SMUGGLER'S DUES
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Star Wars Fan Fiction

by Christopher T. Shields

Several years ago, before STAR WARS GALAXIES ever came online, there was a beta of the game and then it went away.  In the time between the beta and actual game there were several years of high anticipation.  During that time (I missed the beta), I thought of what kind of character I wanted to play and what that character would be like.  My initial impression of the character I would play would be an ex-Imperial turned rebel smuggler, one who owned both a cantina and a freighter.  The main crux of the change from Imperial to rebel would be that the character was abandoned by a cowardly or sadistic commander in the heat of battle and left to die alone in space.  He would be rescued by a group of smugglers and throw his skills in with them, cursing the Empire and swearing allegiance only to himself.  There might have been a love interest in the story (a female smuggler) but that was just a thought.  This story was put together over several hours and dates back to late 2000.  I found two instances of the story and have included both here.  One is merely a start where the Imperials drop out of hyperspace and stage a TIE fighter raid on a smuggler base.  This wasn't how I wanted the story to begin, so I started over and made the lead character a conscript in the Imperial militia, stuck out on the frontier, the very edge of civilization and technology (think Tattooine twice removed).  The Imperial presence out here is token at best, and is made of up conscripts, criminals, and outlaws who have been captured and who have chosen Imperial service over hard labor or the death penalty.  The penal garrisons are some of the roughest troops around, but they are a motley lot, and discipline is not something that runs deep or wide, hence the Empire considers them fully expendable and easily replaceable.

 

Part one- Smuggler's Dues (a false start (circa 2000))

The swirling blue, gray, and white nimbus that was the essence of hyperspace cast dim shadows on the cockpit of Lieutenant Mhar Dal Atui’s TIE fighter. Nestled in its protective docking cradle inside the forward launch bay of the Imperial frontier cruiser Ipithal. Atui adjusted his suit life support feed, checked his flight harness and his combat interfaces with his craft for the fifth time in two minutes. Everything was ready.

“Flight deck and all pilots stand by. Gunnery crews stand by.” Came the voice of the navigator on the bridge.

Atui sighed and reached forward, taking the flight controls in his hand, pulling back slightly and letting the controls settle into their combat indents. He ran through power settings, checked his sensors, and looked at the switch that would release his TIE fighter from its docking gantry and send it screaming through space. He watched as the flowing colors of hyperspace illuminated the bay below him, the only thing separating him and his craft from instant destruction was his link with the gantry, and a thin magnetic field which held the atmosphere within the bay, a permeable magnetic field that allowed objects to pass through at speed but kept ambient air and pressure at a constant. Still, if the field generators ever failed… He looked over at the far side of the launch bay and the officers and troopers on station there. The Stormtroopers standard armor was intended for a wide variety of conditions and environments and was proof against vacuum for up to four hours, more with additional support equipment. The black uniforms of the control crew were self sealing, and their enclosed helmets provided full life support as well as readouts critical to their stations.

The Ipithal lurched slightly, a tremor more felt than observed. Here we go, thought Atui, setting himself up for the next few minutes of his life, queuing his actions in a mental reserve that his body would draw upon from muscle memory in order to accomplish his mission and flight tasks.

“All stations stand by. Preparing to drop out of hyperspace. All gunnery stations, locate and engage your assigned targets. Flight deck, stand by for launch. Mark.” The navigator said, echoed in Atui’s headphones in his helmet.

The Ipithal lurched again, harder this time as the hyperspace generator was taken off-line. The swirling nimbus below his launch bay became long streaks of bright white and then narrowed into the normal star field. Indicator lights within the launch bay and the TIE fighter itself went from green to red. Primary power was still being fed through umbilicals to his ship but would resort to the onboard solar ionization plant behind him when he launched. He checked his weapon batteries, full. Once again he ran through his criticals.

“All stations. Prepare for combat.” The Coordination Officer, Salis, said authoritatively.

The Ipithal dropped out of hyperspace in the vicinity of Holmahr III, a humid jungle world that had seen some limited corporate mining interest during the Republic but had been mostly the home of vagrants and smugglers since the big corporations moved out and took their money with them. The Imperial frontier cruiser took up orbit as its sensors and scanners swept the surface of the planet, identifying natural and artificial concentrations of materials, adding the latter to target lists for the gunnery stations. A smuggler’s den was soon identified; a couple of buildings, a heavy shield generator, a solar ionization reactor, a roughly flat tarmac with several civilian craft parked there. Defense looked to be some light surface to space missile batteries and a few anti-spacecraft batteries. By the power indicators of the last type, they were cannibalized light turbolaser mounts from older warships, more of a threat to the Ipithal than to small, fast, highly maneuverable fighter craft.

The Ipithal had apparently interrupted the middle of a smuggler’s rendezvous, one that the Imperials had been tipped off to just days ago. The sudden appearance of an Imperial frontier cruiser in the middle of a supposedly secret rendevouz would have been unnerving for anyone, let alone those who plied their trade illegally. Atui could almost imagine the shock.

Three civilian private freighters were present on the tarmac, with ground crews moving between them. Sensors identified them as the Thraxda, out of Mobas; the Fridsha Hyute out of Taldhar; and the Kormara Juette out of Mobas. The Thraxda and the Kormara Juette were owned by the Shyngytte family, whose long standing dealings with the underworld criminal element were well known to the authorities. The Fridsha Hyute was something new, and as Atui looked at the information flowing across his tactical screens he grew interested in what the next thirty minutes of his life might be like. The Fridsha Hyute was a modified YT-850 Corellian freighter, known to be used in many smuggling runs as well as in illegal trade arrangements with the fledgling militia rebellion that was forming in the Core and the Corporate sectors. The Fridsha Hyute would be a prize indeed for the commander of the Ipithal.

“Attention all craft this zone. This is Sector General Morais. I am establishing zone lockdown by order of the Emperor and my authority as invested by my station and rank. All craft on the surface below are all in violation of the Mutual Trade Agreements. Shut down your ships and weapons, stand by and prepare to accept ground troops and be searched. Any resistance will be met with force. Please acknowledge your willingness to cooperate.”

Morais always seemed to get a special fancy out of that last line and he never failed to use it. For all fairness, Morais managed to wait a whole ten seconds for a reply. The first burst of laser fire from the anti-spacecraft batteries screamed through the thin atmosphere and splashed against the lower forward shields of the Ipithal. It was an answer, and one that he had fully expected. Morais looked at the shield indicators beside his station. No warnings were displayed. That burst had been the best that the smugglers could muster and it had barely registered on the reinforced forward shields that the Ipithal could generate. Morais had dictated that the auxiliary onboard reactor be brought online and its power input be fed into general shield reinforcement. Better to err on the side of caution… and now that line of thinking was paying off.

“Pathetic.” Morais muttered, keying in the shipwide intercom to receive his orders. “All hands, select targets and fire at will. Gunnery station forward, take care with the Fridsha Hyute, please. I prefer to capture that ship intact. We’ll properly identify the other two from their wreckage on the tarmac and transponder units afterwards. Flight deck, launch strike craft.”

Atui keyed an acknowledgement to the bridge as he disengaged the umbilical connections holding his craft secure to the Ipithal. The TIE fell free from the docking clamp, and he brought the twin ion engines up to cruise speed. His fighter fell away, down, and through the magnetic field of the launch bay. Twenty meters to his port side, his wingman had also launched.

“Follow me down.” Atui commanded. “Stay loose and high. I’ll lead forward and low.”

“Confirm, flight leader.” Came the voice of his wingman, Lt. Jaka Plahr.

The two TIE fighters pulled away from the Ipithal, joined by four similar flights, ten TIE fighters in all, the full compliment of a frontier cruiser. Morais’ gunners were directing precision turbolaser fire on the installation below, but the shield generator of the smugglers was absorbing and dissipating the tremendous energy of the orbital bombardment with apparent ease. Return fire from the base was getting more intense, but still nothing that the shields of the Ipithal couldn’t take for some time to come. The forward explosive solids dispensers started launching heavy concussion missiles toward the shield in an attempt to buckle it. Atui and his squadron watched as the missiles made reentry, trailing long streamers of flame, to make distant flashes on the surface. The smugglers must have had an anti-concussion field generator backing up their main generator, as well as a shield disruption prevention generator which meant that this was more than the average rim smuggler operation. Morais may have stumbled into something more interesting than an illegal load of spice bound for the working miners of some corporate operation closer to the Core systems.

The heavy surface guns were still reaching up for the Ipithal but the lighter guns had ceased firing. Atui noticed this as his wingman verbally made the same observation.

“The lighter batteries have stopped firing.”

“Watch for fighters.” Atui said.

“I have them!” his wingman said. “Six contacts, rising fast from the surface, must have been in hidden revetments, signatures are rising three klicks from the tarmac, something we missed.”

“Something they had hidden.” Atui replied, adjusting his scanners to track the new threats.

Six fast movers, approaching on an intercept course.

 

 

Start Two- Smugglers Dues- The accepted start and unfinished story


“Damn you, Morais. Damn you to all the hells forever.” Mhar Atui said flatly.

He switched off a dimly lit bank of pull switches, shutting down the last of his non-essential power requirements to conserve what little energy his shattered solar panels could still provide. Beyond that, the rather limited amount stored in the high density crystal batteries could provide energy for a few days more. The passive damage readouts for his TIE fighter told him a grim story, his solar panel equipped wings were shattered, and the main spars leading to the control pod had been buckled, severely restricting the amount of power available to him.

Atui closed his eyes and sighed. He was an orphan now, the lone survivor of a squadron of TIE fighter pilots who were abandoned and left to the mercy of pirates by a coward, the commander of the Imperial light cruiser Revancer , Sector Task General Eljon Morais.

The air in his flight suit was cool and crisp but tasted faintly stale, bottled. His TIE fighter was stricken, the damage indicators read that his hull and the space frame was down to just thirty four percent of its original integrity. His onboard systems were even worse, showing that only eighteen percent of his flight systems were still capable of responding or functioning. Four out of seven of his integral software subroutines were offline and he had failed to bring them back online. He had slowly managed to stop the wild pin wheeling of his craft and to bring it to a somewhat controlled course through space by manually cycling the still functioning ion reaction control system to use it as a primitive thruster system. Not the intended use of the RCS system, and one they never taught you in flight training, but desperation was often the greatest inspiration for invention.

Maneuverability, if it could even be called that, was limited to just his station keeping thrusters. The RCS was part of the integral maneuvering system that made the TIE series fighters such aggressive performers. The RCS consisted of very compact but high powered ion jets that fed off the main twin ion engine array. The main engine system was offline, and in all probability, the entire drive system had been reduced to scrap in its reinforced mounts. Atui was lucky to be alive, he realized, at least for now. Death might have been a better proposition than to slowly asphyxiate and freeze when his life support systems finally gave out completely in a few days time.

A high pitched tone in his helmet warned him of a problem with his power routine and one of the components. He rapidly ran through his damage control schematics, diagrams in red and white flashed on his display as he scanned them quickly, checking for the problem. He identified it about half a second too late to do anything about it. Atui watched a small blue spark appear on the starboard wing reinforcement spar of his TIE. The glow grew in brightness, a power load bearing subcoupling was about to go, probably from residual stress fracture and energy redampening overload along the dedicated circuit path. Atui moved to reroute his still online systems to a different circuit but he was too slow. All he could do was watch in silence as the glow became a brilliant white flare, his helmet lenses polarizing automatically to compensate for the glare. A triple forked tongue of blue electricity arced from the subcoupling, racing across a bank of already weakened carbon scored solar collection cells. The cells shattered silently into space, casting glittering fragments like so many jewels, as the arc of energy leapt across to his port wing, right in front of his viewport, illuminating his cockpit in flashes of pale blue lightning. Another subcoupling on the port wing died amid a small blast of white hot metal and alloy fragments that sprayed out into space, a handful of fragments slowly cooling from white to red. Three circuit breakers behind him in the cockpit blew out in a shower of sparks that cascaded down on him with no other effect than to simply remind him that his time in this plane of existence just became even more limited.

Silence returned, except for the cycled mechanical sounds of his life support system.

Identifying the destroyed circuits and isolating them from the rest, he reached up and shut off all power from the starboard solar wing, reducing his total available power, what little he still had, by over a third more. He was left with the damaged solar ionization reactor behind him, itself slowly leaking an ether thin luminescent trail of hot gas behind his stricken fighter, and what small amount of power the lesser damaged port wing could provide. It wasn’t much. The readouts still showed power fluctuations across the board, some climbing slowly into the critical. As an afterthought he silenced the alarm ringing in his helmet. He didn’t need to be reminded that he was going to die.

Atui looked out the forward viewport at the slowly expanding debris field, a cloud of wreckage from the battle, a drifting field composed of thousands of pieces of what had once been starships and fighters. Each piece inheriting its own unique velocity and trajectory, some still arcing wildly as their self contained power cells slowly bled into space.

Pirates.

Mhar Atui thought back to the events that had placed him in his current situation. An Imperial supply convoy bound for Tarris IV had been assigned protection under the watch of Sector Task General Morais and his light cruiser Revancer . Mhar Atui was junior flight officer assigned to squadron 417 aboard the Revancer . Three K3 container transports, a Jurad bulk carrier, two Yatanni class three cargo carriers, and the Imperial light cruiser Revancer had been the Empire’s presence in this sector. The Revancer was a Mondurand class light cruiser, built in the Tovavi shipyards, and one of the heavier vessels still employed by the Empire along the expanse of wilds that formed the Barren Rim, an expanse of unfilled colonial ambitions predating the Old Republic. With the outbreak of rebellion within the core systems, the Empire had pulled most of its heavy capital ships further in, leaving only the newer lighter ships, and some older heavier ones that dated back to the time of the Republic. Some even older than that.

The Mondurand class was a flattened pair of wedges, one behind the other, the smaller forked wedge in front and more sharpened than the aft. The Revancer was nearly a third the size of a standard Imperial Stardestroyer, with corresponding reductions in armament and crew. The fact that the Revancer also cost less to maintain and deploy was one of the reasons why this class of vessel was so popular with the regional governors in the Barren Rim. An Imperial Stardestroyer might make a huge impression on the populace, but it also made a huge impression on the maintenance fund coffers as well.

Standard small craft carried aboard included a single strike wing of twenty-four TIE fighters and their support crews, several shuttles, a pair of command launches, as well as an assortment of smaller EVA and support craft. The Revancer’s small craft launched and recovered from three large and two small dedicated bays located in a imposing dorsal tower array at the rear of the hull and along the ventral hull array. Five large ducted fusial ion engines gave the Mondurand class a surprising cruise speed and made the ship a well rounded capital class starship for such situations as search and rescue, customs interdiction, and ultimately the enforcement of Imperial regulations among the shipping lanes.

Cargo carried by the convoy ranged from concentrated foodstuffs and fluid purification systems to life support chemicals, Bacta, a large amount of personal energy weapons, light support weapons, portable shield generators, high energy explosives, and spare parts for a variety of systems of advanced Imperial design. The sum total of the ferried lot would have commanded a king’s ransom on the black market. Apparently the pirates had sliced into the rather lackluster Imperial network again and discovered the route of the convoy. With enough strength, the pirates had decided to make a grab for the goods.

Pirates. Probably members of the Ag’Jhithal clan that had been harassing Imperial shipping in two adjoining sectors for over six standard cycles now. The Ag’Jhithal were a motley collection of bandits and cutthroats, most condemned criminals already on the run from Imperial justice. The Ag’Jhithal were a ripe pool for which bounty hunters often dug in deep to collect, but there seemed to be no end to the constant influx of new recruits. The Ag’Jhithal were well funded, well organized, and preyed upon Imperial, commercial, and civilian shipping with alarming impunity. Strikes against small Ag’Jhithal bases were carried out constantly by the Imperial presence but with limited effects. The Barren Rim became a proving ground for Imperial troops, a tour of duty that had a high casualty rate but offered a quick learning curve and the chance for rapid promotion, if you survived.

The space battle had lasted approximately eighteen minutes by the mission duration chronometer in Atui’s fighter, and had gone badly for the Imperials. The Imperial presence had been thoroughly humiliated and ultimately routed into a hasty retreat into hyperspace, but not without heavy losses to the pirate forces.

The pirates had either guessed the hyperspace route of the convoy and its escorts as well as the time table for the transport run, sliced the information off the datanets, or they had been tipped off. The pirates had deployed a crudely modified commercial heavy duty induction repulsor array and set it floating in space, twenty kays distance from the pirate fleet. At a predetermined instant and on command, the DRA was overloaded with the help of precisely arranged energy concussion charges detonating in an implosion effect. The implosion collapsed the wave effect into the outsourced generator field and created a cataclysmic if short-lived reverb that rippled through the varied fabrics of space. The millisecond long plasma blast was enough to generate the impressive counter force wave that spread out at the speed of light. The generator consumed itself in the implosion of its power coreactor, but it had never intended to be reused. It was what it was, a crudely designed but highly efficient trap to catch those in hyperspace. The Imperials used a much more refined version of this tactic with their Interdictor class cruisers but the gravity well was Imperial technology, and hard to come by on the Rim. The pirates had just found something equally effective, maybe more so, even if it were only a one time use device.

The massive gravitic disturbances was visible in normal space as a pale blue sphere, expanding at the speed of light in a ghost white ring of blinding brilliance from the still fading explosion that marked its birth. Five kays. Ten kays. Fifteen kays. And the sensors of the pirate fleet began to register other objects amid the expanding blast ring. Objects forced out of hyperspace by the nature of the artificially generated wave, a wave designed to fool the navi-sensors of the Imperial convoy into thinking that they were about to hyperspace through the presence of a large celestial body such as a moon. Safety protocols automatically engaged, and the convoy dropped out of hyperspace into the buffeting waves of the diminishing gravity pulse. The convoy was thrown about, knocked out of formation as reports of crew casualties started coming in. A few cargo containers broke off and began to drift away as the wave effect dissipated and minor reports of decreased hull integrity were noted.

Chaos reigned for several critical minutes as the convoy tried to recover, as surprised crews tried desperately to understand what was going on. There were no celestial bodies in this sector, no spatial anomalies detected, and the mysterious gravity waves and residual radiation were out of the normal ranges as well. A fine cloud of debris at the center of the anomaly suggested that the occurrence was artificial and not natural. Sector Task General Morais was regaining his composure on the bridge of the Imperial light cruiser Revancer , straightening his uniform, positioning his cap, when the sensors detected the unknown vessels approaching fast on an intercept course with the disarrayed convoy and its equally bewildered Imperial escorts.

He didn’t need his twenty-three years of experience in the Empire to tell him when he had stumbled into a trap. It couldn’t have been much more obvious. Morais barked orders, calling for battlestations and for his flight and gunnery crews to man their consoles, but he had been caught off guard. The pirate flotilla had been holding station some twenty plus kays away, out of the range of the detrimental effects of the crude implosion reinforced repulsor fed gravity well, but the pirates were now rapidly approaching the chaos that was what was left of the convoy ships. Mhar Atui and his wingman, Siprice were the first to launch, followed by two more TIE fighters, part of the twin, two ship elements kept on active alert at all times. Atui’s flight and the second flight screamed away from the Revancer , moving to intercept the pirate snubfighters before they could close and engage.

The pirates approached from the port side in a loose formation of light capital ships, converted freighters and antique snubfighters. Two Pamathian light corvettes running without transponders approached first, flanking to each side a modified Corellian corvette. Following the snubfighters in and providing additional support were a modified YT-1500 freighter, and a modified Sluiris M90 free trader. Eight old Strakht Consortium T-4 starfighters, holdouts from days of the Old Republic, began attack runs in two ship staggered elements, each pairing off against a single convoy target. Four Soro-Subbe G9S snubfighters, also equally dated in design, were rapidly moving to provide cover against any Imperial fighters that the Revancer might be able to put into space.

Sector Task General Morais had laughed openly over the comm channel at the sight of the old relics, instructing the pirates to surrender to his troops, but a few others in the fleet soon began to realize something was amiss. The pirates were too bold to be using outdated equipment such as the relics that filled space now while having access to the skills and knowledge to build an overloaded implosion reinforced repulsor fed gravity well. The readings for power and speed that the ancient ships were giving off didn’t match their known parameters. Too late, the Imperial forces and the convoy discovered that these relics were only old looking on the outside.

The Revancer quickly moved to port of the convoy, taking up a buffer position two kays out. There its smaller quad quad anti-spacecraft batteries and crew served single blaster cannon emplacements could provide cover for the convoy while the Revancer ’s heavier turbolaser batteries and explosive solid munitions dispensers could engage the three larger pirate ships and the two pirate freighters directly. The Revancer ’s auxillary power reactors were brought online and slaved directly to the ray shields for reinforcement. A few seconds later, the Revancer began to exchange fire with the Pirate ships and her shields began to feel the burden of the attack.

The speed of the capital ship was not in the same class as that of the smaller snubfighters and the well intended maneuver ended as more a show of dedication than any actual fulfillment of purpose. As the Revancer moved to act as buffer, it launched its remaining stick of sixteen TIE fighters in rapid succession, a total of eight additional two ship elements, screamed away from the Revancer to attack the approaching Strakht T-4s in an effort to keep them away from the convoy. Atui’s flight and the point flight moved to intercept as well, engaging the G9S’s who had immediately changed course to engage the fresh TIEs from the Revancer . The Revancer ’s gun crews were doing a good job of filling space with deadly bursts of various shades of destructive high energy, but were hitting very little. The bigger guns, however, were scoring on the pirate ships repeatedly, which in turn were battering the Revancer with their own turbolaser batteries. It became a question of which shield would buckle first but the number of guns was heavier on the Pirate’s side.

At three kays distance, the Strakht T-4s began deploying precision guided munitions from their internal rotary weapons bays. Sensors indicated that these PGMs were not anti-ship warheads, but rather some form of ionization implosion field effect generator, and heavy ones by the slow speed that the munitions were moving. Apparently, the pirates were after plunder, they wanted the convoy for keeps, not to destroy it like so many rebel commerce raiders or privateers were prone to do. The pirate snubfighters were busy engaging the Imperial TIE fighters and breaking down the shields of the convoy. Once a shield on a ship was down, the T-4s would hammer it with the PGMs until the target was rendered helpless as its onboard systems were ionized. STG Morais gave the command for the convoy to begin an emergency run to hyperspace, using coordinates for a fall-back emergency rendezvous sector, a sector that would have Imperial reinforcements waiting there to assist, but the convoy never made it. It wasn’t even close, the pirates had coordinated their attack too well, planned too carefully, and despite Morais’ claims as to his leadership, he was, after all, just one man and he had just one ship.

The Strakht T-4s mixed it up with the Revancer ’s TIE squadrons, giving and getting. Where the TIEs should have easily outclassed the generations older T4s, it was obvious that these T-4s and even the G9S models had been heavily modified and upgraded with current technology. Ugly blisters and crude weld marks showed on the hulls of the pirate snubfighters, indicating new sensors, better electronics, and even that upgraded engines and weapons had been added. As the G9S snubfighters swept through the line of advancing TIEs, their droid brain controlled light auto-repeating blaster cannon tracked the approaching TIEs and engaged them anytime they fell within a sphere of one mark five kays of the T-4s. The armament of the TIEs was limited to a flight line vector for engagement. Each G9S originally carried ten light auto-repeater blaster cannons. Two cannons were housed in the nose of the snubfighter, one on each side of the ugly forward ram snout, and two were mounted above and behind the cockpit canopy in a remote drive turret which gave the cannons some limited traverse, elevation, and deflection. A pair of linked light auto-repeating blaster cannons were mounted on each side of the stubby slab-like fuselage, recessed into a conical, elliptical pit. The rear of the G9S housed another pair of light auto repeating blasters, in a similar arrangement designed to deter any attack from behind, a favorite Imperial approach vector. The G9S originally sacrificed shielding for heavy armor in overlapping articulated platelets and brutal acceleration from a trio of fusial ion thrusters. The first TIEs to engage the pirate G9S snubfighers found out too late that the new signatures from these modified G9S’s included a dedicated shield generator jury rigged to the exterior of the hull, one that provided a substantial strength ray shield against high energy attack.

While the light auto-repeating blaster cannons didn’t pack as much direct impact punch as the heavier laser cannons carried by the Imperial TIE fighters, the lighter guns more than made up for it in sheer volume of fire and their wide arcs of fire, arcs which often overlapped between several pirate fighters. For every pulse that a TIE could produce from its cannons, the lighter rapid fire guns could more than triple. Three TIEs were reduced to flaming debris and rapidly expanding clouds of still vaporizing materials in quick succession when they made critical flight control errors and ran into a wall of self targeting light auto-repeating blaster fire produced from a dual element flight of pirate G9S craft.

Space around the convoy was illuminated by the red, blue and green flashes of laser fire and the silent flashes of disintegrating fightercraft. The starfighters swarmed angrily around the capital ships and convoy units. Anti-spacecraft batteries of the larger ships tracked and fired upon the fast moving enemy fighters; quad quads and pom poms filled space rapidly with their bursts, following their selected targets. The larger batteries of the capital ships were reserved for dealing with each other. Lances of heavy turbolaser fire leapt from the Revancer to the pirate corvette Ipithal, weakening her ray shielding with each salvo but the Ipithal’s twin dual turbolaser mounts were scoring on the already weakened shields of the Revancer , bringing them ever closer to falling. The supporting fire from the two light corvettes soon taxed the Imperial light cruiser’s ability to reinforce its shields. Morais ordered his remaining TIEs to protect the Revancer . As the squadrons of Imperial fighters moved to comply, they took more casualties from the pirate snubfighters. The remaining nine TIE fighters began to engage the pirate capital ships, breaking up their attack on the Revancer , and giving Morais time to turn his ship around and away from the convoy. Atui had noticed the Revancer turning on her axis, away from the fight.

“What in the …” Atui had wondered aloud.

“Sir!” came the voice of Tragis, his wingman. “The Revancer is building up for a hyperspace jump!”

Atui had already figured that part out, and the recall had not been sounded.

“Flight officer Atui to Revancer . Do you copy?”

Nothing.

“Flight officer Atui to Revancer . We are reading your run up to hyperspace. Nine elements of squadron 417 have still not been recovered by launch control. Stand down from your run and prepare to recover remaining fighters.”

Silence.

Mhar Atui checked his comm circuit to make sure it was still working.

“This is Flight officer Mhar …” he began.

“I know who this is. Do you know who I am?” came a cold, hard voice.

“Sir. Sector Task General Morais.” Atui replied.

“I am glad that you still recognize my voice, Flight officer Atui. Now let us see if you still recognize my authority. You are a unit in the legal conscript service of the Empire. As such, you are simply another labor unit in a system that has been given to me to use as I see fit and you are at my disposal. You and your pilots will engage the pirate ships at all costs in order to protect the retreat of the Revancer . Do I make myself fully understood? At all costs, Flight officer Atui. You are expendable, the Revancer and her crew are not. Fight well, conscript, and you may yet find eternal glory. However, your glory today will not be for the Emperor or the Empire. Revancer out.”

The Revancer ignored the pleas of the crews of the convoy vessels as well. Atui felt hatred well up inside of him. The other pilots had heard the open communication as well, it had been their death sentence verbally delivered by their own commander. One conscript piloted TIE moved to dock with the Revancer , awaiting the tractor beams that would pull it inside the docking launch bay and into its support cradle. A pair of quad quad anti-spacecraft cannons in ventral pits along the belly of the Revancer vaporized the Imperial fighter in a volley of blaster fire. Atui banked his TIE fighter away from the Revancer and ordered his wingmen to engage.

“Sir?! Is the Revancer leaving us?!” came a call from one of his wingmen. “Did they just destroy Six?”

“We have our orders.” Atui said. “We are expendable. Morais has instructed us to cover the Revancer as it retreats, but in truth, he’s abandoned us and we’re outnumbered. If you try to land on the Revancer , he will order your destruction. We can’t run for it, we don’t have the range, so you had better put up a good fight or you’ll die quick. Today you have a choice. You don’t have a choice of if you will die or not, but rather how you will die. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve made my decision. I will not die quickly today. When it is time to meet the Makers, then I’m going to have taken a few of these fatherless pirate scum with me.”

There was immediate dissention in the ranks of the remaining eight TIE fighter pilots and then a vote of confidence in Atui’s choice of actions. The shock of being abandoned and written off weighed heavily upon the conscript pilots. Atui listened to the chatter from ship to ship and then interceded, bringing his squadron to a cohesive fighting force once again and tempering his tactics to match. His orders were crisp and short, and his pilots moved to obey. The fight had been short lived, the TIEs were outmatched, and one by one they died under the hail of pirate snubfighter and capital ship laser fire but not before destroying over half of the attacking pirate snubfighters using coordinated attacks. Atui’s fighter was the last to be damaged, crippled by a converging set of blaster fire from two different pirate snubfighters, his craft, spinning wildly out of control and arcing energy into the void, had been abandoned as a sure kill by his attackers and he had been left for dead.

The convoy was crippled with precision ion munition and ion beam strikes from the pirates. The crews of the Imperial convoy ships had pleaded for mercy from their attackers but they were also met with silence or the occasional taunting ridicule. Then the boarding actions had begun.

Atui, in his stricken fighter, was at most a sad curiosity rather than any real threat. He had watched with cold professional fascination as the pirate corvettes moved to dock with the crippled convoy ships. Airlocks matched and sealed, then the pirate crews used blastcutters to shear through the locked airlocks on the other side while pirate crews waited behind the techs, weapons ready and spoiling for a fight. The boarders met with little resistance. The convoy ships each had a token force of Stormtroopers aboard, hardly more than a squad apiece, and mostly lackluster garrison or conscript troops not used to anyone really putting up a struggle or argument against their authority. The Imperial troops had died to a soldier when the pirates boarded, blasters flashing through the smoke filled corridors. Atui didn’t know about the fate of the crews of the ships. If they hadn’t fought back, chances were the pirates might have spared them. Or they might take them in trade for pirates lost in the boarding actions, and sell the survivors on the underground slave markets.

Mhar Atui had thought more than once about defecting from Imperial service many times, especially while being forced to serve under Sector Task General Morais. He was halfway through the court imposed fifteen year sentence of legal conscript service. A choice of Imperial service, or the ridium mines of Orpa had at the time seemed a night and day choice. His current situation made him rethink his decision all those years ago. He had thought that this service would say something about him, would give him an edge in the ranks. His abilities had gotten him out of the rank and file work of the Stormtrooper squads, up and into flight training and ultimately now a position as officer in charge of a portion of the strike squadron aboard a light cruiser. Still, he was just a legal conscript, serving out a term of forced service to the Empire, a political monster that had kept him posted out on the Barren Rim with little chance to do more than serve his time and try to stay alive. His service to the Empire had been filled with hunting down spice smugglers and clandestine pockets of pirates and commerce raiders, a constant string of small engagements that had hardened him to a lonely life and a pessimistic outlook on life. He never had any regrets about dying in a straight out fight, but to be trapped in a crippled TIE fighter, with no weapons, little power, no engines, and at the mercy of a superior force, well, he just never thought it would end like that. He also never thought that he would be abandoned by those he served, however reluctantly he had served them. He laughed a little, reaching up and adjusting his life support maintenance systems. As it was, what was left of his fighter would hardly be worth salvage, and he thought that with such low power emissions, he would merely be thought of as a ‘hot’ piece of debris, leaking power from his shattered cells. The pirates had bigger game to go after than chase down a lone pilot in a shattered fighter that was slowly leaving the scene of the battle at the same velocity as most of the other debris. It wasn’t worth their time and effort now to come and blast him. He would be dead in a few days at most, with no hope for rescue, and no way to escape. Better to let him die slowly than quickly in a flash of blaster fire.

Atui was saved from death, only to be reserved to an even slower more painful death.

The boarding operations took about ten minutes total, as far as he could tell from passively listening in on the troop tactical channels. The boarding operations happened almost simultaneously, such was the coordination of the pirate boarding raiding parties. Forty-five minutes after the last Stormtrooper had reported in as little more than a gurgling sound followed by a long period of static, the pirates began to leave with their captured prey. They had hurriedly transferred skeleton crews to the cargo vessels as fast as they could and repairing the disabled controls. An hour and a half after the Revancer had retreated, abandoning Atui and his fellow pilots, and the convoy had been boarded, the pirate flotilla, now including all but one of the large captured Imperial transports, turned and accelerated off into space. A flotilla that was now fat with the ill-gained spoils of their criminal victory. He registered on his passive sensors the individual ships jumping to hyperspace at their first chance, each creating a ghost-like afterimage in the ether of space as they transited to that other realm that sidestepped space and time.

Ahead of him and to his starboard side, the Yatanni transport Jaghdha floated, her engines smashed beyond repair by a collision of an errant TIE shot up by a pair of pirate snubfighter. The damage looked extensive from what Atui could see, and no time had been allocated by the pirates for field repairs. Taking what they could as fast as they could from the Jaghdha, the pirates had plundered her of all her cargo, overloading the other captured freighters beyond any measure of safety. The pirates had then scuttled the Jaghdha, opening her locks and cutting her power, setting her adrift where she might be lost amid the clutter. Possibly they could and would return later to salvage her, in doing so, they might have left a beacon aboard tuned to one of the lower frequencies which they monitored. Still…

Atui was then, finally alone, with nothing but the static of the passive reception on his comm channels. His comm suite cycled through the bands, listening for anything and finding nothing. He boosted the comm suite with power from his batteries. He hit the transmit key and called open an Imperial coded transmission channel.

“This is Flight Officer Mhar Atui of the Revancer . Does anyone read me?”

Static and silence.

“Do you copy, over?”

Static and silence.

“This is Flight Officer Mhar Atui of the Revancer  calling any Imperial unit in range. Please respond.”

Static and silence.

He raised his finger again over the transmit key and stopped. He took a deep breath of bottled air, sighed and looked out at the debris field, now cluttered with white and black armored bodies of the Imperial troops that had been jettisoned after the fighting. A gray uniform clad body floated among the troops, and Atui knew then the fate of the crews of the convoy. Atui keyed off his remaining power and tried to turn his stricken TIE fighter around. It was slow using only reaction control jets, and even then he had barely half of those functioning. He had to juggle their use constantly. Repulsor lift was worthless without any planetary body around, so he had to make do with slowly crawling his way along, adjusting, over adjusting his angle of approach, readjusting, and using very light taps on the RCS system to align him with the big Yatanni K3 modular transport. Thirty minutes later found him physically and mentally exhausted at having to perform such complex calculations and computations, mathematics that were normally handled by the flight computer and presented for him.

Atui carefully edged what was left of his TIE fighter up near the Yatanni K3 transport and tried to come to a complete stop near one of the cargo locks when his RCS system, taxed under loads it was never designed to accommodate, failed. No good. He braced himself at the last second as his TIE fighter collided with the hull of the transport in a bone jarring crash that bent the port alloy wing spar and shattered more of his solar cells. Worse yet, his RCS system was off line now and he was slowly drifting away from the transport on an angle that he couldn’t compensate for. Atui reached up, grabbed his flight log, a U-shaped data recorder plugged into a slot in the cockpit bulkhead behind him, gripped the dual release toggles and jerked it free. He set the recorder into the left thigh pocket of his flight suit and resealed the pocket. His right hand grabbed the explosive bolt actuator that would blow his canopy free and flipped the toggle safety switch to [LIVE]. Atui looked forward at the crazy spinning star field and debris cloud again and then looked down, following safety instructions, to protect his head and face. His gloved finger depressed the arming switch and then the firing switch. Above him, sixteen micro-explosive shaped charge detonators arranged equally around the hatch of his TIE fighter fired off silently in the cold depths of space. The charges separated the main hatch of the TIE fighter from the fuselage in a halo of brilliant white light that sent small glowing particles dancing around the cockpit and top of the fuselage. The hatch flew quickly off into space on its own trajectory, propelled at speed by the force of the explosives which had removed it. Atui looked up at the spinning stars, the receding hatch, and the main bulk of the cargo transport. He had one good chance, and if he was lucky, maybe another smaller one. He checked his suit integrity, his life support systems, switched from external ship power over to his internal suit batteries. He waited, mentally taking calculations, counting off rotations of his craft and judging his timing as best as he could. One more rotation, coming up, wait for it… wait for it… The open cockpit of the TIE fighter aligned perfectly with the bow of the Yatani transport.

Now!

Atui twisted the quick release of his flight harness and kicked with all of his strength. He straightened his body, drawing his arms and legs in towards him as he shot out of the TIE as it spun slowly around him. He left the stricken craft in a graceful motion that would have been the envy of some of the professional dancers on the circuit. His momentum would carry him to the transport, but he couldn’t truly judge his approach velocity. Too fast and he would crash into the transport, too slow and he might never reach it. He looked back, his kick having given him enough momentum to separate him from his craft. His craft was a complete loss, and he was surprised on both a professional and amateur level at how he had lived this long while hiding in what amounted to little more than scrap and some batteries. The stricken wreckage of his TIE fighter slowly fell away from him. He turned back and saw the hull of the transport growing larger. His approach speed was enough that he would make it, but things might not be so easy on impact. Atui waited until the last second and put his arms out to cushion his impact.

He smacked into the transport for the second time, this time his body flattened against the hull. He was drawn along the hull by his momentum, slowly sliding along the hull at an angle that would quickly skate him back into space. Atui desperately looked around, saw a coolant pipe, and grabbed it, swinging around and stopping his momentum as his arm bore his entire weight and mass. He felt the coolant pipe sway and give some, but it held. The boots of his flight suit were magnetized for operations in zero gravity, and he gently worked his legs under him, placed the boots against the hull and felt them grab. Atui sighed heavily in his helmet, slowly standing erect, getting used to his new orientation. He watched debris gently float past; pieces of hull, some with pirate insignia and some with Imperial insignia, and even the shattered blaster scorched helmet of a fallen Stormtrooper slowly spun through his field of view. He could feel the impact of debris on the hull, small thuds, collisions occurring as the helpless transport slowly drifted through the debris field. All he needed now was a suit breach. Atui looked fore and aft of his position on the hull, searching for an air lock or a cargo lock to gain entry to the transport. A cargo lock was about five mitas to down port and Atui slowly started walking that way. Walking with magnetized boots in zero gravity could be done, but it was an art as much as it was a skill. Atui was a bit rough but he managed, and there was certainly no one around to critique his method which got the job done as well as anyone else he thought.

The standard Imperial flight suit shared the same one piece body glove that the Stormtroopers wore under their armor. It was an insulated undergarment with powered heat and cooling elements. If he could get inside the transport, chances were that he could find a set of operational Stormtrooper armor and exchange its more long term life support systems and protection for his pilot’s helmet and flight pack. Atui hadn’t worn full armor in years, but it would all come back to him. If he could get inside…

Atui reached over, grabbed one hand hold and pulled himself along slowly until he reached the cargo lock. It was huge, twice the normal size of a standard airlock, and designed to allow a fully suited crew member to enter and leave with ease. Atui would have to step off of the hull and swing around to enter the lock, an act that brought more than a second of forethought to his mind. Atui reached forward, unlocked the control panel, and keyed for the lock to cycle. An eternity later, the heavy lock opened its three piece door and Atui carefully moved around the lip of the lock and inside. He floated in a dimly lit gray painted lock. Red emergency flashers and warning lights gave the lock an eerie appearance, casting long shadows of his movements. Atui connected again to the deck of the lock and stood before he keyed the lock controls. Behind him, silently, the three piece exterior door cycled shut and locked. Small diodes went from red to green as the airlock cycled.

A thought occurred to him as well… could the pirates have left someone behind to guard the ship? Perhaps a boarding party even now prowling the decks, waiting on their ilk to return and repair the ship? Could they have detected the cycling of the locks from the onboard systems and even now be waiting on him outside the airlock to cut him down in a crossfire of blaster bolts? Atui instinctively reached down to his holstered sidearm, unlatched the flap, and withdrew his service sidearm blaster. It was a Sorro-Sub Model 23AA, flat black, a cold comfort in his gloved hand, thin and waspish, compact, the perfect size for a pilot in a cramped craft. He flicked the power selector to full, a setting which would produce a bolt capable of burning through most personal armor and killing instantly. He manually toggled the macrosight of the blaster for quick target acquisition at short range and proceeded slowly, covering his way as he went. He cycled the inner doors and waited for the ten second long process to complete, ready to pull the trigger of his weapon at the first sign of any hostiles. The ugly fluted snout of the blaster was a comfort to him as he crouched, taking the blaster in both hands in a reinforced brace, and aimed it at the inner lock doors, at the likely spot that an ambusher would be situated at. His gloved finger took up the slack in the trigger of the blaster.

Nothing.

Atui aimed his blaster cautiously as the interior doors opened to a scene of floating carnage. Nothing moved of its own accord outside those reinforced doors. Shattered white armored bodies, scored heavily by close range high power blaster bolts, floated lifelessly in the corridor of the transport. The spent gasses so common to prolonged blaster engagements floated like ambient wisps in the corridor, a dead man’s fog of war wrapping slowly around the bodies as they drifted. Atui waited and listened. There was still enough atmosphere in the ship to carry sound, though fairly muted in the escaping gasses. He could hear the hull creak and groan, and the sounds of debris colliding internally, bouncing off corridor walls or with each other. Atui slowly stood, moved as silently as he could, and viewed the corridor beyond from a vantage point that would keep most of the reinforced entrance to the airlock between him and any opposing blaster carriers.

Nothing but carnage and debris from the ships stores.

Just outside the airlock something came at Atui from behind, floating in at him from behind. He instinctively grabbed his attacker and twisted to throw him, bringing Atui face to face with the emotionless armor mask of a fallen Stormtrooper, the outstretched arms and curved backwards stance of the body clearly showed how the Stormtrooper had died. A large carbonized hole and scorch mark on the rear armor shell in the middle of the back of the Stormtrooper was the final judge in the matter. Atui felt his heart pounding in his chest and his body was on liquid fire. He laughed a short desperate laugh and gently sent the dead body floating on. He steadied his breathing, calming himself, and pushed the body away from him gently.

The dead could not hurt him, not even on this ship of ghosts.

He keyed up his suit comlink and set it for broadband relay to the secure Imperial frequencies that any crew would be using.

“This is Flight Officer Mhar Atui of the Revancer  calling any Imperial unit in range of my transmission. Do you copy?”

Static and silence.

The dead never spoke. Mhar Atui walked slowly out of the airlock, standing in the hall amid the floating carnage and the residue of battle. It would be faster to ‘fly’ through the corridors than attempt to walk, and he kicked off gently, controlling his momentum. He hung in the hall by a zero gravity hand hold, designed just for times like this, or in the event of a temporary failure of the artificial gravity generators. The sensors in his suit read a partial atmosphere and limited pressure but no gravity. The atmosphere was bleeding out into space, slowly, but in a few hours what little air and pressure was left would be gone. The temperature was already dropping, soon it would be equal to the cold of space. Atui did not know if the power systems could be restarted, or if, once brought back online, that perhaps the automated damage repair systems might staunch the flow of air and the life support system return an atmosphere and heat to the hulk. The sound of his breathing again was heavy in his ears, the mechanical cycling of his life support gas recirculator seeming to keep pace with his heartbeat in his chest. His comlink scanned the frequencies, and he watched the digital readout as it turned over and over.

Nothing.

He slowly drifted on.

The burn and scorch marks indicated that the fighting had taken place fore of his position, and that the Stormtroopers in the corridor were either retreating, had been caught from behind, or were simply outnumbered while moving to a better position. Atui had seen death too many times before for it to bother him, even upclose. The dead didn’t need food, didn’t need warmth or air but he did, and soon. His flight suit was good for three days of life support, but after thirty six hours, suvival in the suit jokingly became an ‘option’ as the standard filters began to break down after more than a day and a half, leaving the term ‘survival’ open for heated debate among the pilots. The newer suits were better, but those hadn’t made it out this far yet to the Rim forces. Core forces always got the best stuff first.

Atui oriented himself to the transport’s layout. He had served aboard one of these ships as part of a Stormtrooper squad before opting to be transferred to flight duty four years ago. Standard Imperial design, he was far aft, three decks down and four sections behind where he wanted to be. Atui oriented himself and kicked off gently down the hall, sailing up the corridor and pushing broken armored and blasted bodies aside when they interfered with his trajectory or his path.

Since the main power was offline, the turboshafts would be useless. He would have to traverse decks using the cramped maintenance access shafts. Five minutes later found him on the next deck up and feeling tired. Even in the zero gravity, it was work moving around in the hulk. Two decks ahead and four compartments forward would be the armory section for the troops assigned to the ship. The armory section itself was an armored airlock type affair. Maybe the pirates had missed it, maybe they had ignored it, maybe, if they had found it, they hadn’t looted it bare. Atui didn’t give himself much hope, but the small bit that the armory could offer…

Atui found the armory surprisingly intact. Evidence that the pirates had tried to break into the armory was evident. The corridor surrounding the armory was scorched with blaster fire, shaped explosives, and even the sign of manual prying equipment, but then the armory had been designed to withstand assaults like that. What lay behind the armored doors was the equipment and weapons and armor of the soldiers of the Empire, and those who were assigned such equipment guarded its upkeep and protected it zealously. Three Stormtrooper bodies floating nearby showed that they had died defending the armory from capture.

The lock had been hopelessly destroyed in the break in attempt by the pirate boarding parties and Atui doubted that even his identification cylinder would operate the lock. He would have to run a bypass from the shattered remains of the lock and try to get a reading off of his cylinder. His rank allowed him access to the armory by virtue of his position in the Imperial armed forces. He opened the panel, saw the damage within, and began the slow task of trying to jury rig the identification reader.

Fifteen minutes later, Atui had managed to bypass the damaged components and access the identification subcomponents. He fitted his identification cylinder from his flight suit into the circuit, and connected it. Nothing happened. Atui double checked his connections, found one that was suspect, reseated the component in the board assembly and was rewarded with a pair of green diodes indicating that the outer armored door was cycling. Atui pushed back and moved to the side of the armory entrance. He didn’t think anyone would have thought of the armory as a refuge, but he didn’t want to walk into the armory thinking his troubles were over only to be shot by a coward who had locked their self inside one of the most well protected parts of any Imperial starship.

Atui cautiously edged around the corner of the heavily carbon scored entrance, his blaster out and pointed ahead, covering his front. Where he looked, the ugly snout of the blaster followed. The armory was unoccupied and Atui slowly settled back down to the corridor and walked in. Past the heavy doors was a small section used to repair and replace components in the Stormtrooper’s equipment. Supplies and toolkits were arranged around three workbenches, now all dark in the absence of main power. Atui reached over to a control panel on the wall and keyed up auxillary lighting from emergency generators integral to the construction of the armory. Light flickered on from removed sources, and illuminated a treasure Atui would have never believed possible.

The armory was still complete, and save for the equipment and armor of those who had been on guard, everything was still here, neatly stored and arranged for quick access. He walked over to a floor to ceiling walker and keyed it open. Inside was the characteristic white and black armor pieces of a Imperial Stormtrooper. Individual pieces were pushed into shaped indents in black memory foam, roughly in the same position as they would occupy once they were attached to the bodyglove. The bodyglove itself was folded neatly and stored in a slot in the foam, along with spares and some extra chemicals and treatments for the care and maintenance of the armor sheath itself. He looked over at the wall and saw a brace of light repeating blasters, squad support weapons. Extended duty backpacks, which included additional life support equipment, a dedicated vaporator with canteen, preserved rations, extra powerpacks with power charger, and other supplies were stored in their racks, suckling their keeper charges from the batteries of the ship. There was a variety of close combat arms also, from force pikes to power staves. Explosives would be stored in another part of the armory, in an armored bulkhead to prevent damage to the ship or the rest of the armory. Atui began to hope, for the first time in hours, that he might live to see the end of the day.

He checked the atmosphere readout again using his helmet readout and sensors. Thin, but still breathable. He wouldn’t want to over exert himself in the thinning life support gasses, but short term exposure would be tolerable. He broke the seals of his flight helmet, and cautiously removed it. The air smelled of technology and chemicals, it smelled military and precise, like the interior of a TIE fighter after it had been serviced. Atui drank it in, detecting the faint traces of battle from the corridor outside, the heavy odor of spent blaster gas, and of course, the taint of the dead. He began to remove his flight gear, first his life support pack and its twin hoses connected to his black flight helmet. He set the unit and his helmet down on the dressing bench and shoved it to the side. He removed his belt and then his gloves, saving his boots for last since they were the only contact he had with keeping a position standing. The bodyglove he wore under his flightsuit was the same as that worn by the Stormtroopers, but Atui had been in his glove for hours now, and he wished for a fresh change. He found a can of personal cleaning paste and took a waterless shower, using a spare uniform to wipe the chemical residue off with.

Ten minutes later found him floating in front of the locker, fresh bodyglove on and the integral powerpack contained within powering the heating elements of his suit to warm him. Clothed from head to toe in the skin tight suit, only his hands and face were exposed to the dropping temperatures aboard the vessel. Atui reached into the locker, took the armored boots out, and donned them. Standing there in front of the locker now, wearing the articulated boots and secured to the armory floor once again thanks to the magnetic coupling on the bottom of his boots, Atui continued to dress. The lower leg armor went on next, followed by the waist and groin piece. He drew on his gloves, sealing them to the bodyglove, and then attached the primary leads for the glove to his armor where sensors imbedded in the armor would work with the bodyglove to regulate his life support systems and temperature. The chill in his fingers began to warm. Atui put on the forearm and bicep armor next, and followed that with the two piece hinged shell chest and torso armor plate, locking it down and making sure that the bodyglove connections were secure to their armor components. He stood then, protected by the armor of an Imperial Stormtrooper, save for the helmet and the utility belt which were still stored in the recess in the locker. He would come back for that later. A rumbling in his stomach and the sudden dryness in his throat reminded him that he needed to find sustenance. (unfinished fragment)



(cut piece)

and drifting near a pair of still full racks containing the Stormtrooper armor. Eighteen pieces of concussion reinforced armorplas.


(cut piece)

“Flight Commander Atui?” came the concerned voice of Siprice, his wingman keeping station one kay to port.

“Sir? Did you say something? I didn’t fully copy that last transmission.”

He hadn’t realized he had done more than subvocalize his thoughts. The comm system had picked up his words and transmitted them via tactical channels to the only other friendly Imperial unit left in this sector, his wingman.

“Sorry, Siprice.” Atui spoke into his com circuit. “Just venting. Keep this channel clear for now. We don’t know what to expect.”

Siprice didn’t acknowledge, the mark of a well trained wingman handling an emergency situation. Siprice’s TIE fighter was showing some damage, mostly superficial structural damage and a few holes in her starboard solar wing. Overall, she was suffering less than fifteen percent system reduction.  Atui's own craft was in much worse shape...
 

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