Ship seems to be running better than I expected, with so short a time for repairs…Must have some very good crews at Dusk Station, the Nighthawk Captain, Arcia Cortel, thought inwardly. Then again, the ‘Hawk is one of a kind. No doubt they would have their best working on her.
Cortel paced back and forth in the cockpit of the heavily-modified picket ship, stirring the uneasy nerves of the two pilots keeping the ship in one piece as it shot through hyperspace. The Nighthawk hadn’t been cleared for operational duty for very long before orders were passed down through her DIA channels with priority flags littering them. This time they had come from the Shadow Lord himself and they were, of course, cryptic beyond belief.
Wish he would just come out and say exactly what he wants instead of all this metaphoric duse. As if anyone on board—
“Captain, we’re approaching Korriban.”
About damned time…
Arcia quickly closed the gap between the pilots and the cockpit entrance, where she was pacing. She furrowed her brow as telemetry flew across various screens, informing them of the Nighthawk’s position in space. There was a lot of chatter coming from orbit, and not all of it was Arconan. Taking a deep breath, the Anaxsi woman keyed communications to the bridge behind her, resulting in a sharp ping.
“Legain, activate cloak.”
“Yes, ma’am. Prepping cloak after drop from hyperspace,” the operative responded in a heartbeat.
The Captain sighed inwardly. Did I say after the drop…?
“Negative, Finn. I want the cloak active when we drop. I don’t want anyone to know we’re even here…” Cortel informed the operations officer, her words cool and commanding.
“I…yes, ma’am. Just making sure you know the level of stress we’re about to put on the reactor.”
“Just do it.”
Through the cockpit viewports, the blurring of stars streaked back into points as a desert planet raced forwards to meet them. The small lurch signifying the drop from hyperspace bothered no one aboard the ship, but the entirety of the bridge was still on full alert. This was one of the few times the Nighthawk had engaged cloak while traversing hyperspace. The strain placed upon the reactor was monitored rigorously as engineers stationed in both the Bridge and Engineering ran calculations faster than even Arcia could attempt.
“Excellent, Specialist. You have your coordinates. I expect you to get us there in one piece,” Cortel spoke with narrowed eyes as she turned heel and paced herself through the corridor and into the CIC.
“Captain on deck!” a security Marine bellowed as everyone quickly stood attentive, then dropped immediately back to work.
Arcia didn’t care much for the special attention on each deck, as it detracted from everyone’s duty, but for the life of her, she couldn’t get the Marines to simply stop. Not even the threat of keel duty from the Chief of Security swayed them. Refocusing, Arcia scanned the bridge for her Second and saw him speaking with an officer.
“Locke, a word?” Cortel muttered as she passed.
Silently, Commander Antar Locke turned and followed his Captain towards the aft of the bridge. The two stood in silence as they typically did, reading each others’ expressions. With a quick breath, Antar was the first to break the silence.
“Captain, what’s on your mind?”
Without missing a beat, the woman crossed her arms and cleared her throat. “I don’t know what to expect once we take on our guests. I presume you have made necessary preparations?”
“Yes, ma’am. We have a diplomatic escort ready for them. Do we know anything about these Krath?”
You really think I get to know what the big boys are ever thinking…oh, Antar.
“Just researchers, from what I’ve been told. Dossiers on them are sparse, for whatever reason. Just make sure they’re watched. I don’t want them alone on my ship.”
“Understood, ma’am. I’ll speak with Chief Zakath immediately to double the security shifts while we conduct our ‘guests’ to their destination.”
Good man. You’ll make a fine Captain of this ship…
A loud ping pierced the deck. “Captain Cortel, your presence is requested on the Bridge.”
Moments later, Arcia walked towards the CIC consoles, observing the situation. According to technical readouts on the outer edges of the bridge, they had just entered the upper atmosphere. The suddenly rocky ride corroborated the readings. A rather large jolt caused a few of the junior operatives to yelp, bringing a sly grin to Cortel’s lips.
Should probably have Grinstro check into the inertial dampeners… Arcia made a mental note for her new Chief Engineer.
Making her way back towards the cockpit, Arcia caught sight of the desert world below and recalled her last visit to Korriban. Her first saber had been made there. Shaking away the foggy memories, Arcia narrowed her eyes.
“Let me know when we’ve arrived at the landing coordinates,” she instructed the pilots.
With a quick check of her uniform, Cortel turned and glided down the corridor, raising a hand to silence the Marine before he even had a chance to sound off. “Listen up, crewmen!”
Everyone immediately gave her their attention. Excellent.
“We are approaching our destination and will be setting the Nighthawk down momentarily whilst we take on our cargo. I expect this to be a flawless and quick transition,” Arcia looked from port to starboard as she spoke and keyed the ship-wide communications array. “Chief Zakath, are preparations in place to receive our ‘guests?’”
There was a short crackle before her Security Chief chimed in. “Yes, Captain. I am pleased to inform that their stay aboard the ship will be a most…pleasent experience.”
Arcia grinned at his choice of words and closed out the channel. Before she could speak, however, the pilot chimed in once again.
“We’ve arrived, Captain.”
“Excellent. Now then. Commander?”
The Executive Officer quickly took over and cleared his throat. “Vent all residual tachyonic matter from the core and engines. Prepare atmospheric thrusters.”
“Aye, Commander,” Grinstro from Engineering responded through open channels.
From the cockpit, Specialist Orsai began to verbally outline the process of the landing procedure. “Atmospheric controls are on standby. Taking us down, Captain.”
“Inertial dampeners at maximum. Landing mechanisms online,” Operative Legain announced from Operations.
The Nighthawk shook as it passed through the atmosphere. The occasional caution alarm activated as the ship didn’t normally enter atmosphere, but was quickly silenced per standard procedure as the pilot spoke once again.
“Landing site located. Landing struts have been extended, setting us down.”
The remainder of the landing procedure only took about thirty seconds as the ship rocked, connecting with the planet’s surface. “Hypermatter reactor has been disengaged, Captain,” the Chief Engineer sounded off.
“Touch down confirmed: landing successful,” specialist Orsai from the cockpit stated with a sense of finality.
“Good job, everyone. Continue your standard shift routine. Commander Locke, Chief Zakath, meet me in the hangar,” Arcia ordered as she made her way towards the turbolift doors.
Minutes later, Arcia was joined by her two senior officers as the hangar doors cracked open with a loud hiss. A non-standard gangway extended to cover the distance from the ship’s deck to the surface of the planet where three robed figures stood waiting. Flanking the Nighthawk’s command staff, a group of Marines stood at attention, awaiting orders from Zakath.
Arcia crossed the deck to the hangar entrance and stood with her arms folded in front of her as the Krath Sorcerers approached, stopping halfway up the ship’s gangway. “Welcome aboard the Nighthawk. I am Captain Arcia Cortel, this is—”
“Stygium,” murmured the first Pontifex, a male, as he seemed to look at the invisible ship hull. “Many uses for such crystals. Cloaking–”
“—Lightsabers,” the second continued.
“—Many uses for such materials, indeed,” the third, a female, finished.
You have got to be kidding me…Krath…
Arcia stood motionless, an arm half extended towards Antar and Zakath. “Yes, well…If you would follow Chief Zakath, he will show you to the quarters you’ve been assigned for the duration of the flight.”
The Krath didn’t respond or make any gestures indicating they even heard Arcia, but pushed past her and entered the hangar. The way they glided across the deck made it impossible to distinguish which of them was male or female. With a shake of her head, Arcia stuck a finger in the air and made a circular motion which was answered with the closing of the hangar doors.
“Captain,” Operative Legain’s voice filled the hangar. “We’ve just received new coordinates from the Shadow Lord. Once the Shadehammer has landed, we’re to rendezvous with their shuttle.”
“Understood, Legain. Make preparations in my stead. I will be there shortly.”
Returning to the bridge, Arcia read through the new orders and sighed. Since when did we become the Clan’s frakking taxi service…
The new orders were simple: travel to the new coordinates and await the arrival of a shuttle from the Shadehammer containing Marick and his entourage of ‘skilled Dark Jedi.’ Nothing else. No information regarding why, no estimated time of arrival, nothing. The lack of any proper information forced Cortel to throw the datapad across the deck, causing two junior operatives to snigger under their breath. A glare quickly silenced them.
“Well, let’s get a move on. Orsai, get this bird in the air!”
The new coordinates took the Nighthawk dangerously close to the primary battlefields, indicated by the constant dull sounds of explosions and fighter engines. Arcia monitored the ship’s surroundings via view screens that relayed the visuals from every angle of the ship and offered a toothed grin when she found it.
The Shadehammer hit the ground like a meteor, if meteors could somehow deploy landing struts that dug into the earth. Blaster fire erupted from the ship’s forward turrets as armored doors slid open to make way for the first wave of the Arconan Armed Forces.
They were sitting ducks…Invisible ducks, but sitting nonetheless. It had been nearly an hour since the Nighthawk had arrived at the given coordinates and Arcia was one catcall away from having a conniption. Worse still, the sounds of battle were getting closer by the minute.
If they don’t get here soon, I’m moving this ship… Arcia thought to herself, arms crossed, eyes roaming the view screens. Settle down there, girl. No need to be on edge for nothing.
“What!?” Arcia spun around, her voice more shout than command.
A junior operative, wide-eyed in terror, stood before her with a datapad. Cortel snatched it out of his hands and watched as he scurried off towards the communications room. The Nighthawk’s Captain quickly scanned the contents of the datapad before tossing it aside and hurring to the turbolift.
“Locke, Zakath. Hangar. They’ve arrived.”
Sure enough, a Lambda-class shuttle slowly glided through the open hangar doors of the Nighthawk as Arcia and her two officers entered the control room. The shuttle spun around as its wings folded upwards and the ship touched down onto the hangar deck, allowing the ramp to descend.
The Nighthawk’s command staff welcomed Marick and his company to the ship as rumbling underfoot indicated lift off and departure to yet more new coordinates. Arcia looked over the new additions after being briefed by the Clan’s Consul and narrowed her eyes at the unknown male traveling with them.
He eyed her right back with a whistle, sneaking a peek at her backside. “Hello, gorgeous. Can I get a ride?”