It was the best of times but it would become their greatest nightmare ... The business of exploration entered a boom period and the galaxy had been at peace for almost 10 years. Thepeople of the Republic had put the horrors of the Clone Wars behind them and were well on their way to rebuilding what had been lost. Two years into their exploration voyage, the crew of the Mon Calamari cruiser Argo discovered another promising solar system deep in a nebula. Located near the borders of the ‘Unknown Regions’, it consisted of two small stars each orbited by 3 and 2 planets respectively.
Note: The Explorations Unlimited Mon Calamari cruisers are in the original, pre-Rebel Alliance configuration. They are not the same as the versions that have been upgraded, up-gunned, and modified with military-grade hardware and additional hangar bays for the Rebel Alliance. "The Mon Cal cruisers were originally civilian ships designed for pleasure cruises and colonization efforts…After forcing the Empire from Calamari, the Mon Cals converted their ships to military duty by adding thick hull plating and numerous weapon emplacements." (Essential Guide) It is not a stretch to say that they were also quite popular as exploration ships.
One of the newest ships in the fleet of Explorations Unlimited, the Argo
had already garnered a reputation
as a nearly indestructible ship. Its banks of shield generators
allowed it to easily shrug offion storms that often left victory star
destroyers crippled. In fact, once they had rescued one such
The Argo’s primary purpose was not search and rescue however.
It was built for one purpose: exploration
[Newly discovered system. Designation Unspecified. Argo’s Hangar Bay.]The atmosphere was jubilant as the sleek exploratory vessel slid into orbit around the planetdesignated "Little Brother" and the sensor technicians and cartography teams went to work. One year had passed since the Argo had left the Company headquarters in Corellia on another exploratory foray into the unknown regions of space. As was common in exploratory missions, months flew by without encountering a planet suitable for colonization or terra forming. In fact, simply finding a new solar system
was cause for celebration. In the year since they departed, the Argo had not had any luck at all andeveryone was understandably eager for a change of pace. After determining that the atmosphere was not toxic and mapping the surface thoroughly, the eager science teams were finally allowed to disembark and begin their study one week after orbital insertion.
With a wild cheer, various personnel began to rush into landing craft
laden with various equipmentand supplies needed for the duration of their
stay on Little Brother. On the other side of the cavernoushanger
bay, there was an equally enthusiastic rush towards a small rank of escort
fighters. Ensconced in
the fighter staging area were a squadron of shiny, new Z-95 Headhunters,
a squadron of Albatross sensor
platforms, and a half squadron of prototype interceptors. As the
mechanics watched, a four-ship
[Headhunter Ghost 1.]In the lead Headhunter, Lieutenant j.g.. John "Wildman" Samuels reveled in the sensation of flight after a two-week turn on the bridge as flight coordinator. A quick look at his scanners revealed the ungainly landing ships strung out in a neat line closely shepherded by the two flights of Headhunters. He stifled a laugh as he watched his wingman break out into a barrel roll. 6 months without flying save for simulators could drive anyone off the wall. His flight of four consisted of two elements, himself, ‘Bird one’, and Flight Officer John "Bird" Collins his wingman, ‘Bird two’; and Lieutenant Dan "Big ‘Olet"(A story for another time.) Mazza and Flight Officer Stephen "Ace" Chiu, Bird three and four respectively.
As they began to enter the atmosphere, Wildman turned his attention to the planet below. About the size of Corellia, Wildman’s home planet, Little Brother was half covered in water. The 5 continentsseemed heavily wooded and he could spot a few mountain ranges in the distance.
This could be a nice place to spend the rest of my life, he thought to himself absentmindedly. Toobad it’s so far away from everything. Maybe in a few years, he mused, I could come back here and get a colony started.
He led the Headhunters on a flyby of the landing zone and then ordered
the squadron to make aperimeter sweep before landing. As they began
their sweep, Wildman could see the security personnel and
armored vehicles pour out of the drop ships. A rudimentary defensive
position was formed almost before
the scientist’s ships touched down. By the time Ghost squadron had
finished their perimeter sweep
and landed at the temporary landing site, the prefabricated structures
were already going up and
[Worker Bee on repair detail along the Argo’s hull.]Worker bee 215B was drifting slowly along the dorsal side of one of the large engine pods when itssensors begin to squawk at the pilot, Jonathan Swift. "Wha?!" Jon was startled out of his cheerfulcontemplation of his newest novel. "Foreign object off the starboard bow, 230 meters? Aw… great. Not mynocks again?!"
Several weeks ago the Argo unsuspectingly passed too close to an asteroid belt while charting anewly discovered solar system. The resident horde of mynocks had literally blocked out the sun. They had had to flee the system ignobly with mynocks nipping after them the entire way to the nearest jumppoint.
Grumbling deprecations about the ancestry of the engineers who consistently ignore reports aboutinsufficient shielding, Jon powered up the small blaster that had become standard worker bee issue after the first couple deep space missions. As he approached the spot however, his floodlights failed to reveal the expected warped frame of a mynock. Instead, Jon’s heart leaped into his throat andenergetically tried to jump out and hid under his seat.
A midnight-black droid about the size of his ship popped out of the shadows
and began sprayingblaster bolts at him. With a terrified howl, Jon
flung his throttle past the 100% mark and tried to pull hisflight stick
out of the floor. As his worker bee sluggishly pulled away, he opened
a link to C & C andtried to update them on the situation. Before
C & C replied, the speakers emitted a loud squeal, characteristic
of an extremely high-powered Omega signal and a big explosion sent his
"I think it blew up on purpose! No it wasn’t one of their designs. I don’t know! I didn’t exactly have time to sightsee."
well. Return to the hangar bay immediately for debriefing, C and
[Explorations Unlimited Camp on the planet temporarily named "Little Brother".]"So when do you think we’re gonna be movin’ out boss?" asked Big ‘Olet later that night. Wildman waited until his plate had been filled before answering his friend of six years.
"Well, one science team just left for the North Pole yesterday and there’s another leaving for one of the southern continents tomorrow. I’d give it another two months or so before we’ve gathered all the data we need." They moved through the crowded mess hall and sat down at one of the tables outside of the plastic, prefabricated structure.
"Then it’s back to months in space looking at the scanners and telescopes again, huh" Big ‘Olet mumbled to himself. "I wonder how things are going with Stephen and his new lady love in the pathfinder’s squad. Scuttlebutt says they’re gettin--" ‘Olet’s comment was forgotten as their COM links began beeping simultaneously.
They reacted with the seasoned reflexes of combat veterans and were running
for their fighters even before
the Mon Calamari communications officer began to speak. The gurgling
distortion that was oneof the trademarks of the Mon Calamari was unable
to hide his nervousness when he spoke. "An unidentified
vessel has exited hyper space on the far side of the planet. It
is not broadcasting an ID. I’m putting
on the flight coordinator." Wildman’s hackles rose as he heard that.
"Come on! Move your
"Commander! The Ghost squadron fighters remaining onboard will be
providing cover for the Argo.The ship has not answered our hails
and is powering up weapons-- Incoming fighters!" barked the flightcoordinator
of the shift. Pirates, he thought viciously as he strapped on his
helmet and life supportsystems. As he lowered the canopy and triggered
his engines, he could see Ace and Bird alreadytaking off on repulsor lifts.
[Bridge of the Argo. Far side of "Little Brother".]Since all-out combat with heavily armed space pirates was not part of the itinerary, the Argo was only lightly armed with 10 turbo lasers and a quad-concussion missile launcher. Thankfully its shields were more than strong enough to kept the ship in one piece long enough for them to evade pirate attacks.Capt. Hans Tokagawa was taking no chances though and ordered a withdrawal to the other planet while the squadron took care of business. "Scramble the 4 Ghost squadron fighters remaining on board to
provide cover for Argo."
Even as he gave the order his face showed how much he hated to leave the squadron outnumbered 8 to 12 without support. But there were civilians on his ship to consider and a pirate squadron if armedwith an ample supply of proton torpedoes could with some work disable or destroy his ship especially considering his scant fighter support.
"Do you have an ID on those fighters yet, Sensors?"
"Not yet Captain, just a little longer…Y-Wings!! What the devil?"
"Sensors, this isn’t the time or place to fool around. Y-wings! Come on. They’re the newest fighters on the market. Double check your readings."
"They still say Y-wings, sir."
"Oh brother, pirates with Y-wings. The Republic is going to Hell in a hand basket."
The bridge of the Argo was tense as the communications officer tried to hail the unknown ship and it’s fighters: "Unidentified ships, this is the Republic ship Argo. Please identify yourself." After repeated attempts to establish communications failed, the unknowns were designated hostile. "Activate shields and weapons. Bring Argo to general quarters!" Capt. Tokagawa barked. The bridge crew leapt into action.
Good luck my friend and may the Force be with you. Capt. Tokagawa
watched helplessly asWildman’s squadron formed up above the Company’s
camp and sped towards the intruders glowing red
on the scope.
[100 km South of the Company camp. 3000 ft.]Wildman fidgeted as he watched his shields and weapons levels climb. 5 km … 4 … 3 … 2 … He bit out orders even as the pirates came into visual range: "Y’all know the drill. Stay with your wingman and don’t let any of them get through to the base. Now get down in there and wrassel ‘em around some!" A chorus of affirmatives was heard as the pirates came into view throwing spears of light at the squadron. Drawing on skills honed by 20 years of service with the Republican Navy, he ducked below their fire and then brought his fighter’s nose back to bear on the enemy. Concentrated return fire from the massed
Headhunters blew away two of the attackers with the help of a judicious, last minute concussion missile barrage on the first pass. "Big! Heads up. I want you to take number 2. I’ve got leader."
As they flew past each other, Wildman was amazed to see that the pirates
were flying battle-scarredY-wings rather than the more common Uglies,
a hodgepodge mixture of different fighter parts that the builder
happened to have on hand. He realized what was going on when he
saw that none of the Y-wings
carried R2 units and spied hastily painted over unit patches. Later, he
spotted one whose ioncannon turret was still partially disassembled.
Probably recently stolen from a repair depot along the
"Sax, break right! Break right! Harder!"
"Got the bastard!"
"Eat this sucker! Haha!"
The Y-wing squadron would have been more than evenly matched against his Headhunters save forthat fact that Ghost squadron pilots were all combat veterans and that these particular Headhunters were block AF4 Z-95s. It also helped that Capt. Tokagawa had sent his CAP to assist after he saw the pirates would not be getting anywhere close to the cruiser. Even Ace, their ewest pilot, had several fighter kills under his belt from his time with a planetary space force. Wildman saw Ace and ‘Olet execute a complicated weave pattern that resulted in a collision between two over-eager pirates and the destruction of another.
"Scratch three bogies."
"Ace, vertical scissors on my mark."
"Wildman, you’ve got one on your ass! Move it."
"I see it but I can’t shake him."
"Not to worry big boy, I’m on ‘em.""Yee-haaa!"
An Y-wing pulled into a steep climb directly into the path of a headhunter. The headhunter twisted and slid between the Y-wing’s two engine pods but then was caught by four dual laser blasts simultaneously.Another Y-wing broke left into his wingman causing a large explosion that engulfed half of a headhunter’s wing leaving it singed and half slagged.
20 incredibly tense minutes later, it was all over. The pirate squadron shattered, the pirate ship fled intohyperspace after recovering the tattered remnants of its squadron. Three pilots downed. Not badconsidering we were up against 12 Y-wings, Wildman thought. He opened a channel to Argo and confirmed the S & R shuttle’s ETA as well as an assault transport to pick up the pirates. After the pilots were picked up, he contacted his squadron, "Ghosts, let’s get back to the Argo. I’ve got a date." With a bed, he failed to add as a few tired catcalls came over the comlink.
They later found out from the captured pirates that the unlucky thieves
had been tracking the Argoin hopes of an easy capture. They were
not aware of the quality of Argo’s fighter squadrons until it wastoo
Two months later and with surveys completed on all of the planets, the
Argo left the orbit of Dantooine
and entered hyperspace bound for Corellia. Once at Explorations
Unlimitedheadquarters, Wildman retired and was succeeded by Lieutenant
Dan "Big ‘Olet" Mazza. Lieutenant Stephen
"Ace" Chiu and Lieutenant Heather Chung in the pathfinder’s squad were
married. By the
In an attempt to bring the Republican worlds more firmly under his control, Emperor Palpatine ordered suspension of exploratory activity. Many of the exploratory companies went out of business while others elocated into the Corporate Sector or the areas less enthusiastic about Imperial rule.
Explorations Unlimited was one of the companies that decided to move its
headquarters to avoid Palpatines restrictions. It eventually
settled on Bespin, which was uninhabited at that time. Forming a
partnership with some chemical companies and Coruscant crystal dealers
lead to the construction of ADCC1 (Advanced City Concept 1), the
forerunner of the famous Cloud City. The Argo and its sisters
were quietly up gunned but otherwise continued in the same role as before.The
Council of Explorations Unlimited watched with growing unease as the abuses
and ambitions of the Empire grew. Finally, secret evidence
provided by the Rebels verifying the destruction of Alderaan convinced
the Council that a tentative understanding with the Rebel Alliance would
be the wisest course of action. They began secret negotiations
[Onboard ADCC1 two weeks after the destruction of the first Death Star. Hangar Bay 5b.]
It was the middle of the night shift on ADCC1 and Hank "Spook" Chiu was bored. Very bored. The Argo had been in dry dock for a week getting the latest upgrades and maintenance. A weeks worth of shifts in the business department had left him itching to take his Headhunter out for a spin and blow something up. He had already refurbished his armor and weapons, upgraded his survey suits sensors, replaced the shield lenses on his Headhunter, recalibrated its sensors package, cleaned the concussion missile alleys, and gone over his lasers with a fine-tooth comb. With a sign, he stood back and regarded his battered Headhunter with pride. Then his funk returned as he turned and saw the tantalizing swirls of cloud outside of the hangar bay. "Well I guess I could recalibrate my rifle." At this point, his Sullustan wingman, Manx call slgn Bat, walked in.
"Spook, what are you doing still up? We went off shift 4 hours ago!"
"Aw come on. I dont have another shift scheduled for 2 days!" Spook protested. Manxs green eyes fell on the grease stains on his flight suit and the shiny Headhunter and slitted. She snickered as his stomach growled.
come on. Lets get something to eat."
[ADCC1. Drop Zone Café.]
Five minutes later they were comfortably ensconced in a plush booth in the Zone, the informal pilots hangout bar/cafe. Manx ordered a Sullustan dish with lots of strange looking ingredients and Spook decided on two Nerf Burgers and a tankard of cider. For a while, nothing was said as they devoted most of their attention to their food.
"Hows the family?" Manx asked.
"Ace is having a great time modifying his new drop ship. I swear he almost has more fun flying that overpowered monstrosity than a fighter! Him and Mom are on with the Intrepid at the moment in the M308 cluster somewhere. But enough about me, what have you been up to Manx?" Spook asked.
She lazily smiled at him while playfully flicking sweetener packets around the table, "Ive been hanging around some of my friends in the cartography department. They told me that the Intrepid discovered another useful planet near the Unknown Regions. I also heard something about some big cover-up going on at Alderaan."
Spook asked "What about it? You mean the Rebel broadcasts were telling the truth?"
Manx nodded gravely, "Yes. The Death Star exists and it comes out from under the bed where it lives next to the bogeyman to scare children at night." The pair dissolved into laughter. "Personally Spook, the very idea of someone wasting the time and money to build a space station that big is ludicrous! Anyway, the Jason is en route to Alderaan to find out whether about this mysterious communications blackout has anything to do with those periodic ion storms. If thats the problem, the council thinks that we could finagle a deal with Alderaan to supply them with a better hyper-communications system. We should be hearing back from them in a couple of days."
A few more path finders joined them at the table bringing with them more
gossip about the newly discovered planet, something about a ski resort
from Hell, as well as the temporary lost of communications with the cruiser
Mercury two weeks ago. Apparently some little gizmo that
was crucial to the operation of the communications systems had broken
down and of course that was the one thing that Mercury didnt have
replacements for. A BTL-S3 Y-wing was ferrying the spare part out
to the Mercury. By time some Ghost squadron members came
in, Spook was starting to nod off. Finally he took his leave and
returned to his quarters for some long needed sleep. As he nodded
off, his mind kept drifting to the new planet that had just been discovered.
Maybe Argo will be assigned to investigate as well if its
that bad. That would be nice. I havent done any ground
missions in a while and
it would be nice to see my parents again, he thought wistfully.
[200 km South West of ADCC1.]
"Yahoooo!" Spook grinned as Bat vocalized what he felt precisely. Two new X-wings tore through several wispy high-flying clouds. They were on a routine patrol of Bespin in between ADCC1 and Cloud One, their newest floating city. Since their patrol coincided with the delivery of a test batch of what could possibly be their next primary star fighter, the X-wing, Spook and Cat were easily convinced to take the two X-wings on a check ride.
Note: This was shortly before the Empire nationalized the Incom Corporation. It had just been announced on the open market when the Imperial Security Bureau began to suspect some of the Incom designers had rebel sympathies.
Spook redlined the throttle and watched as the digital speedometer crept
past 130 mglts. He dipped the X-wing through a couple of clouds
and then threw it into a few barrel rolls. Through it all, the X-wing
didnt miss a beat. Its quad pack of engines screaming behind
him supplied him with plenty of power. Then he yelled in surprise as an
enormous school of baleens surfaced out of the clouds right in front of
them. He shoved the flight stick to the side so hard his knuckles
collided with the side of the narrow cockpit in order to avoid ramming
a brightly colored one that surfaced about 50 meters in front of his
Simultaneously, Bat howled as her X-wing dove between the wings and membranes
of an enormous 20 meter long baleen and then immediately shot straight
up to avoid one which surfaced just below her. Spook swung his ship
around one only to have another baleen surface directly in front of him.
He almost ripped the stick out of the control panel in his attempt to
pull up. Bat barreled through a small cluster twisting and diving
madly. One particularly violent turn sent her spinning into a loop.
Baleens were a common sight this time of year. They fed by filtering the nutrient rich lower atmosphere of Bespin. Decorated with a combination of colors, they pulled in a modest amount of income from tourists each year. Spook himself had spent many lazy afternoons on a prospectors platform watching the baleens swim by. Flotation was provided by air sacs and rudimentary wings provided propulsion. Membranes that were the means of gathering food hung underneath. Harmless creatures that they were, a mid-air collision with one would probably not affect the systems of the new, rugged X-wing or an Y-wing but the fragile shields of a Headhunter might not hold. Unfortunately it would most certainly be fatal to the Baleen.
Their luck held and both made it through the school without any damage
to the X-wings and the baleens. "Whew!" Bat mumbled as they both
slumped in their cockpits. "THAT doesnt happen to you everyday."
"Was that cool or what!" Spook said. "Very impressive", Bat said,
"Especially when you get such a CLOSE LOOK AT THEM!" "Do you think
we can report that these ships are fully operational now?" Cat murmured.
Then they both started to chuckle as the adrenaline rush wore off.
[Traffic pattern around ADCC1.]
As they were landing in one of ADCC1s hanger bays, Bat tiredly watched
the sun set. A river of lights flowed through the spires of the
city and around the docking bays where the Argo and a few other ships
were parked. She could see the distant flares and sparks of the
welders as they worked in the cavernous bays. Distantly she heard
Spook acknowledge the air traffic controller directing them into the landing
pattern and she held formation easily. Suddenly, they were surprised
when the controller suddenly ordered them back out. After an irritated
inquiry, they were told hurriedly to contact the flight coordinator.
"The Artemis has entered the system and its not answering
our hails! Sensors indicate a large debris trail. The rest
of your squadron is scrambling right now and so are the Paladins.
They will be flying cover for you. I want you to fly escort for
the Artemis and talk them down out of orbit. Tugs have been dispatched.
Move it. NOW!"
The X-wings swung out of their approach heading and lit their afterburners.
A star field quickly replaced the reddish sunset. "This is Lieutenant
Chiu speaking. Come in Artemis. Artemis please respond."
The communications mystery resolved itself as they drew closer to the
mute cruiser, silence fell over the two when they saw the condition of
A gaping hole resided in the communications sections former location.
"Holy cow! What happened to her?!" Spook spoke after he finished
gaping at the damage. The Artemis had been badly damaged.
Half of its port wing was missing. The left hanger bay was a blackened
mess. Laser burns scarred most of the ship turning the ships
formerly white, pristine hull into an ugly mess. As they watched,
one of the Artemis five laboring engines gave out.
Seeing that the ships hull was compromised in far too many positions
to enter the atmosphere without help, Bat radioed ADCC1 and recommended
that they also dispatch several heavy lifters. Spook managed to maneuver
his X-wing into visual distance of the bridge, which was thankfully intact.
Inside, the bridge was lit with the red general quarters lights and a
few figures could be seen moving about.
Spook managed to signal the bridge that help was on the way and Bat took
the opportunity to circle the ship to catalog the damage. Her unease
grew as she noted the precision with which the laser burns had been applied.
Imperials? What have we done to attract their attention?
Weve avoided contact with the Rebellion and minimized our normal
After a few minutes, the heavy lifters arrived along with a squadron of
tugs. With a delicacy that was incongruous for ships their size,
the lifters maneuvered over the crippled ship and activated their powerful
tractor beams. The tugs attached themselves directly to its hull
to contribute their engine power to the effort of landing the Artemis.
After the tugs linked their flight computers with those of the heavy lifters,
they began the slow, nerve-wracking descent. After a few tense moments
when a tug lost its engines due to the stresses, the ensemble finally
moved into one of the dry-docks. Through the whole event, the Paladins
and the rest of Ghost squadron flew a racetrack pattern first in space
above the Artemis and then above ADCC1 itself. The com. channels
were silent as the pilots watched the battered wreck ease into dry dock.
As the heavy lifters and tugs detached themselves and headed in, Ghost
and Paladin also headed to their docking bay. A steady line of the
Paladins shiny, new Y-wings preceded the Ghosts sturdy, old
Headhunters into Docking Bay 5b. The docking bay began to fill with
disembarking pilots and the smell of exhaust as the frustrated pilots
disembarked in silence. The normal good-natured bantering was absent
and the mechanics watched mystified at first but with mounting edginess
as the reason for their hasty departure was laid out before them.
The Artemis settled into dry dock with a moan of stressed metal
and plastic composites. In the sudden silence left by the departure
of the tugs and lifters, one could hear the sound of electrical short
sand makeshift supports giving way. The crew was unable to disembark
from the main hatches because they had all been jammed or melted shut.
After repeated attempts to open the doors failed, repulsor transports
were flown into the one barely functional hanger bay and the crew flown
out in shifts. The wounded and the dead were the first out and flown
to the main hospital. Engineers shook their heads over the damage
and then begin to plan repairs. Technicians and repair droids swarmed
over the ship. It would take weeks of work before the ship began
to look like a ghost of its former self.
As the remaining crewers were slowly and carefully debriefed, a terrifying
episode began to slowly reveal itself. The Artemis had been
surveying the Beta quadrant for about one and a half years. (The
average survey mission for the Company is about 4 years.) They had
already discovered one solar system with a possible habitable planet when
they discovered yet another solar system in a heavily ionized nebula.
They literally stumbled upon it as the Artemis dropped out of hyperspace
so the science teams
could study the nebula. This system was not suitable for colonization
without substantial terraforming. However as they surveyed the outermost
planet, it was discovered that it was very rich in iron ore deposits and
other useful minerals. The Company itself used systems like this to guarantee
a steady source of income so the crew was understandably delighted about
the find. In the excitement and due to the distortion from the nebula,
no one noticed at the time that the system had several unfriendly guardians.
Unfortunately, the Imperial system patrol craft stationed in the system
spotted them first and launched a surprise attack
[ADCC1 Dry Dock Observation Lounge]
Lieutenant Franz Richards stood at one of the observation bays overlooking
the dry dock where the Artemis was presently interred. He
watched in a state of shock as the stream of wounded and dead trickled
off and the repair chiefs began examining the hull to see if it was worth
repairing. Even from his rather distant vantage point, he could
see a whole lot of head shaking going on. Its not fair.
Its just not fair. We didnt do bantha poo-doo to them
and they had to go demolish my ship. That fateful mission
[Newly Discovered Solar System. Temporarily designated AG12.]
What a booorrriiinnng shift, I wonder if I should run another turbo laser
optimization test? That way I might be able to go the entire shift
without falling asleep. Franz was the chief turbo laser officer
aboard the Artemis. He watched as Tomas fidgeted restlessly
at his sensor station across the quite bridge of the Artemis.
It was late at night and the sensor officer, Tomas Dalgren,
stretched as he fought off a yawn. Hes been trying unsuccessfully
to focus his attention on the sensor screens for several minutes
"Can you cover for me while I go grab some stim tea?"
"Sure man, make mine a small one will you Tomas?"
problem. Ill be right back, Sam."
He made his way to the dispenser located near the rear of the bridge and
punched up two stim teasand then walked back to his station. Suddenly
he gasped, dropped the two steaming cups he had been carrying on an unsuspecting
technician, and lunged for the alert button at the sensor station.
The cause for his alarm was displayed rather prominently on his primary
display, a squadron of system patrol craft converging on the Artemis
from all directions escorted by a wing of TIE fighters.
Franz quickly turned to his station and begins to alert the gunners in
the laser turret clusters. Dimly someone could be heard yelling
for a medic to assist the poor, burned technician. He soon became
immersed in the task of coordinate the gunners against the patrol boats.
"Launch the fighters, get the weapons and shields up, and someone get
the captain up here!" To the technician who was screaming in agony,
Tomas said "Hey relax its just some fresh, pipping ... hot........stim
Commotion broke out over the ship as the General Quarters lights and sirens
went off. Crewmembers rushed to their battle stations blearily pulling
on their clothes. Orange suited pilots raced towards the hanger
and the sound of activating star fighter engines could be heard in the
The captain took in the situation as he walked onto the bridge and sat down in his seat radiating confidence and security as usual. "Lieutenant, what is the situation of our fighters?" he asked.
"Both squadrons have been launched and are holding formation around the Artemis. The Y-wings all have full loads of proton torpedoes but we have a shortage of concussion missiles for the fighters."
good. Thank you Mr. Damon. Order all ships to concentrate their
fire on the three patrol craft in front of the Artemis. After
that, they are to attack targets of opportunity. The last thing
we want is to be caught in a crossfire."
Even as he finished speaking, the blue vapor trails of proton torpedoes
sped out in front of the bridge view port and converged on the three shiny
dots in the distance. The Headhunters came in to view as they sped
towards the same targets in a tight, orderly formation closely followed
by the Y-wings.
The first torpedo salvo blew one patrol craft out of space in a spectacular
explosion but a significant number of the torpedoes were shot down or
decoyed away by jammers and chaff. The patrol craft launched their
own salvo of concussion missiles and both sides engaged in a brief spasm
of evasive maneuvers. A few unlucky Y-wings and two Headhunters
were destroyed and their pilots cast adrift in the vacuum as they waited
for the rescue shuttle. The unshielded TIEs uniformly fared worse.
As the fighters methodically took apart the remaining two patrol craft
with a few more torpedoes, the Artemis came under attack by the remaining
squadron of patrol craft. In an attempt to exploit the hole in the
patrol craft screen left by the fighters, she redlined her engines.
Her turbo laser batteries opened up on all of the attackers at once in
a dazzling display of pyrotechnics as the return fire pounded her shields.
The TIEs buzzed about the barrage impotently taking pot shots at the fighters.
Slowly the tide began
to turn against the patrol craft as the superior shielding of the Artemis
began to show. But the Artemis took damage as well. Every
once in a while, a laser blast got through a hole in the shielding
blowing away a laser turret or vaporizing some armor. The situation
for the Artemis was fast becoming untenable as more and more laser
blasts made it through the weakening shields taking out a laser turret
here and a shield emitter there.
A hail of torpedoes against one of the patrol craft heralded the return
of the remaining fighters triumphant over their three targets. Missiles
exhausted, they threw their ships against the remaining patrol craft in
a brave attempt to shield their mother ship. One by one the remaining
patrol craft fell but the fighter squadrons paid a steep price for it
as the patrol craft began to target them. Only the rescue shuttles
were exempt from the patrol crafts attack due to the fact that they
were picking up Imperial life pods
as well as their own.
there were only two patrol craft left but the Artemis systems
were beginning to fail. Suddenly the tables turned against the embattled
Artemis as an additional squadron of TIEs came into sensorrange
and threw themselves into the fray with zeal. By this time, the
Artemis had finally reached the hyper limit and began to pull away
from the battered patrol craft. After the few surviving Company
fighters were ordered to jump out to a recovery point, the Artemis
jumped into hyperspace with a flicker of
pseudo-motion leaving behind the shattered remains of a patrol craft squadron
and some pissed off TIE pilots
A detailed analysis of the Artemis and its fighters sensor
logs was undertaken in an attempt to discover the reason behind the unprecedented
attack in a recently discovered solar system. Although the Empire had
outlawed exploratory activities, it had never taken military action against
Explorations Unlimited before. This had everyone wondering what
was in that solar system that was
emergency meeting of the Council was called and lasted for 2 hours.
As soon as the meeting was over, the Athena was sent on a top secret courier
mission to their rebellion contact.
As the Athena hurtled through hyperspace, the Imperial forces were belatedly
reacting to the Artemiss excursion. A task force was charged
with the task of protecting the vulnerable construction station as it
evacuated the system. Consisting of 3 Carrack cruisers and one Imperial
star destroyer, it bristled with firepower and squadrons of star fighters.
Even now, the crew of the task force is bringing the mothballed construction
station back to life.
[Unnamed Solar System AG12. Shipyard X.]
Although indisputably the largest in the known galaxy, the enormous shipyard was known only to a select few. It was where the famous Death Star had undergone its final testing and was crewed and equipped for its anticipated rein of terror. Then due to the incredible budget constraints brought about by the strain of constructing several Super-class Star Destroyers as well as other ships-of-the-line, the facility was sent into hiding and mothballed.
"Sorry sir, we didnt know it was you."
"Not a problem", the Captain responded congenially as his attention remained mostly on the information streaming past him on the console displays, "Carry on, Lieutenant."
"Yes Sir." The storm troopers came to attention and then filed out the door. The engineers spread out throughout the room to do their jobs. Their supervisor came into the command room and saluted, "Sir, I can take over for you now if you wish. Im sure that you have more pressing business to take care of."
"You may, but I will stay a little while longer. I wish to see first hand this TIE that has the Imperial Research and Development Department all worked up." He stood back from the console and let the engineer get to work.
days passed since the Athena was sent on its emergency courier mission.
Cloud nine and its sisters were put on alert. Exploration Unlimiteds
entire fleet of ships was recalled to Bespin as a security precaution.
[Cloud 2. Hangar Bay 2.]
"Man, I hate this! Im a pilot not a drudge" Crazey complained as he and Spook pulled a repulsor truck up to a pile of crates being unloaded from a freighter.
"Quit complaining and help me!" Spook grumbled as he tried to put one of the crates on the repulsor truck. "Theres a few more tons of stuff where that came from and weve got to get it all tucked away before the Empire figures out that it was our ship that found that huge shipyard and comes calling." "Besides if we didnt have anything to do, youd probably be complaining about that too." Spook added with a small grin.
Crazey managed a baleful glare at his demented, cheerful friend. "Now all we have to do is unload all of this junk in a warehouse."
Crazey laughed and twirled an imaginary mustache, "This is no doubt due to my massive piloting abilities. Now run along and play with your sensor arrays, you grease-monkey!" The two friends laughed and hailed a taxi.
[Unnamed Solar System temporarily designated AG12.]
Captain Proctov watched the continuing preparations with great relish.
In addition to his Imperial Star Destroyer Relentless, 3 Carrack cruisers,
and their fighter squadrons; his technicians and engineers had managed
to construct and activate two entire squadrons of TIE Defenders before
running through the remaining raw materials stockpiled on the station.
His TIE interceptor squadron from Relentless and another squadron of men
chosen from the Carrack cruisers TIEs were already halfway through
the training course for the Defender. Sienar Fleet Systems had truly
outdone themselves with this one, he thought. Not only could it
out-maneuver the interceptor but it was also quite a bit faster.
Then he sighed. The primary drawback, which he though sourly also
happened to be larger than a pyramid of banthas, was the incredible cost
of the ships. As it stood, the Empire could only reasonably and
safely afford 10 or so squadrons of this fighter at the moment.
These two squadrons were to be delivered directly to an Imperial flight
testing facility for further evaluation as soon as his men were qualified
to fly them there. They would not get the chance to fly the marvelous
ships in combat anytime in the foreseeable future. However, there
was a chance that, Proctov brightened slightly, the Rebels would attack
before the Defenders left. He bent his head back to the pile of
reports on his desk.
[Far side of Bespin from ADCC1. Aboard a sensor platform.]
At about that time, Spook was cursing the monkey-lizard that designed the wrenches he was using. The idiot who said this thing was suitable for use in an environment suit should be shot out of a torpedo tube, he thought angrily as the wrench slipped of the nut he was struggling to tighten once again. The nut popped off as well and began a leisurely spiral into the gaseous core of Bespin accompanied by a new, more enthusiastic round of curses. He and a few other assorted pilots and technicians were busy modifying survey platforms which were scattered across Bespin for use as sensor arrays. One of the technicians yelped as he slipped on an ice patch and fell off of the survey platform they were working on. The screaming technician fell a good 300 meters before his suits emergency repulsor rig activated itself bringing him to an abrupt, bruising halt. The light freighter a kilometer away from the platform, which served as their base of operations, pivoted slightly and its tractor beam began pulling the terrified technician towards an open cargo bay.
She smiled as she activated the link to her team members. "Alright folks, were done here and headed back to Cloud 1 as soon as you jokers get back to the ship." A ragged cheer greeted her announcement and the freighter began to approach the platform as the team members filled towards the extending gangplank. Her mind turned to other business as she clumped up into the ship with a small grin, I wonder if I should wear that blue dress or the green one.
[Prearranged meeting point.]When Artemis arrived at the deep space rendezvous point, she was greeted by a lone communications satellite that after Artemis transmitted authentication codes broadcast coordinates in a near by nebula. At the new coordinates, the bridge crew was greeted with the sight of three Rebel frigates hovering protectively around an enormous Mon Calamari Cruiser. Of infinitely more interest was a squadron of B-wings with their S-foils deployed in attack position closing on their ship at full speed. The piecing sound of multiple missile lock alarms sounded across the bridge.
Mito tore his eyes away from the Rebel fleet and nodded to his communications
officer. The woman nodded and turned to her console. "Alliance
ships, this is the explorer vessel Artemis. I repeat!
This is the Artemis. We would prefer you not blowing us into little
[B-wing Squadron The Delivery Men]The B-wing pilots blinked and chuckled at the non-standard greeting. "Orders boss? I'm pretty sure those are friendlies there." "Hold your banthas man, I'm getting confirmation now..."
[Artemis]"Our captain must meet with your command crew immediately!" finished the comm. officer. The bridge relaxed when the B-wings slowed and turned away. "Attention Mon Calamari cruiser Artemis! Welcome to Mynock’s Rest. Our captains will join you aboard the Intrepid."
turned away from the transparisteel viewport and spoke, "Prepare my shuttle
for launch and have our briefing team assemble in the docking bay.
I will be leaving shortly."
[Bespin, far side]Spook was flying a routine (read as extremely boring) patrol with Bat and another pair of Ghost pilots. The 4 X-wings were a few hundred miles from the sensor station that Spook had helped upgrade when the flight leader caught a glimpse of something on his sensor screen. "Hey Spook, I’ve got an anomalous contact. Take Bat with you to check it out. Transmitting coordinates"
Spook and Bat peeled off and dove steeply towards the coordinates the
flight leader transmitted.
[Probe Droid 39873B]The reason for the anomalous contact, a replacement for the probe droid that had been posted at the sensor station, came online as it entered the atmosphere and shed its hyperspace pod. The probe droid’s hyperspace pod was the source of the sensor reflection before the discarded sections fell out of sensor range into Bespin’s core.
The first thing the droid’s sensors picked up was the two approaching
starfighters. It reacted instantaneously by turning its smallest
cross section towards the fighters and cutting its repulsors. It
dropped several kilometers while its passive sensors watched the fighters.
A rogue Coruscant crystal fragment slashed through one of the droid’s
sensor probes causing a power surge through the droid systems. The
stealth systems were briefly disrupted before they were reset by the droid.
"Probability of detection high. Activate self-destruct." Unfortunately,
the power surge had fried the self-destruct circuits. This allowed
the fighters to confirm that it was a probe droid. It barely had
time to broadcast a signal announcing its discovery and impending destruction
before one of the fighters blasted it into flaming debris.
[Ghost 4]Bat howled in triumph as her cannon fire exploded the probe droid. Spook was too busy to respond as he was contacting the flight leader with the bad news that the Empire had already penetrated their security. As they rejoined the formation, they pondered the new developments.
[Imperial Star Destroyer Imperious. Bridge.]Commander Proctov was not happy. His men were behind the squadron from his Carrack cruisers in their training. At this rate, they would be ready to depart from the shipyard a full week behind the other squadron. His captains would be insufferable. It seemed that he would be paying for several bottles of hard liquor.
The shipyard was almost ready to be moved. Proctov watched his technicians swarm over the last of the shipyards engines. He turned to his executive officer as he approached with the latest status reports.
"Everything is on schedule, Captain. The shipyard will be mobile at full capacity as soon as the last 3 engines are repaired. The hyperdrives are already fully operational. Work is proceeding on schedule on the dry-docks. In three weeks, we’ll be home."
XO. You have the bridge. I’m going to check on our hotshots."
He saluted as Proctov walked towards the turbo lifts against the back
of the bridge, his heels clicking against the black, polished decking.
[ADCC 1. Council Chambers.]"They found what!" The committee member sputtered angrily.
The sensor technician spoke nervously, "Our analysis of the fighters sensor readings are positive. An Omega signal was broadcast before the fighters could destroy the droid. The Empire knows that we know that they were here. They also know that we destroyed their probe droid
"Thank you for your report, you may go now" said another Committee member. The room was silent as the technician left. A Committee woman broke the silence timidly. "Perhaps the Empire might be willing to overlook the destruction of their droid an—"
The first councilman broke in tiredly "Don’t be silly, Emily. This is the excuse the Empire needs to shut us down."
"How did they penetrate our security so quickly?"
"What are we going to do now? Evacuate?"
"I’ll bet they’ve been spying on us since the beginning. We are after all one of the more successful–" The presiding chairman put an end to the rising hysteria with a few determined pounds of his gavel.
"Ladies and Gentlemen! I demand order! Our first order of business is to decide whether we should evacuate Bespin. Ben, what is the status of our cities?" "At the moment, every one of our cities is space and hyperspace capable save for Cloud 9 which is still under construction." "How much longer until it is completed?" There was a pause as Ben consulted a datapad.
"Projected completion date is set at one year from now."
"Is it mobile yet?"
"Unfortunately not. Budget cuts had forced us to postpone installation of the engines until next month."
"Damn! When we evacuate, we’ll lose it" one of the Committee members cursed. "The costs and effort put into it would make this a grave loss for our company."
"Are there any more questions?" asked the chairman. "In that case, enter your votes."
you. Explorations Unlimited evacuates Bespin ASAP in accordance
with emergency evacuation plan A. I would like to give our personnel
the option of joining the Rebel Alliance while we are in isolation.
Are there any objections?" No one spoke.
[Mynock’s Rest. Shattered Cloud Nebula.]The Rebel fleet detachment at Mynock’s Rest was on the move. The instant Captain Mito had finished his report, the Rebel Admiral sprang into action. "Gentlemen this is bad new indeed. The fleet will move to Bespin to support Explorations Unlimited. XO, have our communications officer notify Home 1 of our intentions. Captain Mito, it was a pleasure meeting you. This yeoman will conduct you back to your ship. We depart within the hour."
Exactly one hour later, the flotilla exploded out of the nebula at 2/3
thrust. After adjusting course for entry into hyperspace, the entire
group roared into hyperspace.
[Bespin. Station keeping near ADCC1.]Argo’s main hanger bay was a mad house as a steady stream of shuttles and conveyors came in and unloaded supplies. A small army of workmen and technicians swarmed over the unloaded crates and whisked them away into storage even as fighters were launched in the midst of the barely controlled chaos. In every ship of the fleet, the same thing was happening. The Priority 1 announcement broadcast one-hour ago put all of the cloud cities and Explorations Unlimited’s fleet into high gear. Explorations Unlimited was evacuating Bespin. First to leave the system was Apollo. She was headed to the primary evacuation site to scout the area and make sure the Empire hadn’t beaten them to it. Loaded for bear, Apollo boasted four of the X-wings squadrons that Explorations Unlimited had put together and two Y-wing squadrons. If the Imperial forces were waiting for them, they would hopefully be unpleasantly surprised. Ghost squadron was the only X-wing squadron that remained with the main body of ships and the floating cities. The rest of the squadrons were comprised of Headhunters and Y-wings.
[Hyperspace enroute to Bespin]As Apollo sped through hyperspace, Artemis and the Rebel fleet detachment were nearing Bespin. Captain Mito stared meditatively out of the view ports in his cabin into the swirling chaos of hyperspace. A chirp from the com. system built into the wall interrupted his reverie.
"This is Mito. Go ahead."
"20 minutes to reversion into real space. You asked to be notified, sir."
you. Mito out." He walked out the door projecting a confident
When Artemis and company entered the Bespin system, they knew something was wrong immediately. A convoy of three cloud cities and their escort of exploratory vessels was half way out of the system. The two groups passed within visual distance. "Cathy, hail Cloud 6. I need a status report."
"Sir the Admiral aboard Intrepid is hailing us."
"Thank you, put him through to my bridge station."
"Captain Mito. What is going on? Is the situation that bad ?"
"I don’t know yet. I’m expecting an update momentarily. Ah. Here we go. I’ll transmit it to you."
Mito’s voice turned sour as he read, "It seems that the Council has decided to abandon Bespin for the time being."
The Admiral though furiously, "You know the Rebel Alliance would be delighted if a company like Explorations Unlimited were to throw in with us."
"Our board unfortunately has previously decided that Explorations Unlimited remain neutral in your conflict in the hopes that we will escape the notice of the Empire…even though it is a moot point now, I doubt that they will change their minds."
sorry to hear that. We will of course still help you evacuate."
Eventually it was decided that the Rebel fleet would remain in the Bespin
system unless the evacuation site came under attack. In that case,
they would move quickly to reinforce the ships under attack. The
Council’s decision to allow any personnel to join the Rebels after the
evacuation was complete was greeted with surprise. (Apparently the
Council usually holds contracts sacrosanct.)
The evacuation proceeded without mishap until only Shangri-La, its four
escorts, and the Rebel ships remained. A messenger A-wing from Home
1 brought news of the impending attack on the Death Star shipyard.
After Shangri-La and its escorts were well out of the gravity well, the
few Explorations Unlimited personnel that had taken the Council up on
its offer were officially detached from active duties with Explorations
Unlimited and were sent off with many tearful scenes. One of the
many who decided to wait out the firestorm in hiding was Manx and all
but a few Ghost squadron members. Spook’s parents in the path finding
regiment decided to stay with Explorations Unlimited saying, "We’re too
old to be running around blowing things up now son." In the end, only
a motley squadron of a few X-wing and Y-wing pilots departed with the
Rebels to attack the Death Star shipyard. The entirety of Explorations
Unlimited disappeared completely from time and known space. Even
their accounts were completely drained or moved somewhere leaving the
Imperials buzzing around Bespin without anything to shoot at but the unfinished
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