“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.
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.