“Great shot, kid! Now just do that another five times,” Qyreia shouted back at Aay’han from her own gunnery turret. Slewing the twin laser cannons around to track a Collective Z-95 Headhunter that strafed past them, she gritted her teeth as the sluggish targeting computer gained a lock and fired. A flurry of ruby red bolts skewered its spaceframe like an insect and the fighter exploded into a cloud of space dust.
“Please continue to occupy the hostile fightercraft,” Yumni Ha stated from the pilot’s station, her breathless monotone quite at odds with the sudden jolts and shudders of void combat. The Esperanza groaned in protest as another salvo of fire raked her bow, threatening to strip her remaining shields. But the Nesolat was so close.
They could not fail now.
“How much longer? Ve shouldt already be on the station,” Tali Sroka inquired tensely in her accented tone of Basic. Standing behind the pilot, the Twi’lek was bedecked in pale armor that extended down her lekku, a pair of lightsabers dangling from her belt and a blaster pistol strapped to her thigh.
“The closest hangar bay aboard the Nesolat is just beyond that sensor cluster,” Yumni gestured at a hitherto undamaged section of the dark space station that squatted over Arx like a bureaucratic bird. “I will drop you off in—” she checked the readings, “—two minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Presuming we are not destroyed before that.”
“Let’s try for the alive-option,” the purple Twi’lek grunted, turning around and heading to the crew area. “You’ve earnedt your bonus, Ha.”
“I know,” the Kaminoan replied, adjusting thrusters and reverting power to the depleted shields like second nature.
A third Headhunter met its end under the murderous fire of Aay’han and Qyreia, and for a moment at least there was peace. The Twi’lek took a moment to center herself as she climbed down a ladder to the central crew compartment, letting her senses grace the everflow of the Living Force. She felt tremors upon its surface. Great, turbulent tremors that rippled across the cool. It gave her a bad feeling about things to come.
Her boots hit the deck and she turned around to “Archian, are you ready to go?”
The male Shistavanen shifted in his seat and nodded. “Yes, Master. I am ready.”
She could tell he was not, but neither had she when she’d first deployed for war. But he would do well, she was equally certain of it.
“Goodt, because ve are about to touch down in…”
Yumni’s warning came but a second before a sudden sense of falling, followed by a jarring shudder as the Esperanza passed inside the Nesolat’s hangar bay and artificial gravity field. The venerable XS Light freighter groaned in protest as its pilot pushed it to its limits, swerving around inside the cramped tertiary hangar, before slowing their momentum with a sudden blast of the ion engines that left scorch marks on the bulkhead walls.
The moment the ship finally settled on its spot, Tali and Archian were running down the boarding ramp, weapons drawn and expecting hostiles. None presented themselves.
“What the frak?” Qyreia’s sharp voice sounded from behind them but a moment later. “All that hurry and no Collective to shoot?”
“I’m sure you’ll get plenty of chances, hot shot,” Aay’han smirked as she landed on deck with her jetpack.
The air in the cool hangar bay reeked of academia and the fresh ionic discharge of the Esperanza’s engines. Distant thudds of turbolaser fire reverberated through the air, breaking the eerie silence of a technological tomb, though for now warning klaxons were mercifully absent. The Collective hadn’t breached this particular portion of the station—yet.
Tali ignored their banter and tapped her comms. “Aru? Are you there? Ve’ve landedt.”
“Quaestor, you’ve made it onto the station? Excellent news! I am holed up in sector seven, sublevel Cresh. I’ve secured some items for transport, but my colleagues are quite insistent we not leave the paleontological archive behind and it is quite—extensive.” Aru Law’s familiar voice, however distorted by combat interference, put a smile on Tali’s tensed lips.
She was about to voice her reply when a sharp crack sounded over the link, followed by the unmistakable whine of discharging blasters.
“Aru!” she shouted in alarm, but the link was already dead. Turning to her fellow Arconans, Tali’s eyes were burning with purpose. “Ve have to findt him, now.”