can hold a hydrospanner has had a shot at trying to keep those flying, and we reckon it isn’t worth the effort.’ Oregal said. Franjia confirmed.

‘Turret fighters. They do not work, and if our report has anything to do with it, they will not enter general service.’

‘Those flying wing looking things?’ Aron asked. They looked beautiful, sleek and chromic, almsot to god to be true in fact.

‘Designed to fit a new, maybe rediscovered old, weapon; weapon works, spaceframe’s junk.’ Oregal confirmed.

‘I know I’m here as a replacement.’ Aron said, looking at Franjia’s face freezing over again. She had thawed out a little talking shop, now she was back to icicle. ‘What happened?’

‘The people we lost,’ she said slowly, ‘make it feel much worse than the numbers say. Squadron Leader Ezirrn Tellick, Flight Officer Garm Inturii.’

‘Flight Lieutenant, I transferred in from an Interceptor squadron. There were only two people in the unit whose name it was safe to let myself get to know, and one of them was me.’ Aron said, brutally. It was usually safer than the alternative.

‘Are you suggesting we should let ourselves get killed more often, just to stay in practise?’ she was ready to savage him.

‘Clearly, I’ve pushed one of your buttons.’ Best way to cope with it, Jandras thought, just plough on regardless. ‘Those numbers. What do they say about the other side?’

‘Two rebel half squadrons, X escorting Y wings, we destroyed four X and a Y, the rest ran, four damaged enough to claim.’

‘Not bad- we seem to have got off on the wrong foot, Flight Lieutenant.’ He started to say.

‘The rebel bombers ripple- fired their antiship torpedo loads at us to give themselves time to flee to hyperspeed. That’s how we lost Squadron Leader Tellick. We miss him, and I mean to avenge him. I know all about the two graves business, and I don’t greatly care. Come on, I’ll introduce you to the squadron.’ Franjia stated.

‘One thing. Oregal.’ Aron turned to the sergeant.

‘Yes, sir?’

‘How do you remember all of that bureaucro-crap?’

‘I’m studying to put myself through law school, Sir. Know your enemy and all that.’

‘Kitrich? Help.’ The young probationary engineer appealed to his room-mate. Mirannon had most of his senior officers and artificers, and himself, working non- stop; and had let the rest know that whether or not they ever got to be senior depended a lot on how hard they drove themselves now.

Junior officers he wasn’t worrying about, considering them unlikely to pull their weight in the purely technical work underway.

‘What is it?’

‘Have you stopped laughing about me getting into trouble yet?’

‘What’s the problem?’

‘I got told to write a report on the ship’s hyperdrive- and I’m lost. I mean, this makes no sense.’ He had three large datapad- textbooks sitting open on their shared desk.

‘Right now, all I know is that I don’t want to go near one ever, ever again.’

‘A hyperdrive or the exec?’

‘Both. I mean…this is crazy. It doesn’t work. It can’t work. It can’t work. According to this, the light barrier is impossible to cross.’ He pointed to one of the textbooks. ‘This calls it a…hypersymmetric transposition? As if we somehow change places with something on the other side of the light barrier?

Which this,’ pointing at one of the other datapads, ‘calls a dead theory, proven nonsense- but this, the actual handbook-‘ he banged his head off the desk.

‘Hyperdrive motivator, what does that mean? It motivates hyperspace, like makes it do circuit training until it gets tired and agrees to let us in?

Time and energy running backwards, causality normalisation fields- when there is no normal referential frame anyway, and we depend on abnormal causality to get there?’ He wailed, from the forehead-on-desk position. ‘I give up. It’s a black box with a ‘go’ button on it.’

‘If it didn’t make your head hurt, it wouldn’t be worth working out.’ Kitrich said, heartlessly, then he recovered a slight shred of mercy. ‘Are you really baffled?’


‘Look…start with something you understand. Work with that, and work outwards from it.’

‘I thought I understood power converters. Converter controls electron standing wave that intercepts and is energised by electromagnetic activity, converts low energy radiation like heat to usable power by draining back energy from activated electrons- regenerative heating, the energy gets dumped back in the reactor. It’s the ship’s heat sink system.’ He opened a workbook.

‘T-E series, and most of a hypermatter reaction’s product interacts weakly or not at all, and the core runs off five stage T-N series, process to control a process to control a process to control…how does the other side do it? How does a bunch of failed politicians and art school dropouts run ships dangerous enough that we have to be here trying to stop them?’

‘They treat their tech as black boxes with ‘go’ buttons on.’

The tender and station commanders were escorted to the ready room beneath the bridge. The ship’s scarred appearance was only skin deep; there were work crews everywhere- including a group of stormtroopers levering something into place under the direction of a small team of engineering enlisted.

The tender commander understood more of what was going on, and he was grudgingly impressed- still intended to shout at the captain for removing the tender’s people and keeping their tools.

All but one of Black Prince’s command team were there and waiting; Lennart, Dordd, gunnery officer, sensors and systems officer, navigator- the missing man was Mirannon, who was far too busy.

The bulk of the ready room was taken up with the main display table and the ring of seats around it- an arrangement the Rebels had apparently copied for their own starships. At the moment it was showing a display of the surrounding space.

‘Junior Captain, Port Commander.’ Lennart greeted them, emphasizing the fact that he ranked them and commanded a combat unit. Otherwise, they might not have believed that he was an Imperial naval officer.

‘Two things; one of more interest to my people than to our guests. With effect from 1200 Coruscant Time today, Commander Delvran Dordd is promoted to Captain and appointed to command Arrogant- class Star Destroyer Dynamic.’

They cheered him, grouped around him, slapped him on the back, congratulated him. It was never an executive officer’s job to be popular, and indeed he was not, but he was professional.

‘Thank you.’ He told them all, even the two visitors who had congratulated him with icy politeness. ‘I’m remaining in my old job in an acting capacity for the moment, because we have another problem I want to see through.’

If it’s getting this rustbucket to look like a proper warship, Dynamic’s going to be waiting a long time, the station commander thought. It was depressing- worse, it was demoralising having this thing broken down and hanging in space near his people. What had happened to the Navy’s standards?

‘Junior Captain- Fokatha, isn’t it? I never knew life on board a tender could be so interesting. Rebel spies and everything.’ Lennart hand- signalled to one of the stormtrooper escort, who called their chief witness for the persecution. Omega-17-Blue-Aleph 3 walked into the ready room.

Perhaps one in ten of the stormtroopers in the 721st Legion was either a more recent clone or an actual veteran of the Grand Army of the Republic. Somewhere around one in thirty was female.

OB173 was both, and she had been designed for perfection. Dordd tried not to stare, and gave up. It wasn’t just the way she walked, the obviously powerfully athletic frame, yet lithe and fluidly elegant; she could have stepped onto any catwalk in the Core, stormtrooper armour and all, and brought the house down.

She had her helmet hooked on her belt, showing off a long flowing crown of red- gold hair, a hawk face and bright, sharp star- blue eyes. Every male eye in the room locked on to her- except the captain’s. He was watching her hands and her weapons.

Dordd was entranced. She’s magnificent, he was thinking, a divine being, a snow- clad angel of death.

‘Dockside security became suspicious of this man.’ She said- glorious, glorious voice- slotting a datachip into the display. It was a split image of the worker, his personnel record. ‘He was abducted from your ship, Junior Captain, and questioned.’

‘Impossible! My security-‘

‘Is porous. They suspected nothing, before, during or after. He confessed to being a rebel operative. I have the details of that also, if you require them to convince you.’ She was definite, thoroughly in control of herself, unquestionable. Which was exactly the effect she wanted to have, of course.

‘Did you do the interrogation?’ the station commander asked. He sounded ready to volunteer for one himself.

‘I’m qualified.’ She stated, simply. ‘Others are more so, and it would have been unjust to deprive them of the chance to put their talents to use. He broke thoroughly, we have confidence in our conclusions.’

‘Those conclusions being that the Alliance knows we’re here. Thank you, trooper, you can go.’ Before my acting exec drowns in a puddle of his own drool, Lennart didn’t add. She saluted and glided out. Most of them watched her go.

‘Gentlemen; tactical planning time.’ Captain Lennart had to flare the holoimage- a maximum intensity pulse of light- to get their attention. ‘What, if anything, will the rebels try to do to us, and how do we defend and counterattack?’

‘Do you have any more like her?’ the tender captain, mind still not with them, asked.

‘It, people; a Grand Army clone template, limited edition, liaison communications and public relations. The effect she had on you, she was supposed to have on early imperial journalists. Can you concentrate on something other than thinking about seducing one of my stormtroopers?’

‘Usual worst case scenario, Captain?’ Commandwe Wathavrah- "guns"- asked. He had a peculiar mottled look about face and hands, could have been near-human, in fact had been sprayed with cryogen from a damaged laser cannon early in his career.

‘Yes, no point worrying about that. Most probable case?’

‘What’s the worst case?’ the defence station commander asked.

‘The rebels put two and two together, realise it’s us, decide to wipe out a lot of scores and send a battle group with enough collective firepower to make even the Executor nervous.’ The navigator, Commander Brenn, fielded the question. He would have been the captain’s first choice to replace Dordd as exec.

‘We know exactly what to do about it; we run. Most probable, now…that depends a lot on the competence of the rebels.’

‘Hmph.’ The gunnery officer expressed contempt for the rebels’ intelligence. ‘Even disabled, a destroyer still takes a lot of putting down, they’ll have to send something hefty.’

‘Have to risk it? I don’t think so.’ Brenn stated. ‘The only time they’ve ever been able to capture a Star Destroyer is when the legion aren’t aboard, ideally none of the crew either. Not a serious objective. Nicking the Sahallare, though, that would appeal. Neutralise the Golan, demolish us, capture the tender.

Dreadnaught- class cruisers; the last I heard, the rebels were starting to automate them and use the crew space for assault troops.’

‘One of those old junkers against a StarGun? Even the Rebellion isn’t usually that stupid.’ Dordd replied.

‘Starfighter support. Everything they have with an ion cannon, disable the station and the tender, probably those fancy ion pulse warheads as well. Dreadnought jumps in, finishes the station, fighters land and rearm with heavy demolition warheads, bombs and rockets, finish off the crippled star destroyer while the dread boards and captures the tender.

Three phase strike, true, but all they really risk is an old junker and a few thousand meatheads.’ Brenn replied.

‘What’s the system defence force going to be doing? Standing by and cheering?’ the gunnery officer queried. ‘Ghorn II under us has a pair of V-150s, there’s a Lancer and a detachment of IPV’s, and the garrison TIE wings.’

‘So the rebels put commando teams in, covert insertion by tramp freighter ahead of the main op, seize the V-150s and use them against us, the rebel heavy fighters slaughter the garrison TIEs, and Lancers are dead meat against anything bigger than a starfighter. System defence isn’t going to be much more than a speed bump to a competent rebel group.’

‘Well, thank you very much.’ The defence platform commander objected.

‘Your platform is the only system asset the rebels need fear.’ Lennart took control of the discussion. ‘Brenn, your plan has them using fighters, spec ops teams, an expendable old ship and troops. I’m not convinced they have that much disposable fighter strength- but the V-150 idea is a nasty one. Guns?’

‘Same old rebel idea; harder they hit us, further they knock us off balance, more chance they have of getting back whatever they commit. Victory or Mon Cal, fighter first wave then a combat drop, with us between them and the planet, use us as an ion shield. They’ll try to blow the tender if they can’t capture it.’
‘Point. Delvran?’

‘Insystem spies. The rebels probably do have someone on the planet, it’s a fleet transfer point after all. They’ll see the preparations we make.

Otherwise- send down stormtroopers to secure the ion cannon, half our fighters are hyper capable- use them as a reaction force, have them jump out now, jump in on signal to counterstrike the rebels.’

‘So far. I don’t see the rebels risking a major force unit- there’ll be one, but it’ll be distant support, outsystem waiting to hyper in.

Our fighters clear the rebel fighters, Sahallare moves to shelter behind the Golan, we fight a conventional engagement in high orbital space with ion support to cripple and take the rebel strike ship.’ Lennart decided.

‘Captain!’ the platform commander protested. ‘Your ship’s in no fit state-‘

‘It looks that way.’ Captain Lennart smiled. ‘We have full firepower, fighter and ground ops, we’re six hours away from shield function, ten from basic ion drive and fifteen from hyper. The rebels can’t plan and organise faster than we can come back on line, not with enough to be a serious threat. A half planned scratch group could be here now, but-‘

There was a loud beep. ‘Captain, this is sensor watch. Hyperstate bow shocks, multiple small craft. Incoming rebel fighters.’

OK, I think the problem is that I'm writing in Word, cutting and pasting, and it tabs in the first part of the chapter, not after the breaks- it's a format issue I'll have to go back and edit. Anyway, here's ch2- edit to follow. Notice the cunning imperial plan crossed up by the rebels doing something too stupid to be anticipated :D
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2009-11-08 11:31am, edited 2 times in total.

Eleventh Century Remnant
Jedi Council Member
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Joined: 2006-11-20 06:52am
Location: Scotland

Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2006-11-29 06:19pm

‘Count?’ Lennart asked the duty sensor chief.

‘Thirty plus, low intensity- possibly X, likely smaller.’

‘Flight bay, Olleyri.’ He told the com terminal; it’s droid brain routed his words accordingly.

‘Groupie? Inbound. Two minute readiness all, scramble Beta, Gamma, Epsilon- they need shaken down- Nu on close and point defence, Theta. Threat’s two to three squadrons, rebel area command probably.’

‘Sir?’ It was abrupt, but the group captain overcame his shock. ‘Acknowledged, moving.’

‘All hands,’ Lennart told the com terminal- it gave him ship wide broadcast- ‘general quarters, incoming fighters. Engineering- Mirannon, what can you give me?’

‘Roll and pitch, no main thrust yet unless you want a lot of pizza.’ The chief engineer was not at all surprised to be interrupted this time.

He was busy trying to tell one of the zone relative inertial field generators what it’s sector of the ship was shaped like, and stop it arguing with the tensor fields and shield systems that were already there.

If he had left it to it’s own devices, it would have taken the unit too long, five hours as opposed to ninety minutes, to bed itself in- and the field overlap would have been lethal. Inertial compensation was one case where two rights very definitely made a wrong. He did not stop to talk.

‘Full weapons, the bridge, main battery and hangar bay emitters are in good enough shape to take power, I can give you shields there. Skipper, we’ve got no ion wake. We’re wide open around the engines.’

‘Better than I expected on the shields- the engines, depends on their tactical objective. I’ll have it watched.’ He turned to his guests.
‘Station Commander, Junior Captain, do you want to return to your respective commands- Commander, you should, Captain, you’re probably safer here.’

The command team were already moving, the gunnery officer to the fire direction station buried in the base of the superstructure, Dordd to primary damage control, Brenn and the sensor officer to the bridge.

Aron Jandras, still getting used to the idea of being a squadron leader, had said very little to the pilots of Epsilon squadron; he had just surveyed the wreckage left by the wake, made a formal acknowledgement of taking over, and gone to what was now his cabin.

It had been stripped and cleaned to within an inch of it’s life, the cot and several panels in the walls were new. The previous occupant had been effectively erased.

His previous ship had been an Imperator-I; the original barrack rooms had been remodelled into four- person dorms, which considering they fought in flights of three had been either perfectly useless or, the common theory went, an ISB trick to prevent pilots conspiring when off duty.

Before that, a Nebulon-B which barely had room for fighters, and still did have a barrack room. He hadn’t dared to joke about hammocks, in case anybody took it as meant seriously.

On the other hand, this time he had been assigned to a ship that looked as if it could be taken apart with a feather duster. For all the relative comfort of the quarters, he didn’t intend to get comfortable- he might have to leave in a hurry.

He was still in uniform rather than flight gear, and he was reading through his copy of Technical Order 2-30SW-1. The Technical Order was as close as a starfighter came to having a manual- not as good as flight experience, but a lot better than climbing into a cockpit cold.

This evening, he would formally meet his immediate superior, the bomb wing commander, and the commander air group; he had scheduled two hours in the ship’s simulator bank before then as the best way to get to know his squadron in the only way that actually mattered, and was reading up, not in expectation of imminent combat, but because he didn’t want to look a fool in the sims.

The manual claimed the Starwing had the same rate of roll as an Interceptor, and he was in the middle of saying ‘Bull-‘ when the GQ alarm sounded. More proof that censorship has gone too far, he thought as he began to move.

One of the things he had noticed was that the Starwing was supposed to have a pressurised cockpit. He wasn’t prepared to place much faith in that, either. Flight gear was kept in the ready room, the flight suit was supposed to go on over the uniform, another idea that didn’t work as well as it was supposed to.

He dropped the datapad Technical Order, sprinted for the ready room, collided with one of the other pilots on the way and stuck an elbow into his kidneys, wriggled into the ready room.

He had been expecting a mad scramble, locker room fire drill, not enough room for twelve pilots to clamber into flight suits at the same time, fend for yourself and devil take the hindmost; instead, odd numbers went in and got suited up first, with enough room to do it neatly and efficiently, then even numbers- wingmen.

Nobody explained the drill; it must have been in standing orders- the previous squadron leader’s. He was left looking like a fool and an odd man out, and was that a sneaky look on Epsilon Five’s face? Probably.

Normal pad arrangement on an Imperator was the two hangars in the forward wall opening into the main bay space, craft on ceiling racks launching through the hangars.

Black Prince’s complete rerarrangement had a much shallower main bay, and the extra six squadrons were accommodated in the ‘loft space’ on sloped racks releasing down through the deckhead of the bay.

The lead six had a small docking and maintenance hangar, but they launched on racks that moved out through apertures in the otherwise sealed off forward wall. Instantly Aron hated it.

The frames for the racks were powered- if something failed, which he expected it might, what was he supposed to do, sit there and wait for the ship to come apart around him?

Standing there looking at it, he suddenly couldn’t wait to get out into space.

The pilots around him all had their helmets on, as he did, the hamster- look that had it shown up on a living being would have been sent for reconstructive surgery instantly. Every time he saw one, he wanted to put a beanie hat on it.

The racks had already lowered the big, heavy- finned, shovel nosed craft to pad level, ground crew supervising and doing the pre flight checks. Oregal- Aron didn’t even bother trying to remember his rank- was standing by his.

‘Shields and weapons are charged and inactive, Sir, warhead load is standard torpedoes.’ No sign of help. Which made sense, because if Aron didn’t know what he was doing now, it was too late. ‘Activate in the bay, Group’ll tell you where to go from there, sir.’

Aron nodded; three steps up to the cockpit, slide in- much easier than a TIE Eyeball which had space exactly where it wasn’t wanted- link the flight suit into the cockpit instrumentation and life support.

The cockpit was exactly as the manual had described it- sensor and comms panel on the left, ship combat systems in front, flight technicals on the right.

Most of that was done in helmet in a TIE, there was a second of double vision as the helmet and the cockpit decided which was to be the prime information source, and the cockpit won.

It couldn’t tell him what to do, though. He waited as the racks swung out, waited in part for the inevitable ‘clunk’, and marvelled when it failed to come.

The fighter fell free; the gravity in the bay was set to fractional ‘g’ down and out, enough time to power up and swim out under manoeuvring ion power.

He was a second behind the rest in starting engines, a whole three seconds in remembering he had combat shields, and he could feel the squadron knocked out of synch by him. By now the ship’s sensors had pinned down the rebels’ vector of approach, and flightcom began the battle-play.

‘Pilots, this is Olleyri.’ When he wasn’t tasked to fly himself, the group captain outright usurped the role of chief air controller, reckoning it was still his job to look after his pilots.

‘We have two to three squadrons of rebel fighters incoming, and- now additional traces of small craft possibly armed freighters. Local area squadrons, they’ll be using mostly older fighters, competence unpredictable- don’t take them lightly even if they are flying poodoo.

They may be good enough to be a threat. Beta leads the intercept, Theta flank cover. Nu squadron disperse for ship close defence. Gamma and Epsilon are reaction element. Out.’

So far, so standard, Aron thought, five against three, the full fighter complement would simply get in each other’s way- although they were being held at short standby in case a threat developed that they would be needed for.

Beta’s Avengers- the best thing about this entire tour seemed to be that he now had some very impressive friends- would hit the rebels fast and head on, with Theta covering them. Personally, he had time to think.

Epsilon had simply taken station on him, in the same pretty much Rebel standard finger four formation, not the Imperial three- fighter V. It was how Cygnus recommended the gunboat be used, and he noticed it was how the Avengers were deploying.

Also, the sensors had given them enough warning that they were fully deployed before the first rebel hit realspace. Eight short strings of emergence flashes- deploying by flights; two waves, first wave a flight of X- wings, flight of Z-95s, two flights of local fighters he didn’t recognise- big-finned taper nosed cylinders.

The second wave, a flight of Shobquix Gauntlets, a flight of those local fighters with bulgy pods on the fins- missile racks?- a flight of CloakShapes, a flight of Y-wings.

‘Not often the zoo comes to visit us.’ Someone- Beta One- said on the group channel. ‘Second line looks like their bomb element, reaction element pass under the fighters, all units watch out for friendly fire from the Golan.’

Too confident, Aron thought, he’s overeager. Committing us too soon.

On the bridge Lennart was watching the sensor picture develop. His ship’s departments could do their jobs without micromanagement; the most useful thing he could do was comprehend and anticipate.

Jammers were up, the rebels would have to get close for a detailed status scan, but they were heading this way. His ship was the main target, not the station.

What was their plan? They were faced by four squadrons of the empire’s best- and one of it’s worst- and weren’t planning to break off? What were they expecting to happen- or what else?

‘Flight Ops, Lennart. Beta and Theta to press to close quarters now. Send Gamma in, pull Epsilon back, launch Mu to join close defence.’

Olleyri knew better than to delay; he transmitted the order- then asked what it was about. ‘Aye aye, Captain- what’s the plan?’

‘We’re disabled, as far as they know. Our main defence is our fighters. Alliance best practise is for them to use the local area force to draw out and chew up the wing, and the light freighters on their way are their best weapon for that.

This is a space superiority op, not an antiship strike- a furball suits us, because-‘ emergence flares.

‘Oh kriff.’ Olleyri said.


Aron had watched the strange looking Hunters soar past over his head; ball and back block, longer, thinner folding thermal wings- hadn’t Incom originally offered the X- wing to the Empire and been turned down for it’s price tag?

If Sienar had tried to reinvent it afterwards with TIE technology, that was probably what it would look like.

Their sprint thrust was far higher than a Starwing’s; Aron didn’t know any of them well enough to ask them to leave some for the bombers.

Then plan A came apart in red fire. A handful of larger rebel- red blips in the sensor scope, telescoping themselves down to combat speed, the instruction to Gamma to make full speed and Epsilon to break off, and a hailstorm of quad and light turbo- laser fire pouring into Beta, Theta and Gamma squadrons’ path.

Two YT- series, a Ghtroc light freighter, and a larger ship- Customs corvette.

Aron’s target sensor went off, he shouted ‘break break break’ into the com, and firewalled the engines twisting the Starfury up and to the right in the start of a tallon roll.

A salvo of light turbolaser fire screamed past behind him; the manual was right about the beast’s agility.

He was supposed to be keeping these people alive, not just himself; glance at the scope- a couple of fuzzy green blips, hit but taken on the shielding, before the rebs had changed target to the closer Hunters.

‘Epsilons, form up again on me, make room to weave, keep it loose…’ he ordered. ‘Five- a customs ship?’

‘Long range light turbolasers. Designed to overmatch the average pirate- the rebels turn it into their version of our Lancer. Advice; that’s our target. Who else can deal with it, if not us?’

Gamma’s Hunters were fleeing the beaten zone, most trying to escape forward into the furball where the rebels would fear friendly fire, exactly what Lennart’s plan had been in pushing them on. Two had been lucky enough just to lose shields, but three had gone. Two ejections.

The destroyer behind us, Aron thought. ‘I’m not up to speed on Starwing doctrine yet. Five, you lead in.’

‘Epsilon squadron, accelerate to attack speed.’ She acknowledged by taking charge.

Lennart turned to the navigator. ‘Brenn, opinion. We sneeze at that corvette and it goes away. The rebs then know we have more function than they thought, and fail to follow up or hit us much harder. We don’t, we lose a lot of fighters. Hmmm?’

‘Protect the wing.’ The navigator said instantly. What Lennart had intended to do anyway.

Turret 4-Port;
‘Oh, come on. Suluur, any actual reason why we aren’t weapons free yet?’ Aldrem complained.

‘We’re playing dead so that bigger targets come along.’

‘We’re not going to have a fighter wing left to do it with unless we give them some support fire.’ Aldrem was exaggerating, but the armed freighters with their military- grade turrets were doing a lot of damage.

‘Port-4, this is FireCon. Do you have a bearing on the corvette?’ fire direction called, at last.

‘Bearing, firing track and death wish all lined up, FireCon, say the word.’ Suluur reported.

‘Blow it’s shields out, the skipper wants prisoners.’

‘A greatsword to do a scalpel’s job-acknowledge.’ Aldrem said. He could bitch and track a target at the same time.

‘Shield rating on that thing?’

‘Twenty-eight- it’s been reinforced.’

‘Fendon, step sub one down to output thirty. LTL yield, why one of them can’t do it-‘ snatching seconds out of the fire routine.

‘Fighters have still got to go in after the bastard thing and ionise it, I know we’re supposed to be more accurate but not that far below standard, has anybody told them to keep clear yet, if we’re not supposed to be able to do this then our jammers had better stop them getting the word out, ready- firing now.’

He depressed the trigger switch. The result depressed the rebels. A single ripple salvo from the quad turbolaser, thirty thousand terajoules a shot- trivial by it’s design potential, but enough, aimed in a shallow tracking diagonal across the line of flight of the customs corvette.

One hit. There was a thin, soap-bubble-breaking flare around the corvette as it’s shield generator overloaded and collapsed.

Firing into the melee around the three transports was much more risky. He activated Sub Two and took one full power shot at the least encumbered of the three freighters.

It was effectively a snapshot. No warning from the fire control, just the instant continental hammerblow shattering it into glowing gas. The tracer may be below the speed of light, the bolt was well beyond the speed of comprehension.

‘Useful.’ Franjia’s comment. ‘Squadron fire order- objective Corvette.’ It flared up on Aron’s targeting panel, she was designating it for them.

‘Weapon torpedoes, subcomponent target; turrets. Fan salvo. Director identifying.’ The way she set it up, each of the six twin turrets had four torps, from four different fighters, homing on it. Must be a preset.

He had used missile systems before- on an Interceptor, they were a rare aftermarket modification, poorly integrated.

On the Starwing, his targeters cut through the rebel’s jamming in less than a second, and- first time in coherence with the rest of the squadron- launched his first pair of torpedoes, one, switch, two.

‘One, standard procedure on an attack run is if a fighter loses shields, it breaks off and circles to recharge for another pass- procedure also says we provide our own top cover, the circling element covering for the rest. You’re the interceptor pilot.’

‘I’ll take the cover party. Epsilon two, three, four, conform to me.’ Aron acknowledged, and led his flight in a wide decelerating sweep, eyes in the cockpit, letting his wingman cover him while he looked at his sensor display.

Ship for ship, the Imperials were superior this time; the corvette had ignored the Avengers, though, it and the freighters had concentrated on shooting up Hunters and Interceptors.

Beta One had ordered his squadron to chase down the X- wings and Gauntlets; the Gauntlets were proving tougher targets.

Turret fighters, pretty nimble and no blind spot, they needed to be hit from two directions at once, and the rest of the rebels were running interference trying to prevent that happening.

Com traffic tagged the corvette as the rebel flagship, it was the one directing the rest. Probably they would move to protect it- preventing that would be his problem.

The local cylinder- fighters were fast but clumsy; they made a run, broke off and tried again- but they had a huge gun battery, eight light autoblasters or something like, spraying out huge geysers of orange- red light that splattered off an Avenger’s shields, wore down a Hunter’s but sheared an Interceptor to fragments.

The Hunters had one torpedo tube each, so they were trying to hit the rebel freighters. Both sides’ plans had come apart, and actually his squadron was the largest formed unit on either side.

He looked for a shot; three of the cylinders had just finished a run on a pair of Avengers- one of the Avengers was wallowing- and they were turning for another go.

‘Two, with me.’ Aron went for them in turn.

Lock and launch a torpedo- targeters and jammers made too neat a pair, it usually took long enough to get a lock that the situation had changed by then, but the bomber electronics on the Starwing made it easy.

Follow it in- the cylinder saw it coming, tried to turn away, but it’s drift carried into the torpedo’s flightpath.

The proton warhead left it hot gas, and Aron charged in behind his missile aiming for the right hand cylinder.

They managed to slide round to bear, flying tail first. ‘Two swap targets- I go low.’

The firestreams leapt out of the cylinders too little too late; he slid under and his wingman slid over, stray red- orange sparks splashed off both their shields, there was the muted thunder-crackle of heavy laser fire as Aron snapped out four twin bolts. Green impact flash, yellow-white fireball.

Two wasn’t as good a shot; he crippled his cylinder, cut thrust and was pivoting to have another go when an Avenger came after it and stole his kill;

one of the Gauntlets lobbed a torpedo at the Avenger, that dipped and Aron took a long range shot at the Gauntlet, which neatly sidestepped out of the way and fired another at him.

Power output, rapid fire- no time. He lined up on the torpedo and started shooting at it, one managed to connect and the torpedo blew, the sensors behind him showed the Avenger double shields aft, seem to take the hit-

damaged but not destroyed, then the engine block sparked and the fighter shook, the Avenger pilot punched out. He lost the Gauntlet in the furball.

He accelerated after Three, Four and the rest of the squadron; watched as one of the Gauntlets came in in a rapid crossing tangent across the front of the formation, hammering at them with both it’s guns;

Five and Six dipped to match it’s vector, yawed to bear and sprayed fire at it. Five switched to Ion, hit and paralysed it, kept her finger on the trigger switching to Laser- set up her own sitting duck. Nice; he’d have to remember that trick.

Two of the cylinder bombers were attacking the port edge of the squadron attack line- he found the right button and pressed it, marking the lead of the pair as his target.

The Ghtroc was moving towards the corvette, but Hunters were harassing it, preventing it using it’s guns on the Starwings. He’d deal with that later.

Two followed him, Three and Four were lined up on the other bomber, both the rebel cylinders started lobbing unguided light missiles- Aron laid his guns ahead of his target, started ripple firing, Two, Three and Four did the same, aiming for the missiles first and tracking back to the bombers.

Ten, Eleven and Twelve broke to evade, Nine throttled back to cover them, one of the bombers ceased fire and turned to break- his target. The other, Three and Four coned and blew apart.

Aron banked after the retreating bomber, switched to ion cannon, hosed sequential fire around it, it started tumbling out of control-

‘Break lead break.’ Two called, Aron slammed the fighter into a diving twist, red quad laser shot screamed past flaring off his after shields, he yo- yo’d up to see an X-wing zooming high being chased by Two.

The X- Wing half-rolled into a head on pass with an Interceptor, neither imperial could fire, the X-wing missed and hurdled the Interceptor, but the Interceptor pilot nearly rammed Aron- the Starwing sideslipped out of the way on pure reflex before he consciously realised he had to dodge.

I’d forgotten how much fun furballs aren’t, he thought, looking for the bomber and lobbing a torp at it before anyone could steal it, then turning back to the squadron.

The torpedo spread had hit the corvette, and there were six glowing lumps of wreckage where twin light turbolaser mounts had been. Some of them had been stopped, but not enough.

Now it was ion time. Makes sense, Aron thought, they surprised us this time, we want to grab someone who knows what other tricks they might have ready and introduce him to Mr. Painful- that didn’t make it easy.

The Ghtroc was angling it’s shields to keep the Hunters busy while it turned guns to cover it’s command ship- that was their opportunity.

‘Lead flight, ions, from the front, that Ghtroc.’ Two for the price of one.

They flew the same scything attack pattern, build a vector then ride it, strafing across it’s nose- a fast three seconds of close enough contact for reliable shooting, they twisted and weaved to throw its aim off, it shot back at them-

Four’s shields collapsed entirely, and he had two glowing holes in his fighter’s wing radiators; Aron took two hits, soaked- the Ghtroc took four long columns of blue bolts, it reeled, lightning crackling across it. The Hunters could finish the job.

‘Formation change, Four takes lead, we cover.’ That was so they could cover the now vulnerable Epsilon Four’s rear; he dumped what weapon energy into shields he could, Aron did the same with the ion power bank, switching back to lasers.

‘Head for the rest of the squadron.’ Bearing marked on the sensor globes.

They had swirled round the corvette, ionising it and then some. Aron didn’t envy the boarding party.

That done, Epsilon were watching each other’s backs, scanning for threats and opportunities. There were more green blips than red, now.

The rebels were losing, their tactic had failed, and they seemed to realise that fact. They started to look for ways out of the furball, avenues to clear space.

‘Five? Bomber tactics query here. How do I say “blow the stang out of that freighter”?’ He spotlighted the remaining YT- series, which was running for hyperspace.

It glowed on his scope, and his headphones beeped. Like that, then. He lined up on it, switched to torpedoes, triggered a shot with the rest of the squadron.

The freighter saw them coming- somewhere over on the left, in front of third flight, an overeager Interceptor pilot got himself crisped by blundering into one of their torpedoes- one score against.

Not their fault. The freighter spat laserfire at the torps, doubled shields aft, twisted and tried to roll out of the way. Six connected.

A YT- series was perfectly capable of being souped up to carry turbolaser- resistant shields. Some had been. Not this one; it’s shields flared and collapsed, it limped into hyperspace. Damage, not a kill.

What wasn’t dead already, the Avengers were finishing off.

Rescue and boarding ships were a long time launching; apparently when the main guns had fired, the lighting in the forward hangar bay had had a seizure, and the station’s and the tender commander’s shuttles had managed to collide. No injuries, much wreckage.

Epsilon squadron got to stand sentry over the disabled and wait to cover the boarding and rescue transports.

‘Delvran, your eyes have glazed over. You’re thinking about her again, aren’t you.’

‘Captain Lennart, I-’ Dordd began.

‘Many hats. I have to be a part- time everything, so will you, and that includes relationship counsellor. The counsel I’m giving you about this relationship is; don’t.’ He was prepared to joke about it, as long as it wasn’t too serious.

‘And why should I not?’ Dordd said, drawing himself up to his full height. Which was a lot.

‘Delvran, you’re basically an organisation man. You relate to your superiors, you relate to your equals in rank, you relate to your juniors, competently, normally- you fit in. Command of your own’s your chance to grow out of that mould- live up to the ship’s name.’

Lennart smiled; HIMS Dynamic. ‘She isn’t; white armour or not, I recognise a lone wolf when I see one. I should know; I’m in a relationship with one myself.’ He waved an arm at the structure around him, meaning the Black Prince. ‘She’ll eat you.’

‘Assuming there isn’t going to be a rebel comeback, the earliest I can leave is once the chaos on the pad gets sorted out. That gives me two hours.’

He spent ten minutes of them packing, twenty pacing up and down, stomach in knots, before deciding to take the risk. He invited a stormtrooper to dinner.

She probably had a clearer idea of what was going on in his head than he did. She decided to play with him a little.

His actual quarters were close to his duty station- damage control central, above the main reactor bulb, and not far from stormtrooper barracks.

She turned up at his door dressed in her environmental body glove. Slick, black, figure hugging- he nearly collapsed on the spot from sheer excitement.

Pull yourself together, he thought, before realising there were at least two very wrong words in that statement.

‘You requested my presence, captain.’ She said, voice rolling over him like liquid honey.

‘Yes, yes, come in, sit down.’

She flowed through the space around her like black mercury; he could not tear his eyes off her hips, her thighs, her belly. It was too late to avoid looking like a lust- struck fool.

‘Captain Dordd,’ she said, changing mood and tone drastically- bitter and defiant, putting one foot up on a chair, ‘you far outrank me.

If your only purpose in requesting my attendance on you was to satisfy your lust, you can order it so, and I must lie back and think of Coruscant.

From a separate chain of command, I have nothing to gain by pleasing you, and you may remember my ranking as a field interrogator. Shall we drain a cup of misery together, or may I go?’

‘Why does it have to be one or the other? Can’t I simply talk to you?’ he said, baffled, confused, disappointed and hurt.

‘Is this normal enough to be simple? Are you trying to tell me that you want to get to know me as a person?’ She could have made that much more barbed than the words suggested.

‘Sithspawn, woman, why are you using my rank against me?’

‘Do you command me to explain?’ that did reach into open mockery. ‘I’m sorry. As a person, that went too far. But I am assigned as part of a hunter- killer squad. Do you think I don’t notice eyes following me?’

‘I’m sorry too- I admit to the lust. At least give me credit for realising that that alone isn’t enough.’ He was almost pleading. ‘Stay and eat with me.’

Somewhere in the small part of her head she used for passing for a civilian whenever duty required it, a simulated personality was rolling on the floor laughing. She bowed to him and sat down in the chair.

Dordd’s steward had barely believed what was being asked of him, and had made a very scratch job of cooking for two. CHON synthesis or not, arranging the stuff was still best done by hand; although this time done very badly.

‘Ah.’ She said, taking a deep sniff of it’s scent. ‘Roast Bothan. My favourite.’

The unidentifiable brownish lump with the purplish sauce could have been nearly anything.

He met her eyes, and she noticed he was nearly ready to burst into tears or chuckles, or both. ‘This was crazy. I don’t know why I thought it made sense.’

‘I knew it didn’t. Somehow, I ended up here anyway.’ She smiled.

‘What do I call you? OB173 just doesn’t capture you.’

‘For any of the real veterans, names are equipment, issued as needed, and the name I like best is the one that has served me best; Aleph-3.

You have the same problem, former commander Dordd, your name is changing, and that’s going to change the person under it more than any of mine ever changed me.’

‘Tell me about yourself.’ He asked the nightblack- clad woman of his dreams.

‘You do realise that I’m a clone?’

‘I can’t believe there’s more than one of you. The universe would have noticed. Jorian said so, but-’

‘How he knows is a topic in it’s own right. I was designed as part of a limited production run, to fill certain support functions; liaison with civilian authority, army spokeswoman, internal communications- I was to be a finger of the velvet glove covering the iron fist.

Or a glittery flash of distraction, covering the approach of the blade…normal training as well of course, but by the time I reached a useful maturity- Hail Palpatine.’

She was been sitting leaning forward with her elbows on the table, fingers steepled together, watching him react. She straightened, sat upright in the hair, suddenly less intimate.

‘The glove torn off and thrown away, my clone sisters and I had to find a new purpose for ourselves. Not easy; some of us failed to rise any higher than- what I expected you wanted me for.’

He wanted to reach forward and touch her, but he wanted to do that for so many other reasons as well, he was afraid she might tear his arm off.

Vulnerable, she was not; she had faced that fear and beaten it. ‘Others entered various branches of the service, became aides and adjutants, analysts and supply officers, I found a more special task.’

‘When you were talking about the rebel spy, you said something about injustice.’

‘Sometimes…when we are doing our proper jobs, I am the face and voice of the hunter team. I ask, ‘what do you know? what have you seen?’

I smell out lies, find trails, follow leads- the best justice we can hope for, I think, is simply that; being given a fair chance to make use of your talents.

Some of the talents I have, I was given, even the ones that nearly condemned me and I would perhaps preferred not to have; the most I have really done with face and figure is preserve them- the talents I have worked for and earned, those I am proud of.’

She paused for a moment, pulled her mind’s eye out of her own past. ‘Yourself, Captain Dordd? What gifts has fortune given you, and what traps has the pitiless bitch arranged?

I succeeded in clawing my way out of a pit; you’re about to enter the top trillionth of the most powerful people in the galaxy.’

‘I think one of those traps is sitting across from me now.’ He smiled at her. ‘I did well enough at the academy, no second M’thh’raw’nurundo though- few are.

I think I must look better connected than I am.’ She resisted the impulse to tell him that the way he looked at her made him seem entirely disconnected.

‘I was lucky, right place, right time, and at least enough of the right man not to drop the ball. I worked my way up through the deck division, navigator on an Ecliptic and exec of a Venator before being sent to the Black Prince, five years ago now- as a safe pair of hands and a counterbalance for Captain Lennart, I think.

I always got things done neatly, cleanly, on time and within norms- this, sitting here with you, may be the first really off the bulkhead thing I’ve done since the academy.’

‘It took the captain this long to corrupt you?’

Gradually, she got him talking about himself, explaining and trying to justify. She was a good listener, he was under a lot of stress, he opened up to her completely.

It was, in it’s own way, a triumph of the interrogator’s art. He was besotted with her.

The steward came in to clear the hardly- touched plates, and also to pass on a message; the pad was clear, wreckage removed. Time for him to go.

He looked at her, dewy-eyed, and opened his mouth. Quickly she reached across the table and placed a finger on his lips.

‘Don’t say it.’

He looked desperately disappointed. Heartbroken.

‘Delvran…’she said, slowly, ‘what would we do, when I am alone and unmasked, with nothing to do except work through you? Whatever my good qualities are, I assure you I have badness to spare.

I think we would come to loathe each other, in time. Yoked together, on the edge of the deep dark, probing and twisting and manipulating- and I would have to stow away to go with you, don’t forget- what would happen in our first lovers’ quarrel?

Go and take charge of your ship, and accept all my good wishes to go with you, because I cannot.’

She stood, walked out, leaving an image of herself burnt on his minds’ eye.

From the bridge, Jorian Lennart watched the transport go.

‘Omega- 17- Blue- aleph 3.’ He tapped in the access code he wasn’t supposed to know, and called the cloned woman he hoped was still aboard his ship.
‘Yes, Captain Lennart.’

‘Delvran escaped with his life, then.’

‘There would have been little challenge in it; the other main factor was that you said you would have me shot.’

‘I owed him that much covering fire, at least. That and I don’t think you would have enjoyed being Pirate Queen of the Outer Rim.’ Lennart said, dryly.

‘Captain Dordd’s dark lady, the power behind the command chair- you don’t think I wasn’t tempted? Perhaps it was this ship that would be sent after us to bring us to heel.’ She said silkily.

‘Another reason to stop you- Imperator against Arrogant would be no challenge at all.’

‘There are two men on this ship I would joyously accept a command to bed from…’

‘And both of them have far too much sense to issue it, OB173. Be about your duties.’

I had hoped for more feedback; I think part of the problem is that as a new poster, you don't have the measure of when I'm doing something that makes sense to me, or that even I reckon is a shade on the wierd side. No baseline, yet. (Huge lumps of text probably don't help, either.)
Just to clear things up a bit, OB173 is getting so much camera time because, in the 'likely to suddenly start running about waving a crimson lightsabre' stakes, she is way ahead of the rest of the field. Mirannon is able to borrow part of the Legion to help him out because they have a history together going back to an extremely messy boarding action, which is tied in to their being able to claim a Procurator- class kill. And so on. There are reasons, possibly bad ones, and to come up with better ones, all feedback taken on board. Help?
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2009-11-08 04:57pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Vehrec » 2006-11-30 11:29am

Ok, so we don't do a lot of heavy duty reviewing (go to spacebattles if you want a thread with a 20:1 ration of reviews to chapters) but when we do, it tends to be high praise.
I find myself loving the enginering and gunnery crews, they seem rather humble and simple folks for people who have the power of a star at their fingertips. The technical details are another thing I love, with the inclusion of the young ensign and his frustration at the Hyperdrive. Most impressive of all, the combat is twice as good as most of the fighter combat in the X-wing novels. Took me way back, to the good old days of TIE Fighter on my Win95 box. Ahh, good times.

I must say however that the ending had me scratching my head. Pirates? What's that about?
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Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2006-11-30 12:40pm

Aleph-3 wraps Dordd around her little finger; to actually go with him, she would have to either be reassigned, to a ship with no stormtrooper complement, or desert. She almost certainly could convince him to go rogue, push further out and become king and queen of their own pocket kingdom beyond the outer rim. A wild step like that, in Lennart's opinion anyway, is all that could make it worth the risk of deserting from the Empire- so if she went, she would have to go for broke. He reckons she's perfectly capable of it- and she probably is, but he's under- rating her loyalty.

The Dynamic is described as Arrogant- class; this is what Dr Saxton refers to as Anonymous-II, I had to hang some sort of name on them to write about them, but if I had read up on them in time it would have been a Tector- class. That ship will re-enter the story later.

I loved TIE fighter too, XvT and XA never really reached the same level of perfection- and I think I'll pass on spacebattles for the time being. SDN's more than enough, really.

Segment 4 should appear something around this time next week, hopefully.

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Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2006-12-05 07:39pm

Aaanndherewegoagain...not especially happy with this one. Too wordy, too much background to sort out before the next spot of violence.

The probationer cowered at the far end of the corridor, looking at the snarling, crackling mess.

A junction in the power web had overloaded, partially melted, and the work team was standing a safe distance away looking at it, working out what to do.

He was the only officer, it was his responsibility- he didn’t have the experience to point a petty officer at the problem. They were looking at him; he had to do something, he needed something nonconductive, he started to take his jumpsuit off-

‘Freeze, spacer.’ A large voice said from behind him. The eight strong work crew turned round to spot their hairy boss.

‘Ah, sir?’

‘You were about to try to do something heroic, weren’t you? At risk to your own life and limb, etcetera, did it for the ship, etcetera- and hoping to distract me from that your taskbooks are drekh.’

‘Commander, I was trying to shut the node down.’

‘The power distribution node has melted, probationer. Two other nodes failed when the compensators came back on line, and this one got too much load too fast to break circuit cleanly. The thin layer of contaminated carbon you were about to smear all over it wouldn’t have helped.’

As he talked, Mirannon was assessing the situation. The intermittent blue- white glare did very strange things to the look of his beard.

‘Where’s it arcing to?’ he asked the raw young lieutenant. There was something familiar about him, Mirannon knew he ought to recognise the young officer, how had he made himself noticeable? Eleven thousand in the engineering department. He couldn’t keep track of everybody.

‘Um, nearest main structural member?’

‘Correct, closing a circuit to the main reactor bulb, as you would have known rather than guessed if you were up to date.’

Mirannon turned to the leading member of the work team. ‘Tiffy, you are supposed to tell him when he’s being an idiot. When were you planning to stop him killing himself?’

‘Sorry, Commander.’ The leading mechanical engineering artificer said. ‘Didn’t realise anybody would do something that dumb. I’d have stopped him before he got to it.’

‘Procedure; you look, here,’ Mirannon pointed to a panel set on the wall and labelled with what the probationer thought were hieroglyphs, ‘for directions to the nearest routing station, go there and shut down the node.

The routing station’s droid brain should be smart enough to bypass around it, but you may have to do it manually if the network has been, say, recently ionized. Someone forgot about that, which is why this one has acquired a new function as a probie- zapper.’

‘Aye aye Sir, at once Sir-‘ the probationer turned to go.

‘Then,’ Mirannon fixed him to the spot with a shout, he wasn’t getting out of it that easily, ‘you go to the nearest DC bunker, draw a replacement, come back here and fit it, taking what’s left of that down to Main Machinery sub-2 for reconditioning. No, you’re not allowed to get electrocuted in the process.’

‘Chief, the tender commander’s here looking for you.’ One of his assistants called him.

Then send him to the sick bay for ointment, Mirannon briefly thought of saying but didn’t. He had just gone to the Damage Control bunker himself, pushing his way past a heap of newly returned portaconduits, to look for the next outstanding problem that merited his attention.

There were supposed to be limiters that kept the team that normally occupied the bunker focused on their area of duty; his access code overrode them and he called up a full ship status display.

‘Send him to DC starboard-45.’

Shield unit which had lost synch, blocking fire outgoing as well as incoming. That would be the next problem worth seeing to.

‘As well, chief, three stormtrooper squads called.’ The assistant was new, and didn’t believe the message he had been asked to pass on. ‘They said you must be bored, would you mind if they hunted you down and shot you?’

‘Business before pleasure.’ Mirannon replied.

Starboard- 45 was, as the name suggested, on the starboard side of the ship at Primary Hull Frame 45; what was primary was the frame, not the hull.

The system counted from forward aft, which meant that if Mirannon had his way they would need negative numbers. Secondary hull frames filled in the space between the primary frames, which were set one every ten metres, and the DC bunkers- a smaller ship would have had lockers- also performed the routinely useful function of zonal maintenance centres.

Ventral-40 was the main maintenance complex for the shuttle and dropship launch bays, Spinal-10 was oriented towards the light turbolaser and point defence laser turrets clustered thickly in the prow of the ship.

Dorsal- 130 was ion drive accelerator routine servicing, Spinal- 120 was a standing joke as it would actually have been inside the reactor bulb.

All of them were also hardened to act as disaster shelters if the ship broke up. Starboard-45 had no specific, only the general function.

The Sahallare’s commanding officer found Mirannon looking through a rack of storage cabinets, searching for parts. He had narrowed it down to one of two possibilities, the shield unit wasn’t responding to the fire window requests or it simply wasn’t receiving them, in both cases it was a control problem.

‘Engineer- Commander, um, Mirannon?’

‘Me.’ They were equal in rank.

‘What are you doing with my men? You sent them back and kept their equipment.’

‘We needed the hardware, not the wetware.’ Mirannon snapped back, before deciding to explain. ‘This ship’s been seriously damaged and undergone major repair six times. Every time, she moves further away from spec. Which in some respects is no bad thing.’ The Sahallare’s commander looked poleaxed.

‘Outer rim, nine years ago, one of those marginal species the republic knew about but could never be bothered bringing civilisation to. Nasty little battle, we lost most of our mid and after shielding.

The FleetTechServ unit we linked up with were too scared to hang around; they replaced or improv- mounted where they could, spent the minimum time on the job and ran for safe space.

We managed to repair and recondition some of the wreckage they left us with- six of twelve. Spare generators, spare mounts- we remounted them, shifted the panel layout, and your work crew didn’t know that. They had our shield units treating each other as incoming fire.’

‘Your ship looks like a wreck; naturally, my people assumed they knew best.’ The Sahallare’s commander stated, less arrogantly than he might after seeing some of the Black Prince’s engineering team in action.

‘The skipper has this idea about ships having identities and personalities. The computers, we prevent that, but the actual structure of the ship has enough complexity in it to show emergent behaviours. That and fuzzy thinking.’ The chief engineer shook his hairy head.

‘He reckons the ship’s a berserker, a warrior proud of her scars. I make sure they’re no more than skin deep- how much do you know about the design of the Imperator class?’

‘What are you going to tell me that I don’t know?’

‘Quite a lot, I suspect.’ Mirannon moved to the bunker’s compnode, called up the ship status display. ‘Main structure of an early model Imperator-I, hull number below, say, twenty-two hundred. What do you see?’

‘A tuning fork.’

‘We’ve got two separate sets of main ribs. One radiating forward from the ion drives, one radiating outward from the main reactor. Characteristic of a capital ship.’ The double keel arrangement was what made the ‘tuning fork’.

‘There up to sixty- five hundred, double destroyer- weight ribs, sixty-five to thirteen thousand eight hundred, single heavy tetra structure with the reactor in central suspension. Thirteen nine hundred upwards, light tetra structure.’

Smaller ship models appeared in the air next to the main model, the three named below, two more above; an original- spec Imperator, and a heavy destroyer-leader.

‘Tensor field generators.’ They appeared highlighted on the display. ‘Multiple, distributed, redundant. Relative inertial fields- same again. Power network- parallel redundant, barring operator brainfarts, anyway.

I don’t know what the fuss about the Executor was; by any reasonable standard, the I- boats were already super-destroyers. We forget just how much of a new breed the Imperators were at the time.

Not pack ships like the V-boats, both kinds, not near- cruiser flotilla leaders, but heavy independents. The half- written tac manual did strange things to the technology, like a virtual pocket battleship hull frame.

Sloppy design; they’re overbuilt, the Imperator-II’s are more elegant, more closely matched to the job- but every time we have a reason, I try to have Black Prince rebuilt closer to what the power systems and the hull frames can bear.’

‘The port side of the ship?’

‘Is as I want it; the problem is that I haven’t had the chance to rebuild the starboard side to match. We were in company with the Notitior, a Vic-II, chasing a fleeing Rebel MC-40.

The reb skimmed close to a neutron star trying to shake us, Notitior cut the corner too close, didn’t have the vee to get past. There was too much shear for a tractor to be any use, we had to get under her and physically ram her to push her out of danger, with enough momentum to carry us clear if we did tear off an engine.

We were badly but not essentially damaged, I took the opportunity for a major reconstruction; you noticed the portside turret line?’

‘You’ve moved them.’

‘Echeloned them outwards so they can all bear directly ahead. Why the Imperator wasn’t built like that to begin with I don’t know. Heavier brim trench weaponry, some of it our own recycled and some of it removed from the enemy.

All of it stable enough and well enough served in use that it should have been set up that way. The ruined look serves efficiently as camouflage.’

‘One other thing I wondered about. In the MCR, I overheard one of your juniors saying the stormtroopers wanted to hunt you down and shoot you?’

‘Inside joke. Five thousand of my people and the legion were involved in boarding a Procurator battlecruiser, and the crew and the legion have covered each others’ backs since.

That’s just their way of telling me they think I’m pushing myself too hard, that my judgement’s going to start to suffer unless I get some rest. They might be right, I’m not doing anything a competent PO Artificer wouldn’t. I have more than enough deputies to do it all.’

Which meant he wouldn’t stop for another four hours or so. ‘That was fun, that day. Did you know a Jedi lightsabre is based on the same technology as a cutting torch?’

‘No…can’t say that I did.’

‘High density plasma held in a stasis field…One half trained idiot and two quarter trained idiots, attacking me, an Imperial Starfleet engineer, in a starship engine complex, with glorified cutting torches. I think their plan was to get me to laugh so hard my brain would sieze up. Didn’t work.

Ultimately, I think,’ the display of the destroyer- leader, a V-sterned outline with a mid- mounted bridge tower, expanded, ‘I can bring this ship close to the functionality of a Proelium destroyer squadron flagship.’

‘That’s ambitious. Very ambitious.’ The tender’s commander said, impressed.

‘Of course, if you spread this story around, it will sound like the sleep- deprived ravings of a man who runs a ship that looks as if it tried to run away to the circus.’

The captain’s ready room, Lennart at the head of the table, Brenn and LCdr Mirhak-Ghulej in attendance. Mirhak-Ghulej was a near- human, skin quite literally the colour of the metal bronze, not exactly standard imperial officer material. That only made him all the more zealous.

‘At ease. Captain Dordd got out alive,’ Lennart said, not entirely seriously, ‘and now I need a new executive officer. Sector Fleet has failed to specify their own candidate for the job, which means it’s in house. Mirhak-Ghulej, you’re the outstanding officer in the deck division, Brenn you have seniority.

The other factors I have to bear in mind made the choice.’ He paused for a moment, watching them react. Brenn was suspicious of Mirhak-Ghulej.

‘We are not the most average ship in the Star Fleet. We do our best for the Empire, and that best sometimes turns out to be more and stranger than the Empire expects.

One unofficial position in the chain of command is what you could loosely call the ‘Ambassador of normality’; someone whose job is daily routine and established norms, who can remind the rest of us how much, or how little, the fleet expects.

Ielamathrum Brenn, do you think that you could fit that description?’ Lennart’s tone made it clear he didn’t think so.

‘If you don’t think I’m up to the job-‘

‘Executive officer, you could do; straight man, no. Barring accident, your next posting- I will try and find a spot for you in local sector fleet, as commander of a strike cruiser or frigate- class starship.’ That looked like a mixed blessing to Brenn.

‘Lieutenant- Commander Mirhak- Ghulej, you achieve your efficiency record at a price; you’re the most hated man on this ship. There have been a long string of practical jokes played on you, some of them rough enough to justify an assault charge.

I will back up one of my officers; but there is a lot you could do to reduce your status as a target.’

‘Sir, I am not going to hide. I want things done the right way, the Imperial way, and if some of them can’t hack that, they don’t belong in His Majesty’s service.’ Mirhak-Ghulej could have temporised, but that wasn’t his style.

‘Let me rephrase that. When I said “barring accident”, I meant “if you get fragged”. It has happened to unpopular officers before. Seldom on this ship, mainly because I also discourage my officers from offering the crew that much provocation.’ Hazing was routine, but generally not above Lieutenant’s rank.

‘Then may I respectfully inquire of my commanding officer why I have been selected for a job that he has no intention of allowing me to perform, Sir!’ Mirhak- Ghulej replied- forcing the issue, trying to win himself a free hand.

‘Because, first, you were the previous incumbent’s recommendation, and second, if I move Brenn up, than I have to find a new navigator in addition.’ Lennart was only half in jest.

‘You have to recognise, and punish, infractions of discipline; you also have to recognise, and reward, competence and dedication. If you can only do one of those things, then you’re right; you shouldn’t be allowed to perform the job. I think you can do better, and you’re trying to snow me.’

‘Captain, I admit to being orthodox. I admit to following the regulations, to the letter.’ He obviously intended to go on.

‘Follow them to their spirit instead, you’ll have a better life.’ Lennart said, apparently mildly.

‘Discipline has to be maintained. That means enforcement.’ Which was the party line.

‘What do you want from a career in the Navy?’ Lennart asked the metal- faced, impassive lieutenant-commander.


‘Some of us are in this to see the galaxy, some of us because our homeworlds are pestilential hellholes, some of us for the excitement and some for the money, some for the skills they intend to pick up to carry them into civilian life.

I joined the Republic fleet to defend justice and right- and when Palpatine proclaimed the empire, I took one look at the ship’s turbolaser batteries and three milliseconds to decide which side of them I wanted to stay on. How about you?’

‘I don’t understand. I would need a reason to not serve the Empire.’ The near- human said. ‘Every loyal, good and true citizen should look for a way to put their talents-‘

‘You sound like a COMPNOR recruitment poster.’ Lennart said, grumpily. ‘I’ve read your file, read your reports, examined your defaulters, and there is only one hint of an actual individual I’ve found under it all; you must really, really want to be here, to submerge whatever you are so thoroughly under the official position.’

‘I just want to be part of something greater than myself, to stamp out the forces of evil and chaos, sir.’ He said, utterly, impossibly deadpan; nobody could come that close to the official line, he had to be a rebel agent, Brenn was thinking.

‘Good for you.’ Lennart said dryly. ‘Let me remind you of something; upwards of eighty percent of Imperial defectors to the Alliance were under threat of disciplinary action at the moment of their defection.’ Lennart wasn’t making that statistic up.

‘All that proves, Captain, is that the system works. We weed out those unfit to help maintain peace and order.’

‘Or create them. Treat a man as a criminal, he might as well become one in earnest. You can manufacture rebellion.’ Lennart paused for a moment.

‘We’re both over- reacting. If you were that tactless, you wouldn’t be up for promotion. This crew scores well above average on most benchmark inspections, they need to be led rather than driven. You have to inspire affection, not for yourself, but for what you represent- at the very least, don’t piss them off.’

‘Sir.’ Mirhak- Ghulej’s face was expressionless.

‘Test case for you; Group Captain Olleyri. O-equivalent higher in rank, beneath you in chain of command. He takes over fighter direction when he’s not flying himself. We have controllers for that. Concerned about his pilots, yes, but isn’t that concern more efficiently served by letting those whose job it is get on with it?’

‘I see, Captain. I’ll take it up with him at once.’

‘When you’ve done that, tell him to come and see me. Second test case; Turret- master Aldrem. Exceeding his orders, this time.’ The second shot on the YT.

‘He exceeded; he succeeded. What’s to punish?’

Lennart nodded. He was wrong about that. ‘Leave ship operations to me.’

Three quarters of an hour later, Olleyri turned up in the ready room.

‘Ah, good, come in. The new XO talked to you?’

‘If he ever tries to take this ship away from you on account of your disregard for uniform regulations, don’t be surprised.’ Olleyri wore a uniform that was almost as wrecked as Lennart’s; less inherently out of place, but it had been rumpled, crunched up and sweated into many, many times.

The starfighter force commander was in his late thirties, average height but painfully thin, as if nervous tension had shaken all of the fat off him. His hair was going grey from forward back, and his cap should have been shot for dereliction of duty.

‘We need someone like him.’ Lennart declared.

‘That far up the chain of command?’ the pilot shook his head. ‘What’s the problem?’

‘Generally, what we expect to happen next. I’ll hold another round table on that one. Specifically, your squadrons’ antiship work, and Epsilon squadron.

They only had two flights of even average quality fighters; the small ships did the majority of the work for the rebels, Gamma tried to counter but they were improvising. The Hunters could function as light strike fighters, if the pilots knew attack doctrine.

Epsilon’s the other problem, and they may be able to solve each other.’

‘They did well.’ Olleyri said.

‘Because they had an experienced attack pilot in charge. How much did you have to tell them to do?’

‘Virtually nothing. Rahandravell led that one, not the new man- the command situation there could become a problem.’ The group captain said, thinking about open billets elsewhere in the wing.

‘I checked; Jandras is an Interceptor pilot, used to light, fast fighters. He would be perfect for Gamma, except that he’s no attack pilot. Franjia could do either, but giving her Gamma would leave a prime fighter-bomber squadron in the hands of an effective rookie.

The best long term solution would be to keep him in Starwings long enough to learn the trade, and then give him the Hunters and let Franjia take over Epsilon. If they can work together.’

‘I’ll fold Gamma and Theta together in the meantime, break out the reserve Hunters and rebuild Theta when we have a chance. I’ll talk to both of them.’ Olleyri decided.

‘Good. And- Ol? Do as many sim exercises as you like as a controller, just not when there’s live shot in the air.’ Both of them knew that he was old for a pilot, his reflexes were slowing, and his next posting was likely to be as a senior controller on a carrier or battlewagon.

‘Yee-hah.’ Aron shouted, vaulting out of the cockpit of the landed Starwing.

‘We were lucky.’ Franjia called across to him.

‘How do you mean that?’ he had the sense to ask.

‘We exploited chaos; coming with a formed unit, still able to manoeuvre, into the middle of a furball. Someone else on our side, Gamma and Theta squadrons, paid a high price to create that chaos.’ She reminded him.

‘Yeah.’ Aron realised. ‘Beta lost two fighters, one pilot, Gamma lost five fighters, three pilots, Theta…they got raped.’

‘Seven fighters, five pilots. We’re claiming twenty- five out of thirty- two Rebels, all pilots casualties- sixteen dead, nine prisoner. A freighter and a customs corvette. My personal score is two, yours three. Beta claim the majority of the kills.’

He looked across at the panel below her cockpit. That would take her personal score to thirty-one; and his to twenty- four.

‘We’re part of the Bomb Group; on an anti- ship strike, we are the ones who make the mess to give the TIE Twin-Tubs their chance.’ She meant TIE Bombers. ‘Today was a good day. Other days are not so good.’ She was back in ice maiden mode.

Yrd was waiting for them on the pad. ‘Squadron Leader, Franjia.’ Did he mean that the way it sounded? Aron glared at him. ‘The group captain wants to see you both. Alpha squadron ready room.’

‘Immediately?’ she asked.

‘That was the impression I got, yes.’

‘All right-‘ she began.

‘Flight Lieutenants.’ Aron called them both to order. ‘Adjutant, lead us to Alpha’s ready room.’

Yrd looked at her, she nodded, he led them along the flight bay, up, through Epsilon’s bay, and through a monochrome maze of storage, access, blast-trap and function chambers. It was, in fact, a shortcut. Aron thought it was a runaround.

Grey, black, white walls- once the surrealistic sight of a stormtrooper standing against a white bulkhead, all that was visible a pair of eyes, a few black patches of bodyglove and a blaster.

Alpha’s bay was laid out the same way; the decoration was different, a full holovid wall in the rec room- half a dozen pilots using it as a shooting gallery- more flash, more chrome. Their adjutant, who flew as Alpha Two, waved them into the ready room.

‘You did well out there.’ Olleyri told them. ‘Both of you.’

‘Sir?’ Aron stalled.

‘I was in flight ops, and I can practically hear the air between you crackling now. You wouldn’t be fighter pilots if you didn’t have more ego than was good for you.

Jandras, you did well to give the main responsibility to the person best fitted to discharge it. Rahandravell; you picked that responsibility up so fast it needed relative-inertials.’

‘Sir, I saw what had to be done, and asked for permission to do it.’ Franjia replied, stonefaced.

‘Indeed.’ Skeptically. ‘Can’t have a squadron with two squadron leaders.’

‘What do you want, have us strap into a pair of Starwings and fight it out?’ Aron asked, aggressively.

‘That would be one solution. The winner gets the cost of the loser’s fighter stopped out of their pay.’ Olleyri suggested. Both of them stopped to think just how much a Starwing cost.

‘Why are you assuming there’s a problem, Sir?’ Franjia said, sounding utterly disingenuous.

‘There will be. You led the squadron, not Jandras.’

‘I know why the Captain didn’t want to promote me after Ezirrn got killed, and with all due respect, he’s wrong. I may be a little unstable off duty, in the cockpit is the one place where everything becomes clear again.’ She said, humbly, sincerely.

‘You haven’t been appointed to run the squadron. I have.’ Aron told her.

‘Peace, the pair of you. This is the plan; Gamma squadron needs a new boss as well. They tried to fly as light strike fighters and got hammered for it. Jandras, you’re going to move from Epsilon to Gamma as soon as you know enough about the bomb trade to lead them as a fighter/attack unit. Rahandravell, you move into Epsilon command slot when that happens.’

‘Easier said than done.’ She said.

‘You mean I’m to understudy one of my own flight commanders?’ Aron shouted, at the same time.

‘Yes and yes.’ Olleyri outshouted both of them.

Several tense but uneventful hours later; the command team, including Mirannon this time, gathered in the ready room beneath the bridge. Mirhak- Ghulej looked as if he wanted to have a team of cleaners following the chief around and sanitising everything he touched, if not the man himself.

‘I tempted fate last time,’ Lennart began, ‘by saying there was no way the Alliance could get a force large enough to be a threat to us together faster than we could be ready to meet them. They tried anyway. Gethrim, what shape are we in- and how much rest have you had?’

‘A couple of hours. A Stormtrooper spec- ops team found me and threatened to stun me to sleep unless I hit the sack. They said you authorised it.’ It was impossible to tell if he was grinning or not.

‘I authorised no such thing.’ Lennart said, wondering whose idea that had been.

‘They’re getting sneakier every day.’

‘Counter-terrorism ops.’ Lennart said. ‘Ask them to think sneakily enough to outguess Rebel saboteurs, you end up with a lot of clean, shiny white helmets with warped, twisted minds inside- be happy they work for us.’

‘If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have called their bluff. Which proves that they had a point.’ The engineer admitted.

‘If this ship was an orgophone, she would have twenty- five keys out of tune. Engines are fine, compensators- we’re now clear up to two thousand ‘g’, the RIF fields start interrupting each other after that.’

‘We can maneuver, but we can’t chase.’ Lennart stated.

‘Tensor fields are fine. Stasis generators are twitchy. I’m not even going to try to explain what happened to the number five hyperdrive motivator.’ A lightbulb went on in Mirannon’s head; that was where he had come across the probationer before.

‘We can microjump with ten minutes warning, not less time, no more distance. Shields, weapons, interactions between, ninety- six percent confidence. Stores and parts, seventy- four percent.’

‘The other four percent?’ Lennart meant the interactions.

‘Bow and bow- ventral shields are still up to 70ms slow to accept fire window requests. Two more hours to find and fix.’

‘Guns, work round that if you have to.’ Lennart ordered. ‘The rebel survivors have been interrogated; they were supposed to be part of a combined strike. From the lack of laser fire in the area, I can only assume they’ve gone back to the drawing board.’

‘Details?’ Brenn asked. Wanting to show he was still part of the ship.

‘They actually screwed it up. The fighters were supposed to hit in time to draw the local defence wing and system reaction squadrons out, with the freighters and corvette appearing five minutes later.

Instead it was barely forty seconds. They cut their timing and positioning too close, we got more warning from the bow shock, and had more formed units outside the melee and able to react, than we should have.

They planned to bomb, not sieze, the V-150s, that would open the way for assault ships that would proceed as we expected.’

‘What went wrong?’

‘Com procedure. Whoever was in charge of the regional command units set it up so that a failure to communicate would be taken as an abort signal. We have the local force base, fallback points, regional command’s rendezvous- that’ll be changed by now.

Sector Fleet have been informed, and they intend to deploy a Demolisher frigate; they’ve asked us for heavy fighter support.

The only reason not to- gut feeling. The primary threat hasn’t gone away. It was a well planned strike at a valuable objective; I think they’ll have at least one more try before they write it off. As usual, decision is mine, I want your input towards it.’

‘Are we still looking at a light to medium warship strike?’ Guns asked.

‘No indication that any of the strategic reserve MC-80s are involved. Almost a shame.’ Lennart grinned fiendishly. ‘Bulk carrier and various Republic leftovers and defectors. They never shot at our shields, the rebel survivors know that we have jammers and one main turret operative,’

‘Reminds me- Aldrem’s in sickbay.’ Guns said. Reproachfully.

‘Sleep deprivation and hallucinations, yes?’ Lennart assumed, correctly. ‘He did a lot to frighten the rebels off. It was a damn’ good shot, damn badly timed. Drilling him until he dropped was a suitable punishment.’ Lennart stated, for the benefit of Mirhak-Ghulej.

‘On the other hand, several of the rebels had a bounty on their heads. He’ll get the taker’s share of that. Deployment- either operation could be a non- event. Worst case; both go live simultaneously.’

‘Demolisher’s mainly a light carrier type.’ Brenn said. ‘Any help going, they need it more than we do.’

‘Squadron of Bombers, half squadron of Interceptors, two and a half of ln.’ Olleyri reported. ‘Decent troop complement, more than enough to cover that side. Send two of ours- Alpha and Epsilon. We can call Beta, Gamma, Delta and Nu if we need reinforcements. How much of that bounty goes to my pilots?’

‘Usual split.’ One quarter to the personnel directly involved, one quarter split between the indirectly, one quarter to command- primarily Lennart and Olleyri in this case- and one quarter to the ship. ‘How’s the slush fund doing?’ he asked Brenn.

It was nominally the paymaster’s job to manage and the XO’s to oversee, but Brenn was best up to date.

‘Pretty healthy.’ It was used for, amongst other things, bailing out sailors caught short of the law on shore leave. ‘We have enough to, for instance, pick up three squadrons of Rebel- type fighters on the black market.’

‘What an extraordinarily sneaky idea.’ Lennart liked the sound of it, but could see the problem. ‘Is there such a thing as a trustworthy Hutt? If you ever find one, we could triple the slush fund by selling the story.’

‘We can welsh on a deal with more gigatonnage than they can.’ Brenn stated.

‘Leave extreme infiltration aside for the moment- make that very far aside. What more do we need from the Sahallare?’

‘Motivator five. I’m leaving it to last because of the stasis generators, and so I can get the maximum amount of use out of the test rigs I borrowed from them.’ Mirannon said.

‘We can jump missing as many as three motivators, we have that redundancy.’ Brenn, who should know, said. ‘How safe is this indescribable failure, if that’s what’s stopping us?’

‘The long version.’ Mirannon pulled a datapad covered in scrawled equations out of a pocket and threw it to Brenn.

‘Short version- the thing partially activated when we powered it back up. No tensor and stasis fields to anchor it to the rest of the ship, it went acausal, wobbled across the light barrier, and wrapped itself around it’s own world line. Damn thing turned itself into a closed timelike curve.

Useless- totally self- referential- and an anchor is exactly how it’s behaving. We can’t hyper cleanly with it on board. Straightforward replacement job, totally unrepairable with the available tools and time, only dangerous to itself so far.’

‘I love that ‘so far’. Get rid of it.’ Lennart ordered. ‘I want the tender ready to leave in a hurry if she has to. Ready Epsilon and Alpha squadrons. From 0445C on, we go on alert stations.’
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2009-11-08 05:33pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Knife » 2006-12-05 09:11pm

Mine eyes, the goggles do nothing.

Wanted to read it, the horrible spacing prevented me. I'd suggest line and a half to two lines with more paragraphs, but that's just me.
They say, "the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots." I suppose it never occurred to them that they are the tyrants, not the patriots. Those weapons are not being used to fight some kind of tyranny; they are bringing them to an event where people are getting together to talk. -Mike Wong

But as far as board culture in general, I do think that young male overaggression is a contributing factor to the general atmosphere of hostility. It's not SOS and the Mess throwing hand grenades all over the forum- Red

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Post by DrMckay » 2006-12-06 08:19pm

good story, very real, well-drawn characters. enjoy the board.
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself. Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards."
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Post by Raesene » 2006-12-07 04:22am

DrMckay wrote:good story, very real, well-drawn characters. enjoy the board.
as the quote, and update more often :wink:

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"All you have to do is to look at Northern Ireland, [...] to see how seriously the religious folks take "thou shall not kill. The more devout they are, the more they see murder as being negotiable." George Carlin

"We need to make gay people live in fear again! What ever happened to the traditional family values of persecution and lies?" - Darth Wong
"The closet got full and some homosexuals may have escaped onto the internet?"- Stormbringer

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Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2006-12-13 08:40pm

Pasting in in 1.5li spacing didn't work- older version of Word- so I've broken up the flow a bit with more spaces, I hope it's a bit easier on the eye. I had originally hoped to do both battle sequences concurrently, cut-scening back and forth from one to the other, but it got out of hand, so the ship vs. ship will have to follow later.
I've tried to hit compromise values for fighters' effectiveness- worth having around but not too uber.
Yes, there is a plot arc, although it isn't going to be obvious from the worm's eye view of some of the characters, and yes, there are going to be force users along later. This action is going to cause certain people to notice them.

Ch 5
Most of the gantries were still, to the naked eye and the casual scan, in place; from the outside, Black Prince still looked like a ship under major repair.

From the inside, fine tuning, trials, adjustment and compensation still to do, but the rough work was done and she was spoiling for trouble. Some of her people were, anyway.

Two fighter squadrons floated out of the bay, formed up, confirmed their hyperdrive coordinates. They would rendezvous with the sector force warship at their target.

Olleyri’s idea; look like part of the sector reserve, preserve surprise. Which he had a vested interest in, because he was leading the formation.

He had taken his most awkward problem with him; Epsilon squadron. It was Delta’s turn, but Epsilon needed it more, and Olleyri would be happier to have them covering his tail anyway.

Delta were more by the book, Epsilon, under Tellick’s command, had treated the book as a launch pad rather than an objective.

That was what was wrong with too many Imperial pilots, according to the Group Captain; they weren’t crazy enough. Too many flight colleges, and the one attached to Carida was the worst, turned out calm, thoughtful, disciplined, obedient servants of the Empire.

In the cockpit, a servant- of anything- was dead meat. Olleyri wanted predators.

That was one of the reasons the rebels depended so heavily on fighters- their propaganda appealed more to, and they got more of, the sort of people that made good fighter pilots.

Command thought it was a materiel problem. Olleyri had no problem with them thinking that, as long as it kept the factories trying to one-up the Alliance by turning out things like his Defender.

Navigation on the Black Prince was plotting their jump for them, and as they did, the Group Captain kept an ear open for crosschattter between fighters- especially, between Epsilon One and Five.

He had told them the truth largely so they would think there was something else behind it; they would clash, and drive each other on.

He had more hopes of Rahandravell, actually. If, from the death of her lover, she picked up the right dose of cold fury in her heart, she could easily reach as high as Wing command, perhaps succeed him when he moved on to a carrier group. Treating Jandras as a problem might do the same for him.

Far off in the inner system, there was a hyperdrive- entry swirl; light hours away, they were seeing effects relayed by Black Prince’s main domes.

‘Group Captain, that’s the Demolisher Raduvej away; your course mark is ten seconds from…mark.’ Flight control announced.

‘Alpha and Epsilon, you heard Flight; lock in, and activate in four…three…two…one.’ Twenty- four fighters went to hyperspeed.

On board, the crew were now standing rotating one in three watches. Some features of a Star Destroyer’s internal layout were immovable.

Others were not, and one of Lennart’s and Mirannon’s reconstructs had been about breaking up the quarters block in the superstructure and moving the crew closer to their duty stations.

It meant that the forward turbolaser crews no longer got asked to do the three minute mile; that was the most extreme example, but it had improved readiness and response times. The fifteen crew of Port-4 shared a bunk room immediately beside their turret assembly.

‘That’s better. The walls are grey again.’ Aldrem was sitting on the edge of his bunk, blanket draped over his shoulders, steaming mug of dwarf dice-melon juice in his hands. He had stopped twitching.

‘We had them repainted green.’ Suluur said, in just the right comforting-a-sick-friend tones. Aldrem took one hand off the mug, held it up in front of him, squinted past it, and gave Suluur a very black look.

‘How do you two do it?’ Aldrem asked. ‘Stay up.’

‘Simple.’ Suluur said. ‘You were the one that got the blame, so the drill was tailored to hit you hardest.’

‘Changing power output at least one shot in three?’ Fendon objected to that.

‘I don’t get it. Punishment and reward. Reward without punishment, stang yes, but not likely. Punishment without reward, I could at least get my head around. Neither means they’ve lost the file again. But both?’ he shook his head, a bad move. ‘Urgh. At least the space spiders have stopped crawling across the inside of my eyeballs.’

‘No, they were alien bioships. That was part of the sim. You nearly melted sub-2 shooting at them, remember?’

‘One windup is enough.’ Aldrem told them. Suluur put the holoprojector remote down. ‘How much does a good therapist cost?’

‘By the day or by the hour? We’re on wartime running, fat chance of getting anywhere near one.’ Suluur was using a very loose definition of the term ‘therapist’.

Brenn had wanted to see Motivator Five for himself; Mirannon took him there. The motivator unit was shielded, within it’s own armoured sphere; it covered two decks, the casing was bolted directly to one of the main ribs of the hull frame, and there was what looked like the mother of all scanning units bolted to the sphere.

‘Look at it with the naked eye, all you’ll get is a migraine.’ Mirannon advised him. ‘Use the scanner.’

‘How did we get this exotic an accident?’ Brenn asked, looking at the scanner, trying to work out how to make it go.

‘Because the built in factors of safety, and the active and passive safety systems, prevent all the simple ones.’ Mirannon pointed out.

‘Millions of things could go wrong, if we were daft enough to let them. This should have been preventable. My headache is going to be working out how this one managed to slip through.’

‘You call one of the motivators turning itself into a solipsistic time machine simple and preventable?’ Brenn said, not believing it. ‘I’d hate to see your version of a complex problem.’

‘Trying to fix it.’ Mirannon said, darkly.

‘Is there any use to it as it is? Anything we can do with it?’

‘It’s causality’s a knot; I’m still trying to work out what can be safely done to it. The only think I can think of is to cut it loose, crate it up, leave it drifting and laugh at the Rebels as they try to pick it up and run with it.’

Brenn looked up. ‘That has potential. Captain wanted rid of it, so-‘

‘Most of the through-deck hard patches are already open. Two minutes to jettison, thirty to fit and calibrate a new motivator to usability, ninety more to finish sorting the stasis fields, three days of juggling calibrations to get a rating above point three nine. Then another ten days of systems integration. Joy.’ Mirannon grumbled.

He was protesting more than he otherwise would have precisely because so many of the systems that were giving him trouble were his own adaptations. ‘The threat?’

‘Not yet but soon, I think. There are other Starfleet ships in the system, nothing bigger than a frigate though, most of them out around Ghorn-IV and V. You’re sure we can turn this into a glorified mine?’ Brenn asked.

‘Sure. DMR looked at something like it.’ He motioned Brenn back, out of the way of the work crews that were disconnecting the scanner, unbonding the sphere from the hull spar.

‘What do you have to do with the Department of Military Research?’ Brenn asked, intrigued.

‘The top twenty of my academy conversion class were offered the option.’ Mirannon revealed. ‘We were shown a few things, allowed to guess a few more, got to talk to some people.

Then we were addressed by one of its’ section heads, and that put almost all of us off the idea. You might have heard of him, he’s famous now. A guy called Lemelisk.’

‘You met the chief designer of the Death Star?’ Brenn could barely believe it. He blurted it out.

‘Yes, and I’m surprised anybody thought it was necessary. His nervous twitch alone could have cracked the crust of most planets… Only two of us thought they could cope with that much pressure. They stopped him giving conferences after that, and neither of the two from my class have been heard of since.’

‘Navigator, Gunnery Officer, report to the bridge.’ The PA blared out.

‘That sounds like things starting to happen.’ Brenn advised Mirannon. ‘You don’t have a superlaser of your own hidden somewhere around here, do you-‘ he noticed a twinkle in the hairy engineer’s eye. ‘If you do, I don’t want to know.’

‘I’ll release this and close up the hard patches.’ Mirannon gestured to the sphere, now held in a tractor- clamp. ‘Tell me if we’ve got time to fit the replacement.’

‘Right.’ Brenn said, running for the access corridor and the electrobuggy he had used to get here.

Lennart was in the starboard gallery; he waved Brenn and Guns across to the console he was standing over.
‘Does this smell as fishy to you as it does to me?’ he called up a received message. It was a datadump, made through moderate haze.

‘HIMS Syirdraev to Black Prince, we are reconnaissance conversion Strike Cruiser, being pursued by a rebel hunter. Intruder is larger, we are unable to engage, respectfully suggest we lead him past your position. Is your status sufficient to engage?’

‘Syirdraev, that’s a hunting lizard, isn’t it? They must be reusing names, that should be KDY class 1000?’ Guns theorised.

‘That’s a Syurdraev, with an ‘I’ it’s a type of solar prominence, makes her a Nebulon-B.’ Brenn stated. Even with all the galaxy’s languages to draw on, there were barely enough words to name an entire navy. ‘What’s the rebel?’

Lennart called up the sensor footage. ‘Fishy as a Hutt’s rotting grandmother.’ Brenn realised.

The image was a computer reconstruction of what was going on- the ships were too far away for tactical sensors. The Imperial- or the one with the green blip, anyway- was a heavily modified- looking Strike Cruiser.

Such things happened to ships converted to recon, and it was a logical choice, take advantage of the Loronar design’s modularity; there were supposed to be a handful.

The professed Rebel was an old Starfleet Fulgur- class Star Frigate; five hundred and sixty metres, as near to an egg shape as it was a wedge, and engine bells almost the size of an Imperator’s.

The Fulgurs lived up to their name; they had an oversized reactor, too, and not enough weaponry to take advantage of it, nor enough shielding, but speed they had and to spare.

‘Do they really think we’re that stupid?’ Brenn said, scornfully.

‘You see something in this I don’t.’ Guns said.

‘Naturally; you’re interested in how ships shoot, he’s interested in how they move. A Strike Cruiser doesn’t have the power to outrun a Fulgur, however heavily modified it is. They only adjust so far. That is a pair of Rebel warships running a fairly interesting bluff.’ Lennart decided. ‘I think we pretend to take the bait.’

‘They don’t leave us many options, we couldn’t catch either even in full condition.’ Brenn said. ‘Fifteen minutes and a massive overrunning vector, unless they start stunting.’

‘They have to do something to us when they get here; they will. Tell Mirannon to get the replacement motivator in and the hardpatches sealed up as soon as may be.’

External com channel; ‘Black Prince Actual to Syirdraev; We are well below optimum condition, but an undergunned fast frigate we can cope with. Herd her in. Black Prince out.’

‘You’re sure you’re not overdoing that?’ Brenn asked.

‘Fairly sure, they are theatre command types. If they compared notes with the Mon Evarra, they’ll know we’re lying, but if they had I’d expect them to bring something bigger.

Right now we only have logic to go on, System Defence Command isn’t necessarily going to respond well to that so send them an advisory, but warn the Sahallare and the Golan.’ He told the comtech. ‘Sound General Quarters.’

The coordinates the fighter group had been given for the Rebel local force base were a huge chunk of snow and ice far out in the cometary halo of a system called Thebune.

It was the next stop over on the civilian nav maps, which described the mainworld as a flourishing residential planet, ecologically managed, pleasant scenery, rich and diverse culture. Instinctively Aron was suspicious of it.

Alpha and Epsilon squadrons emerged from hyperspace in loose combat formation, close enough for mutual support, far enough apart for sensor parallax, not too close to the target= enough room and time to react if there was anything waiting for them. The frigate- carrier Raduvej was far ahead. Well within the jaws of the trap.

‘One, Five.’ Franjia called him; infuriatingly professional. ‘Capital ship targets. One large, two medium signatures.’ Expecting him to pass it up the chain of command, becoming her messenger in effect.

The Starwing’s sensor suite was more complex than a TIE’s; there was a lot he couldn’t do with it, and he resolved that he would master it if it killed him. Or her.

‘Classify them. Alpha One, we have hostile capital ships.’

‘I see them.’ The iceballs were very large and very, very far apart; the nearest was a cosmic hairsbreadth at a hundred thousand kilometres, that and this slowly revolving round a common centre. The far comet had a ship half- hidden behind it, reactive scramblers returning nonsense to any active search.

Passive slowly pieced it together- ‘Lead, main rebel target is Neutron Star class. Auxilliary carrier.’

The Neutron Star class were- once shorn of the sales blurb- basically protected cargo ships.

Armed and defended to resist piracy, the empire had retired them from fleet support, and was compulsory-purchasing and breaking up all the civilian examples it could- because when they were taken, the Alliance turned them into their equivalent of the Demolisher.

Everything about them was improvised, it was impossible to predict what any given example was capable of.

Scanning resolved two squadrons of T-wings, one squadron of X, one squadron of old V-wings. Interception heavy.

‘They haven’t brought enough bombers. Those medium signatures, probe for them, they’ll be the ship killers.’ Olleyri said. He led the formation towards the Raduvej to support her, at Starwing speeds.

‘Forty-eight kills waiting to happen.’ Alpha Two said.

‘That would be pleasure, this is business. Rebs wouldn’t be here in force unless they thought they could take us.’

Smenge, Aron thought. A rebel ambush on his second day on the job. All of his pilots sounded insultingly calm, and he was probably getting paranoid.

Olleyri seemed to be deliberately putting him and Epsilon Five against each other; he’d have to talk to her about that. If they survived.

‘Got it.’ Franjia said. ‘Nebulon-B, and one unknown. Fighters moving to escort- Whoah.’

This Neutron Star, for instance, in addition to it’s fighters had an extremely powerful main jammer unit. It snapped on and flooded a cone of space centred on the Raduvej with howling distortion, paralysing comms and navigation, crippling sensors.

‘That’s one of ours. Heavyweight Imperial EW equipment.’ Rahandravell reported.

‘If we could stop the rebs raiding our dustbins, this war would be over in a month.’ Olleyri grumbled, thinking and bitching at the same time. What were they doing that blindness could serve?

Making it look like they were covering a retreat- while they were aiming for an Imperial scalp to hang on their wall.

Raduvej would press on, doctrine said so. She would send her fighter wing after the jamming, and they were outclassed.

Somewhere in the haze, the frigate-carrier’s fighters were tangling with whatever the Rebels had put up; they could hear bursts of com chatter, rebel and Imperial, and it sounded as if the Rebels were winning.

Undisciplined babble, first names, nicknames, kill claims. Then a pair of X-wings cut across the formation’s nose.

Epsilon had no shot; Aron broke into a climbing turn, Franjia into a dive, banking to catch the Rebs as they went by- if Alpha left anything of them.

The rebels reacted fast; one of them turned along the formation, firewalled his engines, and raced into the haze with a cone of green light snapping at his heels.

The other tried to sideslip and twist under, Olleyri caught him and crippled him with a snapshot quad, rolled onto his tail and finished him. Alpha Two ordered third flight to chase the fleeing rebel scout; they went to full throttle and peeled off after the X-wing.

Ten seconds later two proton torpedoes came out of the scrambling, followed by a flare that showed through. Epsilon scattered to avoid the torps; the rebel had deadfired them back down his line of flight, trying to catch one of the Avengers, missed. They got him.

‘Hexagon formation, Alpha, Epsilon, we’re going in. They’ve got a cruiser sector jammer.’

‘And he wants to make me ask you for an explanation.’ Aron said to Franjia.

‘It covers a small slice of sky. We don’t need to get close, we need to surround it, but the easiest way to do that is-‘

‘Get close.’ Aron finished her sentence.

‘First pass, target the jammer. Alpha strafe, Epsilon torps.’ Olleyri ordered.

Epsilon’s three flights were supposed to spread out into a triangle, one towards and two away from the enemy; Alpha would do the same in reverse, the two Avenger flights forward and flanking, the Defenders above and behind, ready to react.

The Rebel jamming seemed to be affecting their own systems; both sides got an unpleasant surprise. For the rebel, two squadrons of Imperial heavy fighters appearing at point blank. For the Imperials, the carrier’s close escort. It was the Nebulon- B frigate.

The Avengers broke and evaded, twisting and dancing across the sky; the Starwings couldn’t be that drastic. They needed to keep sensor spots on it to get a torpedo lock. They could pitch and yaw, but not much more.

‘With me, on my target.’ Olleyri ordered, the Defenders peeled off, dived under Aron’s flight and raced ahead, the Avengers followed him.

He was aiming for the main sensor array; when the frigate got it’s act together, it would start group- firing, directing all it’s guns against one target at a time, swamping them in fire- two seconds a fighter, if that. Knocking out central sensors would at least paralyse central fire control.

The Starwings were bucketing through streamers of red light; if there was one thing Aron knew about the Starwing, it was how to throw it around.

He spiralled right- Two went the other way- faked reversing the roll, the rebel predictors shot well ahead of him, he twisted inside one line of fire, rolling and pulling up; had to slam the stick forward to get out of the way of Epsilon Four who had swung wide.

Epsilon were all doing the same; jinking and weaving- there were hits; one of the turbolasers put a bolt into Eleven, their shields were good but not quite that good. He fireballed.

Three took one of the defence lasers and lost shields, Six got tingled- then the Rebels realised they should be worrying more about Alpha squadron.

Olleyri went in suicidally close, trusting to his fighter’s agility to avoid being shot- and the shields to take the blast of his own weapons.

He and the rest of Lead flight were carrying torpedoes; he ripple- fired them all, as fast as his launchers could kick them out, and the others took his example.

Against a large target, it wouldn’t have been enough. The continuous ripple of scarlet fireballs that kicked the frigate to one side and blasted a hole in her shields wouldn’t have worried a Carrack, even, but Nebulons were lighter than that. Fighter pilots on every side loathed the things; and payback was sweet.

The four Defenders skid turned, soaring through the rolling blast wave, shields scintillating, and lanced streams of green and blue laser and ion fire through the local flaw in the Nebulon’s shields. The shell of the sensor unit pockmarked, eroded, came apart; the soft tissue inside blazed.

The Avengers followed, swarming around the base of the Nebulon’s fin, strobing ripples of laser fire into it, looking for the shield generator to turn a temporary breach into a permanent one.

The rebels were shooting at random now, defence turrets on local control; they were good at that, broke the shields on two Avengers, maimed a third, but the turbolasers were missing, scattering wild.

Not enough, not fast enough, not accurate enough. The Defenders were blunting vector, coming back for another run. Green blazes marched up the fin, smothering the turrets, reaching in, finding and smashing the generator.

Olleyri switched to ions, ordered his flight to do the same. Killing a capship was never simple. Disrupt it, strafe off the turrets, then try and smash engines and hyperdrive, stop it getting away.

Blasting a warship apart with fighter lasers was long, slow work, usually long enough for relief to arrive for one side or the other.

The frigate knew this as well as they did. It called for fighter support.

Epsilon- less one- were lining up for their own torpedo run. If anything, the huge sector jammer made it easier to lock on to the merchant carrier, its normal defences were compromised to fit it.

Aron- everybody- were constantly weaving, trying to avoid setting up a pattern; it’s guns were sparking, medium antiship pieces as well.

‘Four on, then break off for another pass.’ Franjia advised.

The rebels were shooting like novice wegsphere players; all chasing the ball. Whatever seemed the easiest target, they would dogpile on- and that fighter went from partial to full evasive.

It was good tactics, by accident, but shoddy shooting. Either their predictors weren’t working or their gunners weren’t listening.

The Starwings showed them how it was supposed to be done. Lock on to the ship, twitch the pointer on to the subsystem, squeeze off a torp- break off as the gunners decided to play with you.

Burn back to get more time, accelerate in again-throw them off. Another torpedo.

Blast of laserfire to catch their eye, sucker them into going for you rather than someone more vulnerable- then curse your own stupidity as half your shields vanished in a haze of defence lasers and the stars blurred by as you frantically tried to dodge anything bigger.

Snapshoot the last two torpedoes, and accelerate to safety beyond effective gun range.

Aron broke off, shunted his shields to face the freighter, most of his flight followed.

Epsilon Four was in trouble. Three was floating backwards, trying to cover him, spraying laser fire at the rebel turrets- Four’s engines were shredded, a laser hit had blown one out entirely and sent shrapnel through the other. He was jinking and twisting as best he could, but the rebels scented blood.

Four ejected, manually and, by the book, too soon; in fact, barely in time. The fighter took a turbolaser hit and evaporated, the pilot was out and floating, for what good it would do. They needed to win to get rescue sleds to the area.

Forty-four torpedoes turned out to be enough. The dorsal shield around the jammer blew out, lightning arcs crackling between the fragments of debris, the jammer took a direct hit; the distortions stopped, and they got a good look at the entire battlefield.

Raduvej was closing on the iceball with the rebel base; two flights of TIE bombers were orbiting it, there were a couple of individual, scattered TIE fighters, and that was it.

Four or five of the V-wings were gone, about the same in T-wings, but most of the red- blipped fighters were still there. Not good.

The base was empty; no jammers, no power source, no defence turrets, no anything. At best, the mission was a bust. The missing third rebel capital ship was about to do it’s best to turn it into a disaster.

It was a freak; probably a one off. The engine bank looked freighter- based and running very, very hot; the outline of the ship- light plating, barely enough to carry a shield and mostly there for the look of the thing- was based on the Alliance phoenix symbol.

The only thing that stopped Epsilon laughing was the radiation it was putting out. Missile targeters- twenty of them.

Alpha one, Epsilon one. What do we do- support the carrier?’ Aron called to Olleyri, urgent.

Raduvej was rolling to bring her guns to bear, activating her own jammers; good idea in principle- kill the rebel before it could get it’s shots off.

Alpha could chase down the missiles, they were closer to the Rebels than they were to the Imperial light carrier.

Doctrine said losing unit for unit with the Rebels was good business for the many-times larger Imperial fleet. Ignore it and stay on target, trade the Neutron Star for the Demolisher.

‘Black Prince, Black Prince this is Alpha One, we need support, send Beta, Gamma, Delta urgent.’ Olleyri spun round to face the rebel strikeship and firewalled his engines.

Twisting and rolling to clear the Nebulon’s zone of fire as they went, he invented his excuse on the way. This was a first time; if the rebels got away with it, they would try it again.

That flying abomination- they must have got the missiles from the same place they got the jammer, from an imperial navy scrapyard. They looked stripped off a Victory-I, and that was an awful lot of firepower in a small, cheap package. Perfect terrorist-mobile.

‘With me.’ Olleyri called Epsilon; they couldn’t arrive in time to do anything about the missiles, but they could kill the strikeship.

‘Five, situation;’ Aron called her, tone dripping in sarcasm. ‘We have two damaged but still shooting rebel warships behind us, one assassin ahead of us, and around three squadrons of rebel fighters on an intercept course.’ Said while lining up and accelerating towards the strikeship.

‘What does bomber doctrine suggest we do now?’

She laughed, briefly. ‘This falls into the part of the manual titled “…or die trying.” Seriously, missile engagement. Torpedoes you aren’t going to get far enough to use if the rebel fighters jump you- may as well use them on the fighters. I suggest the T-wings, they’ll be the most trouble once they get close.’

The turbolasers would carry far further than they could be aimed on small, fast targets; the rebel ships were still firing at them, blind grid patterns.

Franjia banked her flight round to a direct line between the Nebulon and the rebel T-wings; Aron realised, and followed her round. Long, shallow banks worked best to take them out of the patterns, one group of shot flew past them and crashed into two T-wings.

Which was good, but the last salvo put one bolt into Epsilon Eight. The shield unit held this one back for a fraction of a second- long enough to eject. Three fighters down. Krutz. The Nebulon and the Neutron Star lumbered round after them. It would be funny if it wasn’t so dangerous.

The X-wings had torpedoes to shoot back at them. Acceptable risk.

Twelve rounds each, four gone. Aron picked one of the T-wings, squadron leader by the look of it- his private game- and lobbed a torpedo; switched target to his wingman and fired another. Stop them covering each other.

Most of his pilots did the same; the nine remaining X-wings probably meant to lob a torpedo at each of them, but in practise they pointed and pulled the trigger. Aron got three; Franjia got two.

Switch to lasers, power to forward shields, set lasers to arghohmygodskeepitaway- low power maximum rate.

‘Squadron defence order, and try not to hit our own torpedoes.’ Aron ordered, lining up on one of the incoming and spitting a green hose of fire at it.

Those who weren’t looking at hot proton death shot at the torps of those who were. Carefully; trying not to sideswipe each other.

Aron was actually a very good shot, when his heart rate- currently somewhere around the low two hundreds- didn’t make his hand shake on the stick. Franjia was an excellent shot. She nailed her pair comfortably.

Aron didn’t. He got the first easily and at long range, but sprayed shot all over the sky trying to pin down the second. By the time he did connect, the third was too close.

Couldn’t out- turn it, not normally- he hammered it with a maximum intensity active sensor pulse and shoved the flightstick hard right at the last possible moment; blinded, it lost touch, went for where it guessed he was, and slid under his fighter’s belly, tail flare close enough to tickle the shields.

On the other side of the balance, one torp hit wouldn’t kill a Starwing with shields doubled forward- Six proved that, it happened to him- but it would slag a T-wing.

They shot at their torpedoes; single heavy guns with poor rate of fire. Dodged; agile as they were, not enough to out-turn a torpedo. Jammed; cheap light fighters pitting their electronics against top line Imperial strike bombers.

They could have done better, should have, but Epsilon weren’t complaining. Eight hits. Eight less T-wings to worry about, and the rest scattered badly enough to buy time. Aron gave the target order.

‘Five, take your flight after the X-wings. Nine, the V-wings, then whatever’s spare. Good hunting, and we must be mad.’

Olleyri picked his moment; ‘C flight, double back and deal with those T- wings.’ Let the rebels be, just long enough to get them looking the other way.

The rebel was letting the Raduvej turn on it; because that exposed their hangar bay. Fire solution.

Twenty heavy bombardment missiles streaked out of their launch cradles and accelerated towards the frigate. Olleyri’s defenders shot past the strikeship, trying to match speed and thrust with the missiles.

Raduvej spurted green light, antiship weapons on the strikeship- Olleyri’s fighters had to dance out of the way.

It was maneuvering and returning fire from two turbolasers, dorsal and ventral turrets, slow and heavy- bigger than it really had the power to use, but it was shooting better than the frigate, scoring hits that weren’t intended to kill but to weaken the shields. That would be enough.

The missiles had enough wit to realise they were being targeted. They began to jink, weaving sharp, drastic evasive patterns- even with four Defenders on their tail, not easy kills.

They only had to point on and the heavy missiles would dart away like touched salmon. It was real dogfighting work. Olleyri and Alpha Three got two each, but it took them three quarters the distance to do it- follow the missiles in too far, and the Defenders would join them impacting on the frigate.

Kriff, Olleyri thought, half of them are still going to hit- ‘Break off, nothing more we can do.’

Last ditch defence salvos caught another two- eight impacted. The forward shields shimmered, bubbled, blew out, and the last two missiles hit bare metal, one of them detonated inside the hangar bay.

It wasn’t a kill, but it was easily within turbolasing distance of one. The forward prongs were glowing white- hot and the main body of the ship had dimmed to orange- red after the fireball cleared, it was not likely anyone forward of main engineering had survived.

More than half the crew were cremated, and the forward defences and weapons were down.

The T-wings tried to accelerate past the Starwings to come round after them; Aron had picked a T-wing, lined up on it, lobbed a couple of ion bolts at it- then gone into a full power side drift and caught the wingman. Cyclic, all four cannon.

Ion and lasers hammered at the light fighter, turned it into a crackling fireball. There was another blast as Three made a kill on the approach, and then the T-wings were strafing past them and they were swinging round into the furball.

Two banked, Aron delayed a second, one of the T-wings lined up on him, he sideslipped on full throttle, started to tumble. Two shot at the T- wing and missed, Aron recovered.

Two shot past him with a T-wing lining up on his Starwing’s tail, Aron rolled round after it, dipped to clear two from the line of fire, started to shoot, had a red spark smash into his shields.

Flip of the fire switch to grouped guns, a single shot that crippled the T-wing- Two could finish him- and break before the rebel could bring his fire back on target.

The rebel rolled with him, trying to turn inside each other. Aron had an unfair advantage; the T- wing was fast and agile, he was slow and agile. It overshot and desperately tried to dive and loop on to his tail, he took a snapshot, missed, and let it go. No time.

One more green blip was missing. Six; he had lost shields to a torpedo, and fuselage to an X-wing’s lasers. That left two Starwings against seven X.

Out and drifting; the Starwing’s ejection system worked, most of the time. The V-wings were outclassed and scattering, back to the cover of the frigate- then the Avengers hit.

A flight of X turned to face them, streams of red and green laser fire crossed, one of the Avengers and three of the X- wings went tumbling away blasted, the X- wings scattered.

‘Raduvej, are you still under command? Crowd the bastard, block his way to hyper so we can torpedo him.’ Olleyri called the carrier, leading his flight back into the fighter melee.

‘Alpha, do what you can to cover the Starwings. Epsilon, we need your torpedoes. Stop playing with the rebs and get back to work.’ Second and Third flights needed no further encouragement.

Two Starwings against four X-wings was almost a fair fight. Five killed one, the Avengers got the other three.

One of the T-wings made a suicide run on Aron; spitting fire at him, collision course.

Aron twisted, the Rebel pursued- last moment he slammed on full retros and the T-wing sliced past his nose, Aron pitched up after it and caught it in mid turn, finished it with another quad shot.

He was sliding round after another when a Defender danced in in front of him, rattled a long stream of fire into it exploding it. Aron was about to shout at it when he realised it was the group captain.

Suddenly there were a lot less Rebels around. Eight surviving Starwings- no, seven. Locking on to the phoenix- shaped rebel strikeboat was almost trivially easy.

It was shooting into the Raduvej, all it was achieving was making the wreckage twitch; even Aron managed to target it easily, and all seven rippled off their remaining torpedoes.

The Rebel was too eager for the kill; hung around too long. It’s shields were thin, it’s structure thinner- the barrage of torpedoes cut into it, blasted the defences down, ripped the hull apart. The engines exploded. No missiles.

‘It’s got no onboard magazines, it must have used cradle launchers, that’s why it was working with a carrier.’ Franjia suggested.

‘So if we hit the Neutron Star really hard, it should go boom? What a time to be out of torpedoes.’

Three long lines of flashes; hyperspace emergences. Beta, Gamma, Delta squadrons.

‘And what a time to be reinforced.’ Aron said, wanting to do the job himself but knowing it was impossible. He sagged with relief. Imperial pilot’s flight suits were very good at soaking up sweat.

‘You’d be willing to charge two rebel cap ships with half a squadron of mostly shield depleted fighters? I suppose it looks good on the record.’ Franjia replied, sounding scornful but not meaning it.

Counting odds- a carrier, an escort and a handful of fighters against two battered and three fresh Imperial fighter squadrons- it wasn’t a winning fight for the Rebels any more.

Neither of them were badly enough damaged to be held from running away, and Epsilon were not sorry to see them go.

‘Tell me the truth.’ Aron called to Franjia. ‘The real dirty secret of the bomber trade is just how often the plan goes to blazes and it turns into an incoherent, demented scramble, isn’t it?’

‘You worked it out; perhaps there’s hope for you yet.’ Franjia said, just as flippant. More seriously- ‘Was this a victory or not?’

‘Well,’ Aron said, thinking about it, ‘we did a lot of damage. For the squadron- probably. For the Empire- doubt it.’

‘What kept you?’ Olleyri asked Beta One.

‘We have a situation back at the ship as well. Captain wasn’t sure it was safe to let us go.’

‘Wonderful. Now we get to sit here and watch that cool-‘ the Raduvej- ‘and hope we have a mothership to go back to.’
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2009-11-09 04:37pm, edited 1 time in total.

Eleventh Century Remnant
Jedi Council Member
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Joined: 2006-11-20 06:52am
Location: Scotland

Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2006-12-19 06:10am

Finishing the main ship to ship combat, basically; I'm using a lot of SWTC ships, largely because they seem so much more tactically interesting. Look at the WEG stuff- the formations are good, but put together a list of what ship belongs where and you see one or two overworked, mainstay designs- the Carrack is the worst jack of all trades, I reckon- and a large number of one job marginals. Fulgur is an Anonymous Star Frigate I; the earlier-referred to Proelium is an Anonymous Star Destroyer III. I've also been surfing Atomic Rocket, and putting the two together- realistic fighting styles and constraints with SW-level power- should produce interesting results.

Ch 6;

The Quarters alarm sounded, surprising some.

‘Urrrgh.’ Aldrem staggered to his feet.

‘Are you sure you can do this?’ Suluur asked him.

‘No, but I’m zorched if I’m going to let someone else make a mess of my turret.’

Fendon and Suluur held him up as they went up the companionway to the command compartment. ‘If he wants to make a fool of himself, least we can do is help.’ Suluur decided.

They practically poured him into the gunlayer’s chair, blanket still draped around his shoulders. Dizzy as he was, he went through the drill of activating the turret perfectly, the hand holding a chillpak to his forehead didn’t slow him down at all.

‘OK, what have we got?’

‘All hands, this is the Captain. We have one of our strike cruisers, a recon-line conversion, being pursued by a Rebel fast frigate. Apparently.

I suspect both ships are in rebel hands, they are attempting to bluff their way to close quarters and use either heavy ion cannon or mag pulse mines on us, disable and hijack the tender.

Both of them are flying evasive, and the Strike Cruiser is showing Imperial ID codes. Override that. Our margin, to hit them before they hit us, is thin.

We will be manoeuvring as radically as we can manage- last second evade and counterfire. I’ll give the fire call.’

‘Captain, the Lancer is moving this way. It says it wants to offer support.’ That was Lieutenant-Commander Rythanor, chief sensor officer.

‘Shandon, has it been out of sight of either us or the system defence for any length of time?’

‘No, but give me a moment…’ he moved to one of the consoles in the pit, looked up the confidential reports. ‘Sector fleet has a low estimate of their reliability.’

‘This used to be a peaceful sector, things well under control. I think sector fleet got complacent, just about the same time as the rebs realised they were losing and threw in more forces to try to hold on to it. Bad combination.’ Lennart shook his head.

‘Either the captain’s about to change sides, or he’s dumb enough to bring a clutch of fighter- class weapons to a capital duel. Either way, it bears watching.’

‘Or you could be overanalysing again.’ Brenn suggested.

‘You’re right.’ Lennart admitted. ‘I’m starting to come down with Master Plan Syndrome. I wonder who is on the other side, though. Certainly Republic if not Imperial Starfleet trained.’

‘Not much chance of taking him alive to ask.’ Commander Wathavrah- Guns- gave his opinion. ‘Fulgur and most of the recon conversions we’ve seen have been too volatile for their own good.’ The gunnery officer would go down to fire direction control when trouble started.

‘The only Ion weapons we have available belong to the fighter wing.’ he added.

‘Which makes the Lancer’s involvement interesting. How do we put her to the proof? Shandon?’

‘No ID code that they don’t have. I’ll have one of the duty stations monitor her.’ The sensor officer said. He was medium height and had a share of jerboa in his makeup, quiverish, darting, suddenly looking at things, always listening; it was one of the occupational hazards.

Some devoted so much of their brain to the job that they had virtually no common sense outside it; like him, like the ship’s chief medical officer.

‘Flight Control? Get the wing in their racks, but hold them back until I give the word. Get the Legion’s transports ready to fly, as well. Most of them are ion capable, if we can strip the shielding off that ought to work.’

The ship was at full combat readiness in two minutes; jamming suite up and in dampener mode- hide the fact that the Black Prince was as ready as she was.

Aldrem was leaning back in the fire control chair, eyes closed, listening to the hum of the turret around him; Fendon was watching him, worried.

‘Do you know anything about the Fulgurs?’ Suluur asked him, for effect.

‘Not apart from the captain’s instructions.’

‘They were pirate- hunters in the old Republic navy; as fast as most of our fighters, they could easily take a Corvette or an armed merchant apart- but they went out of fashion in the Clone Wars, no good against their own size.

There are still a few of them doing recon. They’re about right for the Rebellion- I’d expect them to try harder to get more of them.’

‘Strafing a star destroyer? Are they cracked, or is it us?’ Aldrem said, slowly, eyes still closed.

‘Good. I thought we’d have to fire on central.’ Suluur said. ‘Seriously, Pel, get Gendrik or Hruthhal in here, post your brain as an Op-Def.’ They were the chiefs of the sub-assembly crews.

‘I can’t, it’s not Ulthsday morning.’ Usually the morning after the night before. ‘This is actually about all I feel fit to do.’ Still without looking, ‘Do we start tracking yet?’

‘No.’ The turret had a quasi- autoaim system, which could be run locally or from Central Fire Direction; the target’s course was programmed into it, and it automatically tracked to follow. Setting that up and anticipating the target’s movements was all the gunlayer had to do, and it was a very big ‘all’.

There were sparks of turbolaser fire; the Strike Cruiser was sliding on the rim of the Fulgur’s accurate firing range; just out of reach, occasionally getting stung by a light turbolaser bolt. It’s shields were still in suspiciously good condition.

The Lancer edged closer; suspiciously unshot-at. Stunting, weaving- the strike cruiser, nearly overrun, flipped end for end, burned back past the Fulgur, crossed it’s wake; the Fulgur was round on it in a flash, raked it as it went by.

‘Good thing about this is, we’re getting a thorough picture of both ships. No hidden angles.’ Rythanor said.

‘Except the inside. If you could prove to me that the SC is in rebel hands, I’d be much happier about shooting her.’ Lennart stated.

‘I think I can.’ Rythanor replied, suppressing the impulse to ask; suppose I told you I couldn’t? ‘Engine temperature. The rebels run hotter than we do, and although strike cruisers vary anyway, that-‘ selecting the best image- ‘is at the upper end of the spectrum.’

‘That fits the tactics.’ He would have done it anyway, on his estimate of how it was being flown.

‘Timing and bearing?’ Wathavrah asked.

Brenn replied. ‘They’re shedding a lot of V, they’ll overfly us at seven hundred KPS near as I can estimate. Drop the mines, retro- burn, move in and launch boarding teams, ten minute op if they’re lucky.’

‘When will they be in predictor range?’ Wathavrah asked him, he had a rough guess of his own but the nav computers should be accurate to more than five seconds.

They had been in gun range from the moment of emergence. Hyperspace sensors could detect a ship at transluminal speed, but it would be grid pattern fire; practical aimed fire range would be when they were close enough for lightspeed delay to be a minor problem.

That had been one of the main reasons for the switch to the Imperator-II’s gun fit; with more and faster- cycling heavy guns, it could lay down a barrage at more than twice the effective range of the Imperator-I.

‘Doesn’t matter. We open fire at three thousand.’ Lennart stated.

‘Kriffing near flash hazard.’ Wathavrah pointed out; the big guns had a minimum range of two thousand, flare distance from a detonating HTL bolt.

‘How many shots do you expect to need? We kill one, blow the shields off the other for the transports to deal with, then stand by to turn on the Lancer if our suspicions are well founded.’ Lennart decided.

‘Turning to bear?’ Wathavrah asked; Lennart nodded.

‘One simultaneous salvo into the prime target, ripple from the LTL’s into the secondary.’ Guns decided.

‘Set your fire plan up accordingly.’

Wathavrah left the bridge to go down to Fire Direction; Lennart went to the bridge gunnery monitoring station, leaned over the operator’s shoulder.

‘Right, we have the data.’ Suluur told his turretmates. ‘Stang. Have you ever rammed a blaster’s muzzle into someone’s gut, stood so close you could feel their breath, then pulled the trigger?’

‘What have I told you about getting into bar room fights?’ Aldrem said, shaking himself awake. ‘Point blank?’

‘Full power, three thousand.’ Dangerous; it was only blow-through that had saved Aldrem from baking most of the fighter wing with the shock from shooting the YT. If had been solid enough for the entire bolt to burst on, he would have scored about fifty fighter kills and a spot on the executioner’s ‘to do’ list.

‘I see what you mean, when do we start tracking?’

‘At eight thousand, roll to bear, line up, simultaneous salvo.’ Suluur said. Worried about Aldrem’s manic grin.

‘Bow shocks. Incoming rebel starfighters.’

‘Damn them and their timing.’ Lennart grumbled. ‘Point defence batteries hold, track passive, open fire with the main salvo- if they know we’re shamming, they’re playing it very cool.’

‘Eleven thousand.’ Both Rebel ships were making their final approach on the port quarter of the Black Prince, slightly above mid- level, and far enough apart. The Golan was splashing fire in the direction of the Fulgur- it was sidestepping it almost contemptuously.

Revealingly, both their shuttle bays were open.

‘Evasion burn, bring Alpha to bear, attack as planned.’ Lennart demanded.

Two thousand ‘g’ was all Black Prince could manage at the moment. It was more than enough. The gantries shattered and were brushed aside.

The Rebels were not expecting that; nor for the huge, off-coloured, asymmetric wedge to roll and yaw round to leave them staring down the throats of sixty-four heavy turbolasers.

The alpha arc of the ship; the zone of sky into which all her weapons could fire. Main and secondary targeters flooded them with light.

The Strike Cruiser reacted slightly faster than the Fulgur, breaking right, trying to escape behind the Destroyer; she was the primary target.

Fire Direction actually pulled the trigger. All the guns were pointed on, charged and ready, local control had handed over to central; sixty light turbolasers added their fire to the main battery.

It was instant, it was unexpected, it was devastating. For a moment the Strike Cruiser burned bright enough to outshine the sun. Glare dampers protected the gun crews. Aldrem looked down instead, at the hull blazing in reflected turbolaser light.

There were a few hundred thousand people on Ghorn III who would need replacement eyes, and a few more who would need replacement homes- what of the shockwave reached the upper atmosphere would kick off tremendous weather effects.

That firepower was endurable, over time; at once, it would cleave through the shielding of far larger craft than a mere Strike Cruiser- a frigate by the old scale in any case, and now a nothing, a veil of hot gas that would create spectacular auroral displays when it hit the planet. It just tickled the Destroyer’s shields.

‘Heavies hold fire, Light turbolasers pursue the Fulgur, launch fighters and transports.’ Lennart ordered, ignoring the shout of ‘Yippee-ki-yay-yahoo’ from somewhere behind him in the sensor pit, and trying to control his own hungry grin.

The Fulgur dropped it’s bomb, and missed wide thanks to it’s own last second power slide; the blast from the mag pulse bomb was a mere tickle, the surge dampers overrode it at once. ‘The Lancer?’

‘Starting to bear away.’

‘Order it to close with and support the fighter wing, Fighter Direction- warn the pilots that it’s loyalty is questionable. Guns, have that thing tracked by the main turrets.’

‘What? Follow but don’t shoot-is it on our side or not?’ Aldrem was thoroughly confused.

Suluur glared at Fendon, looked at his board. He was trying to signal with his eyebrows. It would have worked on one of his brothers. Fendon took a while to get it. He powered down the guns, just in case the gunlayer’s finger twitched.

‘Give me a moment…fire direction says, maybe. The way it’s flying, it’s captain must be a hero, an idiot or a traitor.’ Suluur said.

‘Two out of three says shoot it.’

‘I’ll remind you of that next time we’re on Defaulters.’

The Fulgur needed to get to random shot range so it could initiate it’s hyperdrive; the clear run it required would be suicide if it was still inside accurate prediction. They couldn’t miss it if it flew dumb.

That meant it had to stunt like mad to get clear, and meant the fighters had a chance to catch it. It also meant the Fulgur would do everything it could to drag them through the line of fire.

The Interceptors and Bombers had gone after it, one squadron of each racing ahead, wide of the green stream- the Fulgur maneuvered to cross their path. Doctrine was clear; the fighters scattered.

The experimentals were back protecting the Black Prince; one squadron each of Bombers and Interceptors was with and escorting the twelve transports.

The Rebel fighters were a heavy hit squad; squadron of B-wings, squadron of X- wings.

They dropped out of hyper expecting to find an ionised Imperator and Golan; to have to paralyse the fleet tender then have the two ships drop troops on it while they chewed the destroyer and platform up with heavy rockets. Half that plan might still work.

The Sahallare had agreed to hold still as bait; that job was over, and it turned and began to run for hyperspace.

The Rebel fighters hesitated, picking their target; their flagship was in full evasion, chased by an Imperator. That simplified their choices.

They ignored the tender, outran the Golan, closed on the Black Prince and her two squadrons of escort fighters.

The Lancer moved to intercept them. It carried an impressive array of fast- tracking, fast- firing anti fighter weapons; it’s shields had been optimised for rapid recharge, saved the power needed for that by being thin to start with. Dangerously lethal, dangerously vulnerable; the X-wings went for her.

‘Hero and idiot, then.’ Brenn decided.

‘Two objectives safely met…She won’t take rocket fire well, not well at all. What support do you think we can offer, consistent with the success of the objective?’ Lennart knew the official answer.

Brenn failed to improve on it. ‘Officially, none, this is exactly what Lancers are for, nearly their ideal deployment. We could pull Eta back, but vector, timing, I wouldn’t expect them to be there in time to matter. Mu, Nu?’

‘Against a squadron of B wings? We need the Lancer to cover them, not the other way around.’

The twelve X-wings swirled around the Lancer; it’s guns slashing green lines of light out at them, their quads sending pulses of crimson in.

They were stunting for all they were worth; they could afford to be drastic, it was a much bigger, easier target. They were throwing their fighters around like hummingbirds, darting in every direction, snapshooting at the Lancer whenever it swam across their gunsights.

They weren’t aiming to kill, not yet, but to paralyse and tie up; stop it shooting at the B-wings. Any actual damage was a bonus.

The two squadrons of Imperial oddities peeled off to confront the Rebel bomb element; hard to say whether they or the Rebs were more nervous.

‘Central, the rebel fighters are being dumb. Let us shoot them.’ Aldrem commed fire direction central.
No reply. Wisely. Suluur discreetly blocked the com channel.

The Ravagers didn’t need to fly evasively; they had a full-blown quad laser cannon in a second eyeball module piggybacked on the first. The kick from a grouped shot sent them nearly out of control anyway.

They and the B-wings hit head on, the Ravagers jouncing across the sky, the B-wings in their trademark slow, controlled arcs; no B-wing casualties, two Ravagers splattered.

Fire direction was nominating one target, firing the LTL’s that could be spared and all the point defence turrets that could reach at it, and them moving on to the next; flooding a cone of the sky with laser fire that no pilot living could dodge, or for that matter remain living in.

It was a lousy, time-squandering way to shoot fighters, certain but very slow. B-wings were so few, it was justified- and the wing knew, when the defence grid looked at something and said ‘mine’, to get out of the way.

The rebel fighters were scrambling to hide behind the imperial fighters; the sort of furball that gave their technical deficients at least half a chance.

The Marauders were entering the fight now; their guns had been copied from a wreck dug up in a basement on Coruscant. The theory was that it had augured in, and afterwards they had just plated over the hole and put up a new towerblock.

They carried four of what were officially called Variable Choke Space Combat Arc Saturation Blasters, but which everyone spoke of as laser shotguns. A real dogfighter’s weapon, short ranged but accurate and, with a narrow focus, highly lethal.

They were a great idea for point defence, and would go far, if the lumps of dreck they were strapped to didn’t sink the project first.

They would take losses, but that situation was under control. Forward, the light turbolasers in the trench were standing down for want of a mission- the Fulgur’s shielding was shredded.

She had outrun her fighter cover, and what weapons she could bring to bear were shooting at the transports.

‘Send the Interceptors- both units- in to strafe the turrets.’ Lennart ordered, terse.

It achieved little, but it bought time; time for a long searching blue cone of ion fire, the collective output of twelve transports, to thrash around the sky, wash over the Fulgur twice before it actually hit and settled. Fighter ion cannon took a lot of time and shot to paralyse a ship; they managed it, just.

Six Stormtrooper Transports, six Assault Transports; they dispersed to points about the ship, maintenance and access airlocks, hardpatches. One STR went for the Fulgur’s shuttle bay; one went for the softest available spot- the lifepods below the bridge in the small, early-KDY tower.

It opened the iris hatch to the boarding lock, thirty metres clear; six heavy rifles spat strings of burgundy-red blaster bolts into the lifepod cover, chewed through it, blasted the lifepod apart, shredded a usable gap in the inner retaining hatch.

Pressure curtains, locally and independently powered, came back on; but their way into the ship was open.
Team Omega-17-Blue ditched the anti- materiel rifles; no use for sniper weapons inside a ship. They would be the second squad in. The Transport tractored itself in, locked on. Go.

Speed was essential; there would be a minimal security detail on the bridge, most of them would be around the shuttle bay- where they expected to board from, not be boarded. Get in, secure it.

Team FD26 was first- shooting themselves in, blasting likely cover points, paving their way with clouds of fragments shot off the walls. Into the main corridor below the bridge, computer centre, ready and conference rooms.

Fire element Omega-17-Blue-Gimel went to secure the computer centre; Beth reinforced FD25 setting up a perimeter, preparing to defend their gains against ship’s security. Aleph led FD24 and 26 towards the bridge.

The emergency stairwell was defended by a handful of bridge crew, mostly with pistols, and four proper rebel soldiers; FD26 ran in to the base of the stairwell, shot at as they deployed, spraying fire back on the move, fragments off a wall knocked one down, a direct hit in the head dropped another; two of the rebels leaped up, screaming, one more collapsed forward, shredded by splinters from the bulkhead.

Aleph picked their moment; under cover of the line team’s fire, single aimed shots. Each of the four rebel soldiers. Stun for the important- looking one, probably the ground force commander, on the bridge to coordinate; stun for his aide; the other two- fried.

Grenade; FD268 threw himself on it, Aleph-2 and 3 lobbed grenades of their own up the stairwell on to the bridge. Some units had almost a cult of versatility going on; any job, a blaster is the answer. The 276th (provisional 721st) legion took whatever advantages they could get.

Screams and a loud ‘glorp’, brilliant, eye- bruising flash; a ‘slacker’- sound, light, and confusion- what an earlier age knew as a flashbang- and an expanding-foam capture grenade.

Team-26 held position, 24 raced up the stairwell behind Aleph, in the direction of the ominous ‘vommm’ sound, bursting through and shooting down what was left in the stairwell.

The bridge was a double crescent layout of consoles facing the main window panel, the grenades had landed between the rows of consoles; only four people were both free of the glop and not in shock. One of them was holding an emerald- green lightsabre.

24 raised their blasters- a combined volley would surely do- Aleph waved them back. He was their meat.
The other three took cover and shot at 24, who laid covering fire and moved forward through the consoles; all, really, bystanders.

Aleph moved forwards around the Jedi, Aleph 2 announced; ‘my turn’. Technically, he was right, Aleph-3 grumbled.

The young, grey- robed force user looked at them in astonishment, even more so when Aleph-2 dropped his carbine, drew a vibro-rapier and a stick.

Hand to hand with-? Ah. Materials technology scores again. The blunt rod gleamed, revealing itself to be of sabre- resistant matter. A phrik stick.

The Jedi tried a cheap kill, to start with; twisting lunge in on the rapier side- instantly pulled back, sabre caught and flicked away with the rod, step in and rapid up-and-under gutting shot for a riposte; lightsabre flashed down after the rapier, it had inertia and the sabre didn’t- Aleph-2 jumped back, the rebel lunged in again, downward and outward parry- the lightsabre a centimetre clear of white armour.

High diagonal-downward stab, the Jedi had to twist awkwardly to get his sabre round- Aleph-2 drew the rapier back and reached forward cracking the Jedi on the wrist with the stick. Nearly enough to make him drop the lightsabre, not quite; enough to put him off balance- the Jedi leapt back, force assisted, too fast for anything more than a raking, grazing touch. Grey cloth fluttered to the ground, but no kill.

‘Yes,’ one of the spectating stormtroopers said- a woman’s voice?- ‘we are playing with you. We’ve been hunting your kind for twenty years. Your tools, your techniques, your training, your tricks- an open Holocron.’

Aleph-2 leapt up on to the next console to the Jedi; a green ampersand in the air, flashing blade blocked once, twice, thrice. A dextrous probe with the rapier, curling round the lightsabre, a block in the wrong direction; their very weightlessness could be used against them.

The rapier darted in, the lightsabre slashed out at it a fraction too slow, the rod seemed to make the same move; reaction, counter-reaction- the Jedi pushed the rod aside, and the rapier flickered in to slash at his forearm, laying it open.

‘Your calm serenity is going to kill you.’ Aleph-3 taunted him. ‘Do you have the time to seal your wound? Do you have the skill to do that, and not take another?’ The lightsbre hand drooped; the Jedi tried to transfer it from right to left, the stick lashed out at it, just too slow, the Jedi twisted the sabre down and out, slashing at Aleph-2; he leapt back- but managed to split the Jedi’s foot open, with the tip of the rapier’s blade.

‘You need to kill us.’ Aleph 3 said, calmly, poised. ‘Your only way out is to wade in blood- you can’t do that with a still heart.’ The Jedi lashed out, telekinetically, at her; she slammed into one of the monitors, it came off worse, she pulled herself out of the tangle and brushed shards of duraplast off.

Now Aleph 2 was just playing with him; darting in, rapier behaving more like a blade of light than sabre- any well balanced blade can move too fast for the human eye to follow, any competent swordsman exploit a gap in his opponent’s defence faster than the human muscle reacts.

The Force was a powerful advantage- but not more powerful than years of training and bloody experience with weapons ancient and modern, practical and absurd.

‘Hate. Hate is your only chance. Take the strength you need from it. Balance cannot triumph. Two, a minor organ this time.’ The rapier came up to guard position, the sabre sliced out at it, the rapier tipped up out of the way, fell, darted into the Jedi’s left shoulder.

The Jedi half- turned and lashed out wildly; Two ducked under the blade, stepped inside his guard, headbutted the Jedi breaking his nose. Aleph 3 shook her head in disapproval; Two improved on that by dropping down low and lunging for the Jedi’s guts.

Under, the lightsabre dropped to block, flicker back and over. Straight to the liver.

The Jedi folded, writhing on the ground. ‘See what good the Light Side has done you?’ Aleph-3 walked over to him. ‘Last chance; surrender, and we gift- wrap you and send you to Darth Sidious as a present.’

The poor fool started reciting the Jedi Code, in trembling voice; Two let him get as far as ‘there is no death-‘ before slashing his throat open with the rapier.

‘Another one for the trophy cabinet.’ He said, picking up the lightsabre.

‘Where does the alliance find these- these fools, these children?’ Aleph-3 said, looking at the dead Jedi. He was no more than twenty years old. ‘Don’t they know how long it takes to make a warrior? Don’t they train?’

‘It’s a big galaxy; it has room for a great many fools.’ Aleph-1 stated the obvious, to them, and on command net; ‘Bridge secure.’

FD241 asked Aleph-3; ‘Why didn’t you just blast him?’

‘Too easy.’ She shook her head. The fighting was basically over; command net reported the ship taken, a third of the crew dead and the rest prisoner, no major internal damage, ready to scrub the phoenix off and rejoin the Imperial Starfleet.

‘Sometimes, if we play with them, we can drive them mad.’ Aleph-3 continued. ‘Less often, lately; he was one of the new breed, all guts, no brains. Six months’ training, if that.’

FD241 looked shocked; that far on in stormtrooper training, you were still being taught to dig latrines. ‘Still, if we wish for worthwhile opposition, we might get more than we bargain for.’
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2009-11-09 04:54pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by NRS Guardian » 2006-12-19 04:51pm

Much better paragraphing. I'm glad I waded through the earlier blocks of text because you've got a good story going. You're stuff is reminiscent of Marina O'Leary's which if you've read her fics you should know that's high praise. I like the way you depict SW combat.

A few questions just for my own curiosity's sake. Are the Rebel missile ship's wings horizontal or vertical? And where are the missile tubes? About how long is the Rebel missile ship?
"It is not necessary to hope in order to persevere."
-William of Nassau, Prince of Orange

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Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2006-12-19 06:01pm

Great, I hoped that would make it easier to read.

The Rebel strike ship is not exactly a finished version; it was more a proof of concept testbed, kitbashed together. The wings are horizontal, the engine is probably three or four cells of the engine block of a Corellian Corvette, slightly reinforced and heavily overloaded.
Length would be about a hundred and ten metres, span would be about eighty.
The missiles are actually launching from open, or at best meteor shielded cradles, using their own guidance systems- no direction; the cradles are spaced along the inner surface of the wing.
The jammer idea was all about letting it sneak in close, to where it's missiles could reliably find the target by themselves.
On the Rebel Alliance symbol the ship's look is based on, the wing curves round almost to touch the nose; that would be a severe drawback, so no. The curve isn't that severe, and there is enough surface to shoot forward.

If it had worked- been able to make the kill and get away clean- the Alliance would have started taking the idea seriously. A proper, 'production' version would have had onboard fire control and jamming equipment, more stable engines with better thrust and reliability, armour and shielding about 20% better than a Corvette, enclosed and less volatile missile tubes, and enough turbolaser firepower to reliably finish off a cripple or kill a ship too small to be worth missiling. Olleyri's decision to go for it was tactically wrong but strategically right- forestall or prevent the day when they do start using such ships.

I'm happy it makes sense to somebody; more will follow.

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Great story

Post by ThatOneCatC » 2006-12-21 06:11pm

The Pacing of this story is great. The spacing has made it a much easier read but it has been wonderful in any event. I look forward to seeing what the updates bring.

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Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2006-12-25 04:29pm

Merry Christmas and chapter 7...

At this point, the story takes a plunge into the murky waters of Imperial politics. Hardest bit of writing this was in remembering just how little the average citizen of the Star Wars universe, even the fairly above average citizen, actually knows about what went on. As viewers, we witness things that the Rebel Alliance's propaganda- I believe they call it History?- department would cheerfully sell their grandmothers for an account of.

Telling the readers the 'big mystery', without telling the characters- there are hints, but basically, chapter 8 to follow.

SD ch 7

When all the to-ing and fro-ing was done, there were now four ships hanging in space next to the Sahallare; a destroyer and two frigates.

The Raduvej, and the Fulgur fast frigate, named Caderath in Old Republic service and now provisionally renamed Grey Princess, hung beside the destroyer. The Lancer, fore- structure ravaged by rocket fire, was next to the tender. The destroyer herself was rolled inverted, facing the planet.

There had been traffic; a Star Galleon under Strike Cruiser escort, to drop off the parts and fittings the tender needed to recondition the Raduvej, and collect the prisoners.

The escort cruiser had not been at all happy about their newest kill splash- as usual, the crew drew lots to see who got the priviledge of painting it on.

The Galleon had also carried fighter replacements, enough to rebuild the existing units to strength and replace the squadrons they had given up on.

The two flight test squadrons had been badly mauled by the B-wings. That was hardly believable. There were some ‘junior aeronaut’ type fighters so light and so cheap they could be purchased mail order- for instance, the Zerflade Dart that made an embarrassingly large portion of Aron’s score.

Even they could usually beat B-wings. It was the group captain’s decision, but the Captain’s ultimate responsibility; Olleyri met with Lennart to discuss it.

‘The numbers, I already know.’ Lennart told him, straight away. ‘Reasons and alternatives, I want.’

‘They’re not standard, and there’s a good reason for that. They’re fungus. I like having the experimentals around; they give us room to improvise, a doctrinal flexibility that matters more than having a crap fighter squadron. We need to keep some of them.’

Lennart agreed, broadly. Starfighter Force had a different set of mynocks in it’s helmet anyway. ‘Which do we do without?’

‘You mean, save the pilots from?’ Olleyri pointed out. ‘The Marauders are less worthless, but that’s just the gun. A fashion designer built those things, not a flight engineer, kriffing flying wings. The Ravagers might just be the worst kitbash I’ve ever seen.’ He thought about it.

‘On balance, we lose the Marauders. Call the gun a success, the spaceframe a joke, test complete. The Ravagers could work, with a gun that didn’t take up half the total mass of the TIE, and they might make something of themselves in antiship.’

That was how elements of the fighter wing found themselves lined up on the main landing dock, mostly with sidearms. ‘Testing to destruction’ the notification had called it. Mirannon had been asked very nicely, and had agreed to raise the bay shields for the occasion. Epsilon were invited.

‘Are we really about to do what I think we are?’ Aron asked Franjia. He still resented having to look up to her, but that was daft. Prejudice usually was, especially reverse prejudice.

Off duty, she kept herself to herself, coldly formal and more than a little distant; in a cockpit, even a simulated one, they worked well together.

‘We took losses to numerically superior fighter opposition, an antifighter escort and a light carrier- and gave better than we got.’ His score was now twenty- seven, hers thirty- four.

Five of the fighters had gone, but only two of the pilots. ‘They were taken down by B-wings; it doesn’t get more embarrassing.’

There was already joking, shoving- one pilot nearly had his face pushed through the pressure screen. Everyone there had at least their regulation sidearm; some had two, a carbine or a rifle. There was a company or so of stormtroopers watching; they already looked amused.

The leader of the rout was a man in his undershirt and purple silk shorts, spiky hair, an expression that had given up grip on sanity, and a heavy blaster pistol in one hand, a stein in the other. He looked up at the ceiling and shouted ‘Pull!’

Somebody called back ‘Which end?’- but the ceiling drop chutes released a Marauder. At least, the stripped down remains of one.

Most of it’s jets gone, it was remote flown in a slow spiral down the bay, and Nu squadron’s survivors and ground crew opened up on it, whooping and blasting for all they were worth.

‘They must really hate those things.’ Franjia said, joining in- so did everybody else.

Aron shot at it as well, but he wasn’t as good, couldn’t pick out his shots from the hail of fire going in to it.

‘Why are they so bad?’ he asked her.

‘Because those are so good.’ She pointed-and had to shout over the crackle of massed blaster fire- at the Defenders, screened from this behind their layers of shelding.

‘They’re beautiful, but they’re the end of the line. Sienar know they’ll never be able to top that, so they’re reaching; scrambling around for some way, any way, to take the TIE series forward.

They’ve come up with a lot of bad ideas trying- count yourself lucky you missed the Intruder fiasco.’ She winced, thinking about it. External missile racks, instant firepower but prone to cook off for as near nothing as made no difference. Even the solar wind could touch them off, the survivors had said.

‘Our test flight are due to return to Sienar for redesign to get the cost down; another test with a new model in two, three years perhaps. Until then, and maybe ever, that’s the largest unit of Defenders you’ll see in one place at one time.’

‘How much?’ Aron asked, prepared for an absurdly big number.

‘Three hundred and eighty thou?’


Worth it, though. The Marauders, we’re actually adding value to by reducing them to scrap.’

Both of them turned back to fire on the second hull being dropped down the chute. The shooting was wild, wild; from pilots, on their own two feet, what could you expect?

The stormtroops- there to keep order if the flyboys started blasting each other, deliberately or more likely by accident- were now expressing as much contempt as silent, fixed masks could.

‘You think you could do better, eh?’ the purple shorts- Nu One- turned and shouted at the stormtroopers- still waving his blaster. The rest of Nu quickly dogpiled on him, before the stormtroopers could shoot him.

He was in no real danger; most of them had done civil support duty, they could recognise a drunken idiot when they saw one.

An order was passed over the comnet; one of the squads formed up, marched to the edge of the bay, took aim and began controlled, timed fire- placed shots as rapidly as they could be aimed.

Flight control made it harder for them, spinning and twisting the Marauder hull, but it didn’t help. There were maybe seventy, eighty pilots there, hitting as often as the eight-troopers-plus-sargeant.

A further order came down, from ship command this time; play up to it, make a bit of a show.

‘If they could move like that without being stripped down, we wouldn’t need to junk them.’ Nu One- a bit the worse for wear after having what was left of his squadron sit on him- said.

‘Are you all right?’ Aron asked him.

‘Ah, the glory boy. The hero of the hour.’ Someone sensible had taken his gun away, but he was still holding the beer.


‘You wander in, straight to command a cracked squadron, while the rest of us slog our guts out in junk like that?’ He reeled, glaring at Aron. ‘Big interceptor bomber pilot.’ He was balancing on the balls of his feet, spoiling for trouble.

‘Garram, you’re drunk.’ Franjia stepped between them, trying to calm them down. He pushed her out of the way to get at Aron; Franjia stumbled back.

Most pilots were arrogant enough to believe themselves great fighters in any environment, air, space, land, or pub, she was well aware she wasn’t. Basic and passable, no more.

One of the stormtroopers saw it; stepped over to intervene. Three blindingly fast, white- handed touches to pressure points, and Nu One collapsed.

The trooper hoisted the limp, pissed squadron commander over- her?- shoulder. The bulged chestplate was a glaring giveaway. Franjia had never taken notice of that before.

‘Follow me.’ Franjia told the trooper, headed for one of the maintenance storage bays on the side of the hangar.

OB173 dropped the drunk squadron leader at one of the benches, propped him up, Franjia planted two beers in front of him.

‘Not many women in the Emperor’s service.’ The Flight Lieutenant said to Aleph-3.

‘I don’t count; I was born to it.’ Aleph-3 said. ‘You surprise me, though.’

‘Oh, the Empire recruits women.’ Franjia sat down at the bench herself, took one of the beers. ‘For the donkey work. Seventy- thirty on some worlds, you know that? Out on the Rim.

Then the pyramid gets pretty sharp, pretty fast. O-3, there are maybe one in twenty left. O-6, is it closer to one in a hundred or one in a thousand?

At some point in there, as you struggle through the incomprehension, malice, blatant sexism, being treated as a sex object, you realise that these people do not want you to fight for them. Or for yourself.’

‘At least,’ Aleph-3 said, ‘you are not simply an object.’

‘A standard flight suit’s almost as anonymous- and half the time, I don’t think they know what they expect of us.’ Most of the time, the stormtrooper thought, she doesn’t know what she expects of herself, which won’t be helping.

‘It should be ‘we’. Even under arms for the Emperor, we’re still a separate entity, they think of as ‘other’. Lust, fear, jealousy, hate, confusion- and the most infuriating are the ones who nearly understand.’ Aleph 3 said, with one specific individual in mind.

‘I’m used to that for other reasons, but there’s nothing else I could, or would, do. However awkward it is, I’m here.’

‘However awkward…do you know what our adjutant told me? He lost a lot of peripheral nerve function, he’s grounded- he said we were both physically unfit for higher command.’ She had wanted to strangle Yrd, at the time.

Aleph 3 decided to go out on a limb. ‘From what I’ve seen of the Empire’s high command, that could have been a compliment.’

‘Is there a red flag flying?’ Franjia asked.

‘No, why?’

‘An old pilot tradition- back before repulsors, even. Atrisian Starfighter Corps, I think- not every day, but some, the red flag would be hoisted in the mess hall.

It meant it was free speech time; you could say whatever you liked, even- especially- about the government, the people in charge. Blow off pressure, bitch to your heart’s content.’

‘Stormtrooper loyalty is- rightly- taken for granted; we are the trustees of the Empire, we keep the faith. We do not have to like or respect the people we’re keeping it for. This ship is far better than most; I’ve served a good many idiots in my time.’ Aleph-3 said.

‘I know. I should save it for an assignment I really hate. But there are times…just when you think you’ve found a hole in the system, some way, some one, you can be woman and soldier both with, reality comes and takes it away from you.’

Aleph 3 wanted to keep talking, but she sensed something coming. ‘Trouble.’

‘What,’ there was an enraged bellow, ‘is going on here?’ The bronze- faced exec, Anode Head to the engineering team, was shouting at the pilots; the stormtroopers snapped to attention, the pilots made some approximate pretense of it.

‘Conduct unbecoming; unauthorised discharge of weapons; drunk and disorderly; unlawful assembly; destruction of Imperial property.’ His voice rose almost to a scream at that point. ‘Whose idea was this? Stormtroopers- arrest these-‘

‘Belay that.’ A loud voice cut across the exec- Engineer-Commander Mirannon. He was more cleanly shaved than usual, and what of his face was visible was annoyed.

The pilots and troopers, and every spacer who was within earshot, listened. This was going to be fun.

‘Chief Engineer.’ Mirhak-Ghulej acknowledged him. ‘Do you have something to do with this?’

‘Somebody with a few grams of sense had better. Do you realise how absurdly serious a charge that is, to arrest half the wing on?’

‘It is the charge that fits.’ They were almost nose to nose, Mirannon more than half again Mirhak-Ghulej’s bodyweight. ‘It is the charge they lay themselves open to by their conduct.’

‘Bantha poodoo.’

‘I stand above you in the chain of command, Chief Engineer; you have no authority to talk to me like that.’

‘You’re junior in time-in-grade, and also apparently a halfwit. Maybe forty percent at best. Your writ doesn’t stretch this far.’

‘My responsibility is the internal discipline and economy of this ship. This is undisciplined, uneconomical, and clearly my duty to stop and punish.’ The exec said, sounding as if he was quoting.

‘I’d be more confident in that if it wasn’t also your only apparent pleasure.’ Mirannon snapped back at him. ‘Are you so totally devoid of judgement that you don’t understand why this is happening?’

‘Meaningless.’ Mirhak-Ghulej dismissed the stress, the tension, the fear of combat in one word. ‘No reason for violating regulations is good enough, attempting to rationalise it an offence in itself.’

‘Apart from the fact that you’re wrong, DIP is a Category One offence, with a severe penalty.’ Mirannon reminded him.

‘The Empire has the right to execute those it feels has displeased it.’ Mirhak-Ghulej said.

‘Who here feels less comfortable about serving the Empire now than they did before our exec opened his mouth? Show of hands.’ Mirannon asked the crowd.

Most of the pilots put their hands up; almost all the crew; Aleph 3 glared at them, and even half the Stormtroopers had their hand up- the one they weren’t holding their blaster carbine with.

‘There, congratulations, you’ve just won yourself a spot on your own death list as a- hypothetical- Alliance agent-provocateur.

If you’d bothered to do your paperwork before coming down to flex your warped ego, you would have known that this is unconventional- but fully authorised. By myself, by Group Captain Olleyri, and by Captain Lennart.

Those things are no longer Imperial property- they’re imperial junk, being disposed of destructively in accordance with security regulations as befits their, former, classified status.’

Mirannon did a little looming of his own. ‘The only person here, Exec, still staring down the maw of justice, is you. It would be wise for you to go away, before I have to start taking you seriously.’

‘Are you interfering with the enforcement of the laws of the empire?’ the frozen- faced exec tried to reassert himself.

‘Angling for a confession to a cat 2 offence? I don’t think so. What I am doing is protecting the law by preventing it being enforced frivolously and incompetently. I’d invite you to stay to the roast we’re about to have, but I don’t think you’d be welcome, and frankly, keep pushing it and you’re more likely to be on the menu.’

‘What about all the other charges?’ Mirhak- Ghulej snarled.

‘I don’t support them. The disciplinary system on this ship is your responsibility; but all the others belong to me.’ Mirannon growled back at him. ‘I haven’t had the chance to do any really creative plumbing in months- so go on. Annoy me.’

Aleph-3 knew exactly what he meant by ‘creative plumbing’; she had been standing next to him when he had reduced a company of Alliance marines and a force user to loose carbon with a relative- inertial field.

Manipulating it to compensate for a non- existent acceleration had left them hurtling through the air at twenty- four hundred ‘g’, all a Procurator was capable of, and between that and air resistance- she had never seen an indoor meteor shower before, and profoundly hoped never to do so again.

The exec stalked out, furious- but also wary. The beer continued to flow and the remains of the Marauders were swept up by tractor beam, compressed into a bundle which, still glowing hot from blaster fire, was dumped on the hangar bay floor.

Sparks scattered off it, the pilots jumped back, there was a brief fire extinguisher fight- the pilots complaining they couldn’t tell when the foam hit a stormtrooper, the troopers treating that with the doubt it deserved- and the lumps of meat on sticks were passed round, to heat over the molten wreckage. It took some time for the mood to reassert itself, though.

Lennart was stuck in his office, sifting through personnel files. Intermittently he was looking up at, and cursing, the Fulgur.

‘You sent for me, skipper?’ Brenn.

‘Come in, come in.’ Lennart waved him to a chair. ‘You heard about the incident in the flight bay?’

‘I heard. I think the entire ship did. Halfwit.’

‘He tried to exert his authority, and blew it. Spectacularly. When I told him he was in danger from the crew, I didn’t think it was going to be Mirannon.’ Lennart rubbed a hand over his forehead. ‘That’s problem number one. This is problem number two.’

He called up the sector map, first level; the twenty- seven worlds of the sector that were worthy of the notice of the galaxy, and the standard routes between them.

‘So far so normal, two indigenous alien species, one of doubtful loyalty, usual scatter of industrials. Give me a clue.’ Brenn said; apart from the usual half- awake Republic surveys, there didn’t seem to be much wrong, standard web pattern.

‘Not fair, I suppose- upper right middle.’ Lennart brought up the second level map, the worlds that featured in the sector’s head count but were unlikely to impinge on the galaxy at large, the other two hundred and fifty- four. One of them had a very interesting name; Ord Corban.

Brenn got it straight away. ‘How in the name of the force does an Old Republic fleet depot system, with enough vintage military equipment to equip an Alliance theatre group- and it probably has- get classified as a minor world?’

‘That would be problem number three.’ Lennart said. ‘I had Chiefy Cormall do some digging. One of Shandon’s signal- interpreters, and a pretty capable slicer.

I have his report, but you would be better meeting him- so you know who to blame if half the ship’s ready fund goes missing.’

The office door opened, and a prematurely grey- haired, round faced man, apparently impeccably uniformed, came in.

‘Frevath, some people are built to wear a uniform, and some aren’t. Lose the jacket.’ Lennart, who belonged in the first category but insisted on dressing as if he didn’t, said.

The shocked- looking chief petty officer did, searched around for a place to put it, giving Brenn a good view of the ‘Boba Fett and the Assassin Droids- On Tour Deaf or Alive’ T-shirt he was wearing under his uniform.

‘There.’ Lennart said. ‘That looks more like a man with the illegal skills to crack into a high security datafortress.’

‘Sir, don’t tell my divisional officer, he’ll- what am I saying? You’re the Captain.’

‘Not that you would guess it from appearances.’ Brenn said. Lennart nodded to him to carry on, ignoring Frevath Cormall’s suppressed chuckle. ‘Where did you look, and what did you find?’

‘Well, sir…how likely are you to be able to successfully negociate an asteroid field?’

‘Don’t be daft,’ the experienced navigator said, ‘there’s no way you can predict- oh. Actuarial data.’

‘Spot on, Sir. I thought, well, if we do suspect tampering with the facts, we need to establish a baseline, work out what’s actually going on so we can tell who’s spinning what lies to whom. The sector insurers are usually a pretty good place to start for firm info.’

‘And?’ Brenn asked.

Um- Sir, am I going to get into trouble over this?’ Cormall asked Lennart.

‘If you do, the rest of the ship won’t be far behind you. Tell it all.’ Lennart forced himself to say, suddenly worried.

‘Sir, this sector’s a much more dangerous place than Sector Group is admitting it is. With the records of losses and hijackings I’ve been able to put together, they’ve been under- representing Alliance, smuggler, pirate, all sorts of criminal activity by upwards of a hundred and fifteen percent, probably close to a hundred and sixty.’ Cormall said.

‘So we have at least one big lie from the hierarchy. The reason we’re rolled this way is so our main guns can cover the planetary ion cannon.’ Lennart revealed. ‘Just in case they know that we’ve worked it out. Carry on.’

‘Ord Corban got downgraded actually during the clone wars. The fleet based out of it did something crazy, something scandalous that the Republic hushed up and buried under very heavy security.’

‘Would that be the hundred and eighteenth fleet, at all?’ Lennart spoke from sudden intuition, with a shiver down his spine, speaking slowly and coldly.

They noticed. Cormall hardly had to say yes.

‘Um, Captain, you’re scaring me now-‘

‘Small bloody wonder, if what I think happened actually did. I begin to understand how the scam could work. Say on.’

‘Well, I looked at some of the trade records, and there’s a lot more top quality military hardware floating around the sector than local manufacture or known import accounts for.’

Brenn was not in the mood for an economics lecture, and Cormall noticed. ‘So- to cut a long story short, the local bosses started selling bits off very early, and kept the business up under cover of the Republic security blanket. People- regimes- have come and gone, the families behind the scheme have stayed the same.’

‘Actual collusion with the Rebels?’ Brenn asked.

‘Ah, now there the trail gets vague. What I reckon, Sir, is no; but the Alliance have done a lot of false trail work to make it look more like treason than graft and corruption.’ Cormall said.

‘Which is what, by now-‘ Lennart stopped himself. ‘Chief Petty Officer, just how deeply do you want to be involved in this?’

‘How deep does it get, Sir?’ the slicer said, mainly to give himself time to think.

‘Depends how far out into the murk you want to wade. They don’t know, or at least if they do they are the boldest bunch of bandits I have ever even heard of. For that matter, neither do I, really, and I’m far from certain I want to.’ Lennart said.

‘So what’s the worst case scenario?’ Brenn, expecting something pretty horrific, asked.

‘We find ourselves on the same hit list as the rebel “Heroes” of Yavin, at first estimate. If it goes back to the Hundred and Eighteenth Republic Fleet, even if it wasn’t involved directly, that could involve digging into just how the Republic managed to turn into the Empire.

Not a subject a sane man with healthy survival instincts wants to learn too much about.’ Lennart said, grimly, imagining telekinetic fingers digging into his throat.

‘Captain, I think we want to keep a very healthy separation between problems two and three.’ Brenn suggested.

‘Still leaves us standing on a lava dome and throwing thermal detonators at each other. The scam- artists in the sector government must have some idea, but the Rebels can’t know, otherwise they would be following it up, they’d realise there’s far more political treasure on that planet than there is materiel.’

‘All right, Sir, count me in.’ Cormall decided, not sure why.

‘Good. Wait here.’ He went out to the com gallery off the bridge, sent a ship-wide alert; ‘Commander Mirannon to the Captain’s office.’

There were two reasons he could be summoned to the captain’s office, and the big engineer had a case for either, or both; this was clearly another problem entirely. He realised as soon as he arrived.

‘Good, you’re here, I’ll scream at you about the flight deck business later, I think we’ve just blundered into a world of hurt.’

‘Typical.’ Mirannon declared. ‘Not content with my services, you go out and find more trouble for yourself- what is it, skipper?’

‘We were tracking down how the rebels get hold of their ships, and we found it was from the fallout of an old scandal it would be unsafe verging on suicidal to inquire into.’

‘Suggestion; don’t inquire into it. Chase the ships, not the original screwup.’ Mirannon had a very good idea what the problem was, Brenn could tell, and didn’t want a better one.

‘That’s the consensus?’ Lennart asked.

‘You command an Imperator- class destroyer and you’re asking for consensus? That’s just how abnormal this business is?’ Brenn asked, almost amazed.

‘Yes.’ Captain Lennart answered.

‘I think I’d like to find out. I’d like to know. But if you’re serious about the hit list as well...’

‘At this point, believe me, I desperately want not to know. We deal with the problem at hand, Rebellion and Empire, right? Digging up the wars of the past- even if we were actually in them- is a step too far.’

‘What do I do?’ Cormall asked.

‘Follow the trail forward, not back.’ Lennart ordered. ‘Gather data on anything and everything except the Republic security clampdown. True details for loss locations, cargoes taken, firms and worlds hit harder than others- find out, for first, if they have a line into Iushnevan Port Authority.’ That was the sector capital.

Cormall saluted, picked up his uniform jacket and left, head buzzing with questions. He probably would have the sense not to chase too many of them.

‘I’ll call the rest of the command team, talk through the practicalities of the situation. First things first- Nav.’ He called up the image of the Fulgur again. ‘Life has no sense of timing.’

‘No.’ Brenn said, straight away.

‘Thank you. Why?’

‘If you make the offer and I turn it down, it’s a major black mark on my record. If I accept, well, I’m probably not literally indispensable, but-‘

‘Close enough, especially at a time like this.’ Lennart admitted.

‘It’s possible the rebs are blackmailing the Sector governor.’ Mirannon pointed out. ‘If this big dark secret gets out on his watch, what the Empire would do to him would be vastly worse than anything the rebellion could. Neither of them need know exactly what all the trouble is about.’

‘So we have a rebel supply base, field manufacturing facilities and all, effectively protected by the Imperial Starfleet. Can you get Motivator Five back? I’d like to return to yesterday and do today over again, completely differently.’ Brenn suggested.

‘Rank has it’s priviledges- me first.’ Lennart said. Out to the com systems gallery again, to arrange for a general meeting of the command team.

They gathered in the ready room; Lennart, Mirannon, Brenn were there first, generating a little field of desperate seriousness and gloom. Wathavrah and Rythanor, Guns and Sensors, next in, followed by Olleyri and, unusually, High Colonel QAG-111.

The commander of the ship’s Stormtrooper legion looked less frozen- faced and metallic than the Exec, who sat at the foot of the table, as far away from Mirannon as he could.

‘Gentlemen, all of our minor problems have just been reduced in size. We now have a major problem to deal with.’ Lennart began, and motioned to Brenn to continue.

‘Data from other arms of the Imperial service indicates that this sector is barely under Imperial control. The sector group’s figures for Rebel activity are so wide of the mark as to be unbelievable, verging on mendacious.’

‘Ah, I thought so.’ Shandon Rythanor said. ‘First line warships in first rate condition. Wouldn’t be the first time they’ve had more than we suspect- wait. You’re saying Sector Group are lying?’

‘Open, bare- faced lies.’ Lennart confirmed.

‘Then what are we waiting for? We have some hyper capability, right?- Straight to the capital, bombard them before they realise that we know, and present the evidence afterwards.’ Wathavrah suggested.

‘Right, I’ll go paint phoenix symbols on the side of the bridge tower, then.’ Mirannon said, scornfully. ‘It gets worse.’

‘The reason they have been able to get away with it, is that the rebs are operating within the, metaphorical, blast radius of a political unexploded bomb.’ Brenn said.

‘Translate, for whose of us who aren’t trying to learn doubletalk?’ Wathavrah asked.

‘The Dubbel people could probably sue you for defamation…’ Lennart suggested, deadpan. ‘There’s a political threat to the Empire. The rebels don’t understand anything about it, except that it exists.

They are using it to blackmail the Sector Group into permitting them to present a military threat. It’s working because the Sector Group expect to find themselves on Darth Vader’s appointments list if it gets out.’

‘The Alliance are using a political weapon, which they don’t understand but Imperial Security does, to attack the Sector Group with?’ Wathavrah tried to put it together. ‘If they don’t know what the big secret is- how?’

‘Because they expect to be able to rely on mugs like us to do their investigative dirty work for them.’ Rythanor suggested. ‘Stop me if I’m wrong, Captain, but you’ve been very vague- is that why?’

‘Yes. Whatever it is- we don’t need to know. If we investigated, even with absolute integrity and discretion, there would still be enough fallout from it to give aid and comfort to the enemy. It’s a secret the empire wants kept. Question is, how do we deal with the military problem, without exposing the political?’

‘What is the military problem?’ Olleyri asked. He was still slightly hung over.

The image of Ord Corban came up.

‘I hate to say this,’ Rythanor said, ‘but I agree with Guns for once. Alpha strike.’

‘Might not be the worst option- but what do we do about the turncoats inside Sector Group command?’ Mirannon asked.

‘Commander Mirhak-Ghulej.’ The first time he had been spoken to. ‘What does the book say you are supposed to do, if you catch your superior officer or officers in the act of betraying the Empire?’

The exec’s response was entirely mechanical. ‘Report them to their superiors.’ Lennart wondered what he would find in his in- box about the flight deck incident.

‘That will constitute plan A, we’ll do it in any case. I want operation plans prepared for; a BDZ- level strike on Ord Corban, with and without fighting our way through a defending fleet; a drop assault on Ord Corban, objective personnel; a drop assault with bombardment support on Sector Group headquarters.

Mirhak-Ghulej, wait outside, QAG111, wait here, the rest of you, dismissed.’

They left, in varying degrees of bafflement; Lennart faced round to the helmeted High Colonel.

‘Whatever it is, Captain Lennart?’ The trooper’s voice was ice cold.

‘I can guess. In fact, I could put together a very convincing theory. You probably could too.’ He had to be a veteran. ‘I trust my officers’ discretion and loyalty enough to at least tell them that there is a problem, they won’t go looking for evidence, nor will you, nor will I.’

‘So what do you need me for?’ The senior stormtrooper asked.

‘First of all- general point of procedure. The overwhelming majority of local Imperials involved in this are overwhelmingly likely to be dupes rather than traitors.

When I do send you in, and I don’t know where or when, shoot to stun and disable. Then identify the punishably guilty, and shoot them without interrogation.’ Lennart ordered.

‘You don’t want to know. Acknowledged. Second?’

‘Soothe my conscience. I do have a theory- if it’s right, I want to be at least reasonably certain that the reason of state behind it was at least approximately just. Think of it as a helping hand to one less strong in faith than yourself.’

‘I know considerably less than you do.’ It was impossible to tell if the stormtrooper High Colonel was sincere, or if he was playing along, giving the Captain enough rope to hang himself.

‘Some of your people know more- I need to talk to one of your hunter- killer teams, Omega-17-Blue. I believe they are fairly well informed about subjects like the Jedi, and the Force.’

Long silence. The High Colonel sat there like a statue; undoubtedly involved in internal comms. Lennart wished he could overhear.


Lennart sighed with relief. ‘Tell them, whenever they’re ready. Dismissed- and on your way, send Commander Mirhak-Ghulej in. it’ll be a refreshing change of pace to deal with a nice, normal problem like two of my officers threatening to murder each other.’
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2009-11-09 05:12pm, edited 1 time in total.

Eleventh Century Remnant
Jedi Council Member
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Joined: 2006-11-20 06:52am
Location: Scotland

Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2006-12-30 05:50pm

Right, chapter 8;
there's a semi- silly bit in the middle- it just wrote itself, honest, and surely even the best organised armed service has things that irresponsible and ill thought out happen from time to time- but it's topped and tailed by, first, the exec, and third, the big secret, or at least what I hope is a credible in- universe take on it.

ch 8

Lennart sat in the ready room, brooding. He knew what was going on; and wasn’t sure how he knew. The whole plan had just popped into his head, like a flashbulb memory.

Something had been done- a secret he well understood why the Empire wanted to keep. So did he, but he couldn’t keep it on his own.

The Exec’s re-entering the room was a welcome distraction.

‘Sit down, Commander.’ Lennart hadn’t quite yet reasoned out how to play this; aggressively, he decided.

‘Chief Engineer Mirannon is a responsible officer. He understood what you were trying to do, and I’m sure he regretted slapping you down almost as much as you regret having it happen to you.’

‘So you will support your officers- up to a point.’ Mirkak-Ghulej said, bitterly.

‘You owe him more than you know.’ Lennart said, voice hardening. ‘He saved you from me.’ Two long steps, and Lennart was at the exec’s chair, pulled it away from the table, grabbed him by the lapels, hauled him to the standing position.

Mirhak-Ghulej looked utterly shocked. He had, in fact, been less than respectful of the Captain; considering Lennart soft, un- Imperial, unprofessional even.

He was on first name terms with some of his petty officers; how much more undignified could the man get? Being physically manhandled was less disturbing than realising the Captain had some durasteel in his backbone after all. Not literally, of course.

‘The very least I would have done, and don’t think it isn’t still an option, would be to have you committed to psychiatric care. On the other hand, Gethrim’s theory has some merit. What went through your head?’ Lennart dumped him back in his seat.

‘Somebody has to…’ he mumbled. Lennart looked at his face, interested. Then he pulled himself together, and it was like a mask slipping back on.

‘That was what they were doing, that was the charge that presented itself. How could I ignore that?’

Lennart instantly thought of half a dozen other heresies that would warp the exec’s mind even further; but what would be the point?

‘You intended the new- broom trick. Do something spectacular, get taken seriously. I did it myself, when I had your job- but there’s spectacular and then there’s more than you can cope with. What persuaded you that you could get away with putting half the fighter group on charges?’

‘How was I supposed to ignore them? There they were, and the pilots are the worst. Always daring each other, always hazing. They disrupt a ship’s routine; and tradition is not law.’

‘No, but for maintaining order, it can be just as useful. The power went to your head, didn’t it? Eight divisional officers, hundreds of section officers- and you jump to the head of the queue, at the same time as fortune hands you a problem you can’t ignore. Life, indeed, has a lousy sense of timing.’

‘They could have been released. It would have been necessary to impress discipline upon them, one or two would have served as examples for the rest.’ Mirhak- Ghulej protested.

‘Have you ever been an example?’ Lennart asked him; Mirhak- Ghulej’s face fell. He knew what was coming.

‘No, Sir.’

‘Would you like to be?’

‘Captain, I was only trying to do my job-‘

‘Exec, your doing your job would have severely impaired the fighting efficiency of this ship. That is where the credit stops, that is the be- all and end- all; that is the point of the order and the discipline, of all the daily grind.

Understand that and I might not have to have you transferred to a colonial tender hauling farm products along the outer rim.’

‘Sir, the procedure-‘ Mirhak-Ghulej protested. He realised that the Captain held his career in the palm of his hand.

‘You want procedure, I’ll give you procedure. One; you are to familiarise yourself with the personnel profiles of every individual under your authority. Every. All forty- six thousand of the rank of Lieutenant-Commander or below. And I want a report and recommendation on each and every one.’

Mirhak-Ghulej was only near human; his data- processing speed was more or less standard. Assuming half an hour per file, worst case estimate, and every waking moment, that would be over fourteen hundred days’ work.

‘One point one; For as long as it takes you to do this,’ and Lennart knew perfectly well how long, ‘you will deputise your duties to the divisional officers, on a day by day rotating basis. And you’d better hope that I don’t find anyone who can do the job better than you can. Or that I need to get to points two, three or four. Dismissed.’

Coldly, shock gradually changing to fury, Mirhak-Ghulej stood up to go, saluted- perfectly, marched out.
Sod, Lennart thought. What a time to make an enemy. Almost all the damage he can do to me- or for that matter, I can do to myself- is informational; I’ll have him monitored.

A wasted asset, too. The reason I wanted him in the job- I still need someone for that. Mirhak-Ghulej should find some shortcut round that; some elegant solution to the problem. L

ennart could think of at least three, including the way he intended to process the recomendations. If he’s daft enough to do it the hard way, he deserves it.

Unpleasant but straightforward. What was next on his list promised to be anything but.

Some of the crew were luckier than others. Ghorn III was a fairly nice planet, most of the time; when it wasn’t suffering from massive solar storms, anyway.

Part of the ship’s stormtrooper and engineering complements had been dropped to organise disaster relief, and do what they could to minimise the effects.

Watching AT-ATs break up storm cells by detonating flak blaster bolts was fun for a while- especially seeing how often they got it wrong, their guns were pared down to get as much firepower into as small a package as possible and were no good at the off-modes, but to gunners used to multi- teraton weaponry it got old fairly fast.

Nobody on the planet seemed to know or care to add up that no more men and equipment had gone surfaceside than one lift from the Black Prince’s shuttles and transports could retrieve.

Port-4 turret team were on leave, heading for a warren of a pub, old stonework looking like a monastery with six floors too many all set at odd angles to each other, not far from a small aerospace-port in the north temperate zone somewhere. Not all of them were entirely happy with the décor.

‘What billennium is this planet living in?’ Fendon grumbled as they opened the main doors. Actual, real wood.
‘Fourth oldest profession, brewing.’ Suluur pointed out. ‘Time honoured, it is.’

‘That’s what worries me- more they try to sell it, worse it’s likely to be.’ Aldrem said, sceptically. ‘still, could be OK.’

‘You recommended this place.’ Suluur said.

‘One of the lads from the Golan told me about it.’ Aldrem said.

‘If this is what they were on at the time, it must be good. Cross- eyed nerfs.’ Assistant Gunlayer (CPO) Eddaru Gendrik, leader of sub- assembly team one, grumbled.

‘There’s more to life than gunnery and beer.’ Aldrem said; the other fourteen turned round to stare at him, but he didn’t care, he had just caught sight of the woman behind the bar.

All the gunnery team were more or less in uniform, but none of them were without the identifying shoulder patch; a human, in black armour that came from the same cultural era as the style of the pub, closed visor, usually a raised lance with black pennant, the ship’s name and hull number, and the ship’s motto- “In our hearts, wrath, in our hands the stars”.

The gunners’ badges had the knight carrying a turbolaser barrel instead of a lance.

They came in obviously as a group, and the locals turned to look at them. A mixture of shuttle pilots, airtaxi drivers, freight barge tenders, farmers and tourists, mostly human; the free traders would be potential trouble. Suluur scanned the place, with tactical potential in mind.

Fairly solid furniture, primitive showpiece weapons and farm implements hung on the walls, half-floors and alcoves everywhere.

‘What do you reckon? Fight then drink, or drink then fight?’ He asked Aldrem.

‘Yes,’ he said offhanded, not paying attention, dreamily walking up to the bar.

The theme of the pub was pioneer days, there were half a dozen staff all dressed to fit; the one Aldrem had locked on to actually seemed to be the duty manager.

The bar was a spiral in the middle of the building, flat counter space at each alcove, and the duty manager was moving from one landing to another; she spotted the potential trouble coming, decided to deal with it herself, realised one of them was staring at her.

Aldrem spent most of his working life sitting down; he was a shade over middle height, fairly solidly built, handsome but strained, something zealot- like about his face, which had a strange light on it now, and eyes like- she had seen eyes like that before, on a bounty hunter; and his target. Drawing crosshairs on everything that passed across them.

She was dressed in a brass- ornamented low- cut leather bustier and matching bracers, rich, glossy dark tan colour complementing auburn hair, over a white silk shirt, black neck- cloth, floor- length white skirt; nearly the same height he was, reddish- brown eyes, oval face, she looked worried, lots on her mind. That only made her more beautiful to him.

She was prepared for most things, from the usual rocket jockey chat up lines to assault (shock stick under the bar, two stun- set blaster pistols in the folds of her skirt); what she got was total dumbfoundedness. As their eyes locked, Aldrem’s bravado completely deserted him.

He just stood there, looking moonstruck at her for five seconds before Krivin Hruthhal- subassembly 2- saved the day.

He pointed at the taps. ‘We’ll have five of those, please, five of those, five of those…five of those, five of those and five of those.’

‘The navy isn’t overwhelmingly popular around here.’ She warned them, apparently sincerely. ‘Will you be staying long?’

Her staff were already pouring. Suluur waved a hand at them.

‘Oh, this is just us deciding what we want to drink.’

‘Come and sit with us.’ Aldrem said to her, uncharacteristically softly.

‘I’ll stun her, you grab him and carry him to safety.’ Suluur muttered to Hruthhal.

‘No, stun him, and carry her to safety.’

She heard, showed no sign of being offended; ‘Find yourselves a table.’

The gun team found a corner, with lots of interesting implements on the walls, and a clear line of retreat to the door; dragged three small tables together.

They clustered round, Aldrem glared at Fendon who planted himself next to the senior chief; he wanted a space left beside him. Fendon shuffled round.

The duty manager came over to the table herself, followed by two repulsorlift trays stacked with beers and ales. The gunners started sorting through them, Aldrem looked at her, puppyishly. She looked him over; senior noncom, could be worse. She sat beside him.

‘Tell me about yourself?’ Aldrem said, looking into her eyes from a range of two feet. Well within flash, or for that matter every, sort of hazard. ‘How does someone born for wide open space come to be here?’

‘My parents worked a tramp freighter.’ She admitted.

‘I knew there was something of the stars about you…’ he introduced himself. ‘Pellor Aldrem. My friends call me Pel.’

‘Skipper calls him a trigger happy idiot.’ Suluur added.

‘Jhareylia Hathren. Trigger happy idiot?’ she asked, amused.

‘Complicated incident.’ Aldrem admitted. ‘We’re gunners on the destroyer in orbit, Black Prince.’

‘Oh.’ She said. He was too busy looking at her to see her, see how she reacted to that. Not much showed; inwardly, she responded like any well trained Rebel field agent would. Scenting opportunity.

Technically, she was a dispatcher; arranging passage for wanted fugitives in and out of the system. Her job gave her a lot of leeway for that. Now this- all right, fairly handsome- Imperial Starfleet gunner wandered into her life.

‘I hated the smallness of it, and the constant chasing in circles to make ends meet. As soon as I could, I found somewhere more solid, somewhere with roots.’ She told him.

‘All you really need is a bigger ship. On a destroyer, you roam the universe, you’re not overshadowed, you can look any- almost- any star in the galaxy in the face and tell it where to go- a part, not a pebble.’ Incoherent, but she knew what she meant.

As they talked, she listened with half an ear to the crosstalk between the gunners. Their captain had raked their exec over the coals? He was new to the job, and they missed the old one who had been a nasty piece of work but at least knew what he was doing.

The fighter wing had used wreckage to hold a barbecue on the flight deck? A junior engineer was in the sick bay with third- degree burns to the face after looking down a power conduit?

The variable-gee toilets had backed up again? Domestic gossip interspersed with genuinely useful intelligence. They seemed- endearingly corruptible.

Endearing? Was she starting to take this man seriously? He was like an overgrown puppy; but f his and his crew’s boasts were even half way right- they were- they were devastatingly good at what they did. She liked him. Was that so hard to say?

On his third drink, Aldrem went green. She draped his arm over her shoulders, supported him. He muttered an apology, had to close his mouth. She got him outside and to the gutter just in time.

‘Thanks.’ He spluttered, after it was over. ‘Not many prepared to go that far on the first date.’

She smiled at him. ‘I’m used to looking after rummies. You didn’t have enough for that, though. Is there something wrong?’

‘Stress, hallucinations. Working too hard, training too hard, worrying too hard.’

‘Some of the shuttles working out of this port are helping with the relief effort. Transporting refugees out, supporting work crews trying to set things to rights.’ She said, reproachfully.

‘That’s…that’s crazy. That’s negligent. It was only flash, anything- system defence knew there was going to be trouble. They knew we were in low enough orbit there was a risk.

Lowest-power planetary shields would have bounced that. If the rebels had taken the opportunity to wreck a few local industries you would have far worse on your hands.’ He retched again; she knelt by him.

‘Before you chew on me, ask- with half an hour’s warning for a five minute job, why didn’t the planetary defence do their part? Why didn’t they protect you?’ He actually sounded angry- on her behalf.

‘Before I chewed you, I’d want to hose you down first.’ She helped him back into the pub; he didn’t need it, but accepted her touch anyway.

Maybe an hour of talk later, there was a descending rumble, hissing, clanks; the sound of a tramp freighter landing at the port. Aldrem glanced at it, then looked back.

‘That freighter.’ He said, looking at the battered YT-series. ‘That’s the one that got away.’

‘Are you sure?’ Gendrik asked his turret commander.

‘I never forget a target.’ He said, menacingly. ‘Jhareylia- do you have an E-web?’

‘I think this is still reacting with your stress medication.’ She took the tumbler out of his hand.

‘Something with a tripod. A bipod, at least?’

‘Don’t mind him, he’s a gunner. Lost without a rangefinder to look through…you serious, Pel? Thinking of doing something about this ship?’ Suluur soothed her and asked him.

‘Suppose you do. Then an angry crowd of atmo jockeys comes pouring out after us and takes it back.’ Krivin objected.

‘I can fly one of those things.’ Aldrem said. They just glared at him. ‘Well, I can remote- fly a target drone. It can’t be that much harder. It just looks bigger, that’s all.’

‘You’re probably going to need my help.’ She sighed. How else was she supposed to get on board one of those things? Besides which, she sort of found him cute.

Attacking the freighter was simplicity itself. The duty manager escorted a crowd of rowdy Imperial spacers out of the pub, across the concrete pad with the docking bays around it, apparently looking for a hire passage to take them back to their ship; past the freighter they recognised.

The crew came out to see what the problem was- and went down to a blizzard of stun bolts, which decorated the ship, the back wall of the bay, the ground, the sky, you name it.

Charge on board the freighter, light up the powerplant and engines, head for orbit- and get intercepted by one of Black Prince’s assault transports.

They explained it, and it sounded insane. The sight of cold space brought it home to them, just how far off the norm they were.

The ATR didn’t believe them, so they said it again. It made even less sense, but this time it was accepted as crazy enough to be true.

‘Shame.’ The assault transport pilot told them. ‘It’d go easier on you if you were rebels. Then you just get to die. Spin this one to the captain and he’ll come up with something worse.’

Why, SCPO Aldrem, is it always you?’ All fifteen of them, sixteen counting the civilian, were on the carpet. Physically, they were in the ready room, in front of an irate Captain and a squad of stormtroopers.

‘You have a gift for trouble that not even responsibility seems able to check.’

‘We did capture a rebel transport, Sir.’ Aldrem said woodenly.

‘No, you captured an ex- rebel transport. They had disposed of it as too hot, yesterday. The crew you seized it from- most of them will recover- had only owned it for fifteen hours.’

‘We didn’t know that! Honestly, Sir, we thought we were doing the right thing.’ Aldrem protested.

‘You’re gunners. You control one of eight main turrets, twelve percent of the ship’s total firepower. You are not in that rank and that position in order to play Junior Stormtrooper. You are not allowed to throw yourself away that cheaply and that stupidly.

The civil police have quite a charge sheet against you; grand theft starship, attempted murder, actual bodily harm, kidnapping-‘

‘I volunteered to help.’ Jhareylia failed to interrupt Captain Lennart’s flow.

‘I could throw you to them and it would be only fair. All right, it was fairly dedicated. It was also mentally deficient. I’m not sure whether to promote you, demote you, transfer you or keelhaul you. If I do transfer you, it’ll probably be to the Rebel Alliance.’ Was it his imagination or did the civilian react to that?

‘It was hot.’ Lennart said, more calmly. ‘The crew will be charged with receiving stolen property. What I will do with you- actually, I think that would suit you perfectly. Junior stormtroopers.’

‘Oh, space, he’s going to put us through basic again- Sir, can’t you just demote us instead?’ Aldrem pleaded.

‘You insist in getting involved in a ground brawl, at least you ought to know how to come out of it in one piece. Stand watches as normal, but for the rest of the time, until they pass you as either fit or not likely to do it again, you belong to the Legion. Dismiss.’

All but two of the squad escorted them away; Jhareylia tried to sneak away with them, but- easy enough- he spotted her.

‘As for you, congratulations, you’ve just volunteered for the Imperial Starfleet.’

She started to protest. ‘No, it’s not optional- if I let you go, the fleet would never live this down. Aldrem’s not this loose normally; He would have thought about it, but not done it- unless he was trying to impress you.’

She flushed with embarrassment; remarkably well acted, Lennart thought.

‘You were a shift manager at a pub, yes? Good. I’m going to make you the exec’s steward. He could do with having a looser perspective around him. First one of you to drive the other mad wins.’ To the other two stormtroopers; ‘Take her away and have her sworn in.’

A knock on his office door; ‘Enter.’ He said, keeping his voice level.

Four stormtroopers, but the armour they were in was far from standard. Iridescent blue to red, shifting with the angle, smoother, sloped, overlapped and streamlined; how much rarer, more effective and more the badge of an elite, Lennart could only guess.

‘Omega- 17-Blue-Aleph, I presume?’

Aleph One nodded. ‘More of us would be unnecessary.’ Especially in full rig.

‘I presume you know what the issue is.’ Lennart said, sitting at the head of the table. It made no difference, being in a vulnerable position or not; if he stepped beyond bounds, and they thought they needed to, they could drop him easily.

‘Enlighten us.’ Aleph-3 said. She was looking at him through helmet sensors, in all the detail they could give.

‘The major local rebel base used to be the fortress-factory system of the hundred and eighteenth republic fleet. You should know from your own High Colonel that the rebels are using the TS- Cosmic clearance of that business as cover to snipe at the Empire from.’

‘Continue.’ Aleph-2 said, trying to put him off balance.

‘No, wait.’ Aleph-3 said. ‘The Captain is right, not to want to know more and say more than he has to.’ Was she actually sympathetic? Lennart wondered. So did she.

‘I’ve told the command team that it’s something we don’t need to know.’ Lennart said. ‘Something to work around. The problem is that I think I already know it.’

‘How?’ Aleph One barked.

‘Putting the pieces together. You’re all veterans of the Grand Army, yes?’ Lennart was on very dangerous ground. ‘You remember what the internal situation was like, mid-to-end phase, say three quarters of the way through the war.’ Mentioning it brought a lot of memories flooding back for him.

For them too? What was it like to have a mind filled with things you didn’t dare or didn’t know how to think about, embedded ideas and conditions? Would you realise that it wasn’t normal? For that matter, did he?

‘In what respect?’ Aleph- 3 asked him. There were other ways than the force to read someone’s mind. She was watching his eyes, his worry lines, his body language. He didn’t want them to tell him that he was right.

‘The political war was in full swing. Natural born humans were flocking to the Republic’s banner. By proportion, though, we weren’t doing nearly as much of the fighting.

Holding and clearing operations, patrol and defence- there were more prewar Republic admirals and captains dying of heartburn than Separatist attack.’ He was exaggerating, but only in spirit; the numbers bore him out, that for their respective strengths the clones bore a vastly higher share of the war.

‘There were mixed ships, mixed fleets; clone pilots, womb-born ground crew; clone gunners, womb-born maintenance and engineering teams, but only at the end of the war and in the early Imperial fleet.

The hundred and eighteenth was an early experiment- one that went catastrophically wrong. Rumours ranged from plague through fratricide to outright defection. It bred mistrust and division in the fleet, it kept your kin exposed at the sharp end.’

‘You expect us to object to that?’ Aleph One said. Lennart was right; they knew where he was going.

‘No, I don’t. But wasn’t it convenient, that the Jedi- commanded spearhead fleets were full of incorruptibly loyal clones, ready to stop them when they turned against the Republic?’ Lennart asked.

‘You believe-‘ Aleph One began.

‘The Hundred and Eighteenth Fleet debacle was an act of political engineering, not of war. It prevented mixed fleets, forestalled mixed loyalties, made sure Palpatine was in a position to use you to wipe the Jedi out with a word when he chose.’

The stormtroopers conferred among themselves briefly, nodded. ‘Take the next logical step.’ Aleph 3 told him.

‘It was a setup- because it needed to be set up. The vast majority of the Jedi had no intention of turning on the republic; it was the republic that turned on them.’

‘Essentially correct.’ Aleph 3 told him. The universe failed to move, and he felt disappointed in it.

‘Would it be dumb of me to ask why?’ Lennart said.

‘No, it would be dangerous, but you’ve already accepted that. We are the worst people in the universe to ask- was it right, was it necessary. Let me ask you- how did you work it out?’

‘What does it matter? Logic. Intuition. A leap of bad faith. All of the above.’

Subvocal, helmet com to helmet com; Do we inform him? Induct him?

Is there time?

‘What effect,’ Aleph One asked, ‘do you think this knowledge would have?’

‘On the Rebels- little to none, they believe something like it anyway. On the rest of the galaxy?’ Lennart pondered it.

‘Realising that they have been manipulated and lied to- even that they can be, on such a scale; realising that about one very large thing at least, the rebels are right; I think there would be many more worlds, under the circumstances, that would cross the line from thinking Empire something to be endured, to thinking it- us- something to be opposed.’

‘We were never made,’ Aleph-3 said, ‘to be arbiters of destiny. We were never made to ask such questions.’
She was evading, and with that, Lennart felt the balance of power shift.

‘You know this answer at least. Why was it necessary? Why do you, veterans, Jedi hunters, do what you do- and it’s not because you were bred to it. There’s too much intelligence and too much creativity in it, you are fit to answer whether you want to be or not. Why was it necessary? Why is it?’

‘Why do you care?’ Aleph-3 tried to derail him; and nearly succeeded.

‘About the truth, or about your opinion?’ Lennart said. ‘Surely the answer is obvious- you talk about being an arbiter of destiny. What do you think the captain of an Imperator has to be?’ He shouted at them.

‘Especially us, as much time as we spend on independent and detached duty- that is my responsibility.’ He decided to push it. ‘And you are mine, to ask questions of.’

No time, Aleph- 3 com’d Aleph One.

Is there another way? Can you do this?

I think I can, she replied.

She stood up, took her helmet off, glared at him.

‘Do you know who rose in the ranks of the Grand Army? The misfits. The malforms. The fractionally imperfect. The process threw the youngling out with the lavage; eliminate the ability to ask questions and you come dangerously close to eliminating the ability to learn from experience.

Those of us who survived this long are the ones who learnt to question- and to hide the fact that they could. We did indeed come to our own conclusions; our own, perhaps, justifications.’

‘You’re accusing me, of asking you to tell me only what I want to hear.’ Lennart said. ‘Tell me what you want to tell me.’

‘When I hear one of our victims talk for his life, I always wonder; they bring conscience up so often. What do they imagine it is, that it can be so different from the sense of duty we feel, like a waterfall in our heads? I am certain, certain beyond any doubt reasonable or unreasonable, that it was right.’

‘I want to share your certainty. Convince me. Stand by what your conscience tells you.’

She took a deep breath- a lot rested on this- before beginning; ‘The Jedi Order earned their extinction a thousand times over. Not for the damage they did, but for the damage they failed to prevent. The republic was set to drown in it’s own pus; how did it sink so low, with the Jedi watching over it?’

‘You probably saw more of them in your youth than I did.’ Lennart remembered. He was, like so many people who came to galactic attention, Corellian; it was a system with a lot that needed sorting out by some force of justice and order- and the Corellian Security Force were one of the things that needed sorting out.

‘Exactly. Where were they, when you needed them?’


‘Precisely.’ Aleph-3 said, meaning it as a conclusion. ‘Not for action, but for their inactions, in allowing the republic to sink so far that the Clone War was even possible.

Any civilian court would convict them of malfeasance in office, and have them imprisoned; any military tribunal- you- would find them guilty of dereliction of duty and have them shot.’

‘That, then, is exactly what you do.’ He suggested; she replied with a nod.

‘They had the power of the force, they had the authority of the Republic; how did they fail so thoroughly to use it? Simply because they were trained to fail.

Their withdrawn-ness, their detachment, their flat out refusal to relate to other’s pain- I do not understand how someone can turn their back like that, and then dare to call another evil.' she had to pause for breath.

'They were like doctors who had sworn only to treat the symptoms of disease, and never the cause. I can’t say I anticipated Order 66; you would have, if you had been there. But, Galactic Spirit, how I welcomed it.’

‘Taken as children, divorced from ordinary life so totally as they were- you almost make it sound as if they need to be pitied.’

Lennart suggested, guessing at what Order 66 was; she was- not the words, the actions. Her flashing- bright eyes, above all else. Persuasive- contagious, even, in her certainty.

Somewhere in his head, an alarm was sounding; reminding him that to Dordd, she had- claimed or admitted?- that she had been originally a public spokeswoman, sliver tongued and fluent with lies.

‘I shouldn’t be, personally, angry with them. We should thank them for being such fools as to call us into existence, to have failed so badly that it became our time, not theirs.’ She said.

‘Our? Clones, or-‘

‘Who protects the peace and security of the galaxy now?’ She waved an iridescent arm, gesturing at the walls around her, meaning the ship as a whole. ‘Rather more purposeful than a mere lightsabre, wouldn’t you say?’

‘Why not do justice upon them publicly, then? Simply because they were at their most useful, and most popular, precisely during the war?’ Lennart theorised.

‘That would be within your competence, not mine; I would accept your word as security for that.’ She bowed to him.

‘For someone who was not made to answer such questions, you handle them well. Still leaves me with one major problem, though; how do I prevent the echoes of that, righteous shoot or not- and many would say not- harming the innocent, or at any rate the loyal, now?’ he asked them.

‘It is not our place to say.’

‘If you want a better job done, allow me to use some of the tools they failed to. One of those tools is surely realising that you don’t know it all, and other people can provide valuable input to a problem. Hmmm?’

‘Perhaps that was vague, I’ll say it more clearly; we don’t know. Unless- false crime?’

‘You know more than you realise. Thank you.’ Clearly, the interview was over. Try- no, the order he had already given, present as a reason for their condemnation- those responsible for something else.

Falsifying returns to regional command would probably do; something that would justify security, at least.

Whoever had come up with the incident, those twenty-three years ago, had probably thought exactly the same, Lennart realised. He wasn’t sure whether to be comforted or depressed by that.

The troopers left, Aleph-3 putting her helmet back on.

He needs to know, she com’d. Someday.

He only listened to you because you batted your eyelids at him, Aleph One said contemptuously.

It worked, she said defensively. Besides, it’s not forbidden. Not for what we want to turn him into.
At a time when there is time. No sense presenting a half- trained man, Aleph One cautioned her.

She was more sure of him than the team leader was, and for a moment her hand rested on a pouch containing the present she had hoped to give him. A lightsabre; one with a crimson blade.
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2009-11-10 07:04pm, edited 1 time in total.

Eleventh Century Remnant
Jedi Council Member
Posts: 2361
Joined: 2006-11-20 06:52am
Location: Scotland

Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2007-01-05 05:52am

Ch 9

Enough of the wreckage had been retrieved that the ground crews were able to put two of the B-wings back together. There was a long waiting list for them; most of the bomb wing wanted a shot. Just to see what the other side was up to. ‘Intelligence evaluation flights’ was the usual description in the logbook.

Most pilots admitted it was a joyride. In terms of priorities, the bomb wing- Delta, Epsilon, Iota, Kappa- got first crack, and senior ranks got priority within that.

Aron was third on the list, right behind Olleyri and the Bomb Wing Commander; he had invited his senior flight commander to take the second bird out with him.

Actually, going out with her was what he had been trying to avoid saying. He made a purely professional invitation, and she accepted in a purely professional spirit.

Tech Sargeant Oregal and his team were waiting on the pad with them. B-wings were not known for reliability, and he wasn’t going to send two of his pilots out in craft he hadn’t looked over himself.

‘Don’t know why you want to bother, Sirs.’ He said, as the two captured fighters- splashed with imperial logos on every available flat surface- were tractored in to the bay.

‘It’s something different, Sargeant. After all, one can become spoiled by too much good flying.’ Franjia said, putting on a mockingly exaggerated upper class Coruscanti accent. ‘A change of pace from time to time reminds us of just how much we have.’

‘Why didn’t we borrow a couple of Alpha Lead while the Group Captain was looking the other way?’ Aron said, looking without much hope at the two big, spindly bombers jockeying for space on the pad.

‘Missing the speed?’ Franjia asked him.

‘Because the Group Captain would personally take the others out after you, ionise you, drag you back, beat the living shit out of you and have you painting ship for the rest of your life, Sir. Very protective of them, he is.’ Oregal pointed out.

‘Why couldn’t you have made that much sense when we met?’ Aron asked him, knowing perfectly well why not. ‘And yes. Apart from the fact that I get shot at by bigger guns than ever before, the thing I really miss from the Interceptor is the ability to pick my fights.

In a squint you can outrun or outmaneuver almost everything; in the Starwing you have to take what comes.’

‘So it’s just as well that we can, then.’ Franjia bounced back.

The two B-wings were now down, and Olleyri and the wingco vaulted out of the cockpits- the old man showing he could still do it- and started to walk off, muttering to each other.

They weren’t paying much attention to their surroundings; Aron asked ‘Good flight, Sir?’ and got a ‘Mmm.’ in return.

Oregal was already walking round them, looking for pitting, loose connections, wear, checking engine temps and erosion, fuel levels, downloading from the onboard flight computer, the usual starfighter pre-flight.

‘Well, Sirs, that’s one thing you’re not going to get out of a B-wing. Slow as glaciation. Nothing any more wrong with them than ever was, they’re ready to go- and sirs; if anything goes wrong, just get out, don’t bother trying to bring them back.’

‘Cockpit systems?’ Franjia asked.

‘Good thought- they aren’t designed to work with Imperial helmet displays. Turn the aids off and eyeball it, Sirs.’

Aron was actually relieved; he climbed into the nearest B-wing, sat down in the cockpit. Big, open active window display; flightstick and throttle; notes attached to most of the controls by the ground team that had put them back together.

Start it up- different engine note, higher pitched, closer to TIE scream than Starwing growl. Rebel fighters were designed to fly out under their own power rather than be racked and tractored; he started to work the repulsor controls, reacting off the ship’s AG, and it pivoted- slowly.

Franjia’s was behind him, she was waiting for him to finish the maneuver; it moved like a sick bantha. He hoped it was just the repulsors. Out over the edge of the bay, the ‘ground’ dropping out from under him, roll, foils out, and throttle up.

Glance at the throttle, at the instruments; maybe he was doing something wrong. Apparently not. Glance back at the ship; by most standards, they were moving. By fighter pilot, second best is next to dead, standards- bricks. Hopeless.

Franjia was just behind him. ‘Look, there’s the Golan. We can outrun that, if we try really hard.’

‘Not with the orbital speed it’s making…do these things even do two thousand?’

She tried to put her B-wing through a barrel roll. It was more of a blubber wallow. ‘Maybe we should write to the Rebellion, telling them how wonderful we think their new bomber is.’ She suggested, sarcastic.

‘Too much like baby seal clubbing for me.’ Aron said, trying and slushing out of a yo-yo. ‘Cheap kills are one thing, but this couldn’t outfight mynocks- and I don’t have their address.’

‘Oh, dreck. Maybe you do- open up the com panel.’ She said, suddenly serious.

‘I left my spanner behind- hey. Rebel freqs, rebel crypto and com security active. What’s that about?’

‘Perhaps,’ she said carefully, ‘the Group Captain and the Bomb Wing Commander wanted to have a private conversation that no-one, well no-one we know,’ apart from the inevitable Imperial Intelligence, ‘could intercept.’

She pinged out- checking if there was anyone else listening on the channel. No-one who they could detect, anyway.

Aron hauled the B-wing into a long swooping bank, one with a turn radius about three times that of his old Interceptor. The ship swam across his sights- red, enemy coloured box around it. No-one had bothered to reprogram the IFF.

‘What do you think it was about, Flight Lieutenant?’ he asked her, formally.

‘What have we been doing in the exercise tanks? Let us have our fun, then sweat it out of us to bring us back up to readiness, skipper works that way, but I didn’t think you would be too far gone to notice what we were up against.’ She said.

‘Antiship work, against unknown attackers, and in support of heavy ship to ship. We were beyond visual range and in heavy jamming, launching on sensor dots.’ Which he had found annoying, but not suspicious.

‘It helps, if you’re a bomber pilot, to know something about the ships you may have to bomb, yes?’ she said, trying not to sound superior. ‘Sensor dots that moved, took punishment and fired back just like Imperator-I destroyers.’

‘You mean we’re in training to attack-‘

‘The local sector group? I think so. The question is, have they gone rogue or have we?’ Franjia wondered, feeling her spine go cold.

‘You know the Black Prince better than I do.’ Aron said. ‘I’m the new guy.’ Turning parallel to the destroyer, then rolling away to avoid the Golan and Lancer beyond it. Slowly.

‘Either option scares me. It wasn’t just an exercise. Captain Lennart was taking it far too seriously.’

‘Well, we lost.’ Aron said. ‘The last one, against two attackers, we got mauled.’

‘Because the captain and the bridge team were commanding the attacking pair. The hull team, the command crew stationed below the bridge tower, were primary. Simulating the tower getting shot off.’ Franjia told him- she had found out, quite simply, by asking the com-scan crews who set up the exercise environment.

‘Should I be glad, or scared silly, that I’m on a ship where they prepare for that?’ Aron asked.

‘Depends which side you think we’re going to be on.’ She replied.

‘Speaking of getting shot-‘ he said.

She tried to answer her own question. ‘Ezirrn Tellick and I were more than just friends, and Ezirrn’s mother threw herself at him. I know him better than most.’ meaning Captain Lennart, ‘You name the breach of protocol and uniform regs, he’s probably guilty of it, but he’s loyal.’ She hoped.

‘Which means the sector group aren’t.’ Aron said, slowly. He decided to leave the confession that she had been sleeping with her previous CO well aside. ‘Why do I suddenly feel better about being in a Rebel fighter?’

‘A piece of dreck like this?’ she laughed, needing some excuse to and glad to move off topic. ‘They’re available in the sim tanks; they’re pathetic.

I wanted to see how accurate the simulators were. Nice guns, but the only possible use would be to saw off the thrusters, glue the entire thing to the Fulgur, and call it a point defence turret.’

‘Would you describe me as paranoid?’ Aron asked.

‘What, just because you check your chair for land mines? No more than average.’ She replied. It had been a water balloon, anyway.

‘If we are about to pick a fight with, say, Imperial defectors in place, these things would be great for covert assassination.’ Aron suggested. The attack force would even be self- eliminating.

‘Good point. Let’s go home and land, quickly, before we start to look competent with them.’

In terms of rank and seniority, the general rule ran; invariably a Captain, usually a Captain of the Line, for a cruiser or larger. Usually a Captain for a destroyer. Frigates were usually a Commander’s ship, and corvettes a Lieutenant-Commander’s.

It might vary to a grade above or below, independent destroyer a Captain of the Line- a rank Lennart had been avoiding for years- small ship like a Victory maybe a Commander.

Companies gave their ships names that made no sense- like the Rendili Dreadnaught heavy cruiser, named after two classes neither of which it was. In practical terms, a medium frigate, between ships like the Acclamator above and Interdictor below.

The one sure way to tell which class a ship ‘properly’ belonged to was to see which rank held which job, and the disparity in size meant that the same job was done by different ranks on different ships, the main difference being in the numbers, not the nature.

The wave of envy coming off the eight hundred plus officers of equal or greater rank on an Imperator when something like a CR90 Corvette sailed by, and the sheer volumes of hatred directed at it’s commanding Senior Lieutenant, probably counted as a disturbance in the force.

Commander Ielamathrum Brenn had more seniority than most of the local officials, but a sufficiently median job not to attract too much attention; accordingly, he hopped a Skipray out to local base, Ghorn IV.

Black Prince was over the relatively pastoral Ghorn III to avoid getting in the way of the traffic around the main port; that was the system’s main inhabitable, but two of the moons of Ghorn IV had been terraformed and that was where the main naval and military presence was.

What mining and manufacture there was existed around the other small gas giant, V.

A couple of empty orbits and a lot of empty kilometres between them; he could have micro- jumped it easily, but that would have made him look too competent.

So run the thrust up, cruise it at high sublight, and take the time to think.

The absolute record for the Kessel Run still stood at twelve parsecs, by a light freighter pilot who had a price of two hundred thousand creds on his head now- for reasons other than criminal incompetence.

The man had to be either a genius or an idiot, or both. To choose, and use, a near direct line through the maze- basically playing pinball with your ship, in the fierce and variable environment of a stellar morgue- it was more of a negative test, a proof of lack of judgement.

Using a ship with as much power to frontage as that could almost count as cheating; there was also envy involved. Brenn had conned a Venator through the Kessel run, in hot pursuit of a rebel probe-ship, in fifteen point one.

Then again, he had also been chasing their own flotilla leader, whose nav had taken an Allegiance class heavy through in fourteen point six. That man was fleet navigation coordinator on the Executor now, which made Brenn almost thankful he hadn’t done any better.

The Rebel had hit a plasma jet and never come out, so it was certainly possible to do worse.

He had nothing like as much confidence in his abilities to chart a political course, but the only alternatives were the Captain, or Gethrim Mirannon, so him it was.

His mission was to discuss options, in theory- confer with the sector group’s staff on how to use the intel data that had been recovered from the Fulgur and it’s prisoners.

It was sensible, and utterly meaningless. His actual objective was very different; find out how far down the rot goes. Find out how badly they think they’re doing. Find out if there’s anyone we can trust.

No point accelerating to a speed that would stress the Skipray’s shielding too badly. Boost up to a third lightspeed, drift, decelerate. Hour and a half. Almost enough time to think of something.

Oh, yes; don’t get caught. By rebel, or imperial, intelligence. Optimist.

Ghorn IV-a, Quorpall, looked like it had a giant antenna sticking out of it; it had been supposed to have a beanstalk, for some reason known only to the Republic Terraforming Agency.

Somebody sensible on the staff had realised, half way through the project, that there was nothing whatsoever on the planet worth shunting up and down the gravity well on that scale.

It was just another late- republic boondoggle, another interest group getting it’s share of the public purse. They had finished the shaft, anchored it properly, but there were no elevators, no transfer station, just another monument to the good engineering and bad politics of the late Republic.

There was a small defence complex on the counterweight asteroid, but most facilities were groundside. The only unit of any real weight in orbit was a Meridian- class frigate.

First, there had been the old Ecliptics, decent heavy- multirole ships, space, air, land; the Acclamators had been an evolution from them. The troop and fighter stripped, space combat version of that was the Meridian, the third generation of a distinguished family.

Hefty pieces of work; a well handled Meridian could take a badly handled Victory. Against an Imperator- it might last long enough to be interesting. Her captain could be an important man to talk to. That would follow.

Re-enter and put the skipray down on the shuttle pad next to subsector HQ, virtually in the shadow of the beanstalk. Simple; in his capacity as crack navigator, he could make things easy for himself, which in his capacity as very mediocre pilot, he needed.

Quorpall had the slightly tingly, too bright feeling of a world whose ecology didn’t really belong there. Land, shut down, get out.

He was met by an orderly, a young junior lieutenant who led him over to a repulsorjeep. Through the complex, up to the low dome command centre.

Inside, it was almost arrogantly structurally unsound; heavy galleries of office and admin space suspended from the ceiling, repulsor- braced platforms, cool, serene and very neat. He was shown to the conference room, floating in air; it bobbed slightly as he got in.

Eight people there, two Commanders- one with the rank cylinder of a command officer, one seemingly logistics. Two Lieutenant-Commanders, both staff, one sensor and one planning directorate. Four Lieutenants, at least one of whom would be security. Four stormtroopers.

He plugged his comp into the room’s displays; once the introductions were over, he began.

‘We were lucky. Up to the last moments of the chase, the rebel frigate believed it had a chance of escape, so they delayed purge procedures until it was too late. We recovered a good deal of data.’

Three of them winced slightly; one of each rank. Dreck, Brenn thought, I’m outnumbered.

‘We have locations for fleet rendezvous- pointless except for what they tell us about procedure; much closer to travelled space than normal. Very arrogant of them.’

He watched how they reacted; the Meridian’s captain looked embarrassed, at least, but the worried looking lieutenant, probably an ISB plant, was not impressed at all.

‘We have locations of several more base stations,’ Brenn continued, ‘most of which will be evacuated by now, but there’s a chance, if we move fast enough-‘

The logistics Commander objected. ‘A chance of further Rebel ambushes?’

‘We can’t do it all on our own.’ Brenn said, coming on too harsh.

He brought up the sector map. Not time to take the big risk yet, leave Ord Corban strictly alone.

‘We chose this sector to repair and refit after our clash with the Rebel cruiser Mon Evarra because it was the quietest within reach. Either we were wrong, or the rebels have moved back in, in force. In that case, it’s imperative we kick them back out again before they become too deeply embedded.’

The security lieutenant relaxed a little.

‘The rebel coding system is penetrable, but their shorthand less so. What is a Neiman class base facility, for instance? The most interesting aspect is the glimpses this ship offers of something approaching an actual Rebel fleet structure.’

‘They have a structure.’ The planning lieutenant- commander said. ‘Mostly based on the old republic navy.’

‘Their equipment certainly seems to be.’ Brenn dropped in.

‘What do you mean by that?’ one of the lieutenants said.

‘The local force- local, mark you- flagship seems to be a Venator class destroyer. Very heavy metal, for terrorists.’

‘We have no such data.’ The sensor officer stated.

‘Acquire some, unless you want us to beat you to the mark.’ Brenn said. ‘I presume the sector group is interested in that big a trophy? We have our hunting license.’

‘Your ship isn’t fit for combat.’ The logistic commander stated. ‘You can’t wander around our sector at random looking for trouble.’

‘If we did, how much would we find? Your official estimate of rebel presence in the sector has one Dreadnaught frigate,’ calling up the map, adding the suspected base stations, ‘which seems to be lurking in the barren stars around here.’

He highlighted a patch of space that included Ord Corban. The planning officer and the security lieutenant’s eyes flickered in that direction. Ah.

‘It doesn’t include any of the formations- hunter groups, striker groups, warden groups, support groups- that turn up in the Fulgur’s computer systems. Something needs to be done.’

The discussion dissolved in detail after that, the logistics officer and planner getting increasingly anti- no real proof, could have been disinformation, need to retain forces to cope with other threats, serviceability issues, alien presence in the sector.

Brenn knew better than to get annoyed with them; he let the locals do that for him.

The local force was understrength; it was a small sector, so it got a small sector group- less than half nominal.

It sounded as if the rebels were being relatively careful not to give the game away; rumours, rumblings, a long string of minor and distant losses, relatively little done against the Imperial starfleet itself.

One of his worst habits, more or less an occupational disease, was playing with maps. Tied in to the base computers, he started plugging search routes, standard patrol patterns, effective sensor reach of bases into the map.

The sensor- systems officer was looking at the map too.

‘Gaps in the system?’

‘I see a lot of relatively intense sweeps of near space, a lot of ships held as reaction force.’ Brenn said. ‘What are they being held back for?’ He wanted to see what sort of answer he would get.

‘Officially, the sector’s quiet. The theory is that the only rebel activity we’re likely to see is some form of last desperate objective strike, so we’re basically on defence and showing the flag.’

An argument broke out at the table. A fair and frank exchange of views, the minutes would call it. The planning officer was yelling at the ship captain, who was yelling back.

‘You always select the same handful for the plum jobs, and they always come back empty. Rotation is doctrine, and it’s our turn.’

‘You will get the job you’re given.’ The planner shouted at the Meridian’s skipper.

Brenn moved to intervene, but the lieutenant buttonholed him. ‘Commander, we need to talk.’

The stormtroopers followed him out; the lieutenant led him up to the peak of the dome, to a suspended pod with a holonet unit. It activated, and a being Brenn did not recognise, not in uniform, appeared.

Falleen, slightly flabby around the eyesockets, rich, suave. That was strange in itself; they were superb manipulators, but generally not staunch supporters of the Empire.

Having a dent put in your planet did that. So who was being held hostage for this one’s good behaviour, or was he just a traitor to his own people?

As for the being, personally- unctuous, Brenn would have said at first. Once he began speaking, the navigator would have preferred ‘pompous prat.’

‘This is the man, Sir.’ The lieutenant addressed the image.

‘I am Moff Xeale. You have blundered into my sector, and into my plans.’

Hello to you too, Brenn thought, trying not to look disgusted.

‘Sir, we’re theatre reserve. So far, we’ve encountered three times as many rebel medium warships as your people even think exist, so there’s a good case to be made for the theatre reserve becoming involved.’

‘Seven levels of rank below me, and you dare to suggest anything at all? Lieutenant, you,’ pointing at the security man, ‘leave the room.’ The lieutenant smiled viciously, at Brenn, patted his holstered blaster, left.

Calm, Brenn thought. Don’t give anything away. Don’t get into trouble.

‘I am not impressed by your patchwork, vagrant ship. How does that reflect on the might of the empire?’ the Moff said, sarcasm dripping off his voice. ‘How will my systems react to that mockery of Imperial glory?’ So that was how he was going to defend it. Politics first.

‘We’re a working ship. We are behind in our cosmetic repairs, Sir- other systems came first.’

‘No wonder you are a reserve vessel; no reputable sector would have you. You will do no work here.’

‘Sir, with all due respect-‘ the Falleen changed colour slightly, becoming angrier red- ‘you aren’t directly in our chain of command.

We operate logistically to directorate III, Sindavathar region command, administratively to Hundred and Forty-Ninth Fleet, operationally to Destroyer Squadron 851.’ Half a galaxy away, no longer existent, and provisional respectively.

‘Are you refusing an order?’ the Falleen’s eyes glowed.

‘Of course not, Sir; but as is established protocol, we will inform our own chain of command. A bare order to allow the rebels to go unintercepted-‘

‘Is an order, and must be obeyed as such.’ The Moff leaned back in his chair, gave every appearance of thinking about it.

‘There are…plans, you see. We allow them to believe they have a safe haven, until- they are visible, and the moment is ripe. Then, and only then, we will sweep them from the heavens.’ Said with clenched fist. For a moment, it was so typically megalomaniacal, Brenn actually believed it.

Brenn’s being away left the captain with only one person to really talk to; the chief engineer.

‘This had better be good, I’m supposed to be delivering a lecture on advanced damage control. What is it?’ Mirannon asked, mainly for form’s sake.

‘Political damage control. I’ve just gone and planted a suspected rebel spy on the exec.’ Lennart admitted.

‘Well, if you want them to get a false idea of what’s going on, you couldn’t do better. What has this got to do with me?’

‘Traditionally,’ Lennart said, smiling, ‘it’s supposed to be a five year old child. I figure that for pure unadulterated logic, an engineer is the next best thing.’

‘Something,’ Mirannon bounced back at him, ‘I assume you weren’t guilty of at the time.’

‘Oh, when an incident that absurd presents itself- I tried writing it up to report to regional command, but it looked so kriffing ridiculous on paper.’

Mirannon pulled a datapad out of his pocket, started sketching.

‘Hmm?’ Lennart made a questioning noise.

‘Setting the problem up as a venn diagram. Whose areas of knowledge and social connection overlap.’ Some of it macro’d in, most of it was rapidly scribbled. Mirannon kept up a running commentary. ‘-two orders away from Sn(2), inadvertence, pr.5 of deliberate infochanting with Sn(4) via op F-sub-E2-‘

‘You’re doing this deliberately, aren’t you?’ Lennart asked.

‘Yes, and you’re right. It does look ridiculous on paper.’

Mirannon plugged the datapad into the desk’s holoprojector, displayed the nested bubbles in all their bafflement. ‘Much better. Now you can draw conclusions that don’t depend on instinct.’

‘Assuming I can make sense of it at all.’ Lennart grumbled good- naturedly.

‘You did interrupt me on the way to give a lecture. You know how one of these is supposed to work.’

‘Ah, I think I see. The exec, for instance, is in three fields- no, five.’

‘I did have to simplify a lot. And yes, fields within fields. He knows most of what there is to know of basic-knowledge-of-the-Empire, but a lot less of basic-knowledge-about-the-Alliance.

Long, narrow ellipse? He has a social overlap now with someone who- depth of colour is degree of certainty- has access to a subset of secret-knowledge-of-the-Alliance, and-‘

‘Assuming this has any relationship to reality at all.’ Lennart said, sceptically.

‘Abstracted but relevant, trust me- threatened versus exploitable knowledge space, and- I was right first time. It was a dumb move.’

‘Assuming active manipulation by the participants?’

‘Plug in the factors for that, and- still dumb. No matter how finely balanced it comes out, assuming she has tendencies to talk that the exec simply doesn’t, it’s a risk that didn’t need to be taken.’ Mirannon said it like a certainty.

‘You needed a diagram to work that out? Assume that I had a reason, not yet obvious from this. What would it be?’

‘Disinformation flow. Do you need help coming up with any useful lies?’

‘It would come in handy.’ Lennart admitted. ‘The basic plan was to make them think we’re not trusted. That whatever we realise, and whatever we attempt, is going to be marginalized by sector group and dismissed entirely or not supported.’

‘First make sure that it actually is a lie.’ Mirannon said.

‘Brenn’s on that at the moment. The other reason is that, socially, I think it’ll be good for him.’

‘Something has malfunctioned in your head.’ Mirannon said, flatly.

‘What do you suggest I do with him, then? We need him, so how do I bring him, metaphorically, on board? Left to myself, I would run too loose a ship. It could cripple his career, to promote him one day and break him the next. At the time, I thought he deserved it.’ Lennart said.

‘Throwing him a rebel to play mind games with could do more than just cripple his career. You do realise that you’ve gone from worrying about his prospects to, I think the vidshow phrase is ‘used as an unwitting pawn’, in one breath?’

‘I know. Getting the crappy end of the stick- I want him to have more sense of how that feels. Yes, I know, I’m probably going to make him worse, and no, I’m not going to let him take it out on the crew.’ Lennart decided.

‘Trying to teach humility to a desk officer- twenty thousand years of history are against you.’ Mirannon pointed out.

‘Maybe so. Have you been talking to the ground complement lately?’

‘They have been helpful.’ Mirannon said. ‘I know they’re incorruptible, but it would be useful if they were, fractionally, so we could actually do something for them to say thank you.’

They were not technically adept, most of them, but they were diligent, sharp- eyed, and unwavering. Once you told them what the right thing to do was, they got on with it.

‘I had to interview some of the veterans and specialists, about the old days, the republic and the force.’

‘Hmph.’ The engineer snorted. ‘Whatever advantages there may be to it, I already have the strong and weak nuclear, electromagnetic and gravitic forces to occupy my time. I don’t need psionics on top.’

‘I’d be more certain of that myself, if it wasn’t the fashionable view.’ Lennart said.

‘That’s what twenty years of indoctrination does for you.’

‘Gethrim, you had better hope you never get transferred away from this ship, because describing official policy in terms of open indoctrination- you could be shot for that.’ Lennart said, half amused, half worried.

‘Some physics models apply very closely to politics. Ideological influence, to put it politely- I’d call it propaganda- expands to fill the available space. You think the people responsible for it don’t think technically about it?’ The chief engineer said.

‘Maybe they do, but that wasn’t what I was interested in. The force. Facts.’

‘Takes us straight back to propaganda, and what the Jedi wanted us to think about the force. They colonised the mind-space around it; raise and maintain their authority, thought control over their own- and at some point, they went from knowing how much spin they were using to actually believing their own take on it.’ Mirannon stated.

‘This is part of your operational responsibilities how, exactly?’ Lennart asked him.

‘We’re in a physical, not a social vacuum. Believe it or not, we have to worry about people, even if not designing for them we have to design around them. Or, if you want it that way, idiot proofing.’

Lennart shook his head. ‘One of these days…so they lied to their own students, who grew up believing the lie and passing it on as truth. That much makes sense. I wonder to what extent we do the same?’

‘More than we want to acknowledge. Anyway, simple logic; if the force flows from every living thing, then every living thing has the force. Irrelevant to minor in most, if there ever was data to make good estimates on, it’s not accessible now.

Major powers- there has to be more potential out there than they ever succeeded in tapping. Minor abilities, that could be mistaken for high fitness, good judgement or dumb luck; probably trillions use the force without being consciously aware of it.’

‘I was afraid of that.’ Lennart admitted.
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2009-11-10 07:22pm, edited 1 time in total.

Eleventh Century Remnant
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Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2007-01-09 10:06am

I'm not satisfied with ch9 myself. It just doesn't hang together well at all, it rambles, it wanders- rather like this. Oops. It was rushed and came out full of padding, and this one is shorter and, I hope, less blabbery.

Actually, most of it consists of that lecture Mirannon was on his way to give. I think the definition goes something like;
Technical speculation is when you aren't sure, and are trying to make sense. Technobabble is when you are sure, and you aren't trying to make sense.
A lot of this will sound more definite than it ought to be, because it comes from a character who ought to know. Really, it is, I hope, speculation.
Anything worth taking seriously, off to PSW with it, and anything that deserves to be shot down in flames, or at least corrected, well, feel free.

Ch 10-A

‘Today’s topic; how to abuse a tensor field.’ The chief began.

That raised a few eyebrows. The audience were a mixture of junior officers who needed to know, senior officers in for a refresher and members of other departments who wanted to know what Engineering was up to.

A hand went up; gunnery, port battery commander.

‘Abuse, commander?’

‘Nine tenths of the technology we use- 91.2% to be exact-‘ only the engineers realised it was a joke- ‘is described by the function it performs, or by the manufacturer’s advertising department.

Don’t get me started on the subject of durasteel; and we have ‘power converters’, that in the forces they convert, from and to, are entirely separate technologies from each other. It’s as loose and woolly a term as “flying machine”.’

The ‘lecture hall’ was actually one of the bays of Main Machinery, subsection 2; sub-1 was the MCR, the master control centre for the ship’s engineering functions, sub-2 was central repair and reconstruction.

Most of the audience was sitting or leaning against disabled component parts; the chief engineer’s lectern was an auxiliary power unit from one of the main turrets, and there were about eight hundred manufacturing droids stored on the gantry behind him.

‘The specifications come from the same sources. Abuse is a loose term; properly, use to it’s limits.’ Holodisplay; Force field architecture of an Imperator- class destroyer.

Secondary display; force field architecture of a Venator- class destroyer.

‘Basic observation, people. What changed from one generation to the next?’

‘Modularity?’ one of the main drive technical officers- Lieutenant Marnart- asked.

‘Correct. A good decision, made for the wrong reasons.’ The displays showed coloured dots, red tensor, blue stasis, green relative inertial, turquoise hyperdrive, orange atmospheric, yellow particle and violet ray shielding generators, haze around them showing areas of effect.

‘The Venator is wartime construction. Of the ship rather than combat functions, one of each plus secondary/backup. To improve, it is necessary, and I mean it this time, to abuse it or replace it, frequently necessary after abusing it in any event.’

‘Why wasn’t she designed to the limits of the technology to begin with?’ damage control Lieutenant Sprenger.

‘Cost, safety and diminishing returns. Cost; two hyperdrive cores are more expensive than one plus the support machinery to expand the hyperfield to the same area.

Safety; our multiples have to be integrated with each other. This places a burden on the skills and computing resources of the ship that is non-trivial.

Diminishing returns; take a hypothetical. With a 100kps2 relative inertial field, this ship becomes a danger to her crew. Power hungry, inefficient, causes unnecessary strain, and you now stand a good chance of being slammed to your death against the fore rather than aft bulkheads.’

Slight ripple of laughter at that. The chief engineer carried on. ‘The Imperator is post war construction. This changes the design objectives. The Venator is more efficient in the short term, but their service life is two centuries at best, and the single large generator format makes them expensive and difficult to refit.

The Imperator class- one of whose design objectives was to deal with the refuse left over by the clone wars- is more efficient in the long term.

The redundant multiple medium generator format makes us more damage tolerant- with proper system management-, easier to repair by replacing damaged elements of the network, easier to upgrade if the investment becomes materially or politically possible.

Also, the convolutions of baffling and mirroring necessary to get an even field intensity out of generators which obey the inverse square law become more manageable.’

‘If I ever allow any of you to slack off long enough to read it,’ Mirannon said, looking at the engineering personnel, ‘I have a file of the considered-and-rejected design proposals for the Imperator that rewards study.

Particularly as, given KDY’s other commitments and the politically driven haste the Imperator design was finalised with, the yards license- building them filled in the blanks largely to their own ideas. Frequently with elements rejected for the official design.

Sienar- built ships, recognisable by their more centralised hyperdrive arrangements, have the worst maintenance and serviceability records in the fleet; carelessness caused by corporate envy.

Even KDY/Fondor versions are different from KDY/Kuat- more heavily armoured and fractionally slower, sub-control centres separately armoured, fire control and sensors more sensitive but less jam resistant, their most serious flaw is an old school ring-main power system.’

‘This ship?’ one of Brenn’s plotters asked.

‘Correllian built, which is good. Not luck- determinism, we wouldn’t have survived this long unless she had been. The 695 to 782 batch were assembled to very stringent specifications because Correllian Engineering were aiming for a larger share of the construction tenders.

They actually tried to win a contract by producing a superior product, instead of resorting to bribery and corruption as usual. Show of hands- who thinks it worked?’

Roughly a third of the personnel present.

‘I wish. They do a lot of refit business, though. KDY/Kuat’s build quality started high but declined with growing complacency, Fondor’s began as mediocre and improved, Loronar’s are distinctively more fragile, lighter and faster, and Rendili stuck their own bridge tower design on the 11280 to 11431 batch as well as replacing between ten to thirty of the LTL’s with medium turbolaser clusters and missile tubes. Those are the ones that made it into production.’

‘Sir, I know we’re supposed to be here to learn about structural reinforcement fields, but could you tell us more about the rejected elements of the design?’ Sprenger asked.

‘You’re going to go away knowing what I want you to know. The only variable is how much time you sidetrack me into wasting on other matters first… The most interesting is a massively parallel multiple micro generator design.

That would have broken the ship up into fifteen thousand separate zones, each with it’s own fighter class or better hyper, stasis, tensor and relative inertial nodes.

It failed primarily because of the massive overload it would have placed on the human component. Also because the individual nodes, as a consequence of their size, had limited capability.

There were two further developments; one which ventured into utter lunacy, by encapsulating each zone. The ship would have resembled fifteen thousand light freighters glued together. Combined and separate combat modes for a ship like that would have been interesting verging on bizarre.

Not everything possible is good to do- there are very good reasons that one stayed on the drawing board.’

‘Massive overload on the human component? Sir, is that a euphemism for “splat”?’ one of the fighter wing ground crew, a tech sergeant.

‘No, it means that by the time you’d finished learning how to look after them properly you would have been eight years dead.

Actually, frequently it is a euphemism for splat. The splinter version would have had a malfunction and accident rate well beyond any sustainable or acceptable limit. Believe it or not, the engineering department does respect human limitations. Occasionally. Most of the time, we just bitch about them.’

He drank from his glass of water- there had been a spate of practical jokes a couple of months back; something in the water, and half the ship had been peeing emerald green. The joker responsible had never been caught; the chief suspects were the medics. And himself.

He went on; ‘Maintenance and upgradeability is my hobby-bantha, not the topic at hand, and I will ramble on it at the end of the lecture, not the beginning. Tensor fields; what are they?’ He looked for a non- engineer to get an answer from.

‘They, ah, reduce tension on the ship’s hull by exporting part of her mass into subspace…?’ one of the galley staff asked.

‘Droids, lynch that man.’ Mirannon turned to them; they were inhibited from anything of the sort, but most of them had acquired enough personality to act it. They activated, turned glowing eyes on him, started to clank forward-

‘I’m sorry I didn’t mean it-‘ he gabbled.
Mirannon turned to the droids. ‘Stand down.’

‘Although,’ he continued to the cook, ‘you probably do deserve it. No. And relative inertial fields don’t rely on subspace, either, something else described by function rather than mechanics.

N+5th generation relative inertials are multiple supporting mechanism; entanglement momentum transfer, field couplings from drive to hull frame, a mesh of compartment- localised gravitic nodes, and how many lectures do you expect me to give at once? Tensors.’

Another holodiagram. ‘If you go far enough back, you find stress fields- the ancestors of our tensor field, and another backwards description. The tensor field counteracts stresses in the members of the ship.

Stress fields did this literally, creating opposing and cancelling pressures- converting to more easily withstood forms- which did relatively little for the service lives of the ships they were fitted to.

A tensor field generates a binding and stabilising force within the hull material on the order of the binding energy of an atomic nucleus; this is very easy for it, because that’s exactly what it is.’

‘So how do we abuse it?’ the propulsion engineer, Marnart, asked.

‘A strong nuclear force field deploys, and anyone who is surprised by this will have their brain remedially overclocked, nuclear levels of energy. If we lose power trunking, the tensor field can be tapped from the nearest local generator as a capacitor bank and input to the local grid.

This is less efficient than doing it properly, but provides a valuable interim measure until we can rig proper DC cable. This has further synergistic benefits; it means we need fewer APUs, which gives us a better mass distribution, improving agility, therefore evasion, reducing the need for them.

Secondly, it can be used to fill in jobs that no structural member could do. Members which may or are required to deform- Durasteel doesn’t flex well. In context. There are as many different compositions of durasteel as there are of steel- a detail we will go into later.

Most of the elasticity of the hull comes from the tensor field. The hull frame attachments points are minimal material, mostly field.

The tensor field also serves as the retaining wall for most of the rest of the force fields. It would be possible to project a tensor field without a material carrier, and have it perform most of the functions of a ship- and if any of you are crazy enough to voulnteer to test the idea, then you’re too stupid to live anyway and I might let you.’

‘No, thank you, sir- but why do we have a two meter thick armoured hull, if the force field is tougher than the hull anyway? Why all that material, why not simple plating?’ Sprenger, again, asked.

‘Short version- we need a framework to bolt the other force field generators to. If properly designed, the fields are mutually supportive. The relative inertials reduce stress on the hull which reduces the load on the tensors, lowering power requirement out of or increasing margin of safety in combat.

There are some interesting things you can do with a stasis field, thermal conductivity and incoming turbolaser fire, too.’

‘So if the hull’s just a metrology aid-‘

‘The stresses imposed on it by the force field architecture are substantial; orders of magnitude better than bare metal, but still demanding. The hull is also our fail safe.

It has to possess sufficient strength to function without the force fields. If properly put together- and dockyard workmanship plays at least as large a part in this as basic design- should be able to support and withstand a failing force field complex long enough for us to remedy or execute controlled shutdown.

Lastly it must be a material or composite of materials that can benefit from tensor and relative inertial fields. Iron, at the lowest point of the binding energy curve, is too stable for this.

Depleted-electron-shell materials are advantageous, nuclei closer together and we turn a disadvantage into an advantage by using the opportunity to apply active electromagnetic binding and stabilisation also.

Neutronium would be perfect, if we had drives of literally infinite power. Stealth is nearly irrelevant, because when we are emitting stellar power levels from the ion drive, we’re approximately as visible as if we did.

Until that happy day, we will employ as much as we have the mass budget for. Those of you who have no head for numbers may wish to leave now. Now consider a material structure of composition…’

Two supposedly secret transmissions. One of which crossed the signal intercept team’s desk, the other did not.

Embedded in a message, supposedly to her sister;

Vineland sector, oversight group eleven.

Hathren, J. System cell Ghorn, network Lobat-4, reporting.

Situation complicated. I have been conscripted into the Imperial Navy as the result of an incident- refer to the news. I am on board the ship currently at the top of our watch list, and in a position of some access.

Frankly, it’s far too good to be true. I hope this harmonic coding is as secure as it’s supposed to be.
I have been employed- they haven’t even tried particularly hard to indoctrinate me yet, and yes, I know how dubious that sounds, it’s far from the only worrying thing about this situation- as a personal servant, they call them stewards, to look after an officer in disgrace.

It’s possible that they want me to do them a favour by abducting him. From what I have been able to see of life on board this ship, something as basically abnormal as that seems to be a daily occurrence.

When I said I wanted to do something different, this wasn’t what I had in mind. To achieve as much as we know they have, the crew of this ship must be sharper than they seem. Common sense eaten up completely by their jobs? It would fit.

This ship is in much better condition on the inside than the outside. I have some access to the ship’s personnel files- one of the people I was involved with is possibly the top ranking gunner in the sector, never mind the ship, and he could pass for fifteen. Away from the trigger.

I can’t funnel bulk data through a covert channel like this; I’ll have to cherrypick. The ship is theatre reserve, not local; she has wider access. It seems odd to call a ship named ‘Black Prince’ she, but they refer to her that way.

Anyway, it will take time for me to get into a position to extract and exfiltrate. I’ll trickle what I can, and should have valuable data when- let’s not tempt fate; if- I do.

Defection prospects? Unlikely. With so much blood on their hands, they would be unwelcome in the Alliance, and besides, they would probably make us look bad.

Candidate/Watcher 22173, reporting.

Interim observation, candidate Lennart, J.A.

Status; unpromising. Candidate has genuine talent, intuitive/precognitive, sense related, but is under only moderate pressure to develop it. Candidate is a man of significant status and other talents, but little outward ambition.

Recommendation; push rather than pull. To force development of his abilities, a threat to what he already has is indicated. Perhaps this ship would make a fitting flagship for one of your protégées.

Secondary subject, Mirannon, G.K.Q.

Status; contraindicated. Subject has displayed a number of task- related abilities apparently without broader grounding, but is only subliminally aware of them if at all. Subject is also openly contemptuous of such talents.

Recommendation; playing on this one’s pride and ambition could work, but given his attitude and approach, it would be difficult to make use of him.

Security warning; prime prospect intuited his way to a nearly complete understanding of the Ord Corban operation. Subject is loyal, but from pragmatic reasons. Rebel exploitation of this cannot be delayed much longer- see candidate recommendation.

One lecture, two messages, three captains.

In Lennart’s day cabin, Commander Aythellar Barth-Elstrand, whose Meridian was orbiting nearby, and Senior Lieutenant Ertlin Kondracke, whose Lancer was under repair just adjacent.

‘Gentlemen, thank you both for coming to see me.’ He was a senior captain, in charge of a fleet destroyer; there was no way they wouldn’t. His politeness warned them something was up, though.

‘I wish this was simple ship visiting; instead, I have a problem and a possible solution to put to you.’ Lennart was, rarely, properly and impeccably uniformed; his typical state of half undress wouldn’t do, not for this. He had to look as thoroughly, officially imperial as possible.

Kondracke looked barely old enough for his command, something made worse by the sling on his arm. He looked like a child who had fallen out of a tree. Elstrand was fair- haired and red faced, looked more like a prosperous bantha rancher than a fleet officer.

‘What is it, Captain?’

‘You were very quick to come to support us.’ Lennart said. ‘I’m guessing you don’t get too many opportunities to use your guns in anger?’ the young man’s face opened up.

‘Captain, the local rebels are driving me mad. We hear snatches of comm, catch bursts of drive light, chase broken holonet threads, they’re there. They have to be. We never get within gun range of them. Well, until now.’

‘Same situation. We have the sense that we’re being played with.’ Elstrand added. ‘Your ship’s seen more action in two weeks than the sector fleet has in two years.’

Lennart nodded. ‘They have come gunning for us, and as a result of that we have taken down and brainripped enough of them that we now have more to go on than the sector fleet. Enough, I think.’

‘So where do we fit in?’ Elstrand asked. He realised a second later that he hadn’t called his superior officer ‘Sir’; significant breach of discipline. Two seconds after that it sank in that Lennart hadn’t called him on it.

‘The information from the captured frigate strongly indicates the rebels have a very strong presence in the sector, protecting- a hidden facility.’ Hidden in plain sight, behind the Ubiqtorate.

There was another double- play going on there, especially with an alien Moff, Lennart could almost taste the edges of it. ‘Sector command doesn’t want us to go after it.’

‘What?’ Kondracke shouted. ‘They’re- they’re allowing this?’

‘I hoped you’d react like that.’

‘Allow me to second my junior colleague’s outrage, Sir.’ Elstrand said.

‘It wouldn’t be the first do not engage order in the navy’s history, or the least well thought out- your Moff told my Navigator that he was leading the rebels into a trap. Lulling them into a false sense of security.’ Lennart’s tone indicated what he thought of that.

‘We have more than enough real work to do in this sector without political bullsh- er, interference, Sir.’ This sector had a lot of money spent on it by the Republic Terraforming Agency, and relatively little of it wisely.

Four running ecological catastrophes, one imminent nova, two alien species, one economically expansionist and one too widespread to be anything like as peaceful as they seemed.

‘I know. Which is why I intend to use the standing orders of the Imperial Starfleet on supporting other ships to get around that,’ Lennart informed them, watching their enthusiasm grow, ‘and set up a very public, very noticeable meeting engagement. Are you with me?’ He hardly had to ask; they were.
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2009-11-11 11:25am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Vehrec » 2007-01-09 07:35pm

Well, Correllian built, huh? I guess it IS true, everything that comes out of Correllia gets turned into a mod-fest. Also got a kick out of the Tensor fields being most certainly NOT subspace based. It's also nice to see that they plan on building for ships that last, what with the Venator's 200 year lifespan considered a shot term stopgap design. I laugh in the face of the Imperium of Man, and thier inferior spaceships!

And I like the plot to get some action going. Excuse me while I indulge in a meglomanical laugh. Muhahahaha.
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Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2007-01-18 07:49pm

Most of this is continuation, loose threads and setup- for the sake of telling the story, for the characters, I want to get this out, but I'm finding it frustratingly hard to get to 'Kaboom'.

Ch 10-B

‘Do you know what the most annoying thing about being a part- time white hat is?’ Aldrem asked the rest of his team, rolling out of the line of fire behind a prickly shrub, one of many in the artificial jungle.

‘Not being allowed to shoot each other.’ Gendrik snarled back, annoyed.

For people whose jobs revolved around shooting and being shot at, an alarming number of Stormtroopers seemed to enjoy it as a hobby as well. ‘Playing with fresh meat’ also came pretty high on the list.

It was a triple function facility; backup life support and food production, recreation, training ground. It could have passed for a botanical garden, if it wasn’t for the stun blaster bolts going back and forward.

Surprisingly, the plants didn’t react badly to being stunned; some of them even thrived under it. Just as well, considering.

The troopers had reacted fairly predictably to having a turret crew team dumped on them; they had done their duty, coldly and professionally. When no one who might be disturbed was looking, they laughed their asses off.

The fifteen gunners had been thrown in at the deep end. Fitness training, weapons training- Suluur had dented their smugness a little by outshooting all of the instructors with a heavy rifle- survival training, and exercises like this.

They called it ‘tactical awareness’; the list to volunteer as opposing force was long. A chance to shoot navy- why not?

The control chamber had a dozen troopers in it, ten more than necessary.

‘Preliminary evaluation- wash them out. Transfer them to the Starfleet.’ The staff sergeant in the master control seat said.

‘That would be inappropriate, Sargeant. They’re not here to learn to be stormtroopers, they’re here to learn to leave the close assault business to the professionals.’ One of the spectators- Omega-blue-17-Aleph One- said.

‘Three of them are enjoying it, Sir. Com/Scan Tech Suluur, PO Hruthhal, Weapon Mechanic (Leading) Tarshkavik- they could do well with proper training. In fact Suluur may be too good for a rookie. He’s done this before.’

‘They all have, at least once.’

‘They could be useful, Sir. The senior chief’s the best shot with an emplacement weapon I’ve ever seen. Although I do not understand how he achieved his rank.’ The sargeant’s scorn- and envy- was evident in his voice.

‘In the army he would be a Specialist-9, but the star fleet has no efficient way of dealing with men of high skill and low fitness for responsibility- short of making them junior lieutenants.’

Fifteen minutes, it was supposed to take, to set up an E-Web.

Those fifteen minutes included levelling the tripod, building up an earth and ablative foamcrete berm to protect it, digging in the generator, making contact with neighbouring units, setting up aim point and fire arc markers in the enhanced sight system, and getting the rest of the squad in place to provide defensive crossfire and keep any approaching grenadiers’ heads down.

‘Crash Action’- plonk the damned thing down any way it went and hose the target- took ten seconds, if that.

Aldrem had taken to the E-web instantly, and had been overheard wondering whether he could get one assigned to himself, personally, and how he could probably fit it on a repulsorsled, and wouldn’t planet leave be much safer with their own organic fire support?

Even most of his own team thought he was nuts. They knew he was kidding, but they still didn’t trust him.

‘Areath, go right, round that funky thing with the blue flowers and tendrils. If it tries to eat you, vape it.’

‘With an exercise blaster hardwired to stun. Right.’

‘Then kriffing well beat it to death.’ Aldrem said, popping up and firing a long burst at a low, spreading, vaguely animate looking food plant.

Three stormtroopers, well out of the line of fire, shot back at him, he dived for cover, one of them connected and he went down twitching like a rattlesnake; Suluur shot back, rapidly dropping two of them.

The old reflexes were coming back now, which was probably bad for him. He dropped behind a set of trays, looked around to see who was still on his feet.

Stang, he thought, that looked far too competent. He stuck his head up, looking for a way to get shot that didn’t seem too suspicious.

‘Advisory, Sir.’ The training staff sergeant, KF-5614, asked Aleph One. ‘Are there any other considerations we should be aware of?’

‘In other words, why am I interested?’

‘I never before appreciated how large the difference is between ‘unflinching’ and ‘too dumb to duck’, Sir.’ KF-5614 said.

‘You think we’re beating a set of learned reflexes into them that will make them less efficient in their primary job?’

‘I believe that may be the case. This is the basic training the Starfleet gets them to unlearn when it goes about turning them into efficient gunners, Sir.’

‘Don’t worry. These are some of the ship’s problem children. They’ll do something absurd and be put on an intensive gunnery refresher course sooner or later.’

‘I see, Sir.’ The training sergeant wanted to know more, but was too disciplined to ask.

Captain broadcasting to the crew;
‘All hands, this is Captain Lennart. As most of you know, we’ve been busy lately. Unfortunately, it turns out that there’s a reason for this. This sector is quiet not because there are no rebels, but because it seems they have an interest in not drawing attention.

They have strong base facilities they do not want to have exposed, so when we blundered in, they tried twice for a relatively cheap kill, which only got me… interested.

If they have any sense, they’ll now be keeping their heads down and waiting for us to go away. Unfortunately, events indicate they do in fact have some sense.

What I think happened is an Alliance internal communications SNAFU; regional command sent units to assault us and the tender, local command threw a fit when they found out.

They have too much of a logistic base here to hazard it. We’re more or less operational now, and I would be pleasantly surprised if they decided to try again.

Coincidentally, and I know some rumours have been emanating from the fighter wing, the sector Moff has asked us to go away too. He says he has things in hand. This is a Moff who let things get this bad in the first place, so colour me skeptical.

We are going to be following a course of action that may seem…dubious, verging on outright disloyalty.

There won’t be time for detailed explanations, not until afterwards, but we are acting in the best interests of the Empire- under cover of a thick screen of bluff and poodoo.

Some of you who have been with this ship longest will remember similar operations. You know what a high WTF factor they usually have. Our objective is to lure Alliance forces into a straight fight; but it is going to be a twisty, windy path getting them there.

Internal operations will continue as normal, and if external events confuse you, spare a thought for the command team who actually have to manage it all. Black Prince Actual out.’

Around the ship, various people took the news in their own way.

Hathren, J., rebel spy in residence, was dumbfounded. There were still a lot of her people in the cells, she daren’t do anything about helping them without blowing her cover. Yet. She had a half- formed escape plan, and it would be easier and safer if it was a mass escape. But how much more would there be to find out?

Most Rebel captains- certainly the very formal Mon Cal- would tell their crews far less than this, never mind Imperial Starfleet.

This was professional opportunity beyond her wildest dreams. She knew perfectly well she was probably going to stay too long, to draw too much attention and give herself away- the lure was very strong.

Not the only one. The man she had been assigned to, Mirhak- Ghulej, spent most of his time sitting on the edge of his bunk, looking lost. He twitched, he ranted, he sat in black depression.

She was used to handling awkward customers; she needed all that experience. His world had just turned round and bit him.

The other people she had to work with- they were, in a word, different. Whatever popular support the Rebellion had, the overwhelming majority of those at the sharp end were there for a reason. Some ideology, some incident, some Imperial brutality. This bunch were- the word she was looking for, she finally decided, was normal.

For the given circumstances, of course. They were mostly male, surrounded by high technology, with duties, responsibilities and enough firepower to depopulate a world down to the algae, but given that, basically stable.

For a given, bored, grumpy, practical joke ridden value of stable, anyway. He took no notice of her, until much later that day; she came back to his cabin, after fetching a snack from the galley, and found someone had pumped helium into his quarters’ air- system.

‘Someone’, internal arrangements varied; on most ships, life support belonged to Logistics and Supply branch, on the Black Prince the lifesystem belonged to Engineering.

Lennart had long since given up trying to hold back their colonial tendencies. Their version of the shoulder patch had the knight holding a hydrospanner, as often as not.

He started to bawl her out, stiff faced, harsh and typically Imperial, but it came out in such a high- pitched whine, she started to chuckle.

He shouted at her more, which only made her worse, until she doubled over in- the helium was wafting out of the room- squeaky laughter. As she did, she noticed the glint of a lens poking round the corridor corner.

The Exec’s quarters were the largest and best appointed unit in a quarters block directly adjacent to damage control central;

in combat, the captain ran things from the bridge, the chief engineer from the MCR, the Assistant Chiefs oversaw their components of the ship, one of the two Deputy Chiefs went to the bridge, one to DC central.

The way it was supposed to work was that the exec made decisions from the operational point of view, prioritising what they needed fixed, and the deputy chief assigned assets to do it. It looked as if he had decided that what needed to be done was embarrass the exec, live on camera.

He was still shouting, grabbed her and tried to get her to stand up straight, managed it- she was too busy laughing- tried to slap her. She moved instinctively to block, caught herself just as she was about to slam the edge of her hand into his throat.

He looked as surprised as she was. She stepped back along the corridor, breathed deeply to get any helium out of her lungs, and said

‘If you really, truly cannot see the funny side of this, then I reckon you deserve everything the captain did to you.’

That boggled him. He couldn’t.

She took his arm, guided him back into his chambers as she would a half-cut idiot out of the door of the inn.

She sat him down, controlled her own laughter well enough to talk, squeakily.

‘I looked at your file, as well.’ She admitted, knowing how much trouble it could get her into. ‘You’re Mr. Clean, aren’t you? Never been on the receiving end…not even violations of uniform codes, never had so much as a civil parking ticket.

What I think this is about is, well, showing you the crappy end of the stick. Showing you- from the victim’s point of view- what the punishments it’s your job to hand out mean.’

At least he was looking up at her now.

‘How would you react to someone who took a disciplining this badly?’ she decided on a harder approach. It sounded absurd under the helium, but what wouldn’t?

‘I’d…they would be obviously unfit, so I would keep riding them until they were broke or resigned from the service.’ He said, thinly.

‘So now you’re punishing yourself as well. Great Space, how did you ever get this far? What you have to do now is to prove that you are fit, to yourself and to him.

Those recommendations should take almost as long to read as they will to write; how does he expect to do that? What shortcut is Captain Lennart planning to use? Work it out, exploit it yourself.’

His face brightened; he should have thought of that himself, but it was still a good idea.

The air was starting to clear; evidently they had given up on the helium.

‘The other thing is to work out what to say on those recommendations, to prove you deserve your job back.’
He was already moving towards his desk and the stack of datapads with the files.

Franjia Rahandravell and Aron Jandras didn’t dare say what they were thinking, because they were being detailed for the craziest mission either of them had ever heard of. It would only have been a long string of swear words, anyway.

‘They call it a destabilisation operation, I believe.’ Olleyri had them in the ready room of Alpha squadron.

‘They can call it anything they like, I think it’s crazy.’ Aron was standing, leaning over the desk, trying not to shout at the commander air group, and getting close to ceasing to care.

‘That’s exactly why you’re the man for the job.’

‘What,’ Franjia asked, ‘because he has no faith in this, that makes him appropriate? And what about me?’

‘You’re right. It is fundamentally insane. The situation that makes it necessary is demented. So it fits perfectly.’ Olleyri told them.

‘I’m not that good an actress.’

‘We’re not going to get them to break cover for anything less. Think about it. To get the Rebs to come out to play, we need to give them an objective they can’t ignore, and a situation they can realistically do something about.

We hand our captives over to the locals and appear to sail off, they organise a public, judicial murder of our prisoners- doesn’t that disgust you? Even a little?’

‘Would it shock you,’ Franjia asked him- both of them, really- ‘if I said no?’

‘Not much, no.’ Olleyri replied. ‘The reason it’s you- rebel frequencies?’

‘Why,’ Aron rounded on her, ‘did you have to work it out?’

‘As well hung for a bantha as a nerf. What’s really going on?’ she asked Olleyri.

Olleyri didn’t know. He tried to bluff it out. ‘If you know, who else do you think might find out?’

‘This should be a purely volunteer job.’ Aron said. ‘Kriffing espionage detail- I didn’t join up for this, I’m not trained for it, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be any good at it.’

‘Nonsense. Command is at least half acting, you ought to know that, and most of the rest is paperwork. The practical rebels will be overjoyed to have two experienced pilots, the idealistic side- it’s just the sort of fairytale they love to lap up.

And you are going to lead them into such a trap, any Imperial officer would have been proud to set it up.’

‘I get shivers,’ Aron said, ‘when anyone starts talking about me in the past tense.’

‘Kriff, I didn’t mean that; you are supposed to come back.’ Admittedly, he had no idea how. ‘But you are definitely supposed to go.’ He handed each of them a datapad. ‘Read, memorise, destroy. Report to me when you’re ready, dismissed.’

They saluted turned to leave. In the corridor outside Alpha’s bay,

‘Franjia-‘ Aron began. He hardly ever called her that, and especially not outside the cockpit.

She turned and looked down at him. ‘Yes, Squadron Leader?’

‘We’re supposed to be striking out on our own, rediscovering our consciences and our individuality.’ He was standing very close; she put a hand on his chest, gently pushed him back.

‘No.’ He looked hurt, shrivelled. ‘I shared a bed for almost a year with Ezirrn Tellick.’ She confirmed what he knew. She would have added that she didn’t come as a perk of the job, didn’t think she needed to go that far.

‘I know, Franjia,’ he said, sounding pleading, ‘it’s too soon- but dammit, by the time you feel, you’re ready, you know what I mean, we’ll be “just friends” ‘- or dead- ‘and it’ll be too late.’

‘It’s too soon for you, too.’ She said. ‘There’s a mess in your head, of anger at being in this, envy, jealousy, a little lust and all the usual madnesses of the fighter pilot- I don’t want you to pour that over me. Or expose you to mine.’

She turned on her heel, heading for the simulators; she wanted to put in some B-wing time. Just in case.

‘Captain, request permission to volunteer in place of Flight Lieutenant Rahandravell.’ OB173 barged straight into Lennart’s office and asked him, point blank. Actually, those were words he didn’t want to think about.

‘Why do you want to do that?’ he asked, brain temporarily in boggle mode.

‘I’m simply the most appropriate person for the job.’ She said, knowing he would guess that it wasn’t that simple, and trying to come up with a cover story.

'How do you know,’ Lennart recovered and asked her, slowly, ‘what the job is?’

‘Guesswork. Politics. Intuition. That and I asked her.’

‘If she was fool enough to tell you, then anyone would be better for the job.’ Lennart agreed. ‘She came away unharmed?’

‘The most efficient interrogation device ever issued; the human tongue.’ Only so because the troopers usually came with one, costing the army nothing.

‘Can you fly a B-wing?’

‘ “You don’t fly a B-wing; you just sit in the cockpit while it plods along.” ’ She quoted Franjia. ‘To that standard, yes.’

‘So tell me about your cover story.’ Lennart asked, professionally.

I’m a talent scout for a dark force adept, good enough to step straight into the ranks of the Sovereign Protectors, and the only reason I haven’t risen higher to become an adept in my own right is- I lack the hard edge of moral courage, the guts to take responsibility for the pain and misery I inflict.

I prefer to be told what to do. Show me the path, be it never so black, and I will walk it- but do not ask me to choose it for myself. To that extent, at least, I am the prisoner of my clone heritage.

And I want to be somewhere else, while the situation I have- I hope- set up for you starts to bite. Largely because, I have told myself, I can appear to be on your side, and manipulate you appropriately.

She might be able to say that to him, eventually. In the meantime she settled for ‘I’d need naval cover, a divisional officer or someone in Supply branch with part responsibility for the prisoners-‘

‘If that’s the best you can do, forget it.’ Lennart said. ‘You haven’t had any contact with them, any leak there- and there may be, accidental or deliberate- means your head on the block and, worse, a blown operation.’ He was deliberately brutal about that.

‘I don’t think you can pass for anything other than a trained killer. Start with a feasible motive, then sort out who could be credibly found holding it.’

‘Professional jealousy.’ She said, straight away. ‘Responsibility for them was taken away from me- I don’t have to pose to pass as an interrogator- and I got stroppy about it. I’m a talker; I cajole them, trick them into giving up their secrets.

The new man was more the racks and pincers type, typical bloodthirsty blundering Imperial, half sadist and half moron.’ She smiled at that one; a lot of the Rebels did think in stereotypes, but the smarter ones- for instance, intelligence officers- didn’t.

‘I reacted badly to that- crisis of conscience, to the extent of breaking him with his own tools. Then I had nothing else to do but run for it, and where else but to the Alliance?’

‘Very nice.’ Lennart said. ‘lots of small problems that can be plugged, and one insoluble one. The rebels have undoubtedly been guessing, they may even have got it right.

The chief reason they haven’t tried to employ their political weapon is that they are smart enough to know that, even if they say the truth, without backing it with evidence- in practical terms it’s just a conspiracy theory.

You can tell them entirely too much about what to think, where to look. That makes it an unjustifiable risk. You would be better for the job- if it wasn’t for that. Request denied, dismissed.’

She looked worried as she left, probably for herself. That was backwards; his instincts twitched a little. He would think about that later, there was another piece of the puzzle to move.

This time it was just him on his own; Aldrem wondered if that was a good or a bad thing.

‘Sit down, Senior Chief.’ The captain told him. Oh crap, he was really in for it.

‘Least things first; from your, ah, top end heavy perspective, an E-web may seem little different from a common blaster pistol- but I assure you; no.’

The captain was being flippant. He had probably decided to keelhaul him after all.

‘Your team is returned to normal duty, I’m going to need you to do some trick shooting for me. In about four or five hours, our rebuilt pair of B-wings will be checked out, and they will be beyond accurate LTL range before anyone realises they’re not coming back. You are going to try to shoot them down, and miss. Very narrowly.’

‘It’s a setup, Sir?’ Aldrem asked.

‘Yes. Do not actually hit them. Two other things- your local control op.’

‘Areath Suluur? He’s an essential part of the team, Sir.’ Aldrem stood up for his man.

‘He’s almost certainly a deserter from the Republic navy, part of one of the clone gun teams on an early Venator; he spent ten years AWOL at the end of the Clone Wars, before joining the Imperial Starfleet under a false ID.’

The senior chief looked horrified. ‘Sir, if that’s true-‘

‘If I had actually bothered to check up on it, I’m fairly sure I would be certain. I haven’t bothered. Just tell him to be slightly less effective in man to man combat, because if I can work it out, I’m sure the Legion’s veterans can.’

Aldrem was puzzled, but not unhappy. ‘Thank you, Sir.’

‘I’m not going to throw away a good gun team. Last thing, have you bumped into your girlfriend recently?’

‘If this is about the fraternisation regs, it’s not an issue, I mean yes, but the rank thing-‘

‘She’s already done one major service for the ship, by stopping the exec looking more than mildly foolish, and as I had hoped, injecting him with a dose of classic Rebel sticktoitiveness. Under her influence he should do well.’

‘That’s good-‘ then Aldrem’s brain caught up with his ears. ‘Rebel?’

‘Afraid so.’ The captain handed him the message pad; the only thing he had done was blank out the part about Aldrem passing for fifteen. ‘It raises a couple of interesting questions.’

‘But she doesn’t, she isn’t, she can’t-‘ Aldrem was trying not to believe his own eyes.

‘Does, is and can, but I do have some leeway in this. What I want is for her to defect to us and turn states’ evidence, what happens then- she shouldn’t be killed, but it could still be fairly unpleasant.

If she can help us reel the rebel force we’re after in, if you can turn her all the way, and I think you may be able to, I’ll give the bride away at your wedding myself.’

‘Sir, I mean, I see it, but I don’t believe it. I just can’t get it into my gut that she’s a Reb.’

‘That doesn’t make it wrong for you to like her, or unbelievable for her to like you; it just makes it very awkward. Go and put it right.’ Lennart ordered him, confident- sounding.

‘Sir, can I-‘

‘By all means, talk to your team about it, but no further. After all, as wilful as she obviously is, she belongs on this ship.’
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Post by Singular Quartet » 2007-01-20 02:44am

I don't like your paragraph spacing, and it takes work to read, but it's well worth slogging through. Your character interactions and wonderful, and your plotting seems to be good enough, we'll have to see.

I can already see a few divergances from the set timeline, and we'll see where those take us.

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Post by Vehrec » 2007-01-20 10:39am

I wouldn't say that there are deviations, just that it's a big galaxy, and the Palpatine's plots may have been more complex than previously known.

It's not often that we see the Imperials turn a Rebel. This could be good.
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