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(44:2:32) FC Narrative 3: Honor for the Dead
-=MedOps, Rebel Squadrons' Domed Command Complex, Blerthmore, 44:2:27, 09:30 local time=-
Fleet Commander Dave Trebonious-Astoris sighed noisily and cracked an eye open. He was tired and somewhat sluggish, and he felt sleep in his eyes. He knew what it was. Bacta gunk. He had been in bacta tanks before but never got used to the gunk that accumulated around the eyes, ears and especially the-
"You're awake," a female voice stated. The voice was oddly modulated, as if the speaker was excited but trying to conceal it lest she sound overly exuberant. Or maybe that was just the bacta in his ears. Dave turned his head a fraction and saw Lieutenant Gosling, his communications officer, seated at his right. Her auburn hair was pulled back in a ponytail and a scarcely-contained smile was spread across her face.
Dave stiffened a bit, painfully aware of how vulnerable he must look lying on a hospital bed in MedOps in a hospital gown, with bacta gunk all over him. "Yes, I'm awake," he began, "and I guess I didn't die either." Dave immediately cringed. He had slipped into using contractions. The aristocracy of his home world, of which he was a member by right of birth, considered contractions vulgar and avoided them whenever possible. He had maintained the practice throughout his years of military service, although the pressures of common basic often forced him to slip into contractions when he was distracted. He shook his head slightly before continuing, "I think I will be fine now, Gosling. I appreciate your concern. You may send word to General Raven for me that I am awake and expect to see him soon." Gosling's smile faded as she sensed that she was being dismissed. "We were very worried about you, Admiral." Dave nodded in acknowledgment, and scanned her briefly. She looked tired. He wondered how long she had been sitting by his bedside. "I appreciate your concern and your vigilant watch." Gosling stood, offered a tight-lipped smile and a brief salute, and then exited the room.
Dave closed his eyes and sighed again. Steepling his fingers together as he often did when in thought, he called out for Dr. Connessey. The head of MedOps came up to his bedside and peered at him. "You don't look half so bad, actually. Maybe that one session in the tank was all you needed," the doctor began. Dave grunted. "It better have been all I needed, because I am not going back in. Also, in the future, I would appreciate it if you would not allow my staff in to see me when I am in this... condition." Connessey smiled indulgently. "Do you wish them to think you're immortal, Admiral?" Dave shook his head. "Not quite. But I would at least like to avoid appearing in compromising positions." Connessey winked at Dave, "I think Lieutenant Gosling enjoyed seeing you in a compromising position." Dave gritted his teeth. "Thank you, Doctor. May I get my clothes and a discharge now?" Connessey actually laughed out loud. "I'll see what I can do," he promised. As he walked off, Dave reached for his communicator to see if he could get an update on the situation...
-=Operations Center, Rebel Squadrons' Domed Command Complex, Blerthmore, 44:2:27:10:30=-
An hour later, Dave strolled into the Ops Center, feeling clean and reinvigorated. He had taken a shower and changed into a clean uniform, and he had arranged to meet his Executive Officer, General Michael Raven, and his Logistics Officer, Brigadier General David Vaughan, in the Ops Center. They had to shuttle down from the Star Destroyer Redemption, where Vaughan had recently finished debriefing much of High Command.
As Dave stepped into the Ops Center, Vice Admiral Tyrell "Spokes" Borran wheeled over to him. Throwing him a tired salute, Spokes looked at Dave and said, "You look like you just went three rounds with a Rancor." Dave gave a half smile and replied dryly, "At least I do not smell like one." With that, Spokes launched into his status report. "Admiral, the Command Dome suffered extensive damage to multiple systems in that last blast that knocked you out. The structural damage makes me wonder why we aren't venting more air than we are. All blast doors are sealed until internal diagnostics can tell us which areas are intact and can be opened safely. The area shield is offline and it doesn't look like it'll be back up any time soon. Most importantly, main power is offline and communications are at a minimum. We're running on secondary and auxiliary power at the moment, but that is waning and we don't have much of it left. Oh, and welcome back."
Dave waved off the welcome, and stood silent for a moment, digesting the information. "Estimated time to bring main power back online?" Spokes grimaced. "No estimate yet. Damage Control Team reports are not encouraging. It appears that we may not be able to bring power back online without parts that we don't have right now." Dave nodded slowly. "Have you been here since the attack began?" "Aye," Spokes nodded. "Alright. I need you to stay here for now. I will have a major announcement in a moment."
Just then, Raven and Vaughan entered and walked over to Dave. Raven looked a little bored already. He saluted Dave, but then launched into "Do I really need to be here? I've already heard this debriefing..." Dave smiled. "I think you will want to hear some of this." He then nodded to Vaughan, who handed Dave a datapad and then launched into a debriefing.
"Admiral, we were hit hard. We lost sixteen capital-class warships as well as two Golan platforms. Names of the vessels lost are on that datapad. Estimated casualties are in excess of forty-one thousand." He took a breath, preparing to continue, but then stopped and stared at Dave. Dave was clenching the datapad in his hand, his face pale, and his eyes had a distant look in them. Everything seemed to slow down. Faces flashed before his eyes; whispered names and remembered bits of conversations flew through his head. 'Death,' he thought, 'so much death.' Willing his mouth to open, he managed to start talking again. "And the Redemption?" Vaughan nodded curtly, "It survived the battle. Most of High Command are on it right now. Admiral Falcion is most displeased." Vaughan smiled wryly at this last bit of information.
Dave pressed on, "Have the Imperials completely left the system?" Again, Vaughan nodded, this time raising his eyebrows. "They are completely gone. No idea why, but it's giving us time to pick up the pieces and recoup. We're not entirely sure where they've gone, but Intel are working on it. We hope to start planning a reprisal operation soon." Vaughan paused, blinking as he realized to whom he was speaking. "Assuming that is acceptable to you, Admiral." Dave's face closed into an impenetrable mask, devoid of emotion. "Yes, that is acceptable. There will be a time for reprisal. But for now, we have to deal with some issues."
Dave waved Spokes over to the group. He wheeled up, and Dave immediately continued. "Gentlemen, I am giving orders for the Command Dome to be abandoned. Main power is offline and heavy structural damage makes it dangerous to inhabit at best. It cannot serve as the head of operations for the RS in this kind of shape. We will make the Redemption our temporary home for now." Vaughan appeared slightly discomfited. "Admiral, there are thousands of people here in the Dome..." Internally, Vaughan added, 'Falcion is going to be ropable.' Dave cut him off with a wave of the hand. "I am aware. All Ops Center staff and other essential personnel will join me on the Redemption. All support and other non-essential personnel will move to Base Stalwart for now." Dave turned to Spokes. "I want the Command Dome empty by tonight, Spokes." "Will do," Spokes replied. As Spokes turned away and began issuing orders, Dave spoke to Raven in a lower voice. "Raven, I want you to oversee the planting of explosives and booby-traps in the Dome. If anybody comes here while we are evacuated, I want them to have a very unpleasant surprise." Raven nodded vigorously, showing signs of excitement that usually were only manifested when there was a possibility of working with high explosives.
-=Temporary office of the Fleet Commander, Imperial I-class Star Destroyer Redemption, 44:2:28:07:00=-
Dave sighed as he settled into the chair behind his massive desk. He had commandeered a temporary office in the bowels of the Star Destroyer Redemption, below the bridge superstructure but right next to the turbolift so that in an emergency he could make it up to the bridge in less than a minute. He had shuttled up from the planet Blerthmore the previous evening, coming up with the last of the personnel from the Command Dome. He and his command staff had waited until the end to evacuate the facility, and even then it panged Dave to have to leave. He felt as if he had abandoned an old friend. Dave hoped to return to the Command Dome at some point in the near future, but he knew the repairs would cost millions of credits - credits the RS needed to spend on repairing the fleet and securing supplies.
The list of ships and facilities that needed repairs was in fact enormous. The Eagle's Nest shipyard itself had by some miracle survived, but most of the ships docked around it were slag. The Command Dome was inoperational, and two entire Golan defense platforms had been destroyed. The RS hold on the world of Blerthmore was weak now, to say the least. Priority would have to be given to repairing capital ships that had been damaged but not utterly destroyed in the Battle of Blerthmore. Only when the RS fleet was safely restored could they afford to worry about planet-side structures like the Command Dome. Dave frowned and made a note to have a more thorough discussion with his Logistics Officer, David Vaughan, about the priorities for repairs.
Dave leaned back in his chair, thinking. Before he had got very far he was interrupted by a signal at the door. "Yes, come!" he grunted. Lieutenant Gosling walked in and offered a salute. Dave nodded at her. "At ease, Lieutenant. Tell me, how are the Ops Center personnel settling in to their new office?" The staff of the Ops Center had been transferred to the main War Room of the Redemption, located directly behind the bridge, where they continued to monitor system sensors and interfleet communications. Gosling smiled slightly. "Well, sir, it's a little more cramped than what we're used to planetside. We're adjusting, though. It's strange not having to worry about shields or weaponry." Dave smiled back. "I am sure the Redemption's crew would not appreciate having their control over shields and weapons taken away by Ops Center personnel." Gosling shook her head, "No, probably not."
Dave nodded. "That will be all then, Gosling. Thank you for coming in." She smiled tentatively at him, "Yes, sir." Dave waved an abbreviated salute in her direction and picked up a datapad. He punched up his tentative plans for the memorial service he was to lead in three days. It was not easy to plan a memorial for more than 40,000 deaths, but he knew that he had to try to come up with something meaningful.
-=Main Hangar of the Imperial I-class Star Destroyer Redemption, 44:2:31:09:00=-
The Star Destroyer Redemption floated quietly, serenely in space above the ruined remains of the Eagle's Nest repair station. Below the wreckage lay the similarly ruined planet of Blerthmore itself. This sobering spectacle filled the view from the gaping maw of the main hangar of the Redemption, a silent testimonial to the carnage inflicted on the Rebel Squadrons at the Battle of Blerthmore. Fleet Commander Dave Trebonious-Astoris sat on a raised dais immediately in front of the hangar opening, his back to it as if he could not bear to look out at the scene. Seated on the dais beside him were his Executive Officer, General Michael Raven, and the remainder of the High Command. A lone podium stood at the front of the dais, and beside it, a single casket sat on a bier. The casket was draped with a black cloth, emblazoned at the head with the logo of the Rebel Squadrons, and at the foot with the logo of the New Republic.
Dave glanced up from his notepad, where he was reviewing the notes for his dedication, and took in the sight before him. Seated before the dais and facing both it and the hangar opening behind it were hundreds of officers and soldiers representing the many different elements of the Rebel Squadrons. The first rows were taken up by the divisional Executive Officers and Dave's own Executive Staff, followed by leading senior members of the fleet and then the rank-and-file of officers, pilots, soldiers, repairmen and support specialists. The only major portion of the RS not represented at this somber event were the men and women of the Patriot Battle Fleet, who were still away in the Minos Cluster. A holo of the proceedings would be forwarded to them later.
With an effort, Dave brought his attention back to the proceedings and peered up at the podium. Raven was just completing his short address to the troops. As he stepped back from the podium, a ripple of quiet and polite applause washed over the hangar bay, followed by an extreme stillness. As Raven took his seat beside Dave, the latter felt all eyes turn to him. It was time for him to deliver his dedication to the fallen. Again, Dave felt the magnitude of the responsibility settle heavily upon his shoulders. As he got up, he again asked himself how he could possibly do justice to some 40,000 lives in a single speech. The death toll was staggering. The Battle of Blerthmore had clearly been the greatest catastrophe that the RS had ever experienced. Steeling himself to speak, Dave turned back toward his chair, and tossed his datapad full of notes on it. Ignoring Raven's arched brow, he walked up to the podium and gazed out at the immense throng that had assembled.
"We are gathered here this morning," Dave began quietly but steadily, "to honor the lives of approximately 40,000 of our brothers and sisters. Four days ago, we were engaged in the greatest single battle that the Rebel Squadrons has ever known. It was a success for us only in that we were not completely annihilated. Over the last few days, I have struggled over how to quantify the deaths of those who fell in that battle. All those who died knew what they were fighting for, and their memorial is an exhortation to us to remember the reason that they fought. Those who have died fought in defense of the freedom from injustice and oppression that we all hold dear."
"Yet, I believe that this does not say enough. They not only fought but also made the greatest sacrifice of all by allowing the ultimate enemy to destroy them so that we could escape it. You all know that the Empire, and the injustice and oppression that it represents, is our enemy. Death, however, is the greatest enemy of all and the common foe of all that live on this galactic disk. Death awaits us all and, in a sense, our entire lives are spent waging a ceaseless struggle against Death. I invite you all to look behind me, out the hangar opening, and see the monument to this struggle. Below us, in space and on the planet, our brothers and sisters fought not only an Imperial threat, but Death itself."
Dave paused, wondering if he was approaching the morbid too much. His service in the Clone Wars and to the Empire had shown him death in all its forms, but that did not make death easier to experience. It only made it that much more haunting.
"Those who died here four days ago do not wish for us to weep for them. They were soldiers, pilots, and officers at war. Their fallen bodies cry out for us to renew the fight on their behalf. We gladly accept the torch from their hand. There is much work to be done in this galaxy, and we will make their sacrifice all the more powerful by fighting for the ideas for which they fought. Respect those who died here in this battle, and join me in continuing their fight against the Empire and against Death itself."
Silence reigned throughout the hangar. Within moments, Dave was joined at the podium by Raven, who turned to the audience and boomed, "Assembly at attention!" As one, the seated crowd rose to its feet and stood ready at attention. From the back of the hangar, a funeral dirge played slowly. As the song played, Dave looked out at the men and women assembled before him. There were some teary eyes, but they were overwhelmed by somber and resolute faces. When the song came to an end, Dave began to speak again. "The casket at my side contains no organic remains. Instead, it holds securely a copy of the personnel files of each and every man and woman who died in the defense of this system. As we consign the symbolic record of our departed brothers and sisters to the void of space, I ask you for a moment of silence in respect of the dead."
Again, silence descended on the hangar. The only sound was the faint hum of the tractor beam, as it picked up the casket, cloth and all, and slowly floated it over the dais and through the hangar bay's magnetic field. With a last effort the beam shoved the casket, and it began floating through space, away from the debris of the battlefield and toward Greeop Prime, the system's star.
After a few more moments of silence, Dave nodded at Raven, who turned toward the assembly and announced, "Assembly, dismissed!"
-=Main War Room, Imperial I-class Star Destroyer Redemption 44:2:32:14:00=-
The day after the memorial, Dave found himself in the War Room, checking in on his staff and observing the latest repair reports. Repairs were proceeding at what seemed to be a painfully slow rate. Priority had been given to the larger ships of the line and other capital-class vessels. Some ships that had been too damaged in the great battle were being scrapped to provide parts for ships that were relatively better off. The Logistics Officer, Brigadier General David Vaughan, was working at least double-shifts, moving people and equipment around as a chess master moves around pieces on a board. Whenever he caught a moment, he met with Dave and other parts of the Executive Staff where possible counter-attacks were planned. Until they learned where the mysterious Imperial strike force had come from, however, the plans would all remain hypothetical and vague.
Dave looked up from his datapad and the latest repair report and took in the sight in the War Room. He had to admit that his Ops Center staff had done an excellent job of transforming it into a miniature version of the Ops Center in the Command Dome. The middle of the room contained a smaller-scale replica of the galactic holographic display that they had used planetside. Communications and Sensors stations lined the walls of the room.
The door to the room whooshed open and Vaughan stormed in, an uncharacteristic feral grin on his face as he waved a datacard. "We have it!" he stated bluntly. Dave turned toward Vaughan and arched an eyebrow, hoping he knew what 'it' was but not willing to say it aloud. Vaughan nodded, "Yes, that 'it.' Intelligence have tracked down the destination of the Imperial fleet. We know where they came from." Dave closed his eyes and exhaled noisily - 'at last,' he thought. "Convey my commendation on to Intelligence, and show me!"
Vaughan turned to the galactic display and slid his datacard into one of its receptors. As the holographic display shifted to display a regional map of the Outer Rim, he began talking. "This is the enemy's home and our target: the Subterrel Sector. As you can see, it's located far beyond the Cadrel Expanse and the Osiris Sector." Dave frowned. "What are the Imperials doing there?" Vaughan nodded rapidly, "A good question. I don't know. There's nothing of great importance there that I'm aware of. In fact, I'm not really sure what's there at all..."
Dave narrowed his eyes menacingly. "Well, we are about to find out. Stay here a minute, Vaughan." He turned to the communications console. "Gosling, page my Executive Staff. Tell them that I want a meeting in 10 minutes. All officers should be present, this is first priority!" Dave turned back to Vaughan and continued, "Now we begin to plan an appropriate response to this attack on our home."
[Note: This story is continued in Raven's VSG/RID102 narrative, "Fury of the Rebel Squadrons."]