LAAT gunships and shuttles peeled away from the station, their groups quickly falling into defensive arrowhead formations to see off attacking fighters. Most joined escorting A-Wings as they escaped the carnage, racing for the outskirts of the warzone where the bulbous hull of the Solari. The remaining few turned instead toward the Arx, and began the long dive toward the far worse battle which awaited them below.
“Status,” Essik said as the LAAT gunship began to shudder under the forces of atmospheric entry, fire licking against the hull. In front of him, having found a small space among the Jedi and troopers, SP-4770 paused in its reading. While the rest had been fighting to free those left on Nesolat, it had patched through the gunship’s communications and had begun examining the myriad of signals echoing about the nearby area.
“Primary Collective assault is underway,” it said flatly, its clipped and blunted tones retaining an artificial quality that Essik had never fully gotten used to. “Massed infantry formations have been deployed across its surface, supported by heavy bombardments from orbiting cruisers and air support.”
“Specifics?” Essik asked. None of this was too surprising.
“Advances toward both Iron Legion headquarters and local infrastructure. Fragmentary signals indicate intentional efforts to eradicate the local civilian population. Airborne and orbital supremacy is underway, now that Arx planetary shields have collapsed.”
It took Essik several moments to register that final point. He eased back, looking through one of the gunship’s transparisteel windows until he picked out the expanding debris field that had once been the shield gate. Some distance from it, the molten remains of what had likely once been a Resurgent-class Star Destroyer were being readily stripped apart. Enemy cruisers circled about it, readily stripping it apart in a ceaseless assault.
“Thank you, keep me updated,” Essik said, reaching for his comlink. “High Councillor, we might have a problem.”
“The shield gate? We already know,” Aura’s voice answered, awash with static. “We’ll have to make this quick. If you have any advice when it comes to reaching Eos City alive, I’d like to hear it.”
Waiting and listening as SP-4770 relayed further information from the situation developing below, a plan quickly formulated in his mind.
“Rapid assault accompanied by demoralization methods,” Essik said, wishing he had a map in front of him. “The main group moving into the city consists of poorly armed Liberation Front fanatics. It seems like their leaders are keeping the actual soldiers in reserve.”
The gunship shook as it entered the stratosphere, the craft swerving as an outdated Z-95 swept toward them, its guns blazing. It passed overhead, moving into a turn before a burst of cannon fire reduced the fighter to fast-moving scrap metal. An X-Wing in Odanite colours hurtled past, accompanied by other fighters as they moved to punch a hole through the Collective’s air cover.
“Please keep in mind, High Councillor, we will not be able to save them all,” Essik finished, and then looked over at Rhan. The Nautolan was waiting opposite him, her arms folded and watching him carefully. “May Essik ask if you are interested in crowd control?”
Rhan’s answer was a flash of white teeth as she grinned.
Eos City was quickly resembling a vision of hell. What wasn’t on fire was being torn down. The Sith had built it as both a city and fortress, ringed by towering duracrete walls and defended by heavy cannon emplacements. Efficiency had been prioritized in its construction, forming a grid-like network of streets and easy choke-points. Against any conventional army it might have held out for weeks, but it had never been designed to oppose the Collective.
The fanatics had washed over every defence which had been mustered. An unending wave of bodies and suicidal attackers had worn down the defending troops through sheer inertia, dragging them into battles where only numbers mattered. In many places their dropships had simply crashed through buildings, making landing zones rather than choosing them, and bypassing defences entirely. Several had rammed massive power generating facilities, crippling the city’s turbolasers. Those who fled the horde had been herded into one of the towering residential suites, only for the cheering mobs to set it alight.
The Odanites swept over the city, closing upon the building. As the lead gunship hurtled over the crowd, wisps of smoke clinging to its wings, one side door slid open. Leaning over the side, Rhan dropped grenade after grenade into the nearest members of the mob. Adhesive explosives and flashbangs detonated among their number. Similar actions were repeated as other gunships swept overhead, entering an orbiting pattern about the building and firing their cannons at the nearest fanatics. A few missiles streaked up in response, missing as they were fired in anger.
“Kill them if you have to, please try to force them to run,” Essik spoke into the comlink, as the gunship swept past. “Hold them at all costs.”
He barely held back from ordering the pilots to fire until none were left standing. The sight below kindled old anger within him watching as he watched the shrieking mob. In them, Essik could only see the same blind hatred the Empire, the First Order, and countless other powers before them had embraced. They would butcher everything in their path because someone in charge had told them it was morally right to do so. For them this wasn’t a war, it was a prolonged slaughter.
The LAAT came to hover next to an upper window. Turning, its rear ramp lowered with a hiss of hydraulics, until it was resting against the underside of a shattered window. With a gesture, Rhan reached out with the Force, pulling free the shattered glass and revealing a number of surprised faces from within.
“Hello ladies and gentlemen, we are your flight out of here,” Essik said. “Please move forward one at a time, we do not have long.”