The next week was a blur of mission planning, or so it seemed to Layne, who watched as Apocalypsa came up with strategy after strategy for penetrating the Republic prison ship, discarding each one in turn. She stood now in front of the Shrike
’s holoterminal, staring at the schematic for the Incarcerator. On the other side of the hologram, Torian watched her with his thoughtful gaze.
“So, let’s go over this. We need to get onto the Incarcerator
.” Apoc glanced around the room, then pressed a button on the terminal. The image changed to that of a Republic starfighter, an angular ship with pivoting dorsal and ventral wings.
“A BT-7 Thunderclap.” Layne pointed at the hologram. “That’s a Republic Spec Ops ship.”
Apoc nodded at him. “We’re going to steal one.”
He stared at her for a moment. “Steal one? How are we going to do that?”
She grinned at him, her dark lips curling upward in amusement. “Since the Treaty of Coruscant was officially broken, the Republic has been openly aiding the resistance on Balmorra. Doing a fairly good job of it too, or so I heard. Anyway, Mako got a line on a few Spec Ops squadrons arriving on the planet for some missions.”
Mako nodded, leaning against the doorway leading to the bridge. “One of the squadrons tangled with an Imperial convoy a few light years before they arrived on Balmorra. Their ships shields were damaged and it’s in for repairs, which means it’s not in the military yard and is less defended.”
“Right.” Apoc gestured at the hologram, which broke up, then re-coalesced into the image of a small, planetside shipyard. “This is our target, just outside the Republic spaceport. The area is protected by an electrified fence which will deliver enough juice to kill a fair-sized bantha. There are also twenty Republic soldiers on station to keep out Imperial saboteurs, and one anti-aircraft gun battery.”
“I can slice into their systems and shut down the fence’s charge.” Mako pulled a datapad from her belt and began to tap away at the keypad. “I’ll start working up a program.”
“Good. Once your coding takes effect, Torian will cut through the fence and the four of us will blast our way through whatever they throw at us.” She frowned slightly. “Can you slice the AA gun?”
Mako pursed her lips, then shook her head. “Doubtful. Most of them have fairly decent emergency overrides. You’ll either have to take it out or outmaneuver it.”
Layne leaned forward in his seat. “I can do that.” Apoc raised an eyebrow at him. “What?” He grinned at her. “I told you, I can fly anything. I fly the Shrike
. The BT-7 is the ship I learned to pilot on. One AA cannon is nothing.”
“Alright.” Apoc sighed softly. “Let’s assume we succeed and get back out into space. The Incarcerator
makes regular hyperspace jumps to random systems. Which system is chosen by a computer algorithm which keeps the ship from visiting the same place too many times too close together.”
Torian nodded. “The Siths lackey gave us the codes.”
“So, we’ll jump to the Incarcerator
.” Apoc tapped the button on the holoprojector once more, and the now-familiar image of the Republic prison ship appeared. “When a ship arrives in-system, the Incarcerator launches a squadron of snubfighters.” Twelve glowing golden dots appeared, orbiting swiftly around the starship’s hologram.
“The fighters will query our Identify Friend/Foe transponder. Mako already has a code worked up to change the BT-7’s transponder to broadcast that we’re the Golden Dawn
, a ship used by a Republic Spec Ops squad that hunts down then captures traitors and defectors.”
As Apoc spoke, her eyes turned to Layne. “We’re going to respond to their inquiries by telling them we’ve captured a defector. When we give them the name of our prisoner, they will query Coruscant while having us stand by.”
“I see where this is going.” Layne chuckled grimly as Apoc nodded.
“It has to be real. We’ll need to transmit a hologram of you and a voiceprint, which they will check against their records. Once they’ve confirmed you’re actually wanted, they will allow us to dock in the Incarcerator’s hangar bay.”
Torian laughed softly, bringing his hand up to stroke the light coating of blond hair on his chin. “Too bad we can’t collect the bounty while we’re at it.”
“I’d never collect a bounty on Layne.” Apoc gave Torian a shocked look. “At least, not one for the Republic.”
“All right, all right.” Layne shook his head as Torian punched him lightly on the shoulder. “What do we do once we’re inside?” His eyes traveled up and down Apoc’s form. “That armor of yours is pretty distinctive.”
“I thought of that. And as disgusting as it’ll make me feel, I thought of a solution as well.” She chuckled quietly. “You still have your Requiem squadron armor. We’ll buff off the Requiem emblem and repaint it white and gold. I’ll wear that, and you’ll be my prisoner.”
Layne nodded thoughtfully. “That could work. What then?”
“When a prisoner comes in, they are brought to the intake area which is located here.” She pointed at the hologram. A bright green light began to glow in the forward area of the ship, just beyond the first prisoner ring. “They are processed and then taken into the population, then placed into a stasis chamber and given a neural inhibitor band that keeps them in a coma.”
The rings began to glow with their own lights, shining pink and blue and yellow. “Because the prisoners aren’t put out until they are in their permanent… residence, the dioxis gas is cleared from each ring during the intake process. So once we get out of the intake room, we just have to get to where they’re keeping Luxel.”
“What if they just turn the gas back on?” Layne frowned at the hologram. “Seems like that could put us out of business in a hurry.”
“That’s why Torian and Mako will sneak on board while we’re in the intake room.” Apoc couldn’t help but smile when Mako pumped her slender fist in the air. “Due to the number of droids they have crewing, there are computer terminals at regular intervals throughout the ship. They’ll find one, and Mako will alter the ship’s code to stop the dioxis from coming back on.”
Apoc grinned mischievously. “Also, the Incarcerator
has a medical bay where prisoners are routinely taken for health checkups. While they are there, they’re woken up and looked over by a medic. If they get rowdy while being checked out, the medic activates a switch that floods the room with null gas.”
“Knocks them out?” Layne nodded. “Makes sense. How does that help us?”
Apoc’s emerald eyes narrowed. “After Mako shuts off the dioxis, she’ll insert another program into the ships computer. This one will divert the flow of air through the ship’s ducts to pass through the medical bay. At the same time, it will activate the null gas. It will take a few moments, but the gas will slowly seep into the crew area, depriving them of oxygen and causing them all to take a nice, long nap.”
“Sounds good.” Torian’s arms went up over his head as he stretched. “So you get in, get Luxel. We turn the dioxis off and knock out the crew. You come out, we fly away. What’s missing?”
Apoc’s smile turned grim. “The Incarcerator
’s guardian droids. They are quick, agile, and each sport dual lasers as well as a blaster cannon.” The hologram in the center of the room changed to show a three-legged droid, somewhat circular shaped, with two arms, and a blaster cannon on its back.
“We don’t know exactly how many of these droids they have, but we do know that the corridors within the prisoner rings are too narrow for us to have to face more than two or three of them at a time.”
“Only two or three?” Layne scoffed. “We got this.”
Apoc snickered at him. “Once we get Luxel and get out past the droids, we’re going to blast our way out here.” She pointed to the hologram. “At this spot, the prisoner population area is adjacent to the hangar bay we’ll come in from. Mako and Torian will meet up with us at the ship and we’ll fly out, then take Luxel to Darth Umbral.”
Her eyes closed and she took a deep breath, then opened them. She looked around the room, letting her gaze linger on each of them for a moment. “We do this tomorrow. Get some rest, eat a hearty meal, and be ready for some fun.”
Later that night, Apocalypsa sat at the edge of the bed she shared with Torian, watching him as he lay on the floor, exercising his abdominal muscles by doing a set of sit-ups. She nudged him in the ribs with her bare toe.
“Hey,” she said. He relaxed, looking up at her with his hands behind his head. “It’s a good plan, right?”
He chuckled at her, beginning his exercises once more. “It’s a good plan. As good as we’re going to get.”
“Any number of things could go wrong.” Apoc nudged him with her foot again. “Stop that. I can’t talk to you when you’re doing that, it’s distracting.”
Torian gave her a lopsided grin that filled her with both exasperation and love. “Why do you think I’m doing it, cyare
“You’re impossible.” She shook her head at him. “I’m serious. I keep looking for a flaw. I can’t find one, which makes me extra nervous.”
“Isn’t like you.” He sat up, resting his arms on his knees. “Why so worried? Layne?”
She nodded. “This is a Republic ship we’re infiltrating. Republic soldiers we’ll be fighting. He hasn’t done that yet.”
“You’re worried he won’t be able?” Torian shook his head. “Kid’s more Mando than you give him credit for.”
“I know that.” She frowned at him. “Don’t you think I know that? I want him to do well. I want him to earn his place.”
Torian’s sapphire eyes softened as her meaning suddenly dawned on him. “You want this to be like his verd’goten
.” He reached out, placing his hand on hers. “You want to give him a gai bal manda
Apocalypsa nodded. Her own adoption by Mandalore the Vindicated had been the proudest moment of her life. Marking the moment she had become a Mandalorian, the gai bal manda
was even more sacred to her than her triumph in the Great Hunt.
“Don’t you?” Her eyes locked with his, shining out from within the dark ink tattooed around them. “I’m not a big believer in fate or destiny, but it feels like there was a reason he came with us.” She smiled as he nodded. “I feel like he’s supposed to be our son. Like he should have been born our child.”
“Same.” Torian twined his fingers around hers. “Layne will do fine. Won’t shrink from what he has to do. Isn’t going to turn around and rejoin the Republic. He’s a Mando, even if he doesn’t know it.”
“Now,” he grinned at her as his grip tightened and he tugged her down onto the floor with him. “Tomorrow we might all die.” He lowered his face, his lips hovering centimeters above hers.
“Oh, is that so?” She lifted her arms, wrapping them around his neck. “I suppose we better make the most of tonight, then.” A soft sigh escaped her lips as his brushed against them, banishing her worries to the deepest parts of her mind.