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Thread: Star Wars: Tapestry, Volume III

  1. #256
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    “Affirmative sir, we’ve established a stable perimeter around the Inun,” Lieutenant Kaan said in his usual disinterested tone, as if the entire situation bored him. With a man of his record, General Santiago reflected, it very well might have. “Hostile forces are in retreat to the west and south with mild resistance in the northern foothills. I expect that the operation will be complete within three hours.”

    The general nodded, one hand absently stroking his grey moustache. “And the crew?”

    “Only a few stragglers, besides the officers. No sign of the captain or the prisoner.”

    “Keep looking, Lieutenant,” Santiago said, smoothly and crisply. That his son had died was a thought he was not willing to entertain. Not yet.

    Kaan saluted and cut the transmission, his spectral figure disappearing. Santiago could never decide if he liked Kaan or not, though in the end it didn’t matter. He could trust the man to carry through and be thorough, traits somewhat lacking in the Navy of late. And if Kaan came through here, the general had every intention of seeing the Lieutenant’s pay grade improving.

    Santiago paused as one of the bridge alarms chimed, announcing that a new contact had entered the area. “Ah . . . General?” Matthews called out, his voice warbling slightly. He’d only heard his officer speak in that tone a few times before and he never liked what it meant.

    “To whom do we owe the pleasure?” Santiago asked grimly, grabbling ahold of the bridge railing and a muffled explosion below deck rocked the ship.

    Matthews removed his headset and swiveled his chair around. If his voice had worried the general before his face turned Santiago's blood to ice. “It’s the Executor, sir. Vader’s ship.”

    The bridge fell silent, an eerie calm as ships danced and died silently on the other side of the portholes.

    A moment too late the general found his voice. “Have my shuttle and a guard prepared. Now. Tell Kaan to designate two squads to accompany me when I arrive.”

    “Sir?” Matthews asked, bewildered.

    Santiago drew himself up to his full height, hoping that projected a confidence that he didn’t feel at the moment. “This engagement is Harmod’s priority; the prisoner extraction is mine. I intend to see it through before . . .” He didn’t have to finish.

    Matthews nodded, swallowing. “And if they . . . he . . . asks for you?”

    “Tell them . . . tell them that we’re here on business unrelated to Harmod’s fleet, that we know nothing of their orders or intentions, and that the nature of our situation required that I oversee it personally, something which his lordship can appreciate.”


    ___


    Doule and the doctor peered down the cave entrance, a filthy, muddy slope which lead down into a foreboding blackness. “And we’re sure he came this way?” Luis asked, not wanting to add being trapped in a cave to today’s activities. Though the cave would probably be free of the smoke and ash which had begun to fill the air.

    “Unless you saw another set of tracks from Tam’s speeder,” Doule said, fastening all of the buttons on his uniform. “Not to mention that the crew on the Dawncaller came here as well,” the captain continued, producing a tiny glowrod from his belt and igniting it.

    The Dawncaller. Fi’s ship, presumably. But why was she here? And why had Tam sounded like he wanted to kill her? Or myself for that matter, Luis thought. Doule had said that Tam had already been acting like this was he was assigned to the boy . . .

    “What happened to you, Tam?” Luis said to himself, scratching the stubble at his lip. Something terrible enough to drive Tam and Fi apart, to make him think that the old motley crew was conspiring against him. His potential value to the Empire as a Jedi—well, not a Jedi technically, but someone who could use the Force—was substantial, the doctor supposed, though he was surprised the boy hadn’t been executed on the spot. Like the others.

    Like Pablo-Jill.

    No, this felt like something more devious. According to Doule’s account, Tam hadn’t done anything of real importance, nothing that would warrant the type of command Dawncaller was given. This whole situation almost seemed like some sort of . . . experiment, a test run. But for what?

    “Coming?” Doule called, perched at the top of the incline. Luis made his way over, took one last look at the burning fields behind him, and the two descended into the darkness.


    ___



    “Well, what do you propose we do when we find him?” Luis hissed, trying to ignore the growing anxiety in his gut. He had always hated the dark, and this cave was doing nothing to relieve him of that fear.

    Luis saw Doule’s lips compact into a thin line before the captain replied. “Our first priority is to keep him undamaged and secure. At this point that means getting him off world, which I doubt he’ll consent to. If he resists, I suggest we stun him and carry him out.”

    “Well, can any of your men rendezvous with us to extract him?”

    “My men are dead,” Doule said simply, his teeth gritted. “I tried them before we entered the cave.”

    Luis cursed as he stubbed his toe on a jutting rock. “But there were additional troops landing. Can’t you—”

    “That star destroyer wasn’t part of our fleet. I don’t know whose men those were, and I’m not going to risk involving them unless we don’t have any other choice.” Doule craned his neck around and gave Luis a flat stare. “And by the way, doctor, you are here and alive by my invitation and my invitation only. I’d suggest that you remember it.”

    Luis blinked. Doule’s aggression was unexpected, though not as unexpected as his news about the star destroyer. At this point Luis had no idea whether it was good or bad that the battle had been joined, but he sincerely hoped that they didn’t run into any more surprises. Besides, they had a more pressing issue at hand.

    “Respectfully, sir, I’d suggest that you allow me to speak with him before you attack him, even if he does get aggressive. There’s still a chance that . . . do you hear that?”

    “Hear what?” Doule asked gruffly.

    “Shh, listen. That buzzing sound.”

    Doule stopped. “Yes,” he said after a pause, tilting his head quizzically. “I’ve heard that sound before.”

    “So have I,” Luis answered, racking his brain for where he remembered it from. The answer hit him like a ton of duracrete. “It’s a lightsaber!” He glanced over to the captain, who nodded and the two sprinted toward the humming and snapping emanating from down the tunnel.

    “It sounds like there’re two of them!” Doule panted as they ran.

    “That’s not possible, unless there’s another Jedi . . .” Luis’s pace fell off with his voice. He came to a stop in the damp tunnel, now completely unsure of what to do. The captain followed suit.

    “You don’t have any idea who the other Jedi could be, do you?” Luis asked, catching his breath.

    Doule shook his head. “We’ll try to get close enough to see what’s going on, reassess. Recovering Tam is still top priority.”

    “Captain, we won’t survive if that Jedi attacks us.”

    “Tam might not either.”

    Luis passed his tiny blaster from hand to hand. He had considered that he might die doing this, and actually die this time. And to be honest, he wasn’t entirely sure why he was still willing to risk that. He’d only known the kid for a few months, and yet it felt that the chance of saving Tam was more important than . . . anything.

    “Ready to go, sir.”

    “Good,” Doule said, a tiny smile cracking his lips.

    It didn’t take long before they could see the ethereal light of two clashing lightsabers glimmering off the cavern wall. “They must be up in the next chamber,” Doule whispered, hunching down low to the ground. Blaster in hand, he eased around the bend in the tunnel and stiffened. “Tam and three other contacts. An older human fighting with a lightsaber.” Doule smirked. “Seems to be losing.”

    Suddenly the flashes of light stopped and Luis could hear someone talking, though he couldn’t make out the words. “What’s a happening?”
    Doule motioned for him to approach. “Take a look,” he said, crawling further up the cavern. Luis closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath. This was it. The next few minutes would determine if they, all of them, would live or die. His heart pounding, he peered around the bend.

    There was Tam, ignited lightsaber in hand, standing over a fallen opponent, a thin man with white hair. That must be the other Jedi, which was strange since he looked oddly familiar. As did the other two, both women. Especially the one on the left. “That one, is she the girl you saw in the holo?” Doule nodded silently.

    Luis smiled as an odd mix of emotions hit him, a bittersweet cocktail of relief, regret, and anxiety. “That’s her then. Tam was following her.”

    Shut up!” The two men stiffened as Tam’s scream echoed down the cavern. Luis made to move on ahead, but Doule grabbed onto him.

    “Let Dawncaller deal with them. We’ll catch him afterward.”

    “Not a chance,” Luis replied, breaking free of his grip.

    Luis barely had time to react as Doule leapt up, catching his caller and slamming him into the side of the cavern. “If we approach now Dawncaller might attack us as well. We’ll only add to the pressure he’s feeling.”

    “And you think he’ll be any less volatile after he’s killed Fiola?” Luis spat back, grimacing as a sharp rock dug into his back. “Captain, if you want any chance at bringing him back, we have to stop him.” He struggled against Doule’s grip and felt the rough fabric of his oversized prisoner’s tunic begin to rip.

    “Santiago, you will stand down right now or I will gun you down,” Doule warned, his teeth barred like an animal.

    Luis craned his neck as he heard lightsaber hum through the air and hiss at it struck something he couldn’t see. There was silence for a second, followed by an otherworldly wail that sent shivers up and down his body. The doctor took one more look at Doule and smashed his fist into the captain’s jaw. Breaking free, he tore toward Tam and Fi.

    The other girl was lying on the ground, a smoking wound in her chest. Fi was sitting on her knees, the fallen girl’s head on her lap and terrible tears trickling down her face—a face far older than what he remembered. Tam stood in front of both of them, his saber still alight. Of the four, it was the old man who noticed him first.

    “Santiago?”

    Luis would worry about the serendipity of the situation later. “Kenlan,” Luis replied, at a loss of what else to say as he continued to run. Tam whipped around at the mention of his name, a snarl on his lips. The boy raised his lightsaber menacingly.

    “I, I knew you were part of this too—” the boy began. Luis ignored him.

    The doctor knelt down besides Fi, who had the girl—who happened to look strikingly like a particular holovid star—cradled in her arms. “Fi, lie her down. I need to look at her.”

    Fiola’s eyes, their normal blue now bleary and rimmed with red, blinked slowly as she looked at him. “Luis? How. . . how did you . . .”

    “Fi, shut up and lie her down. I’ll explain later.” After a moment Fi obeyed, laying down the girl’s head as tenderly as she would a sleeping child. Luis wasted no time and checked her vitals. Still a heartbeat, very faint. Almost no breathing. “Light, I need light,” he called. No one responded.

    “Now!” He bellowed. Slowly, Tam approached, holding his lightsaber aloft awkwardly. It would have to do.

    “Luis, it doesn’t matter,” Fi began, her voice breaking. “She’s gone. My Jyll is gone.”

    Luis stifled a grimace as he surveyed the wound. The spine was unhurt, but part of a lung was gone, along with other other visceral damage. She wouldn't last long. “Almost, but not quite, Fi,” he said, giving her a friendly smile.

    The look on Fiola’s face could melt glaciers.

    “But she won’t be for long,” he continued, whipping around and locking eyes with Tamander. “Tam, I can still save her, but only if we leave now and get her stabilized.”

    “No!” Tam cried, backing away and branding his saber once more. “No one leaves!” Luis stole a glance at Kenlan, who had snuck behind the boy, his weapon deactivated but held ready. Where was Doule?

    “Tam, please,” Fi pleaded, tears still streaking down her face.

    “You keep quiet!” Tam screamed, pointing his lightsaber directly at her. “Why should I do anything for you?”

    Fi stood up and moved toward Tam, who took an uncertain step backward. “Because I love you, Tamander,” she said, still walking toward the boy. “I always have, and I don’t want to lose you forever.” The lightsaber danced inches away from her chest. “And I know that if you let her die, I will.”

    Luis released the breath he didn’t realize he was holding. “Tam, you don’t have to do this. Put down the lightsaber and help us save this woman.”
    Last edited by Fingon; 09-18-2013 at 09:33 AM.

  2. #257
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    Total Disarray

    The hulking triangular shape belched out score after score after score of TIE fighters. Overwhelmed with the sheer number of hostile contacts, Amur's scope simply flashed an angry red while blaring an angry siren. Meanwhile, friendlies were becoming increasingly more scarce. He'd already watched three more from his own squadron succumb, while other squadrons had suffered even heavier losses. More disturbing still, Amur could distinctly see flickers of pseudomotion where panicked Rebel fighters were fleeing into hyperspace rather than turning to face this new foe.

    "Alpha fighters, form up!" Amur called in vain over the comlink. "This is Alpha Leader calling any Rebel fighter within the sound of my voice. Fall back to sector Senth Krill seven."

    "Alpha leader, this is Jackal thirteen," crackled Reil's voice from the comlink. "Forming on your position now."

    "Good to hear from you, thirteen," replied Amur. "Anyone else with you?"

    "Jackal leader still here," interjected DiMarco's voice. "Forming up."

    "Alpha four here," came a third voice from the com. "I think I saw seven out there too, somewhere."

    "Alpha seven here," replied the voice in question. "My rear stabilizer has broken loose, but I'm all right."

    "Seven, can you get back to us?" asked Amur.

    "Forming up now, sir," replied seven.

    "Good," said Amur. "We can cover you from here."

    "Jackal nine reporting in," squawked another voice. "Looks like we're all going in together, huh?"

    "Form up on me, nine," ordered DiMarco. "We'll regroup as many as we can here and combine efforts."

    The com remained quiet for a while as Amur surveyed the gathering fighters. The remnants of two squadrons combining to form just half of another. There must be still a few more fighters out there, but none were responding. No, it would be up to this little group, it seemed.

    "Jackal leader, you're the ranking officer," conceded Amur. "What's your plan?"

    Amur imagined DiMarco shaking her head in her own cockpit. "I'm...open to suggestions, Alpha leader," she admitted. "Have you ever seen that kind of firepower?"

    "It's a totally new class of ship," replied Amur. "I heard...rumors of something that big attacking the base at Yavin during the evacuation, but here it is."

    "It's a game-changer," agreed DiMarco. "Obviously we're gonna get obliterated if we try to stay out here while that's still there."

    "We have to evacuate the ground forces," said Amur. "That Imperial-class seems to be out of the fight for now, and we've nearly crippled the Victory. If we concentrate our efforts on finishing the Victory off, we can give the ground forces a window to escape. Without the Victory to cover the other side, we can use the planet as a shield so our ships can get to hyperspace without crossing the path of that..." here Amur's words failed him. Basic was his second language, but there were no words for the massive battleship that had just dropped from hyperspace. "Of that...Super Star Destroyer."

    "Agreed," replied DiMarco. "Take your Alphas from above and make sure you can knock out those shield generators. We'll make our run to finish off those turbolaser batteries."

    "Roger, Jackal," concurred Amur. "Alphas, on my wing. Prepare to start your run."

    As the Alphas moved into position, Amur noticed a blip on the corner of his screen. It had moved out of range now, but it had looked like some kind of executive shuttle, flanked by a pair of TIE fighters, moving toward the planet.

    Well. Nothing Amur could do about that now.

  3. #258
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    "Tam," implored Kenlan, "try to remember. You weren't always like this. Think of the last time you were in these caves."

    "When you destroyed my life!" protested Tam. "You killed my entire family, and then forced me down here so you could use me as your dupe!"

    "Tam, that's not how it happened at all," pleaded Fiola through her tears, Tam's lightsaber still pointed at her chest. "You have to believe me."

    "You took everything I loved from me!" barked Tam. Then his lips twisted into a malevolant sneer. "Only fitting that I get to do that to you now."

    Turning away, Fi dropped to her knees and sobbed.

    "Tam, whatever lies the Empire has fed you, we had nothing to do with what happened to your family," continued Kenlan. "And I'm very, very sorry that you've had to go through that."

    "Don't try to fool me again," snarled Tam. "You were the first one to find me, right after I saw that holo. You had to have planted that there to draw me in."

    Kenlan shook his head. "No, Tam. You were in a vulnerable position when I found you, but I had nothing to do with how you got there."

    "You expect me to believe that was all just a coincidence?"

    "I believe it was," replied Kenlan with a shrug of his shoulders. "Things...have a way of coming together, even in a big galaxy. I don't know. Maybe it's the Force that draws us together."

    "Do you even believe in the force?" said Tam, sarcasm creeping into his voice.

    "Of course I believe in the Force, Tam!" shouted Kenlan. "I've seen people do things - I've seen you do things - that wouldn't be possible any other way. But I believe people make their own destiny, Tam. We get to choose who we're going to be, Tam, and you have a choice to make right now."

    "You used me for those abilities!" accused Tam, swinging his lightsaber to point at Kenlan.

    Kenlan's head and shoulders sagged. "Yes," he replied. "I did. And for that I'm truly sorry."

    A quizzical look on his face, Tam dropped the lightsaber just a little.

    "When I found you, Tam, I was desperate to get off this planet," explained Kenlan. "I was in quite a bit of trouble, and I couldn't have made my own way off-planet without being caught. I've found that young people have a way of solving problems that those of us who are older simply don't have anymore. So, yes, my plan was to lure you in and make you believe I could train you. If you believed you had special abilities, you could help me take a ship. But you exceeded my expectations, Tam. You truly possessed the abilities I only wanted you to make you believe you had. And then, once I realized that, I couldn't simply leave you as I had planned."

    "But you did leave me!"

    "I would have come back, Tam!" exclaimed Kenlan. "I never wanted things to happen this way. I hoped we could get away from this, maybe make a quiet life together for all of us. But Fi had nothing to do with it, ever. She never meant to take advantage of you. So if there are crimes to be punished for, they are mine, and mine alone. Fi always loved you. And now...Tam, you're the only one who can save Jyll."

    "Me?"

    "Yes, Tam. You have the power within you - you can stabilize her, keep her alive at least until we can get her some proper attention."

    Tears still streaming down her face, Fi turned back to look up at Tam. "Tam..." she begged, "please..."

  4. #259
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    The Brink

    Looking between Kenlan and Fi, then over to Doule, and finally upon Luis as he knelt over Jyllis on the cave ground, Tam couldn’t ignore the thought that came to his mind. The looks in their eyes, hopeful, pleading, some rimmed with tears, was not one he had seen in a long time. This was not the look that Koro Bolera had when he told Tam he could do great things, nor the eyes of Athelias as he pushed Tam to the limits of his capabilities and beyond. This wasn’t even Tremayne’s face as he promised Tam the galaxy while hiding his own agendas. This was raw, naked appeal from people who, yes, wanted Tam to do things for them, but were wholly unselfish in their motivations. Tam had nearly taken this life, and all they wanted was for him to make things right as best as he could. Even Mr. Mace, sensing the dire situation, bobbed over to Tam’s shoulder and cooed somberly.

    Tam met the eyes of everyone in the cave, extinguished his lightsaber, and knelt to the ground beside this Jyllis Tromso. Her life was ebbing, and quickly, a faint pulse radiating from her heart and responding to her will to hold on like a hollow reverberation. His hand moved to the deep gash at her shoulder, never touching to avoid further pain, which washed through Jyll like a blaster bolt in a magnetically sealed room. The wound had gone so deep it was unclear if the arm could even be salvaged.

    If she even survived…

    “I’ve never done anything like this,” said Tam, his voice barely above a whisper. “I don’t even know if it’s possible.”

    “Tam,” said Luis, “we’ve seen you do the impossible before.” Looking around the room, Tam could see that they all agreed.

    “Okay,” he said at length, letting the Force guide his words and his will, “let’s try this trick…”

    The pain inside Jyll was sharp, and touching her with the Force was like petting a razorbull. But Tam didn’t shrink from this figurative monster, instead gently stroking the hackled beast in an effort to soothe it. That’s all this was, an angry animal trying to rip Jyllis from the universe of the living. Keeping it tame and distracted may just buy her the time she needed.

    Tam kept up his gentle undulations in the Force, and as he did so, Jyllis began to visibly relax. Her heartbeat was no longer assaulted with the shock of the injury but it was still weak and underpowered. Tam envisioned a space within her, like the sheath for a power cell, and he imagined filling it with light until her pulse stabilized. And then, to the astonishment of even Tam, it happened.

    “Fi!” The words burst from Jyllis’ mouth, surprisingly strong and hoarse. She remained supine, but her arm shot out, hand grasping. Fi took it, fresh tears marking her face. Jyllis’ eyes fluttered open, focusing on Fi first then rolling over to Tam. She mouthed the words, “thank you,” and when Tam looked up he saw Fi do the same.

    The boy got to his feet, unconsciously stepping away and looking around the cave. The anger and hatred he had felt for all these people was gone. The Sith Lord who had come into the universe only minutes ago, the product of so many evil men and selfish ambitions, was stillborn. Only Tam remained, a young, frightened boy who was too small to face the dangers the galaxy had borne down upon him. He collapsed to his knees and let tears of grief and relief flood from him…



    On the bridge of the Executor, High Inquisitor Antinnis Tremayne shot a glance over to Darth Vader. From the sudden lift in the Sith Lord’s black helmet and the crossing of his gauntleted arms, Tremayne could tell that he had sensed it too. Thus he was not surprised with Vader barked, “Prepare my shuttle immediately for departure,” and that the ship full of underlings worked to make it so. He was also not surprised when he said, “Tremayne, you will stay about this ship to oversee the engagement from orbit.”

    Hands clasped behind his back, Tremayne watched as Imperial forces routed the upstart Rebels. It wouldn’t be long before he could join his master on the planet’s surface, and then they’d see who could influence the renowned Tam Dawncaller…

  5. #260
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    They moved as one through the dim, dank caves, heading for light.

    There were no convenient medical facilities, in this rural area of Dantooine, to which to bring Jyll. The best they could do was try to get to the Dawncaller, to its rudimentary first-aid supplies and welcoming bed. There, Luis Santiago could do his best for the girl... all thanks to Tam.

    Tam. The real Tam.

    Fi had never seen a being sob like that. Tears of transformation. Of death, and rebirth. They'd all surrounded him, his friends, in silent support as he'd deconstructed Darth Victus and reconstructed Tamander Dawncaller. And when the transformation was complete, they'd silently got to their feet and moved. Jyllis was unconscious again, carried tenderly but firmly by Luis

    Luis!

    The man's sudden reappearance was like something out of a dream. If Fi had ever had any doubts about the existence of destiny, those doubts were now thoroughly extinguished. Clearly, the Force had plans for them all.

    Flanking the doctor and his unconscious patient were Tam and Kenlan, lightsabers once again clipped to their belts, an honour guard. Behind them strode Fi and the stranger, an Imperial captain, who'd quietly identified himself as 'Doule'. Bringing up the rear, Mr. Mace did his best not to get in anyone's way.

    "The tunnel's rising to the surface," Kenlan announced, breaking the silence. "All eyes."

    Everyone braced themselves as they ascended the short incline, dirt and rock giving way to grass and other foliage, and took in their surroundings. The rain had stopped and the sky was largely cleared, though darkening as early evening approached. And in that sky, high above, the unwelcome geometric blemish of a dark, arrowhead shape - impossibly large, when one considered the distance. All saw it... none chose to speak about it.

    Fi surveyed the horizon. In the far distance she spotted the glossy black hull of the Dawncaller, resting serenely on the plain where several squadrons of rebel fighters, now absent, had surrounded it. Nearer still, a mere stone's throw away, was a home.

    Not a home. A house.

    A house, specifically, because it was immediately clear that no one had occupied the abode for some time. It was a derelict, lifeless and pale, blaster-scorched walls roped off months ago by the local authorities. Though the structure was unfamiliar to Fi and most of her companions, young Tam's reaction to the sight told them all they needed to know:

    They'd emerged from the caves into the outer boundary of Dawncaller Ranch.
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 11-10-2013 at 06:07 PM.
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    “Sithspit!” Bolen swore in outrage. “What could have caused this ?!?” Next to him, Mith shook his head in frustration. Burning debris spread like Kashyyyk glowbugs across the open field in front of them.

    “No idea,” replied Mith with a sigh. “But there’s no impact crater, so it detonated in the air.” Mith and the rest of Phazer 1 surveyed the wreckage of the rebel assault shuttle that had arrived in Dantooine space shortly after Capt Amur and Alpha Squadron. KRAYT 51 had been in a local system and was dispatched by rebel intelligence not long after Mith had reported his destination. None of the commandos had mentioned KRAYT 51’s status to Capt Amur. Officers tended to take control of assets that were “available” to them, and Able Squad had wanted to keep it for themselves. However, sometime before it had landed, KRAYT 51 was blown out of the sky by some unknown cause. Fragments of the shuttle lay sprawled over a two kilometer radius, no piece larger than a stormtrooper’s helmet.
    Mith spoke and broke a monetary silence. “The holo-log is going to be passive, so we’ll have to trip the freak to activate it.”

    “On it,” replied Gavin. The holo-log was an encrypted recording of the shuttle’s activity and communications. On most civilian and commercial ships, it would be set to “active” mode, sending out a homing signal if a serious malfunction was detected by the ship’s systems. Passive mode, however, required activation by a specific frequency. Once the frequency was detected, the log would begin transmitting a short wave transmission. Mith was hoping the log had survived the explosion, and that Phazer One would be able to find it quickly. Of course, Mith had hope a lot of things on this mission, and most of them had turned out bad. Nevertheless, the six commandos of Phazer One spread out on their speeders in search of the signal.

    Thankfully, it only took a few minutes for Gavin to pick up the signal. The commandos converged on the wreckage, and quickly discovered it. The physical comm ports were damaged beyond use, and the visual data was corrupted, but Gavin was able to trigger a wireless data dump to the commandos’ data pads. All six men plugged into their headsets and listened to the recording. After some fast forwarding, the team found what they were looking for:

    “Able Squad, Able Squad, this is KRAYT five one. Unable to establish direct communication. The package will be delivered IAW protocol two seven niner. Will continue to establish comms. Currently inbound to your last known location. Over.”

    The message repeated itself a number of times before breaking up into static. Mith looked at Gavin. “Can you access the package?” Gavin nodded.

    “Halfway done,” he replied, transmitting more data to the others. Mith read over the data as quickly as he could. To his right, Bolen Klar wiped sweat from his forehead. He’d read the vital portion of the message, too.

    “We have time,” said Bolen. “We have time.”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Static hissed and crackled in Mith’s earpiece. He gestured to Gavin, twirling one finger in the air. Gavin made some adjustments to his comm equipment, and tried to filter the interference. Shortly, the static began to diminish, and a voice became decipherable.

    “Able Squad, Able Squad. This is KABAL 73. Do you read me? Over.” Mith keyed his radio mic.

    “KABAL Seven Three, this Phazer One Actual, Able Squad. I read you, over.” Mith released the mic key and waited.

    “Phazer One Actual, transmission is broken, but I am clear,” replied the pilot of KABAL 73. Good. With any luck, they wouldn’t lose communication before they could finish their conversation.

    “What’s your sitrep, KABAL?”, Mith asked, relaxing his comm discipline. Operators tended to be less formal when conversing amongst their own. Now that communication had been established between the two, they would be rigid.
    “To be blunt, the bantha poodoo is cleared on final approach to the fan blade,” KABAL responded. “Hoping for some direction from your end.” Bolen, listening on the conversation, gave Mith a quick glance, raising his eyebrows. Able Squad didn’t have much info on the situation topside. KABAL’s comment made them curious.

    “Care to elaborate?” Mith queried.

    “There’s a bit of a furball going on over your head. And there’s a pie wedge bigger than the appetites of every Hutt in the galaxy sitting up here. We had to scramble quick, so I don’t have a lot of top cover available. Not sure when the rest will arrive. I’ve got mostly ground pounders and an ad-hoc medical team. Once those Imps see us, though, I won’t have any of that to offer you.” Mith glanced back at Golen. Indeed, the “poodoo” was on final approach.

    “Understood, KABAL”, Mith answered. He didn’t have much time for elaborate planning. KABAL’s flotilla was mostly comprised of infantry, and didn’t have a lot of fighter/gunship support. And, from his description, there was a massive Star Destroyer in-system. They had to get the ground troops on the surface. They’d possibly still get wiped all over Dantooine by the Imperials, but they’d last longer on the surface than if they stayed in orbit. “Standby for insertion location, and get those boots on the ground. Send your fast-movers to assist with whatever is left of Alpha Squadron. Copy?”

    “Copy that, Phazer One,” replied KABAL 73. “Awaiting coordinates.”

    “Gavin, send a location about ten klicks to the southwest,” Mith instructed. Keep them away from the ships of that group by the farm. I don’t want to make them a more appealing target”.

    “Wilco,” Gavin replied.

    “Why can’t we just get a regular Star Destroyer?” Bolen muttered. “Why do we always get the big stuff?”

    “Because then you get to make bigger explosions,” Mith answered. “Gavin, keep trying to raise Phazer Two. We’ll need their help.”



    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    “Sithspit!” Phazer 2-1 swore in outrage. Another dead end. “Are you seriously kidding me?” he asked the local farmer standing next to him. The farmer looked at his datapad nervously and responded.

    “According to this map, there is a passageway right here,” he replied, as if it was the map’s fault the wall was there.

    “Well, according to this THICK ROCK WALL, and the laws of PHYSICS, there is NOT a passageway right here!” Phazer 2-1 was furious. The handful of locals who had promised to lead them through the underground caves using “accurate” maps had kept them running in circles and into dead ends for longer than he cared. After the Imperial troops had been more or less dispatched from around the landed ship, the commandos of Phazer 2, and some of the locals who’d joined them, had slipped back into concealment to watch for further developments. Three of the locals who had set up an observation site reported a boy on a 74-s speeder passing their location, and perhaps heading into the cave system that the small group had entered earlier. Phazer 2 had lost contact with the locals shortly thereafter, though, and hadn’t heard from them again. Phazer 2-1 figured they’d gotten themselves caught by Imps. They had probably made too much noise, didn’t camouflage themselves very well, had stuck their rifles barrels out through their concealment, or something else that made them an easy target. The members of Phazer 2 knew the locals were sincere in their attempts to help, but they had likely been more eager than confident that they had accurate information on the cave system they were in. As a result, the team and their guides had become lost in the labyrinthian caves under the planet’s surface. Mith, Able Squad’s NCOIC, had ordered them to follow, and provide support to the group if possible, and if necessary. But at the rate they were going, they would be dead of old age before they found their destination.

    “Have we been able to establish comms?” Phazer 2-1 asked his communications NCO.

    “Negative, sergeant,” he replied. “The mithricite ore is kriffing up our signal more than expected. I doubt Phazer One can even get a relative fix on our signal.” Phazer 2-1 shook his head and swore under his breath.

    “Ok,” he said with a large exhale. “We can’t keep wasting time. Let’s backtrack to the entrance and see if we can’t make contact. We aren’t doing anyone any good wandering around like a womprat trying to find cheese in a maze. Perhaps these guys can find their way around on the surface.” He looked at the farmers near him, the sarcasm notable in his voice.

    “I’m...I’m sorry, sir!” one of them responded. “We were sure we knew where we were going.”

    “And I am now sure that you don’t,” replied 2-1. He turned and led the commandos back along the way they had come, not sure he cared if the farmers followed or not.


  7. #262
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    Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .

    "I suggest we start with the Victory-class," suggested Amur. "They are notorious for a weak spot on the ventral side, just forward of the ionization reactor. If a pilot could approach from beneath and target the reactor..."

    "Hold on, you'd have to knock out the deflector shield generators before you'd even have any approach from beneath," countered DiMarco, "and even if you could, you'd have to approach from head-on - directly in line with the ventral turbolaser batteries."

    "Leave the shield generators to me," insisted Amur. "Keep my squad covered while we destroy the shield generators, and we'll cover you while you deliver the package."

    "All right, but even with covering fire, it's gonna take a precision shot to deliver the torpedoes to where they can take out that reactor," warned DiMarco.
    "I think you have just the pilot for the job..."

    For a moment Reil wondered who they were going to sucker into making a suicide run on Victory Class Star Destroyer. He even felt a twinge if pity for them, whoever they were. Then the realization hit him.
    “You guys are talking about me aren’t you?”

    What’s the matter Lieutenant? Don’t think you can cut it?

    Reil had grown a lot, this last year outside the cockpit. He wasn’t the same self centered egotist he was before he got shot down. Despite that, as soon as the challenge was levied, Reil’s mouth got a mile ahead of his brain.
    “I never said that.”
    Damn it Reil, I hope they put that on your memorial urn, which will be filled with non-descript ash, because they won’t be able to piece enough of your body back after the star destroyer atomizes it!

    Good, I was worried you were going soft on me.” The Commander replied smugly.

    It is decided then,” said Captain Amur, “ I trust you Jackals will have our backs as we take out the shield generators.

    You’ll be safer than a baby in Mommy’s arms, just take down the shields, so Reil doesn’t miss his chance to show off.

    Jackal and Alpha squadrons swung wide of the Edacious,attacking from the rear so that Alpha could make it it’s torpedo runs, using the ships bridge as a partial screen from its turbo laser batteries. Amur readied his fighters for the torpedo run.

    Just before they were in firing range a flight of Ties came at Amur’s formation from below. As Alpha squadron scattered out the way of green bolts of energy, the Imperial pilots paired off into twos to track them down. As the Jackals moved to intercept, a cry came over the comm.
    More behind-!

    Jackal eleven exploded in a brilliant fireball, as the rest of the squadron took evasive maneouvers. On an open channel a haughty, gloating voice crackled through the comm.
    You Rebel scum are disappointing me. We were sent out to hunt eagles, but find only ducks. You all have the privilege of being destroyed by me, Baron Hasan. Remember this day, for it will be your last.

    As dicey as things were, the channel lit up as the rebels called bad their own insults. Comander Dimarco put a stop to that.
    Cut the chatter! Alpha leader, how are you doing?

    We’ve suffered no damage, for now, ”Amur replied. “We can’t begin our run with so many fighters on us however.”

    All right then, how about you double back on us, and we’ll see if we can’t scrape them off you?

    Acknowleged. Good hunting.

    As Alpha squadron veered back toward them, Ties hot on their trail, Jackal squadron broke free from their own fight just long enough to take their shots at the trailing Tie fighters. Reil set his lasers to quad fire, and tensed, picking two targets trailing behind the nearest Alpha. He snapped off two bursts as they passed by, the first only clipping the lead Tie, causing it to veer off; his second burst lanced through the ball cockpit of the other Tie, turning it into flaming wreckage. Reil looked around to find a third target, but flashes of green eating into his rear shields forced him into evasive maneuvers. All around him he could see the brief flashes that marked fighters exploding. He assumed that more than a few of those explosions were Tie Fighters, because Baron whatshisname was back on the comm, snarling in frustration.
    Scum! You kill a few of my men and think yourselves worthy? After the rest of my wing is finished, they won’t even be able to identify your remains!

    At this point, even the Commander Dimarco couldn’t ignore him.
    Alpha sqad’s clear, now somebody shut this clown up!

    Reil would have been more than happy to take up the challenge; Baron sneerandwhine was practically begging to be vaped by ‘rebel scum’ like him, but he just could not lose his pursuing Tie. Reil juked and swerved, and even contemplated spinning, but every time he eventually leveled out, the same green flashes ate away at his rear shields, to the point where Reil had to shunt his forward shields aft as well, just to keep them from collapsing.

    Reil could feel his hand begin to lose sensation as he gripped the stick in frustration. He was better than the Tie pilot. He had to be, or he’d have died by now; but he couldn’t break free and turn his guns on the hutt spawn. He pumped cannon energy into his shields, to bolster them a little, but if he kept that up he’d be toothless and shieldless. Then one of the Jackals, one of the replacements, since Reil didn’t recognise the voice, called to him over the comm.
    Thirteen, there’s one on your tail, need assistance?

    Reil felt a surge of relief, and kicked himself for not calling for help earlier.
    “Yeah, I can’t shake him.”

    Keep moving, I’m coming at him from above.

    Reil saw the X-Wing in his peripheral, above and to the left of him. He twisted out of the way, but noticed that the Tie had switched targets. Green bolts flashed past him and splashed on his rescuers shields, until his shields collapsed. Reil cut the throttle and turned his X-Wing back as the Tie overshot him to pursue the damaged X-Wing. Switching to single fire, Reil let out a stream of lasers that managed to sheer off the Tie’s wing, sending it spinning off into space. He scanned around for the pilot that assisted him, but he couldn’t distinguish anyone in the brawl engulfing the squadron.
    “Uhhh, pilot, you there? Report in, unless you’re dead.”

    Here sir! Nice shooting, I thought he had me.

    “Yeah, he was tough. What’s your status?”

    A little crispy, but I’ll make it.

    “Good to hear-”

    This is Alpha leader, the shields are down! Reil has to go now! We’re coming back to assist you.

    Reil glanced over at the Star Destroyer, and noted the flaming shield tower, before a lack of oxygen put it out. Jackal squadron was still swarmed with fighters, it didn’t feel right to leave them behind. Then Commander Dimarco noticed he was still there.
    You heard the Captain, Reil, break off now. Anybody who’s free, watch his back.

    Reil put his fighter in a corkscrew dive to get underneath the Edacious. He noted two friendly green dots on his scope follow him.
    “Who’s with me?”

    Jackals Twelve and Seven reporting in.

    Escorts extraordinaire.

    “You guys up for this?”

    I’ve suffered no damage.

    You could eat your lunch off my ship.

    Reil couldn’t help but smile at Jackal Sevens confidence; it was more than a little familiar, even if he wasn’t feeling it himself. Reil pulled his fighter out of the dive, and leveled along with the Destroyers power generator.
    “All right then, stay loose behind me. We’re going to need room to maneuver.”

    As they got within range, Reil dumped what was left of his cannon energy into his flagging shields, and then redirected the charging flow to boost a little more out of the engines. Lasers weren’t much use against a Star Destroyer. They skimmed along the ventral surface of the Victory class, a bigger target for a few of the guns but shielded by the behemoth’s bulk from most. As the Destroyer’s guns targeted them, sheets of laser fire came at him. The closer they got to the target, the more intense the fire became. Seven and Twelve broke off their attack, drawing some of the guns away. As the power generator came into view Reil switched to torpedoes, and linked them to double fire. He Reil dumb fired all six, before snap rolling back the way he came.

    Reil didn’t have a chance to admire his handy work until he was clear of the Turbolasers, though if he had chance, he would have been slightly disappointed. The gouts of flame were quickly extinguished, as airlock doors sealed to prevent the explosions spread. The damage was severe, drastically reducing the amount of power available for the war ship’s guns, resulting in what looked like a stuttering effect, a few of the heavy cannons going off, followed by a long pause of inactivity. Otherwise however, the Edacious seemed to suffer the attack rather well, and naturally had people working to draw power from elsewhere. Commander Dimarco called to Reil.
    Nice shooting; Lieutenant. Looks like you bought us some breathing room. I almost thought you’d wuss out on me.

    Yes, all we could have hoped for in your attack was accomplished.” Amur chimed in helpfully.

    We’re almost clear of Ties, maybe we can take another run-

    An unfamiliar voice came over the comm.
    I think you should leave this sort of thing to the professionals.

    Who’s that? Identify yourself!” the commander barked.

    Reil spotted three Y-Wings pass him and continue on toward the damaged Victory class Star Destroyer.
    This is Hammer Five, acting as Hammer lead, with Hammers Three and Six in tow. We saw what you folks were trying, and while we appreciate the effort, your effete little X-Wings just aren’t up to challenge of Cap ship killing. We’d be ever so tickled if y’all would step to one side.

    Reil snorted in derision.
    “ The ship’s all yours if you can finish it; but your pigs are so slow I doubt you’d get close enough for a proper accuracy.”

    Watch and learn, rookie.

    Reil watched in fascination as the Y-Wings approached the reactor head on. Even in the Star Destroyers weakened state, it should have been a suicide run for such sluggish fighters; except the Y-Wings were moving much faster than Reil had ever seen. He suspected they must have dumped their shield and laser energy into the engines to pull that much speed from their bombers. With much more grace and precisions than Reil ever would have credited Y-Wing pilots, they dumped their payload into the reactor and split three ways before reforming outside the range of the Edacious’s guns.

    Not that it mattered. If Reil’s attack had been damaging, Hammer’s attack was devastating. A colossal fireball expanded out from the reactor, which threatened to burn all the way through the Star Destroyer, and blast out the top side, though it fell short of that. A gaping hole was left where the reactor dome had once been, and fire continued to burn, long after the fail safes should have cut off the oxygen supply, indicating systemic failure all through the Victory class. Its guns stopped firing completely, and ship began to drift slowly toward planet, struggling to remain under its own power.

    Hammer squadron handled their achievement with the grace and modesty Reil had come to expect from his fellow snub jocks.
    Whoo! Would’ya look at that! Y-Wings still rule supreme, rookie, and I wanna hear you say it!

    “I softened it up for you. And the destroyer is distinctly still in a one piece. ” Reil grinned as he retorted.

    We left some mopping up for you, so’s not to bruise your delicate egos.” said Hammer Five.

    That is, if you think you can handle a defenceless, immobile target. Say the word, and we’ll take another-
    The Y-Wing pilot fell silent as a blast from a Turbolaser snapped his fighter in two. Before either of the two wingmen could react, the Macerator’s guns fell on them. Reil couldn’t tell if any of them managed to eject, as he was chased out of range by the Nedbulon-B’s guns, as well. The Frigate had abandoned its position in the Imperial formation, to defend its Flagships wounded belly.

    The Frigate posed a serious obstacle in any further bombing runs on the Edacious, it was designed to be an anti-fighter platform. On the other hand, its absence in the Imperial formation left key ships vulnerable to the same tactic. Comander Dimarco made a tactical decision.
    Pull back Reil,” Comander Dimarco ordered, “We’re not getting near the Destroyer now. All fighters, regroup back at the Fleet’s center.

    As Reil was heading back to the fleet, he noticed the Pulsar, had drifted off to the side of the battle. At first he thought it must have been damaged, like the Edacious, but then he noticed the landing craft it was spewing onto the planet below.
    “Commander, we need to change targets!”

    What’s going on Reil?

    “The Star Destroyer, the Imperial one, it’s landing troops on Dantooine!”

    I know, but there’s nothing we can do about that now. Regroup with the fleet, that’s where we’ll do the most good.

    “We have people down there! We can’t just let them drop Storm troopers on them. We have to halt the landing operation!”

    The soldiers down there are prepared to give their lives to save the planet, and the only way we can do that is by destroying the Imperial fleet. Fall in Lieutenant!

    “There’s more than soldiers down there risking their lives!”

    A few Stormtroopers is nothing compared to the orbital bombardment that’ll follow if we don’t stop the fleet. Your friends looked more than capable, and I’m sure they have the good sense to lay low, but nobody’s making it out of their if they turn this into another Owara.

    Reil’s natural impulse was to buck authority, and his time out of the navy had not cured him of his insubordination, but he could see the commander was talking sense. Reluctantly Reil turned his fighter back toward the remains of the Rebel fleet, which was now being significantly bolstered by the Glorious ’s return to the fight. Her shields back online, and her captain chomping at the bit, the Glorious waded hip deep into the Imperial formation. Guy Le Sanc could be heard on all channels, as manic as ever.
    All ships, form on the Glorious! We have them now!

    Reil sighed as he formed up with the other fighters, as Guy Le Sanc did his best to commit suicide by enemy fire. One thing helped put his mind at ease though, and that was if anyone was smart enough to keep their head down and stay alive, it would have to be Cali.

    ************************************************
    The Super Star Destroyer, Amur had called it. It seemed to fit. Reil also had giant triangle of death in mind, but they could argue about semantics later. Victory had been snatched out of the Rebel hands, as this new player on the field tilted the balance overwhelmingly in the favour of the Imperials. The battle was lost, and now their only goal was to make a path for their ground forces to evacuate.

    As Reil and what was left of both Jackal and Alpha Squadrons tried to bring down the Victory Class Star Destroyer, it was hard not to notice that what was left of the fleet was running away. Rebel and Imperial, it seemed, were both terrified of the monstrous new arrival. Most of the Rebel Gunships were too far gone, already on the edges of the planets gravity well, and about to make the jump to lightspeed. Some fighters were following suit. Only the Glorious, and the trio of Bulk cruisers were left, and Cruisers looked like they were ready to split as well. The Glorious however, was still in close combat with the Edcaious, who’s work crews had miraculously coaxed some measure of life back into the crippled machine. It wasn’t going down without a fight.

    Guy Le Sanc, for whatever crazy reason possessed him, was still here, and was trying to rally the other captains into staying.
    Arthur, for god’s sake, turn your ships around! Our ground forces need this to escape!

    Arthur Jackman of the Terra Nova responded briefly.
    The battle is no longer winnable, we have to salvage what we can.

    That is exactly why we need to take out this Victory! We must buy our forces safe passage off the planet, there’s still time to save them!

    They’re gone Guy, Patrick Mulligan of the Aurora, defended the retreat, “We won’t throw away our crews on a suicide mission. Look at that thing! It could swallow us whole!

    Captain Guy lost his composure at last.
    Damn you cowards! I’ll have you all court martialed, do you hear me! You will be executed for desertion!

    Captain Fairweather of the Arctic fired the last parting shots.
    Should you survive to press these charges, it’ll be because you fled with us. Frankly we’ll take our chances with High Command.

    The Arctic and the Aurora both broke free of the planets gravity, and jumped out of system. The Terra Nova lingered to transmit one final message before making the jump.
    You fought well today Guy. I’m sorry it has to end this way. May the force be with you and your crew.

    And that was it. A few fighters remained, a couple of the new A-Wings put up a spectacular performance, but it was all doomed. As hard as the Glorious and the Rebel fighters fought, it was actually the new Super Star Destroyer that laid waste to the Edacious, blasting it as soon as it was in range. Moments before it turned its guns on the hapless Assault Frigate, and obliterated it as well. As the new ship turned to deal with the Pulsar, Rebel ships did begin to make a break for hyperspace. The two destroyed ships did form a sort of barrier, and at least some of the ground transports were able to make it. But not the Whydah, and not the Dawncaller.

    Commander Dimarco sounded thoroughly defeated as she called for her own squads retreat.
    We’ve done all we can here, Jackal and Alpha squadrons, prepare to jump to hyperspace.”

    Co-ordinates locked in.” Confirmed Captain Amur.

    Reil turned his X-Wing planetside instead. Dimarco didn’t miss Reil’s about face and demanded answers.
    Reil, what are you doing?

    “Heading planet side Sarah; gotta find my people.”

    That’s suicide, Lieutenant, the planet is crawling with Imperials and buzzing with Ties!

    “It’s Captain, and I’ll be fine. In atmo, the X-Wing is more aerodynamic than the Tie, I can outmaneuver them with one hand making rude gestures. May the force be with y’all.”

    And also with you.” Replied Captain Amur.

    Reil’s computer noted them jumping into hyperspace, as he plummeted toward the ground.
    Last edited by Ice Hawk; 11-23-2013 at 06:49 PM.
    Zealos Reil thought he was hot
    so he left the sim-pod cold
    on his eighth mission he got shot
    and that's all there is to be told.
    Draw your own conclusions rookies.

  8. #263
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    Fi looked at Tam. His expression was unreadable. Whatever he was feeling as he beheld his ancestral home, she and her fellows could not know it.

    She looked at Luis, who cradled Jyll in his arms. His face was grave, his lack of expression telling her all she needed to know about the folly of dallying any further.

    She looked at Doule, the Imperial commander she'd only barely met. His interest was squarely on Tam. Fi's wounded lover was a tick on a ledger to him. Less than.

    She looked at Kenlan As-Buka. Kenlan looked back. The expression on his face was unmistakeable.

    Go.

    Fi nodded at Kenlan, and shot a glance at Luis. In response, Luis lowered Jyll's unconscious form and, with Fi's help, lifted the actress into a more practical firefighter's carry. Mr. Mace, for his part, fluttered about Tam's impartial shoulders.

    "I really do love you," Fi whispered to Tam, though she knew the young man could not hear it.

    She and Luis, with Jyll draped over the doctor's shoulders, ran like hell for the Dawncaller.
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 01-12-2014 at 10:40 AM.
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  9. #264
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    This is where it had all started.

    Tam found himself entranced by that fact. The memory of his parents’ murder superimposed itself on the current view like a ghostly hologram. Both of them on their knees as Imperials coldly ended their lives. A broad shadow of doom remained, formed by the knowledge that those stormtroopers had been looking for him. That shadow had chased him across the galaxy, and now back again.

    Standing here, surrounded by many of those he had come to call friends, Tam realized that his parents, whom he had seen killed from this very spot, had only ever wanted him to move on with his life. He had certainly tried that, but it was only now that he could see that he had never really stopped running. It had become so important for him to run from danger that he had never considered where he should run to.

    That is the dark side, he thought, fleeing conflict, but never really learning where to turn for peace.

    A voice drew Tam from his distracted reverie. A faint echo of Fi expressing her love—and her farewell—rang in his mind. He looked up into her eyes (though not as high as he once had to), and respond to her farewell, but they weren’t there. Bemused, Tam looked around; only Captain Doule and the man he knew as Kenlan As-Buka remained. Mr. Mace bobbed in the air, unsure whether to chase after the three people hastening down the hill to where the starship Dawncaller stood waiting. Luis Santiago carried that injured woman, followed closely by Fi, careful of her own footwork while making sure Luis could carry Jyllis down the hill. She would go on with her life, finally free of whatever had tied her to Tam’s grand destructive cycle now completed.

    Or was she? Tam only now noticed that the massive doomshadow that had spread its vast dark wings in his spectral vision of the past several months lingered. No, not lingered; intensified. After an involuntary gasp, Tam found his voice just in time to shout wordlessly before even that was swallowed in the shockwave of the explosion.

    Luis, Jyllis and Fi disappeared in the great blossom of fire and light that engulfed the Dawncaller, turning its hull to shredded, molten scrap and casting it off in all directions. Tam, Kenlan and Doule were floored by the shockwave, and it was only after the roar of the fire ebbed that Tam was able to bring his head above the level of the singed grass.

    A tall figure clad in dark armor stepped through the wreckage as though it were a serenity garden. His black cape flowed in the swirling winds and from his hand extended a bar of red destructive light. Despite their personal victories, in the end it seemed the shadow had won.

    In the end, the shadow always wins…

  10. #265
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    "Fi... Fi!"

    Slowly, the musician opened her eyes. A face hovered above her own, an oval, alabaster moon framed by black smoke lit by nearby orange flame. A face that gradually made sense of itself.

    Jyll!

    There was a ringing in Fi's ears; increasing, like a mandoviol left too near its amplifier. It screamed of danger, a danger she didn't want to face. She blinked, looked to one side. A chair lay beside her, burning. The stink of its smoldering padding was intense and unpleasant. Humorously, it looked just like the pilot's seat aboard the Dawncaller.

    Sleep, was all Fi could think. Let me sleep.

    She was vaguely aware of being dragged into a sitting position, there in the tall grass. She also gradually became aware that the right side of her face was soaking wet. Wiping her hand against the liquid, Fi saw that it came away a sparkling crimson, gleaming in the firelight that surrounded her and her fellows.

    She saw Luis, lying face-down and motionless in the foliage. We never got to catch up, she thought absurdly, as she felt the left side of her face slapped -hard- by a feminine hand.

    "Who is that?"

    Blearily, Fi forced her eyes to open and look in the indicated direction. There in front of the rubble of the Dawncaller a tall figure stood, black armour gleaming in the firelight. Its weapon, emitting a metre-long beam of glowing death, was held casually to one side. Emitting a rasping metallic breath, the being stalked forward across the plain.

    Fi shrunk back into the tall grass, gripping Jyll tightly.

    "Be still," Fi whispered to the girl, "Oh god Jyll, just be still..."
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 02-17-2014 at 01:53 PM.
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  11. #266
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    Impending Doom

    The pair of polarized lenses that more resembled sockets than eyes locked onto Tam from under the gleaming black helmet. The towering Sith lord stepped over Tam’s fallen friends without a second thought, marching toward Tam as mechanically as the rasp of his breathing. The red lightsaber disappeared into its haft, and the gloved finger of Darth Vader locked onto Tam as securely as his gaze. “Your flight has come to an end, Dawncaller. And now, where it began, it will end.”

    Tam couldn’t agree more. “What do you want from me?”

    “Me?” Vader’s thunderous voice actually sounded amused. “I have no use for you. It should come as no surprise to you that High Inquisitor Tremayne planned to use you for his own purposes. That is now over.”

    Despite his intransigence, Tam found himself stepping backward as the Dark Lord of the Sith advanced upon him. “In return for bringing his absurd machinations to an end, Tremayne agreed that I should dispatch you without delay.”

    Vader’s hand clenched, and before he could react, Tam’s vision began to tunnel. He barely grasped that the Empire’s most fearsome agent had lifted him nearly a meter off the ground. While his hands instinctively tore at the clenching fist around his trachea and his legs kicked reflexively, Tam lashed out with the Force. He was the center of a storm, the caldera of an eruption aimed right at Vader. Even as the last molecules of oxygen were drawn from his lungs, Tam vowed that Vader, the latest in a long line of powerful beings arrogant enough to think they could determine his fate, would not survive to hurt his friends.

    But despite the onslaught of power, Vader stood his ground. Though the Force ripped and chipped at his armor, whipping his cape with hurricane speed, Darth Vader never lost his grip. He was a Lord of the Sith, with access to the darkest strengths of the Force; strengths which Tam had only ever tasted. Still, Vader seemed impressed by the assault. “You have power, boy, and had you been broken you could have served us well. But now…” Amid the apparent rushing sound that was his pulse desperately trying to energize his body, Tam heard the tiny crackle that was the preamble to his crushed cervical vertebrae. “…you will die.”

    Tam never felt the ground as he fell to it. He barely detected the inrush of air into his lungs. It was several moments before he had come to his senses enough to see the forearm Vader had been choking him with lying on the ground emitting the telltale spark of malfunctioning cybernetics. He looked up and saw the Sith lord’s truncated arm still extended, and he saw the Sith lord staring down at it, those black lenses registering shock. Vader looked up from his injury and shouted, “WHAT?!”

    A blue bar of light hummed before him, extending from the grip of a dubiously acquired lightsaber. Clutching the grip were the fists of Kenlan As Buka. While his eyes remained on Vader, his words were directed elsewhere. “Tam! Go!”
    Last edited by Dawncaller; 04-30-2014 at 12:32 PM.

  12. #267
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    Tam Dawncaller did as he was told, and Captain Doule, Fi observed, was hot on his heels, his neat Imperial cap falling off as he ran. The tiny white globe that was Mr. Mace bobbed along behind them in the firelight.

    Kenlan As-Buka, his true colours revealed at last, stood alone before the Dark Lord. But the waves of admiration and sheer gratitude that Fi felt for the old man were obscured by the pure terror that his opponent's presence inspired. The very air around the partially-crippled cyborg seemed darker somehow, infected with an evil that caused Fi's knees to shake.

    The imposing figure had its weapon ignited in an instant, and sabers clashed in the cackling orange firelight. To this was added a harsh white light from above, and as Tam and Doule joined Fi and her fellows, they all looked upward.

    An Imperial craft hovered nearby, descending rapidly, its silhouette hidden by the light it shone onto the group. It occurred to Fi distantly that the menacing, black-clad figure now engaged with Kenlan As-Buka must have leapt directly from it.

    The craft was on the ground in an instant, disgorging troopers who opened fire immediately. One of these shots hit Captain Doule, who dropped into the tall grass. Startled into action, the group abandoned the Imperial and sprinted toward a large, burning section of the Dawncaller's shattered hull and took cover there.

    "We're pinned down!" the revived Luis Santiago shouted as he fired his blaster at the Imperial forces, "There's nowhere to run!"

    And it was true. Grassy, rolling plains stretching as far as the eye could see... which wasn't very far, given the darkening night and blinding firelight.

    While Luis and Jyll fired desperately at the troopers, Fi reached out a hand and placed it on Tams' shoulder. She wasn't sure exactly why; but it felt like the closest thing to a goodbye they might ever have. The look in Tam's eyes was unreadable.

    Then, while taking several shots of her own, Fi retrieved her comlink and activated it.

    "Reil!" she shouted into the device, "Reil, are you there? Kenlan's in trouble... we're all in trouble! The Dawncaller's been destroyed, and we're under attack... we're stuck out in the open! Are you still getting my location pings?" Despite the din around her, Fi could hear the comlink well enough to know that there was no sound coming out of it.

    "Reil? Anybody?"
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 05-01-2014 at 04:56 PM.
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  13. #268
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    One With the Force

    Blue clashed against fiery red, casting rainbow shadows into the pale moonlight. Beside a fading fire, the aging con man continued to hold his ground against the Dark Lord. Kenlan had begun with the advantage of surpise, but even maimed, his opponent had quickly recovered, and Kenlan staggered to resist the onslaught of crimson blows.

    "Stand aside, old man," ordered the Dark Lord. "Don't make me destroy you. I seek only the one called Dawncaller."

    "To get to him, you'll have to go through me," countered the con man. "I am Kenlan As-Buka, Jedi Master and trainer of Tam Dawncaller."

    "You are not a Jedi," replied Vader dismissively. With his severed stump, he made a motion to brush Kenlan aside. "Now get out of my way."

    With a resolute stride, Kenlan stepped firmly between the Dark Lord and the rapidly shrinking figure of the young boy receding into the distance. "I am Kenlan As-Buka," he repeated, "Jedi Master and trainer of Tam Dawncaller. You'll have to come through me if you want to get to him."

    Vader paused, considering the audacity of this man's latest move. "You are a foolish old man," he said. "And now it comes to me to show you the true nature of the Force." Holstering his lightsaber, the Dark Lord extended his hand. Kenlan felt the muscles around his trachea begin to collapse, constricting his air supply to practically nothing.

    "Old fool," continued Vader. "You have pretended for too long. The Force is not something that can be wielded by any mere man. Now you see its true power. It is not to be taken lightly. Did you really believe you could survive against one who wields the full power of the Dark Side?"

    "Didn't...have to...survive," gasped Kenlan, his hands reflexively tugging at his collar as though this might relieve the onslaught. "Just...trying to...buy some...time."

    At this last word, the pressure on Kenlan's throat suddenly released, and he crumpled to the ground in a heap. Panting for breath, Kenlan smiled impishly up at the Dark Lord. The expression on the mask remained fixed as always, but in that moment, it was almost as though Kenlan could see the shocked horror on the face of the man behind it as he realized what Kenlan had just done.

    Vader scanned the horizon. Dawncaller was nowhere to be seen.

    Despite the pain, Kenlan chuckled softly. The take had been meager - seconds, most likely, or a few minutes at most - but the seasoned grifter had attempted one last con and had played it to perfection. For years to come, whenever men of Kenlan's ilk gathered to tell tales of their exploits, they'd tell of the time that Kenlan As-Buka had marked the Dark Lord of the Sith and taken him for the limit, and they'd throw back their glasses for one of the greatest cons of all time.

    That is, that's the tale they would tell. Too bad nobody here would actually live to tell it.

    With the firelight flickering in his eye sockets, Darth Vader drew the lightsaber from his belt and finished quickly what he had been too slow to start.

  14. #269
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    Where once there had been two shafts of light - one red, one blue - there now was only one.

    The red.

    In the din of battle, Fiola took in what that almost certainly meant. Kenlan was gone... murdered by the black-armoured being who, if the shaft of red light was any indication, was making its way back toward her and her friends' location. She looked to Tam, still strangely still, and saw that he understood the gravity of their situation just as well as she did.

    Then she went back to firing at stormtroopers.

    In cover behind the burning piece of Dawncaller wreckage, Fi squished in between Luis and Jyll, firing madly at their assailants. A brief glimpse at Jyll revealed tears streaming down the actress's face and, due to her recent wound, an expression of intense agony.

    "Fi," Jyll groaned between shots, "Fi, I don't think I can keep this up much longer..."

    Fiola studied the approaching troopers in the firelight, advancing from pile to pile of burning starship wreckage. And those were just the ones that she could see. Doubtless, others were converging in the surrounding darkness, working toward flanking positions.

    As she fired, Fi placed a comforting hand on the actress's back.

    "Don't worry, love," she said. "You might not have to."
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 05-07-2014 at 11:39 AM.
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  15. #270
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    The Whydah was only slightly more manuverable than a brick in atmosphere. Cali strained against the controls, as though she could make the flying tub of rust turn faster through sheer effort. Except she couldn't, and the Tie-Fighter danced out of the way of another canon burst.
    Above the farmstead it was chaos, as Rebel transports and ground crew inside them desperatly tried to escape before they were blown out of the sky. The battle was over, the Rebels lost. Cali tried to ignore what that meant and focus, she had had been too slow to save the other shuttle, but she wasn't going to lose this--

    The Freighter rocked as the Tie returned fire, green energy splashing across the shields, dropping them to a critical level. Then again, as the collapsed completly, and the hull integrity went from green to a worrying yellow. Cali couldn't outmaneuver it, so she did the next best thing and cut thrust; slowly gliding downwards on repulsors, pretending that the engines had failed. The Tie pilot bought the ruse, ignoring the crippled frighter to resume its pursuit of the escaping shuttle. The pilot never even noticed as the Whydah roared to life and lined up a shot. The canon fire clipped off one of the wings, and sent it hurtling to the ground in a satisfying explsion.

    Cali pulled up to see if she could help any of the other escaping ships, when the controls suddenly became even less responsive than usual. Blue lightening began to arc across the controls, and Cali raised her hand to shield her face. As the Whydah began to plumet, Cali briefly glimpsed an Imperial Landing craft prepare to touch down.

    Everything went black as the frieghter collided with the ground.

    ************************************************** *********

    Taste. Cali's mouth tasted like copper. Hell probably didn't taste like copper, so Cali risked opening her eyes. The Whydah was parked slightly on her side, giving a tilt to her view out of the cockpit. Her head hurt and it was hard to focus, and all around her were instruments buzzing, and chirping, or just glowing red and angry, competing for attention so they could all individually tell her she was fracked in their own unique way.
    Reil was gonna be pissed that she crashed the ship. Near a month of lessons an' on her first time solo she crashes the fracking ship. She winced, partly from the pain in her head, and partly from the tounge lashing Reil was gonna give her. Reil was gonna. . .

    Cali shook her head again, tried to clear it from the fog that wouldn't seem leave. Reil wasn't gonna do anything, 'cause the Rebels lost, and Reil was. . . Reil was. . . Reil was screaming at her-
    "CALI, ANSWER THE FRACKING COMM!"

    "Reil. . ? Reil!"

    "You sound surprised. Am I to take it that y'all wrote me off as dead?"

    "Never even crossed my mind." Cali said weakly.

    "Liar. Listen, tell me Fi's wrapped up her whole intervention thing already, 'cause we need to have already left. I can't even describe how bad it is getting up here."

    "Fi's not here. I don't know where they are. . ."

    "Wha'dya mean you don't know where they are!? Is she still transmitting? What about the comlink? Are they even alive?"

    Cali shook her head again, it was really hard to focus. Comlink.
    "Oh, yeah I forgot. . ."

    Cali rooted around in her pocket till she pulled out the Comlink, it was off, she couldn't remember why, as she flipped it on she heard: "Reil, are you there? Kenlan's in trouble... we're all in trouble! The Dawncaller's been destroyed, and we're under attack... we're stuck out in the open! Are you still getting my location pings?"

    "I'd take that as a definate maybe."

    "Cali, get them on the ship; AND GET THE FRELL OUT OF THERE."

    "Umm. . . about the ship. Hypothetically. . . if it crashed. . . how would I get it back in the air?"

    "It crashed? Are you hurt!?"

    "No. . . just dizzy. Got a headache is all. But the ship-"

    "You're concussed, but it doesn't sound that bad. You need to focus now, and stay awake."

    "Thanks. . . The ship was-"

    "Now how the fracking frell did you manage to crash my ship?!"

    Cali felt her anger rise at the implication.
    "I didn't crash it! It just-"

    "Ships don't crash on their own Cali. . . Well they can. . . But the point is if MY ship crashes, it's 'cause someone crashed her. Why were you even flying in the first place?"

    Rage it turns out, is very medicinal, as Cali felt the fog lift some, as she got into it with Reil.
    "I had to do something! While you were off playing hero and getting yourself shot at, the ground crew were defenceless! They were getting blown outta the sky."

    "So you just decided to jump in and get involved?"

    Cali rolled her eyes.
    "Yeah, I did, I can't imagine where I learned that from."

    Reil sighed auidibly over the comm.
    "Well, you were right about coming here being a bad idea."

    "Thanks for saying."

    The comlink in Cali's hand crackled to life again.
    "Reil? Anybody?"

    "Oh, crap, right. Reil, Fi's in trouble, and the ship was hit with this blue lightening, how do I fix it?"

    "You were hit with an Ion blast, do you still have power?"

    Cali looked at the array of blinking lights in front of her.
    "Yeah, we got power."

    "Well, at least that's something. What about flight control?"

    Cali checked the dianostic computer.
    "Computer says it's back online. . . but we don't have any power going to the engines."

    "A power coupling must have fried, you'll need to replace it. We have spare's in the cargo bay, but you need to hurry."

    "What about Fi?"

    "Tell her to hold on, I'm picking up her location ping. I'll try and give them some cover, just get Whydah to limping, so we can leave this rock."

    As Cali forced herself to her feet, and began stumbling back towards the cargo, she called Fi on the comlink.
    "Fi? If you're not dead yet. . . Help's coming."

    ***********************************

    As Reil's X-Wing approached the farmstead, it looked far worse than he could have anticpated. Flaming debris was strewn across the Fields, and he could see two groups exchanging blaster fire. Reil locked the S-Foils into attack position.

    Normally it would be difficult to who to shoot in a straffing run like this, he was too far away and going too fast to make out any faces, but luckily the Empire, in its infinite wisdom had designed their troop uniforms to be stark white and shiny, so they could be recognized, even at a distance. As Reil unleashed a sustained burst of fire at the Storm Troopers, he wondered how that was working out for them.
    Zealos Reil thought he was hot
    so he left the sim-pod cold
    on his eighth mission he got shot
    and that's all there is to be told.
    Draw your own conclusions rookies.

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