Rebel Squadrons

(44:3:31) FC Narrative 6: Trouble at Tarla

By FA Dave Trebonious-Astoris
Unit: The Rebel Squadrons
Narrative, Apr 18, 2007
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-=Auxiliary Hanger of the Victory II-class Star Destroyer Peril, Greeop Sector, 44:3:25,11:03=-

Fleet Commander Dave Trebonious-Astoris sat across from his subordinate who shared his name. General David Vaughan looked slightly apprehensive, perched on some sort of an old food-stuff carton. Dave leaned against a similar carton opposite from Vaughan. It wasn't really an office, but the Peril's auxiliary hanger was Vaughan's inner sanctum and place of refuge. A few feet away sat Vaughan's shuttle, the Mediator. Not many officers used their personal craft as mobile offices, but the Mediator doubled - tripled, actually - as transport, office and quarters for the Logistics Officer.

"They'll be here soon," Vaughan noted.

Dave nodded absently. "They will take your news well. You have a good squadron there."

"Had a good squadron," Vaughan replied with a tinge of regret.

"Having second thoughts on staying with me?" Dave chided jokingly.

Vaughan offered a half-smile, then stood up. "I'll be back after I give the Dragons the news," he said to Dave.

Dave stood as well, offering a nod. "When you get back, we can approach Colonel Marli and see if we can prod an update out of him. I tire of waiting him to finish his inspections."

It was Vaughan's turn to chide. "You bureaucrats are all the same. It's always 'we need this now,' or 'how come these supplies aren't here yet?' No patience for the logistics of it all."

Dave grinned. "Why should I worry about that? That is your job, after all."

Vaughan shot him a look of mock indignation, then turned up the ramp of his shuttle.

-=Bridge of the Victory II-class Star Destroyer Peril, 44:3:28,08:14=-

Colonel Marli, the impatient and frequently impolite Mon Calamari attaché of Admiral Ackbar, seemed about as ebullient as he ever could be. "Admiral," he intoned in a gravelly voice, "I am proud to report that my work here is done."

Dave started a bit. He expected confetti to fall from the heavens and a band to start up any minute. Could the cantankerous Marli really be done? He smiled graciously at the Mon Cal.

"I am very pleased to hear that, Colonel. If you will hold just a moment, I will call over General Vaughan, because I am sure he wants to hear this," Dave crowed enthusiastically.

Dave waved toward Vaughan, who was several stations away and paying close attention to the pair. He must have suspected something was in the air - the reclusive Marli generally avoided the Fleet Commander when possible. As Vaughan walked over, Marli swiveled an eye in his direction and followed him as he walked. Dave suppressed a shiver. He had never become completely comfortable with the independent, multidirectional nature of the Mon Calamarian eye.

Vaughan's expression was pensive but also hopeful. "Yes?"

Dave nodded to Colonel Marli. The Mon Cal's chin barbels twitched slightly. "Admiral, General, I have completed a very thorough investigation of Republic Shield forces, installations, and the damage done by the recent attack."

Hardly recent anymore, Dave thought to himself.

Pleased that nobody had immediately asked him a question and disrupted his thought process, Marli continued. "You will be happy to know that I am recommending that Admiral Ackbar come to your aid with an immediate convoy of parts and supplies."

Vaughan beamed. "That's excellent news, Colonel. Thank you for your assistance."

"I was only doing my job, General, nothing more," Marli replied, but he seemed pleased nonetheless. "I will leave you now. My shuttle is prepared. I have sent an advanced report ahead of me to Admiral Ackbar but must now return to brief him face-to-face. Good day, officers."

Marli offered a salute, and then turned and strode off the bridge. Dave stared at the door long after Marli had left, thinking about the curious Mon Cal whose rough exterior could not obscure the fact that he had given the RS a new reason for hope.

-=FC's Quarters, Victory II-class Star Destroyer Peril, 44:3:30,21:35=-

Two days after Marli's departure, Dave was researching old Senatorial archives in his quarters (one of his favorite hobbies). His studies were interrupted by a call from Lieutenant Gosling, his communications officer.

"Admiral, I'm sorry to bother you, but you've received a priority one message from Coruscant," she confided.

"Good!" Dave replied through the communicator, "We will see if Marli managed to convince Ackbar. Patch it through to my station here."

Dave set the communicator down on his desk and turned to his wall-mounted holo station, bringing up his message program. The patch from Gosling came through immediately. The figure of Admiral Ackbar appeared on the holo screen.

"Greetings Admiral Trebonious-Astoris," the holo-figure began. "I hope that this message finds the Republic Shield well. Colonel Marli has strenuously urged that I send support to your fleet immediately in order to ensure that you recover from the recent attack at Blerthmore. He was very persuasive," Ackbar said gravely.

"As such, I am sending a relief convoy. Multiple bulk freighters will bring you military and industrial supplies as well as replacement parts. This convoy will depart from Coruscant on 3:35. There is one problem. I cannot spare any warships to escort the convoy due to recent raids and concerns about a new power in the remains of the Empire. You will have to ensure the convoy's safety yourself. Ackbar out."

As Ackbar's figure faded away, Dave sat back in his chair, thoughtful. How can I escort that convoy? he thought. He knew he could not afford to send any of his few ships as far as Coruscant. The resources of the Greeop Defense Force were stretched thin enough as it was. With the priority holo message gone, his messaging system popped over to its normal review screen. Dave noticed a low priority text message from the Minos Cluster. That must be the PBF, he thought to himself. The PBF and Minos Investigation Group were hunting the White Guard in Minos. Dave opened the message.

To: Fleet Commander
From: General Hawkins
Priority: Low

Admiral, I just wanted to report in that PBF forces saw the
Lambda-class shuttle Mercurion on 3:28 during a successful raid on a convoy near Corva Yag. I thought this might be of special interest to you. Regards, Josh.

Dave smiled. The Mercurion was Marli's shuttle. Two days ago the PBF had seen it passing through Minos on its way back to Coruscant. This gave Dave an idea. The PBF could escort the convoy through Minos and my ships could pick it up on this side of the cluster. He checked his chronometer. Vaughan should have been speaking with Josh right about then. Dave reached for his communicator so that he could ask Gosling to patch him into the conversation...

-=Bridge of the Victory II-class Star Destroyer Peril, Tarla Sector, 44:3:31,13:12=-

"Exiting hyperspace into the T'Seran system, Tarla Sector in five, Admiral," Engineering Officer Euric Vandalo announced. The Peril had been visiting systems either under RS control or allied to the RS for weeks now. Shortly after Marli's departure, Dave had received a request to bring his ship to the Tarla Sector. There were strange rumors of lawlessness there that were making the local inhabitants uneasy. Dave had joined the Assassin-class Corvette Marauder to the Peril for the journey, making a small task force that he hoped would cut an impressive sight and reassure the locals.

At Vandalo's announcement, Dave turned to the viewport in time to see the hypnotic swirl of light and energy abruptly disappear and normal space fill the view. Space and also-

"What the hell is going on?" Commander Cyril Octavius, the XO demanded to no one in particular. In front of the Peril, a bulk freighter seemed dead in space, while several Skipray Blastboats whipped around it. Just beyond, a Corellian Corvette and small gunship hung in space in the path of the derelict.

Dave was already in motion, walking down the bridge's command walkway, gesticulating and issuing orders in rapid-fire fashion. "Shields online, please! Scramble Axe Squadron, emergency attack protocol 23! Major Alatar, I want all batteries charged! Order the Marauder to cross underneath our prow and draw off those blastboats! Lieutenant Gosling, give me an open channel to all ships!"

The bridge crew of the Peril leapt into action. Years of service and acclamation to the Admiral's leadership style had melded the officers together into a fluid organism that was able to react in seconds. Gosling was the first to throw a report back, "Channel open!"

Dave glowered out the viewport. "Unknown vessels, this is the Republic Shield Star Destroyer Peril. You will stand down now and prepare to be boarded for inspection!"

A voice immediately came back, laughing. "I think not! Run along now and leave the Redskulls to their prize."

Dave nodded to Gosling, who cut the transmission. Octavius seemed perplexed. "Are they insane? We easily outgun them."

"So it would seem, Cyril. So it would seem," Dave replied thoughtfully. Raising his voice, he asked "Status?"

"Shields at 100%, all turbolasers at 102%, ion cannons at 85%. Sorry sir, they're a little slower," the Mon Cal Alatar reported.

"Three fighters of Axe are ready to launch and waiting on their squadmates. Captain Erim reports the Marauder ready to enter battle," Gosling stated matter of factly.

"New plan, then," Dave began, "I want the Marauder to hug our ion trail until further notice. Launch Axe by pairs as soon as they are ready. Helm, kick up the sublights and bring us ahead. I want to go underneath the disabled freighter and come up on the other side with the main batteries pointed at that Corvette. And somebody get me some identifications!"

With a thrum that could be felt throughout the ship, the Peril pitched forward and began gaining speed. As it advanced, the Marauder allowed itself to fall behind, maneuvering itself into the larger ship's engine wake. Two pairs of TIE Avengers launched from the Peril and screamed ahead toward the Skipray Blastboats, which seemed spoiling for a fight. The dogfighting fighters whirled and rolled, carefully keeping out of the way of the Victory Destroyer as it ducked underneath the derelict freighter.

"That corvette is broadcasting as the Blood, Admiral. The gunship is the Catechism, and the freighter registers as XHP101. She belongs to the XHP corporation and has a registered flight manifest indicating that she was heading for T'Ser," Octavius announced from the sensor station, where he stood overlooking the work of the sensor officer.

Before Dave could respond, Alatar was speaking. "We've cleared firing range on the Catechism, Admiral," he growled out.

"Hold fire. I want all turbolasers on the Blood on my mark. It will go down quicker," Dave ordered.

"Blood targeted and in range," Alatar responded.

"All batteries, fire!"

The Peril seemed to come alive. A noticeable tension built up briefly, and then suddenly dissipated as twenty odd turbolaser batteries spewed gigajoules of verdant energy into space. The Corvette Blood was caught in a futile attempt to pull away and escape. The energy blasts concentrated into an area no larger than four square meters and burned right through the Blood's shields and into its hull. The ship scarcely had a moment to recover before a second volley of lasers lanced into the hull at the same point, melting away hull plating, bulkheads, equipment, and people. Several laser blasts cored through the ship completely, emerging out the other side and speeding off past the ship into space.

Dave watched with only half an eye. While the Peril's weaponry never ceased to impress with its sheer power, he was worried about the rest of the battle. Axe Squadron was easily holding its own against the Skiprays, but that could change if other fighters entered the fray. The gunship Catechism was bearing down on the Peril, recklessly setting up an attack run.

"The Blood is dead in space. Looks like Alatar managed to miss its reactor core," Octavius announced.

"Purposefully," Alatar pouted.

Dave allowed himself a brief smile. "Very nice. Fire on the Catechism, please. Alternate turbolasers and ions to keep them cool. If that stravag captain is foolish enough to get close, I want tractor beams on it."

"Admiral!" Gosling cut in. "We have a new contact emerging from hyperspace off our stern!"

Dave's eyes narrowed. "Identify!"

"Looks like a bulk cruiser, Neutron Star-class. The Redskull, by its own ID," Octavius reported.

Dave nodded, "Better than I expected. I had guessed it would be another gunship. No matter. Gosling, instruct Captain Erim that the Marauder is to engage the Redskull. Have him stand off and use missiles first, then attack delta pattern across the Redskull's bow."

Dave next turned to his weapons' officer. "Alatar, do we have tractor beams on the Catechism?"

"No," the Mon Cal replied, "his captain was a little too bright to come that close. We've been trading shots. Our shields are at 97% and the gunship's are at 54."

"Reduce fire on the Catechism to five turbolaser batteries. Just keep it at bay. Prepare to fire on the Redskull," Dave ordered.

"Vandalo, bring us about on a heading that points us directly at the Redskull. We cannot afford to let it stay behind us," he continued.

As the Peril turned its monstrous bulk, the more agile Catechism flitted around it, staying out of tractor beam range but continuing to fire its smaller turbolasers at the larger vessel. The Peril returned fire in equal amounts as batteries came to bear in the middle of its turn. Soon the Peril was on a direct course for the bulk cruiser Redskull, and opened up with its main batteries. Sheets of blue and green coalesced in the space between the Victory destroyer and bulk cruiser, while the former continued to fire a few shots at the Catechism behind it.

On the bridge, Dave nodded to himself. The battle was unfolding well, although the Catechism could still be an annoyance before it was finished. "Now, Vandalo, I want us to come down on top of the Redskull and clamp it below us with our tractor beams. We will hold it still and pummel it into submission. Gosling, have the Marauder take up station behind the Redskull and fire into its engines. Now is the time for the death blow," Dave finished grimly.

Once the Peril was positioned, it didn't take long. The Redskull was an old ship that was outclassed and outgunned. Although it feebly fired back with its own laser cannons, they were overwhelmed by the sheets of pure energy pouring from the turbolaser and ion cannon batteries of the Peril. Just as the old bulk cruiser's shields were falling, the Marauder sent a missile up one of its engines. Explosions began to wrack the old ship. Quite suddenly, it literally fell apart, breaking into huge chunks and spilling its crew into the cold, dead void of space.

On the Peril's bridge, the destruction of the Redskull was greeted by silent jubilation. Although the bridge crew was pleased with itself, they restrained themselves from exulting too much, fearing a chastening from Dave. They satisfied themselves with smiles and winks.

"Admiral, the gunship Catechism just entered hyperspace," Octavius announced. "Her shields had fallen to 25%, so they must have played it smart. Madclown announces that Axe has finished off the Blastboats. The Marauder reports all systems green. The battlefield is yours."

Dave exhaled deeply as the adrenaline began to wear off. "Good job, people."

At this signal, the bridge crew burst into applause and congratulated each other briefly with slaps on the back. The official sign that the battle was over had been given. Dave allowed the celebration to continue for a minute before he began issuing new orders.

"Vandalo, send a technical team over to XHP101 to help them get online. And Rahj?" Dave turned to Admiral Rahj Tharen, who had stayed out of the way for the bulk of the battle. "How about you take a team from the Gryphon commandos and head over to the Corvette Blood and see if there is anybody left alive?"

Rahj grinned evilly. "It would be my pleasure, Dave. See you." With that, he turned and ran from the bridge.

As the bridge began to secure itself from battle stations and return to a more normal, measured pace, Octavius drifted over to Dave. "Congratulations again, Dave. You fought well."

Dave nodded, but he seemed distracted. "While I am pleased that we won the battle, I am disturbed that a battle had to happen at all. We cannot afford to be putting down pirate groups as far away as the Tarla Sector. I just have a bad feeling about this all around."


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