POV: The Price (I)
By Avery "Foxfire" Schroeder,
Daniel "Drake" Sutherland,
and Dario "Ibero" Pozo
Pictures by Dario "Ibero" Pozo
[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.
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."
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."
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.
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."
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.
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...?"
squeezed her eyes shut in exasperation.
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,
it's gonna be a rough flight. You've heard of Nathan Garil?"
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."
They have a main base there, ummmmmm, could it be Angara?"
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
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."
all for doing damage to the Imps. What's the catch?"
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."
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
Foxfire grinned. "I
told him you'd say that."
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
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?"
"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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