Dead Giveaway

“Did you see that?”

“Negative, Seven. My screen is clear,” came the wingman’s response.

She shook her head inside her helmet, “No, I mean did you see something. Using real eyes. At about…three-five-five by zero-four-one degrees. Between us and the ground.”

A pause, their turn was leading them away from the massive body at an angle. “You mean that…fuzzy looking thing that tells me some bantha-brain didn’t wipe down our canopies? I see it now, thank you.”

She gave a frustrated grunt, then canted her convexed wings back toward Vawarc, the lonely moon rising over their horizon in their path. “I’m gonna go check it out, Eight. You can stay with the bricks if you want.”

The stabbing points of her partner’s TIE Interceptor quickly came back into view on her right, “And leave you with all the fun? Never. We’ll send Shrike Nine and Ten on their way for just a moment. It’s not like we can’t catch them.” The two Imperial fighters snapped away from the double-hulled TIE Bombers they had been in formation with and accelerated, curious and unafraid.

Yellow klaxons flashed in the corner of his eyes as Shin entered the bridge. The darkened ceiling and floor lights gave an ominous vibe to an already tense situation, broken only by the flurry of beeps and sweeps of his officers and crew balancing excitement and vigilance. “Report.”

“Two TIE Interceptors have broken formation and are an intercept course, bearing zero-zero-zero by three-one-zero, almost head on,” Semil rattled off without looking up.

“Can they see us? Or was this an expected break?”

Suvan shook her head, “None of the other fighter groups have split, and we detected several short transmissions between the ships as they came about. Nothing toward Vawarc, the Maleficent Wind, or St. Petersburg.”

That gave the Captain a moment of relief, but it wasn’t long before his Andorian first officer broke that, “Captain, they may be picking up on our visual distortion due to our lower orbit.”

Shin snapped over to Tactical, “Possible?”

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow, “Possible, Captain. As I have studied it, SHIMMER may produce a visual reflection or haze in such a low orbit. However, that probability was assessed as ‘low’ in the technical assessments.”

“Damn,” Shin muttered. Their one trump card, their cloak of invisibility that made this whole mission possible, was seeming to have more issues than anyone had bargained for. Now he had to weigh quickly what to do with that handicap, “Options? Can we raise shields or destroy those fighters before they see us?”

“We can, however, the increased energy output of either system would be detectable from the surface or by any vessel conducting active scans. Which, I must point out, is what the defense platform below and the Star Destroyer are currently doing.”

“Why? It’s not like those fighters are going leaving the system…” al-Imir began, a question that his Science Officer had an answer, “Captain, it looks like, based on traffic between the Destroyer and planetside, is that they are calibrating the weapon for small, fast-moving targets and multiple simultaneous targets. It’s a test flight.”

“You have their communications?” Suvan asked in shock, to which Paige nodded. “They’re using an Imperial encryption the New Republic provided us, so we’ve copied most of their comms and status updates sent out of the system. Anything relayed to or from the St. Petersburg is still unknown.”

The Captain nodded his approval of their find, though losing the option of combat soured him. “Can we divert more power to SHIMMER, or compensate for the distortion effect?”

The Andorian quickly tapped her combadge, “Bridge to Engineering! Lt Varoe, we need to adjust SHIMMER to compensate for atmospheric interaction, is it possible?”

The response was not promising, “Uhh, yeah, we can do it. Give me three minutes to recycle to frequency scatters and then tune them to a specific range.”

A timeframe that the Vulcan shook his head at, “Sixty seconds until visual acquisition becomes possible. I propose a more…radical solution.”

“Such as?”

“Transporting the pilots directly into the brig. It prevents them from relaying our position as well as provides a potential intelligence source.”

Suvan’s antennae stood on end, “You’re joking!”

“The armor of the Interceptors should mask enough of our transporter energy to make it possible.” Semil stated plainly, fingers swooshing over keys to begin the targeting.

The Captain saw one major flaw with this, “And what about the fighters? We can’t just leave those floating…”

“What if we beamed those into the shuttle bay at the same time?” Paige posed.

It was a dangerous idea to be sure, trying to catch a speeding bullet in a jar without touching the sides or bottom. But if we can’t do anything else, at least O’Shea will have a field day… “Prep Security details at the brig, shuttle-bays and vital systems! Energize when ready! Helm, move us away from our current position as fast as you can, get us behind that moon!”

It was an order given mere seconds too early, because it was easier to move the Artemis than to lock on the transporters.

“Eight, I’m reading motion from that distortion!” She hollered into her mic as what she once thought of as a haze suddenly rolled its face away from her.

“Standby, Seven! Vorpal Eight to Control! We’veeeeee……” Her wingman’s voice faded into static, followed shortly by the ethereal blue energy surrounding her as well. On instinct, she squeezed the triggers, a quadburst of cannon fire leapt from her Interceptor before the world went white.

*


A continuation of a story I started a while back, in the spirit of all those sneaky spies of days past.  In the world of intelligence, you only hear about it if something goes horribly wrong…

I hope you all enjoy.

No Going Back

There was a moment, once upon a time, when her eyes were filled with such life he thought the would beam forever. Cream skin that glowed in newfound radiance matched only by her smile of infinite joy. The words I love you danced from his lips over and over as he rushed to her, scooping her up in arms powered by indescribable bliss. Russet hair played over their cheeks as if to seal their faces away in a concealed dimension of love meant for them and them alone.

A moment forever frozen in the electrons of the holo-image that sat just off his left arm. A moment of heaven captured forever, doomed to haunt him forever.

The gusts of wind and rain from the greyed sky above shook the cockpit slightly, so he brought the nose of his Y-Wing up mere inches to crest the next wave. His fist clenched the stick, ten percent concentration, ninety percent rage. It had been on a day like today when the star in his life has been snuffed out, the day she had died. Some would have called it the price he paid for being an idealist, standing up to the un-bowing order of the galaxy that was the Galactic Empire. His squadron mates called it his cause, his reason to fight on against tyranny.  To Kyr Birnakari, it was all he could see at night when he closed his eyes, all he could hear in the day. Always whispering in his ears, her claws always in his heart.

They had arrived on Iribar only hours too late to stave off the Imperial bombardment that froze her eyes forever in fear and pain, and while Kyr and his brethren had destroyed the newly-arrived occupation force in reciprocity, it did little to quell the screams he would hear in the years to come.  Agony bound to the one who had caused it, the cruiser Harrowed Venom. For all the missions Kyr had been dispatched on, and every oppressing pawn shot down, never had that name surfaced within reach again.

Until now, when its patrol brought it back to Iribar. Back to its nest of destruction, right into this hand for vengeance.

“Blink, can you tie into the ion guns? You can be rear seat instead of Palleran.”

His R2 comrade something in the negative, making his teeth clench, “Then delete the software block and tie it right into your processor! We need all the firepower we’ve got on this!”

A moment of silence, then the cannon above his head snapped to attention, scanning the horizon. The last piece of his scattered plan was in place. First, he would disable the Venom, then he would bomb every square inch of the cruiser into the ground. No survivors, no witnesses. Only the wreck would stand as a monument to his loss.

One kilometer after another, it came slowly into view among the clouds, moored to a dark tower above a fresh cut within the mountainside. The Imperial forces had finished their first outpost here within recent memory, but what he hadn’t known to be there before was the garrison of defending TIE Fighters that would oppose him. Kyr could feel the anger rising in his throat, but he tried to shake it away. Destroying that ship was all that mattered now. Esta…forgive me, my love….

Suddenly, pulse after pulse from his topside cannon shouted to life, Blink wailing an alert. Two TIEs had noted his wake even among the torrents and turned to pursue. The droid’s haste caught one dead center and dropped it powerlessly into the crush, but its partner broke away wide before turning back to return fire. Emerald bolts boiled the water in front of him, forcing his nose off target. Rolling on his side to present his smaller profile to his foe, Kyr’s had tightened on the trigger. It had to be a clean hot, a perfect shot, his Y-Wing had only two torpedoes.

Whatever he yelled at the top of his lungs was somewhere between the rave of a lunatic and a wounded animal as he fired before pulling away in a climb. Both missiles flew straight and true towards the underbelly of his beast. But it was a long distance shot, and the Imperial alarms were blaring. The engines of the Harrowed Venom began to glow, its guns snapped to attention. One of the ventral guns fired hastily, but all too accurately, catching one of Kyr’s torpedoes and detonating it harmlessly. The second sailed on and caught its target in the side. A few of the engines dimmed for a moment, but it wasn’t enough to put the cruiser down.

The Y-Wing suddenly shook violently as its shields caught the side-on blow form another pair of incoming TIEs.  Yanking his turn to loop around, Kyr brought his nose to face them so both he and Blink could fire. His lasers shredded the wing of one, but Blink’s shots were wide, allowing the Imp flyer to hit him again in the cheek. Crossing nose against nose, he dove back to the waters and set his eyes back on the Venom. He had to catch it before it was unleashed, a single bomber stood only a little chance in prolonged combat.

His R2 fired again and again towards the rear, but Kyr kept his belly as low as it would go until the racing rocks forced him up again, in prime striking range. Scarlet fangs leapt out, cutting into his target all down her backside and up the spine before the heavy turbolaser rife forced him away again. Four more TIEs screamed in from both sides, joining the hunt.

“Blink, set ion cannon to auto and see if you can speed up the shield recharge!” he yelled as another blast clipped past one of his engines.  Come on! I just need one good run! Come on, COME ON!  His mind screamed over and over, but the Imperial fighters would not give him pause. Every twist, every turn or climb was met with more and more firepower.

Only when red pulses rained down from the clouds did he remember to breathe through clenched teeth. Cutting down three of his hunters, Kyr raced up into the clouds as an X-wing blazed planet-ward, the colors of his kin alive on its wings. “Kip and Palleran are pretty pissed at you right now, trying to do this on your own.”

“Then why are you here, Vilkas?”

“One, because you’re my brother. Two, when we get out of here, I’m going to punch you in your crazy face.” The X-wing peeled away from Kyr to give chase to another quartet of incoming TIEs, “And three, because if you die here, Esta would never forgive me!”

Blink squeaked in merriment as the Y-Wing doubled back towards the Venom, which was now free of the tower and turning its full broadside at him. His hands shook from the trigger as his fired over and over again, trying to break the shields of the larger vessel. Again, the heavier enemy fire forced him back and away. “Blink!, Link the ion cannons to the blasters! Everything forward! Vilkas, if you have torpedoes, hit the cruiser!”

Two strakes of stellar white leapt from the X-Wing’s nose in a snap-shot.  This time, both missiles slammed into the bow, rocking the larger vessel back and turning its attention away. Kyr yanked the throttle back to slow his approach and pounced again, raking red and blue fire against the enemy’s engine block. At the last possible second, he pulled the stick into his lap and slammed the bomb release button. The entire hold of proton ordinance emptied from the Y-Wing and onto the Venom, blasting free part of its drive system and massive craters into its hull. This time, Venom’s heavy  guns hit home, bouncing him helplessly into the air and blowing his shields away.

He couldn’t remember calling for his brother, but Vilkas’ fighter rose into view and looped around, shredding the heavy turret. “Kyr! Come on! Get it back!”

Suddenly, something small, swift and lightning fast cut the air between them. When he looked over, Kyr’s eyes widened in horror  as the X-Wing to his right twitched and sparked a deathly mark, “Vilkas, VILKAS!!”

“Live…” was all Kyr could make out from the static as the snubfighter detonated from another direct hit. Another blur past his eyes, then the squealing of an R2, as whatever he saw was now behind him. It carried the spherical shape of the TIE cockpit, but its wings were angled inward like the wings of a diving hawk. Its sheer speed matched its look, racing past Kyr with ease at too great a rate for Blink. They came at him again from above. Sliding left and right to dodge them, one clean shot connected, his astromech’s dying howl matched by the sparks jutting from the hole melted though its body.

His body felt numb now, there was nothing left to remember. Whatever alarms were yelling at him faded away, his legs heavy at the rudder. There was only one move left now, as the Y-Wing rolled its belly to sky and began its dive, nose to nose against the Harrowed Venom. The new TIEs hesitated only for a moment before the lead opened fire again at the same instant Kyr pushed the throttle down as far forward as it would go. The Y-Wing cried out as one of its engines was blasted free, sending him into its death spiral.

But the frantic panic and fleeing crew of the Venom filled his heart with joy. Do you see it, Esta? Do you see your justice?

The body of the bomber plunged into the bridge of the larger cruiser as a doomed arrow, finally breaking the Venom’s back. The two halves of the beaten warship shuddered down into the base of the mountain and detonated like a new sunrise along Iribar’s sky. Just as her smile once did, so long ago.


A little something I wrote on the long flight from Germany to Texas. When revenge becomes your synonym for justice, how great does the cost need to be?

I hope you all enjoy.