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Imperial Special Projects: The Seven

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
Imperial Special Projects: The Seven

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Osetto
03.25.2012 , 08:59 AM | #1
Imperial Special Projects

THE SEVEN
(1 ATC)

Table of Contents:
Spoiler





Episode I

Assault on Freedom’s Runner


Prologue: The Interrogation

"The Seven. Always seven. We are faceless. Nameless. If one was to fall, another would take its place as if nothing had happened and the regular soldiers would be none the wiser. But that rarely happens. We are given the best training. The best tech.

That, and the fact that we don’t fight the normal fights. We never just march right into any of the major conflicts. We didn't even exist before the Treaty of Coruscant, despite what the reports always say.

The written exploits of our little elite group have been highly exaggerated. Sometimes we are even tied to events in different sectors of the galaxy that happened on the same day. This all just contributes to the myth. We are stationed aboard capital ships. Interact with the common soldiers. Maybe they know about the falsified reports, maybe they don’t.

Our exploits are seeded across Republic and Imperial channels alike, to make our presence known and at the same time do exactly the opposite. Know us. Know of us. Always wondering. Instill fear and intrigue about some unknowable, unkillable foe. You know how these things work.

But the soldiers who knew the truth, the real truth, understood what we did. Because behind all the myths, once you strip away the veneer of hype perpetrated by Imperial Intelligence, there still existed a team capable of astounding accomplishments. Despite the rumors, we don’t specialize in black operations. After all, secret missions with no witnesses don’t exactly suit what we are trying to accomplish.

Gray operations on the other hand… Missions designed to leave just enough of a message. Just the right information, given out in measured quantities that, in the end, serve to further the Empire's agenda.

We are a strike force. Pure and simple. Clear cut objectives. Hardly any room for in-the-field decisions. Our success comes from planning. That and the fact that we are only given assignments with less than a ten percent perceived failure chance.

We are good, but we aren’t gods of the battlefield. We aren’t allowed to take unnecessary risks. After all, we are sporting arms and armament worth hundreds of thousands of credits. Each.

Now you see where the myth begins to fall apart. One could argue that any trooper with our resources could accomplish what we have. We are given easy missions on purpose, all to bolster our record. In the end, all people care about are the headlines.

So what if the bunker had an insufficient security force. So what if we boarded and detonated an already derelict capital ship. Our purpose was to produce results. Just not directly. The power of misinformation.

The Seven are first and foremost an experiment in mental and military thought. Charts and graphs my friend. Statistics. Imperial Intelligence wanted to see if they could create a force that could alter the outcomes of battle with words alone.

'Your request for reinforcements has been acknowledged. The Seven are on their way'. 'Alert: The Seven have joined up with the ground forces. Proceed with your original objectives'.

It’s amazing the kind of impact a few simple words can have if you send them out over the comm channels. Opposing forces might show the slightest increase in disorganization. A group of defenders might hold out for just that much longer.

And that was our purpose. An artificial psychosomatic form of battle meditation. At least that what the squad and I jokingly called it. Though, in truth, it wasn't too far off.

That is our true purpose. To alter the course of a battle without actively participating in it. The kind of tactical manipulation that only someone in the Sith Empire could think was worth funding. But in the end, it works. Either that or we've just been attached to one long string of happy coincidences.

But honestly, judging by my recent luck, I'd feel pretty confident in ruling that out. I mean, here I am, prisoner aboard a Republic cruiser. Hands cuffed behind my back. Stripped of my gear. Figuratively naked. Who knows? Maybe we're not the unstoppable force we're made out to be."

----------

"Interesting story Mister… Aurek was it? Rarely is my job as on-board interrogator so easy. Imperials are usually prone to withholding information, especially when it comes to secret intelligence involving the Ministry. This information… regarding 'The Seven', doesn't exactly sound beneficial to the Empire to let it slip out. What's the story? One of the higher ups must have majorly pissed you off at some point, right?"

"Quite the opposite, actually. My last report possessed some rather choice words for some rather sensitive military advisors. That's how I ended up on my current mission."

"You mean the mission we captured you during?"

"Oh, no. The mission of being caught."

"Excuse me?"

"Oh, yeah. This capture? Planned. I wasn't lying when I said our success stemmed from proper planning. The rest of my speech, well, that's a bit fuzzy. You see, I know you got some people on the other end of your comm just eating up this information. Digesting it. Wondering how a group that sounds this incompetent could possibly be this effective. Or how we could have survived this long. Wondering just how it is that they might not have even heard of The Seven. The right amount of bleeding between reality and fiction. That is our goal. Our purpose. The power of misinformation.

That bit about how we were just an experiment to see how the course of a battle could be changed by words alone? You think the experiment stopped? Just because you happened to have gotten me alone on your ship. No. Instead, you won't know how to properly react when my squad storms this cruiser and rescues me."

"Your squad? You mean a group of seven soldiers is going to attempt a rescue? Oh wait, since you’re here that means there will only be six. Unless they've already 'replaced' you that is."

"No, no. They wouldn't do that while I'm still alive. After this mission, though, who knows? We might need a new 'Cresh' though. He seems to be the agent with the highest mortality rate. Me though, I'm sure I'll be fine."

"So, you're all but sure you're somehow going to survive, while you sit here… restrained… in the detention center of a major Republic cruiser?"

"Well, we were sure to pick a ship that was understaffed. And you didn't exactly follow strict, or even proper, security protocol when detaining me. No armed guards, no detention fields. You honestly could just not believe the catch you made when I agreed to come along quietly. You were so overconfident that the information I had for you would be so intrinsically valuable, so beneficial to your career, that you wanted to be the one solely responsible for 'extracting' my 'confession'. And yet we find ourselves in a situation unlike anything you've ever encountered or could even imagine.

Plus, managing to undo your restraining cuffs is much easier when your hands are hidden behind your back and your interrogator is far too focused on a rather capricious monologue."
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
03.25.2012 , 09:02 AM | #2
Chapter One: The Squad

Red lights flooded the passenger bay of the Imperial shuttle, set to cease as soon as the ship exited hyperspace. Five soldiers were situated on the two benches that ran along the interior walls. The area acted as the corridor between the cockpit and the aft cargo area. Not the most spacious of crafts, the gap between the two seats was wide enough only for the appropriately marked entry ramp and little room for maneuvering should it drop.

The five bodies that occupied that space were a motley assortment of sizes and demeanors. Body size and language seemed to be the only way of distinguishing the armor-clad soldiers from one another in their identical battlesuits. The bodyglove and armored plates that covered them resembled the modern armor most Imperial Troopers wore, though with subtle differences.

Trademark black with red highlights were carried over from the norm. The thick armored plates that made up most of the suit were composed of some of the strongest materials credits could buy. Where the plates couldn't provide protection, the state of the art armorweave bodysuits were more than capable of defending against stray blaster fire that made it past the integrated shield system. Layered electronics and failsafe mechanics kept everything online after a couple of ion bolts and could even withstand a few seconds of sustained force lightning.

By benefit of being powered armor the suits possessed micro-hydraulics capable of increasing the user's strength, great for heavy lifting and preventing the wearer from collapsing under their own weight. From the neck down, they possessed some the purest mechanical brawn found amongst the Imperial Army. From the neck up, something even more spectacular.

Probably the most integral piece of the armor puzzle, the helmet provided advanced tactical data via heads up display. While possessing the basic flat topped conical shape possessed by most modern Imperial ground forces, its visor went uncovered by protective armor, giving its wearer a smooth, featureless black surface for a face. The suit was capable of analyzing the various biological processes that took place within its boundaries and report it to the user, or even the user’s squad mates if need be. The visors could provide instant data regarding the squad’s health, injuries, energy levels, fatigue, and information from four of the user’s five senses. With the ability to connect weapons data to the visor, the soldier could monitor his firearm’s continued efficiency and ammo capacity.

The sword, the shield, and the warrior. Body, mind, soul. All symbiotically connected.

The five armored men exuded equal parts subtlety and domineering intimidation. One would rarely take notice long enough to discover the one final deviation from the norm that was a standardly equipped Imperial Trooper: each soldier’s right pauldron. Instead of the matching Imperial logo of its symmetrical brother, they each featured a simple, bolded, white letter.

Besh sat on the port bench, nearest to the wall separating the room from the cockpit. The soldier, thinner and taller than average by comparison with the rest to the squad, sat calm and collected, his body compacted, arms crossed, and head dipped ever so slightly. Sniper. Tactician. Second in command. Recently upgraded to first.

Cresh sat further down along the same bench. Average build, his only discernable feature was his stance. Hunched over, forearm against thigh, head directed toward the floor where his armored foot nervously tapped the deck. Amorphous, with an inclination for triage. The most recently replaced member. Pistoleer. Medic. Feeling apprehensive.

Esk was furthest down the line. A bit sturdier looking than his predecessors. Stocky, even. He leaned aloof against the aft barrier, legs drifting apart, clenched fist supporting the chin of his helm while the other hand inadvertently supplied Cresh with accompanying melodic taps against the seating. Demolitions expert. Survivalist. Humorist.

Forn sat opposite the sniper. Possessed an average build like Cresh, but possessed a converse mood about him. Back straight, head high, arms not crossed so much as folded neatly in front of him. A cold aura flowed readily from the unyielding soldier before being drawn right back to its source. Dynamic weapons expert. Huntsman. Man of few words.

Grek took the second spot along the lesser occupied bench. Numerically at least. He was massive enough to count as two soldiers himself. His hunched stance carried with it equal serene and primal notions. While standing, the other soldiers could only hope to meet his chest plate at eye level. Obviously not human, his exact nature outside his armor was unknown, even to his squad mates. Heavy weapons. Brawler. All around big guy. Man of no words.

The doors to the cockpit opened to reveal Dorn making his way into the passenger area. His attention was focused on the datapad built into his left bracer. He managed to take a seat between Forn and Grek without peeling his gaze away from the glowing screen jutting from his arm. The smallest in stature compared to his companions, he was still a sizable individual thanks to his armor and additional technical gear he was sporting. Technician. Mechanic. Slicer. Impromptu pilot.

"Is our route set?" Besh calmly asked across the shared team comm.

"Yes," Dorn hastily replied. "Should be dropping into realspace soon." Besh supplied a nod before slowly raising himself from his seat. With his back to the cockpit, he addressed the entirety of his squad on the events to follow.

"Alright guys, our mission is to extract Aurek from his imprisonment on board Freedom's Runner. The target is a Republic Scout Cruiser. By size and dimension, it's your basic light cruiser, about 350 meters bow to stern. In truth, it looks like a bloated Thranta-class Corvette.” The soldier’s tone possessed little of the vigor expected from a man about to lead a squad into the dangerous fray of boarding a ship. Instead, they were the words of a man assigned a dutiful chore.

"Aren't those things designed to take out smaller ships?" Esk interjected in a gruff yet jocular voice.

"The corvette, yes. This cruiser, no," Besh replied. "These particular ships are mostly relegated to solo missions, where they specialize as mobile platforms for various non-combatant roles. Communication systems. Medical bays. Mobile barracks. The luxury of a base without the trouble of having to build structures on a planet you don't need a permanent presence on. That being said, it is equipped with enough firepower to drive off any local pirates."

"And we're better than your average space pirate, right? What with this… state of the art… Imperial… Shuttle," Esk respond with trademark sarcasm. “’Course, this isn’t even one of the official Imperial shuttle’s designated for troop transport.”

“They weren’t going to give seven troopers a double decker shuttle designed for carrying entire platoons now were they?” Besh replied. “Besides, this thing specializes in fast paced non-atmospheric transfers. That, and it happened to have the best cost to effectiveness ratio.”

“Expendable-class? I like it,” Esk humored.

"Well, at any rate, we should be able to adequately defend ourselves against the target's countermeasures," Dorn explained, with alacrity. "We're too small a target for the main batteries. The deflector shields should be able to stand up against the point-defense systems designed to take out fighters. And if anything should seep through, this shuttle has a more than adequate hull rating to get us to the hangar bay. I've programmed a boarding sequence into the shuttle's coordination systems, and I can make minute adjustment to the navigation from my datapad as need be."

"With our approach under automation, we can focus our attention on the combat to follow," Besh confirmed. "Once we're past the magnetic barrier we'll be performing a rather hot landing. We will have to begin exiting the craft whilst still hovering if we want to secure the hanger before they've had enough time to react. Disembark order hasn't changed since debriefing. Grek will be first off and draw any hostile fire while I follow. Next will be Forn and Cresh, followed by Esk and Dorn. After the landing area has been secured, we'll proceed to reestablishing contact with Aurek. Any questions?"

The squad's silence indicated that there were in fact none. The red constant that had permeated the room changed into a periodic flicker.

"That's our signal," Besh stated as he made his way astern. "We'll want to be completely geared up before red lights completely shut off." All but Grek made their way into the aft cargo hold, currently operating as an impromptu armory. The giant instead turned his attention to the discrete black plasteel footlocker that rested beneath his seat.

The others found themselves in the seemingly empty room, no larger than the one that had preceded it. Along the walls and floor however, were a plethora of removable panels that promised a bounty of weapons and equipment. Each trooper selected their own unique load out from the individual compartments, but their primary firearms would be a shared set of uniform blaster carbines, traditional military blaster rifles compacted into a more manageable size for close quarters combat. Little to no sacrifice in accuracy, but reduced stopping power meant each shot needed expert delivery. Possessed a shoulder sling, scope, and efficient energy cells. The weapons had been further modified with the absence of trigger guards, to facilitate the large, gloved hands that would be using them. Additional safety systems were needed to lessen chances of accidental discharge.

"Ugh. Carbines," Esk lamented as he examined the weapon in his hands.

"Once into the inner workings of the ship," Besh clarified, "we'll be in hallways less than four shoulder lengths wide. Plenty of twists and turns. Carbines will be the most effective. The hangar will be open, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem." As he finished his words, Besh retrieved his signature sniper rifle from a wall panel.

"If you're not confident in your marksmanship abilities… you can always let your helmet do the work for you," Forn joked, albeit in a rather stoic fashion. His voice matched Esk’s low pitch, but countered by carrying itself in a much smoother manner. Aside from a small sidearm hooked to his thigh, the hunter also slipped a pair of vibroknives behind his back.

"Yeah, yeah," Esk grumbled as he lined his belt with demolitions materials. The remaining soldiers armed themselves in silence. Cresh accepted his carbine and accompanied them with a pair of pistols attached to his sides. Dorn took his weapon and sidearm along with an assortment of security and computer spikes. Besh took a second carbine and tossed it to Grek from the open doorway. These two took their position near the entrance ramp, readied for their pending hot drop into the hangar bay. The others steadied themselves in the cargo room.

"Alright, everyone sync up with your weapons," Besh ordered across the group comm. "Also, give me a quick procedural check in on the secure channel."

"Cresh. Acknowledged."

"Dorn. Checking in."

"Esk here."

"Forn… Ready and able."

"…" This served as Grek's check in. The subtle clicks of the comm channel opening and closing. It took some time, but the squad became capable of proper communication with the vocally limited trooper.

"Good, everything is in order. Be ready," Besh advised. Silence flooded the shuttle as everyone directed their attention to the flashing lights above them, waiting for the refrain that would signal the beginning of the battle to come.

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Osetto
03.25.2012 , 01:30 PM | #3
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.

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
03.25.2012 , 07:37 PM | #4
Chapter Three: The Hangar

After lining up four of the fallen soldiers under the platform, Esk knelt down to get a closer look at one them. Thin lines of light passed through the grated surface above, but overall the area was illuminated enough to not warrant the technological assistance resting within the soldier’s helmet. The adult male he examined had two close scorch marks across his chest. Grek's carbine has no trouble passing through the soldier's chest plate. The armor stopped at the shoulders and arms, where little more than a few layers of cloth offered protection. The gloves and boots were woven cloth with additional plastic inserts. Poor soldier didn't even get a helmet.

"Something wrong?" Cresh asked, lacking the melancholy present before.

"Nothing wrong. Just a little strange," Esk admitted. "Intel stated that ship would be understaffed. But even so, I expected the opposition to possess standard military equipment. Republic troopers usually warrant more protection than this."

"Maybe we caught them off guard. Before they could prepare?"

"No. Their arrangements meant that they were ready for a fight. Just one of a different kind."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean they were protecting the hangar from someone else." Esk put a finger to his temple and opened team communications. "Hey Besh, any update on Aurek?" Esk looked up to see Besh and Dorn working on the wall console almost directly above him through the thatched metal framework that constituted the raised platform. Dorn had connected his datapad directly to the under workings of the console. Besh, meanwhile stood to his side, leaning against the solid wall.

"Not yet," Besh answered after a pause. "Been trying to sync with his helm's comm signal."

"How about getting the hangar secure?"

"Yes," Dorn chimed in. "That was pretty easy. Seems the hangar was already under lockdown. Didn't take much to route control to my datapad."

"Aurek must have escaped his captors before we arrived. It makes sense that if the crew was aware of his escape they would try and prevent him from making contact with us," Besh mused.

"Hmm, makes sense," Esk quietly commented.

"What are you thinking Esk?" Forn asked in his stoic tone.

"I think that until a few moments ago, the ship's security forces were entirely focused on Aurek. Our welcoming party wasn't ours at all."

"Last line of defense against an escaped prisoner… who might be making his way to the hangar for an exit." Forn observed.

"That's what I was thinking," said Esk. "You notice their equipment Forn?" The hunter paused his patrol of the platform to kneel down next to one of Grek's dispatched foes.

"Light armor," Forn surveyed. "Mostly pistols… with the occasional rifle. Now that you say it… poor fortification of the room… aside from the doors in and out. I think so far… we've been dealing with the ship's reserve security. Combat ready crew… but with limited access to the ship's armory. Primary soldiers stationed aboard… they must be busy trying to deal with Aurek."

"So it would seem all of the real troopers have been focused on Aurek, meaning Aurek’s escape was a little early… or we were a little late," Cresh commented. "At least the news of our boarding should alleviate some of that focus."

"Yes, now it is just a matter of figuring out whether Aurek is hiding or actively having to defend himself," said Besh. Each of the squad members knew that the option of Aurek already being dead was absurd and a non-factor. "Dorn, get us each a copy of the ship's schematics."

A progress bar appeared near the bottom of squads' HUDs. Direct copies of the ship's layout popped up before being automatically configured into a usable transparent image.

"Well, it looks like we're pretty close to the cruiser's stern. Only thing behind us are the engines and a few engineering stations," Dorn clarified.

"Since we're sure Aurek hasn't been through here, that puts him ahead of us… that should narrow down his location… somewhat," Besh admitted, staying calmly optimistic.

"He's got a tracker in his suit, right? Activate it and we'll make our way to him," Esk suggested.

"I don't know," Dorn responded. "It's kind of a blind transmitter. Anyone manning a security console will be able to see the blip show up. Last thing we want to give Aurek is more undue attention or put a squad of troopers between him and his armor if he hasn't reached it yet."

"Say's the person with his fist jammed far up the ship's security hole," Esk joked.

"Give me some credit, will you?" Dorn responded. "I don't need lessons in subtlety from the demolition man."

"Hah, so what do you have in mind then?" chuckled Esk.

"Doesn't look like I can access the cameras from here without leaving a trail," Dorn admitted. "But I can check various sets of data from other sources. Room occupation. Locked door status. Aurek was probably smart enough to avoid tripping any unauthorized entry alarms. I can compile a list of the most likely rooms to find him."

"And then?" asked Cresh. There was a moment of silence as the squad thought of their options.

"If video is out of the question… what about audio?" Besh suggested. The idea wasn't met with much enthusiasm from the squad, but Dorn was entertaining the idea in his head.

"Technically, tapping into the speaker system poses the same troubles as tapping into the cameras. But even if I do end up leaving a trail it is a much lower priority system for monitoring," Dorn stated with renewed optimism.

"So, what? We just send a shout out to individual rooms until Aurek shouts back?" Esk responded, not sharing his companions confidence.

"If you must put it that way… yes," Dorn answered.

"But wait, it's not enough to tap into the ship's intercommunication system," Cresh interjected. "Even if the room he's held up in has speakers, it may not possess the comm systems needed for him to respond to us."

"Not likely," Besh replied. "Republic cruisers like this one usually have a small communications panel in any rooms that require some form of security or maintenance."

"You're kidding right? On the home cruiser, I have to walk around for five minutes before I can find a damned integrated comm," Esk begrudgingly admitted before producing a heavy sigh. "Is it any wonder the Empire needs folk like us?"

“He says whilst currently on a mission to rescue his captured squad leader,” Cresh lightheartedly chimed in. Esk chuckled at the prospect that his humor was rubbing off on the kid. “Alright, so we have a plan. Anyone have any idea which room to start with?”

Silence followed as each of the soldiers studied the schematics visible on their visor. Dorn notified the detention room Aurek most likely escaped from with a ping visible on all of the troopers HUDs. Lines then extended from it, leading to the prime candidates for rooms housing their squad leader.

After a brief examination, a ping associated to a different squad member directed everyone’s attention to an small, secondary armory not far from the detention area. The notification was from Grek.

The squad directed their attention back towards the shuttle to see the crates that had once been scattered throughout the entirety of the hanger were now situated in neatly arranged barriers circling the ship. After a brief moment of pondering the squad seemed in full agreement with the mute trooper. Dorn’s check of the armory’s data log provided the evidence needed to warrant an attempt at communication.

A single occupant. Entrance has remained locked since recently after the alarms for escape had sounded. The troopers looked in silence to Dorn, who in turn looked to Besh for confirmation. With a quick nod, the renewed rescue plan could officially begin.

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
03.26.2012 , 05:36 AM | #5
Chapter Four: The Search

Dorn began attentively tapping at his datapad, attempting to connect Besh to the cruiser’s communication grid. A notification of success appeared in the corner of Besh’s visor, but Dorn beckoned Besh to delay commencement with a raised hand as he eyed the screen on his other forearm. Frozen for a few seconds, the slicer finally dropped his right hand, gesturing for Besh to continue. The sniper almost cleared his throat, but was interrupted by a large icon in his HUD signaling that he was live.

“Trooper, status report!” Besh commanded in a faux authoritative tone. There was a moment of silence as the squad eagerly listened in.

“Oh, uh. Here sir!” A nervous voice shot back from the armory’s communications panel. It was familiar to the troopers’ ears, but seemed tainted by the accent of a Corellian farmhand.

“I asked for a status report! Why are you locked within the armory?” Besh continued his castigation.

“Oh. Well, uh, you know that prisoner? He took me hostage, and forced me to take him to where his armor was. Afterwards he locked me in here while he made his escape toward the hangar!”

“Damn it, not the hangar! We just got word of a boarding party completely wiping out the security posted there!”

“You… you did?” the voice replied, almost dropping its accent.

“Yes! Now don’t worry soldier! We’ll send a squad down there immediately to get you out of there!”

“Uh… negative. It would probably to take too long to override the door controls. Go on without me.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll send a security expert.”

“No, wait, I think he rigged some explosives to the door. Any interference, and, you know… boom.”

“It’s okay, we have a demolitions expert on the way.” The two continued back and forth. It was all but confirmed that they had found Aurek, but the amusement of the two troopers blatant overacting was great enough that none of the squad members bothered to chime in. In time, Besh dropped the charade and directly confronted his squad leader.

“What kind of accent is that, anyway, Aurek?” Besh asked, returning to his usual vacant tone. The silence that followed had been one of the heaviest since beginning the mission.

“Corellian, I think. Just a lowly farmer with dreams of seeing the galaxy spreading the good will of the Republic,” Aurek replied in a light-hearted manner.

“Corellia has farms?” Besh wittily tested.

“If Balmorra and Tatooine can have farms, any place can,” Aurek reasoned.

“Well, it’s good to hear that you’re okay Aurek,” Besh admitted. “We’ve taken the hangar and will be on route to escort you out of here as soon as you are ready. I assume that you are there with your armor?”

“Yeah, but they slapped so many damned restraining bolts on it.” Aurek confessed with more than a hint of annoyance. “Managed to get the suit on and functioning, but the helmet’s still out of commission.”

“Will you have it ready to go by the time we get there or should we wait here for a bit?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll have it on and working by the time you all get here,” Aurek informed. It was a rule no one was to see any member of the Seven outside of their armor, especially without their helmet. One of the many protocols for the Project, and Project Protocol always came first. Luckily for Aurek, only the interrogator and two guards had seen him after he was stripped and detained, making the witness elimination process a bit smoother.

“You did make sure to deal with anyone who saw your face, didn’t you?” Besh obligatorily questioned.

“Yeah, yeah. They managed to get me all the way to the detention center before asking me to remove my armor. Minimal witnesses. Not a problem anymore,” Aurek answered.

“Security footage?” Besh continued. There was a beat, as the previously unthought-of of notion was processed in Aurek’s head.

“I guess they would have cameras… in the holding areas. Makes an inordinate amount of sense now that you mention it,” Aurek softly mused to himself, but still broadcasting to his team. “The footage is always so grainy and blue-ish, maybe they’ll just suppose I’m a Chiss?”

“That won’t fly with the Director. We’ll have Dorn work on destroying the electronic evidence while the rest of us come and rescue you,” Besh indicated. Dorn’s head sank when he realized he wouldn’t be moving from his station for some time.

“Oh, you’re too kind,” Aurek joked. “Well, you know where I am. I’ll be waiting.”

And with that the communications ceased. The soldiers in the hangar passed each other looks of relief knowing the safety of their squad mate had been confirmed. The looks stopped when the individuals realized they still lacked a definite plan of action. After communications ceased, the troopers still on the hangar floor ceased their previous tasks and began making their way toward Besh and Dorn.

Cresh and Esk dipped their head towards the Republic soldiers they had gathered before stepping out from under the forward platform. Forn popped out from behind a cove a stacked crates near the aft boundary of the room. Grek had attached his footlocker to the spine of his armor, serving as a backpack that increased his already sizable volume.

“Alright,” Besh began, “Dorn will stay here, with a second watching his back. The rest will make our way towards Aurek.” Each of the soldiers mini-maps shed the previous markings and pings from before and were replaced by a single objective point where their comrade could be found.

“And who will get the honor of guarding my person as I remain plugged into this console with an ever increasing soreness in my legs?” Dorn asked, only half-joking. Esk raised one of his hands as he ascended the brief stairs towards the two.

“Don’t worry, I‘ll keep the guy safe,” Esk promised.

“You sure?” Besh asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” Esk confirmed. “Forn hates guard duty if he isn’t all by his lonesome, and Grek looks ready for a fight. Not too sure he’ll find another one in here. And I wouldn’t want to separate the little one from the group this early in his career,” he said jutting a thumb towards Cresh.

“I’m taller than you,” Cresh murmured in response. Esk responded with his own boisterous laugh.

“Besides, most of my stuff is on that shuttle. Wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to it,” Esk admitted.

“Most of your stuff better stay on that shuttle… wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to the hangar,” Forn interjected, breaking his silent approach toward the platform.

“When have I ever used more than the recommended amount of explosives for any given situation?” Esk inquired. The turning and dipping of heads from his comrades provided a sufficient enough answer. “Fine. Discretion it is.”

The demolitionist’s heart and shoulders simultaneously sunk as he uttered one of his most detested words. One of those shoulders was met with the planting of a hand, one from Forn in fact.

“Listen. There are maintenance hatches… tucked away under the forward and rear platforms. Should you wish… rigging some traps… would prove advisable,” Forn comforted. With that, Esk’s shoulders and spirit simultaneously rose once more.

With the six troopers together, they each shared a series of subtle nods and what one would assume to be glances indicating that everyone was ready to proceed.

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Osetto
03.26.2012 , 04:05 PM | #6
Chapter Five: The Surprise

Besh motioned for Dorn to unlock the double-doors that would lead them on the path to Aurek. At three by six meters, the barrier promised a compact enough path with which to trek beyond its obstruction. With a few taps, the team’s own lockdown had been lifted and the gateways began its slow process of parting.

The sense of ease and otherwise lethargic response of the troopers allowed the presence on the other side of the doors to remain unnoticed until it was too late. With the doors exposing only half of what rest behind its maw, a squad of heavy Republic troopers lay ready, guns raised and trained on their intended targets. Helmed and clad in distinctive white armor, these were not of the same class as the weak hangar defenders.

“Hold it!” a Republic soldier commanded from the forefront of the group. The command resonated forward, freezing not only the Imperials but seemingly the door along with it.

“Probably should have checked for that,” Besh slowly mumbled. The Republic squad leader rebuked his opposite with an order of silence. That order was quickly followed by a command for the Imperials to raise their hands.

Four and a half of the Imperials complied. Esk was the half, deciding that raising only his left hand would suffice. The demo-man looked as if he were about to hesitantly swear an oath instead of admitting surrender. Dorn was the man whose hands remained his own. Still hugging the wall console, the Republic troopers’ perspectives left them with no evidence of his existence.

“What? Were these guys just sitting behind the door? Or do we just have horrible timing?” Esk chimed in.

Not taking kindly to his aversion to silence, the Republic leader jerked his rifle towards the churlish Imperial, and submitted a repeated threat. One that was not accepted by its intended recipient.

“You think this is the first time I’ve had a blaster directed toward my face? For talking, no less? I’ve received worse from people who like me a lot more than you, pal,” Esk admitted.

The rest of the squad remained perfectly still as tensions flared between the two. Everyone’s attention was so focused on the two troopers that Dorn almost did not detect the subtle notification that appeared on his heads-up-display. One final taunt from Esk drove the Republic frontrunner forward, stepping past the half-open barrier, intent on delivering a stock strike with his rifle to the faceplate of the antagonistic Imperial.

Moving with speed uncharacteristic of someone his size, Grek intercepted the blow by positioning himself between the two soldiers. The result was a barely audible ting as the weapon bounced of Grek’s chest, causing a physical and emotional recoil by the Republic trooper. The white soldier hadn’t even a chance to recover before a heavy black boot planted itself right below his sternum. As Grek sent the trooper hurling backwards into his own squad mates, the previous notification on Dorn’s HUD flared.

Taking note, the engineer quickly began shutting the doors. The Republic troopers, now knocked completely to the ground by their own leader, only caught a short glimpse of the giant turning away. The demolitionist revealed behind him, his left hand still raised, swiftly scooped a silvery orb from his belt with his right and tossed it through the closing door. The lobbed explosive and the subtle wave goodbye from Esk’s still elevated hand were the last things the Republic squad saw before the doorway completely shut. The muffled thump on the other end of the door signaled the device’s detonation to the now relaxed Imperials. Yet oddly enough, Esk still had his single hand raised in the air.

“High five, anyone?” Esk proposed with restrained turns toward his squad mates. Grek, still in front of him, turned around and indulged the trooper in celebration.

“At least you managed to toss it beyond the door this time,” Dorn chimed in. “Last time it bounced off the frame and landed back at our feet.”

“Last time, your timing was off,” Esk fervently explained. “Plus, used my right hand this time. Because I learn from my mistakes, Mr. ‘Keeps Forgetting to Check What’s Behind Door Number One’, eh?”

“Wouldn’t want you to have naught to talk about during our extended time together in the hangar,” Dorn joked. “Nothing speeds up a slicer like critical analysis.”

“Alright, alright. Let’s just see what kind of cleanup is needed,” Besh interrupted in an increasingly commanding tone.

“Shall I take a peek through the console, or just open the doors again?” Dorn quipped. Esk responded with a soft flail of the hands beckoning the trooper to do as he wished. Besh confirmed the query with a single word, and not a moment later the barrier began to part.

The troopers were greeted with a scene of rather restrained devastation. All eight of the Republic soldiers lay scattered on the floor, slightly pushed away from what appeared to be the zone of impact. The effects of the explosive were no more evident than on that of the fallen squad leader. His once pristinely white chest plate had been blackened and utterly cracked.

The device was primarily concussive, with some thermal energies thrown in there for some added pizazz. A critical range of a few meters with a stun range a few meters past that. None made it to the stun range.

With the doors wide open, the four Imperials that made up the future rescue squad stepped beyond the threshold to examine the collapsed troopers. Kicking away weapons, they examined each for any signs of life.

“And the Director says explosives are expensive,” Esk commented, still in the hangar. “Divide the cost by eight soldiers and you’re down to a measly 125 credits.”

“For a man who hates discretion… you have an odd taste for economics,” Forn responded.

“What can I say? I’m a complicated individual with simple tastes,” Esk joked. The hunter bobbed his head in agreement. As Besh, Cresh and Forn checked the bodies and weapons that lay about, Grek stood adamant ahead of them, becoming a makeshift barrier for any additional soldier that might happen by.

“Everything seems clear,” Cresh informed. The other two examiners promptly agreed.

“Let’s head out,” Besh ordered. “Let’s divide the comm into separate party channels and leave the collective open for emergency communications while apart. Stay safe you two.”

And with that, the sniper offered a parting salute and Dorn sealed the doors behind them. The four troopers readied their primary weapons from their hanging slings and made their way toward Aurek. Esk almost immediately turned around and began heading toward the shuttle.

“Where might you be heading?” Dorn inquired.

“Shuttle,” Esk answered without missing a beat.

“I can see that,” Dorn admitted. “What for?”

“Gonna need more explosives.”

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Osetto
03.26.2012 , 10:03 PM | #7
Chapter Six: The Rescue

Besh and his three compatriots made their way down the pristine corridor, intent on reestablishing contact with Aurek. Besh lead the way with Cresh and Forn to his sides, positioned slightly behind him, and Grek protecting the rear. Thankfully the hallway was high enough not to encroach upon Grek nor the footlocker attached to his back.

Making their way through the bowels of the cruiser, the lights and sounds of a ship on high alert assaulted the invaders’ senses. The ship locked down, only with the help of Dorn did the automatic doors in the assailants’ path retain their automatic function.

The four troopers traced a path along the maps present in their heads-up-displays. A relatively straight path along the vessel’s spine until a sharp turn would put them toward a series of compact personnel lifts. The armory that housed Aurek was one level below, meaning a quick descent would be necessary.

Carbines and rifle in hand, the four troopers made their way toward their destination at a sprinting pace, looking to avoid combat if at all possible. Small doors leading to ancillary rooms lined the walls on either side of the marching Imperials. Fervently eyeing them as they passed, the soldiers did not want another squad of Republic troopers surprising them from behind an unchecked door.

One such door happened to open as the troopers made their way past it. A lightly clothed crewman had not even managed to get one foot out of the door before the massive Imperial in the rear shoved him back with the quick brunt of his bracer. The squad disappeared beyond a large doorway that shut behind them, vanishing before the ship’s tenant could even register what events had transpired.

The squad’s first turn in an otherwise straightforward venture put them a short distance away from the designated lifts. It also put them in the line of sight of the squad of troopers protecting said lifts. The four republic troopers fired upon the invaders before taking cover behind the corners where the hallway widened significantly.

The Imperials followed suit by taking cover where the path intersected the spinal passage they had been following. With a lack of navigable space, Besh and Grek deferred to Cresh and Forn to dispatch their foes. Blasting away from behind cover, what would have been blind-firing to most soldiers was actually precise maneuvering due to the Imperials’ weapon sights being synced to their helmets.

The Imperial carbines managed to make short work of the armored opposition, allowing the troopers to continue their advance toward the lifts. Unlike the ordinary doors that had preceded them, the elevators lacked the courtesy of ignoring the lockdown the ship was currently under.

Besh sent word to Dorn asking for assistance, but was told that unlocking the lifts would take some time. The news depreciated even more when word of incoming Republic soldiers was acknowledged by the Imperial squad. Not wanting to be locked down waiting for the lifts to come back online, Grek decided the best course of action was to forge a new path.

With his immense strength, Grek parted the lateral doors himself, exposing the dark maw of the empty tube that breached the numerous layers of the cruiser. Forn leapt into the tube and descended the few meters that separated the two levels of the ship’s interior.

Vibroknives drawn, the hunter kicked off of the shaft’s back wall and stuck himself into the wall next to the doors below, a slight hum emitting from each activated blade. Withdrawing one from its place in the wall, he jabbed it instead where the lift’s control panel rested on the other side. Slicing through the metal and circuitry, Forn quickly withdrew the blade once again before swinging through the now opened doorway.

Forn beckoned his squad mates to follow. Besh was first down the tube. Grasping Grek’s hand with his own, he was gently lowered down a sizable distance before Forn assisted him from the lower level. Grek offered his hand to Cresh, but the two were interrupted by the arrival of more Republic soldiers further down the hallway. After taking cover, Cresh signaled for his companion to go first. Grek nodded without opposition.

The sizable trooper flung himself backwards down the shaft, facing toward the doors as he descended. Falling quickly, he managed to catch himself on the bottom ledge of the level below and readily hoisted himself up. Cresh took a few shots at the opposition before making his own dash toward the chute.

A stray blaster bolt managed to hit his hand, spinning the soldier about down the lift and causing him to let loose of his primary weapon. The carbine fell into the darkness below. Cresh, however, managed to be yanked from his descent by the outstretched hand of Grek.

After a few moments were spent catching a breath, the squad continued their speedy trek toward Aurek. This level of the cruiser lacked the single hallway running its entire length that the previous level possessed. Instead it was occupied by a myriad of twists and turns and curved hallways.

Navigating the labyrinthine floor plan was made simple by the carefully calculated route on the Imperials’ visors. Due to the winding nature of the halls, the ever splitting pathways provided ample cover for the troopers’ approach. Each straightaway lasting only a few meters, it was easy to avoid being sighted by any of the squads patrolling the area. It was only when nearing the small armory that two Republic soldiers popped out from an adjacent room.

Cresh managed to drop one of the Republic troopers, his carbine having been replaced by one of the pistols that once rested at his hip. The other was brought down by Besh’s sniper rifle, shot from the hip. A quick look into the room that spawned the now fallen soldiers revealed it to be a sort of interrogation chamber.

The darkly lit room spied on its brother further in through specialized monitoring equipment. A video screen depicted the aftermath of Aurek’s escape: table and chairs knocked aside, interrogator suffering from severe case of blunt force trauma, armored guard lay defeated in the doorway connecting the two rooms. Taking a pause to look back, Besh noticed that a pair of restraining cuffs tossed to the ground in the hallway. Opposite the direction of the armory.

The squad continued until their visors declared they had reached their destination. The sealed door of the armory before them, the troopers took defensive positions while Besh tried to connect with Aurek. Cresh guarded the return path with his pistol raised and ready. Forn and Grek knelt side by side, training their eyes on whatever threats might approach from the unknown end of the hallway.

Besh banged the door twice with his fist before sending out a communications signal, hoping Aurek had managed to get all of his equipment online. After an uneasy pause, the squad’s leader connected his comm to the group and was met with a cheered welcome.

Chapter Six-Point-Five: “The Interlude”

Back in the hangar, Esk emerged from the shuttle toting a small but sizable box of explosives from the shuttle’s cargo room. The box contained focused but devastating munitions designed for perimeter defenses. At the foot of the shuttle’s ramp, the demolitionist opted to drop the container to the hangar floor instead the traditional soft placement one would associate with the transport of explosives.

“And all I’m sayin’ is an X2 droid probably would have checked what was behind the doors before opening them,” Esk stated, locked in argument with Dorn over their separate comm channel.

“So you’d replace me with an Astromech?” Dorn bluntly countered.

“We’re not talkin’ about any ol’ Astromech,” Grek jocularly responded. “A military X2, with some modifications like: cortosis weave armor plates, matching paint scheme, and maybe some shoulder slings so Grek could carry him like a backpack.”

“Yeah, but then how would Grek carry his pride?” Dorn inquired.

“Do you meet his literal pride or his footlocker?” Grek questioned.

“Both.”

The two soldier’s antics were interrupted when word of Aurek’s returned echoed across the shared comm.

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Osetto
03.27.2012 , 12:05 PM | #8
Chapter Seven: The Breakout

“So, you guys miss me?” Aurek asked over the channel. The words resonated in the ears of the six Imperial troopers. Finally, they had their squad leader back. In spirit, at least, as there was still the matter of getting him out of the locked down armory.

“We made do. Love to have you back, though,” Besh teased.

“Good to hear,” Aurek stated with a rather pleasant tone. “I got everything readied and suited up on my end. Have Dorn splice the door or Esk blow it off, I’m just ready to leave this place.”

“Actually, both Dorn and Esk are guarding the shuttle back in the hangar,” Besh admitted after a beat. A lengthy silence fell upon the squad’s communications.

“Don’t worry Aurek,” Dorn interjected. “I’m patched into the system. I should be able to remotely lift the lockdown from here.” Besh’s group adopted a much more casual appearance from their previous defensive positions. No longer kneeling with weapons drawn, the other three troopers opted to lean on the solid walls of the hallway as they waited for their leader’s return.

“What’s your status Dorn?” Besh asked after an extended period of silence.

“Having a bit of trouble on my end,” Dorn admitted with growing frustration. “Diagnostics are showing that the armory had an independent security system. And I can’t seem to find it.”

“The armory’s doors aren’t on the grid?” Besh asked for clarification.

“No,” Dorn shot back. “I mean, they aren’t right now. They were before. Not before as in earlier, but, okay as in earlier, but not since I spliced in.

“What are you trying to say?” Besh questioned with a heavy sigh.

“The doors are locked. Not because of the ship-wide lockdown. Because of the on-site locking mechanism,” Dorn explained with increasing haste. “I should still have some sort of control over it from the master override, but something removed the door’s information completely from the system.”

“Aurek?” Besh interposed, with a slightly accusatory tone.

“That… may have something to do with me blasting the control panel inside here,” Aurek confessed. The silence that followed from the other side of the doorway provided all of the shame needed for the squad leader. “It was the only way I knew to lock the door from the inside. I didn’t want someone on the bridge overriding it.”

“Then why did you even suggest Dorn splicing he door?” Besh interrogated.

“The panel might be scrap on this end, but I don’t think it made it through to the exterior door controls.” Taking a quick look at the protruding block next to the door, Besh could see that the control panel was indeed intact. A closer look, however, provided less enthusiastic news.

“The panel out here says ‘Unit Unresponsive. Call Maintenance’. Where did you even get a blaster?” Besh inquired.

“I am in an armory,” Aurek answered with pride. The second in command was forced to bring his hand to his visor’s brow.

“Aurek, are you behind the door right now?” Besh asked in his more usual serene tone.

“Yeah.”

“Well, don’t be.”

Stepping aside, Aurek did not even have time to respond before door was knocked off its supports by the thunderous right foot of Grek. As the dented door fell sufficiently behind the visibly shaken soldier, the colossal trooper stepped aside to allow Besh passage into the humble armory.

Aurek stood frozen, unremarkable in appearance compared to his squad mates. Wearing the same set of armor, he possessed no indication of proper rank or authority, only his name written in white on his right pauldron. As the sniper examined the room, he noticed saw various racks of weaponry and light armors encroaching upon the already cramped floor space. His attention was drawn to the warped door that lay rocking back on fort near the back wall.

“They don’t build ships like they used to,” Besh commented, seemingly oblivious to the Aurek’s frozen figure.

“You want to give me more of a warning before you have Grek go kicking in doors?” Aurek slowly yet intently asked as he regained his composure.

Grek hesitantly peered in through the gap in the wall he had created before offering a slight wave of the hand in condolence. He thought to apologize from a closer proximity, but decided the armory was cramped enough. Outside the room, the other two soldiers seemed to be enjoying the light torment their squad leader was enduring.

“A warning? How about you warn us the next time you’re about to go mouth off complaints to the Director about our missions being too easy,” Besh calmly suggested.

“That was said in confidence to her. And it wasn’t a complaint,” Aurek corrected. “It was simply a factual statement. No cognitive emotional value attached to it all. Plus it wasn’t the Director who was behind this excursion, it was the Patrons, who felt the need to monitor that particular social interaction.”

“You know Project protocol. ‘Always assume you are under surveillance. Whether it be by friend or foe’,” Besh recited through monotone. “Speaking of which…” Besh broke conversation and made his way out of the armory, bringing two fingers to his helm’s right temple. “Dorn, did you manage to scrap the ship’s monitoring data?”

“Oh? Uh, yeah. I mean, yes sir,” Dorn answered, as if caught by surprise. “All data regarding Aurek being unmasked has been disposed of.”

“Something wrong Dorn?” Aurek chimed in as he exited the confined room, seemingly taking control of his squad away from Besh.

“‘Wrong’ is a strong word,” Dorn non-answered.

“Yes, that’s why I used it. Is there?” Aurek persisted.

“Well, you know how the door panel mysteriously disappeared from the system before. It would seem that the same thing happened to the, well, entire door,” Dorn hesitantly admitted.

“Right, that was Grek applying a manual override,” Aurek informed, glancing to the door-less opening. Grek offered another apologetic wave of his hand.

“That I gathered. It’s just that afterwards, activity on the ship’s security grid seems to have… spiked… significantly. Monitoring equipment. Room diagnostics. Everything,” Dorn hastily explained.

“So they’re aware of our presence. More aware at least,” Aurek clarified.

“It would seem so. They must have been biding their time, waiting for us to reveal where you had stowed away,” Dorn reasoned. “Orders are pouring out from the bridge. Main systems are being recalibrated. Auxiliary systems are being flushed. Troop movement is up-”

“What does it all mean, Dorn?” Aurek asked, keeping his calm as awaited the slicer to reach an adequate conclusion.

“They’ve been holding back, sir,” Dorn softly stated. Silence permeated from the entire squad.

“So they have,” Aurek replied, unfazed. “Dorn. Esk. There’s a chance they might not send everyone after us-”

“Don’t worry, boss,” Esk interjected alongside a light chuckle. “Everything’s fine over here. Got some defenses set up and what have you. You all just make it back in one piece.”

“Just make sure the hangar is there when we do return,” Aurek ordered, carrying Esk’s jovial tone as his own.

“Will do.” Thereupon, the communications between the two groups ceased.

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Osetto
03.27.2012 , 05:38 PM | #9
Chapter Eight: The Return

The rescue squad had completed its primary objective, now all that had to be done was the simple task of returning to the shuttle and departing Freedom’s Runner. A straightforward undertaking, but complications were never far away from even the most simple of tasks.

As Besh lastly exited the armory, the five troopers were completely reunited once more and readied themselves for the task at hand. Aurek had seized a standard issue Republic blaster rifle from his room of confinement. Unable to sync it with his armor, the squad leader just hoped for the best. His companions stood at attention, eagerly awaiting something resembling a plan of action.

“Shall we return the way we came, or…?” Aurek casually queried.

“That may prove difficult. Grek had to perform a manual override on the lift much like the one used on the armory door. Plus Forn took a stab at the thing’s control panel to get the lower level doors to open. It’s most likely out of commission,” Besh explained. Aurek began stroking the chin of his helm, as if lost in deep thought.

“Why is it when I shoot a control panel, it seals a door… but when Forn stabs one it, it opens,” Aurek mused. The squads’ collective heads dipped when they witnessed their leader divert his attention to the mundane. After some more moments of intense pondering, Aurek re-opened the channel with Dorn.

“Dorn. It seems our return path is blocked. Can you patch me a path to another set of lifts?”

A progress bar popped up in the lower corner of Aurek’s visor. When filled, the cruiser’s schematics uploaded to his heads-up-display much like they had for the other squad members.

After being reformatted into the usual mini-map configuration, Dorn began to trace a line through the ship’s interior that would eventually lead to another set of lifts resting closer to the ship’s bow. The path winded and featured many abrupt turns, even cutting through some of the ship’s larger rooms.

“This is the best I can do,” Dorn explained. “They’re rapidly regaining control of their systems. Locking doors. Shutting off pathways. This is the clearest route I can get you. And it might not even last that long.”

“Then we’ll have to hurry,” Aurek admitted, still lacking any sense of endangerment. “Alright squad, let’s roll out. Form up two by three.”

The troopers began their quicken pace toward their objective, entering into formation as they went. Aurek and Besh, side by side, lead the charge. Behind them, Cresh and Forn, shoulder to shoulder. Once again guarding the rear was Grek. Generally, formation orders considered Grek as two bodies.

The soldiers made their way toward the operational lifts uncontested. Rapidly they rounded corners, but still there were no Republic troopers to be found. Most odd of all was the sudden withdrawal of the various sirens and signals that had been blaring before.

Lockdown lights no longer flashing, the Imperials finally witnessed what a stroll through the corridors might have been like on any other day. The signature white walls with various warmly colored adornments continued to haunt the Imperials’ vision.

An eerie silence flooded the halls, broken only by the clamoring footsteps of the few invaders. A terrifying serenity. Thoughts began creeping into the troopers’ minds. Where were all of the ship’s inhabitants? Why had the warning alarms been redacted? What was this feeling inside that persisted step after step?

Finally on a straightaway, the squad marched towards a set of doors at least four meters wide. The only way past this section of the ship was to cut through the sizable mess hall. Beyond its borders, rest the prized lifts. The troopers increased their pace, refusing to submit to the unknown feeling brewing inside them.

That feeling, however, reached a crescendo, as the doors ahead of the squad began opening far before the automatic sensors would have picked up the approaching Imperials. Time slowed to a crawl. As the doors opened, more and more Republic soldier were revealed with each passing moment.

Twenty meters beyond the rooms threshold, the Republic troopers had entrenched themselves at the opposite end of the mess hall. Fortifications built up to the waist out of furniture, supplemented by mobile energy barriers of the same height provided primary means of cover. The tables and chairs had been brushed to either side, providing a clear line of fire toward the Imperials.

Ten soldiers, clad in pristine armor, knelt behind the barrier, blasters drawn and aimed. Ten more stood behind them, sighting down the group of invaders. To their side, one soldier stood at an angle, resolute, holding an open hand above his head.

Before terror, came realization. The feeling from before was perfectly clear. They had been heading through a tunnel. Silently, the lead soldier’s hand fell. Still in mid-sprint, the Imperials had little hope of altering their path.

Blaster fire rang out, leaving no area of approach unscathed. The Imperials had no choice but to press on. They each attempted to get to cover behind either side of the door, but the narrow hallway didn’t widen for some distance.

Red-orange bolts of energy pelted the approaching troopers and surrounding area. Their black armor flashed when hit, shields absorbing the impact. Sparks flew and smoke emanated as blaster fire stuck the walls to either side of the squad.

Warning after warning flashed across each of the Imperials’ visors, shields reaching critical levels. Aurek dashed for the safe haven left of the door, and Besh attempted the same with the right. Aurek successfully make it to cover. Besh did not.

Two repeated bolts to his left hip were enough to make it past the shield and land a hit on an area unprotected by heavy plates. The injury sent the sniper spiraling to the floor, carried forward by his forward momentum.

Cresh and Forn immediately slid to his side and pulled him to safety, right of the entrance. Grek ducked to the left, taking his position by Aurek’s side. The squad leader eagerly peered across the doorway at Besh, who was being cared for by Cresh.

“Damn it, no wonder this was the only clear path. Can you do anything Dorn?” Aurek sounded off into the comm, as he blindly fired his procured rifle around the corner. The haphazard shots only provoked more retaliation from the numerous Republic soldiers ahead.

“I wish I could, but I am completely locked out of the system,” Dorn hastily admitted.

Aurek let out a heavy groan as the comm fell silent. Forn left Besh in the care of Cresh as he stood to provide shots of his own from his side of the door. Even with the sights synced with his helmet, Forn had trouble fully controlling the carbine while maintaining cover. Shots were returned by the Imperials, but none seemed to successfully hit a target. The Republic formation broke as the previously standing soldiers sought cover of their own.

Besh sat leaning against the wall between Forn and Cresh. A large area between his upper right thigh and abdomen had been scorched. Where the bodysuit had been breached, blackened skin presented itself. Cresh took a tubular vial from his belt and shook it before moving it closer to the sniper’s wound.

As the trooper applied pressure to the ampoule it began to spray a thick mist from one of its ends. The milky liquid covered Besh’s injury and slowly began to congeal. The infusion of kolto would start the process of healing the wound, the mix of stimulants and pain-killers would ensure his ability to made it back to the shuttle, and the sealant would cover the breach of skin and armor. Besh offered a woozy thumbs-up for the assistance.

“Got Besh patched up. The paralysis will take some time to wear off though,” Cresh bellowed over the comm, hoping to overcome the incessant sounds of blaster fire.

“Don’t think we have to worry about going anywhere anytime soon,” Aurek replied with a matching volume, not ceasing his haphazard shooting. At least, not until the weapon decided to stop firing itself. Aurek brought his weapon closer for a quick examination before promptly tossing it to the ground with a curse.

“Who stocks an armory with weapons lacking adequate power cells?”

“How many times did you shoot that door panel?” Forn joked, finding happiness through his stoicism as he continued firing around the corner into the mess hall.

Before Aurek could respond he received a gentle tap on the shoulder from Grek. The squad leader hadn’t even fully turned to face his companion before finding a carbine shoved into his arms. Aurek accepted the weapon with hesitance. Grek confirmed his decision by pointing to the carbine, tapping his helm, then pointing to Aurek’s visor.

The squad leader offered an appreciative nod as he re-synced the blaster to his own armor. Renewed, Aurek resumed firing into the mess hall, this time finding a target. Three defenders fell from the combined assault of Aurek and Forn, causing the Republic soldiers to rescind their all-out fire.

Utilizing their abundance of cover, the defenders kept the invaders at bay with more protective tactics. Monitoring the room through their scopes, the Imperials noticed a new soldier enter from the back door and join his compatriots behind cover.

“At this rate, we may never get through,” Aurek commented.

“They are stalling… they may attempt to sneak a group behind us,” Forn added.

Aurek paused to examine the entirety of the situation. Besh sat against the wall, silently recovering. Cresh crouched beside him, attention divided between triage and battle. Forn stood by the mass hall entrance, watching… waiting. Turning toward Grek, he was greeted with the sight of a soldier subtly nodding and awaiting orders.

Aurek became entrenched with thought, diverting his attention to the straight hall that had led them to the dining area. Scorch marks marred the surfaces of the walls where blaster fire had missed the soldiers. In their wake, a thick layer of smoke permeated the area, generated by the collective bursts of energy impacting against the solid walls. Noticing this brought on a revelation.

“I have a plan,” Aurek calmly admitted to his squad. They in turn ceased all action and become devoted all attention to their squad leader.

“If we’re going to push through his room, we’re going to need some cover. Grek, that means you’re going to have to lay down some suppressing fire.” The trooper nodded, took a step away from the wall, and placed the footlocker from his back onto the ground with a large thud.

“You sending Grek in alone?” Cresh asked.

“Yes. At first,” Aurek admitted. “Grek,” he continued, turning toward the now kneeling trooper, “I need you to configure your shield to reflect rather than absorb. That’ll make them last a little longer and should generate a cloud of cover with enough blasters bouncing into the surrounding area. Take out as many as you can and kick up enough smoke to fill the room. After which, I will signal for the entrance of myself, Cresh, and Forn to enter and begin taking out as many soldiers as possible as you back out and tend to Besh.”

“I’ll cover the rear,” Besh spoke up, having regained his voice. The sluggish sniper had his rifle sandwiched between his right arm and right leg as he sat against the wall. Each Imperial nodded, understanding their role.

“Alright team. Adjust your visors.”

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
03.28.2012 , 04:36 PM | #10
Chapter Nine: The Battle

After undoing the latches of the footlocker before him, Grek was able to retrieve his prize from the molded casing within: a customized two handed heavy repeating blaster. More than a meter from tip to tip, the bulky device weighed more than 40 kilograms. The cylindrical body was supported by two handles: a forward leaning vertical handle containing the firing mechanism at the rear, and an upright looped handle at the weapon’s midpoint for keeping the repeater steady.

Unable to be wielded by any of the other Imperials, the monstrous blaster resembled a black turbine that spewed red death from its single barrel. The end tapered just enough that it didn’t resemble a starship cannon, though it was possible that an armored troop transport somewhere was missing it’s turret.

Grek circumvented his felled footlocker with heavy repeater in tow. He was paused by his commander before entering the mess hall. Sliding slightly away from the doorway, Aurek beckoned Forn to take his former position, and Cresh would stand in the hunter’s previous spot.

With a nod and a deep breath, Forn fired a quick bolt into the dining area before sprinting to the other side of the gap. Republic soldiers stood from their cover, taking steady aim at the fleeing Imperial trooper. Their aim was interrupted as a new target entered the fray.

Time slowed once more as the Imperial juggernaut walked into the mess hall baring his heavy blaster, dominated by emotion just as before. But this time the feelings were not those of unsettling uncertainty, but of duty and pride. The Republic soldiers found themselves stricken with pause at the stunning sight.

Grek managed to saunter in and pull the trigger before the first shots had even been fired. The silence was broken by a sharp click. A soft hum emanated from the repeater as its internal mechanisms warmed up. Just then, the order to fire was boasted by the Republic commanding officer. The troopers in the mess hall complied. All of them.

His left side forward, Grek began sweeping the room with blaster fire. Sharp pins of red energy shot out of the repeater at a rate to ten bolts per second. Caught off guard, Republic soldier began falling one by one. But even as five combatants fell, their compatriots directed ample amounts of blaster fire toward the hulking aggressor.

The soldiers were surprised yet again when they found their own projectiles reflecting off of the invading Imperial. Bolts struck the surrounding area, and even some of their own troops, forcing the Republic soldiers into cover to escape the now combined barrage of blaster fire directed toward them. The defenders resorted to the same blind-firing techniques the Imperials had used against them, exposing the bare minimum from cover, but the single bulky target proved an easy mark.

Grek’s shield reserves and weapon energy levels were slowly depleting, but luckily a thick layer of smoke had begun occupying the space near the Imperials, and even spread to reach behind the Republic soldiers’ cover. Spending his weapon’s last breath, Grek opted to shoot the ground preceding him in a wide arc, tossing more debris and smoke into the air. Looking up from their cover, the defending troopers could no longer see their target, and further blaster fire directed at the spot in which he stood seemed to pass right through into the hallway behind him.

Turning to each other, the soldiers soon found themselves unable to see more than a meter's distance away, their vision inhibited by a thickening white cloud. Adjusting their helms, the Republic troopers began scanning for energy signatures. Green outlines marked each friendly soldier, alleviating some of the stress caused by the invasive cloud of smoke.

Suddenly, a Republic soldier was dropped by a single red blaster bolt implanting itself into the soldier’s helm. His neighbor yelped a warning but was cut off mid-sentence as he was shot in the chest. The remaining Republic troopers began firing toward the sources of blaster fire, but found no evidence of hitting their intended target.

The Imperials’ electronic systems should have been showing up on the defenders’ visors, but no red marks presented themselves. The defenders began to panic as two sources of red blaster bolts rapidly appeared to their left. Focusing of them, their right flank was fired upon by two sources of their own. The two sides fired at each other through the haze, though only the Imperials possessed the knowledge of whether or not their blows actually landed.

Two sources of blaster fire struck against the defender’s left and middle ranks. A single source now handled the right flank. Unable to foresee a chance of winning this battle, the Republic commander turned and made his way for the back exit, only to find the door had somehow shut behind them.

Turning back towards the unseen scene of carnage, the commander could have sworn he heard a soft whisper. In truth, it was the slight hum of an activated vibroblade sweeping itself across his neck. Crumbling, the commander fell to the presence of a pair of stark black boots that stood before him.

Silence fell on the mist of battle. Behind the various assemblage of stacked furniture and soft glow of the impromptu energy barriers, over twenty soldiers lay felled. Aurek signaled the all clear and beckoned Grek and Besh to enter the area.

Even through the electronic red-shift of their visors, the smoke still proved an impermeable barrier to the senses, but heavy artificial outlines marked each trooper on their heads-up-displays. Having placed his weapon back in its case, and the case upon his back, Grek used his arms to support the recovering Besh.

“Squad, check in,” Aurek calmly ordered across the white haze.

“Status is normal… Aurek,” Forn announced near the back exit.

“I’m fine over here,” Cresh admitted as he hopped the waist high barrier towards Forn. Two quick clicks from Grek’s comm signaled everything was okay on his end.

“Yeah, yeah,” Besh woozily offered as his response. With everyone checked in, the squad made its way toward the mess hall exit. As they moved through a gap in the Republic soldier’s established cover, Grek accidentally walked Besh into some of the furniture, provoking a low groan from the sniper.

Grek offered an apologetic wave of his free hand towards the injured trooper but was unsure if it was received past the fog and growing ire clogging the soldier’s vision. With the squad regrouped near the back exit, the troopers could continue their journey back towards the shuttle.

“Dorn. It’s Aurek. Are you still locked out of the system? Can you at least confirm that the lift ahead is still functioning?” Aurek asked over the comm.

“Still locked out,” Dorn answered, “but monitoring is still up. From what I can see the lift is still operating. If it stops working however, don’t count on me being able to remedy the situation.”

“Ugh. Why couldn’t there just be a simple set of stairs to use,” Aurek lamented.

“Oh. Right. Stairs… Didn’t even think of stairs,” Dorn stated with a tone of epiphany. A long sorrowful pause struck each of the troopers.

“Kidding,” Dorn confessed, much to the half-delight of the squad.

“He’s certainly been spending too much time with Esk,” Aurek softly remarked. “Alright squad, let’s move out.” Ceasing communications, Aurek waved his squad forward.

With a brush of the neighboring control panel, the single door opened revealing the smoke-less hallway leading to the lift. First to step out of the room was Aurek, meaning he was also the recipient of having two blasters directed toward his face.

Two Republic troopers, fully suited in armor, stood to the left of the door, in the hallway running along exterior of the mess hall’s back wall. Aurek stood alone, his allies not interfering, with his arms firmly by his side, carbine held loosely in his right hand. The minute tremors in the Republic soldiers’ hands, as their weapons shook ever so slightly, betrayed their feelings.

The closest white-clad trooper ordered the invader, albeit in a rather irresolute manner, to drop his weapon. Aurek complied. A hint of surprise could be gathered from the faux-authoritative officer’s body movements. There was a hesitation as the defender thought of what course of action he could possible take. The Imperial troopers had just passed through a room occupied by over twenty aptly suited and armed Republic soldiers. What hope did he have in halting these mobile bastions of the Empire.

Thoughts raced, forestalling judgment as they competed for attention. Self-preservation and common sense had begun to chip away at the weakening foundation of patriotism and duty. All this and the Imperial had not even turned his head or raised a hand. Yet.

The Republic trooper attempted to issue a second order, but was interrupted by the hostile introduction of an armored gauntlet into his face. The blow caused the soldier to tumble to the ground, his helmet knocked loose, and his blaster flung from his hands. The accompanying white trooper could do nothing but look on in frightful awe as his ally lay unconscious on the floor.

His eyes locked with the cold, featureless visage of the invader. About to raise his weapon, the trooper discovered the same hand that felled his ally was now gripping the rifle’s barrel, impeding its motion. The Imperial stood unwavering as the blaster pointed directly at his chest.

“Take it from someone who’s attended his own funeral, you’re no use to your Republic dead,” Aurek stated. The tranquil words sprang from the invader’s helmet before they promptly gripped the Republic soldier’s ears and refused to let go. The defender croaked an inaudible reply, but it went unheeded by the dark soldier.

“Let go. Of your blaster. Of your feelings. Of your feeble notions of obligation. And let me and my squad pass.”

The chilling words cut deep into the wavering trooper, loosening his hand’s grip ad forcing him to drop to his knees.

“Tend to your wounded,” Aurek softly advised as he retrieved his weapon and waved for his companions to follow.

The defeated soldier sat on his knees, hands to his side and head hung in utter defeat, as the five Imperials passed him without a second glance.