Rhiannon T'Jarell stared at the computer
screen, momentarily tapping away at the keyboard adjacent to the main
console. The terms that came up were familiar and then not; the Hapan
had not traveled to any of the worlds that were mentioned and yet she
knew *of* them: Corulag, Chandrila, Brentaal, Esseles, Rhinnal and
Ralltiir. All of them worlds close to the Ringali Nebula ... a nebula that
curled around the Perlemian Trade Route at its intersection with the
Hydian Way. Her new mission since being posted to Grand Moff Rodney's
And the Rebel Alliance was near.
She could smell it. Rhia needed no
verification of such things ... not yet ... it was enough that her gut
was speaking volumes. A sudden wave of nausea overcame her, and she felt
it was time for her to take a break ... at least until Claudius
contacted her. Well, His Excellency was taking his sweet time. Good.
Rhia would take some time to 'relax' with her crew. Pushing away from
her desk, the Hapan stood tall, then tapped a key to secure computer
access before walking towards the ready room door and stepping through
it the moment it fell away, granting her passage.
"Captain on the bridge!" an alarmed voice
Rhiannon ignored it and walked down the
catwalk to the nearest turbolift. There was no need to alarm her crew
just yet ... even though they had no idea what they were walking into.
The Hapan felt it was best this way ... seasoned warriors, being tossed
into the ocean of improvisation ... it would make them think on their
toes, rendering them vastly superior to textbook-reared troops. Pressing
a button, she activated the door which immediately granted her access.
It would take moments to descend to the hangar-bay deck, from which she
would proceed to the training bay.
Walking in, she saw three people already
within, her first officer among them. A small, sly grin curled her lips
as she approached the small group and the moment they saw her, they
paused in their tracks and stood upright, as if awaiting orders. Rhia
liked this. The discipline among her crew was second to none. So was
their penchant for ... fun.
"Today we will learn to attack a man's most
vulnerable areas. Do you know what those are?" she asked, causing
everyone to freeze and think for a moment.
What am I doing? I should be on the bridge, waiting for the Grand
Ducan, Ander and Ariella exchanged
uncertain glances. Poor ensigns. They were about to get a lesson of
their lives. Or ... maybe they would surprise her.
"The heart?" suggested Ander.
"The heart is vulnerable if you pierce it
with a weapon," agreed Rhiannon, breaking away from her former train of
thought. "But I mean places you can attack without a weapon, which can
effectively disable a man."
"The eyes," said Ducan.
"Right." Rhia proceeded to demonstrate on
Tristan, who had remained silent and near-invisible up to this point.
"Grab your opponent's head, like so, and sink your thumbs deep into his
eyes until he screams. While he is blind, smash your forehead into his
nose, breaking it, then immediately raise your knee and crush his balls,
sending him to the ground. The trick is to inflict each injury in rapid
succession, before he has a chance to recover. Once he is down, kick him
as hard as you can in either of the ribs. The head is better. Then take
his weapon and slit his throat or stab his chest, being sure to kill
him, not just wound him. Any questions?"
She raised her eyes to find the ensigns
staring at her in mute horror.
"What's the matter?"
"It's so ... so violent," stammered Ander.
"That's why it's called fighting."
"But surely one needn't resort to such
brutality," protested Ducan. "There are other ways of dealing with an
"You could simply ask him to go away,"
Rhiannon drawled aridly. "I have never found that to be particularly
Ander shook his head. "You can't possibly
expect Imperial officers to use such crude methods. Sir!" he added with
emphasis, remembering his place.
"It is because you are Imperial officers
that I am suggesting these methods," Rhiannon asserted. "You must be
able to improvise, at a moment's notice ... using tactics that require
either strength or dexterity or wits ... even kindness, depending on the
circumstances. In this case, you are applying a technique that can
easily allow you to gouge eyes, bite flesh, knee balls, and pull hair.
These are the things that will distract your opponent, giving you the
advantage. Now, you two start fighting each other," she ordered,
indicating Ander and Ducan. "Try not to actually kill each other.
Ariella, you will fight Tristan."
Ander and Ducan looked at Ariella, their
faces taut with apprehension. Ariella was the smallest of them all,
barely five feet tall and ninety pounds. It was as if asking a fruit fly
to fight a krayt dragon ... it would not do. Rhiannon merely shrugged,
expecting as much from those brought up in an inferior culture. "Very
well," she said, waving the Korun female away. Rhia would take her
place, straightening her shoulders and walking toward Tristan. "Let us
In the training that followed, Rhiannon was
dropped on her backside more times than she cared to count. Although
Tristan never seriously hurt her, he treated her with the same casual
roughness one would use when wrestling with a boy of thirteen years.
Fortunately, her small breasts were firmly bound against her chest, so
the odd time she found herself pinned against him, Tristan did not seem to
notice any undue softness. They were not supposed to actually hurt each
other, but Rhia's movements were spontaneous and lacking in control,
causing her twice to strike Tristan far harder than she intended. He
assured her he was fine, but she adjusted her attacks after that, trying
to hit him gently. Ducan and Ander seemed to have the same problem, as
they were constantly stopping and apologizing to each other while they
rubbed a bruised knee or rib.
"For Emperor's sake, how do you intend to
learn to fight if you stop every time you inflict one little bruise?"
growled Rhia impatiently.
"I hit him harder than I should have,"
explained Ander, casting Ducan an apologetic glance. "I'm sorry."
"Tell him you're bloody sorry afterward,
but get on with it! And you," she continued, scowling at Tristan, "I've
seen children of four summers fight with more conviction. Hit me like
your life depends on it."
"I don't want to hurt you ... sir," objected
"You won't hurt me," Rhia assured him
cheerfully. "Go ahead. Give me your worst."
"Do it!" commanded the Hapan. "Or I'll
fight you till you pass out beneath my feet. And I vow I won't be nearly
as easy on you as you have been on me."
Tristan gave her a withering look.
"Imagine I've come to attack your home,"
Rhia instructed harshly. "I've already butchered two of your children.
Now I'm about to cut you in half with a vibroblade. After you're dead, I
will ransack your home, brutalize your wife and set everything afire.
You have no weapon. What are you going-"
Rage was surging through Tristan long before
Rhia finished. Overwhelmed with rage, he flew at his superior officer.
He waved his vibrodagger before her, but Rhia already knew how to deal
with the weapon. She tore off the silk scarf at her neck and hurled it
at Tristan's eyes, twirling away from the weapon's intended arc at the
same time. He blinked and shook his head, his weapon lowered, and Rhia
rammed her knee into his groin. Tristan gasped in pain and dropped to his
knees. Panting, the Hapan turned to look at the others.
"Here endeth the lesson," said Rhiannon,
pursing her lips to mask her surprise. She expected Tristan to perform
better, to anticipate the hits, to foil her every move-
Tristan groaned. "I think that's enough
training for today ... sir," he suggested, his voice strained. "You can
run me through my paces again tomorrow - provided we live through
Rhia felt the corners of her mouth twitch.
"If I did not know better, I'd say poor Tristan has discovered I am a more
formidable adversary than my size or gender indicates." Before
tried to limp away, she went to her first officer and offered her hand.
"I am truly sorry," Rhia apologized. "I did not mean to hurt you."
"That's quite all right, sir," he said,
rising to his feet and offering a weak salute. "It was worth it."
Rhiannon frowned. "Why is that, then?"
"That is the closest I've seen you smile in
over three years," Tristan replied, looking almost jubilant. "And for
that, I'd gladly let you knock me down again."
As Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca descended
the shuttle ramp and emerged in the hangar of the Victory I-class
Star Destroyer Tenacity, she was unsure if this temporary
assignment was a demotion or an opportunity. When she first read Captain
T'Jarell's strategy concerning the Rebel forces hidden within the nebula
she balked, and had done her utmost to convince the Grand Moff of its
folly. However, the Governor had turned the tables on her, and sold her
on the plan, but she never thought she would find herself caught up in
it. In her hand she held encoded orders that she was to personally
deliver to the Captain, as well as her own temporary transfer orders.
After speaking with the deck officer, she
was advised that the Captain was in the training bay, and therefore
rather than head to the bridge, she proceeded to that location. Unusual,
she thought to herself, but merely filed it away in the back of her
brain. In the privacy of the lift, she took a moment to make final
adjustments to her olive-grey Imperial Navy uniform, which she wore
complete with gloves and hat.
As the lift doors opened on the training
level, out stepped a remarkable sight in the Imperial war machine: a
non-Human. Her blue skin and red eyes stood out among the pale humans
that surrounded her, and she could feel their eyes lingering on her
uneasily. Had she not reviewed her personnel file in preparation for the
assignment she would have never expected that she were the Captain. She
watched the surroundings intently, having never seen anything like it
aboard the vessels she had served. She cleared her throat, and took
several steps forward towards Captain T'Jarell. "Lieutenant
Meham'ohorovi'cloca of the Warspite reporting with orders, Captain," she
said in a cold and decidedly foreign voice that could be unsettling to
those who had been predominantly used to those who natively spoke Basic.
Tristan's stare traced the outline of Rhia
"Speaking of, you still owe me that fruit and a glass of wine to go with
it, ma'am. Perhaps we should see to that rather soon? Like, today. Now,
maybe?" just as he'd finished however some female came in spouting about
her orders. His angular features contorted into a sour grin of sorts as
his eyes laid upon the Lieutenant. His right hand ruffled through his
dark blonde hair before turning to the Captain. Cursing underneath his
breath at the interruption that stood between them and partially because
he had never attempted anything of this sort in their three year history
... perhaps it was just a bit too late. Joining Rhia at her side he
leaned close to her neck and whispered succinctly "Delay that for just a
few moments, will you, ma'am?" Tristan's attention once again turning to
the newly boarded officer waiting for Rhia to address the female.
"Lieutenant Mohorovic? I don't believe I've
had the pleasure," Rhiannon turned away from Tristan and focused her dark
gaze entirely upon the cobalt-skinned female. "I am Captain T'Jarell.
What does His Excellency ... command?"
The Chiss Lieutenant found it a struggle to
cope with the youth of the Captain who stood before her, and the fact
that she was nearly a decade younger than her caused her to feel
insecure about her own position. Would she be a Captain if she were a
human, she wondered silently to herself, before extending a gloved hand
that contained encrypted data. "Captain, your orders will take us to the
Ralltiir system. As I'm sure you're aware the planet has fallen into
open revolt and we have increased our ground offensive. We are of the
opinion that the Rebellion will attempt to reinforce and resupply their
tenuous position making this the ideal system for which to find Rebel
craft within range of your ... experiment," she concluded, with a firm nod
of her head, struggling somewhat with the last word. "As tactical
officer of the command ship, I have temporarily been assigned to your
staff in an advisory capacity and liaison to the Grand Moff. I am happy
to be of whatever assistance you require," she explained, somewhat
uncomfortable with the position, but nevertheless committed to whatever
duty was placed in front of her.
"I am unaware of any open revolt, only that
the nebula may be home to some rebel insurgents," Rhia replied, her face
remaining a mask of cool civility in front of the Chiss minion. "I am
fairly sure that the Rebels will do whatever it takes to undermine the
Imperial offensive. They have probably already ran through dozens of
possible attack plans from our side - and formulated adequate defense
strategies. This is of no ... consequence," Rhia added softly. "We will do
as we must, of course. And this is no experiment. It is the only viable
way to snuff out whatever vermin is hiding within. As your cowardice of
the past has dictated, no good has come from it. So we will have to do
things the hard way from this point on." Walking away from Tristan without
a blink, the Hapan gestured toward the exit door. "Let us proceed to the
bridge then, Lieutenant. I am assuming that you have an open link to the
Governor as required; therefore, we are ready to proceed without his
command as you are here: a clear symbol of his power ... and his will."
Meham'ohorovi'cloca tensed at the word
'cowardice', but voiced no challenge to the Captain's claims. She was a
by the book officer and would follow every regulation, regardless of
what her personal views on the subject may be. "Of course, Captain," she
said obediently, as she moved towards the exit and the waiting
turbolift. As she did, she considered the strangeness of this young
Captain and wondered if perhaps it took the unorthodox to advance in
this navy. Still, she was never one to look for awards or promotions,
and she merely remained in the background, silent, awaiting whatever use
she might be.
Tristan took no offense to Rhia's absence of
a response and instead chose to follow at her side as they proceeded
towards the bridge. "If I may, ma'am, I'd suggest that perhaps instead
of simply 'mining' them out so to speak we send a squadron of our TIE
fighter's as a pseudo-scout and if it comes about to be some
overwhelming insurgent force at that point we could easily send forth
the mines destroying everything in the sector. Naturally this would
include our own forces but I believe it would be an acceptable loss
however, I realize fully that the original plan does not sacrifice our
own. At the same time if we are wrong and there is simply nothing but a
scout party then we mine the sector giving away our presence entirely
when we could have simply neutralized the scout without them even giving
off a warning signal. Otherwise our only other option that I foresee is
to go in with turbolasers and ion cannons blazing, we'll likely sustain
losses if heavy resistance is met. The decision is, of course, yours
ma'am." hoping he'd made at least some sort of formidable sense to his
Captain and crew he breathed a soft sigh in an attempt to relax.
"The decision is the same as it always
was," Rhiannon smiled at her first officer, betraying nothing. If there
was a hint of fear or uncertainty in her heart, the Hapan certainly did
not show it. "The plan is to go forward, as originally intended. Come
along, you two," she indicated with a brief gesture of her hand as it
swept and pointed toward the door. She would advance to the exit and
then head to the nearest turbolift before explaining further. Once
arrived therein, Rhia would assume a position at the head of the bridge,
viewing the space ahead as if it were her own backyard.
"Now, then," she intoned once more, intent
on restating the obvious which she had already shared with the Grand
Moff days hence, "it will be an attack combining two very different
purposes. First, we will detonate some charges specifically designed to
do damage or set off volatile gas. Then, we will disperse some ionizing
charges to make it easier to detect what's inside the nebula. These we
will hold till later, once we have the enemy cornered. We can not set
them off early, or they will reveal where the mines are and alert the
enemy to our present location. Any questions?" she glanced between her
first officer and the Chiss lieutenant, expecting them to chime in, at
any moment now.
As the lift ascended to the bridge, she
listened to Captain T'Jarell's outline, but said nothing. There seemed
to be some disagreement between the Captain and her executive officer,
which she also observed, yet refrained from any comment. "I have
reviewed your plan per the Governor's orders, and while I concur with
the logic behind it, there is still the chance that the Rebellion may
have considerable assets in the system. As long as the force assembled
at Ralltiir has numerical superiority, I concede that it should work,"
she said in a calm, objective manner that was free of any emotion. As
she emerged from the lift onto the bridge she immediately remarked how
small it was, and it lacked the advanced systems she had become used to.
Tristan nodded towards his commanding officer
and pursued her onto the bridge, standing at her side, "Agreed, ma'am.
Your original plan was excellent to begin with, I was not attempting to
question you." bowing slightly and returning to stand upright, roughly
five feet eleven inches tall, "Yes, Lieutenant, you should work rather
than sit on that blue rump of yours twiddling your thumbs." smirking to
Rhia on his left as he looked over their crew. He wondered if the Chiss
thought their ship was rather small for her liking and he only waited
for her to say so, so that he could kick her scrawny little ass. He
hated the type to come from the Grand Moff's 'estate' they were always
so damn arrogant and conceited. Tristan flashed a quick glance to Rhia in
an attempt to garner her attention and subtly run his gaze over her
attractive and appealing features, not minding if she caught him. It was
his attempt at getting her to finally notice him.
Rhia straightened her tall frame and stared
at Tristan, her countenance a poker face if a Hapan could offer one.
"Commander Krauss, you will treat Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca with
the respect she has earned," the Hapan remarked, her voice betraying no
emotion. "Deploy the TIEs, extrafitted with the mines Type I," she
ordered, expecting the crew to carry out her orders and understand what
they meant. Since she had conferred with Rodney about the invasion of
the Ringali Nebula, Rhiannon had ordered a squadron of TIE fighters
fitted with charges designed to do damage or set off volatile gas. That
was Phase One of her plan.
"Aye, sir," responded the ensign manning
the weapons console. Within a few seconds, Rhia's orders were carried
out, just as the Tenacity began closing in on the volatile
borders of the Ringali Nebula. The Hapan Captain would give them a
minute or two so they could converge upon their designated targets.
Nothing about this particular mission could be pushed or rushed.
According to Rhia's rulebook of strategic
planning: everything had its own place and time.
In the meantime, the Hapan Captain ordered
the other squadron to stand by. They would wield the ionizing charges
that made it it easier to detect whatever was hiding within the nebula.
As for the first bunch, she gave orders to detonate their loads the
moment they found themselves deep inside Ringali, free of enemy attack.
Undoubtedly, the Rebels waited for their own opportunity, the prime time
to prevent the Empire from discharging weapons that would give away
their strategic positions. For the time being, Rhiannon would bait her
time, waiting to see if the enemy wanted to play the proverbial rabbit ...
or the fox.
Tristan offered a thoughtful, meaningful
glance towards Rhia as his tongue protruded slowly from his mouth to
moisten his lips. Quickly he chirped, "Yes, ma'am," before slyly winking
at her while his hand simultaneously and swiftly brushed against the
small of her back.
Well that was a surprise, Lieutenant
Meham'ohorovi'cloca thought, as she listened to the Captain condemn the
Commander's harsh tone towards her. She found it hard to resist offering
the slightest trace of a smile, but as she felt her lips begin to curl
upwards into a grin she bit down with her teeth to keep them in position
... it would have been inappropriate. Instead, she turned her attention to
a communications relay, where she transmitted the confirmation to the
Oversector command that the operation had been successfully initiated.
With the first squadron deployed, Rhiannon
waited patiently ... her face a mask of perfect stoicism ... before the
squadron commander signaled their readiness. It happened just as the
TIEs Do crossed the edge of the nebula, as attempting to do it further
deep inside would have proved fruitless."Proceed at will, commander,"
the Captain ordered, waiting for the charges to light up the gaseous
entity. In the meantime, she thought it wise to relay orders to Governor
Rodney's forces, located in the vicinity.
"This is Captain T'Jarell. We are about to
light up the nebula. All Imperial craft, stand by."
Once the charges were off, Rhiannon
immediately directed the sensors officer to take stock of the results of
all the charges aimed at exploding the volatile gasses inside the
nebula. Truth be told, the task would take a few minutes ... but they
would be minutes well spent. In the meantime, Rhia waited for her task
force to back out of the Ringali Nebula with all possible haste, sending
in the second task force to deploy charges that would help ascertain
whatever was inside the nebula.
As far as Tristan's attempt to communicate
whatever feelings or thoughts he had toward his superior officer were
concerned, Rhia could pay them little notice. She merely smiled at his
familiar touch and directed him to help the sensors officer make sense
of all the readings coming in. Now was hardly the time and place for
personal innuendos, she thought, silently.
Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca, a tactical
officer by trade was understandably curious, and her attention was
focused over the Tenacity's tactical officer, her red eyes
transfixed on the sensor readouts. A look over her shoulder was thrown
in the direction of Captain T'Jarell, after assessing that everything
was working as intended. She was pleased that the Empire might have a
victory to report, but at the same time she feared the ambitions of the
beautiful, young Hapan Captain. A victory could go along way towards
establishing her hold on the Oversector command.
Tristan decided it best not to persist in the
midst of battle and instead took to focusing on the tasks at hand.
Watchful eyes carefully perused the screens in front of him, including
the sensor operator whom had just received the Captain's orders, back
and forth he scanned watching for anything that may have been of
importance to Rhia. Seeing nothing however he relaxed somewhat and
addressed the Lieutenant again, this time in a more professional manner
"Anything to report Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca?".
Given that the question was directed at the
Chiss and not at her, Rhiannon merely paused for the invasive minion to
answer, before she continued on with the next phase of her plan.
The Chiss officer turned her piercing red
eyes towards Commander Krauss, sensing that the officer held her with a
level of disdain. Clearing her throat before beginning, she took a
cautious step forward towards the executive officer. "Nothing, sir," she
said, with a bit of disappointment at having to address him with such a
title. "I am merely continuing to observe unless I am called upon," she
reported with a firm, yet deliberate nod of her head. "I would add that
I am quite impressed with the discipline and efficiency of your
personnel," she added, perhaps unnecessarily, but it was an accurate
observation and she hoped that a well placed compliment might tone down
the mood on the bridge.
Rhiannon raised an elegant brow toward the
Chiss. "So you're just here to spy and report? How reassuring," she
muttered that last phrase under her breath as her gloved hand moved to
cup Tristan's ass and push him gently but firmly toward the sensors
console. "I'm sorely tempted to have you demoted," she murmured softly
so only the Lorrdian could hear. "Get that cobalt bitch off my bridge,
whatever it takes!" Clearly, the Hapan was not impressed by having a
giant Chiss magnifying glass next to her.
Just then, a signal came in, its pattern
signifying an emergency report. The Alpha squadron commander was
attempting to communicate, but the signal was weak, and the transmission
had to be cleared up before it was put on the main viewer.
Nodding as the Lieutenant gave her report
addressing the compliment she chose to offer "I appreciate the sentiment
Lieutenant." just as he finished he felt a pressure upon his behind and
half stumble walked towards the sensors console. The directions from his
Captain were quite clear, though hopefully not within hearing range of
the Lieutenant herself, quickly shooting back a glare of lascivious
intent and a smirk before making his way to the Chiss' side. Leaning in
low yet far enough away as not to invade a personal bubble he asked the
Chiss pleasantly "Would you please accompany me back to your ship? We no
longer find your services necessary and you may file a full report with
His Excellency at your leisure."
Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca blinked in
rapid succession at the comments made by Commander Krauss, not
completely comprehending them. "Commander, I have been ordered by the
Grand Moff to remain aboard and observe the progress and results of the
battle," she explained, referencing the transfer orders she came aboard
with. "As his tactical officer he felt it necessary to have me observe.
Do you disagree with his orders?" she asked, as her hand went to produce
a datapad from her pocket. She then tilted her head to one side, and
studied the officer from behind her red eyes.
Disgruntled albeit concealing such emotion
he merely smiled gently and nodded "I understand, then may I ask you to
please move down to the engineering pits?"
Rhiannon nearly cracked a smile at that
suggestion, wondering exactly what her 'number one' had in mind. Perhaps
he imagined, in his mind of minds, elbowing the Chiss intruder in the
face and sending her flying down into the engineering pits? Either way,
it was a hilarious scenario that Rhiannon found difficult to ignore.
"Commander Krauss is not wrong. There is much to be learned from the
engineering pits," she assured the blue alien. "Unless, of course, you
have specific orders for me from the Governor ... as to how best to
direct his fleet once the ionization is complete?" she let her dark,
smoldering glance wash over the Chiss up and down, in anticipation of a
comment that was unlikely to be either flattering or kind.
In the meantime, the emergency signal was
still flashing and resounding across the bridge. Rhia motioned the
communications officer to relay the transmission at once. After the
interference was cleared up, those present on the bridge could all
witness that which the Alpha squadron commander was attempting to
"... -charges... away, sir. -tempting to cle- ... nebu- ..."
Just then, a huge, frantic explosion rocked
the ship attempting to send the transmission. Rhia could only guess the
starfighter was pulling out too close to one of the gaseous clouds
stimulated by the charge mines. "Stand by medbay," the Captain alerted
the crew through an appropriate channel before directing Beta squadron
to move in. "Ionize the nebula," she commanded the second assault wave.
"And give cover to Alpha squadron, they'll be trying to get out as
you're going in. Do not engage the enemy if you should see any. Just
light them up. Go."
It was the longest two minutes in history
according to Rhiannon T'Jarell, before the Beta commander reported that
the last of the fighters had gotten away. Two of the Alpha TIEs did not
make it. Rhia's gaze drifted to Tristan, washing over his profile as if to
seek absolution for this totally acceptable loss in manpower and
equipment. But it was only the beginning. The second wave of fighters
entered within, expecting resistance and rightfully so. If there was
enemy inside, it would be waiting them with all guns blazing. Rhia
expected as much, but she also counted on the fact that the Rebels ...
if they were in fact, hiding in the nebula ... would not expect the
second wave to come in so swiftly. If anything, Beta squadron would have
at least three to four seconds during which they could close in on their
target and ionize the space required, then attempt to escape without
being destroyed. The Hapan's face grew grim as her expectations for the
survival rate of this squadron were minimal. If anyone made it out of
there alive, she would personally award each and every one of them a
rank promotion ... no questions asked.
"My orders are to observe, report, and
assist if you see fit," Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca reiterated for
the Captain. "You have his utmost confidence and you may direct the
naval forces in the Ralltiir system without micromanagement on his part,
Captain," she explained, outlining the chain of command as best she
could. "It is not my intention to step on anyone's toes here. In fact,
he specifically ordered me *not* to step on anyone's toes. If I have, I
apologize. I am content to observe from whatever post you see fit,
Captain ... including the engineering pit," she said, turning her face
slightly to look towards Commander Krauss once again.
Tristan nodded in agreement and returned to
the bridge without another word to the Lieutenant, taking up his
position at Rhia's side once more. Tristan's eyes wandered over the
vivacious curves of his female companion undressing her in thought,
appearing lost in space or something to that effect for the few moments
he was lost daydreaming. Snapping out of his momentary lapse he turned
to face the Captain "I will see to the squadron's ma'am." quickly
dismissing himself from the bridge and heading to the hangar bay to take
count of the battle's casualties.
"Make it so," Rhiannon nodded, failing to
notice the glance with which he had previously inspected her. Once
left, she turned back to the Chiss and offered the alien a warm smile.
"You must excuse my first officer,
Lieutenant. Our ways are not Grand Moff Rodney's ways, and we do tend to
run this ship in a somewhat unorthodox ... if not extremely effective,
fashion ... but I assure you, we will do whatever is necessary to fit in
with the rest of the fleet." Having said that, the Hapan turned to
observe the viewscreen, hoping to glimpse any new developments within
the nebula before damage reports came in. The distance at which they
were, however, placed the Victory-class at a slight
disadvantage. Rhia could only ascertain major-scale events while
anything minor and usually unexpected, would have gone on unnoticed
until it was called in or entirely too late. For now, the comms remained
silent. The whole nebula however, began to flash, as if a series of
fantastic fireworks were taking place inside. "Incredible," she muttered
to herself, before taking a small step back. Her attention now fell
entirely to the sensors panel, working in tandem with the young
lieutenant assigned to man it and attempting to get some readings
regarding the results of her plan. Given that the comms remained silent,
the Hapan ascertained that most of Beta squadron would not return alive.
Turns out, she was right.
After nearly seven minutes of dull static,
one of the TIEs communication signals finally got through. Ten of their
squadron suffered total destruction, two managed to leave the nebula
unscathed. At this time, one of the two survivors' transmissions was
coming through loud and clear ... it featured a semi-detailed report of
what the Beta squadron found inside after the ionization charges were
safely off: four YT-2400 light freighters and two GR-75 medium
transports were definitely hiding within the nebulous obscurity of
Ringali. The same report came in a minute or so later, fed directly to
the Tenacity's communication and sensor logs. Rhia preferred to
keep duplicate copies, in case there was ever any question as to the
data she compiled while on a military mission.
Turning to Meham'ohorovi'cloca, the Hapan
canted her head and flashed the blue alien a crooked grin. "We have our
work cut out for us, lieutenant. I've no idea what else is inside that
nebula, but at least we know the compliment of enemy vessels within.
Time to call it. This game of hide and seek is over."
Keying in a series of characters, Rhiannon
sent out a quick report to Claudius Rodney, attaching the sensors and
communications logs before glancing to her gunner. Once a captain of a
Venator-class cruiser, Artorius Garak was a seasoned officer
who had filled a variety of roles on board her ship and had graciously
agreed to assume the position of the chief gunner for this particular
mission. "Ready the concussion missiles." She was suddenly reminded of a
handful of flies attempting to taunt a krayt dragon. Unwise. A part of
her suddenly cringed, realizing the loss of life that was about to take
place. Yet her own squadron members had already perished earlier, Rhia
reminded herself. This was no time for compassion.
"Advise the 218th Attack Line to stand by.
Helm, move us inside the nebula. Set course for the nearest Gallofree
transport. Shields up!"
Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca was standing
on the walkway over the crew pit that contained the tactical officers,
and she was silently, but obsessively, watching over their every move.
Even from above she could see on the sensor readouts that they were
dealing with only a scant amount of transports ... not the concentrated
force she had so feared when the Grand Moff first advised her of the
Captain's risky plan. "Captain, it would seem that the Rebellion lacks
the capital ship presence to adequately escort their transport fleet. I
would estimate it should only take moments for your Victory-class
ships to obliterate them," she said, with some hint at excitement, in a
rare show of emotion. A hint of a smile was allowed to form her lips, as
she confidently strode closer towards the Captain. "Those Rebels will
never make it to Ralltiir. The Governor will very pleased with this,"
she confided, perhaps going a step too far in her assertion of events.
Tristan found himself in the medical bay
taking count of the wounded and those pilots who had not returned and
were presumed killed in action. Most of Beta squadron, unfortunately,
were part of the KIA tally. His thoughts were mainly focused on that of
his commanding officer, Captain Rhia, every so often scribbling down the
totals onto his notepad. Reflecting on the past three years a pang of
regret hit him in regards to the fact that he'd never expressed his
innermost feelings towards her, until his latest attempts anyway. It was
'protocol' to be professional in their environment and so he figured
that was the reason he'd always kept it under wraps, and yet he'd been
behaving foolishly and putting it on display for any and all to see if
they so chose. He realized then that she may have a rather stern and
disapproving attitude awaiting him when they were free of the Grand
Moff's slave. In which case he thought that it best to just come forth
with it all and see where he ended up - maybe reassigned to another ship
and losing his best friend and love interest. As his tally came to an
end, with practically no one left to account for, he headed back up for
the bridge to report to the Captain. But a few minutes later and he
exited the turbolift his boots clacking on the durasteel beneath him.
Taking his place beside the Captain he muttered "Practically all of
Bravo has been lost ma'am, Alpha remains mostly in tact." hoping that
none would hear, it was this part he hated most - accounting for their
lost and fallen comrades. "Any further orders, ma'am?"
"Thank you, Commander," Rhiannon replied,
acknowledging the man's report without so much as a blink. "Station."
Whatever the Hapan might have felt at the sound of the words expressing
such terrible loss, she certainly did not give away any feelings, one
way or another. At this time, she was more preoccupied with the action
about to take place; namely, the attack against the small contingent of
Rebel forces hiding within the Ringali Nebula. A Victory-class
Star Destroyer would be more than a match for the forces reported there
- and Rhia would take no chances with Rodney's attack line unless it was
"Distance to nebula," she asked of the
helm. "Three kilometers and closing, sir."
Pursing her lips, Rhia clasped gloved hands
behind her, resting them upon her lower back. Her gaze dipped to the
floor, as she considered the repercussions of her battle plan. In the
end, she considered herself lucky, expecting Rebel forces to be far more
numerous, if not in quality than in quantity, to be sure. Instead, she
encountered half a dozen ships of dubious purpose within a nebulous
cloud of interstellar gas and dust. What was their purpose? Why were
they so few in number? Why had they chosen this particular point to
hide? These were some of the questions which she would likely not see
answers to, today. Regardless, the main objective was paramount and
would be achieved. It is a pity it had to come at the cost of life; it
was the one thing as a military officer that the Hapan internally
"Lieutenant Garak, those concussion
missiles ... target engines only."
A sudden change of mind? Perhaps of heart?
Why? Leveling her gaze at the veteran officer, Rhiannon stood her ground
and waited for him to acknowledge the order.
"Concussion missiles standing by."
Three missiles per target. They would be
utterly destroyed no matter what they were aiming for, she knew. "Use a
tractor beam to pull in one of the light freighters; I don't care which.
We need to find out the purpose for Rebel presence here ... if that is
indeed who they are or who they're working for." Rhia's voice fell
quieter and nearly cracked in her throat as she mouthed the final words.
"Destroy the rest."
"Five hundred meters and closing."
Rhiannon completely ignored the Chiss
officer present on her bridge at this time. She had to focus on the task
at hand and reconcile the deaths that were about to take place, in her
conscience. She did not need a blue-skinned alien to applaud or condemn
her actions. Stepping ahead to the viewport, the Hapan captain stared
deftly ahead into some unseen point in space and time. The Tenacity
began to clear the border of the Ringali Nebula.
Fight, damn it. Stand your ground. Give me
something to remember you by...
The fingers clasped upon her lower back
tightened, knuckles turning white. Thankfully, the gloves concealed the
unsightly evidence and Rhia continued to stand tall, passing herself off
as the stalwart Imperial captain.
The moment the Tenacity cleared
the threshold of the nebula, it found itself face to face with the
result of Rhiannon's primary mission. Debris, from ships destroyed as a
result of her earlier ionization 'experiment' filled the gaseous void
with random garbage. The Victory-class battlecruiser plowed
through the swirl of rubble, deftly dodging ship remains and smaller
particles. Rhiannon turned around, glancing at the crew pits for a
moment. A score of naval officers - all human - sat at their posts,
hovering over their computer screens. The hum of low, curt conversation
and the thrum of electronics filled the air ... nothing to indicate the
mayhem that was about to ensue.
The Hapan turned back around and inhaled
deeply. She seemed to delay the final command for as long as she could
help it. "Commander Tristan, intensify all scanning until further notice.
Any unusual readings are to be reported to me. Keep eyes on any incoming
Rhia stared at the battle cruiser's
viewport, hoping that the Rebels had elected to tuck tail and run. Or
just as bad, that they had somehow decided to surrender as soon as
Tenacity had come into their view. For whatever strange and
unexplained reason, Rhia had never before felt as vulnerable, as she did
The moment she hesitated on ordering the
destruction of the Republic vessels, particularly utilizing the
Victory-class supplied concussion missiles, he knew that something
was inherently wrong. She felt guilt, remorse, and likely would make all
attempts at salvaging what life she could. He would not interrupt her
command to give the obvious recommendation that if she were to take pity
on the rebels that only ion cannons would be needed, no, she knew that
already but their orders were complete annihilation of the rebel forces.
As she stood there at the bridge stoic and
poised to command her crew to victory he could only help but feel sorrow
and compassion for what she must be putting herself through. To him, the
rebels were their enemy and it was kill or be killed ... as simple as
that. To others, her in particular, he knew it was much more and to an
extent personal. As she barked out her command he would nod in
acceptance "Aye ma'am." watching her closely as she stared over the
bridge and out into the space that was now littered with the components
of destroyed craft.
A hand reached out to grab hers, his eyes
plastered themselves to her face, but only for a moment slipping away
with a pang of regret. It was in this moment he wished they had complete
and utter privacy so that he could perhaps comfort her with words of
compassion and sincerity. His eyes fixated once again on the screens
before him watching for any sign of life or movement from the rebel
faction and seeing none took a slight break from his overwatch. Chancing
another peek at Rhia, if he were to catch her attention he would offer
an affable smile and nod of assurance "Nothing yet, ma'am. But I'm sure
all is fine." hoping she'd pick up on the last bit of his comment.
Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca was
impressed with the skilled precision with which Captain T'Jarell and her
crew were executing the offensive. It now seemed as if she were a truly
skilled and competent officer, and had not in fact slept her way to the
position as she originally surmised. Leaving the Captain's side, she
moved to the nearest comm panel to once again notify the regional
command of the progress of the lopsided engagement. She was confident
that this would be the victory needed to improve Imperial morale, and
cut off the remaining Rebel forces on Ralltiir.
No, no ... you can't get away...
Rhiannon smiled, watching as the ship
continued to close the gap between itself and the Rebels. The intensity
of her gaze seemed to will the enemy vessels to freeze in space. The
effort taxed her, and the Hapan knew she could not maintain it for long.
It was ... in fact ... as pointless as it was impossible. Even if she
were a Sith Lord, she would fail in such a tremendous endeavor.
Watch the scanners, Rhiannon. Keep your eye
on the incoming transmissions and the remainder of the fleet-
She did not watch the scanners; instead,
Rhia focused on the viewscreen. The Rebel ships began to move slowly but
with a purpose, maneuvering into a formation suitable for something the
Hapan recognized only too quickly, something that caused her body to
tense and then quiver in alarm.
A hyperspace jump.
"They're forming up," she heard a voice say
behind her. The waves of its tension crashed against her but Rhia dammed
them off, did not allow them to disrupt her focus.
She simply observed and waited...
One of the freighters in the group had
broken off and veered off toward them, flying straight past the
viewport. It was so quick, it was gone before Rhiannon had a chance to
respond and give the order but Garak kept determined vigil over the
situation. Were the Rebels taunting them into action? Certainly, they
knew it would be their doom to persist? Rhia shook her head and turned
to the former captain, nodding once. The tractor beam projector was
instantly engaged, catching the light freighter by the 'tail'.
Just then, a burst of salvos, red and
yellow, erupted on the viewscreen ahead.
So, you have chosen death.
"Shields holding," came a brief statement
from a seemingly unconcerned ensign. Rhia turned toward Garak, his face
a sheet of ice.
"Fire at will, Lieutenant."
The concussion missiles, targeting the rear
of each GR-75 located some 1.5 kilometers away, were instantly launched,
heading for the ships' engines. One. Two. Three rounds. A total of six
were fired away, a ridiculous overkill. The three YT-2400s, realizing
the peril unleashed in the wake of the anti-capital ship weapons,
decided that fleeing ... rather than fighting ... was the best choice of
action at this time. Rhia commended their logic in silence and watched
with seeming indifference as her winged messengers of death struck home
time and time again. The twin laser cannon turrets with which the
Gallofree vessels were equipped, were no match for the might of a star
Moments later, a display of explosions
rocked the nebula again ... and Rhia felt a flash of discomfort, the
irritating needle stab of guilt ... a feeling oddly similar to that
which she had felt when she'd forsaken her twin sister after Callista
had failed to thrive at the Imperial Academy.
The feeling lasted barely an instant and
disappeared, leaving only an unearthly ghost in its wake.
"Are you alright, ma'am?" Tristan asked.
Rhiannon waved a hand dismissively. She
continued to stand at the head of the bridge and the viewscreen of
Tenacity showed the distant streak of blue and white hyperspace
lights which were likely more a product of her own imagination than the
"Track their trajectory," the Hapan said,
then pivoted on her heel and strode toward the main turbolift.
Possibilities played out in Rhiannon's mind. With a captured Rebel on
board, they could gain valuable information that could further undermine
alliance presence in this sector. As for the escaped vessels, they
obviously knew where they were going. They had a contingency plan that
was in place long before the Tenacity had arrived. This was
their mission: to survive.
Rhia stared at the turbolift door, waited
for it to open and stepped inside. In moments, she would get her first
glance on the captured prey.
The Galactic Empire needed to rule by
force, to thrive. For that, there had to be a conflict. She knew that.
Rhiannon needed this conflict too, to
thrive. She knew this as well.
Claudius Rodney had it within his power,
possibly, to keep this conflict alive for as long as required.
As the turbolift descended, Rhia closed her
eyes. She saw the captured crew of the freighter and imagined them in
The flashing light on the side of the door
panel and the opened door reminded Rhiannon of her purpose. Brisk,
energetic stride carried her forth down the hallway and toward the main
brig. Upon arrival, she was met by the deck officer who saluted her in
silence, waiting for further orders.
"Take me to the prisoner," the captain
The officer looked to her, puzzled. "We
searched the vessel top to bottom but found no one on board, ma'am."
"Search again - and get me the ship's logs
- and anything else that may give us a clue as to its mission in the
The last sound heard in the hallway, was
that of the Hapan's muted, receding footsteps...