Episode 2: Into the fire

PLAYER CHARACTERS (and what we know about them so far).

Asti : Woman with good knowledge of droids.
Stoge : Brash Pilot.
Straun Solarwind: Polearm-wielding farmboy. Searching for his father's fate.
Dar : Muscled black native.
Karlos Trialeki : Eight-gun slinger.
Surge : Knowledgeable man.
Menarggrah : Wookiee.

Infinite, empty. A void within nothingness.
For the Rebels, a good place to hide.
The ship that hung suspended in the blackness was massive. It was almost 300 meters long. It was the Nebulon-B class escort frigate Usurper.
The flight deck was the archetypal hive of activity. Amid the mess of tangled power cables, ships of all sizes and scurrying droids, Menarggrah was at home. He flicked the glare shield down again, and resumed crackling away with the fusion welder until a quiet voice spoke his name.
The Wookiee raised the shield gruffly, not wanting to be disturbed now that the dampers were almost up and running. Dar stood before him deadpan, his face betraying no anger, fear, or any other emotion as he spoke.
"The briefing" he nodded his head toward one of the aft exits. "Our first mission."
Menarggrah put down the welder (glancing at a wall chrono) and followed him, barely suppressing a chuckle at the sight of the warrior in a loincloth with braided hair and sheathed sword on the flight deck of a capital starcruiser. The muscled native had not changed visibly in the two weeks since they had left Agost, but now that Dar had gone offplanet for the first time in his life his percieved "world" had expanded a thousandfold, as he had not only seen sights but actively studied the structure of the galaxy
and its systems, details of races, and especially anything the database had concerning the Empire.
The Wookiee, momentarily, wondered why.
They had all been somewhat lost at first. The screening phases, introductory lessons, and such had all left them disoriented, but once routine was established and the Alliance had ascertained where there skills lay, familiar environments (at least for some) presented themselves. Menarggrah was soon around ships again, repairing and testing various systems and mechanisms. Karlos, once he had climbed out of the bacta tank, had practiced ceaselessly with his eight-gun, refusing Alliance standard issue uniforms and blasters, as had Dar. Straun had been seen with him on the firing range, but Surge appeared to have vanished. Menarggrah was slow to trust others, and had vague suspicions that there was something different about the human.
Briefing room 28 was aptly small, because there were few sentients there. Surge and Straun, still looking unused to their uniforms, were seated with Karlos, Straun still with his Eguale prod. Lieutenant Fraggine, a stern, serious human, stood patiently at the front with three people Menarggrah had not met before. It was obvious at first glance that the taller man was a pilot, and by the presence he radiated, a happy-go-lucky one. Fraggine introduced him as Flight Officer Stoge. The woman that joined the team was Asti, a human of quiet beauty that had a confident air about her and a face that was unreadable to the Wookiee. The smaller man in grubby overalls was a janitor named Blark. Introductions completed, the newcomers seated themselves.
"Your mission," Fraggine began "is a simple one, a mere delivery of some supplies." Stoge grunted his contempt, and those burning with fervour against the Empire felt inclined to agree.
"You'll get your chance to hit at the Empire soon enough," the officer continued. "But you are a new team, we don't know how all of you hold up under fire, and such missions as these are vital to the war effort. A group of our techs work from a large freighter named the Bandar, building holosystems, modifying droids, that sort of thing. It is waiting at Nav Buoy D53, and you are to take the Supply 5 out to it, laden with technical parts, tools and supplies. Note that the nav buoy is a commercial lane marker, and
there have been rumours of pirate activity in the area, so you will all be armed. You are to stay there as long as the techs have use for you, although there is a modified Y-Wing that Flight Officer Stoge will be testing, and Blark will be inspecting the cleaning system droids. These two are to finish their assignments before you return. Any questions?"
A prolonged silence filled the room.
"Then down to dock 12, and get going."


Stoge stomped up the ramp of the Supply 5, expressing his opinion freely. "This isn't a ship, it's a toolbox with a glowrod on the back. Look at this," -he waved a hand at the controls- "No energy shielding, no backup hyperdrive,sensors so bad you're better off looking out the window, and a cute symbol on the front that might as well say WE'RE REBELS-PLEASE SHOOT US to any passing ship!" he threw himself into the acceleration chair and flipped a cigar absently through his fingers.
Menarggrah seated himself next to him and put on the copilot's headset. As the rest of the group filed into the small craft, Stoge straightened with a sigh and turned to the Wookiee.
"Okay, hairy, bring up particle shielding to max, warm up the main drive, engage the thermodialmic system, and flip that little switch there that goes 'ping!'."
Manarggrah glared at him for a moment, then the two fliers set to work. Surge thumbed the hatch control as Stoge put on the headset.
"Supply 5 requesting launch clearance dock 12 desvec 18-8-5." Behind them all heard the hum of the engines firing.
The comm winked on. "Usurper control, Supply 5 clear, execute."
Stoge dropped his hands to the controls, and eased the tiny ship out of the docking bay. Dar sat roughly into one of the chairs, still not used to space travel.Some of the group still found it a novelty as the ship slid into a place where basics such as up and down were meaningless. Blark looked somewhat bored.
They coasted just outside the Usurper while the nav computer crunched its numbers and calculated the jump for hyperspace. The massive craft outside held Straun's gaze. He wondered how it came to be in Rebel hands.
Then the nav computer beeped softly and, as Stoge wrenched the lever, the Supply 5 vanished through a tunnel of flashing stars.

Blark was talking again, but Asti switched off and studied the walls of the cockpit. It was as if the ship was once a space container and the Alliance had welded an engine on the back. With exposed wiring, tubing spot-welded loosely to the walls and such a thin hull, the Supply 5 was a living testimony of how badly the Alliance needed ships.
She drew the blaster from its holster on her hip and turned it over in her hands. Its weight was strange, and though she knew how to use it, she had never fired one in anger before. Although, she thought, there were times in her past when she would have used a blaster if she'd had one.
Blark was still engaged in animated converstion with Karlos, gesturing every so often with his hands. The janitor seemed the only one present that didn't have the slight air of nervousness about them, the uneasy anticipation that even gripped the Wookiee. Asti was brought out of her musing by the voice of Stoge that instantly grabbed everone's attention.
"Alright, ladies and gentlebeings, we're coming up on nav buoy D53."
He reached for the hyperspace lever.

The lines off passing stars faded to normality, leaving instead a mere few thousand that blinked placidly. Through the transparisteel of the cockpit they could see the nav buoy blinking to itself a few hundred meters away. The Bandar was nowhere to be seen.
Menarggrah frowned to himself, then adjusted the sensor controls. He saw three blips, one ahead and two behind the ship. The nav buoy, the Bandar perhaps, and..? he looked out the cockpit window again as the others began to ask him where the freighter was.
With an audible rush a massive hull hove into view just over the Supply 5, rolling quickly despite its bulk. The subspace comm crackled.
"Supply 5, get the #%@*! out of here! we'll hold them off!" as the freighter rolled overhead the blaze of energy from the freighter's single blaster cannon was apparent, firing at something behind them.
A ship swept fast, slightly bigger than the Supply 5 and hammering at the freighter with blue bolts of energy that Stoge identified as ion cannon. The ship was sleek, almost new, and emblazoned on its side was the insignia of the Empire!
"A Stormtrooper dropship." Blark blurted.
It turned toward them.
Stoge cursed under his breath and made for the Bandar, swinging the sluggish craft in a tight arc. "Hang on, I'll try to get under its gun," he said, drawing no arguments from his passengers. They had covered a third of the distance before they heard the crackle of energy striking the hull.
"Yraaarrrgghh." informed Menarrggrah as the sensor screen went outwith a flicker.
Stoge tossed the feeble craft around the sky as best he could, but the Imperial craft was much more manouverable. Within a minute a control panel blew in a shower of sparks, and various dials and guages went dead.
Stoge waggled the control column uselessly. "We're dead in space. They can pick us off whever they want." The main lights died, to be replaced in moments by the emergency lighting system.
Asti said nothing. She was pondering why a freighter full of important techs would try and hold off the Empire while a flying box with some supplies and green Rebels got away.
There was a scraping sound above them, followed by a muffled clang. Everyone looked up slowly, and Blark voiced their fears.
"The dorsal lock- they're coming in!"
Blark whipped a blaster from his overalls and faced the door leading back to the hold and the dorsal lock. "They're not taking me alive!" he spat. The janitor ran for the automatic door, which, due to the ion blasts, was automatic no longer. Blark rubbed his sore forehead and turned to Menarggrah getting out of his acceleration chair.
"You two," -he pointed to Dar- "give me a hand with this."He struggled vainly with the door until the combined strength of the three scraped it open.
Beyond was the small loading room, featuring a number of large crates,the rear door leading to the main hold, and the dorsal lock.
Which was open.
Coming down from the lock was a boot, which vanished back the way it had come as Blark, Menarggrah and Dar forced the door.
The boot had been covered in white armour.
"Get inside and fan out," said Karlos from behind them. He stepped through the door...
...and a blaster pistol was jammed against his head.
"Blasters on the floor or he's my next kill."
The Stormtrooper stepped forward calmly as another two emerged from behind the crates and levelled their blasters at the group from cover, one of them relaying descriptions to whoever was above them. Momentarily, even Stoge was at a loss for words.
Blark went to pieces.
The janitor instantly broke down and cried, sobbing hysterically into his hands while stumbling forward and wailing "Don't kill me, don't kill me!"
Then he shot the Stormtrooper point-blank.
As the bolt struck the trooper a glancing blow, Blark snapped his hand upward, pushing the trooper's hand away from Karlos' head as he discharged a shot into the roof. The janitor screamed "Get them!"
Those that could fit through the door complied the same time the stormtroopers did, filling the room with beams of death. As Dar and Blark grappled with the trooper that had jumped Karlos, the gunslinger swiftly drew his eight-gun and squeezed off a shot at one of the troopers behind the crates. It bit deep into the wood as the trooper unleashed a bolt of energy that sizzled past Karlos, flashed through the doorway and struck Asti in the leg.
Pain exploded in every fibre of the woman's being as the floor seemed to rush up to her. She vaguely heard the sound of her own screaming. She grasped the wound hard, the flesh partly cauterised but blood seeping through her fingers. Painfully, she drew herself back, assisted by Stoge. In the cockpit, Surge scrabbled quickly at a medpac, wondering if he would have the time to use it before they were overwhelmed.
The stormtrooper fighting Dar and Blark was tough, and even outnumbered (by a massively muscled warrior, no less) he was a formidable opponent. An armoured fist took Blark in the chest.
Menarggrah took partial cover in the doorway and began returning fire with the hunting blaster that he'd been issued (finger guard removed). Straun rushed forward, brandishing his Eguale prod, and swung the weapon in a vicious arc that connected with the wall as the trooper dodged skillfully.
Asti, being attended to by Surge, studied the emergency lights with interest. Perhaps if they could get the lock closed she could shunt some of the power to the engines...
With a deafening <CRACK!> Karlos shot one of the troopers in the head, toppling the figure backward with a crash. Menarggrah took the initiative and charged the one fighting Straun, discarding his blaster as he did so. With a wild swing, the Wookiee sent the trooper crashing into the wall, from where he dropped to the floor and stayed there.
Dar punched his fist hard into the trooper's neck, ignoring the pain, as Blark pumped another shot into the Imperial. As the trooper fell, the janitor looked around the room and saw that they were getting the upper hand.
That's when a small, shiny object dropped from the hatch.

The bulb tumbled end over end, seemingly taking its time as it dropped to the floor of the Supply 5. Time seemed frozen as all figures watched it fall with creeping realisation. Menarggrah screamed something unintelligible in Wookie that everyone understood and agreed with completely.
For a fraction of a second, it was like a miniature sun had been born in the Supply 5. Straun felt a moment of relief when the flash grenade went off, but this turned to a state of near-panic when his brain processed the last images it had seen before the blast and told him that white figures were plummeting from the hatch. He tried to feel the crates and get behind them. He closed his eyes, but his senses failed him, leaving him with a sense of utter helplessness.
Dar had been lucky. The stormtrooper he had been fighting had been facing the wall when the flash grenade went off, so his eyes had been spared. He drew his sword and rushed at the two that had dropped from the hatch.
Karlos, blinded, had moved out of the doorway, and this enabled Stoge to move in, blaster drawn. He fired in unison with the troopers.
Asti, who had given up her idea of power redirection, glanced past the flailing figures to Manarggrah, reaching in random directions. Shouting above the noise of battle, the young woman relayed the whereabouts of the troopers to the Wookiee.
Ducking a beam, Dar swung his sword at the nearest trooper and accompanied it with a deafening war-cry. The blade bit deep into the armour and emerged again, trailing red. The other one was suddenly grasped by Menarggrah when Stoge's blaster bolt hit the trooper and finished the fight.
Everyone's eyes began to clear.
Straun quickly surveyed the bodies, then cast his attention to the hatch above them. It was empty- for the moment. Menarrgrah boosted him through the opening, and it was immediately apparent how lucky the group had been. The dropship had room for at least 50 stormtroopers with full equipment, though they had only faced five. The dropship still held three surprised crewmembers that were quickly suppressed by Straun, Dar and Menarggrah, and since the Supply 5 had been completely ionised, everybody climbed into the dropship. Blark seemed extremely happy at the turn of events.
Before long Stoge found the Bandar's freqeuency, and soon they had docked and were all in the freighter. Drec, the head tech, wrung Blark's hand enthusiastically. The two talked in low tones, then the group was asked to join them in the officer's quarters when they had rested and the supplies were unloaded.
Thus, three hours later the group found themselves entering a large room just above the cockpit of the Bandar. Drec addressed them, motioning to Blark.
"People, I'd like to introduce Commander Vethan of Alliance Intelligence."
Several jaws dropped, and Asti then knew why the Bandar was so anxious to protect the Supply 5. They all snapped to attention.
"At ease," said Vethan/Blark. "I have a proposal that I would like to put to you all. I have a persona among the Empire as an inspection agent, a Commander Redfist. My job is to appear at Imperial installations, intimidate them into giving me an inspection tour, and then report that information to the Alliance. The Empire's policy of ruling by fear is turned against them, as none are willing to question my authority."
"Three days ago, one of our spy satellites discovered a previously unknown Imperial base on the fourth planet of the Telthra system, and I have volunteered to discover its purpose and anything else I can. But in this type of mission, intimidation is crucial, and I can't do it alone."
Surge gulped. He knew where this was heading.
"I need some personnel to appear to be a motley elite unit. I have some uniforms with my personal insignia," -he showed an emblem, red on a black background, of the Imperial logo ringing an upraised fist- "as well as some weapons and other miscellany brought out aboard the Supply 5. I was originaly intending to take some techs from the Bandar, but you all impressed me in our
recent skirmish. All you have to do is keep near me, look tough and keep your mouths shut. We go in, look around and get out, and now that we have a stormtrooper dropship with recent codes our mission is made simpler. Are you with me?"
There was a moment of quiet reflection as each weighed up his or her commitment to the Alliance against their sense of self-preservation. Straun nodded his head first, followed by Asti and Surge. This drew in even those with doubts such as Karlos Trialeki (not from fear, but mistrust).
Commander Vethan smiled. "Then I would also like to introduce the final member of our team. Come on in, Veet."
Through the door rolled an astromech unit. Asti appraised it immediately, noting its smaller than usual size and that it had been heavily modified. Vethan continued.
"This is V2P4, the conglomerate hobby of all the techs on this freighter. He will be going in with us to tap into the installation's computers."
"No worries, boss," said Veet in a cheerful, though somewhat tinny, voice. Those with any droid knowledge at all were somewhat startled at an astromech speaking basic.
"Yihhrraa," marvelled Menarggrah.
"Rrrggh Yraa arghhaaa," replied Veet evenly.


Bad idea, thought Karlos Trialeki.
Ever since he had first seen a stormtrooper back on Agost, Karlos had wanted a suit of that armour, to feel what it was like to wear it.
He now wore a suit of that armour, painted red. It restricted his movements, it was heavy and uncomfortable (he dreaded the thought of combat in it) and he couldn't see a thing. And as if that wasn't bad enough, he had to leave his precious eight-gun in the Bandar. He looked at the rest of the group, through his limited field of vision, swinging the stormtrooper blaster to try to get used to the weight.
Dar was wearing a large strip of cloth that ran down his huge chest and was tied around his waist, decorated with the same Redfist emblem that they all now wore. The native was preoccupied with the weapon that was his on loan: a great axe whose blade could not be focused on when activated. Vibrating at an incredible rate, the vibroaxe would cut through just about anything with little or no resistance. Karlos shuddered at the thought of such a weapon swung by those big black biceps.
On the other side of Vethan (Redfist.. think Redfist) was Straun, his Eguale prod-polearm blending perfectly with the motley group. He wore the tight-fitting Imperial bodysuit that Surge, Stoge and Asti also sported. The anticipation in the dropship cockpit was almost tangible. Karlos wished it were; then he could shoot it and his fluttering stomach would settle.
Telthra IV was growing larger through the transparisteel, now they could make out some details. The planet was a rock world, barren and supporting little life (barely enough for an atmosphere). At the polar regions they could see fierce electrical storms raging silently.
The comm light winked.
"We have you on our screen now, please identify."
Vethan bent over the communications board.
"Commander Redfist, ID DN38416 requesting," -he almost sneered the word- "random inspection tour."
Silence ensued for a few seconds, then the voice spoke again, faster this time.
"Accepted, Commander. Transmitting approach coordinates.."
Stoge brought the dropship smoothly down onto a landing platform in the foothills of a barren mountain range. A monorail, supported by repulsors, wound its way up to the mountains and out of sight. In front of the monorail car, to one side of the platform, were two lines of Imperial soldiers standing motionless before an officer. The dropship ramp hissed down.
Immediately Dar and Straun scrambled down the ramp and took up position either side of it as Vethan strutted down with the rest of the group in tow. The officer appeared somewhat nervous.
"Commander Redfist, we are honoured by your presence."
"You may dispense with the pleasantries, Lieutenant," Vethan played his part as if he'd been over the script before. "I demand to see the captain immediately." Obviously, thought Surge, places like this are not run by lieutenants.
He was right. "Of course, Commander. He thought it best to ensure that the place was.. worthy of your inspection." It was apparent from his voice that he didn't want any of his personnel killed for show.
They filed into the monorail car and slid up into the mountains. Below the group passed an AT-ST scout walker clanking its way on some unknown business, and two speeder bikes flashed by in the distance. After only three kilometers of travelling the car entered a large slot carved into the side of a rock face, a small turbolaser emplacement flanking it.
They were led through a corridor, past an open blast door and two rooms that appeared to be barracks. Looking in the first door as they passed, Asti noted five stormtroopers working on what appeared to be a slab of blast shielding. The second door showed more soldiers at rigid attention.
They rounded the corner and were shown into a recreation room that featured a holochess board, sabacc table, autogalley and some comfortable furniture. Vethan spoke quietly to Straun.
"I'll go to the Captain and try to get the guards to go with me. As soon as we go, plug Veet into that wall over there," -Straun noticed the socket for the first time- "and find out what you can."
Vethan demanded to see the Captain immediately, and the Lieutenant opted not to argue. The guards left with him without him having to arrange it, and within a minute the group was left alone.
Asti searched the room for audial bugs as Struan led the droid to the terminal. Veet plugged in and set to work.
"Hmm, this appears to be merely a news channel," he related. "some barriers are in place, but should be no...oh dear."
"What is it?" Dar snapped.
"I've located a general broadcast, dated three weeks ago, which details the discovery of a Rebel spy using the alias of Commander Redfist."
"They knew we were Rebels before we got here!"

Vethan stomped along with the guards, broadcasting his practiced air of authority. Through some doors, and into the Captain's quarters they went.The Captain was already there, as were a number of stormtroopers.
"Welcome, Commander Redfist," said the Captain, drawing his blaster
"..or should I address you as Commander Vethan of Alliance intelligence?"
Vethan stiffened as a circle of blasters focused on him. "I knew the Turrega run was a bit too clean," he spat.
"We will soon know everything about Turrega, and everything else in that cunning head of yours," leered the captain. "But your accomplices are worthless and will be terminated immediately." Some of the stormtroopers made to leave.
Vethan smiled grimly. The captain noticed -too late- that he had his hand in a pocket.
"I think not."


Menarggrah looked cautiously out of the small window in the recreation room. He could see five soldiers edging their way up the walls from around the corner.
He was beginning to get a bad feeling about this.
There was a distant, muffled <WUMPH!>, and the ground trembled slightly. A clanging sound followed.
By now everyone had their blasters drawn. "I say we blast our way back to the monorail," said the muffled voice of Karlos through his red stormtrooper helmet.
Dar and Menarggrah were inclined to agree. Stoge, Straun and Asti opted to go after Vethan to try to rescue him (though they had heard the explosion and were doubtful he was still alive). Veet added his tinny voice to their argument. Surge said nothing.
"Then we split up," said Dar. "You go for the Commander, we clear the path back." Everyone nodded.
Menarrgrah stabbed at the door button, and began shooting as Asti, Stoge and Straun leaped through it to the right. The soldiers were ready and began returning fire almost instantly.
There was a furious exchange at short range. Menarggrah was slightly singed but not actually hit as they took two down with a volley of fire. The soldiers, in turn, filled the corridor with beams, one of which sailed through the door and hit Karlos in the leg. He fell, cursing his useless armour. Surge immediately went to his aid.
Dar and Menarggrah systematically took out two of the remaining three. The last soldier, rather than running, fired a careful shot that hit Surge as he was attending to Karlos' wounds. He was thrown to the floor, shoulder smoking, and scrabbled for the medpac once more.
Just then Dar heard a scraping sound from around the corner, past the prone bodies and the last remaining soldier. A wall of blast shielding slid into view and began advancing slowly up the corridor. Behind it they could see the white gleam of stormtrooper helmets.
Menarggrah tried to edge back around the door a little more, and took careful aim.


The door hissed open, and instantly three blasters were pointing in all directions. Straun, Asti and Stoge relaxed momentarily and considered the two doors before them, one leading right and the other striaght ahead.
"Could be something in there," said Stoge, waving his blaster at the door to the right."
"I'm sure the blast came from the other door," Straun objected. "Majority vote?" he questioned Asti, who moved to the door ahead.
Stoge went to join her as Veet's voice said from behind them "hey, don't I get a vote?"
They ignored him.
Beyond the door was a short corridor ending in another door.
"ANOTHER door?" Stoge muttered. "When are we gonna get something other than doors?" he hit the button. The door swished open...
..and a door fell on them.
Straun ran to help the two pinned by their legs. Grunting with the effort, Stoge and Asti were soon free. Straun regarded the door.
"It's been blown from the doorway across the corridor, and.." he went silent as they took in the scene. Across the corridor was an empty doorway, and inside the room was a mess of total carnage. There was nothing left of furniture, features, or inhabitants other than charred pieces scattered all over the room. The smell of death was almost strong enough to gag them.
"A thermal detonator," Asti stated in awe.
"Look at this," said Straun, studying the wreckage. "There were a lot of stormtroopers here. Vethan saved our skins."
"Saved his own hide, more likely," scoffed Stoge. "They would have brought in the torture droids and.."
"-I guess we'll never know," interrupted Asti "one way or the other. My opinion is both."
They were pondering whether to go back and try the other door or the door at the far end of the corridor they were in when the latter opened and revealed itself to be a repulsorlift. A man stood in it wearing grey coveralls and a surprised expression.
"HEY!" he shouted, reaching for his blaster.
The Imperial stood no chance, cut down by blaster bolts from the three before his own cleared its holster. They approached cautiously, and Stoge investigated the body. He found nothing useful.
"Hey, look at this," said Straun, opening a small door next to the lift and revealing an access ladder leading upward. He stuck his head into the narrow shaft and looked upward, to see a corresponding small door far above and a face looking down at him, that disappeared as the other door closed.

They formulated a plan. Stoge and Struan would take Veet up in the lift, while Asti climbed the access tunnel, thereby attacking whatever was above from two fronts. They dragged the body out, and the two men did their best to flatten themselves to the sides of the small room as the woman disappeared up the ladder.
As Asti neared the top she saw that the door had been left slightly ajar. Attempting to make no sound, she climbed the last few rungs and squinted through the crack of light between door and wall. A bank of control panels was in her line of sight, nothing she recognised. She lifted her blaster and waited for the sound of the lift opening.
The lift door opened with a friendly <ding!> that was immediately lost in the sound of blaster fire. Four techical operators were in the room, three pointing their blasters at the lift and the fourth at the access door.
Stoge fired, the shot missing the dodging Imperial and hitting a panel of controls behind him that exploded in a shower of sparks. Asti partially threw open the door and blazed away at the man facing her, the shot missing as the door next to Asti's head was partly blown away with return fire. The Imperials were lightly armed and exposed (and were not trained soldiers), the Rebels
fighting from cover. Before long Asti, Stoge, Straun and Veet stood in the silent room. During the battle they had not had the chance to look at details, but now they took in the scene before them.
They were obviously in some sort of control room, dials flashing and lights flickering. There were many monitor screens showing various images; Asti noted a picture of a snowfield with some indistinct shapes in the distance. The room featured a huge window with a view out of the mountain and looking over the cragged valley. To the right they could see the top of a massive transmitter dish in the distance.
Veet plugged himself in and was silent for a few moments. "It appears that this is a probe droid monitoring facility," he said. "There is a power generation unit downstairs which would be a good place to use the demolition charges Vethan gave us, and I have located another route back to the monorail." The droid warbled to itself and a map of the facility appeared on the screen.

"This is not a schematic, so I cannot be certain of security devices and other more technical details, but I do know that there is a remote transmitter out at the dish that could be used to call for help."


It didn't take Menarggrah and Dar (not to mention the wounded Karlos and Surge) long to realise they were in trouble. The stormtroopers were secure behind their blast shield, firing periodically over the top and slowly advancing. The sole remaining Imperial soldier was still doggedly firing away at them and miraculously dodging the return fire.
Menarggrah glanced at Dar and gave a concerned howl. The burly human hefted his vibroaxe and activated it with a hum.
The two charged wildly, Menarggrah shooting as they went, Dar screaming a war cry. He took five steps and cut the soldier cleanly in half with the vibroaxe as Menarggrah leaped toward the shield and relied on a few hundred pounds of hurtling Wookiee to knock it over.
The shield held.
Menarggrah fell back awkwardly to the floor, dangerously exposed as two of the troopers stood up to fire point-blank at his exposed bulk, but in that moment Dar was upon them. He despatched another with a quick slash as the Wookiee stood up and bashed one over the head. The troopers that had been holding the shield dropped it hurrieldy and drew their blasters, firing
rapidly and ineffectually.
As another fell to Dar's blade, Menargggrah (with a flash of inspiration), reached in his pack and produced one of the charges that Vethan had given them. Pretending to press the activating stud, he dropped it in the midst of the three remaining troopers, flailing his arms wildly and yelling in Wookiee.
One of the troopers fled, scrambling around the corner in preparation for the explosion that wouldn't come. Another was incapacitated by Menarggrah as he prepared to shoot him, but the third one's reaction came as something of a surprise to the black warrior. Dropping his blaster, the trooper grappled with Dar, trying to prevent him from fleeing so they would both go up in the blast together. The two Rebels took him out quickly, but the encounter left Dar feeling drained and shaken. Menarggrah leaped around the corner and took out the fleeing trooper with a blaster shot.
"RRRyyuugghh," he said, motioning Dar over. Surge and Karlos joined them, limping slightly.
Around the corner they could see that a heavy blast door had closed, cutting them off from the monorail. They were, as far as they knew, trapped. Surge searched the walls for an opening switch and found nothing.
"I guess," said Karlos "we'd better find the others."


"Ready?" said Stoge quietly.
Asti nodded. Straun reached forward and pressed the door switch. The door slid open with barely a sound, revealing blaster muzzles pointed at them.
Three elite scout troopers were facing them. One end of the large room was open to the sky, and three speeder bikes were parked on a platform. One of the scout troopers slapped his comrade on the shoulder and shouted "GO!" the trooper sprang for the bike.
The rebels fired, missing the trooper who reached the bike and immediately sped off in the direction of the transmitter dish. Asti, heedless of the fire, ran for another bike as the men cut down one of the other troopers. The last one, armed with a blaster rifle, expertly shot Stoge and blasted him to the floor. The pilot fought on, Straun and Stoge shooting the last scout trooper together.
Straun was torn between staying with the badly wounded Stoge and pursuing the trooper with Asti, but he knew that they couldn't risk havng the Imperials calling for help. He ran for the other bike and sped out of the hangar, opening the throttle wide.

The wind rushed in Asti's face as she pursued the trooper in a dangerous chase through crags and between large slabs of rock at high speed, her hair streaming behind her. Just flying the unfamiliar vehicle required her utmost concentration, and in moments it was apparent that the trooper, with his experience and the technical assistance of his flight suit, was leaving her behind in the race for the transmitter. She was momentarily startled by Straun pulling alongside on another bike, risking an encouraging glance at her as they dodged through the blurring terrain.

Stoge slumped wearily on the floor, grasping his wound and grunting at the pain. The lift <ding!>ed behind him and he whirled, despite the pain, and trained his blaster on the door only to see Menarggrah, Dar, Surge and Karlos emerge cautiously into the room. Stoge momentarily allowed himself to relax.
Behind him, with a whine of screaming repulsors, another bike rounded the side of the mountain, whipped past the hangar at top speed and pursued the two other rebels.

Asti's first indication that there was another player in the game was when a speeder bike cannon bolt narrowly missed her and blasted a jagged hole in the rock less than two meters away. Straun glanced back, now slightly ahead of the woman. She shouted to him.
"Stay on that one!" she slammed on the brakes and vanished behind. Straun returned his eyes to the front and fired the cannon awkwardly.
Asti was now the last in line of the four, chasing the trooper who was chasing Straun who was chasing the trooper headed for the transmitter. The gap was rapidly closing, but Straun appeared to be gaining on his quarry. He fired again, but only succeeded in blasting away some more of the rock of Telthra IV.
The lead trooper drew his blaster and, when a safe gap appeared in his flight path, leaned back and fired at Straun. The shot missed but gained its primary objective of slowing Straun slightly. The trooper slowed even more when he faced the front again only to pile into a large boulder in an explosion of metal as the transmitter came into view. Straun's sharp eyesight immediately saw the small box at the base of the dish and the figure that was already there, transmitting. A shot flashed past the rebel.
Straun fired, not hitting the man but causing him to look around momentarily and turn back to his work with desperate speed. The gap was closing by the second, and with it the chance that Straun would miss with his next shot. The young rebel squinted low over the bike, lining up the cannon.
Just then a shot from behind caught Straun's bike directly in the engine. The impact threw him from the speeding vehicle, not giving him time to scream as he landed on the gravelly surface and slid roughly for almost a hundred meters before being stopped by a slab of rock. For Straun, there was no pain as he lost consciousness, only thoughts of the consequences to them all of his failure to stop the distress signal.
Had he been able to see the events of the next few seconds, he would have had a different view. His speeder bike, which had been aimed toward the dish, narrowly missed the man and hit the transmitter box as a riderless bomb. The ensuing explosion incinerated the luckless Imperial and caused the following trooper to throttle back in surprise.
Asti seized the moment.
An inspired bike cannon shot from the young woman blew away the whole front end of the trooper's vehicle in a flash of light. The trooper spiralled into a rock face at high speed, forming a cloud of dense smoke that Asti sped helplessly but safely through as she throttled back and began looking for Straun.


While Surge attended to Stoge's wound, Karlos and Menarggrah investigated the lift that led downward from the speeder bike hangar. Cautiously they advanced past the medical room to the power generation center, in which massive conductors crackled with the raw electricity that fed the whole facility.
Karlos collected the explosives from Menarggrah and, using his knowledge of demolitions, set to work. The elevator hissed open behind them, causing the two to hurriedly train blasters in that direction, but it was merely Stoge who had come to assist. He explored further up the corridor with the Wookiee as Karlos continued to lay the charges, saving one for emergencies.
Two blaster barrels poked through the door cautiously, followed by two inquisitive heads. The maintenance room was large, with benches covered by tools, droid components and miscellaneous pieces of machinery. A partially disassembled speeder bike rested on a stand facing the door, and technical readouts chattered quietly to themselves and winked lights at each other.
With a bloodcurdling scream, a muscled tech sprang from behind the door with a serrated, humming tool and swung at them. Stoge leaped back from the vibrosaw, blocking Menarggrah from the doorway as a second tech appeared from behind the speeder bike and began firing at them with a needlebeamer.
Stoge shifted his feet quickly, looking for an opening but trying desperately to keep away from the potent weapon. A bolt of energy splashed into the doorway above his head, distracting him for a second as the vibrosaw wielder rushed in. Stoge's flying reflexes saved him from losing a limb, but the pilot knew that he had better find a solution to the situation quickly, before either the needlebeamer or the vibrosaw wielder could get in an accurate attack.
A push from behind startled the pilot, moving him awkwardly aside. Menarggrah stepped quickly into the melee and bashed the tech to the floor with a hefty swing. Stoge's first instinct was to reprimand the Wookiee, but his second instinct (that of self-preservation) surged to the fore and he began firing at the other tech with his blaster.
Who had just had an idea.
Realising he was now facing two Rebels alone, the tech reached forward, jammed the accelerator down, punched the engine activator and ran for the far side of the room. The speeder bike lurched from its stand with frightening speed and raced at the Rebels, an unguided missile.
"Run!" screamed Stoge, leaping to the side.
The Wookiee was close behind, throwing his huge bulk fully inside the room and to the floor as the vehicle whizzed past. The bike hit the wall outside in the corridor and exploded violently, shaking the walls as fire washed over them and they were rained upon by pieces of twisted machinery.
Stoge completed his roll and, with an excellent shot to the head, despatched the fleeing tech.
He let himself slump to the floor again with an effort. He thought he could smell something burning.

Karlos was there in moments, advancing low up the corridor, but no threats remained. Menarggrah and Stoge, though rather singed, were relatively unhurt and they opted to keep going, as they now had about 20 minutes before the charges started going off. Around the corner was a storage area and another door, which Veet's map had indicated led back to the monorail.
Pressing his ear to the door, Stoge could hear the voices of the remaining
guards from the landing pad, expressing puzzlement at the closed blast door. Menarggrah ran back into the maintenance room.
"Watcha doin, tall dark and hairy stranger?" inquired Stoge as Menarggrah appeared again with a small arc welder. When the Wookiee proceeded to weld the door shut (thus shutting the Rebels in with the bombs), Karlos and Stoge began to doubt his sanity. Menarggrah attempted to explain to the two that it was only to stop the troopers coming in until they could formulate a plan, but his grunts and yowls were totally lost on the two.


Once the welds were cut, the door slid open.
The whole group of seven Rebels (eight, counting Veet) moved quickly from their positions behind the door. Menarggrah and Dar shuffled into the monorail bay pushing the heavy blast shielding ahead of them. Karlos, Surge, Asti and Stoge followed close behind the cover, with Straun (wounds treated but barely conscious) dragging himself at the rear.
They were lucky. By the time the group had assembled behind the welded door with the shielding, the Imperials had used the access code to open the blast door. Only two guards were in the monorail bay, and these were instantly shot by the combined Rebel fire.
All three monorail cars sat in the bay: the passenger car was ready to go, the cargo car sat behind it, and the more heavily armed and armoured combat car was on the large turntable at the rear. Some of the group wanted to get away immediately on the passenger car, but Karlos, Dar and Menarggrah disengaged its brakes and sent it down the rail, mindful of the light turbolaser emplacement just outside the entrance. The car drew no fire, so the Wookie and Stoge started the engine of the cargo car. Straun was laid gently on the floor, and the others moved to follow when the sound of an opening blast door was heard.
Some of the group, still behind the blast shield, cut down the Imperials as they emerged, but it was soon apparent that they would eventually be overwhelmed with sheer numbers. Karlos, cursing his lack of blaster ability compared to firearms, jumped into the car and lay flat on the floor, offering as small a target as possible. The others followed quickly as the car began to move, and they slid out of the bay, firing defiantly at the Imperials swarming from the door.
They had covered almost a third of a kilometer before the first blaster cannon bolt flew past them. The combat car, though slower due to its armour, was driven by a very experienced pilot and the gap began to close. The rebels fired back ineffectually with hand blasters before Karlos scrambled to the rear of the car, holding an object carefully. Estimating the distance between the cars, he armed the last charge.
"Slow down!" he yelled to Stoge, who failed to hear him in the whipping wind. He looked down, at the ground far below, then at the small track between the cars. He gulped, and reached down.
Though Karlos' placement of the charge was far from perfect, neither of them plummeted to the rock far below. Asti hauled him back into the car, and they glanced back expectantly.
The charge went off at the rear of the combat skiff. Laden with troops, it cartwheeled off the rail and began its considerable drop. Then a turn in the track obscured it from view, and the Rebels had to be content with hearing the explosion.
They had to scramble over the other car they had sent down before they could get onto the landing platform. With much celebratory back slapping, they boarded the dropship and fired the engines.
While they were still sitting on the landing pad, Asti heard the regular clanking sound just before the forgotten AT-ST walker strode mechanically into view.
The group gasped.
The walker waggled its chin cannon uselessly, unable to gain sufficient height to open fire.
The group expressed relief. Stoge also expressed a rude gesture at the walker with one hand.
The walker pivoted the large tube on its side, and with a <WHOOSH!> launched a concussion missile at the dropship.
The group gasped.
As the missile narrowly missed the small ship, Stoge punched the engines and rocketed them off the pad. They cleared the mountains just as the blasts from within began, shifting rock and producing large grey clouds lit by irregular flashes. Raking the transmitter dish with the ship's cannons, they headed for the safety of the stars.

Underneath the landing pad, the AT-ST clanked to a halt. At its feet, a section of rock slid away to reveal the station's data storage bank. The elevator hummed as the Imperial officer rose to the surface, clutching the datastick thoughtfully. Looking up to the mountain, he surveyed the wreckage and waited for the next relief shuttle.


A few days later..
Sitting suspended in space the massive form of the Imperial Star Destroyer dwarfed the small relief shuttle that seemed, as it approached, to be swallowed up by its sheer mass.
The holoroom on board contained several officers surrounding the projector as one fed in the datastick of recordings taken by the security optosensors on the Telthra IV station.
The image flickered, then revealed a group of Rebels engaged in furious blaster combat with a force of hapless Imperial troops. The image halted, then enlarged on one figure until Flight Officer Stoge seemed to tower over the assembly, the holo image frozen in time.
"So," a deep voice intoned. "The brat has joined the Rebels."

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