Black Skies Over Meram

Takes place immediately after the Battle of Yavin
Tales and stories set during the events of Episodes 4-6...

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Dahdtoudi
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Black Skies Over Meram

Post by Dahdtoudi » Sat Feb 26, 2011 7:58 pm

The small merchant convoy glided deftly away from Kauron with a modest load of medical supplies and foodstuffs. Onboard the bridge of the lead vessel, the Wayfarer-class transport Veridian, Captain Orleo leaned on the back of the pilot’s seat and peered vigilantly out the forward viewport.

“Don’t drift too close to that asteroid field,” Orleo instructed, placing a nervous hand on the pilot’s shoulder. “And Div, keep an eye on those sensors. Word is pirates have been wreaking havoc out of that field.” The captain frowned. Pirate attacks in the sector had been increasing for months and had reached a boiling point that made trade without armed escorts almost impossible. Moff Tehryn had supposedly dedicated half his naval battlegroup to hunting down the sudden pirate menace but had yet to produce results.

Orleo had to admit, as far as Moffs went, Tehryn was more honorable than his corrupt counterparts and seemed to take pride in maintaining order and security within the Meram sector without the subjugation of its citizens. When word had reached him of the increasing pirate activity within Meram’s boarders, he didn’t hesitate to make a public address vowing to subdue the violent crime. Orleo had noted the increased Imperial patrols throughout the sector. The sector’s trade minister released reports of scattered skirmishes with the pirates across the sector, but for the most part the brigands eluded the Imperial forces, seeming to vanish after each attack.

Orleo’s shipping company was small time and business had suffered under the economic stress of the war, not to mention the pirates. The fact of the matter was, he couldn’t afford escorts like some of the bigger agencies, and passing through systems like Kauron was risky. The tension onboard the Veridian was thick enough to cut and no one in the bridge spoke but the captain.

An alert from the sensor array caught Orleo’s attention. “Captain!” Div called from his terminal. “Contacts to the portside, forward, about two klicks out. They’re coming out of the field, sir.”

Orleo looked up from the terminal and looked back out the viewport. Sure enough, he could see the tiny pinpricks that were the starfighters exiting the asteroid field in front of them. “Sithspit!” Orleo cursed quietly. “Bring us around. Div, send out a mayday and alert the convoy. Kard, how long till we have a jump solution?”

“Two more minutes, sir,” the pilot replied.

Orleo’s heart raced in his chest. The pirates would be on top of them by then.

Another alert beeped from Div’s scopes. “Captain,” the navigator said, a small smile spreading across his lips. “New contacts, port side. Imperial TIE fighters, sir, coming from the field.” The navigator turned to the captain and grinned.

The captain let loose a heavy sigh of relief. Luck seemed to be on their side. “Thank the Force,” he murmured. “Open a channel.” Orleo waited for Div’s nod before speaking. “This is Captain Orleo with the transport Veridian to the Imperial patrol. Our convoy has spotted pirates ahead and request assistance.” Orleo watched the pirates in front of them rapidly approach as he waited for a reply. Moments of silence passed before he looked to Div.

The navigator’s smile had faded to confused concern before he turned back to his terminal. “Captain, the Imperials, they’re… they’re not heading for the pirates.” Orleo frowned as Div elaborated in disbelief, “They’re headed for us.”

Something wasn’t right, and the captain’s heart began to race again. “Kard, get us out of here!”

“Working on it, cap,” the pilot replied. “The navcomputer is lagging on the calculations. I need another minute. I told you it needed to be updated!”

“Cap, the Imperials’ weapons are armed! They’ve targeted the Rygel’s Faith!” Div shouted in alarm.

“Dammit!” Orleo didn’t understand. Why were they doing this? “Open the channel. Imperial patrol, we are a civilian convoy carrying medical supplies and foodstuffs bound for Valfin! Stop your attack run immediately!”

But the TIE fighters showed no intention of breaking off. Once in range, they opened fire on the Faith, destroying the Action IV transport in a single pass. In front of the convoy, the pirates had stopped just outside of weapons range, waiting for the confrontation to be over before moving in like carrion birds to salvage from the destruction.

“What the hell!” Orleo shouted, fear and anger clogging his mind as the Veridian shook under an Imperial barrage. “Div, mayday!” Only a portion of the mayday made it out before the freighter’s reactor ruptured, blowing the Wayfarer-class apart from the inside.

Code: Select all

[size=85]BEGIN TRANSMISSION

***URGENT MAYDAY URGENT***
VERIDIAN, Wayfarer-class

…convoy under attack by imperial fighters… …need immediate assistance… …shields down… …i don’t understand… ….why are they doing thi*TRANSMISSION INTERRUPTED*

END TRANSMISSION[/size]
___________________________________________

The Gladiator-class star destroyer Diligent sat in orbit over the fortress world Valfin, the Imperial capital of the Meram sector, when Commander Kearney walked briskly onto the bridge.

Captain Theyon was standing on the edge of the observation deck with his hands clasped behind his back holding a datapad as he looked out over the glow of Valfin’s atmosphere. “Good morning, Commander Kearney,” he said without looking away from the view. Commander Kearney stopped beside him, her crisp black uniform contrasting sharply with his gray. He handed the datapad to the woman. “Activity reports, as requested. Patrols found the wreckage of another convoy. On the edge Kauron system, near the asteroid field.”

“Survivors?” Kearney asked coolly.

“None,” Theyon replied. “They found the Veridian’s transponder in the debris, a Wayfarer-class. If they sent out a mayday, no one was around to hear it.”

“Except for the pirates,” Kearney said, full of contempt. Her grip tightened around the datapad. For months, they had been hunting these pirates all over the sector with almost no results. They were like ghosts; as soon as you heard where they were, they were gone. The Diligent was the flagship of many cruisers tasked with combing the sector’s systems for these criminals and she had been personally placed in command by Moff Tehryn.

Commander Kearney had worked hard to get to where she was, very much aware that she was a woman in a man’s Empire. After graduating with honors from the Academy, Kearney was bounced from command to command across the galaxy. Her superiors would say she wasn’t a team player, insubordinate or reckless. Kearney knew she was none of these things. Tenacious, yes; ambitious, maybe; but reckless? She was nothing of the sort. Her superiors felt threatened by her. Those that served under her command knew she was calculating and coldly efficient. She knew that behind closed doors, some even referred to her as the “Ice Queen.” They could have their nicknames as long as she had her results. It was this determination that she attributed her rapid ascension up the ranks, despite the Navy’s misogynistic nature.

Commander Kearney spent her career surrounding herself by those with similar dedication; men and women who would not be distracted by her gender and who she could rely on to get the job done. Assignments couldn’t always be controlled however, and they would come and go, forcing Kearney to tolerate officers of a lesser quality. They were mostly impetuous brats highborn into wealth who gained their posts by politics, not products. Fortunately, Captain Theyon fell under the former category. They had served together during the Fondor uprising as young lieutenants. Theyon had been serving under Moff Tehryn for sometime when Kearney had finally been assigned to the Meram sector. Kearney may be in command of the hunt, but the Diligent was Theyon’s ship.

“Lieutenant Kincaid’s squadron came in a few moments ago,” Captain Theyon said, glancing at the commander out the corner of his eyes. “I suspect he’s waiting to be debriefed in your conference room.”

Kearney’s demeanor of cold professionalism faltered for only the briefest of moments, but it was there and Theyon had seen it. Her jaw clenched as he raised his eyebrows and looked back to Valfin’s surface. “Should I have a course set for Kauron’s asteroid field, then?” he asked.

“No,” Commander Kearney said curtly, shifting her weight and facing the older captain who in turn faced her, his features illustrated with curiosity.

“Oh?”

Kearney handed the man a datadisk. “Orders from Moff Tehryn,” she explained. “The Diligent and its Wing has been temporarily reassigned to join the Moff’s escort detail to the oversector conference at Eriadu. We’ll return with the Moff upon the conference’s completion.” She turned and made her departure from the bridge. “We leave as soon as the shore party has returned,” she called back to the captain.
________________________________________________

Lieutenant Verin Kincaid quickly stood to attention from his seat at the long conference table when Commander Kearney entered. “Screw you,” she said when she him perform the formality, proceeding directly to the far side of table and sat down, leaning on her elbows and cradling her head in her hands.

Verin smiled and returned to his seat, leaning back in the rigid high-backed Imperial chair. “Long day, Vee?” he asked, considering her with sympathy. Verin had known Vivian since they were both small children, and was somehow not surprised when they had ended up on the same boat.

Kearney sighed heavily and studied the patch of floor between her feet for a moment before sitting up and assuming a similar slouched position as her counterpart across the table. “We lost another convoy in Kauron,” she said quietly. She made no effort to hide her fatigue in front of Verin.

Verin sighed and shook his head. “Witnesses?”

“None,” Kearney replied, nearly spitting the word in her frustration. She sat in angry contemplation, resting her chin on her fist. “We have nothing!” she yelled suddenly. “No leads, nothing to show us where to look. We don’t even have a suspicion!”

Verin leaned his elbows on the table and listened to Kearney vent. He had learned a long time ago not to interrupt her during her outbursts.

Kearney slammed her hand on the table, sitting straight up in her chair, irate. “And on top of that, Tehryn’s pulling us off to pull escort for him to Eriadu! How does he expect me to find these bastards if he pulls me off for this showboat parade of soft skinned, rich…” She began to stammer with rage as she searched for insults before settling on “Nerfherders!” She leaned forward on the table heavily, her face red and her chest heaving.

Verin waited a moment to make sure the tirade was finished before sitting back in his chair. “It might have something to do with him being your father,” he suggested with a shrug, being sure to study something on the floor intently when he said it.

Kearney looked up from the table and locked him in a stare that could stop light. She had never liked the special treatment of being the daughter of a Moff growing up, and Verin knew it. All of the false flattery, yesmen and meaningless gifts made her sick, which is why she changed her name before entering the Academy. She wanted her successes to be her own, without the taint of nepotism. Vivian was furious with jealousy when Verin entered the Academy, escaping the life of false comfort the Imperial palace on Valfin provided. It took her over a year to convince her father to consent to her enrollment in the Academy. She had been so focused on getting into the Academy; she hadn’t even noticed her lifelong friend had suddenly disappeared, completely dropping off the radar.

Even as a young boy, Verin had excelled at piloting craft. Her father had found him racing fighters through asteroid belts in the Thalassian system. He was eight years old, an orphan who had been picked up by a ring of slavers on Thalassia. Once her father’s forces had dispelled the slavers, he took Verin in as his own. She never knew why. What she did know was he had an incredible knack for survival. It was for this reason that she suspected Verin had been picked up by the ISB once he graduated the Academy. Kincaid would never talk about it, so she stopped asking. Years after she had graduated, Kearney got word that Verin had resurfaced and had been assigned to her father’s personal escort wing. It had been another two years after that before she actually saw him again. Vivian could see the intensity of the boy she had grown up with, but he had acquired an underlying severity.

Now that Kearney had been assigned to her father’s battlegroup, Kincaid was one of only a handful that knew the relationship she had with the Moff. Kearney’s career and the respect of her men depended on its secrecy, but the secrecy and her focus on her career sometimes allowed Kearney to forget that she was still her father’s daughter, and he loved her. Verin was always quick to remind her of that fact, and she hated him for it because he was right to. It reminded her that despite the coldhearted commander the Navy needed her to be, she still loved her father dearly.

As always, Verin was right and she frowned sullenly.

“They’re starting to say it’s us, you know,” Verin said after a moment of quiet had passed. Kearney looked at him, confused. “On this last patrol, I had a spacer tell me he had seen TIE fighters attacking a convoy at the border of the Mieru’kar sector.”

“Nonsense!” Kearney scoffed indignantly. “Ungrateful scum…”

“Marrius wanted to throw him in binders on the spot.”

“You should’ve let him,” Vivian sneered.

“That’s not how your father raised us.”

Right again. Kearney frowned.
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Re: Black Skies Over Meram

Post by Arkov Bane » Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:25 pm

Please continue this story line, I was riveted. :D
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Re: Black Skies Over Meram

Post by Dahdtoudi » Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:52 pm

OOC- To be honest, I'd love to, but my deployment to Afghanistan has made it pretty difficult. Seeing as I have a fan, however, maybe I'll try and whip something up. :)
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Re: Black Skies Over Meram

Post by Dahdtoudi » Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:05 am

The Diligent and Carrack-class cruiser Persecutor dropped out of hyperspace above the planet Thalassia where Moff Tehryn’s Star Destroyer waited in orbit, accompanied by another Victory-class pulled from elsewhere in the sector.

“Jump complete, Commander Kearney,” Captain Theyon announced. “Your shuttle is ready and transmission from the Legacy indicates that they are prepared to receive your envoy immediately.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Kearney said with a nod before turning to leave the Diligent’s bridge. “I’ll see you in a few days.”

The commander’s shuttle glided out of the Gladiator-class’s forward hangar bay and banked towards the Legacy, Moff Tehryn’s flagship. Almost immediately, four TIE Interceptors in a diamond formation pulled up to the shuttle’s flank; Kincaid’s wing. Commander Kearney sat in the rear of the shuttle’s cockpit, staring intently at the Legacy.

Diligent-36, this is Dark-6,” she heard Kincaid over the comms. “We’re in position and will follow you in.”

As always, Kearney’s demeanor was cool and collected, the only tell of her current anxiety being the white knuckles of her tightly clasped hands in her lap. It had been close to a year since she had seen her father, when he had given her her current assignment, an assignment that had shown little progress. She knew the pressure the current plague of phantom pirate attacks was putting on her father as Moff of Meram, and felt the pressure that put on her. She was known for results, and thus far had produced almost nil. Her visits had always been tense with her father since leaving for the Academy. The added pressure wasn’t necessary.

Kearney was broken from her anxious reverie as the shadow of the Legacy’s underbelly fell over her shuttle’s cockpit. “This is Dark-6, breaking off for docking maneuver.” Kearney’s pilot acknowledged quietly and brought the shuttle into the ImpStar’s hangar.
___________________________________________

“Lieutenant Kincaid,” an ensign standing on the deck of the TIE rack greeted politely as Kincaid climbed the ladder out of his fighter. Kincaid pulled off his helmet to get a better look at the boy. “Moff Tehryn requests your presence in his chambers.”

Kincaid nodded and let the young officer lead the way. A long network of bulkheads and turbolifts later, and Kincaid was lead to a large blastdoor guarded by a pair of stormtroopers, their posture rigid and presence almost purely ceremonial. The door slid open in front of the Lieutenant as he approached, and his escort halted at the threshold as Kincaid entered. On the inside were two more stormtroopers, just past them in the lounge stood Commander Kearney, her back straight and her hands clasped behind her back.

“At ease, Commander,” he said quietly as he assumed a similar posture beside her with a sly smirk. Kearney shot him a dirty look from the corner of her eye. His ability to read her never ceased to infuriate her.

The door to the Moff’s inner chambers slid open and Moff Tehryn emerged, his uniform trim and his hair gray. Tehryn’s face held the hint of one that used to be handsome before the weather of age and responsibility gave it a coat of crags and fissures. Kearney and Kincaid snapped to attention as the Moff entered the room. “Give us the room,” he ordered the stormtroopers at the door and waited for the blastdoor to slide shut behind them. The serious face of a Moff melted into the warm grin of a father as he extended his arms in embrace. “My children return home at last!” he said happily, and the two officers relaxed. Verin smiled, though Vivian’s was more hesitant. After so many years of fighting her way through the ranks, it was hard even for her to crack her cold exterior. “My Vivi!” Tehryn said warmly as he wrapped her in his arms.

“Father,” she said lightly in greeting as she returned the embrace.

Verin took his helmet from the crook of his arm and set it down on a nearby table as father and daughter separated before giving Tehryn a hug of his own with a wide grin.

“Verin, my boy!” Tehryn said. “It’s good to see you again. How long has it been?”

“Three years, sir,” Kincaid said as they parted, the Moff holding his shoulders at arms length as if to get a better look at him. Kearney shot him a sidelong glance. She hadn’t realized how long it had been since the two had seen each other.

“Come! Sit!” Tehryn said and lead them to a couch surrounding the table. Verin unzipped his flight suit as he sat down into the plush leather, the Moff between himself and Kearney.

Moff Tehryn had been the closest thing to a father figure Kincaid could ever claim, spending the later years of his boyhood in the governor’s estate. He had been a wildling plunged into a world of wealth and luxury, spending the first year in his new home in outright rebellion. Everyone in his life had abandoned him thus far, and he didn’t see his new arrangements being any different. His expensive clothes would quickly become soiled in dirt and filth from playing with the servant boys who he could more closely relate. His free time would be spent tormenting cooks and other servants, Imperial guards and emissaries. In many cases, Vivian would be his accomplice. At first distrustful of the wealthy daughter of his adoptive father, the two quickly became fast friends through a mutual desire for mischief and adventure.

Together the two would wreak havoc on the estate before slipping away in fits of stifled laughter. Their chief target had been the head of Tehryn’s house guard, a large, hard man named Lorno. Quickly flustered, Verin and Vivian would easily stir the man into flustering fits of rage. Sometimes if they weren’t careful, though, they’d be caught, and Lorno would carry the two children to Tehryn by the collars of their clothes like misbehaven pups. The Moff would sigh, shake his head and give them a speech on their conduct as children of an Imperial Moff. Afterwards, he would leave the discipline to Lorno. Lorno would make Vivian watch as he beat Verin mercilessly, making sure the welts and wounds would all be hidden under the boy’s clothing. Not once did Verin ever cry or yelp during Lorno’s assaults, driving the man to just hit harder. Although the boy was used to beatings from his time on Thalassia, Verin would limp for days after, occasionally wheezing from a cracked rib.

Vivian had always been awed by the boys stalwart fortitude, but over time the guilt became too much. Forced to watch and never once struck by Lorno, Vivian gradually receded from their life of mischief for his sake. That had hurt Verin the most, being abandoned by his closest friend, and the boy didn’t even speak to her for some time after that.

Throughout all of this, Moff Tehryn’s affection was the only thing that seemed to tame the boy. “You’re a good boy who’s lived a hard life,” the Moff told Kincaid once. “That life is behind you now.” When young Verin would act out, Tehryn’s disappointment would temper the boy’s rebellion. Despite his misbehavior, the Moff never turned his back on Tehryn, fostering a fierce loyalty in the boy, a loyalty that eventually brought Verin to reform.

The Moff had held a banquet, and Verin could not be found anywhere to be brought to table. Then chaos broke loose. Shouting guards drew the attention of the Moff’s guests before Verin came running across the balcony overlooking the banquet hall, angry guards close behind him. With a leap, Verin jumped off the balcony and grabbed a long tapestry with the Imperial crest that hung from the ceiling. The boy had begun to swing and slide down the ornamental sheet when its fastenings gave way and the boy fell, crashing down onto the banquet table. Dignitaries and emissaries screamed and shouted as they were covered in their own food. Lorno had been moving before the boy had even landed, and his big hand instantly clamped down on Verin’s shoulder before the boy could recover and escape. Vivian let loose a terrified shriek. She knew what trouble Verin was in and what was in store for the boy. She left in tears as Verin was dragged out of the room. Kincaid wasn’t sure how, but somehow Tehryn managed to smooth it over. He heard later that he might’ve passed Verin off as a renegade servant boy, but he couldn’t be certain.

It was then that Lorno finally got through to Verin. The captain through the boy into a chair so hard it toppled over, dumping Verin into a wall. They were in the storeroom in the servants’ quarters where Lorno had always taken him; secluded and private, the Moff would never hear of the severity of the boy’s punishments. The boy looked up petulantly and saw a rage in Lorno’s eyes that he had never seen before. The man’s chest heaved and his face was near purple. His breath came ragged like the sinister snarl of some beast. Verin’s petulance quickly faded as Lorno lunged and grabbed him by the collar, hurling the boy into a stack of crates that crashed down around him on impact. Verin tried to scramble up to his feet, to try and run, escape, but Lorno was on him again, throwing the boy like a rag to the other side of the small room, this time knocking the air out of Verin’s lungs. The boy sat slumped against the wall, gasping for air and unable to attempt escape this time.

Lorno stood over him, still breathing heavy with rage. “You ungrateful wretch,” he spat. “You’d still be stuck on Thalassia in that slaver’s lot if it wasn’t for Moff Tehryn! Do you even have any idea how lucky you are? I would’ve killed you myself by now if it wasn’t for him!” Anger boiled in Verin and his looked up to Lorno with a fire in his eyes. Lorno had no idea what kind of life Verin lived. How could he dare call Verin lucky? Lorno grabbed the boy by the collar again and pulled him up the wall till they were face to face, the boy’s feet dangling in the air. “After everything he’s given you, this is how you repay him?” Suddenly the anger in Verin melted away, replaced by sudden shame. As much as he hated the man, Lorno was right. Verin had been betraying the only person who had never turned their back on him, and it hit the boy harder than any of Lorno’s strikes ever would. He went slack in Lorno’s grip, the fight in him gone. Lorno righted the chair with his foot and sat Verin in it before grabbing a thick piece of rope. It had been the only time the boy ever shed a tear during his beatings.

After that, the young Verin resolved to reform. Although awkwardly at first, he began to quickly shape into a proper young man of a wealthy Imperial family. Verin was never far from the Moff’s side; attending the Moff’s banquets and always extending the proper courtesies to the wealthy families and dignitaries that would visit. Before long, he was referred to throughout the estate as Mr. Kincaid. Although his behavior had been refined to that of a gentleman, the wild intensity of his past never left Verin’s eyes, leaving him a roguishly handsome and confident demeanor that he became known for throughout the rest of his life.

Many people on Moff Tehryn’s staff new Kincaid was his man to the end, however after Kincaid’s absence, none were sure of their history except for Vivian. Kincaid owed everything he was to Tehryn.

“So how have you been, my boy?” Tehryn asked Kincaid warmly, his eyes studying the young man fiercely.

Kincaid nodded to Kearney and said, “Helping Vee as best I can with her hunt.” Kearney’s gaze darted to the ground at the mention of the hunt. She knew what was coming next.

“Ah, yes,” Tehryn said with a nod before turning to his daughter. “And how goes the hunt?”

“Not well, father,” she said quietly, looking up to meet his eyes, her shame clear as the night sky. The idea that the Moff did not already know the results of their search was impossible. He knew. He just wanted to hear of her failure from her own mouth.

“I see,” Moff Tehryn said, nodding as he looked away to the floor.

Kearney’s jaw clenched as she searched for forgiveness from her father before finding none. She had failed him. “They leave us nothing,” she said bitterly as she looked away to a spot on the floor. “No leads, no survivors, no witnesses… Nothing!”

Tehryn turned his gaze to Kincaid as if to say, And you? You have failed as well? Verin’s jaw tightened involuntarily and could say nothing, averting his gaze away from that of his mentor’s.

“I see,” Moff Tehryn said again. “This will not be received well at the conference. Creghton has been making plays for power and has come under Tarkin’s favor recently.” Kearney frowned. Creghton was the Moff of Meram’s neighboring sector, Mieru’kar, and had been in constant competition with her father for power and control of the region. The man was a snake, she knew, and dangerous. “He will be sure to embellish this epidemic into an embarrassing failure of my administration.”

Moff Tehryn was at heart a gentle man who ruled fairly. He achieved his rank and title through his outstanding ability to manage systems. His family had always had similar talents and had garnered a plethora of wealth expanding Meram’s infrastructure and turning struggling Outer Rim colonies to flourishing capitals, which no doubt helped Tehryn reach his office. His successes and good character had gained him much respect in the political world, but in truth Tehryn never had a talent for politics. His morality, however, often made the Moff vulnerable to men like Moff Creghton.

“Father, I—“ Kearney began urgently.

“Don’t bother, my dear girl,” Tehryn said softly. “Apologies won’t change our present predicament. We will tackle that mountain when we get there.” He paused and sighed heavily before pushing himself to his feet. “Now that you’re here, commander, how long does Captain Theyon need before we can depart?”

Commander Kearney cleared her throat as she shifted from shamed daughter back to business, “He is prepared to leave immediately. We restocked and refueled at Valfin before our rendezvous with the Legacy.”

“Excellent,” Moff Tehryn said, stepping away from the table. “Send word that we are to depart as soon as possible.”

“Yes, sir,” Kearney replied.

“You are dismissed.” The two officers jumped to their feet and snapped to attention yet again before exiting the Moff’s quarters.
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Re: Black Skies Over Meram

Post by Dahdtoudi » Tue Jan 24, 2012 8:15 am

Lieutenant Kincaid sat at the table in his temporary quarters onboard the Legacy, the coat of his black uniform loose and unbuttoned at the top as he leaned over a collection of charts and reports of Meram. They were well furnished, even for officer’s quarters. There was a chance that all the quarters on board a Moff’s flagship were more luxurious than average, but Verin had a sneaking suspicion that a touch of nepotism involved in his room assignment. Both he and Vivian were placed in the same wing as the Moff’s own quarters, suites that were likely used for visiting emissaries and ambassadors from different worlds and sectors.

Moff Tehryn had become a lonely man once his children left the nest, Verin knew, and this was likely the reason the Moff had fought Vivian so hard on her enlistment. Leaving was a source of lingering guilt for Verin. He wished he could’ve stayed for Tehryn, to help carry the weight and responsibility, but he needed to leave, needed to get out, to get away. The memory of that fateful night was still clear in his mind. Vivian had just turned 16, two years his younger. It was that night his loyalty to Tehryn had been put to the ultimate test. Verin had passed, but barely. How much he wanted to fail in that moment desperately needed to give in was what frightened him. Two weeks later he was gone, into the depths of the Imperial Navy, not to be heard from for years, and to Verin that was even better. He ran and he knew it, but he needed to be away from Tehryn and his family and the less contact he had with them the better.

Verin realized he wasn’t actually looking at the charts anymore when he heard the door to his chamber engage and slide open. The lieutenant sighed and rubbed his eyes before looking up to see Commander Kearney enter and take a seat across from him. “Hey, Vee. I was just thinking about you,” he said after waiting for the door to shut behind her. Vivian would summon him if it concerned business. She would come to him if it was a personal visit, if she needed the counsel of a friend. The discretion was necessary. He had heard the whisperings on board the Diligent, suspicions and rumors of the exact nature of their relationship being more than just that of a superior and subordinate. He had put that far behind him when he left Tehryn’s estate, however. For the sake of her career, Verin tried to maintain some air of professionalism between them, but in the end they would always be old friends.

“Were you?” Vivian asked with a cocked eyebrow as she sat, loosening her jacket as well.

“Well, of home,” Verin clarified, looking back down at the table. “I would’ve cleaned up a bit if I’d known you were coming by,” he said as he looked up and around the room as if surveying a mess.

Vivian smirked as she looked over at the duffel bag in the corner, still unpacked. “Yeah, you’re really making yourself at home, as usual,” she chided. Now Verin smirked. Wherever Verin went, she had never seen him let himself get comfortable and established, except for when they were kids, and even then he had left in a matter of weeks. He was always ready to leave, to move on. He was always prepared to leave before anyone could leave him, she guessed.

Verin smirked. “So what’s on your mind, Vee?”

Vivian sighed and leaned back in her chair, staring up at the ceiling. “Thinking of home, like you. Seeing Dad, y’know…”

“Yeah, I know,” Verin asked, once again looking back to the charts on the table. He understood why she got anxious around her father. She had to fight tooth and nail for a year straight to go to the Academy. Ever since then she’s had to prove it wasn’t a mistake, and she’d done exceedingly well. But fighting a war is easy until you see the enemy.

Vivian leaned forward over the table and looked over the charts and reports. “Got anything?”
“I don’t know,” he replied tiredly, glancing over the charts. He slid a sector map with a density overlay on it showing where and when attacks occurred. The lieutenant had circled groups in two different colors. “This has me thinking, though.”

“What’s this?” Vivian asked, looking over the chart intently.

“It seems there’s two different MOs in here,” Verin explained. The ones circled in green are the standard, run of the mill pirate raids. They come in, kill who they need to, take what they want, and they leave. Smash and grab. No one knows who they are or where they came from or where they went after,” he continued, “but they’re definitely pirates.”

“And the ones in red?”

“The ones in red are total annihilation,” Verin said, pointing at the map. “No survivors, no hulks, no witnesses. Nothing but space debris. They destroy everything,” he said finally, tapping the map with a rigid finger. He leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms before continuing. “Now, maybe it’s just how the battle turned out. Maybe a engine core got hit or a spacer decided to be a hero. Maybe sometimes all the ships got destroyed. But look at the dispersion,” he said, nodding at the map.

“They’re all towards the edge, towards the border,” Vivian observed, staring at the map closely. “So, what? Two different groups?”

“Maybe,” Verin said with a shrug. “One reckless and taking targets of opportunity, the other deadly efficient and deliberate. They don’t go deep into our sector because it’s more populated, harder to control, more likely to get spotted and pinched by us.” For a moment they both went silent, Commander Kearney studying the map while her lieutenant brainstormed. “One deadly efficient, methodical, doesn’t want to be seen,” he repeated and looked up at Vivian. “And Vee, whose border are they hugging?”

Vivian studied the map a moment before she realized what Verin was suggesting. “No,” she said shaking her head. “You’re talking about what that spacer said. There’s no way. Not even Creghton is that reckless. It would start a war!”

“Even if it’s not him,” Verin held his arms out as he argued, “they’ve got to be coming from Mieru’kar; Creghton’s sector, Creghton’s responsibility. Vee, your father can use this at the conference.”

“I don’t know,” Vivian said skeptically. “It would seem like a desperate redirect on his part. Childish, even.”

Verin sighed and leaned back in his chair again, crossing his arms and chewing the inside of his lip as he went back into thought. There was something wrong with all of this and he knew it. Imperial involvement, however unlikely, explained everything; how the pirates eluded them, how they could hit and run so quickly, everything. But maybe Vivian was right. Maybe he was reaching.

He looked up and realized she was staring at him with a strange look in her eye. “What?” he asked dumbly.

“Why’d you leave all those years ago?” Vivian asked quietly.

The question took him off guard, and he faltered for only a moment, but that was all a woman like Vivian Kearney needed. “What?” he asked, confused.

“You left us. Why?” she insisted.

“I needed to leave,” he replied, shifting in his seat slightly and looking down at the table, away from her.

“Why?” she insisted again.

Verin looked up at her with cold scorn in his eyes and said nothing.

“You ran,” Vivian said after a moment. “You ran away. From me.” He could see the bitter pain in her eye.

Verin sighed and rolled his eyes. “Vee, c’mon,” he pleaded in frustration. “Like you said, that was years ago. We’ve both moved on from that. We have a job to do now; try and keep that in perspective!”

“Careful, Lieutenant,” Vivian said coldly. “Don’t think you can get off telling me about the job that’s to be done.”

Verin glared at her angrily. “Are we done,” he asked spitefully before adding, “ma’am?”

Vivian scoffed at him and shook her head away from him, staring angrily at the far wall. Finally she got out of her chair and made for the door, before stopping just short of it. “We should be arriving at Eriadu soon. Prepare your escort detail for departure.” With that, she left, Verin’s door sliding shut behind her.

“What the hell,” Verin hissed, confusion and spite swirling in his head. There was nothing in the galaxy a man could do or experience that would ever prepare him for a woman scorned. Verin inhaled deeply and ran his hands through his hair, grabbing a fistful in each and squeezing before exhaling and releasing. His hands slapped the table as his arms dropped and he pushed himself up, moving to the comm console on the wall near the door. Keying the console, he spoke, “Open a secure line to the Diligent. Chief Veras in Flight Maintenance.” There was a tone. Chief Veras was the Lieutenant’s wing’s maintenance chief, highly skilled and someone Kincaid trusted with discretion. “Chief, it’s Kincaid. When we arrive at Eriadu, I need you to take a shuttle back to Meram. I need you to put something together for me…”
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Re: Black Skies Over Meram

Post by Dahdtoudi » Fri Jan 27, 2012 1:51 am

The Legacy and her escorts dropped out of hyperspace over Eriadu. Before them lay the organized chaos of an industrial world, the Imperial drydock platforms littering the planet’s orbit while toxic smog and pollution obscured much of the planet’s service. Space lanes crisscrossed between the planet’s many space stations, relaying countless goods and resources between the incoming bulk freighters and the planet’s surface. The planet was a major manufacturing center for the Imperial effort.

“The conference will be held on Station Nine,” Commander Kearney instructed into a comm station on the Legacy’s hangar deck, her father’s shuttle standing by to take off behind her. “We will depart once we’re in range of the station. While we’re away, the Diligent will accompany the Legacy for a patrol of the system in deep orbit over Eriadu. I will be sending sitreps every hour on the hour once we’ve established ourselves on the station. Understood?”

“Yes ma’am,” Captain Theyon replied from the other end of the comm channel.

“Good,” Kearney replied. “I’ll be in touch soon.” With the tap of a button, the channel was closed. Above the Commander’s head was the familiar whine of TIE fighter engines spinning up, and one by one the fighters fell from their racks in the hangar ceiling, dropping straight down through the opening in the hangar floor before zipping off into the emptiness of space. Kearney stood and watched until she saw Lieutenant Kincaid’s fighter fall from its place down the shoot, his wingmen falling close behind. She sighed as she looked away at a spot on the floor. Although she would never admit it to Verin, she had acted foolishly before, unsure of what had come over her. It had been so long since that night, so many years. She wasn’t sure why it had all suddenly popped into her mind so clearly.

Shaking her head, Commander Kearney approached the waiting shuttle to ensure everything was in order for her father’s departure. Deckhands were still loading their baggage into the hold and fuel hoses still snaked around its landing gear.

Before long, the Moff’s shuttle was away, its escort flights quickly falling in on its flanks, Lieutenant Kincaid’s flight pulling lead as the Legacy and her escorts pulled away towards their patrol route.

The interior of the Moff’s shuttle was luxurious, the passenger seating arranged into a lounge style room, the rigid jump seats of most shuttles swapped out for much more plush, although fewer, luxury seats along with several small tables. Towards the rear of the craft was a small office in which the Moff and Commander Kearney sat while several aides milled about, organizing papers and coordinating for the upcoming conference. The Commander had just finished briefing the Moff on all the current intelligence pertaining to the pirates that plagued the Meram sector.

“Very good, Commander,” Tehryn said with an approving nod. “Very thorough report. Is there anything else?”

Kearney paused a moment and sighed, studying her father’s face as she tried to judge whether she should go on. Finally she cleared her throat and looked down at the charts on her father’s desk. “Lieutenant Kincaid,” she said tightly, unable to hide the tension in her voice, “has come up with a certain… hypothesis. Although as outlandish as it may sound, at this point it deserves mentioning.” She looked up at her father anxiously.

“Go on,” Tehryn said gently with a nod.

“After studying the pirates activity and varying tactics,” Kearney continued, “the Lieutenant thinks the pirates are most likely originating within the Mieru’kar sector.” Kearney stopped again to judge her father’s reaction.

The muscles in the Moff’s jaw visibly tightened in response to the Lieutenant’s suggestion. “I see,” he said quietly after a moment. His hands were clasped before him on the desk, and his knuckles slowly began to turn white.

“Sir, there’s more,” the Commander said. She sighed and looked cautiously around the room before leaning close to the Moff’s ear. “Verin thinks that there is Imperial involvement,” she whispered softly.

The Moff shot his daughter a piercing look as she leaned back. He studied her carefully before turning to his aides. “Give us the room,” he ordered. “Now.” Quickly, they put down their papers and datapads and filed out of the office before the door shut behind them. “Have a seat, Vivian,” the Moff said, nodding at the chair across from him at his desk. His daughter sat obediently, sitting up straight in the chair as her hands wrapped around the end of its arms.

The Moff said nothing for a long while, and with each moment, the Commander filled with girlish anxiety. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore. “Father, Verin thinks he is helping you with this information,” Vivian started desperately. “He thinks you can use this to discredit Creghton, but I disagree. It would come off as desperate slander, and only weaken your support. Father, please--”

“I agree,” Tehryn said, cutting her short. “You have been quite successful in your career, and I don’t think it has been by any accident. You are an exceedingly smart and capable woman, so I don’t think I need to tell you how dangerous it is for someone to make such accusations.” He sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair as he cradled his forehead in one hand. After a moment he looked up and continued. “Such an accusation is outrageous, even for someone like Moff Creghton. However, it pains me to admit but with each passing day he gains more power and gathers more support behind him, and with that power he grows more bold. Perhaps such treason is no longer outside of his bounds.” He sighed and massaged his eyes with his fingertips a moment before leaning forward towards his daughter. “You have to understand, my girl,” he began softly. “Verin is a soldier. He was a fighter the day we found him. Things are clearer to him, simpler.” Vivian scoffed at this and looked away from her father, who gave her a curious glance before continuing. “He doesn’t live in the world of lies and deceit that we live in, where power is survival, where what is unsaid is just as important, if not more so, than what is said. This is not his world; it never has been.”

Moff Tehryn’s final words seemed to hang in the air, echoing in Vivian’s head as sadness and guilt swept over her, replacing the scorn she felt for Verin’s simplicity. She knew her father meant more by his words than just the world of politics; he was talking about their entire lives, Verin never belonged, and they had held him there anyways. She had hated him so much for leaving when he did, for abandoning her, for hurting her, when all along she had been so selfish. Just a stupid little girl who had fallen in love.

“Vivi,” Tehryn said softly to his daughter, “I know it hurt you when he left us. I was sad to see him go; I can’t tell you how much. But he did what he felt he had to do, and it would be wrong of us to hold him captive in a life that was never meant to be his.” Vivian nodded sadly and looked up at her father as a tear slid down her face. She quickly wiped it away and sniffed hard, trying to compose herself. “He loved you, you know. I could see it, watched it as it bloomed. It wasn’t easy for him to leave, either. Consider that before you let yourself hate him so.”

Vivian smiled meekly and nodded at her father as she reached out and held his hand. Verin had got his habit of always being right from her father, however her father always disarmed her instead of infuriating her. She sat up sharply and proceeded to dry her eyes when the pilot came over the intercom and announced that they would be landing shortly.

“And so it begins,” Tehryn said with a heavy sigh.
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Re: Black Skies Over Meram

Post by Dahdtoudi » Wed Sep 26, 2012 2:22 pm

The summit had dragged on into its fourth day as issues around the Outer Rim were debated and discussed until eventually being resolved or, at times, dismissed. Everything from trade routes to budget allotments had brought the conference near a full stop. Verin had only needed to sit in once to remember politics wasn’t for him. He found the squabbling, finger pointing and false flattery frustrating to an infuriating degree. From then on, he was sure to busy himself elsewhere whenever the conference was in session.
Commander Kearney was more dutiful in her attendance. She despised the countenance of the Moff’s of the Rim as much as Verin, though her upbringing had taught her to stomach it long ago. As much as she might hate politics, she understood them and was able to operate within the courtesies therein. When she was a girl, her father had once told her that she was a fish that hated the taste of water. With silent diligence, she sat outside the long conference table behind her father’s place, studying the rulers of the Rim as they battered for power. She regarded every play with disdainful suspicion. As far as Vivian was concerned, her father was the only collection of honest bones in the room. Everyone else just wanted more; more power, more wealth, more control. And over them all sat Tarkin, watching down his long nose as they contended for his scraps.

Vivian had to give the Grand Moff credit, though. Since he had been appointed to the position of Grand Moff of Oversector Outer, he had managed to make the inherently chaotic region toe the line during these times of uncertainty. Although decisively arrogant, the man produced results, which was something she had to respect. Even Tarkin wasn’t exempt from the restrictions emplaced by the etiquette surrounding galactic politics, however. The Moffs would take every inch and minute they could, Vivian knew.

Verin looked up from his drink as the commander pulled out a seat at his table in one of Station Nine’s officer clubs. “Out so soon?” he asked with raised eyebrows.

“They broke for a recess,” Vivian responded tiredly, staring at the table’s surface as she massaged her temples.

“And how goes the circus?” Verin inquired, the corner of his mouth quirking as he studied her before he took a sip from his drink.

Vivian shot him a fiery glare. The fact that while she was trapped in the conference hall he was here drinking had not escaped her. She sat back in her chair and regarded him coldly as she crossed her arms. “There’s something to be said about men who drink alone.”

Verin smiled as he set down his drink, turning it once between his fingers before looking up to the commander. “Maybe I’m just waiting for the right company,” he replied through his smirk.

Vivian scoffed at this, looking away and shaking her head as a small smile escaped her cool demeanor. She studied the room around her before turning back to Verin. It never ceased to strike her how that wild boy had turned into such a charming scoundrel. Finally she shrugged and pushed herself up from the table. “I should be getting back. They’ll be reconvening soon.”

“Why don’t you get some rest? I’ll take the rest of this one,” Verin offered. He had no interest in sitting in on any more of the politics, but he could see the weariness around Vivian’s eyes.

Commander Kearney scoffed again. “Yeah, right,” she said dryly. “No, I want you here, actually, doing what you do best. I’ll let you know when we’re done.”

“I’ll keep my ear to the ground,” Verin said with a nod.

Vivian nodded back before turning to walk away. The commander paused however, and turned back to the lieutenant. “Try not to get too drunk, Lieutenant Kincaid.”

Verin grinned. “Wouldn’t dream of it, ma’am.”

“Right,” Kearney replied, just as dryly as before. With that, the commander left Verin to the rest of the drink.

Vivian was nervous, Verin knew. It was only when she didn’t know to go left or right when she asked him to “do what he did best,” as she had called it. He couldn’t think of a better place to keep his eyes and ears open for pieces of information straying from errant lips than that of a bar. Before Vivian had come, he had been surveying his surroundings, noting the club’s other patrons and beginning to gauge to whom they belonged to. Verin had long since noted that individuals from different commands always behaved differently, reflecting the idiosyncrasies and pet peeves of the commander. If one knew the command, it allowed him to make an educated guess at who belonged to which.

Verin barely was allowed to take another sip from his drink after Vivian left before two lieutenants suddenly sat down across from him at his table, each leaning in close with a slight grin or smirk. Verin had spotted the two earlier and judged that if from anywhere, they were most likely here with Moff Creghton’s security detail. They didn’t look as sullen as the officer’s who called Station Nine home, and they carried the Moff’s arrogance. Kincaid paused to study the two individuals with raised eyebrows before setting his drink down. He shrugged to indicate his ignorance of their purpose before inquiring, “Can I help you gentlemen?”

The officer to Verin’s right chuckled slightly, the clear leader of the two. The other just smiled stupidly beside him. “So you’re familiar with the Ice-Bitch, eh?” the one on the right sneered. “Poor bastard.”

The officer continued to snicker at Verin as Verin felt the back of his neck get hot. His face reflected none of his anger, however, and two the two across him he seemed to remain neutral. “Yeah,” he replied. “You know her?”

“Years back we were under her command,” the one said, nodding his head towards his companion. “A real smug whore, isn’t she?” the lieutenant went on. Clearly he wasn’t trying to provoke Verin, wholly ignorant of Kincaid’s loyalties. It was more of a case of two pilots attempting to bond over beer and mutual hatred of one’s superiors.

As much as Verin wanted to smash the officer’s face into his glass, Verin understood the opportunity this presented, so he chuckled in false humor at the other pilot’s allegation. “Yeah, she’s definitely a buzz-kill, isn’t she?” he added with a grin, throwing in the faintest slur to his words.

The other pilot snickered again. “Yeah, but she ain’t gonna be around for long, is she Hern?” he said, looking at his comrade.

Hern chuckled with drunken idiocy before adding, “Nope,” with a shake of his head to add emphasis.

Verin perked up his eyebrows and leaned back in his chair. “Oh yeah?” he asked. “Why’s that?” Despite the sudden unease boiling up in Verin’s stomach, he maintained his false drunken joviality.

The other two pilots grinned and looked at each other before looking back at Verin. It was clear to him that something was very wrong.
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Re: Black Skies Over Meram

Post by Dahdtoudi » Sun May 11, 2014 6:56 am

Verin ran through the winding corridors of the station as fast as he could, well aware of the stares he was getting from those he passed. The drunken pilots had filled him in on what they believed to be the winds of change, and he needed to warn Vivian and the Moff before it was too late.

Kincaid reached the long hall that surrounded the entrances to the summit hall, breathing heavy as he finally reached the blast door closest to Moff Tehryn’s seat. He paused just a moment to catch his breath and collect himself when the door slid open in front of him. He stood up straight suddenly before he saw it was Commander Kearney exiting the conference, her face red with rage.

“Vee, Creghton—“ Verin began, still breathing heavy as he struggled to catch his breath.

“I know,” Vivian growled. The other Moff had already made his play, publicly shaming her father for his failure with the pirate epidemic. They had all expected something of the sort, but Creghton didn’t stop there. Following his “concerns” for the safety and well being of Meram’s citizens, two things no one held in higher regard than Moff Tehryn, Creghton proposed he himself assumed emergency regency over Meram.

Vivian could still see Tarkin and his constant sneer as he listened to Creghton’s proposal carefully. Everyone in the room saw it for what it was: a play for power, a grab at Tehryn’s sector. However, the pragmatism Creghton used to back it was real.

Tarkin had addressed Tehryn directly after the proposal. “Moff Tehryn, up until now, your work and achievements in the Meram Sector have been exceptional. Meram has become one of too few successes in the Outer Rim. This being said, Moff Creghton is right about these pirates. Their presence and activity in your sector is unacceptable. Their apparent impunity to your authority represents a blatant challenge to the Empire’s rule in the Rim. You have been an excellent administrator since you assumed your office, and it is for this reason that I am not accepting Moff Creghton’s proposal… yet. However, if this pirate menace continues in Meram, if you fail to maintain control of your sector, I will be forced to demand your resignation.”

That was it. The death warrant for Moff Tehryn’s regime. If Kearney couldn’t dispel these pirates, her father and everything he had achieved would be done and handed over to Creghton’s greedy and corrupt hands. She looked at Verin with a stoic severity, her fury boiling behind her eyes. “This stops here,” she said through gritted teeth.

Verin nodded. He knew what had be done. If there was ever a moment when he had wanted to reach out to Vivian since he had fallen under her command, to hold her and comfort her through her turmoil as he had done at times when they were younger, it was now. However, there was work to be done. Instead, he looked her solidly in the eyes. The message was clear. I’ll get it done. Without another word, the lieutenant turned and was off at a run towards the hangar bay where the Moff’s shuttle waited. He needed to get back to Meram, and quickly. He just hoped Chief Veras had something for him.

----------------------------------------------

Kincaid’s shuttle slipped out of hyperspace over Valfin and sped towards the planet’s surface, landing deftly in the gilded hangar of the Moff’s Imperial Palace. The shuttle’s ramp hadn’t even finished extending before Verin was ducking down its length before hopping off the end as it approached the hangar deck. The lieutenant had already changed into his flight suit during the trip and he looked hastily around the large hangar. “Veras!” he called out, drawing the attention of the deck hands tending to the shuttle.

“Lieutenant!” Verin heard the Chief’s voice echo from the far corner of the hangar and could see the man waving outside a small bay before jogging over to him.

“Please tell me you have something for me,” Verin begged the man, making no attempt at hiding his urgency.

Chief Veras smiled broadly at the lieutenant. “Take a look for yourself,” he said and gestured towards the small bay behind him, evidently very pleased with himself.

Verin gave him an appreciative pat on the shoulder before pushing past the chief to get into the hangar. The Chief had left the doors to the bay open only a crack for the sake of discretion, as Verin had instructed. The lieutenant couldn’t be sure of where the Imperial insider behind these pirate attacks was, but Verin was sure he was there somewhere and took no chances. Verin stopped in his tracks just inside the doors, his mouth hung open slightly in stunned disbelief. “Chief,” he began slowly as the other man edged through the gap in the doors. “Is that… Is that what I think it is?”

“It sure is,” Chief Veras replied, crossing his arms as he watched Kincaid reach out delicately and run his hand across the low, twin dagger-like hull of the small fighter in front of him. “Republic-era Actis Eta-2 intercepter.” The chief rolled back and forth on his heels in self-satisfaction.

“Chief, this belongs in a museum, not in our hangar bay!” Verin chided, not taking his hand off the hull of the exceptionally small interceptor. He meant no insult by the remark, either. The fighter represented the pinnacle of Republic engineering and craftsmanship, the progenitor to much of the technology behind the Empire’s current TIE fighters, made before the rapid expansion of the Empire’s military demanded the production of the cheaper and more readily replaceable TIE model. It was faster, more nimble, and carried more firepower than even the current TIE-Interceptors.

“Not in this condition,” the Chief said with a nod at the craft. Verin noted several scars in the fighter’s faded paint job and dents in the hull. It was certainly worn in. “You should’ve seen it when I got it, too. Had to entirely rebuild one of the strike-foils, and don’t even get me started on all the custom work to adapt the modern hardware. They just don’t make parts like they used to anymore.”

“I bet,” Verin replied, still studying the craft. The fighter was a relic, and no doubt had been lurking in some junkyard somewhere, a discarded gem waiting to be found and returned to its former glory. “What about hyperspace?” Verin asked, suddenly concerned.

Chief Veras’s grin didn’t fade. “Hyperspace ring with a class-1 drive. Old school, but effective. Just make sure you park it in a safe place.” The chief added the last bit with a wink.

Suddenly there was the familiar high-pitched whine and successive beeps of an astromech droid from the corner. The droid rolled around from behind the stern of the fighter. It was equally worn in, not resembling the usual polished black exteriors the Imperial astromech’s usually sported. Instead, it matched the exterior of the Actis: faded, dinged, and showing signs of numerous repairs in its past. Verin had to hand it to Chief Veras: he had spared no expense when it came to attention to detail. “That’s R3-M8,” Veras said with a nod towards the astromech.

Verin stared at the astromech for a moment. He was used to working alone, but he was well aware of the advantages an astromech could provide in a dogfight, and depending on the droid’s payload, useful in other areas as well. He mulled over the concept of the partnership when something occurred to him. “M8?” he asked, looking up at the chief with a smirk.

“Yeah?” Veras verified with curiosity.

“M8,” Verin said again. “Mate.”

Veras chuckled. “Well, I guess you two will be best of friends, then.”

Verin rolled his eyes. It was certainly going to be a learning experience. “Well,” the lieutenant began with a sigh and a nod back towards the fighter, “is she ready?”

“You know me well enough, sir,” Chief Veras replied with a proud grin.

Verin smiled. The fighter in front of him was a legend, and he was boyishly excited to fly it. “Well, Mate,” he said, looking down at the droid, “let’s see what you got.” With an excited whoop, the droid rolled under the port-side hull before getting locked in and raised into the astromech port.

Chief Veras’s smile had suddenly faded. “If you break it, sir, I might just shoot you.” The lieutenant laughed. Veras didn’t. “I’m serious.”

“Don’t worry, Chief,” Veras said, patting the man on the shoulder. “I’ll be gentle.” With that, Verin hopped into the cockpit and began strapping himself in as the canopy closed above him.

A moment later, R3-M8 had finished the preflight checks and the engines came to life with the howl distinctive to ion drives. The small interceptor glided deftly out of the bay before swiftly accelerating down the length of the hangar. Once clear of the threshold, Verin punched the throttle. The ion engines screamed, and the pilot was thrust into the back of the cockpit, literally squeezing the air out of his chest. “By the Force!” Verin wheezed once his body mass had adjusted to the momentum. The Actis packed a lot in such a small package.

You said you’d be careful, printed across a small readout in front of him as R3-M8 gave a scolding collection of chirps.

“Yeah,” Verin replied. “Lesson learned.” With a flip of a switch, he toggled the S-foils and put the fighter into what he intended to be a gentle roll. The fighter spun rapidly as it climbed into the sky. Verin eased off the joystick and the interceptor leveled off, upside down. There was another serious of agitated chirps and buzzers from the astromech that Verin didn’t bother to read. He could guess what the droid was getting at. “Yeah, yeah,” he replied as he carefully righted the craft. “We’re just getting to know each other, is all.” Kincaid could only imagine what the craft was truly capable of when pushed to its limits. He had heard that initially, the fighter was designed for the unsurpassable abilities of the now extinct Jedi, only later and under certain modifications being allowed to some of the best pilots the Republic had to offer.

The small fighter shuddered as it exited Valfin’s atmosphere. Verin would continue to put the Actis through its paces, but he had a feeling that if he should actually find Meram’s elusive pirates, they were in for a surprise.
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