Chapter Two: The Boarding Party
The red flashing ceased as the shuttle finally switched to standard sublight traveling conditions and began making its way to the cruiser's hangar bay. Only a few moments of silence persisted before various alarms signaled that the shuttle was under fire.
The soldiers kept their cool as Dorn intensely eyed his datapad. The shuttle's maneuvers and various rumblings weren't enough to visibly shake the heavy troopers.
The rate of fire registering against the deflector shields lulled as the shuttle neared the port side of the hangar located towards the Republic cruiser’s hind end.
A quick jolt rocked the shuttle as it passed through the hangar's magnetic barrier and began to be influenced by the cruiser's artificial gravity. The blackness of the invading shuttle’s exterior immediately contrasted with the immaculate white interior of the Republic light cruiser.
Still maintaining forward momentum, the shuttle's entry ramp began to descend, it mouth nearest the aft cargo bay. Before the ramp even fully lowered, Besh and Grek made their move. The first off the shuttle was actually Grek's footlocker. A sizable thud followed as the full container struck the solid flooring beneath the hovering craft, officially sounding the beginning of the on-board conflict.
Grek followed, jumping from the craft with his carbine held solely in his right hand, landing a few meters below with nary a bend in his knees. Scores of sources of blaster fire sounded as the juggernaut began the assault.
Besh disembarked with a much greater sense of grace, rolling away as the shuttle came to a stop ahead of him and slowly descended. As he scanned the hangar from a kneeling position, Besh saw that Grek was drawing the attention of every hand on deck. The few personnel that had been on the landing level had already fallen to blaster wounds.
The main opposition rested on the two raised platforms, to the left and right of the shuttle, each leading to the ship's bow and stern respectively and running along the entirety of the wall in which they rested against. The flat, grated platforms jutted several meters away from their respective walls, supported at the edge by thin pillars composing the underlying framework.
Beneath said platforms lied a shadowed area fit for various storage containers. Three broad sets of stairs allowed access to each raised area, located at the center and outer extremes.
A rather small cruiser, at full capacity the hangar could only hope to hold two rows of four moderately distanced fighters. Although the hangar ran the entire width of the cruiser, it was rather stout and lacking in length.
Devoid of any ships of their own, white Republic crates matching the ship’s color scheme lay scattered across the floor of the hangar. Besh took cover behind a sizable grouping whilst Grek stood in the open. The indicator in Besh's heads-up-display showed optimal levels on Grek's personal shields, despite whatever hits he may have sustained during his original drop.
Grek began a charge up the closest set of stairs leading to the aft-ward raised platform as Besh directed his attention to the opposite side of the hangar. Sniper rifle now in hand, a monocular red ring lit up on the exterior of Besh's visor where his right eye laid beneath.
The scoped sight showed up as a picture in picture on the sniper's heads-up-display. One by one the soldiers along the raised forward level found powerful red bolts expertly delivered to their chests, immediately removing their threat from the battle.
The shuttle completed its landing on the far end of the hangar and the next two soldiers hurried out. Cresh and Forn stepped off the ramp, carbines raised, scanning the hangar. The young Cresh was surprised to see Grek had already made it up the raised stage, physically knocking soldier after soldier to the ground before permanently disposing of them.
As he turned away from the scene, Cresh found Forn had disappeared amongst the crates scattered about. A warning indicator flashed across his HUD as his shield absorbed a blaster bolt straight ahead of the ramp.
Cresh quickly took cover behind the nearest pile of crates to his right. Some of the Republic soldiers managed to get to the landing area and were in the process of approaching the boarding party’s shuttle. Cresh signaled a quick word of caution over the comm.
Seemingly ignoring his squad mate's warning, Esk made his way down the ramp in a rather moseying fashion. Still moving forward, Esk fired a couple of shots from his carbine toward the facing enemies. One enemy went down before the group scattered behind the cover of the crates.
The panicked group hadn't noticed that they had been flanked as one of Forn's vibroknives gently slid into the back of one of the soldiers. Before the lifeless body even hit the ground the hunter had closed the distance between him and the next Republic soldier.
Twin blades sunk between the combatant's shoulders and neck from above. The soldier dropped without Forn retrieving his implanted weapons. Instead he continued his assault with his carbine.
Accompanied by support from Besh's rifle, the forward group had been completely dealt with. As Forn made his way back towards the shuttle, he saw that Grek has finished cleaning up the aft platform. Dorn was last to exit the shuttle, hurriedly glancing back and forth between the opposing walls of the hanger.
Besh raised himself from his cover while Cresh found it hard to move from his position backed by the sturdy durasteel crate. Esk held his carbine aloof in one hand, raised and resting against his shoulder. Turning to his downed companion, he offered his free hand to help Cresh up.
Forn returned to the group, trying to wipe the blood from his retrieved weapons. Grek made his way back to the group while rotating his arms, apparently suffering from stiff shoulders. A short distance away from his squad Grek diverted his path to the area behind the shuttle where his footlocker had landed. Dragging the container by one end, Grek set it down once more after eventually being reunited with the six soldiers.
"Nice work," Besh congratulated his squad. "Dorn, lock down the hanger. Make sure no one enters or exits this room without our consent. Grek, Esk, Cresh, see if you can't clear this area and move some crates into a defensive perimeter surrounding the shuttle. Forn, patrol the aft platform until we're sure the room is secure. I'll accompany Dorn while he's busy with the initial slicing into the ship's systems and attempt to reestablish connection with Aurek. Let's get going."
The squad shared their simultaneous nods and went about their ordered business. Forn managed to silently slip away from the group despite the expected sounds of heavy boots clashing against the solid floor beneath them.
Dorn and Besh made their way onto the front platform, heading towards a wall console near the hangar's bow-ward exit. Grek began the relatively easy task of rearranging the uniformly cubic crates throughout the hangar.
Cresh and Esk took some time to clear the landing area of the fallen bodies that lay nearest the shuttle. Their powered armor allowed them to speedily drag the lightly armored bodies by their arms, lining them up under the raised platform leading to the cruiser's bow. The two Imperials made small talk over the local channel, utilizing the helmets' speakers meant for communicating with those within earshot.
"You did good out there kid," Esk praised, never taking his attention away from the soldier he was dragging as he shuffled backwards. Cresh gave off an inaudible chortle toward the perceived epithet, focusing on it instead of the compliment. The doubt in the young soldier stirred as the words repeated in his head.
"Good, huh? Is that what you call getting shot at and cowering behind a crate?" Cresh depressingly countered.
"It wasn't your fault," Esk reassured. "This is your first field mission. The suit's warning systems can overload your senses at first. Make you lock up. You'll get used to it like the rest of us." Cresh remained silent. "By the way, thanks for the heads up back there when I was exiting the shuttle."
The other soldier's silence persisted, but the Esk could sense his spirits being lifted.