Begin operation log: planet Dandoran
Time: 2400 hours
Four figures stood in a cramped room with a low ceiling, The only illumination coming from a small glow lamp on the far wall and a computer terminal in the center of the room. The single window was obscured by a shutter augmented by a heavy blackout drape. The room was already thick with tension, amid the gloom Horus Blackheart was hunched over the terminal trying to assess what little data there was coming in. How had it come to this? The slender man mused, 20 years an intelligence agent and still he was stuck cleaning up other people’s mess. Horus knew little about the people he had been lumped with for this mission save one, and she was as far as he could tell untested in a situation like this.
“What’s taking so long?” one of the figures started to speak.
Horus turned in the direction of the man, He had an Imperial bearing about him. The old agent felt he knew the man, but could not place him.
After consulting a datapad Horus spoke in a low tone, already irritated: “Andrelious These things can’t be rushed.”
“Rushed, rushed? We have been here for days, waiting in this dilapidated, stinking hovel for orders and a plan.”
“I remind you that this dilapidated, stinking hovel is one of my safe houses!” Horus retorted, his voice filled with cool menace and contempt. “You are my guest and this arrangement allowed us to operate unmolested. As to your question, I wanted to confirm what little information provided, these Retributionists are vengeful and sloppy. I would not bet my life on anything they tell us. Going by the data and the fact the target is an Interdictor Cruiser means we have limited options given its size and the manpower we have. Our orders are to take it out of play before a VSD reinforces its position so our pirate allies’ fleet won’t get caught flat footed. This means a covert boarding action. I would suggest that we lean on a crew member or two prior. I’m sure there’s more than a few pissing away credits in the local gambling den. The Hutts are very unforgiving of debtors, I’m sure anyone would be grateful for a little assistance there. After that I have access to old Imperial codes for most ships, I doubt its new owners found all of them even if they did a complete data wipe, and refitting a new computer system is far too costly.
Next is the insertion method: We can fly past the TIEs using a shuttle and spoofed IFF codes, but that’s risky. So, perhaps Andrelious or myself could acquire a fighter and escort the rest of us in. That will be easier if we grease the wheels, so to speak. The other option is we hide in a cargo container and get shipped up there. Those are our options, I’ve talked enough however.
I open up the floor…”
Andrelious was unimpressed with Horus, despite the fact that the two men shared an Imperial background. It was evident that Horus held himself in high regard and also that he liked the sound of his own voice just a little too much.
“Are we actually going to get a chance to contribute?” Shadow Nighthunter asked.
“Assuming Mr. Blackheart actually keeps quiet for long enough for you to speak, yes,” Andrelious responded, his comment earning him a glare from Horus.
“We’ve not even begun to appreciate the whole problem, yet. You and Horus have only touched upon ideas for getting to the target. We still have to work out what we’re going to do once we land,” Shadow said.
“Getting to the target is going to be the hardest bit. I already have an idea of what we can do when we get aboard,” Inahj replied.
“Let’s hear it,” Horus said curtly.
“Simple. Like most Imperial designs, the ship is controlled almost entirely from the bridge. All we’ll have to do is get to a turbolift, everything between the flight deck and the bridge can simply be ignored,” Andrelious explained.
“What exactly are you proposing we do? We won’t be able to get anything like enough men aboard to crew it properly,” Blackheart stated.
“Not quite what I had in mind. I propose we ram the Geta into the Vel. If we do it right we’ll disable BOTH ships,” Inahj continued.
“I don’t like it,” Sanguis said, having remained silent up until that point. “If you get that wrong, you’ll blow the whole thing up and take us out with it. I can’t support a plan that would leave Shadow’s twins as orphans,”
“I have twins myself. And a young son. Don’t you think I know that there’s a risk of that? What do you suggest we do, then?” Andrelious questioned, making a note of the fact that the Empress was a fellow parent of twins.
“Oh. You’ve started without me? Didn’t you know I was coming, Andrel sweetie?” a female voice boomed.
Andrelious’ heart sank. He’d heard rumours that Granta Prackx had thrown her lot in with the Retributionists, but seeing the large woman, clad in the heavy armour of an Imperial purge trooper, was not something that he’d been looking forward to. As usual, Prackx carried her helmet; she would only put it on when the mission began.
“Is this the mother of your children?” Horus challenged.
“Unfortunately not. Not yet, anyway. The road’s clear now, after all,” Granta stated, smiling at Andrelious.
“Let’s focus on the mission, Granta. I’ll give you a couple of minutes to familiarise yourself with it. Are we now all here?” Inahj questioned.
“Looks like you’ve got the brawn you’re going to need,” another male voice interjected. “But do you have the brains?”
“Ah, Swil. How kind of you to join us,” Andrelious replied
Shadow’s gaze drifted over to the newcomer in curiosity whereas Sanguis tensed up a bit to the unexpected presence. She studied the human male with her amber eyes that glowed from the shadows of the hood of her cloak. Though the new arrival didn’t seem much of a potential threat, the glint in the mercenary’s eyes told her that he was constantly observing everything around him. She made note not to give him too many opportunities of learning more about her.
“Swil Phift is my name,” the Raider answered as he crossed his arms and met Andrelious’ gaze. “I’m with Andrelious. I thought I’d join in and provide what assistance I can.”
“Any assistance is welcome,” Shadow assured him emotionlessly. “I think we have all we need now. We were just discussing the possibility of ramming the Geta into the Vel. Would get the job done of disabling the Geta with a bit of a bonus.”
“I think it’s foolish,” Horus quickly chimed in, in slight annoyance.
“I would concur,” Sanguis added, the Sephi having relaxed a bit when he saw Shadow had raised no concern for Swil’s presence. “There’s too much risk, but I will follow whatever my Empress decides despite my reservations for this idea.”
The half-Sephi held back a soft sigh from his remark, not exactly thrilled with the added pressure for such decisions. She was glad to finally be away from her office and from her mundane duties as Empress after having been away from the field since the not too recent class with The Republic of the Force back home. Even with the chance to shed blood, she still couldn’t quite escape the weight of her title and position.
“In the past, Scholae Palatinae boarded and captured a Meraxis destroyer. Most of the clan was involved, of course, and we had our men in uniform with us. I went with a team to take out the engineering crew. I think we could do the same even with the small team that we are, and perhaps take out the reactor. I would suggest we split up into two teams. One for distraction, and another to go for the reactor.”
The Sith looked around at her team. “This is my suggestion. An in and out operation. However, I won’t dismiss the idea of ramming the Geta into the Vel. I would just like to see some more planning put into the idea that would ensure we all get out of there alive instead of being blown to bits. We have an idea or two of how to get in, and we shouldn’t dawdle for much longer. Time is slipping, and we need to act soon before time is no longer on our side.”
The pale woman in black crossed her arms. “If no one else has an idea, then we better decide now. Time’s wasting away. We’ve got a ship to deal with one way or another.”
The Empress focused back on Horus before shifting to Andrelious. “What do you say?”
“Looking at it from a risk perspective, the problem with Andrelious plan is that a spoofed IFF transponder can always be noticed if there’s somebody paying enough attention. Certain things cannot easily be faked. And what if the Principate don’t even use JV-7 class ships anymore? They are an old design, even if they were once a very effective one,” Horus stated.
“Mr. Blackheart, I appreciate your concern. I understand that your background in Imperial Intelligence has given you an insight into such things. However, Swil here has taken over the programming of the fake transponder himself. We’ve never once been discovered,” Andrelious replied. “And I wouldn’t have suggested the plan if I hadn’t had some intel of my own. There are indeed some officers among the Principate’s military that insist on using older, Imperial era vessels. Something to do with not wanting to be accused of having ties to the First Order.”
“How about this? Swil programs the transponder now, and we let Horus examine its signal. We can discuss our next step based on how fast Horus can discover the fake. Does that work for you, gentlemen?” Shadow asked.
“I was going to suggest we put it to the roll of a chance cube,” Blackheart answered. “But I suspect Andrelious would cheat,”
“And you wouldn’t?” Inahj challenged.
The Empress was starting to lose her patience with the squabbling men. She barely tolerated such bickering from her twins, yet now two grown men, one a father himself, were resorting to such childish behaviour.
“I think it works, if you’re asking me. I know I’m not exactly a gentleman but Andrelious needs a firm hand to make decisions for him. He just finds it difficult to make the call when there’s powerful women around,” Prackx interjected.
“Granta! The mission!” Inahj complained, feeling his cheeks burn pink.
“Very well. I shall agree to the Empress’ proposal. Mr. Phift, I suggest you get to work,” Horus added.
Andrelious nodded his assent to his much taller associate. Swil responded with an identical nod and went off to begin his work.
Horus glared at Andrelious as Swil walked off. This plan had more risk than necessary, and all Andrelious seemed to care about was his ego. Horus let the tension linger before speaking, keeping his voice low and measured. “We will go with this plan only because the Empress wills it. But know this. My first duty is the safety of the Empress. Furthermore, if you continue to undermine me in that glib manner you have practiced to hide your incompetence, we will have more than words on the matter. One last point: do not use our names at any time. Even on secured communications, or so help me, I’ll feed you to the local rancor.”
Andrelious sneered “Mr Blackheart surely the mission comes before petty concerns? The transponder has worked many times in the past. I too have orders. We don’t have to like each other.”
Horus sighed “I have no time to trade barbs with you Andrelious. Go do something useful like triple check our transportation. The last thing we need is a system malfunction, that would end our mission before it started.”
Shadow studied the two men as they argued. They bickered like children. Looking past that, she could tell the animosity was old and barely contained. She was briefly entertaining the idea of intervening when Swil returned. “Job’s done.”Swil, announced, unaware of the lingering tension. “Great,” Horus quipped. “We launch after pre-flight.”
Time: 01:30 hours
The shuttle was heading toward the target, but still out of scanning range. It was decided that Andrelious would be piloting since it was his ship. It was yet another concession in the name of expediency. From the cockpit the group could see tie-fighters flying standard bar-cap patrol.
Andrelious opened a com channel as the shuttle entered the exclusion zone. “This is Shuttle tempest to interdictor Geta: We are transporting replacement personnel, requesting permission to dock.
Acknowledged Tempest, Transmit id codes now.
“This better work,” a concerned Sanguis muttered under his breath. “Back in my day-”
Shadow waved her hand to silence the Sephi, her eyes closed as she listened carefully for the response. The Sith could feel the tension of the moment building Shadowfrom everyone, except Andrelious whose aura radiated with controlled confidence.
“Tempest, this is the Geta. You have permission to dock. Head to the hangar.”
A sigh of relief was heard from some of the shuttle’s occupants. A smile crept onto Andrelious’ lips. “Thank you, Geta. Heading for the hangar.”
“Well, this is where the real fun shall begin,” Swil remarked with slight sarcasm.
“Everything will be alright. Let’s try to be optimistic,” Granta encouraged as she checked her gear.
“But let’s not also get cocky,” Horus reminded dryly. “This will require precision without hesitancy.”
“Horus is right. There is no room for mistakes.” The Empress was already on her feet, watching the approach of the Geta through the viewport. “We get in and out. Make sure this ship won’t be of use to the Principate any longer. At the same time, we need to make sure the Vel doesn’t sneak up on us. Swil, think you can keep tabs on the Vel once we’re inside?”
“You got it. I can get into their systems once inside and keep an ear out for communications.”
“Great, now, everyone get ready. We’re about to enter the hangar.” The Empress checked both on her belt. “We head for the bridge, and take control. If possible, we can shut down life support systems in sections of the ship to keep the crew at bay. Depending on what we find out about the Vel will determine what we do next.”
The shuttle landed in the hangar with Principate crew awaiting the arrival. Shadow made her way to the ramp, aware of Horus’ protesting scowl for putting herself in danger. Sanguis’ aura was emanating with the same concern, but Shadow didn’t care. She was tired of not being on the frontlines facing danger head-on.
The ramp lowered, the unsuspecting crew waiting to greet friendly faces. However, they would only come to find how very wrong they were as the golden, cold gaze of the Empress met theirs.