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Reading Room

StarWars FanFiction

POV: The Price (I)

By Avery "Foxfire" Schroeder,
Daniel "Drake" Sutherland,
and Dario "Ibero" Pozo

Pictures by Dario "Ibero" Pozo

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Chapter One: The Mission
 

[Present time: Some place in Imperial Space]

The Core's systems made an incredible spectacle at the main view screen. The frigate Trailblazer was following a direct course towards those worlds, but long before reaching them it would intersect the Imperial defence lines around Coruscant and its satellite worlds. That would be a terrible battle, the old man knew that, and he also knew that it would be his last combat. There was no way to survive to that, but he had expected for years to die in battle.  On his right he could see Corvette Tideria's bow, occupying the right flank of the arrow formation. The other Corvette, Hunter, could barely be seen at port, covering Trailblazer's left flank. Two Corvettes and a Frigate, he thought. Nobody would think we have something to do against the cream of the Imperial Navy.  He allowed himself a grin. At his back, none of the people working on the bridge noticed any change in the Admiral. He had been there for half an hour, standing up before the viewscreen without talking, and all of them had learned to respect those moments, the only ones when the old Admiral seemed to enjoy some relaxation. Nobody would have thought we were going to be successful in our attack against the shipyards back at Sindar II. The grin grew even broader, and his grey eyes seemed to brighten like the stars they were watching. But we gave them a good lesson. Oh, yes, that was one of the best...

He remembered the last briefing before starting their mission, three weeks ago. Even Admiral Ackbar had doubted they were going to succeed, but had decided to trust him one more time. Garil had chosen not  to use a big combat group..  There was not a single Calamari Cruiser among the ships he had taken with him, and his own flagship, the MC-80 cruiser Liberation, had been left behind. Garil was sure that a less impressive fleet - three Nebulon B Frigates and six Corellian Corvettes - would have a better chance in the kind of operation he had in mind.

  Admiral Garil's task force

The Imperial shipyards were practically in the frontier between the Imperial domains and the systems controlled by the recently established New Republic. If the last reports from General Madine's people were correct, there were several docks distributed around one of Sindar II's moons, protected by a dense minefield and three Star Destroyers with full fighter complements. Several Star Destroyers and many smaller ships were being repaired or re-fuelled in these facilities, considered safe by the Imperials. Angara's base was only three light years away and could quickly send reinforcements at the report of an enemy fleet. But nobody detected Garil's group before they dropped from hyperspace almost in the middle of the minefield. That was the hardest part of the plan, but Hornet Squadron's B-Wings had jumped besides the combat group instead of being launched after their arrival.  The heavy fighters destroyed most of the mines in minutes, , while the three Frigate's cannons finished off the rest. None of the six Corvettes, more vulnerable to the mines, were destroyed by them, although two of them suffered serious damage. But the result of the daring manuever was worth the prize. In a question of minutes the small fleet was over the shipyards, opening fire on the docks and the parked Destroyers. The three Star Destroyers that were patrolling the area - Madine's information had been very precise - were flying a wide perimeter around the facilities, and they had been surprised by the New Republic's ships appearing so close to the shipyards. A Calamari Cruiser never would have penetrated in that way through the Imperial defences, but the agile Frigates still have power enough to cause terrible damage, while the faster Corvettes wrought havoc on the enemy installations. The shipyards were so crowded with Imperial crafts that the gunners had difficulty doing their job without hitting their own vessels. Again, Hornet's B- Wings had the task of destroying as many of those laser turrets as possible. When the TIE fighters launched by the three Star Destroyers got in range to attack the intruders they found Amber and Cheetah Squadrons ready to engage them.

It was over almost before it began. The two Corvettes that had suffered the more serious damages during the attack were finally destroyed, and six B-Wings were lost in the fight as well, but Garil had anticipated that possibility. Three shuttles, one from each Frigate, took off immediately after Hornet Leader reported that the shipyards' defences had fallen, recovering most of the survivors in a space full of TIE Fighters. One of the B-Wing's pilots spent only thirty seconds in space after being shot down, establishing a new record for search and rescue operations. The three shuttles managed to return to the Frigates, under the protective umbrella of their cannons and the fighters. The Frigates were turning towards empty space while the rescue ships docked, and they jumped into hyperspace the second when the last of them touched down.  The three enemy Star Destroyers had been unable to intercept their escape path in so little time.

Garil remembered his Second Officer's face when he requested the mission reports sent by every ship. The young Captain was full of pride, and only discipline restrained him from laughing, or even hugging his Admiral. Garil had had to struggle to keep from smiling himself.

"I know it's good news, Captain Collins, but tell me our losses first."

"Sir, our main losses were Corvettes Intruder and Brendell." Collins glanced down at his datapad.  "Hornet has lost six B-Wings, we lost a total of five X-Wings from Cheetah and Amber. Five escape pods from the Corvettes and seven fighter pilots have been recovered by our shuttles. The rescue pilots inform that probably there were no more survivors."

"Then none of our people will have to live as a prisoner," he said. "Now tell me about what we have got back there."

"We took out the six Star Destroyers, sir." The young man said barely containing his enthusiasm. "And we have confirmed kills of four modified Nebulon-B Frigates and an undetermined number of smaller ships. All the docks have been completely destroyed."

"Excellent. Now remember my orders to the crew, and to the rest of ships in the same moment we came out from hyperspace. Everybody must stay at his combat positions. If I was the Imperial Commander at command in Angara's base, I would have sent ships to intercept us in our path to home. We are not following a direct route, but it's possible that we'll find some unfriendly faces when we finish this or the next jump."

"Aye, sir." The man saluted and turned on his heels to pass on his instructions. When he did it a good part of the joy had disappeared from his face. As had the rest of the crew, he had learned to read the Admiral's mood through his gestures, and in that moment Garil was sincerely concerned.

This is not over yet, he had thought then.

 
"No, definitely this is not over yet." The Admiral muttered dryly.
 

 

[Present time: New Alliance ships orbiting Sullust]

The Frigate Joan d'Arc hung in space, dwarfed by the bulk of the Calamari Cruiser Guardian nearby. White Squadron had rendezvoused with the larger ship for routine maintenance, and to send the CO off for an in-depth report to Starfighter Command. It wasn't quite shore leave, but the pilots were getting the most they could from the brief rest; even the trainees were taking a break from their usual intense schedule.

Which created an entirely different set of problems.

Sitting in a small ready room adjacent to the flight deck, Captain Lewis "Moose" Gregory put his head in his hands and sighed. Mostly because it was the only alternative to strangling the young pilot across from him.

"Nik, you know and I know that you're a hotshot in the Maze. But that doesn't mean you get to plaster the walls of the Bomb Shelter with your gun camera shots, And superimposing Captain Orris' face on all the targets probably wasn't your brightest idea ever."

"Hey, it was only half the targets," Hardrive protested, grinning. "I put a shot of Thrawn on all the others - I figure the two of them should get about equal time."

"Meanwhile, Vyper is using them for darts practice, Joker is complaining about the tape on the walls, and Granite says the pictures put Hobbes off his lunch. So unless you'd-" He glanced up as the door hissed open. "Oh. Hi, Foxfire."

"Hi yourself." The XO struck her best holo-caster's pose. "We interrupt this regularly scheduled dressing-down to give you a special report on our next mission. Nik, sorry, I've got to talk to Moose for a second. Go start spreading rumours or something."

"Like the one about how Hobbes figured out how to find the air vent to your quarters...?"

"Out!" Foxfire squeezed her eyes shut in exasperation.

"Yes'm." Hardrive vanished.

Foxfire sat down in the chair Hardrive had vacated, looking a good deal more harried than two days of running a squadron should have left her.

"You all right, Fox?"

"Mostly....but it's gonna be a rough flight. You've heard of Nathan Garil?"

"The Admiral? Yeah, I studied his tactical lectures back when I was in charge of Buccaneer. What's he got to do with this?"

Foxfire paused, as if searching for words. "Well...a few weeks ago, the brass gave Garil a task force of three frigates and the usual support ships, and told him to go break up the Imperial shipyards near the Brightwave sector."

"Brightwave? They have a main base there, ummmmmm, could it be Angara?"

"Good memory. The shipyards were in a place called Sindar II, if you want to know it. It was apparently a hell of a fight - the shipyards were completely destroyed, but it seems that Garil lost almost all his force. He got knocked down to one Frigate and a couple of Corvettes, and apparently he just lost it. Ignored all communications from Command and bolted straight into Imperial space."

Moose winced. "I don't like the sound of this."

"It gets worse," Foxfire said. "He's apparently decided to do as much damage as he can before the Imps find him and kill him. The Imperials are obviously pursuing, but so far he's been pretty good at hit-and-runs. All anybody knows is that he's working his way deeper into Imperial space." She shrugged. "Looks like a fancy form of suicide to me."

"Generally, I'm all for doing damage to the Imps. What's the catch?"

"Civilians," Foxfire answered soberly. "Garil's burned two outposts from orbit and ambushed several convoys - I don't think he cares what he takes on, as long as he destroys it."

"You've got to be kidding me." Moose shook his head. "I thought we were supposed to be the good guys here. Flag officers don't do stuff like that."

"Ordinarily, no. But if a mission goes bad enough..." Foxfire trailed off, her eyes distant. "You know, I was stuck in Imperial territory for a good while, back with the Mantis. I can see how he'd do it real easily." She shook her head sharply, focusing on Moose again. "Besides, it doesn't matter. Our job's to get him out of there before he does any more harm. At this point, it's purely damage control - the Imperial reprisals for this are going to be vicious as it is."

"So we're heading into hostile territory, after one of ours who doesn't want to be found, and hoping we'll be able to talk some sense into him when we do find him?"

"And drag him back if he won't listen," Foxfire finished. "It's gonna get pretty ugly - that's why I wanted to talk to you before the rest of the squad. The captain of the Guardian is willing for us to leave the Training Wing here for 'extended training', if you okay it...keeping them out of this particular fight may save their lives."

Moose thought about it for a moment, then shook his head. "They're still part of the squad, and most of them are decent pilots already. I'd rather have more time before we got to on-the-job training, but I think they can handle it."

Foxfire grinned. "I told him you'd say that."

"Is Shok'wave going to be in on this one?"  The CO had been called to Fleet headquarters several months ago for administrative and coordinating work , and it had been some time since she had been able to even contact the Joan d'Arc.

Foxfire shook her head.  "This isn't a full-blown emergency, but it's close, and Command wants us out there yesterday."  She scribbled something on her datapad and stood back up.  "You coming?"

"Preliminary briefing?"

"Yeah, I want to get to the pilots before Orris does and puts them into a bad mood for the entire mission."
 

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