Rebel Squadrons

(44:5:19) FC Narrative 9: The New Trassk Incident

By FA Dave Trebonious-Astoris
Unit: The Rebel Squadrons
Narrative, Sep 24, 2007
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-=Main Bridge of the Victory II-class Star Destroyer Peril, New Trassk system, Osiris Sector, 44:5:4,14:14=-

The massive bulk of the Victory II-class Star Destroyer Peril cut through space like a vibroblade through a hunk of cheese. Ahead of it and slightly to port the petite and lithe form of the Corellian corvette Shadowblen danced in its comparative nimbleness. The vessels had just emerged from hyperspace and were now zeroing in on a station known by the Republic Shield as New Trassk Base. Ever since it had been established by RS expeditionary forces one and a half years ago, the station had served as the RS' center of operations for the obscure Osiris Sector. The inhabitants of the region were not particularly enamored of the New Republic, but they felt some sense of obligation after RS forces prevented a major Imperial lockdown of the sector in 42GrS.

Fleet Commander Dave Trebonious-Astoris stretched on the bridge of the Peril, maintaining his alertness and watching the viewport with curiosity. The Admiral's ship had received a confusing, garbled distress call from the station mere hours ago. The best that could be determined was that some unspecified problem required immediate assistance. The Peril had been temporarily stationed at Mercurius in the Cadrel Expanse to help maintain a strong, visible RS presence in the region following the loss of the Halberd sixteen days ago. Upon receipt of the garbled distress transmission, the Admiral had rushed the Peril at top speed into the Osiris Sector to investigate and lend assistance if required. It could have been nothing more sinister than a damaged comm relay, but Dave had a bad feeling about it.

And so the Peril approached the RS' bastion of operations in the remote Osiris Sector. Ahead, the corvette Shadowblen was closing in on the station which hung suspended in space. It was somewhat amusing to watch the comparatively small ship approaching the massive station. Behind him, Cyril Octavius, his first officer and nephew, cleared his throat before speaking. "Gosling, hail the station to inform them of our arrival. Strange that they haven't hailed us yet."

Dave's eyes narrowed. Strange indeed, he thought.

Lieutenant Rebekah Gosling, the ship's communication officer, responded with some confusion. "Commander, Admiral, New Trassk station is not responding to hails."

Cyril responded first. "See if the Shadowblen can rea---"

He was interrupted by Dave, who pounced forward slightly, eyes ablaze with concern. "No, order the Shadowblen away from the base. Helm, bring the sublights to full and push us in front of the Shadowblen, quickly!"

The words were hardly out of his mouth when the viewport lit up with emerald glow. The station had fired a turbolaser volley at the Shadowblen. The energy beams converged on the hapless corvette, overwhelming the shields and grazing the ship's thin plating of armor. After a split second of abject, horrified silence, the bridge of the Peril broke out into pandemonium. Major Cluj Alatar, the weapon's officer, was shouting details of the station's armament, Gosling was trying to convey the Shadowblen's status and Vandalo at the helm was announcing the reception of Dave's orders to move the Peril.

The Peril lurched forward in space, quickly overtaking the stricken corvette. The wedge-shaped destroyer interposed its massive bulk between the station and the Shadowblen, protecting it as another turbolaser volley lashed out from the station. The energy impacted harmlessly on the larger ship's shield.

"Shall we give them a volley, sir?" Alatar asked. It was clear from his tone of voice what he wanted the answer to be.

Dave shook his head. "Hold on, I want to try to communicate again first. I do not want to fire upon our own station unless absolutely necessary."

Even as he spoke, the station's will to fight seemed to be petering out. The next volley was only a few scattered turbolasers. Two seconds later, one more turbolaser fired. Then nothing. If anything, the silence was even more disturbing than the brief bout of combat had been.

After what seemed an eternity but in reality was less than fifteen seconds, Gosling spoke up excitedly. "We are being hailed by the station! I'll put it on the viewport," she added without being asked.

On the main viewport, half of the screen blacked out and then resolved itself into the image of a man of about 35. He looked frazzled. Half of his face was slick with blood, his hair stood up on end, and his eyes were wide with shock.

"THEY'RE KILLING US ALL! THEY'RE KILLING US ALL!" he screamed, gesticulating wildly. Before anybody on the bridge could respond to this outburst, there was a muffled whuuump. The man on the screen groaned loudly, a bloodstain appearing on his chest, and then slumped forward. More shouts, then an explosion, and the screen went black.

Dave, perplexed, demanded of his crew "What was that? The explosion?"

Nobody seemed to know. Cyril, looking up from the sensor station, looked grim. "We are no longer reading any lifeforms on the station, Admiral."

Dave turned to Admiral Rahj Tharen, his longtime friend and foremost lieutenant in running the Greeop Defense Force. He lowered his voice, "Is there a chance that Imperials or rogues could be responsible for this and are somehow masking their signatures?"

Rahj looked skeptical. "It's possible. Nothing would surprise me anymore these days."

Dave nodded. "Take the Gryphons or whatever soldiers you deem fit, and go over there. Find out what is going on. And fast. If this area is unsafe, I do not want to be here longer than necessary. It is not worth it."

As Rahj exited the bridge, Dave spoke up again, addressing his bridge crew. "While we wait for the away team to return, set up a standard orbit around the station. Keep shields up and eyes opened. Find out the status of the Shadowblen and offer assistance as necessary. Launch half of Axe Squadron as well, please. I want as many eyes out there as possible. They can begin a visual external inspection of the station. We have work to do here, people..."

-=Main Bridge of the Victory II-class Star Destroyer Peril, New Trassk system, Osiris Sector, 44:5:4,14:46=-

Rahj had made it fast, as Dave had requested. Less than 30 minutes after he and a small team of soldiers had departed for the station on one of the Peril's shuttles, Dave received a hail from the team. They were reporting from the station itself. Dave had Gosling put the image up on the main viewport once again, allowing the entire bridge crew to witness the report.

As the image flickered into view, those watching began to appreciate the immensity of the disaster that had occurred on New Trassk Base. Although the holocam was centered on Rahj, what was visible behind him appeared to be a battlefield. Small fires were glowing, there were bodies strewn all about, in various conditions. It appeared to be a war zone.

Rahj appeared impassive. Long experience with combat had numbed him to any combination of horrific sights. He began his report methodically.

"Admiral, the most crucial part of my report is this: there are no marauders on this station. No Imperials, no pirates, no rogue terrorist groups, nobody. In fact, there is nobody alive on this station at all, just as the sensor readings indicated. The crew, consisting of approximately three thousand people, are all dead. They were killed in a great variety of ways. Some died by blaster fire, others were slashed with blade weapons, some were bludgeoned and still others seem to have been killed in brutal, hand-to-hand combat."

Somewhere on the bridge one of the officers vomited noisily. Dave cringed. Maybe he should not have put this report on the main viewer, after all.

"Admiral Tharen, have you been able to tell who did this? Who killed all these people?"

Rahj paused briefly before responding. "Admiral, as far as I can tell... they killed each other."

That was something strange. "Why?" was all Dave could muster in response.

He was answered by a voice he had not been expecting. "I'm hoping I can help answer that question."

Dave whirled around in time to see Dr. Rori Connessey finish speaking. The doctor was normally to be found in MedOps. Rarely did he venture to the bridge.

"Welcome to the bridge, Doctor Connessey," Dave responded. "Any help you can provide would be appreciated."

"I hailed him before I contacted you to tell him to come up," Rahj interjected. "There's something he needs to see."

Rahj stepped back from the holocam and the image jostled and shook as somebody picked it up and moved it. The image resettled and focused on the body of a young man. A nasty burn in his chest showed where the blaster bolt had ended his life. But as the image focused and zoomed, it became apparent that the blast burn was not what was intended to be shown. It appeared that a hideous growth, nearly a palm's width in diameter, was protruding out of the man's neck. The growth was gray with red streaks and looked as if it would have been painful.

"What do you make of this, doctor?" Rahj's voice asked from off-camera.

Dave turned to look at the doctor, who was studying the screen intently. He did not have to wait long.

"It's as I feared, Admirals," Connessey began. "I will have to do tests to be sure, but this appears to be a strain of classic hive virus."

Dave involuntarily took a step back. Spacers everywhere once feared the deadly hive viruses in the pre-Clone War days, before certain medical advancements were developed to combat them. Left untreated, hive viruses could be highly infectious, spread rapidly, and with a delayed onset of symptoms which caused most of a localized population to become infected before anyone was aware of it. Some strains were reported to cause insanity, and Dave was old enough to recall some of the stories from his youth of the dreaded viruses which could easily wipe out whole ship crews in the course of a deployment.

Connessey was still speaking. "I'm guessing they didn't get it isolated quickly enough, and by the time they realized what was happening, it was too late. The insanity caused them to fight each other to the death. A similar thing is rumored to have happened on the Katana fleet, if you believe such stories."

Dave nodded. "Can we bring Rahj and his people back safely?" His concern had caused him to slip into less formal means of address.

"Yes," the doctor replied, "but they will have to go into immediate quarantine until I can determine that they are safe. I will inoculate them just to be sure. The saddest thing is that the medical supplies on board the station should have been enough to stop the virus in the first place before anyone died, had they but been aware of its presence."

"You heard the doctor, Rahj. You and your team get back here, now. And seal every door behind you as you come. Make it secure as possible. I do not want anybody getting into that base." Dave looked adamant.

"We're to leave the bodies?" Rahj asked. He wasn't morally challenged by the prospect, but he thought it prudent to confirm if that was the plan.

Dave nodded. "Leave them. The station itself will have to serve as their tomb until we can spare the time and manpower to do anything more." The Greeop Defense Force's resources were stretched thin enough as it was, and undertaking a full-scale funerary detail for the deceased crew of the station was unfortunately not the highest priority at the moment. RS space was becoming more difficult to defend every day, with all sorts of piratical activity beginning to flourish in the absence of the majority of the RS' fleet of warships.

Rahj saluted, and the image cut out.

Dave turned to his first officer. "Cyril, please arrange for a buoy to be placed beside the station, warning all in the area to stay clear. We are leaving as soon as the away party gets back."

-=Message buoy near New Trassk Base, New Trassk system, Osiris Sector, 44:5:4,15:33=-

The buoy was an unfeeling piece of technology. It floated in space, less than a dozen meters from the wall of the station. It knew nothing of why it was doing what it was doing. It only knew that it needed to broadcast its message once every sixty seconds. And it only had one message:

"Warning! This base is closed by order of the New Republic Task Force Republic Shield's Fleet Commander! Warning! This base is infected by a hive virus! Stay clear! Approach at your own peril! Warning!"

-=Outskirts of New Morea, Tarsonis, Greeop system, Greeop Sector, 44:5:11,12:42=-

General David Vaughan, Logistics Officer of Task Force Republic Shield, walked along the outskirts of the capital city of the planet Tarsonis. Since the decision to establish an academy on the world, the General had been spending most of his time planet-side for the first time in... well, he couldn't remember of the top of his head when.

Since the Blerthmore incident Vaughan had been permanently space-borne, mostly on the GDF's flagship at work organising shipping and logistics for the task force, which was spread across three main theatres of operations. It was only now that the new academy required resources and personnel allocated to it that he was on the planet to help co-ordinate and liaise with the Colonial government in addition to his regular logistics duties.

The black-clad, bearded Human walked towards the distant starport that bustled with activity on the outskirts of New Morea City. He had a report to prepare for the Fleet Commander regarding the academy's progress, and his mobile office --- the Lambda-class shuttle Mediator --- was resting in a restricted section of the starport until the academy was completed.

Colonel Ketan and his plans for the academy had taken over a building complex on the edge of the city which the Tarsonis Colonial Government had generously donated for their use until more permanent facilities were completed.

Although Vaughan probably would never have admitted it, after his chance survival of the demise of the Halberd, he was much more comfortable on solid ground that was not likely to completely explode around him... the example of Alderaan notwithstanding.

The General was about fifty metres away from the starport when he saw the explosion --- a brilliant red fireball bloomed above the starport, and reached for the sky. Without thinking, mostly in a panic, Vaughan threw himself to the ground unceremoniously and struggled to pull his blaster from its thigh holster. It wouldn't budge, but one final pull wrenched it free as the panicked officer pointed it towards the rising ball of flame, which gradually transformed into a mushroom-shaped cloud of smoke.

It was the Halberd all over again. No matter where he went, bombs were exploding around him. As the cloud of smoke started to disperse, the shaken general activated his comlink. They had to scramble security forces and get this situation under control before any follow-up attacks occurred. They needed to determine the size and composition of the enemy forces pronto. The starport would need to be locked down, and the Peril would probably have to land commandos to help quell the situation...

-=Fleet Commander's Quarters, Victory II-class Star Destroyer Peril, Tarsonis orbit, Greeop system, Greeop Sector, 44:5:11,13:56=-

"An accident."

"What?" the Fleet Commander asked as if not believing what he'd heard.

The blue-hued hologram of General Vaughan opened his hands to elaborate.

"It was an accident. A simple screw-up. Refueling operation went haywire. Sparks ignited; caused a massive fireball. Minimal damage, though. Surprisingly no casualties, other than varying degrees of burns. All injured starport personnel are currently being attended to and will be fine after a few dunks of bacta. It could have been a lot worse."

Dave nodded, then shook his head. From Vaughan's initial report he had surmised they had a major problem on their hands; that anti-Republic forces had staged an attack on the civilian starport. "I though it must have been something far worse."

"Yeah... so did I. I, uh... guess I thought it was the Halberd all over again. I'm sorry if I caused undue alarm. I guess I've just had my fill of explosions lately, and when I saw the fireball rising into the sky... well..."

The Admiral waved off Vaughan's explanation, "That is not a problem, General. I understand. Better to have raised an alarm just in case." The Fleet Commander was cutting Vaughan some slack, as he understood all too well how living through the Halberd disaster had shaken the young general. Even though he himself was a seasoned war veteran, he understood what effects warfare could have on less mature minds until they became accustomed to it. And although Vaughan had been a pilot, and led an X-wing squadron in the past, most of his participation in the Galactic Civil War had been from being behind a desk and on a datapad. Brutal warfare wasn't really his arena, despite what his rank might otherwise imply.

"So, moving on... do you have that report I requested?"

"Yes, Admiral. I'm transmitting the more in-depth data now," Vaughan tapped a few keys on his end of the transmission, "but overall progress seems to be coming along well. The Colonial government seem very keen on having us more closely involved with their world, and the prime minister has intimated that they would be more than happy to help us establish more permanent facilities."

"Very good. I am pleased that Colonel Ketan has taken to this project with such enthusiasm." Dave scratched at his chin for a moment in contemplation. "I must speak with President Aluin in person. I have some ideas that I think she can help us with."

"I copy that. Do you want me to organise it on this end, or..."

"No, I will arrange a meeting with her myself. Thank you for your report, General, I will read through it momentarily. Keep me appraised of Colonel Ketan's developments."

-=Fleet Commander's Quarters, Victory II-class Star Destroyer Peril, orbiting Tarsonis, Greeop system, 44:5:19,14:14=-

Eight days later, it was Admiral Rahj Tharen who, regrettably, had once again to bring bad news to the Fleet Commander. Rahj grunted. He certainly didn't enjoy doing this, but it seemed to be happening more and more these days. He worried about how Dave would react. The gradual collapse of the RS home territories was clearly wearing on him. Despite their best efforts, disaster always seemed to be right around the corner. Oh sure, they had successes and occasional victories, but they couldn't be everywhere at once. Somehow their foes found a way to do that.

Nobody really knew who all these foes were either. Some of them made no secret of their identity. Some were nameless pirates who were simply out to make a quick credit. Others were intentionally faceless, shadowy organizations with unknown purposes and home bases. It was an intelligence nightmare.

But there was no secret about the identity of the foe Rahj was about to have to tell Dave about. He looked up and Dave was in front of him. It was time already. Rahj had thought he'd have a couple more minutes on the walk, but the walk had ended and here he was. Rahj didn't even remember going through the door to the office, but he must have done so.

"Dave, there's no easy way to say this," he began, hating himself for starting a sentence that way. "The government of Caelum has officially seceded from the Republic Shield and expelled our representatives from their planet."

Rahj stopped talking and waited for the explosion. Curiously, there was none.

Dave's brow seemed to smolder, but he kept his anger bottled far beneath the surface. "Have Cyril put us on a course to Caelum. I want to be there as soon as possible."

Rahj raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"Yes," Dave replied emphatically. "And keep an eye on Vandalo, too." Euric Vandalo, the Peril's helm officer on the bridge, was from the planet Caelum.

Rahj nodded. "As you wish."

-=Main Bridge of the Victory II-class Star Destroyer Peril, orbiting Caelum, Elenian system, 44:5:19,14:14=-

"Keep hailing them, Gosling. I want them to know we are serious about this," Dave ordered.

The Peril had arrived in the Elenian system and taken up orbit around the planet Caelum. Dave was attempting to initiate discussion with representatives of the planetary government - hoping that once again his powers of speech and persuasion might be able to resolve a difficult situation. So far the hails had gone unanswered.

"Admiral," Cyril announced, "we have starfighters approaching us in a hostile stance. Looks like the planetary defense forces."

"Hail them, too," Dave responded.

Gosling looked concerned. "No response."

"They're firing on us, Admiral."

The out-of-date fighters were hardly a threat to the Peril, but Dave was irked nonetheless. "Fire a few warning volleys in their general direction, Major Alatar. Make sure you do not hit any of them."

"The starfighters are pulling back... regrouping. It looks like more vessels are joining them. More ancient starfighters, a couple freighters, none of this technology appears to be less than fifty years old," Cyril reported.

"They're setting up for an attack run," Alatar added.

As the antique vessels glided in toward the Peril, their formation separated some, creating an opening. From the planet far below, a pulse of energy shot up, sped through the formation, and slammed into the Peril's shield.

"That was a planetary defense-grade ion cannon of some sort," Rahj offered.

Dave was fast losing his temper. His patience was already frayed before they had even arrived in orbit here. He was tired of being shot at. He was tired of rebellion and piracy and lawlessness. It all grated against his own idea of how a society should be. And, unusually for him, he could feel anger creeping its way to the surface.

"Target the planetary cannon, and commence orbital bombardment on it. Destroy it!" Dave was practically snarling.

After a moment's hesitation, Alatar put the command through. The Peril's massive heavy turbolasers tracked the target on the planet below and opened fire. Verdant energy beams shot through the atmosphere of Caelum, pounding the unshielded cannon and quickly reducing it to a molten heap.

The Peril's first aggressive maneuver seemed to have energized the fighters of the planetary defense force. In retrospect, it was learned that these forces were afraid that the Republic Shield was preparing a planetary invasion, but that was not in the minds of any of the Peril's bridge crew at the time. One starfighter crept its way over the Peril's wedge-shaped body, and arriving at the superstructure, fired its low-grade blasters at the bridge.

Dave watched the fighter slowly approaching the bridge, and when he saw the blaster bolts splashing harmless in the shields just in front of the viewport, he was enraged. "How dare they! Did you see that? They are trying to kill me! Impudent wretches! Backyard rustics! Alatar, open fire on all hostiles! I want them all down!"

Dave was now openly seething, his anger apparent to everybody on the bridge. His normally icy and formal military demeanor had finally cracked, and the raw emotion bubbled over. The bridge crew was scared. Most of them had never seen the Fleet Commander look this way. His rage was all the more frightening because it was so unusual and intense.

"Aye sir," Alatar reported. He gave his gun crews freedom to fire at will against the targets surrounding the Peril, knowing as he did so that most of those targets would die within the first few seconds.

Dave was now hovering over Alatar, a bubbling mass of anger, watching the orders being carried out. He was oblivious to what was going on around him. Unbeknownst to Dave, Euric Vandalo, the helmsman, had left his station and was slowly creeping up behind Dave. He had almost made it to him, and coldly announced, "I can't let you do this!" As everybody turned to look, there was a loud crack, and Vandalo crumpled to the ground. Rahj appeared behind Vandalo, reholstering his blaster. He motioned quietly to a couple soldiers, who came and picked up Vandalo's limp body to drag him off.

Dave seemed frozen. Rather than further enraging him, this second attempt on his life in the last five minutes seemed to cool him down considerably. His shoulders sagged and a look of resignation crept across his face. If this many of them will go this far to kill me, is this worth it? He asked himself.

He decided it was not.

"Major Alatar, cease fire. Commander Octavius, please secure us for hyperspace, plot a course for Mercurius, and withdraw us from the system," Dave ordered. He sounded dreadfully tired, as if he was completely spent by the outburst.

"But the Caelumites..." Rahj started.

"Just do it, Cyril. Get us out of here. You have the bridge, Rahj."

Having issued these orders, Dave trudged off the bridge, leaving an uncomfortable silence behind him.

As the Peril shot into hyperspace, it left behind a dreadful scene of carnage. Down on the planet, the defense cannon was destroyed with all its crew. The secondary explosions rippling from its energy generator had killed civilians of unknown number. In space, dozens of crewmen were entombed in their stricken ships, or incinerated by the mighty blasts of the Peril's turbolasers. The legacy of the visit and attempted reconciliation was destruction.


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