Era of Rebellion - Navigation

D. Wade Hyde and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:8:31) in the Essesia system: Esseles, Sprite, and Warspite.
Captain Tiberius Anson, El-Nay Darr, Lieutenant Hawkins (death), Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca, Tycho Starlight, and Flight Captain Reek Trolg.

The Lambda-class T-4a shuttle Sprite emerged from hyperspace in the Essesia system after department Brentaal IV with cargo, two Stormtroopers, and a pair of mercenaries. At the controls was Lieutenant Hawkins, a young officer from Talus, who had been assigned to what the local Imperials had called 'milk runs' ... shuttle missions that ran between the bustling planet of Brentaal IV in the Bormea sector and Esseles in the neighboring Darpa sector, the capital of the Imperial Oversector that contained them both. Pilots like Hawkins had been doing this route for months without incident, and they had begun to take a lackadaisical approach to the assignment. As he looked at the viewport at the large Imperial naval force and the omnipresent TIE fighter patrols he transmitted the clearance code to the star destroyer Warspite, the command ship. "This is the shuttle Sprite. Priority cargo bound for Esseles," he announced, in a proper voice, before leaning back in the seat and letting the autopilot handle the rest.

During the few hours of flight, both Tycho and El-Nay had kept their helmets on. If it had been a much longer flight, well, he wouldn't have bothered; the troopers weren't going to live long anyway. As it was, there was little talking, what with the helmeted stormtroopers being disciplined, elite men. They were taught to remain attentive and serious about their job at all times. And, naturally, there was the whole Imperial rule about keeping helmets on at all times during duty. Tycho and El-Nay had exchanged a bit of conversation, and he'd even said a touch to the troopers, but they weren't conversationalists. He'd ended up playing a dinky little video game on his gauntlet computer, but quickly closed it out when they dropped out of hyperspace. He walked up to the cockpit to glance at the instruments over the pilot's shoulder. "Everything copasetic, Lieutenant? We're on a deadline."

A flight of four TIE/LN starfighters came alongside the Sprite, and formed a standard escort formation as the small craft moved towards the larger command ships. "I have *never* fallen behind schedule..." Lieutenant Hawkins responded towards the rear cargo compartment, as his hands moved to toggle a switch on the overhead control panel. "...mercenary scum," he muttered underneath his breath, at a volume he expected would not be heard by those behind them. As the shuttle passed the star destroyer and picket ships, it began its descent towards the planet Esseles, and he disabled the autopilot to begin a manual landing.

Tycho wasn't sure what the pilot had said, though he'd heard the muttering and felt a twinge of disdain. He leaned in closer and said, "I'd choose your words more carefully. I'm above your pay grade. You don't even know what you're transporting." Before any reply could be made, a voice came over the comm. "Warspite to shuttle Sprite," the voice said, very proper. "Your shuttle is being diverted to this ship. Follow the TIE fighter escort and do not divert from the coordinates sent." Tycho had a bad feeling about this. The TIE fighters weren't there as escorts to the planet. They were there to make sure that this shuttle didn't pull anything. He'd known there was a chance the travel documents wouldn't hold up for long. Either way, they wouldn't be stopping. He reached out and snapped the man's neck with a quick twist, then stepped out of the cockpit, nodded at El-Nay. His blaster pistol came up and he fired two shots into the chest of one of the shocked stormtroopers, while the other one got his rifle up and ready to fire before Tycho could adjust aim.

El-Nay Darr quickly lowered the targeting scanner from atop her helmet so that it would cover her right eye, and she instantly locked onto the remaining Stormtrooper. She raised her DT-57 heavy blaster pistol and fired off a quick blast, unleashing a deadly bolt of crimson energy that impacted the Stormtrooper with such ferocity that it knocked him off his feet before he fell to the ground dead. "Well that didn't work," she said, shaking her painted orange dome at Tycho, before moving towards the cockpit. "I really don't want to spend my life on Kessel mining spice," she said, before grabbing hold of the dead pilot's body, and throwing him to the ground below. "Got any more tricks?" she asked him, as she took over the pilot's seat, and strapped herself in. She had never piloted an Imperial shuttle before, but how hard could it be? It was just a larger, slower, less maneuverable version of what she was used to.

"Yeah, I do," he said. "The trick's called running the blockade. You're in my seat. This thing ain't a starfighter, honey." He paused, waiting for her to unstrap and get in the copilot's chair. "We've gotta take out at least a few of those fighters with these shitty weapons. They're too maneuverable and fast to lose them.

"Are you saying I can't fly because I'm a woman? Or because I'm too young?" El-Nay said angrily, as she rolled her eyes beneath the helmet at him. "I've got this, Tycho!" she assured him, as her hand began to toggle the switches that would give her direct control over the vessel. She was not about to move and let some old man fly, after all ... she had learned on Corellia, where the best pilots in the galaxy came from. It was only then that the viewport began to illuminate as laser blasts began to impact the shielding, causing the shuttle to began to violently shake. "They mean business!" she said to Tycho, as she gripped the controls, and did her best to perform an evasive maneuver, but the shuttle had all of the maneuverability of a bantha, and despite her best efforts the shuttle continued to be struck.

In the cockpit of his fighter, Flight Captain Reek Trolg of the 471st Fighter Wing locked the shuttle into his targeting computer and began firing repeatedly at the ship. "Too easy," he muttered over the comm to his three wingmen, before toggling over the shuttle's frequency. "Stand down and prepare to be boarded," he ordered over the comm before squeezing down on the trigger once again and unleashing two additional green laser bolts at the ship. "...or we will destroy you!" he warned, momentarily refraining from firing to give them a chance to respond.

"I don't give a damn if you're a woman or a Hutt," Tycho said, annoyed. "I'm trying to keep us alive ... this thing moves like a garbage scow? Think you can handle something so..." He stopped as the first shots rocked the ship. He jumped up into the cockpit and strapped himself into the copilot's seat. He began to flip switches and push buttons. "Shields at full, weapons systems armed. Hit the brakes, fast ... I'm gonna cram some blaster bolts up their asses." The TIE fighters were fast and maneuverable, but they would shoot right past the shuttle and if he timed it right, he could take out one or two. "If I can get a couple, make for the planet top speed. I'll angle our deflector shields behind us then." The bounty hunter waited for his moment, a serious look on his face. And the moment they dropped speed and the TIEs flew past, he opened fire with the small, underside turret that aimed in only a 45 degree frontward angle. He moved the stick as he aimed, spraying green bolts across the empty space. One ship was caught in the wing and began to spin out of control, striking another. They both went up in a wicked explosion. The other two broke away, screaming through space, and there was no way he'd get another shot. "Punch it!" He began angling the shields as quickly as he could.

While two of the fresh pilots that had been newly assigned to the 471st Fighter Wing had been obliterated, Captain Trolg managed to juke his stick quickly enough to avoid any damage other than a debris strike on his port strut. "They'll pay for that," he muttered under his helmet, as he accelerated his TIE/LN to its maximum speed, causing the twin ion engines to emit their distinctive roar. "Trolg to Warspite. We've got a live one," he reported in over the comm, before grouping with his one surviving wingman, and prepared to come around for another pass.

On the bridge of the Star Destroyer Warspite the officers erupted in gasps as the explosions could be seen out of the massive viewport. The captain, Tiberius Anson, stormed quickly across the walkway towards the crewpit that contained his tactical officer, his uncharacteristic calm demeanor, momentarily dropped as he barked orders at the crew. "Report!" he yelled, as his eyes moved from the explosions out the viewport down to the officers below.

The blue-skinned Chiss tactical officer Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca was perhaps the only member of the Warspite's crew who was unfazed by the developments that were unfolding. "Sir. A shuttle inbound from Brentaal IV was intercepted by an element of four-seven-one-slash-one. Two of our craft have been destroyed. Two remain in pursuit," she said, her cold voice unmoved by the loss, her voice sounding decidedly exotic, before her red eyes rolled back down to her scanners to watch the activity unfold.

"Alive. I want them alive," Captain Anson scolded Meham'ohorovi'cloca, with a wag of his gloved finger, before storming forward down the walkway to get a better direct view through the expansive port. His gloved hands curled into a fist, as he always hated to lose pilots, as each time they lost a skilled pilot it weakened their efforts to contain the system. The Empire could easily replace a cheaply produced TIE fighter, but it could not help to replace the skill and experience when a pilot was lost.

"Hang on, Tycho," El-Nay said, as she moved her hand forward on the throttle, accelerating the shuttle to its top speed ... which was not much. Beneath her helmet she bit down firmly, grinding her teeth, as she sent the shuttle plummeting into the atmosphere at an unsafe speed. Heat flares began to build up on the shields, as the craft buffeted against the atmosphere, bouncing around violently the further they descended. It was then that a series of laser blasts began to impact them from behind, causing the Sprite to react violently, until finally the right lower wing had been blasted off. "I can't ... hold it..." she warned Tycho as the shuttle began to spin violently on its left axis, ultimately spiralling down to the surface of the planet on a 360 degree rotation. The G-forces were incredible, and eventually the young Mandalorian found herself losing consciousness, just as the remains of the craft violently slammed into the surface. Although she was strapped in, she was still sent briefly flying forward onto the display, becoming a bloody mess beneath the armor, and was ultimately suspended in the harness upside down, as the craft had come to a stop on its dorsal hull.

"Son of a..." There was a loud *wham* that drowned out his voice and made the shuttle shake. He flicked a switch and bolstered the shields, returning them to a 360 degree full coverage. Then, he activated his piloting stick and began to help her pull up. Between the two of them, they got the nose a little higher and slowed their spin. They might have gotten it under a little bit more control if they weren't rocketing to the ground so quickly. The world became a mass of confusion and pain as they hit the slope, bounced slightly, then ran down the slope until they hit the valley floor, spinning and bumping the whole way. When they finally came to a halt, Tycho was sagging against his harness, barely conscious. "Ungh ... El-El-Nay...?" He reached out for her, grabbing a metal plated shoulder. "Are you okay...? We ... have to go."

"Woo! That got 'em!" Capain Trolg cheered underneath his black helmet, as he followed the shuttle's maddening spin until it impacted onto the surface of Esseles. As he overflew the crash site he spun his TIE in a victory roll, feeling justified in his actions as it avenged the two pilots that had been killed in the pursuit. "Trolg to Warspite. Enemy down. No way anyone could have survived that," he said, proudly, as he smiled from beneath his helmet, and began the ascent back up into space.

On the bridge of the Warspite, Meham'ohorovi'cloca blinked silently as the news was relayed from the flight leader. "Captain, four-seven-one-slash-one five reports the shuttle has been destroyed with all hands lost," she informed her Corellian superior, as if she were reading the local weather report. With the threat eliminated she began the process of standing the vessel down from alert. Never one to miss a beat, her priority next shifted to filing the official report on the incident and updating the ship's log.

"Blast!" Captain Anson yelled, taking his gloved hand and slamming it against the transparisteel viewport. "Inform the garrison to send a detachment of Stormtroopers to survey the crash. Recover the remains. Any cargo," he ordered, before folding his hands behind his back, and moving down the walkway to retire to his cabin. There was no excitement in blockade duty ... save for one some fool erroneously attempted to run the blockade.

El-Nay was silent from beneath her helmet, she had not yet regained consciousness, and as she hung upside down in the harness the blood continued to rush to her head. She was badly bruised from the impact, and had developed a gash on her head that was bleeding into her helmet. Maybe Tycho should have flown after all, it had seemed, as she helplessly lay there waiting for a rescue.

While Tycho may have done better, that was far from a certainty. The girl was a good pilot and they were lucky to be alive. That was the last thing on Tycho's mind, for he was content to blame her anyway. Grunting and grumbling, he unfastened his harness and landed on his shoulders. He righted himself and groaned as he went about freeing her from her harness. When he got her down, she fell on him and he caught her, though it hurt. "Nnngh ... you got a fat ass, girl," he complained, though it had nothing to do with the tiny, petite young lady. It was all the damn armor. He struggled to his feet and half carried, half dragged her out of the cockpit. It was a laborious process, but soon he'd gotten them out through the hatch in the cargo hold. He heaved her up over his shoulder and carried her as far into the woods as he could, before dumping her on the ground. Off came both helmets and he checked her wound. It wasn't terrible, but it was pretty nasty, and she'd most likely have a concussion. He patted her cheek, checked under her eyelid, and decided the medkit would be a fantastic idea. He was gone long enough to fetch the medkit and the items that they had dropped in the crash. He hurried back to her and knelt beside her. After going through the medkit, he put a strip of mesh over the wound, then injected her with a stimpack. That was about the extent of his medical expertise, so hopefully that would do the trick. "El-Nay ... El-Nay, speak to me."

When the stims entered her system, her eyes opened immediately, as if in a sudden rush, which was met with a sharp inhale of air. Her hands immediately moved for the flight controls, but they were not there, and she panicked. She had forgotten everything from the moment of the blast, and it took her several moments to realize they were on the ground. "Tycho?" she asked, as she looked up at him, reaching up for his cheek with one of her gloved hands. It was only then that the pain hit her, and the sting from the cut in her head. "Ugh," she groaned, as she brought her left hand up to examine it, but sensing the mesh, she kept herself from fooling with it too much. "How ... how bad?" she asked, before coughing several times, which produced a small amount of blood that she brought up. "...pretty bad I guess," she said weakly, before allowing herself to close her eyes, trying to find some composure.

"Pretty..." he started, until she coughed up a little blood. "Okay, worse than I thought. You're gonna need a doctor. You've got a bad cut and some internal damage. You have to stay awake, though, cuz you've got a concussion. I'd bet my ass on it." He helped her up to sit against a tree. "They'll send a few troopers out to check on the crash site. Standard procedure. If they've got a speeder or something with them, we'll go ahead and take them out so we can use their speeder to move the goods. Can you get around at all?"

"Of course I can get around," El-Nay said, as she attempted to get up from the tree, but the pounding sensation in her head caused her to have blurry vision and lose balance. She wobbled, nearly falling back to the ground, but she caught herself, and put a hand out to press against the tree, propping herself up. "Just give me a minute. Just give me a few minutes," she said, as she reached down to grab up her helmet. If there was going to be a firefight she was going to need it, and she quickly placed it back upon her head. "This isn't worth two thousand," she again repeated to the man, in frustration as to the ordeal she had been put through. "We really need to look at that cargo. It might be a worth a whole lot more than what they're paying us," she suggested to him, before she heard a noise in the distance and prepared herself.

An Imperial Troop Transport was nearing the crash site. The slow, lumbering vessel had been dispatched from the nearby garrison to survey the site, and identify whom the passengers were, and what they were carrying. As it approached it mowed over tree, crushing them below the powerful repulsorengines, until coming to a stop near the crash. The door to the transport opened and an Imperial lieutenant flanked by four Stormtroopers quickly exited, hurrying towards the crash, to search for remains and cargo.

Tycho was prepared to catch her, thinking that she wouldn't be able to maintain her footing, but she managed it. He put on his helmet as well, then said, "All right, listen," he said. "If you're too fuzzy to get in a good shot, at least just keep shooting and lay down suppressive fire. We'll see if these Imperials have any fight in them." He left her behind the tree and darted off into the forest to find himself his own big tree for cover. For a big man in heavy armor, he could be pretty stealthy when he wanted to be. It came from his assassin training. He unslung his long blaster rifle and sighted down the barrel. After a few moments to line up the shot, he opened fire; a red bolt lanced out and struck one of the stormtroopers in the back, throwing him to the ground. He fired off another few, and though they all got to cover, he blasted another of the troopers in the arm, nearly blowing it off. He knew that the man was out of the fight and would likely bleed out.

El-Nay's hand moved to her helmet once more, bringing down the targeting scanner over her eye, and revealing three remaining targets. "You gotta go for the officer first, Tycho! Even I know that," she said, as she reached down to grab her thermal detonator ... only it was not there because Tycho had seized it from her. "Damn it," she muttered beneath her helmet, as she locked in on the Imperial lieutenant. Her scanner had a good lock, but her vision was still blurry, and instead of one good lock she saw two bad ones, and quickly fired twice, shooting at each one, which resulted in two blaster bots impacting on either side of the lieutenant. Frustrated, she aimed in the middle, and squeezed off a third shot in the middle, which nearly obliterated the lieutenant's face. But all of her chatter and firing had given away her position, and the two remaining troopers unleashed a heavy wave of fire upon her location that soon engulfed her tree.

"Not exac-" he trailed off as the fire rained down and he saw that she was pinned down and in danger of being hit. He leaned around the tree and started laying down cover fire, causing the stormtroopers to duck down behind cover again. "Find better cover," he called to her. "I'm gonna go around and flank them." Without waiting for a response or sign of obedience, he hurried along, skirting through the trees quietly. He wasn't without noise, but it was unlikely the troopers would spot or hear him with all that was going on.

El-Nay blind fired in the direction of the Stormtroopers, doing her best to distract them, giving Tycho the time he would need to flank them. She moved in the darkness, but it did not afford her much cover, as the orange paint would be quite visible even in a void. How can they see me? She wondered silently to herself, unaware of the tactical disadvantage she was at, before diving behind a boulder. Her eyes went wide as she saw a frag grenade land in front of her, and she screamed in terror, bringing both of her hands up in front of her face in defense. An instant later it detonated, raining her down with soil and rocks, but for the most part leaving her unscathed. "Whatever you're going to do ... do it," she muttered over the comm to Tycho ... her patience with this mission had run out.

He saw the frag grenade fly through the air and heard her scream. His eyes widened, but before he could do more than blink, the explosion went off. He didn't hear her next words, for he thought she was dead. With a roar, he dropped his rifle and leaped through the air as the Force filled him through his rage. His vibrosword came out in mid leap and, after clearing a good 10 meters, he slashed out and took off the head of one trooper cleanly. The other looked up at him, stunned but what he'd just seen. By the time he brought up his rifle, Tycho was there, and he cut it cleanly in half. Then, the stormtrooper had his guts carved open and dropped to the ground, trying to hold them in as he died. He saw the stormtrooper he'd wounded, sitting back against the side of the broken shuttle and trying futilely to stem his bleeding. He had taken his helmet off, and Tycho saw a young, sandy haired man with pallid features from the blood loss. "No... please," the man said. It didn't stop Tycho from jamming the sword through his forehead.

El-Nay slowly arrived on the scene, her armor covered in soil, and her patience completely eroded. "Tycho. I've been shot down. Shot at it. Nearly blown up..." she said, as she holstered her heavy blaster pistol, and moved in the direction of that shuttle. "I'm going to check that cargo. If I'm going to keep risking my neck, then I want to know *why*!" she told him, angrily, as her hands moved to pull the helmet quickly from her head. As she reached the shuttle there were still two large, very much intact, magnetically sealed crates.

When he saw her emerge from hiding he was both relieved and terrified. That was an unusual feeling for him, but he thought she had just seen him use the Force. Even if she didn't recognize it for what she was (for he certainly hadn't known anything about the Force at first) she would still know he could do things other people couldn't. It could still get out. How could he have been so stupid? But, alas, he had no cause for concern. Judging by her reaction, he could tell that she had not scene. The vehicles must have blocked her line of sight. He scowled behind his visor and walked over to intercept her. He caught her arm and pulled her away from the crates. "*Don't* touch the merchandise! We *never* open the merchandise. Ever. These are the dangers of the job, that doesn't mean we get to know what we're carrying. Now come on, help me get it moved onto the transport. Be quick about it." He moved around to start pushing a heavy crate from the back of the crashed shuttle. He'd definitely need some help. Whatever it was, it was heavy.

El-Nay huffed when Tycho grabbed her, planting her feet into the soil in an attempt to brace herself. "Man. Screw you..." she muttered, as she moved to help get the crates moved. With some effort they managed to get both of the crates loaded into the Imperial Troop Transport, and she worked her way into the cockpit, but this time decided to take a seat in the back with the cargo, rather than in the pilot. "You had better drive this thing," she explained to him, putting her helmet down on the crate next to her. This was one of the times when she could really benefited from a cigarra, but the old man had his rules. The first thing she was getting when she got her share ... literally the first thing ... would be a pack of cigarras.

Once everything was settled in place and he'd climbed into the pilot's seat, he took off his helmet and looked at her. "Any time you'd like," he said. When she looked at him quizzically, he chuckled. "You said 'screw you'. Anytime." With a crooked grin, he started up the transport and took off.

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