3.06: ENDGAME

DS Day 291-308

Where: Darkstryder Planet

The captain paced the bridge. She looked into the viewport as the Rift thinned around them Farstar. They had made it across the Rift, and were hiding in its edges. They knew patrols would be out, between the Rift, and the world that has now become known as the Darkstryder Planet. Long Range sensors picked up hyperspace trails that lead to that world.

The journey from Yvara was uneventful. The crew was too tense to cause trouble. Her mood was solemn. The crew had proven time and time again that they will work together at a moment of crisis, but the fifth-column distractions were eating her and the crew alive. At one time, she thought that the mutiny would be the release of all the problems. However, the mutiny was only a symptom of a much larger problem. The problem was hopelessness. Nothing could change that except facing their fears head-on. Which was why things were quiet now. The crew knew they were coming close to that reality.

The reality that Sarne was within their grasp… or was he? Through their journey, Adrimetrum felt more and more like this whole journey was orchestrated. As if they were being herded. She knew that she wasn’t alone in that suspicion. She had her orders, however. Even if it would lead them to suicide.

The Rift dissipated around them, and they came upon a volcanic world the nav-comp labeled Demongate. While in orbit, the captain ordered final preparation for the jump to the Darkstryder planet. The last of the Lifeline probes was launched in orbit around Demongate. The Lifeline comm-system was stable. Set up to send the rallying message to the New Republic, the Lifeline was a series of probe droids, specially modified by Bifzik to carry a short-burst comm transmission to the other side of the Rift. Even while in the Ferry, they were able to launch the necessary probes. There was some doubt the communication line would remain stable, but when the first probe they laid out answered it’s call, it was confirmed. But it would still take the New Republic fleet at least 4 weeks to get across the Rift. The Farstar had to buy some time.

Much to Adrimetrum’s dislike, the tense silence was broken. Bifzik reported to the captain that Loh’khar, over the last few months had been using a game with Bifzik to create communication encoding sequences. It was well hidden, in the guise of a simple mathematics game that involved random numerical problems. As time went on, it became apparent that Loh’khar had greater plans for this than just to pass the time. A quick check of the comm systems confirmed the Verpine’s suspicions. But to the Captain’s amazement, there was more.

The only communication going directly out of the Farstar was the Lifeline transmission. It was specially encoded and repeated so that it maximized the chances if reception while minimizing the chances of interception. The amazing part was there were to piggy-backing transmission, separate from each other, travelling along the Lifeline network. They were both in their own way, virtually undetectable, unless you knew what to look for.

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Loh’Khar’s signal was identifiable but the other one was quite different, using very new and sophisticated encoding algorithms specifically designed for only one type of receiver. Bifzik was able to identify the coding as Bothan. They had a Bothan spy aboard, and despite that species current alliance with the New Republic, all knew that the alliance was a shaky one at best.

The Captain dealt with it by confronting Loh’Khar. In his usual manipulative way, he revealed the Bothan spy, hoping to ease some of the pressure off of him. Brandis Turgah the Droid Tech was also called into the meeting. In the end, the Captain confined them in a storage room, alone together in the dark. Brandis was deliriously angry, but Loh’khar simply looked at Gorak with a long and intense stare.

*****

“Long range sensor probes are picking up strange energy activity a few light years out of this system.”

The Farstar had found a quiet little system just of reach of the Rift’s tendrils. It was designated as Demonsgate, and was a nasty little world. They took strides to avoid the world.

Adrimetrum awoke from her morning cup of Javara to look at her scanners. “Localized short bursts of energy, across the EM range. Looks like explosions. Perhaps the remnants of a battle.”

She tapped her comm unit “Gorjaye, I need a scout team to go out in a Defender and check out these coordinates. I need them back in one piece. Handle it.” She was grumpy today.

No retort was heard. She turned to the scanner chief. “Monitor the scouts progress, and let me know if we loose him off scanner.”

*****

Sooni was humming happily, glad to get out of the madhouse known as the Farstar. He was away from the violence, the crankiness, the complaining and in the peaceful quiet of space. The Rift, for all its dangers, was one of the most majestic sites he had seen. He took a few holos to bring home.

Home. That was a thought that hurt. His family was taken from him, used in one of Sarne’s experiments. IF he could get the Darkstryder out of them, he knew he could re-establish his noble family name back among the great noble families of the Sullustan Colonies.

But first, Sarne had to pay.

Alarms leaped to life as he approached his drop point. Not really sure what they were telling him, and dazed by his thoughts of home, Sooni haphazardly went through the pre-drop sequence. He dropped into normal space confronted by an ominous site. His co-pilot was just waking up from a nap.

A huge section of a Star Destroyer, smoldering as gases within still fed flames though-out the exposed decks, tumbled towards him at a dangerous speed. Other chunks of the huge ship could also be seen beyond. Radiation readings were high, and alarms were sounding. Sooni fought with the controls of the ship as his co-pilot scrambled to shut off all the alarms.

“Scout ship, reporting the wreckage of a Imperial Star Destroyer, in this sector. Scanner read no survivors. It was one of Sarne’s. The Fiery Crusader, one of the Brak Sector ships.” Sooni transmitted on hyperwave. This was not a good sign for them. At least its one less they had to worry about.

He cruised around a bit further, to make the Farstar worry, then set course back to home base.

*****

Sensors told them that Sarne’s ships all converged at one point; a planet designated as Darkstryder. This world was a short jump away. The system had one world, and two dense asteroid belts. The system looked as though Armageddon had come and gone.

They had dropped a few thousand kilometers deep into the second asteroid ring, hiding from the occasion although infrequent Imperial patrol. They stared in awe at the sensor read outs.

“Can anyone please tell me what the hell that is?” Adrimetrum said.

Something was in orbit around the Darkstryder world. It was a huge conical shape object, obviously artificially made. The object was creating havoc with the sensors, and its gravity was constantly pulling asteroids from the belts to the planet below. It was a gate of some kind, by most judgements.

“By my guess, judging by the close proximity the Imperials are to the object, the Imperial sensors are probably the weakest in that area. We could easily land undetected by Imperial sensors.” Thyte stated.

“The message to the New Republic fleet. We have roughly three weeks before they get here. Even two weeks on the planet would be too long. We will wait it out here.”

Boldly, the new supply officer spoke up, “Captain, we can’t do that. Food stores and life support need replenishing and refreshing. We have about a week and a half worth of supplies before we have to worry, but that’s stretching it… after rationing.”

Why does it always happen that way? Adrimetrum swore. “OK, make it stretch then, and put that Starwolf in stasis again. We will wait until food runs out here, then make for a landing then. Thyte, this givers you time to fine tune a landing coarse. Tell Gorjaye to send out regular patrols, but we have to be sneaky about it. Get Bifzik to rig some kind of stealth equipment for the X-Wings. I want all sensors on passive, and the ship at minimal power. We’re going to run silent for a little while, so put on your Bantha furs, it’s going to get cold.”

*****

The days dragged on like years. If it wasn’t before, the anxiety level was at an explosion point. They all hated the waiting. Most of all, Loh’Khar and Brandis. Both had stayed silent in the darkness of the cold room for the past several days. There was no point in trying to kill each other, that’s exactly what the crew wanted. They both knew it. Neither were willing to play the New Republican’s game.

However, Gorak watched them from his security station, late at night. Both were asleep. Loh’Khar made sense to him, but this Brandis was an asteroid out of the left fourth flank. He suspected that there was more going on, but he wasn’t sure what. He investigated Bifzik’s findings, and was able to confirm all of it, including the Bothan crypting. What did the Bothans want out of this?

Another question that bothered Gorak was about Loh’Khar. Who was his contact? Loh’Khar had already approached him about a possible way out. With the Farstar nearing the end of it’s journey, he knew that the Twi’lek had to make his move soon. They both had talked about taking over the remnants of Chuborro’s organization and running the part of the galaxy according to their rules, but who had Loh’Khar gotten to help him. Considering his situation, could they help him now? He doubted that. He had to help the Twi’lek, and see how things panned out. That’s probably what the little arrogant bastard expects.

*****

Adrimetrum sat in her bridge chair, going over Thyte’s new infiltration plan. His plan called for an initial scout-run in a Defender. Once there, the scout secures a landing zone for the Muvon. The Muvon will be carrying the scout team of the Farstar’s best. The combined force will then secure the landing area for the Farstar. The two ships should get in with out to high a risk of detection, however the Farstar would need a little cover. Thyte’s plan called for the Night Terrors to plant explosives on a nearby asteroid. The deflection would cause the asteroid to move in a trajectory that would allow the Farstar to use it for cover. As the asteroid skimmed across the atmosphere, the Farstar would descend to the planet surface.

Risky, but at this point it was the only thing they had. The New Republic fleet had a long trip, despite the advent of the Nuniok Dak Sulllustans. The Farstar had to do something while they waited. The food was running out, the crew was once again getting restless. She knew this was too easy, but she was also hoping that Sarne’s own arrogance would also be his failing. She could only hope. His fleet surrounding the planet in from of them was impressive, despite the losses he had suffered.

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She stamped her approval on the plabn, and passed it to Thyte. “Make it happen, Darryn. You have the Night Terrors full cooperation. Ask Gorjaye for a scout to head down to the surface. I don’t want to loose anyone before this all gets started, so tell her to choose wisely.”

She turned to the bridge crew, who stared back at her with weary eyes. “OK, look sharp. We’re going in.”

******

Sooni rolled his eyes as he got his orders. He liked his job, but going into the Krayken’s Den? That was suicidal. No one knew what was on that world. The intelligence reports he was getting were short and incomplete. Too many unknowns. That’s what a scouts for, he could hear his old masters telling him.

He and Kl’aal met just outside the hanger. They boarded their defender and set their coarse for the pre-determined path calculated by Thyte. “Old-One-Arm” better be right about this one, or they would see a universe of pain come down ont hem at light speed.

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