The party’s conversation was interrupted by the entire deck violently shaking as the cruiser took a volley of heavy battery fire from the allied fleet.
Vez stood up from tinkering with her datapad, “This ship doesn’t have much left in her, we’re running out of time.”
“Can you trigger the self-destruct from the bridge?” Declan inquired of his Miralian teammate.
“Uh, sure. I can start a reactor overload but once it gets going there’s no stopping it.”
“The job is to get the information out of the computer core and take the ship out of the fight. There’s no time to mess with this gas poodoo.” The grizzled Mandalorian glared at the Cathar team leader.
Xirini looked at the gas cart and back toward Vez. She knew the merc had a valid point. Their orders were to try to seize the ship by incapacitating the crew and slice the computer core but the situation had changed. If they got bogged down in a firefight down here and failed to take the bridge the mission was a complete failure, but if they at least got the information and triggered the self-destruct, that was still technically a win.
“Turel, when this door opens I want you to Force push or whatever the cart into the room. Cole, once the cart is inside the room, throw a detonator inside and get clear. Vez, don’t wait, once I give you the signal seal the door and cut off ventilation to it. Roark and I will provide overwatch. Once we have the bridge we can open the vents and flood the deck with gas if anyone tries to follow us.” She paused to ensure everyone understood. The rest of the team nodded and took their positions.
The Jedi clipped his saber to his belt and pushed the cart in position in front of the door. He took up a position off to the side where he could see the cart but wouldn’t be exposed to fire from the other side of the door. Turel reached out with the Force and focused on the handle of the cart where he would apply the telekinetic shove. “Ready,” he stated in a hushed tone.
Vez gave a thumbs up from her position by the door control as Val took up a spot on the opposite side of the door, ready to throw the detonator and get out of the line of fire. Declan and Rin placed themselves slightly down the hall behind some crates, prepared to lay down some fire into the room if anything went wrong.
“Go!” Rin commanded. On cue the sealed door flew open with a whoosh to reveal the central environmental hub for the entire ship. Turel made a hand gesture like he was pushing something directly in front of him and the cart moved as if shoved by an invisible person. The hovercart loaded with gas glided across the durasteel deck and into the room, coming to a stop with a clang on a handrail overlooking the giant air cyclers. Without being commanded, Cole leaned over and lobbed the grenade toward the cart and moved back out of the doorway in a single fluid motion.
“Close it!” Rin shouted at Vez. The Mirialan pressed a single key on her datapad and the door resealed itself with the same whoosh. The time between when the door closed and the muffled boom of the detonator going off on the other side couldn’t have been more than two seconds but it felt like a full minute to the team. They stood up with relief that the makeshift plan had worked.
“Sealing vents now,” Vez remarked nonchalantly as she finished her task and unhooked the computer probe from the wall panel.
Turel frowned, “There’s a lot of fear coming from inside that room. The gas definitely wasn’t entirely incinerated by the detonator.” Rin shot the Jedi an inquisitive stare as if to ask is there a problem? He picked up on the non-verbal cue and continued, “That’s done, onto the bridge.”
The Cathar gave a slight nod of approval, “Turel is right, there’s no time to waste.”
The team moved quickly down the hallway toward the main bridge. The ship’s damage control teams were stretched thin with the ongoing battle but they and whatever was left of security would certainly respond to an explosion in and loss of contact with the vessel’s main life support compartment. No sense sticking around.
Resistance was surprisingly light as they travelled to the command deck, the few technicians and droids they party did encounter were more concerned with keeping the vessel from exploding. The stairwell leading to the bridge was a different matter, however. A squad of Partisans guarded the heavy door leading to the team’s objective.
“How many?” Rin inquired of the two mandos closest to the stairwell.
“Eight confirmed, likely more on the bridge itself,” Declan replied matter-of-factly. Turel started to pull his lightsaber when Roark placed a hand back in a ‘hold’ gesture. “We got this,” he added with a nod toward Val positioned on the opposite side of the stairwell.
Both Mandalorians had their M5 rifles ready and set to grenade mode, Declan’s with micro-explosive rounds and Val with smoke rounds. With a hand signal from Roark, Val Cole leaned to his right and fired three smoke grenades at interspersed points surrounding the bridge door. The rounds ricocheted off the walls in precise angles to fill the antechamber with smoke.
“GRENADES!!” one of the Partisans shouted at the surprise attack. “IT’S JUST SMOKE, HOLD POSITION!” another replied. “BRIDGE IS UNDER ATTACK!” a third shouted into a communicator.
Declan stood crouched at the base of the stairs waiting for the smoke to give some cover, after a few seconds he leaned to his left and let loose a few volleys of microexplosives. The shouting became incoherent as the survivors of the squad tried to assess the situation.
“Jedi, go!” Declan hissed at Turel. The mercenary had enough exposure to Force users to know they could deflect blaster bolts, even from angles they couldn’t see. Turel was the most logical choice to lead the charge up the stairs to cleanup.
Turel had enough tactical training, mostly with his general wife, to know what Declan was getting at and why it was the sound choice. He didn’t hesitate, ignited his saber and rushed up the stairs.
“Knock knock!” the Jedi exclaimed as he reached the top with his amethyst blade blazing. “Strippergram for Captain Kayle.” Somewhere at the bottom of the stairs Rin couldn’t help but facepalm in response.
Two of the surviving partisans took potshots at the purple glow of Turel’s saber only to have their bolts redirected back at them. The rest of the assault team followed up the stairs as the smoke cleared.
“Clear,” Val exclaimed after sweeping the antechamber for further resistance.
“Vez you’re up, get this door open!” Rin commanded.
“On it,” the Miralian shouted as she rushed to hook up her probe to the dataport.
The rest of the team formed up on the opposite side of the bridge door, ready to storm in the moment Vez got it open. The ever-present alarms of the ship grew silent for a moment as a voice came over the antechamber’s loudspeakers.
“Sergeant, status report! Have the boarders been repelled?” The voice spoke in a posh, Imperial accented basic.
Turel smiled again, “Uh sir, they aren’t boarders. They claim to have a strippergram for the Captain.” He gave an exaggerated impersonation of a soldier’s tone and cadence of speech.
“This is the Captain! Who is—” The voice paused to regain composure, “—nevermind. Whoever you are, you shall not take the bridge of the Akan while a single member of her crew draws breath. Do you hear me? Reinforcements are on their way right now to take you, you’re trapped.”
“I wish he’d shut up,” Rin hissed under her breath.
“We’ll see about those reinforcements,” Vez quipped in a hushed tone. “Opening the gas vents now.” Rin shot the Miralian a death glare for breaching operational security so flippantly. “What? I turned off the mic for this room, he can’t hear us now.”
“That’s going to rush our timeline a bit,” Turel remarked.
“Door is ready to open,” Vez commented with a sense of self-satisfaction.
“Okay, on my signal,” Rin commanded. “Turel, you take point again.”
The former Odanite sighed, “Did Alethia tell you to use me as a meatshield?” Seeing the flash of anger in his team leader’s eyes Turel didn’t push the joke further. “I’m just kidding, yes I’m ready. Just be right behind me because I don’t know what kind of weapons they have and I can’t block everything. Even Jedi have limits.”
“Oh, I’m well aware of Force user limits,” Val commented ominously.
“Well, um, glad you’re on my side,” Turel replied awkwardly.
“Go!” Rin commanded.
The door slide to the side slowly like a bank vault opening. Turel moved in first with his saber in front of him. To his surprise no one shot at him. The bridge was occupied by a series of pilot droids and a Rodian in a Captain’s uniform pointing a pistol at him.
“I’ll never allow one of your kind to take this ship! We’ve lived so long under the yoke of the Force using oppressors like you. Well, no longer! My marines will retake this bridge you’ve won nothing Jed—” Captain Brith Kayle’s final monologue was cut short by a blaster bolt to the head. Turel spun around in surprise to see Declan behind him and off to the left with a smoking blaster pistol.
“He talked too much.”
Turel lowered his saber still in shock, “That’s the point! We could have gotten some good intel off of him, possibly taken him prisoner.” He looked down at the charred mess that had been the Rodian’s head. “Such a waste of good potential.”
“We don’t have time for your Jedi sensibilities,” Val quipped.
Turel cocked his head to the side with a sassy glare that silently seemed to say seriously.
“We don’t have time for squabbling either,” Rin cut in with authority. “Stay focused on the job.”
Vez shot one of the droids, cleared it out of the way and hooked into the central computer terminal. “Okay, just give me a few, I’ll have the data and we can leave.”
Declan resealed the bridge door then shot the controls. Rin looked back at him, “Why did you do that for?”
“We can’t go back the way we came. The bridge has an escape pod we can use.”
Rin nodded, again the veteran merc’s assessment of the situation was spot on. “I’ll signal the fleet to pick us up once we’re aboard the pod.”
“Getting close… and got it.” The Miralian unplugged from the central computer and rushed to the engineering console. “Some of the data was encrypted but I copied it, we can analyze it later when I’m not on a ship that’s about to explode.”
“I sense more enemy approaching, not sure how many. Good thing you sealed the door,” Turel announced.
“SELF DESTRUCT SEQUENCE INITIATED, SILENT COUNTDOWN, ALL CREW PROCEED TO DESIGNATED ESCAPE CRAFT,” a computerized voice announced over the loudspeakers.
“Time to go!” Vez exclaimed as she got up from the engineering console. “The bridge escape pod is this way,” the Miralian pointed to a side door which was now opening to the left side of the room. “There’s just one problem.”
“What’s that?” Rin inquired.
“It’s a four seater,” Vez stated matter-of-factly. “We can squeeze in there but someone won’t have a seat.”
The two Mandalorians wasted no time and buckled in at the rear of the pod. Vez followed suit and took a seat next to them leaving a single empty chair.
“Ladies first,” Turel quipped with a bow.
“Fine,” Rin buckled into the last seat as Turel squeezed into the pod. As the door to the escape pod closed the Jedi crawled onto the Cathar’s lap and looked her directly in the eye.
“I can sit on your lap, you know, for safety. I don’t want to bounce around in here.”
Rin hit the button to eject the pod into space, intentionally digging her claws into the Jedi’s flesh just enough to cause pain. “I gotta have a tight hold. Don’t want you getting hurt.”
“Yeah,” Turel grimaced. “That would be awful.”