Rebel Squadrons

(44:7:5) The Final Barrier

By COM David Vaughan
Unit: The Rebel Squadrons
Narrative, Jun 01, 2008
Back to Articles

((Please note that for fictional purposes, the results of the recent FC election will not be reflected in this narrative. Story-wise Dave is still in command of Greeop forces, and Raven is still in command of Subterrel forces until further notice.))

-= Bridge, Immobiliser 418 cruiser Raging Dragon, Delerure system, Subterrel Sector, 44:6:33:19:36 =-

Commodore Sconn sang out orders across the bridge of his command.

Beyond the Interdictor, the B-wings of Ragnarok, A-wings of Dragon and X-wings of Resurrection Squadron swarmed around the combat zone. Ragnarok and Resurrection Squadron dumped torpedoes at the Imperial warships while the Interdictor's heavy guns blasted into the void, and Dragon Squadron sent needles of concussion missiles through the throng of swarming TIEs.

The Commodore had played a hunch and passed through a system he knew the RS convoy would be travelling. And it was fortunate he had — an Imperial patrol force, consisting of an Imperial-class Star Destroyer and escorts had stumbled upon the convoy as it passed through the Delerure system.

Ragnarok and Dragon Squadrons were doing an admirable job escorting the convoy as they exploded the waves of intercepting TIEs, but there were too many of them to keep track of at once — the Raging Dragon's appearance tipped the balance of power back towards the New Republic forces, with the pilots of Resurrection Squadron launched from Commodore Sconn's vessel minutes ago. The engagement had been well underway for several minutes now, with explosions lighting up the void as the Imperial patrol and the New Republic escorts clashed.

Lights dimmed as power was redirected to keep the deflector shields strong.

"Comms, get those escorts out of here!" Commodore Sconn yelled at his Communication Officer, as the ships of the supply convoy one by one winked away into hyperspace — and hopefully safety.

"Sir, General Lommax acknowledges, but he recommends they make one final torpedo run on the Enchanter."

Sconn set his jaw as he considered. It would be a worthwhile distraction for the Imperial forces, having to contend with torpedoes raining down on their command ship. But on the other hand there could be a planned Imperial ambush further along the line that the supply convoy would be falling into undefended . . .

After weighing up all the options and variables that came to mind, the Commodore made his decision. Three terse seconds had passed.

"Comms, have Ragnarok and Resurrection squadrons launch torpedoes on our mark. I want Dragon Squadron out there massacring those TIEs. Helm, bring us about, I want us heading at full speed at that ImpStar. And Gunnery . . . I want all missile and torpedo tubes loaded up and ready for launch. Target the main guns, and any other weaponry that will be in range of the Star Destroyer in . . . fifty seconds. Strap yourselves in, ladies and gentlemen, our primary target is that ISD. Let's give them something to keep them busy with so they think twice about going after our convoys again."

-= Bridge, Imperial-class Star Destroyer Enchanter, Delerure system, Subterrel Sector, 44:6:33:19:44 =-

The entire bridge shook with a force unimaginable to the crew of the Star Destroyer Enchanter. Normally only battles against other ships of their class could result in such tumultuous effects being felt by the crew on the bridge.

Yet here they were, battling a ship many times smaller and less powerful, with their shields buckling and hull breaches rapidly opening up.

How is this happening? Fleet Admiral Zenerik wondered listlessly. He sat in the command chair holding a bloody bandage to his head. He'd been thrown unceremoniously to the deck when the first of the numerous volleys of torpedoes had hit, and everything had felt distant and unreal since.

Men and women ran about on his bridge trying to keep the ship operational, but the sparks, explosions and movements all seemed to pass the Admiral by in slow motion. He noted with detached interest that the entire dorsal shield grid had failed.

That can't be good, he thought with cool detachment. If he concentrated hard enough, he could hear his junior officers yelling orders back and forth from their stations, trying to keep the ship in one piece. They'd given up trying to get any sense from their Admiral minutes ago; the head-knock had rendered him useless.

The dazed Admiral sat in his chair and flinched slightly as the brightness of distant explosions ballooned out from the dorsal surfaces of the Star Destroyer's hull.

He thought he heard someone call out something to do with the reactor, which couldn't have been good news, when the whole universe turned the brightest white he had ever seen . . .

-= Bridge, Imperial-class Star Destroyer Redemption, low orbit over Delerite III, Delerite system, Subterrel Sector, 44:6:33:19:58 =-

Admiral Raven stared out at the world they had just conquered. Delerite III might not have been somewhere he'd choose to visit under normal circumstances, but it was now an important forward world for staging his reinvigorated campaign against the Imperial forces firmly entrenched in the Subterrel Sector.

The RS ground forces fighting down below, newly under the command of Commander Chapple, had fought better than expected. There had been fewer anticipated losses than original projections, and the objectives had been taken with a minimum of fuss or complication. Raven was most pleased.

Out through a starboard viewscreen Raven saw another sight that pleased him: the supply convoy had made it intact, without any losses. He understood he had Commodore Sconn and Ragnarok Squadron to thank for that. He would have to arrange rewards for their demonstrated competence; word had already reached him that General Lommax and his pilots, along with Resurrection Squadron and the Commodore's Interdictor had taken out an Imperial Star Destroyer, which was never an easy target to take down.

He suspected the Imperial adversaries had still not learned to take his forces seriously, which was why their ships kept falling before the might of Raven's numerically inferior but supremely trained forces. They would either die or learn, and Raven hoped it would be the former before the latter.

A bright flash of Cronau radiation signified the appearance of the Interdictor Raging Dragon from hyperspace into the orbital zone of the newly-claimed RS world. Raven nodded as the sensor crews identified the ship and confirmed recognition codes.

"Comms," he called out suddenly. The Communications officer jumped with a start; the Admiral had been silently brooding for some time now, and she was still new and unaccustomed to the Dark Admiral's bearing.

"Contact the Raging Dragon. Communicate my congratulations for their efforts, and inform Commodore Sconn that I request his immediate presence in my office."

"Yessir," she confirmed, and turned back to her station to do comply with the commands.

Raven stood silently, then stalked purposely from the bridge. Commodore Sconn's forces had managed to nail an ImpStar, and Raven wanted to talk to him with great interest.

-= Hangar bay, EF76-B Nebulon-class escort frigate Unforgiven, Kanria system, Subterrel Sector, 44:6:33:20:34 =-

The last remaining TIE Interceptors and A-wings of Dagger Squadron to be recalled rocketed through the magnetic containment barrier and slammed down onto the flight deck without ceremony.

There was no time for messing about with repulsors and careful re-entries, because suddenly a bright light of explosive qualities burst through from beyond the hangar, quickly replaced by the familiar blue-white light-show of hyperspace.

A resounding cheer echoed through the deck crew, as the battle-worn warship flew away from yet another battlefield without perishing.

It was only now, after the frigate had safely leapt to hyperspace, that the deck crew scurried forth and secured the mixed combination of fighters of Dagger Squadron, and the pilots popped their canopies and jumped out to a chorus of cheers and well-wishers.

No doubt about it, Dagger Squadron had well and truly kicked ass, and because of them the extraction operation had been successfully accomplished.

-= Bridge, EF76-B Nebulon-class escort frigate Unforgiven, Kanria system, Subterrel Sector, 44:6:33:20:38 =-

Admiral Cody Qel-Droma looked blood-stained and dirty as he finally made it to the bridge. The ship had barely made it out of the Kanria system in the nick of time. The Imperial defences were well and truly angry at being duped by the New Republic frigate, which had convincingly played its part as the Rogue Imperial Frigate Chimeric Idol.

Qel-Droma and his brave souls of Zealot Unit had once again barely made it out of a successful operation, but with more losses than their commander had expected. He pushed it from his mind; they'd successfully retrieved the information they needed from Penumbra Base, and it was imperative he delivered it with all due haste.

"Captain," he called out to Duran, the officer who commanded the vessel in Cody's absence.

"Yessir," Duran started to salute until Cody cut him off.

"None of that. I want to rendezvous with Raven as soon as physically possible."

"As you say, Admiral. This far into Rogue territory we're doing a major burn out as far as possible, then we'll rendezvous with the Redemption."

"Good. Comm me as soon as we're coming up on the Redemption. I'll be debriefing my troops."

"As you wish . . ." the captain began, but Cody had already stepped from the room. "Admiral."

-= Office of the Brigadier General, Imperial POW Camp (Aft Cargo Hold), Imperial-class Star Destroyer Redemption, low orbit over Delerite III, Delerite system, Subterrel Sector, 44:6:33:22:39 =-

"I still disagree with your course of action, General," the second-highest ranking member of the Imperial prisoners of war collected by Admiral Raven in the Subterrel campaign stood on the opposite side of the desk of the makeshift office of the highest-ranking Imperial officer onboard.

Brigadier General William Vaughn, for his part, remained seated and simply stared unflinchingly up at his subordinate, Colonel Galin Tanasea.

"Your position is noted, Colonel, and given all due consideration," the seated general replied.

Both men were aged veterans of the Imperial Armed Forces, and while Colonel Tanasea was obviously a more hardened man, and quite an intimidating one, Brigadier Vaughn was not moved. He'd had to deal with a Rebel Admiral who in his opinion had threat levels that far exceeded anything this Colonel could throw at him.

He refused to explain himself to any subordinate officer, even one who obviously had seen more of the front lines of combat than he had. Vaughn was, after all, the Logistics Officer of the Loyal Imperial fleet of the region, which was a job based behind a desk processing data more than it was true combat.

Nevertheless, he was the ranking officer, and believed his course of dealing with the current internment situation was the correct one. Especially since he had so many plans in motion now, and had a much deeper understanding of the current predicament than this newly captured officer, who had only been in Rebel captivity for the past sixteen days. Vaughn had been on this accursed Rebel ship for more than two months now, and his methods of dealing with the situation were far preferable to the non-co-operative alternatives the stalwart Colonel would prefer.

Colonel Tanasea's methods would lead to more torture and interrogations, and his men had suffered enough in their present incarceration before he had forestalled the continuing barbarity. Vaughn's plans of dealing with the Dark Admiral had almost reached fruition and he wasn't going to let anyone else tell him what to do. He needed all of the POWs to maintain some freedom of motion, and this newcomer was threatening the viability of Vaughn's well-laid plans.

The aging Colonel placed both hands on the desk and glared down at his superior officer. "I should hope you do, General. I hope you consider it very carefully. Because under Imperial law traitors are dealt with by death, as you well know."

That was it. Vaughn was on his feet and his lowered forehead was centimetres from Tanasea's face as he spoke very slowly, with an undercurrent of threat. "And I know I need not remind you, Colonel, of the punishment for insubordination."

"Save it for the court martial, sir." Tanasea spat back darkly. Ordinarily the keeper of the peace, he was sickened by this man's willing co-operation with their Rebel captors. Sharing information for a few creature comforts. It made him sick, and proved beyond any doubt that this useless data-pusher should not be in charge of their lives and honour. "I must respectfully ask you to surrender your authority to me. You're clearly not qualified to be in a position of authority in the current situation."

"How dare . . ." Vaughn never finished his sentence because his rage fuelled a leap across his desk at the battle-hardened colonel.

The outcome was, obviously, not to his liking, because before he knew what had happened he was lying on his back with the Colonel's knee to his throat. Spittle flew from his mouth as he bared his teeth and glared up impotently at the insolent bastard who was starting to exert pressure on his windpipe.

"Now, General," the Colonel began again, panting. He was not as young as he used to be, and subduing the attacking data-pusher had taken a lot more effort than he would have expected. "I believe you were surrendering your authority to— ah!" he cried out as he felt a sharp pain slam across his head, which sent him sprawling into the wall.

An enraged female cry confusingly greeted his senses as a small blur of black clad blonde propelled herself at the Colonel and began crazily pummelling all his exposed surfaces in defence of her leader and saviour. He cried out and flailed in response, connecting with something fleshy and hurling her across the desk in the centre of the room.

Red tinged his vision, and he stumbled to his feet and faced his downed attacker. The young, blonde woman coughed up blood onto the floor and remained where she'd been thrown, crumpled in a ball. In the corner, the greying, balding General was scrambling backwards toward the wall, clutching his bruised windpipe and not taking his eyes off his adversary.

Beyond the doorway of the illegitimate General's office, he saw the men and women of both the General's group of POWs and his own staring at the scene in the room, then eyeing each other off warily. With a painful grunt, the Colonel sighed and wiped the blood from his scalp from the fresh cuts the enraged woman had inflicted upon him.

With a sinking feeling, the Colonel realised his attempts to correct their course had failed before it had left the hangar. As he did in the Maxite facility, he was going to have to try and broker some peace before they all tore each other apart. He realised now his attempts at wresting control of the Imperial population in the camp would ultimately fail, because this General Vaughn refused to yield command willingly, and his own people were outnumbered. There was no way he could take control and deal with the situation properly without blood truly being spilt.

Blood of his own brethren. He shook his head to clear it from the buzzing that had started when the blonde woman had hit him over the head with something solid. These were all Loyalists Imperial officers and enlisted personnel. They weren't Rebels; they weren't Traitors. He had to put a stop to this conflict he'd initiated, and that meant letting the useless, near traitorous data-padder Vaughn to remain in charge.

"Hold!" he called to the mass of about fifty Imperial POWs who had gathered around, brewing for a fight between his twenty-odd POWs from Maxite, and the thirty-odd POWs loyal to Vaughn. "No fighting! We cannot survive this if we're fighting each other."

The bloodied Colonel looked over at the enraged General, who had scrambled to a sitting position with his back to the wall. "You stay in charge. But I am responsible for my men, not you. If you want to deal with them, you do it through me. Agreed?"

Vaughn stared at the usurper with blind hatred, but felt his anger start to cool by the foreigner's words. He needed their entire population to act as a team if his plans were to be realised. Which meant compromising on this point was probably the only way it would work, as he could not compel the twenty-two newly-arrived POWs to abandon the leader whom they had entered the camp with.

The General coughed up some blood and massaged his damaged throat before answering with a rasp. "So be it. Keep your men in line," the fire within flared up again at the injustice of being assaulted in his own office. "Now get your mutinous ass out of my office! NOW!"

Colonel Tanasea stood to his full height unsteadily, then nodded and strode from the room with mechanical precision, masking the head injury he'd suffered. If he wanted to maintain the loyalty of his people, he could show no weakness in front of them.

As the Maxite POWs warily escorted their leader away from the office, to a far corner of the hold, several of the remaining POWs moved into the office to help their leader, while a number stayed outside, forming an outward-facing defensive perimeter. They would suffer no further assaults on their leader. He'd kept them alive this long, and they trusted him with their lives. This was the man who had stopped the torture and the interrogations, and they owed him more than they could repay.

"Help her," Vaughn choked out as he waved the assistance away. Lieutenant Mary Coombs had not risen from where she'd been thrown, and he suspected she'd suffered some internal injuries. "Medic! Check her out ASAP. If she needs medical assistance . . . contact the Rebel guards."

Slowly he raised himself to his feet, then limped back to his desk. This was not a good turn of events. He needed everyone onboard, healthy and able. And he needed everyone ready to act, and soon. The cue he was waiting for could come any day now, and his people — all of them — had to be ready when the time came.

-= Personal Quarters of the Admiral, Imperial-class Star Destroyer Redemption, low orbit over Delerite III, Delerite system, Subterrel Sector, 44:6:33:22:52 =-

Admiral Cody Qel-Droma and Commodore Sienn Sconn sat across from Admiral Michael Raven. All three men had just participated in combat.

Qel-Droma saw the most brutal of it first-hand, having just survived a running light-fight through an Imperial base deep in Rogue territory. He hadn't even changed or cleaned himself up since escaping from the successful mission that had caused his unit grievous losses.

Sconn looked dishevelled, but exuded an aura of satisfaction. His uniform was rumpled from having taken his ship in a head-to-head engagement with an Imperial-class Star Destroyer. He was so happy because unlike the adversarial ImpStar, his ship had made it out of the combat zone intact.

And then there was Raven. Of the three, he had fought the least in the last few hours, having quickly overpowered the orbital defences of Delerite III, and then orbitally obliterated the planet's surface before ordering ground troops to secure the world. But his battle was in the mind, co-ordinating his strike force in their movements to thwart Imperial control of the Subterrel Sector. He thought of things in the macroscopic level, beyond the individual battles and engagements.

The three officers had been discussing the recent engagements. Victories had been attained in the Delerite, Kanria and Delerure systems near-simultaneously, and on the macroscopic scale the campaign was going excessively well. But they had not been without losses, and the death toll was becoming increasingly heavy since the strike force had debarked from the Greeop Sector on their quest for vengeance.

On the desk between them sat the datacard which Zealot Unit had paid for with blood to attain. Cody hoped it had been worth it. As soon as Raven slid the card into his datapad and the holographic data flickered into existence above his desk, he smiled grimly. It was not a friendly sight. As far as Raven was concerned, the information Cody's unit had successfully ascertained was worth any number of lives that could have been lost to retrieve it.

In the air above them, lay the key to victory.

"Gentlemen," Raven began after staring into the holograph for several minutes in silence. "What you see before you is proof of the break we've been looking for. Our good guest Brigadier General Vaughn and his merry men have finally proven I was right not to toss them out the airlock months ago."

He stared at the floating information with an expression of hungriness.

"This proves the General was not lying, after all. The Ragyss Nebula . . . that there is our target and destination," the other two officers looked on with decidedly less interest.

"What's so important about it?" Cody had fought too hard in the past few hours to really care about the overall campaign. He was here to follow orders and carry them out successfully.

"Don't you see?" Raven seemed animated; excited even. Most uncharacteristic. "This holding is vital to the Rogue Imperial operations in this sector. If we hit this, absolutely knock it flat, they might not be able to recover from it."

"So what do you have in mind?" Sconn sat forward, studying the data intently.

"Oh," Raven smiled darkly. "I have a few ideas . . ."

-= Main Briefing Amphitheatre, Imperial-class Star Destroyer Redemption, outskirts of the Delerite system, 44:7:5:00:58 =-

Over the past days the disparate ships of the Subterrel Strike Force had assembled in the Delerite system. The strike force had been spread thinly after the successful Maxite battle, to prevent the fired up Rogue Imperial patrols from discovering and wiping out the entire strike force in one swipe. They hadn't, and over the past days the will of the Imperial adversaries seemed to have weakened considerably.

The string of defeats to the numerically inferior but uncannily victorious New Republic strike force had begun to wear away at Imperial morale, which had already been significantly weakened by the loss of their leader. It was now relatively safe to assemble the strike force in one place . . . but only because it was a brief rendezvous before stabbing directly into the hidden heart of the enemy.

All the pilots of the Vigilance Starfighter Group who could be pulled off active duties were present in the massive briefing theatre of the Redemption. It was the only ship in the strike force with a large enough assembly area to house all the pilots in the group at once. The pilots currently on CAP would be briefed separately, but for the pilots seated here today it was a special occasion, beyond the venue.

Admiral Raven, leader of the Subterrel Strike Force, was uncharacteristically standing before the combined starfighter might of the Vigilance Starfighter Group and briefing them for the upcoming operation.

"The upcoming operation may be the final movement in our campaign here in the Subterrel Sector."

This was big news coming from Raven; word was he didn't screw around and exaggerate. Still, there were cynics amongst the pilots, who doubted the campaign would ever end.

"The enemy maintain the most crucial of holdings here in the Ragyss Nebula."

The holographic representation highlighted, then zoomed to show the location and boundaries of the Ragyss Nebula.

"This is the hidden heart of the enemy operation. If we hit this, and hit it hard enough to pound it to dust, we may drive them out of the sector without any further shots fired."

Murmuring and mumbling began at this pronouncement. Either the Admiral had developed a taste for hyperbole, or this was the real thing. What could possibly be so important to cause the heavily fortified Rogue Imperial forces to retreat?

"General, if you please," Admiral Raven moved to the side, and General Kirghy Lommax, commanding officer of the Vigilance Starfighter Group took the podium.

"As Admiral Raven has stressed, this may well be the most important action in the campaign. The entire strike force will be sent to assault the holdings in the Ragyss Nebula."

A representation of the combined strength of the Subterrel Strike Force shimmered in the air before the pilots.

"There are two safe routes through the Ragyss Nebula, and we will be exploiting both of them. The strike force will be splitting into two groups: Aurek and Besh."

Holographic representations of the thirteen remaining warships in the Subterrel Strike Force split into two groups.

"Group Aurek will enter here, and will have the primary objective of drawing off the defensive fleet stationed in the nebula. We anticipate most of the defences will be drawn to Group Aurek, because the enemy will likely assume it to be the entire New Republic presence in the sector coming to get them. Admiral Raven will personally lead Group Aurek from the Redemption, and the Resurrection II, Titan, Chiin'tal, Unforgiven and Warden will accompany him. Once the enemy has been drawn off, Group Aurek's mission is to neutralise them. After the primary objective has been accomplished, the destruction of the defensive fleet will be the next priority."

The murmuring started up again, but was cut off when the General continued speaking.

"Group Besh will enter here, on the opposite side of the nebula, several minutes into the engagement. They should hopefully arrive once the majority of the defences have been lured off to engage Group Aurek. Group Besh will jump in close to the primary target, and pound it flat. All defending forces and the base itself are to be wiped out, completely. Admiral Sconn will lead Group Besh from the Raging Dragon, which will engage its interdiction field once the group is in position. The Ad Astra, Horizon, Crimson Ghost, Stinger, Grozarra and Typhoon will join him in this endeavour."

Red flashes of ship types suddenly appeared in the air.

"Defences are expected to be incredibly strong. We anticipate at least two Star Destroyers, and whatever defensive fleet they might have stationed there. And the primary target itself won't be a walk in the park, either: it's a Golan III station."

Lommax looked over the mass of pilots assembled. "Any questions . . ." he began, before changing from the normal end of briefing script, "can be answered by your squadron COs, who will have flight assignments and all the information you need at their disposal within the next few minutes. If they can't help you, come see me directly."

The General looked over at Raven, who nodded in return. "That's all; skids up in two hours. If you have any contingency messages for loved ones, make sure you have them recorded before then, because we're launching on the chrono," he looked around the room once more, proud of what his pilots had achieved in the Subterrel Sector so far, and certain that they would fight well in the upcoming battle. "Dismissed!"

-= Bridge, Imperial-class Star Destroyer Redemption, Ragyss Nebula, Subterrel Sector, 44:7:5:02:12 =-

The bridge was uncharacteristically silent, but for the occasional exchange between the Helm and Sensors, as the Redemption led its contingent of vessels through the tight red tunnels of space dust that was one of the two safe passages through the Ragyss Nebula.

Admiral Raven exchanged a significant glance with the ship's captain, General Max Cal, and they both stared out the prow viewport.

The behemoth vessel twisted and turned beyond the final wall of gas . . . and into the equivalent of a clearing in the nebula. In the vast distance, dark specks could be seen against the bright red contortions of the natural space anomaly.

"Sirs," the Sensor officer spoke up. "They've spotted us," he paused. "They're scrambling forces now."

Raven nodded, waiting with rapt attention. So it began.

-= Bridge, Imperial-class Star Destroyer Death Knell, Ragyss Nebula, Subterrel Sector, 44:7:5:02:26 =-

The bridge was a flurry of activity as the battle with the interloping Rebel forces was joined.

Fleet Admiral Kiarr could not believe that anyone, especially the Rebels of all people, had discovered their hidden centre of operations. Yet he had to believe it, as there they were barrelling towards their most vital holding in the entire sector. Someone had screwed up, and heads would roll. But what was of most importance right now was dealing with this fleet before they could reach the base.

He knew the base was evacuating right now; the location's secrecy was its primary protection. Two Imperial-class Star Destroyers and a defensive fleet were stationed to protect the vital holding, but now that its secrecy had been compromised, at least double the defences would be required to properly protect that which had been hidden up until this day.

"Sir!" the Communications officer called out with some alarm.

"What is it, Lieutenant?" Admiral Kiarr pierced his underling with a probing look.

"Distress call from Termagant base! They've been ambushed."

The Admiral felt the blood run from his face. "Elaborate."

"Another Rebel fleet has jumped on top of them. Reports indicate . . . several capital-class ships, including an Interdictor, sir."

Admiral Kiarr's bout of weakness was only momentary, and soon replaced by a fiery resolve at being so readily duped. He hissed loudly. "We are too far out to be of any use to them now. We must trust our comrades on the Dominus to see them to safely."

The Fleet Admiral stalked to the front viewport and glared hatefully at the formation of Rebel ships. "I want all of them dead, NOW!"

-= Imperial POW Camp (Aft Cargo Hold), Imperial-class Star Destroyer Redemption, Ragyss Nebula, Subterrel Sector, 44:7:5:02:29 =-

Vaughn knew it. He could feel it in the slight change in vibrations through the hull. It was time.

The Star Destroyer Sustainer — as far as he was concerned it was only temporarily renamed Redemption by the Rebels who had captured it — was finally in battle. He was certain this was the opening he'd been banking on.

In his estimation, the Sustainer had not seen battle for over an entire month by now, and he was certain that most recent battle had been a close call for the Rebels. The illegitimate Admiral Raven hadn't let any clues or information slip, but he seemed to have forgotten that a career officer like Vaughn, with decades of service on warships, the most recent years based on Executor- and Imperial-class Star Destroyers could determine just from the vibrational differences in the hull — or the more obvious lapses of artificial gravity and lighting due to power being shunted into critical systems like shields — when a warship like the Sustainer was in combat or not.

The Rebel Admiral had kept the Sustainer away from battle, Vaughn would stake his life on it, deliberately since its most recent engagement. The fact that he was taking it into battle mere weeks after Vaughn had supplied him with the Rogues' Ragyss Nebula holding location . . . that told him Raven had decided to flatten the objective.

Which meant it was time for Vaughn to mobilise his troops, right now. He strode from his temporary office for the last time; he didn't take one final look around, he just put it to his back and strode out to his troops. He still felt the effects of the altercation with Colonel Tanasea several days ago, but he felt strong enough to take on a Wookiee with his bare hands today. This was his day, and nothing could take that away from him. He had outwitted the Rebel leader, and he was going to make sure his men, absolutely all fifty-eight of them made it off the Rebel-held vessel and on the journey back to their fleet.

Even though Tanasea had tried to wrest control of the prisoners from him, he still considered the twenty-three newcomers worthy of saving; it wasn't their fault their ranking officer was an ass.

"General on the deck!" Lieutenant Coombs called the POWs to attention. She still looked a bit worse for wear from the belting she suffered from their wayward Colonel, but was determined to do her duty.

"Tenner, go check the passage." Vaughn's order received a hurried "Yessir!" in reply as the nimble young scout scurried off toward the entrance of the camp. "Harper, are you ready to make me proud?"

"You betcha, sir," Harper's basso voice belied the excitement at what they were about to do.

"Coombs, please invite our good friend the Colonel and his troops over."

"Yes, sir!" she saluted and jogged off in the direction of where the Colonel's POW faction had taken to lurking. She didn't know what was happening — she knew the General ran things on a need to know basis — but she sensed something major was going down.

"Okay, I want all experienced combat personnel to line up here. Kamen, Rennel, and Sarpah . . . you know the drill."

The three prisoners stepped forward and turned to address the troops. Vaughn nodded approvingly as the three assigned personnel marshalled Vaughn's group of POWs into groups of eleven, sorted by specialisation and combat experience.

Coombs returned, along with Colonel Tanasea and his twenty-two POWs. Both Tanasea and his troops looked wary, wondering what Vaughn was up to.

"Thank-you for coming, Colonel," Vaughn tried to remain civil, despite his anger at the man, as unity was the goal here.

"Couldn't pass up an invitation such as this," the Colonel began dryly. "What is the meaning of this, anyway?"

Vaughn nodded at the question, but did not respond to Tanasea directly or immediately. "Many of you have been here for longer than I have. We've all suffered at the hands of the Rebels, and their bastard leader. No longer."

The POWs all exchanged confused looks, including the three marshals. They'd been told to categorise everyone into three mixed squads for the purposes of surviving a fight, but they hadn't really believed it was anything more than drills to keep boredom and lethargy from sinking in.

Tenner jogged back to the assembly, with an air of confusion about him. "Report," Vaughn ordered.

"Can't explain it, sir, but they're gone."


"Yeah, the guards have packed up and left."

Vaughn frowned, confused. He expected they would have to fight their way through the gate, once they had it opened. Unless the ship had been boarded. . .

"Okay, here's the drill, people. We are breaking out of here," he made eye contact with as many of his POWs as he could to communicate his seriousness and solidarity with them. "We are currently in the Ragyss Nebula, and this ship is currently engaging in a major battle with the Traitors."

Even Colonel Tanasea had nothing to say to this. No-one understood how Vaughn could know these things.

"The guards are gone, which means we have a clear run out of this camp. There is an auxiliary hangar bay aft of here, seven levels down. That is our objective. We may run into opposition along the way, of both Rebel and Traitor variety. You have been organised into groups to help us tactically survive any run-ins with armed combatants," the absence of the New Republic guards troubled him; he'd counted on appropriating their weapons to assist in the break out.

"We make for the hangar bay; when we get there we commandeer as many vessels as we can. There will probably be a number of shuttles. You pilots," he looked very specifically at the POWs he knew were certified pilots, or at the very least had basic flight training, "will be essential once we reach the ships. In short, we are going to blast our way out of here while the Rebels and Traitors are busy fighting each other."

Everybody was itching to move now; the General's mood was infectious after months of imprisonment by the enemy. "I suggest you organise your men, Colonel. Everyone else, to the gate, now!"

Vaughn's thirty-five POWs jogged quickly to the entrance of the cargo hold that had been converted into the prisoner of war camp. The guards who were normally stationed beyond the gate were nowhere to be seen, as reported. "Harper, get to work! Everyone else, stay sharp."

Harper ran forward and pried loose some components that he had noticed over a month ago weren't properly secured, which he had reported to the General, and within moments the gates creaked momentarily, then whooshed open with amazing speed. "General, the gate is open," his grin was as wide as his face.

"Excellent work. Kamen, Rennel, Sarpah, lead the way! Colonel," he called out to the smaller group of twenty-four POWs catching up to them, "don't fall too far behind. Everyone else, move out!"

After months of incarceration by the Rebel forces who had captured them, the Loyalist Imperial POWs held on the Redemption had broken free.

Admiral Raven now had fifty-eight unarmed but dangerous escaped prisoners of war running loose on his ship . . . in the middle of the largest battle voluntarily embarked upon by the Subterrel Strike Force since their arrival in the sector.


There are no comments for this news post yet.