There was something about wearing black, Prudii mused, that made one feel invisible. Of course, he couldn't have stood out more if he'd tried. A lean and athletic Zabrak, dark-skinned, he did not have the look of a typical broken-nosed ugly thug. He quickly moved the unconscious body of the Black Sun guard out of the way and picked up the man's helmet.
"Elara, I want you to lead the squad down to the engine room," he said. "Have Vik set a timer. Yuun, you divert to the tractor beam and shut it down."
"And you, sir?" asked Elara.
"I'm going to find Captain Jorgan."
He slipped on the helmet and moved down the hall, rifle cradled in his hands. A pair of Black Sun enforcers saw him and nodded. He nodded back. His helmet comlink squawked.
"All enforcers, report to the aft hangar!" a voice said. "We have fighters."
Prudii charged that way, as did the two enforcers. He let them pass him...and then blasted them both in the back. Leaving the bodies where they lay, he sprinted for the hangar. There, a man in a ripped Imperial uniform stood at the bottom of a shuttle's ramp, firing down at the enforcers. Behind them were a Mon Calamari, a Twi'lek, a human, and...
Jorgan looked up, confused, saw him, and his eyes widened. He leaned down to the Imperial, tapped him on the shoulder, and whispered in his ear. The Imperial nodded. Prudii moved behind the enforcers and bashed one on the back of the head. A trio of blaster bolts shot past him and hit another enforcer.
"Let's move!" Prudii said. "We have a ship in the other hangar."
"Right," the Imperial said with a nod.
Jorgan moved up beside Prudii as they marched briskly through the ship.
"Thanks for coming, sir," he said.
"And miss this party?" Prudii grinned. "Not a chance."
* * *
Elara knelt by the engine core and nodded to Vik. He strapped on a charge and set the timer. Elara nodded to him, stood, and pulled her blaster from its holster.
"Hey!" a voice said.
Forex and HK-51 caught him in a crossfire, and he went down–but the damage was done. Alarms began sounding. Elara uttered a Mandalorian word Prudii had taught her and motioned for the squad to get moving. She sprinted down the corridor in the lead. Ahead, a squad of enforcers saw them coming and raised their rifles. Dorne dropped, sliding, and fired. Her bolt caught the first enforcer in the throat. Vik leapt in with his vibrosword to engage a Trandoshan enforcer, who also wielded a vibrosword.
Elara rolled aside and crouched behind a stack of barrels. She took aim and blasted an enforcer, a clean head shot. Forex and HK-51 laid down covering fire, and the enforcer squad went down quickly.
"Let's move," Elara said. "What's the time on those charges?"
"Three minutes," Vik replied.
* * *
Yuun pulled down the lever, nodded to himself, and pulled back into the shadows, becoming a ghost. He crept through the ship and was halfway back to the BT-7 when the alarms sounded. He frowned. Surely they hadn't detected him, had they?
He heard blaster bolts down the hall and decided they hadn't.
Yuun moved toward the turbolift and activated it. He stepped inside and pressed the hangar button. Unfortunately someone else had called the lift, and it stopped on the dorm floor. Yuun stepped back into the turbolift's shadows, readying a vibroknife. Two enforcers stepped in. When the lift doors closed, Yuun leapt forward silently and slit one's throat before they even saw him. The other let out a cry and pulled out a pistol, but Yuun rammed his knife into the man's gut. He dropped.
The lift doors opened, and Yuun moved out silently, leaving the corpses where they were. He moved down the hall and came to an intersection. His eyes widened as he saw the Major, Captain Jorgan, and others ducking behind the wall and firing around the corner at enforcers.
"Yuun!" Prudii said. "Get down!"
Yuun rolled aside and planted himself behind Zenith. He nodded to the Twi'lek. The two had spoken before, when Prudii had been in meetings with the Jedi and their allies, and Yuun had learned to respect Zenith as a warrior.
"Sir!" Elara called.
She and the rest of the squad came running up from behind. Yuun sighed in relief. They were all here.
"Go," Prudii said. "The hangar's right through there; we'll cover you."
Elara nodded. "Come on."
She went first, and then Vik, Zenith, the Imperial, Guss, and the human. Yuun pulled out his blaster, fired around the corner once, and then charged after them. Forex came behind him, and then HK-51. Jorgan followed lastly, and Prudii stayed behind, firing.
"Sir!" Elara called. "Come on!"
Prudii nodded and sprinted toward the hangar–and a force field came up. Yuun leapt forward and slammed his hand into the controls, but it was in vain. They'd locked it down. Elara rushed to the field and rammed her fists against it.
"Sir!" she cried. "Major!"
"Come on, Major, blast the controls!" Jorgan growled.
Prudii shook his head. "This buys you time," he said sadly. "Take care of the squad, Jorgan. Go!"
"Sir, the bombs!" Elara called, tears streaming down her cheeks. "You can't stay, Prudii. Please."
"Go," Prudii said, choking.
Yuun put a comforting hand on Elara's shoulder. She didn't shrug it off, but she hung her head.
"You don't have much time," Prudii said. "Go!"
Then he opened fire on enforcers coming around the corner.
"All right," Jorgan said. "Let's mount up. His sacrifice can't be in vain."
* * *
Prudii fired his blaster on full auto. The enemies fell in droves. He held his blaster in his right hand, steadying it, and whipped out his pistol in his left hand, firing with both. But he couldn't hold out forever. A blaster bolt grazed his side, and he grunted in pain. Dropping to his knees, he kept firing. His rifle clicked empty, and he hurled it away, continuing to fire with his pistol.
Another shot caught him in the gut, and he slammed back into the force field. He spared a glance behind him, and sighed in relief when he saw that the Thunderclap had already taken off and was away. He threw off his helmet and charged. His pistol fired at point-blank range, killing an enforcer. Then he turned and rammed his gauntlet blade into the throat of another. He whirled and shot again, taking down a Weequay just turning the corner.
About ten seconds until Vik's bomb detonates, he thought. That's all I have to last.
He punched an enforcer in the chin, picked up his rifle, and fired a stream of bolts down the hall. A shot caught him in the shoulder and he spun around. As he did, three more shots caught his back. He exhaled in pain, fell to the ground, and gasped.
Five seconds, he thought.
The enforcers came up behind him, pointing their blasters down at his head. He knew they'd execute him, but he also knew they'd never have the pleasure. Because by the time they'd closed to firing range, there was one second left. By the time they had their fingers on the trigger, there was no time.
A wave of heat washed across Prudii, and he let it take him into a restfulness during which he felt no pain.
End of Part 1