COU-TAL Team Fiction - At All Costs
35 ABY; 0912 Hours, Local Time
The ship was dying. Slowly but surely, as turbolaser fire stitched wounds of glowing metal across its hull, as the cross-bodied forms of B-Wing Bombers swooped past, unleashing their payloads into it exposed engines, the vessel was bleeding out the last of its energy reserves. It had been labelled the Defiant many years ago, when it had first sailed the stars under the Lion of Tarthos’ rule. The Raider II still bore that label proudly upon its hull, now blackened and streaked with plasma burns, and was fighting to live up to it. Over the pale green orb of Endrien, the ship drifted uncontrollably, maneuvering jets firing sporadically as its remaining crewmen fought to bring the vessel back under control; its remaining turret blazing away at the smaller attacking vessels ripping it to pieces, one bulkhead at a time.
There was only one reason the angular vessel had yet to meet its annihilation, and despite what a few hopeful fools believed it was not the product of skill nor good fortune. No, the only true reason lay in the series of smaller craft which raced through the void towards the Defiant’s main decks. Tipped with the kind of cutting torch often only reserved for heavy mining operations, each carried in their holds squad after squad of the Lotus’ best assault troops, ready to claim the vessel for themselves. The Lotus needed high ranking prisoners, and it was their task to find them.
Checking his weapon once more, counting the seconds until impact, Ka Tarvitz closed his eyes and tried not to think of what was to come. He had never been a good passenger, no matter the ship. The lack of control over any flight was an infuriating prospect, but the idea of riding what was little more than a giant vibroknife into an enemy ship, and fight their way to the bridge, was almost too terrifying to fully comprehend. He had been busying himself with anything on hand, from counting clips to thinking of just how it would feel to take another ship from the enemy fleet. Anything to distract himself from the impending battle.
“I’m guessing that this is something Odan-Urr doesn’t often attempt,” he said to no one in particular, speaking over the thunder of the vessel’s engines behind him.
“‘First time I’ve heard of this,” admitted the figure opposite him, a lean but powerfully built Kiffar, “But desperate times and all that. If it works then it works.”
The man looked like even less of a Jedi than Tarvitz did. Each of them was badly scarred, but whereas Tarvitz wore the pillaged aging armour of a clone trooper, Tisto Kingang almost looked as if he had made every effort to oppose the typical robes of a Knight. Tattooed in Kiffar fashion and clad in garments which would not have been out of place among a swoop gang, the only thing which gave him away was the lightsaber hanging from his belt.
“I thought raiding ships was normally your speciality anyway,” Tisto nodded back to Tarvitz.
“Derelict ones,” Tarvitz laughed in response “I made it a point to avoid the sort with people still on them, especially heavily armed and angry ones.”
“Approaching target destination,” the pod’s automated voice trilled, overriding their conversation as it started to count down. Each of the occupants braced themselves, waiting for the bone-jarring collision with the enemy vessel. They were not left waiting long.
The pod struck the Defiant just below its bridge, easily burning its way through the meters of reinforced durasteel within moments. With its engines still burning brightly it burrowed inwards like a parasitic insect discovering a victim, forcing the breach wider via its sheer bulk until it finally came to a standstill. Metal, glowing red from the cutting blade, hissed as it met the freezing void, sealing itself shut about each pod as they locked themselves into place. Then, the hatches fell inward, and each boarding pod disgorged its payload of soldiers into the crippled Iron Navy ship.
The biker didn’t like this plan. Something had felt off from the moment he had gotten on this small craft. He didn’t recognize half of these troops aside from Ka Tarvitz. He glanced at his arms as the ship hit. The stun cuffs were an annoyance, they brought fear of being taken out with one wrong move. He was glad they weren’t attached to each other and were remote controlled, but that didn’t help much when they could turn against him.
Then he was off, joining the assault troops, getting onto the ship. He could feel it immediately, the difference in the air. He regretted not bringing a helmet, casting an envious look to Tarvitz. The large man in his armor with his Westar M-5 pointed to the ground. It was almost intimidating. Compared to him Tisto was out of place. No real armor, a lightsaber, and a armorweave jacket. He was certain his companion would feel naked in what he was wearing. The unit they were with wasn’t large, only eight others. Each of them armed to the teeth. It was clear they all expected combat, and that could be dangerous.
“You guys go check out the lower parts of the ship. Meet back here when you are done,” he said in an authoritative tone. “Tarvitz and I will go from here too the bridge. Send word of any issues.”
The soldiers merely nodded. Even if Tisto wasn’t actually in charge, they knew when to listen. The biker looked at the big man as they left. “If we can’t take the bridge we should head down to the engines. I should be able to send us into hyperspace and contact our leaders from there. This way we have an entire shipful of prisoners.”
“That seems risky given this ship’s condition,” Tarvitz replied. “It is already dead in the water, and has several holes in it. We weren’t the only group to carve into it.”
“I’m not saying the plan is perfect, but the jump should buy us some time until we get one of our own ships out here. This ship is a Raider II, and Bell showed me how the engines should work before we got sent out. It should be safe,” Tisto said.
Tarvitz shrugged. “Can it kill our men?”
“This mission could kill them big guy,” the biker shot back. “Being in a ship with limited life support can kill us. If we get into hyperspace that should buy me time to try to do something with the life support system. Although, this is a worse case scenario. If we take the bridge I should be able to lock down most of the ship, that should give us a bout six, seven minutes of extra life support as we just cut power to the doors and direct it to life support systems.”
Tisto couldn’t tell what the man was thinking. His armor and helmet did a good job of hiding the big man’s face. “I suppose those are possible solutions that involve minimal losses, and aren’t any more risky than simply being on this ship.”
Tisto smiled, and hit a button to open the left most door. It would take half an hour to get too the bridge from there, but they were the closest to it. The biker lead the charge, his armored companion close behind him. The first corridor was empty, almost spotless, though there were chunks of ship missing. The second one, not so much. There were four rooms branching off the corridor, accompanied by a massive hole in the flooring that opened up a pass to the floor below.
Shouldering his rifle, Tarvitz advanced forwards ahead of the two, aiming about and hunting for possible targets. For the first few minutes, save for the odd sound of the war going on beyond its hull, the ship seemed abandoned. There were no troops to meet them, no mines placed in obvious choke points, and even the more typical traps were completely absent from the vessel.
“Perhaps we should have rushed the escape pods first,” Tarvitz muttered as they advanced forwards “Think they’ve abandoned ship?”
“Not likely, someone’s still trying to fly this thing, and something tells me they’re not going to give it up without a fight.”
Hardly an unreasonable deduction. As they advanced forwards however, sidling over past the open gap in the floor, the two heard the sounds of blaster fire quickly closing on them. Streaks of brilliant red light passed below them, darting back and forth as two groups fired upon one another. As they looked on, one stepped into view, several figures of which were clad in the familiar dark armour of the Iron Legion. They were blasting away, so concentrated upon the foe ahead of them that not one seemed to have bothered to glance up at the two men standing overhead, calmly watching the fight play out. Behind his helmet, Tarvitz grinned. Sometimes the galaxy just handed you opportunities you couldn’t refuse.
“Well, looks like they found someone down there after all. Care to do the honours?” he asked, nodding at the group below.
Tisto simply held up his lightsaber in response, before gesturing to his belt, bereft of blasters or grenades.
Shrugging, Tarvitz took aim and opened fire, unleashing a burst of blue-white energy into the legionaries below. There were a number of surprised yells at this, muffled behind the troopers’ skull-faced helms as several went down, each falling as concentrated fire burned through their armour. At every turn though, Tarvitz aimed for somewhere off centre hitting limbs, shoulders or hands with the concentrated bursts. Enough to put someone out of the fight, and leave them as easy prey for the squad below.
It was a move they were soon to regret.
The Iron Legion bowed before no one, and many times in this war they had proven that the choice between death or dishonour really was no choice to them at all. One of the wounded soldiers rolled to one side, away from the group and grappled with something attached to his chest. Barely audible over the shriek of exchanging fire, the quiet bleeps of thermal detonators counting down made Tarvitz pause. A warning yell was still rising in Tisto’s throat as the explosives went off, ripping through the wall to either side of them, scouring the hall in a bright superheated flame, vaporising anyone caught nearby, and ripping through the walls behind them out into the void. The duo were given a moment to realise the gravity of this act before the sheer force of the vacuum struck them. It was akin to being caught amid a hurricane, trapped within a spinning whirlwind drawing the air from their very lungs, and as the venting atmosphere howled about them they were offered a glimpse of what lay beyond.
The ruined metal of the room had been torn asunder, melted into a misshapen joke of its former self. Within moments of it being exposed to the void, blue flicker of a force field had tried to close over the hole, with little to no effect. Feeble and clearly on the verge of shutting down, it accomplished nothing besides slowing the rapid loss of oxygen around them,
What little within the explosive’s range had not been fused to the metalwork or burned away had been dragged out into space. A fate soon to be shared by the boarding party it seemed.
Acting on instinct as the air howled about them, Tarvitz lashed out with one arm, hooking it about a pipe jutting from the wall as he was dragged forwards. He reached out to grab Tisto, half expecting him to be dragged into the gaping hole beyond, but to the man’s credit he threw himself to one side, colliding heavily with the edge of the open hole. Struggling to keep hold of the ground nearby, the gang member dragged himself forwards, searching for something, anything which could help in their situation.
The hall was empty, and Tisto couldn’t help but panic as he was dragged into the void. Time seemed to slow, but all that did was add to the terror. It was hard to think, hard to focus. The room seemed bigger, there was less available to hold on to. His hands scrapped futilely against the floor of the ship as he desperately tried to grab onto something. There was a cold feeling spreading across his chest. The vacuum of space seemed to call to him, the void there, offering a mercy from this violence.
Tisto’s eyes seemed to lighten as he fought against the fear, calling on the only thing he could think of, the Force. It came to his call, filling him with warmth, like that of a forge or kiln. He felt it crawl along a scar that seemed to run along his chest. His breathing slowed, his heart rate dropped, and his mind cleared as a result. His adrenaline fell away as he drew closer to the gaping hole. He realized he hadn’t moved far. Twenty centimeters at most. He was able to get a grip on an exposed wire, and noticed the flooring was being lifted up and cracking under the pressure loss.
He reached out with the Force, pressing against the already forming cracks. He slid down the wire, his foot nearing the hole. Then there was a loud sound of metal tearing away as the flooring spun and flew toward the void. It smashed against the remains of the wall, missing the bikers foot by millimeters. He fell, taking a deep breath, his breathing still controlled with help from the energy field. He looked up and offered a smile to Tarvitz. He saw what he had helped accomplish then. The floor was mostly metal bars and wiring at this point.He saw Tarvitz step carefully, and could even see a quick way to the deck bellow.
“Fraking soldiers with death wishes,” the biker said. “Next time I should just crush their throats before they get a chance to act.”
Tarvitz gave a worried glance to his team mate. “Aren’t you one of the Clan’s Jedi?” he asked carefully, without any hostility or judgement.
“Not really. Anyhow, by the looks of what was out there, we are going to need to get to the escape pods, see if any launched. Get in an unlaunched one if possible. If not, I have friends on the outside of the battlefield who can come and help us,” Tisto replied with a smile.
“What about any other survivors on our side?” the large man asked in response.
“If they encountered anything like we did they are likely dead. I can get my friends to do a life form scan for them and we can hull breach again, but that isn’t likely to be much help if there are still a lot of Iron Frakers running around.”
Tarvitz nodded, it would be easy enough to accomplish. Maybe not the best plan, but it seemed like the enemy was willing to destroy the ship anyway. “What if we find enemies at the escape pods?”
“We will simply have to kill them before they can kill us or pull anything like this again,” Tisto said bluntly. “It is the nicest thing we can do for those who survive the blast and get sucked into the void.”
Even with his expression hidden behind the featureless helmet, for a moment it looked as if Tarvitz were about to argue against this, but then quietly nodded. They still needed prisoners but, with the quiet tremors and shakes quaking through the ship intensifying with every passing moment, something told him that escape was their best option. He knew the layouts of these vessels from past experiences and, among other vital facilities, several of the major escape pod bays were located about engineering to ensure a rapid flight should the ship have been destroyed. That at least meant they could kill two mynocks with one stone.
As if to emphasise the desperation of their situation the Defiant lurched violently as it was struck by several powerful blasts, briefly cutting out the power as artificial gravity faltered and the lights flickered overhead, plunging the ship into darkness. Either someone among the Lotus forces was unaware of the operation or the Iron Navy was desperate to deny them any success in this venture.
“Tarvitz to all remaining units,” the Jensaarai said into his comlink as he dragged himself to his feed and began heading towards the far door “The ship won’t stand up to much more punishment and the Iron Legion are resorting to suicide tactics. Fall back and escape however you can, we’ll find our own way off.”
Advancing past Tisto as the Jedi dragged himself upright, Tarvitz nodded ahead of them, subconsciously reloading his rifle as he did.
“Can’t think of a better plan than your one, and if your friends can pull off capturing the ship, I suggest we head this way.”
“Do you happen to know how to fly one of these things?” Tisto asked.
“No, but with any luck we’ll have a few coordinates still loaded into their navicomputer.” he shrugged, “That or we get lucky enough to find a droid down there who can help us. Honestly, I think we’ll have to make it up as we go along from here.”
“Business as usual then,” Tisto laughed, keeping his lightsaber at the ready as they made their way towards the engineering deck.
If they needed further reminders to hurry, the Defiant thundered under several more impacts as they raced through the corridors, passing sparking conduits and dented bulkheads on their way towards the engineering deck. More than once they passed signs of battle, with bodies and scorch marks from close range blaster fire lining the walls. Few, thankfully, belonged to Lotus troops, and the few breaches they encountered were at least held by the emergency forcefields at their locations. Given their recent brush with death, neither stayed for long in these areas, save to check the occasional body just to be certain they weren’t breathing.
Occasionally though, each of them would spot signs of the ongoing conflict through the transparasteel viewports, as fighters hurtled past and each side’s capital ships blasted away at one another. A few beacons of light were racing away from the hull - cylindrical vessels marked with the distinctive quad-thruster engines of escape pods - making for the edge of the battlefield.
“Think they’re filled with our people or theirs?” Tarvitz asked without pausing for a second look.
“Does it really matter at this point?” Tisto replied, remaining focused ahead of them “Every one there is one less we’ve got to choose from, and i’d like to see us get off of this ship alive.”
It was a fair comment and, given the sheer number of them, hardly an unwarranted concern. With the plan going to hell around them, not everyone was going to be getting off of the ship alive. Especially when certain ones were determined to ensure they took as many with them to the grave as possible. A fact the duo were given a rude reminder of as they made their way into engineering.
Bursting through the twin blast doors leading out onto the upper gantries they were given a good look at the main controls and central reactors of the ship. All, thankfully, were intact and as they looked on even a few astromech droids could be spotted moving about. Unfortunately, they were not the only things occupying the room. Below them, having taken up various defensive positions around monitors, consoles and the ship’s vital controls, over a dozen Iron Legionaries were positioned, covering both the exits and the gantry itself.
Each group was given barely a moment to recognise the other before the entrenched forces opened fire, sending the duo running for cover; Tisto deflecting as many shots back at the others as he could while Tarvitz loosed several precision shots at the most exposed members of their group.
“Still think we can take one alive?” Tisto asked as they hurried behind one of the room’s major supporting pillars holding the gantry in place.
“Probably,” Tarvitz admitted, risking a glance back at the formation below “They’re set up for a firefight, using the vital systems as cover. We try to shoot them and we risk blowing up something we need to send the this ship into hyperspace. If we get in close, they’ll lose that advantage, and and they’ll cut us to bits trying to gun us down.”
“Or we’ll be in the right place for another suicide grenade,” Tisto retorted.
“Well, I guess we’ll just have to move quickly then. Well, unless you happen to have a Stokhli spray stick on you, anyway.”
The Jedi raised his lightsaber again to emphasise that point, and Tarvitz shrugged, readying his own weapon of choice.
“Then something tells me you’re the better swordsman out of the two of us, I’ll draw their fire and you get in close, deal?”
“Ready when you are,” Tisto grinned, rolling his shoulders.
Tarvitz held up one hand, rapidly counting down with his fingers, before breaking out into the open again, sprinting to the opposing side of the gantry as he released a few precise shots into the nearest troopers, intentionally aiming high to avoid the delicate control systems. Tisto meanwhile leaped over the edge and down into the crowded force below.
Almost as a second thought, while moving into combat Tisto threw his holoprojector too Tarvitz. “Tell them our Coordinates!” he shouted, finally igniting his lightsaber. The crimson blade came to life without the usual hiss-click of a lightsaber, instead sounding more like an engine turning on.
The sound alone was enough to disorient the legionnaires, who, for their credit, managed to remain focused. Tisto was forced to deflect several shots as he closed the distance. He saw the almost uniform movements of the soldiers, tactics having been driven into their head on how to fight a Jedi no doubt. They weren’t perfect, no, only droids could move perfectly. Plus he could tell they were struggling to focus on both him and Tarvitz. About half of them continued to fire, trying to taking out Tarvitz, while the rest pulled out various melee weapons.
Armed with electro staves and riot batons, this team would have been difficult for an average Jedi to fight. Numerous, with weapons to counter lightsabers, they came in with a formation. They knew there was no way to perfectly counter a Jedi other than to keep them off balanced. They expected a Jedi to come in, too fight, and to try to save the gunman. After all, Jedi were supposed to be selfless. They staggered themselves to avoid any telekinetic manipulations from affecting too many of them. Their weapons were set defensively, to counter the lightsabers strokes and keep the Jedi pinned. In they came, ready for a Jedi. Instead they found themselves facing a gang leader.
Tisto dived towards the feet of the closest soldier, his lightsaber flashed out in a short curve, too low for the man to block. The maneuver was never something they expected a Jedi to perform, it seemed too dirty and cheap. He fell to the ground, his feet and lower legs severed from his body, only for a crimson blade sever him from his torso in a follow up strike. Tisto’s eyes appeared to be a light hazel as he looked at every melee weapon holding foe in that second. He heard blaster’s being fired between Tarvitz and the other soldiers, hearing people cry out and be silence. In that brief moment there was a change. The soldiers uniformness crumbled as they went for the attack, trying to kill the crazed biker.
Tisto dodged one electrostaff, and deflected two riot batons. He took an electrostaff strike to his left shoulder, and although the contact was temporary, he did feel that arm start to go numb. He ducked under another staff strike, calling on the Force to hold himself together and ignore the pain. Then, still channeling the energy field, he threw one of the soldiers into another who was in mid swing with a riot baton. The two connected, and the thrown soldier gave a scream as she connected with the weapon. Tisto slammed his foot into another soldier’s leather boot, elbowing him in the gut. The man fell heavily, winded. Without a seconds hesitation Tisto stabbed him with his saber.
Not wanting their too be a lull Tisto went on the offensive as the other three soldiers got their bearings together. His first target was the same as the one he had thrown a soldier at. Slashing across the human’s chest with simplistic mastery. He took another electrostaff hit, this one in the gut, and while he couldn’t feel anything at the moment he could smell burnt cloth and singed skin. He called on the Force, making a quick closing motion with his left hand and heard the sound of a crunching neck as the man who hit him went down. It didn’t take much to notice that the soldier’s neck was very broken, with bones protruding through the skin. Blood leaked through the helmet, though it appeared the soldier was still breathing.
The last one began to shake, their hands and weapon quivering. Tisto launched himself to the remaining soldier. Only too see him fall dead to a blaster bolt. The Kiffar paused, and looked to Tarvitz, who had stepped out from behind the pillar. “Damn you are a good shot,” Tisto said. “What did they say.”
“The girl said she was pissed it wasn’t you and to let you know,” Tarvitz replied without hesitation, handing the holoprojector back. “But that they will be here in a minute or so if the ship can hold.”
“Good,” Tisto said, stabbing the bleeding soldier through the chest. Almost instinctively he studied the large man next to him. “Not going to risk our lives for a already dead person. Mission be damned at this point. We just need to get out of here alive.”
“We do need a prisoner,” Tarvitz said. “Otherwise our men died for nothing.”
“We don’t have time!” Tisto said, just as another shot shook the ship.
“What about your friends?”
“They could misjudge the time,” Tisto said. “We need to get out alive and hope our men did too. If we all die the mission is a failure anyway. We have to be able to admit defeat.”
“I would say you do,” said a deep voice. Both turned to see a man in dark armor crafted in an Inquisitor’s style. He was a human, powerfully built, and nearly as tall as Tarvitz with twice the muscle.
Tisto brought his saber too bare, the crimson blade between himself and the man. “Damn Inquisitor!” he shouted as he moved between Tarvitz and the Inquisitor. “We simply can’t fight and all get out of here alive.”
“Tisto…” Tarvitz said, his hands tightening on his Westar-M5.
“That sounds pleasant, Jedi,” the Inquisitor replied. “But ultimately not as pleasant as killing you. Besides, I have my own way off. While you too are undoubtedly running to the escape pods.”
Another blast shook the ship, and the Inquisitor leaped forth, igniting his blade. Crimson clashed on crimson as the Inquisitor smashed Tisto back with a single swipe, with what appeared to be minimal effort. The biker hit the ground with his back, his saber still active, cutting into the floor. Tarvitz unleashed a burst of blaster bolts, all being deflected by the large man. Thinking on his feet, Tarvitz put his blaster to the side as he punched out, activating his miniature flame projector, the fire passing right over Tisto. The large Inquisitor leaped back, avoiding the fire.
Frak it, Tisto thought to himself. We can’t get tied up in a prolonged fight. This ship isn’t likely to survive
Tisto rolled himself back, standing next to Tarvitz. He activated the holoprojector on his belt, and decided to use the best tactic he could think of. He called on the Force, pulling a thermal detonator from a fallen soldier’s belt, activating it, and launching at the Inquisitor. The large man paused as the grenade connected with him. He looked at Tisto, and grabbed it as if to throw it back.
“”Tarvitz now!” Tisto called out hoping his team mate would understand what he meant. To his surprise Tarvitz responded too what Tisto was doing, as both of them brought their hands back, quickly calling on the Force. The Thermal detonator had just left the Inquisitor’s hand, down to two lights on the count down, when Tisto and Tarvitz, shoved their hands forward, in a combined effort of a push. The Inquisitor was shot back from the power behind the push, and though not the most refined use of the Force, it was quite powerful. The detonator drove into his chest, going off shortly before he rammed into a wall.
Tarvitz and Tisto were almost immediately sucked out of the ship, into the vacuum of space. The cold was horrifying, though Tisto was glad that it seemed like Tarvitz could still breathe. After all the man looked like he was trying to get too Tisto. Several soldiers also seemed to be alive, as they were struggling for their weapons, none of them Lotus. The previously slain soldiers floated among their living brethren, adding to what appeared to be confusion. Only Tisto was without a good helmet and sealed armor. Just before he passed out he saw a familiar ship appear from hyperspace, almost like an angel.
Tisto awoke in a medbay, with two humans and a Devaronian looking at him.
“Dammit he lived,” the Human female, Bell, said with a smile.
“Looks like you owe me forty credits,” the Devaronian, Joc, replied. “Good to see you boss.”
The third human, large and imposing said nothing. Just looked at Tisto, or appeared to anyway. The helmet made it difficult to tell.
“Hello Tarvitz,” Tisto said. “I guess you have met the Void Snakes.”
“I didn’t know you actually had your own gang,” Tarvitz replied. “But I supposed focusing on that now would be bad. We lived, and even succeeded on the mission. Your ‘friends’ gathered every living person. Giving us four prisoners. They also found what remains of the Inquisitor.”
The large man pointed to a shread of an Inquisitorous helmet. “Apparently a thermal detonator was all it took. How did you know I was going to follow your lead?”
Tisto shrugged “I didn’t. I just hoped you would, but a seconds more talking and we would have died.”
“We almost did,” Tarvitz said, studying the Kiffar.
“I figured it was our best chance at living,” Tisto replied. “It was simple, not really expected due to the risk it placed on us, and lead to the man’s death. It got us off the doomed ship in time too be saved. Honestly, I don’t think we could have lasted a prolonged fight. I already had taken several hits, and was feeling the fatigue of using the Force. Figured if I could get you of the ship alive it would be the best thing.”
“So you risked yourself for me?” Tarvitz asked.
“Oh yeah, the boss does it all the time. Did it for Bell according to her, and risked jail to get me into a safe place,” Joc said calmly. “Now big guy, since the Boss is alive what do you say to getting some grub with Bell and I while he gets out of the medbay gowns.”