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Nova Spice
24 September 2004, 06:18 PM
STAR WARS
The New Jedi Order

DESOLATION

Dramatis Personae

New Republic Military Leaders
Admiral Traest Kre’fey- male Bothan from Bothawui (fleet admiral)
General Kapp Dendo- male Devaronian from Devaron (brigade commander)
Colonel Kinsey Meso- female Human from Lianna (intelligence liaison)

New Republic Starfighter Command
Colonel Gavin Darklighter- male Human from Tatooine (Rogue Leader)
Colonel Iyelo Bri’esk- male Bothan from Coruscant (Green Leader)
Captain Tye Greer- male Human from Doldur (Prowler Leader)
Captain Liska Thri’ala- female Bothan from Kothlis (Blue Leader)
Captain Kral Nevil- male Quarren from Mon Calamari (Rogue Two)
Major Inyri Forge- female Human from Kessel (Rogue Five)
Major Alinn Varth- female Human from Commenor (Rogue Nine)
Major Jaf Kurlow- male Human from Chalacta (Green Two)
Major Xael Giin- male Iktotchi from Iktotch (Prowler Two)
Lieutenant Jaina Solo- female Human from Coruscant (Rogue Eleven)
Lieutenant Jossi Kendricks- female Human from Garqi (Prowler Four)
Lieutenant Trey Greer- male Human from Doldur (Prowler Five)
Lieutenant Wyrp Niklos- male Nautolan from Glee Anselm (Prowler Six)
Flight Officer Topaz Vaya- female Zeltron from Zeltros (Prowler Eight)
Flight Officer Kira Nopala- female Human from Atzerri (Prowler Nine)

New Republic Army
Colonel Hersk Ken’delhk- male Bothan from Bothawui (brigade executive officer)
Major Lib Nal’rona- male Twi’lek from Ryloth (tactical support supervisor)
Major Alie Capps- female Human from Raithal (logistical support officer)
Lieutenant Jeedooni Copo- male Rodian from Rodia (platoon leader)
Sergeant Emil Merst- male Human from Vorzyd V (fire team leader)
Corporal Fuller Plais- male Human from Coruscant (heavy weapons specialist)
Corporal Tyl Hagat- male Krish from Sanza (forward observer/scout)
Private Tasha Moor- female Human from Corellia (sniper)
Private Faji “Slick” Hui- male Rodian from Rodia (communications specialist)

Yuuzban Vong Leaders
Supreme Commander Prezyk Cha- male Yuuzhan Vong (Domain Cha military leader)
Tactician Jecul- male Yuuzhan Vong (flotilla monitor)
Wing Commander Gul Cha- male Yuuzhan Vong (Domain Cha coralskipper commander)
Priestess Vysulla Yaght- female Yuuzhan Vong (follower of Yun Ne’Shel)

Prologue: Overkill
There was always a logical explanation. Games had winners and losers. Those who lost typically performed poorly in an area in which the winners did not. Gambling had winners and losers, though the losers far outnumbered the winners. Life had winners and losers, but the winners never won, they were just winning. Everyone lost at life. Everyone died. The winners were the ones still alive, while the losers were the names and faces of those that no longer existed, except in the dark recesses of the memories of those who knew them.

Met Greer was someone who knew the eccentricities of logic. He was a practical man, born and raised on Doldur by his loving mother and father. Met was the oldest of three sons, and a graduate of Rudrig University in the field of astrophysics. Met had pursued his degree by working on developing extra-galactic capable hyperdrive engines. Following up on research done by the ExGal Society, Met set out to achieve the impossible.

Met was cold. The room wasn’t well suited to fit his normal body temperature. He knew that he had done the only logical thing. He had played his hand at the right time, so that he could continue winning at life. Met contemplated his choice as he shivered. If he had refused, he would have lost. He would have lost the game, lost his career, lost his identity, lost his life. Instead he had made a calculated and integral decision that would probably be the turning point in his relatively youthful age. Once he finished his business here, he would continue working on his Mark IV Greer-class engine. If the hyperdrive could convert the ionization process so it could access the void-coils, he’d be in business. Literally.

Met laughed.

“Business,” he thought. “Yes, this was all about the business of life, was it not?”

Someone entered the room.

“My parents will be proud, and my brothers will be jealous. But that’s okay, we’ve always gotten along. They’re good kids. They’ll be good at life, too.”

Pain enveloped Met, coursing from his throat, down his spine, and to the balls of his feet. He flitted his brown eyes up to his captor. A clawed hand gripped the sensitive flesh around his throat, blood trickling down to the collar of Met’s loose-fitting shirt. His captor’s face was slashed in multiple directions. Hideous scars rode down his face and beneath his black armor; armor that looked alive. The man, no, monster’s, nose had been ripped off, leaving a cartilage-lined hole in his face. One of his ears was missing; the captor’s hair pulled tautly back into a ponytail at the back of his cranium.

“Where is this abomination, infidel?” the monster asked.

“Rather harshly,” Met decided. The astrophysicist took a short breath and nodded at the mutilated bipedal being before him.

“I assume by abomination, you refer to the factories themselves?”

The monster’s second clawed hand raked across Met, sending blood spattering onto the floor and leaving deep ravines in the human’s face. The son of Cal Greer did not scream or make any audible indication of feeling the intense pain.

“You do not assume anything you piece of ngdin waste.” the being cursed in his deep voice. “Where are these abominable faktories?”

Mustering up some strength, Met returned his eyes upon his captor. He began to have doubts about the being’s intentions. Perhaps he had played his hand at the wrong moment.

“They are spread out across the galaxy. It’s only natural, considering how common their product is to everyday galactic business.”

The hand returned to his face in the form of a clawed finger. Unable to resist the sudden shockwave of pain, Met screamed at the top of his lungs, his neurological system suddenly overloading. He knew that his left eye had just been gouged out, and the pain registered as much. However, the logic did not coincide with his captor’s goals did it? He wanted the location of the factories, didn’t he? What use did he have in torturing him?

“I want specifik locations, infidel!” the torturer bellowed.

Met began running through all manner of known and existing corporations, companies, and production facilities. And as rapidly as he could, he spat them out. It didn’t matter anyway, did it? Soon his work would make the Vong’s demands moot.

Met looked into his torturer’s eyes and suddenly began to believe he had just made a horrible mistake. His parents, and certainly his younger brothers, would be horrified to know that he had given the enemy such valuable information. Had his ego overridden his common sense? The monster’s subordinate began collecting Met’s information on a bulbous looking arthropod. Strange technology these invaders possessed.

“Because you have cooperated, you will be rewarded.” the monster said in accented Basic.

“I thank you for you graciousness. I trust I’ll be able to return to Obroa-skai now?”

The Vong didn’t reply, but instead tightened his grip on Met’s throat. What was going on? Did the Vong not just say that he would be rewarded? Clawed fingers suddenly dug into his neck. He felt his pain receptors explode once more, and suddenly was very worried about his physical well-being. The Vong held his insidious gaze as his clawed hand ripped through Met’s flesh. Struggling to breath, struggling to understand, Met franticly searched for a solution to the situation.

“This is not logical!” Met concluded.

As the Vong watched Met’s life fade, the young man suddenly saw his life flash past him. The schoolyard where he first learned to defend himself, the holodrama cinema where a fire had nearly killed him, the moonlit vista of Ruggins Hill where he shared his first kiss, the amphitheater where he had received his diploma, all came alive in the deep recesses of Met’s mind. And in those last few seconds, he saw his parents and his brothers, and wished he had never left home.

With a final show of strength, the Vong ripped the man’s throat out.

Kanner Ra'an
27 September 2004, 11:11 AM
Wow, pretty good stuff Nova. Im looking forward to seeing more.

Nova Spice
27 September 2004, 02:16 PM
Thanks Kanner. I'm still refining Chapter One. I'll see if I can have it up within the next couple of days. ;)

Nova Spice
5 October 2004, 10:20 AM
Chapter One: Evaporating
Stars could no longer be seen. The specter of light that was Fondor was not natural. The space around the specter of light was not calm. The bright luminescence of the stars had been blocked out by the geometrical shapes of starships, some made of metal, some made of yorik coral. Where stars should have been, were instead, thousands of beams of light. Some of the beams were red, some were green, some were blue, and some were not beams at all, but bolts of superheated plasma. The ultimate goal of these beams was reflected by the brief, but powerful explosions of starships.

In the midst of all of this, was Lieutenant Tye Greer. He was young, determined, and scared. The Yuuzhan Vong had tricked the New Republic and hit the Fondor shipyards. All indications pointed to Corellia or Bothawui as the likely target. All indications had been wrong.

“Red Seven, do you see Red Five?”

“This is Seven, negative. I’m covered up!” Tye shouted over his comm channel.

The flight of E-wings that had marked Red One through Red Four no longer existed. Where they had been just a few seconds earlier, only shrapnel remained. An armada of Yuuzhan Vong warship analogs had laid waste to this area of the battle zone. Tye had expected the battle to be pitched. He never anticipated it to be suicidal.

Red Eight streaked past Tye’s starfighter, banking hard to port and unleashing his three heavy laser cannons in a vengeful barrage. Two trailing coralskippers no longer existed. Unfortunately for Red Eight and the entire New Republic Defense Force, thousands more still remained.

“This is the Thurse. All available starfighters move to sector twenty-seven. Concentrate fire on that cruiser analog!” Captain Jorlen ordered.

Tye followed Red Eight and blasted a skip that placed itself between him and his squad mate. Red Six tucked herself on Tye’s starboard wing, terrified that she still could not find Red Five on her scopes. Tye knew the truth, knew that the chaos that was the Battle of Fondor had engulfed Major Klume while no one was looking.

Ahead, Red Eight dove his E-wing beneath a wall of plasma, emerging beside a persistent group of XJ X-wings. Tye followed, snapped off some shots at the frigate analog to his starboard, and climbed above a trio of oncoming skips.

“Tye, mark that cruiser analog as target Alpha. We’re going on a torpedo run!” Red Eight commanded.

“Roger that, Eight.” Tye responded. “We have your wing.”

Tye glanced at his screens, and found that only Red Eleven remained in the last flight. That was all too brief though, for soon he winked out on the sensors. Gritting his teeth, Tye accelerated toward Red Eight and took up an escort position on his port wing. Red Six followed, comprising the only remaining shield trio in their squadron. The battle had been raging for all of five minutes. It could have been five hours, and Tye wouldn’t have noticed.

“Target acquired; accelerating to attack speed, over.” Red Eight said calmly.

Ahead, a Corellian Gunship tumbled over the cruiser analog, ablaze on all sides. Escape pods poured out of the doomed vessel, some incinerating as the ship prematurely went nova. The cruiser analog lumbered along, delivering its own prescription of death to Fondor’s defenders. Small blue shockwaves rippled along the vessel’s port side, indicating the results of B-wing bombing runs. The cruiser had deployed its dovin basals to absorb much of the salvo. It had worked and the B-wings of Pike Squadron were pulling off.

“Six, Seven, need splinter fire over that plasma projector.” Red Eight directed.

Tye’s E-wing unleashed a flurry of low-powered red bolts, as did Red Six. The shots were meant to confuse the ship’s dovin basals, so Red Eight’s torpedoes could bypass them and impact against the vessel’s hull. Tye concentrated all fire on one of the immense plasma projectors, where orange, globular death was still spewing out into space. In his mind, he saw his older brother. He knew the Vong had killed him three months ago—that had been the sole reason he had volunteered to transfer to the Thurse. The cruiser-carrier had been deployed to engagement zones for the past six months. He wanted revenge. He wasn’t satisfied that he had extracted that revenge, despite scoring twelve, make that thirteen, kills against the invaders.

Red Eight’s proton torpedoes streaked from his starfighter, passing through a swath of enemy and friendly ships alike. The cruiser’s immense dovin basals took the bait, using all their power to absorb Tye’s and Red Six’s shots. When the torpedoes finally arrived, the dovin basals were drained and unable to take on the projectiles. Blue light ripped through layers of yorik coral, followed by an explosion that sent Vong occupants flying into open space.

“Nice shot, Eight!” Red Six chimed.

“Look out!” he responded.

Red Eight’s E-wing suddenly power dived, intent on evading the plasma pouring from the cruiser analog’s remaining projectors. Tye broke hard to starboard, accelerating past an engagement between coralskippers and X-wings. Red Six reacted too late, the plasma slamming into her nose head on. Shields overwhelmed, her E-wing evaporated.

Tye cursed. Red Squadron was on the verge of being completely destroyed. Friends he had made over the past two years, gone.

“Jaf, move to sector twenty-five and take up a holding position, I’ll cover for you.”

“Roger.” Red Eight replied.

Tye’s E-wing broke away from the cruiser analog, accelerating toward an Assault Frigate and the relative safety that it offered. Two coralskippers perished under the combined fire of three XJ X-wings, the newest additions to the New Republic’s Starfighter Corps.

“And possibly the last addition if things continue going the way they are.” Tye silently admitted.

A plasma blast nailed his E-wing, shredding his shields and sending alarms blaring in his cockpit. His sensors indicated a trio of skips that had suddenly taken interest in him. Initiating a series of evasive maneuvers, Tye used his fighter’s agility to his advantage. Granted, skips were almost as agile as an E-wing, but they weren’t quite up to par with the Mark IV series of the fighter. Not yet, at least.

“Jaf, I’ve got trouble. Three skips on my six, and I can’t shake ‘em.”

“Roger.”

The Assault Frigate, the Assurance, grew larger in Tye’s cockpit. He figured it’d take half a minute for Jaf to reach him. That was half a minute too long. Accelerating toward the giant rear fins of the Assault Frigate, Tye prepared to attempt a dangerous feat. If successful, he might live. If not, the results wouldn’t matter, because he’d be dead.

Behind him, the skips fired their volcano cannons in a maddening fury. Tye, still evading, concentrated on the fins of the Assault Frigate. Figuring he was in range, he squeezed the trigger. The E-wing’s heavy laser cannons peppered the dorsal fin on the massive ship. As anticipated, the two turbolaser batteries on that part of the ship responded to the attack. It was at this moment that Tye dove beneath the superheated scarlet bolts. The skips on the other hand, did not.

The results couldn’t have been better. Two of the skips were ripped to shreds, and the third was sent careening off toward a flight of kill-hungry X-wings. Moments later, Jaf’s E-wing appeared on Tye’s port wing, streaks of black covering what should have been red stripes.

“What happened to you?”

“I made a wrong turn.” Jaf quipped.

“That makes two of us.” Tye snapped back.

Ahead, an explosion tore through an enemy corvette analog. A subsequent blast consumed another Corellian Gunship. Collateral damage from the blasts hurled two entire squadrons of X-wings in every direction imaginable.

“This is the Thurse, all squadrons to sector twenty.” the controller said in his monotone voice. “We’re taking heavy fire.”

“Hell.” Jaf spat. “This is suicide.”

“Reinforcements will be here soon, man.” Tye said hopefully. “Coruscant’s not going to let Fondor fall.”

“That’s what I said about Chalacta.” Jaf responded somberly.

Tye couldn’t argue with that. Many worlds in the Outer Rim and Mid Rim had been seemingly sacrificed to protect key worlds in the Colonies and Core regions. Chalacta, despite its prominence, had been overrun. Had it not been for the heroic actions of a battalion of New Republic marines and some Jedi Knights, the entire population would’ve been killed or enslaved.

Snapping out of his reverie, Tye boosted his shields back to a manageable level. Jaf did much the same, sticking close to his remaining squad mate. Their recently deceased squadron leader, Captain Fivron, had encouraged his pilots to utilize tight-wing formations when engaged in an intense combat situation. He claimed that while yes, one good shot could wipe out multiple ships, being in tight formation prevented many lucky shots from picking everyone off one at a time. Tye wasn’t sure what to think at the moment.

The Thurse was indeed being hammered. Coralskippers and yorik-vec assault cruisers poured fire into the cruiser-carrier’s immense frame. The yorik-vec were particularly disconcerting to Tye, as they were essentially the Vong equivalent to the once dreaded Imperial Assault Gunboat, and could easily take on a flight of E-wings by themselves.

One of the Thurse’s X-wing squadrons, Reaver Squadron, attempted to hold the enemy at bay. They were struggling. Tye and Jaf kicked their fighters above the still burning hulk of an enemy frigate analog, weaving past a sudden onslaught by a squadron of skips. Behind the Thurse, an old Corellian Corvette erupted into nothingness, obliterating the last of the Thurse’s escorts.

“This is Diligence to all forces, regroup to sector seven and prepare to defend the shipyards. Avoid enemy choke points and initiate perimeter defense. We’ve just received word that Task Force Aleph is on the way.”

Behind the Thurse, a contingent of seventeen capital ships maneuvered toward the remaining orbital shipyards. Already, enemy forces had left a half dozen of the facilities ablaze. The Vong had even gone so far as to hurl themselves into the shipyards, destroying priceless resources and valuable starships still under construction.

Tye engaged a skip harassing his command ship, sending scarlet bolts through the cockpit of the Vong starfighter. Satisfied with the resulting explosion, the young lieutenant continued his assault. An explosion ripped across the aft of the Thurse. Another blossomed from the vessel’s underside. Coralskippers were committing suicide runs and inflicting massive damage. Reaver Squadron managed to intercept a trio of skips before they impacted.

“These damn Vong.” Tye cursed to himself. “How do you stop an enemy that has no regard for their own lives?”

Another explosion rippled across the Thurse. It was becoming increasingly clear that the forces nearby were about to be cut off.

“Not only do they disregard their own lives, they cherish annihilating ours.”

A dozen skips flashed above Tye and Jaf. Escape pods began to pour out of the Thurse.

“And they have a seemingly limitless supply of ships and warriors. Damnit, Met, you may be the lucky one, bro.”

Despite gouts of flame pouring out from her, the Thurse was reversing direction back toward the bulk of the First Fleet. Captain Mak Jorlen had obviously decided to remain with his ship, even as significant portions of his crew evacuated via escape pods. Another skip dove toward the lumbering cruiser-carrier, intent on burying itself in her hull.

Breaking hard to port, Jaf laid down a searing line of fire in front of the skip. Three bolts were absorbed by the skip’s dovin basal, slowing the coral starfighter down. This was all the time the topside gunner on the Thurse needed. A hail of turbolaser fire incinerated any hopes the Vong may have had of achieving martyrdom.

At this point, the Thurse and her starfighter defenders were all that was left of the outlying defenders. When the Vong flotilla had exited hyperspace, they had reverted directly above a sizable portion of Fondor’s defense fleet. The first barrage by the enemy had crippled a dozen capital ships and destroyed the nearest group of shipyards. Tye knew that the Vong were preparing to move toward the interior of Fondor space, where the last orbital ship-building facilities remained.

“This is the Diligence to all forces, we’ve just received word that Task Force Aleph has been cut off. Reinforcements from Bothawui and Corellia are no longer inbound.”

“Son of the Sith,” Jaf cursed. “Can we not catch a damn break?!”

Following Jaf’s E-wing, Tye moved alongside the limping Thurse. There the remnants of Reaver Squadron, Blue Squadron, and Aura Squadron battled to keep enemy fighters away from their command ship. The gap between the Thurse and the enemy armada was closing rapidly. Tye knew that the ship would never make it to the rest of the First Fleet before succumbing to the hundreds of warships trailing her aft.

“This is Captain Jorlen, all Thurse escorts move to sector two.”

“Sector two was with the rest of the fleet?”

“I repeat, all Thurse escorts move to sector two, now. That’s an order!” Captain Jorlen barked.

“This is Reaver Leader, we can’t do that, sir.”

“Tomas, if you don’t get the hell out of here, I’ll have your carcass doing paperwork for the FAO for the rest of your career!” Captain Jorlen commanded.

“I’ll take my chances, sir. You’ll never make it without escort.” Tomas responded.

“If you don’t bug out now, Commander, every one of your pilots will die. Do you understand me?”

Silence pervaded across the local comm channel. Chatter had ceased. Tye and Jaf continued to circle the Thurse. Another wave of enemy coralskippers were seconds away from engaging.

Reluctantly, the XJ X-wings of Reaver Squadron began to veer off, followed by the E-wings of Blue and Aura Squadron. Tye and Jaf followed suit, kicking their thrusters up and away from the doomed cruiser-carrier and the oncoming waves of enemy ships. The First Fleet lay directly ahead, assembled to defend the precious shipyards. On his scopes, Tye saw the Thurse begin to take hits from a swarm of coralskippers. Within moments, the ship was consumed by the enemy. However, the rear portion of the ship began to glow an unnatural orange-red. Tye realized what Captain Jorlen was about to do, just as the ship began to ignite.

The resulting explosion was big enough to extinguish a hundred skips and three nearby corvette analogs. Captain Jorlen had overheated the reactors on the ion engines. The Thurse had made its final contribution to the war effort, and the stunned silence over the comm channels reflected that sacrifice.

“Everyone form up and take up perimeter defense around the Diligence.” Reaver Leader finally chimed.

Tye released his chin strap on his helmet and set his E-wing on auto-pilot. For the moment, he was safe from the enemy. Sweat poured from his brow, forcing him to wipe it away with his gloves. He noticed that his hands had a slight tremble. “Damn these scar-faced bastards.”

Off to Tye’s port, Jaf gave a slight nod. Tye understood the gesture. Jaf was feeling the exact same thing he was: exhaustion, tension, and anger. They had just lost a lot of friends, and if they had any say in the matter, so would the Vong.

Glancing at the family picture he had put in the cockpit, Tye’s hand trembled a bit harder. The picture had been taken the day that Met had graduated from Rudrig University. His father’s pride was evident on his beaming face. His mother’s smile, always warm, depicted her own happiness. Tye’s younger brother, Trey, stood in-between his older siblings, arms crossed in his usual defiant nature. Met, with his girlfriend, Lila, held his head up high, obviously happy, but never too revealing in his emotions. It was a moment in time that Tye could never return to—a moment that was now an all-too distant memory.

“I won’t let them get away with it, Met. I owe you that much.”

* * *

Sergeant Emil Merst had been in some pretty intense fights, particularly against the ILS pirates in Wild Space. That particular crisis had taken place some three months prior to the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. That crisis now seemed like a training session. In the jungles of Durphon III, New Republic soldiers maneuvered toward a suspected enemy stronghold. Deployed under cover of darkness, these men had been sent to reconnoiter the area and report back to their commander. From there, B-wings would make surgical air strikes on the enemy based off ground intelligence.

Lieutenant Jeedooni Copo was the point man for this action. He was a slender, dark green Rodian of twenty-five years. He had been a member of the New Republic Army for four years and had already earned the Mantooine Medallion for heroics at the Battle of Ithor.

“Alright, I need scouts thirty meters to the east and southwest. Fire team leaders take up positions with your squads.” Jeedooni commanded.

Emil and his four squadmates moved forward, crouching beside some fallen trees. Corporal Hagat scanned ahead using his high-powered electrobinoculars. The Krish was short, muscular, and temperamental. As far as Emil was concerned, that suited him just fine.

“No sign of activity, sir.” Tyl admitted.

“See any points of interest?” Emil asked.

“Negative, Sarge.” Tyl replied. “There’s a river basin less than a klick to the southwest. No sign of an enemy stronghold. Think we got bad intel?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time, Tyl.” Corporal Fuller Plais commented.

Fuller was Emil’s heavy weapons specialist. A tall, dark-skinned human from Coruscant, Fuller was as confident as any soldier Emil had seen. And while most squad leaders would’ve frowned at Fuller’s comment, Emil simply shrugged it off. He couldn’t argue against it. New Republic Intelligence had been struggling to learn anything of value on their new foe, and the work they were doing on the Peace Brigade, traitorous thugs working with the Vong, was pathetic at best.

“We’ll just have to hope the spooks at NRI actually did something right for once. If not, we may be kicking dust on this rock for no reason.” Emil pointed out.

“Sarge, I have contacts at zero-point-eight-seven klicks.” Private Tasha Moor interrupted.

The squad’s sharpshooter was lying prone against a moss-covered log. Her powerful X-45a sniper rifle sat perfectly still under Durphon III’s moonlit sky. She was in her mid-twenties, short brown hair, very curvaceous, even for a human, and highly skilled. The Corellian woman started providing descriptions, upon which Corporal Hagat began confirming with his electrobinoculars.

“We have four enemy warriors. One appears to outrank the others based on his armor and disfigurements.” Tasha said sternly. “And, oh my, that’s not what I was expecting.”

“What is it?” Emil asked in a concerned tone.

“Human, Sarge. He’s a little shy of two meters in height. He’s wearing a flight jacket and black pants.” Corporal Hagat informed.

“Peace Brigade, I’ll bet.” Private Faji Hui said quietly.

The Rodian was Emil’s communications expert. He was already relaying the information to the other fire teams in the area via encrypted comlinks. He was the nephew of a deceased starfighter pilot in Rogue Squadron, and had joined the New Republic Defense Force to honor her sacrifice. Emil was glad to have him aboard.

“Roger that, Slick. Confirmed four enemy warriors and possible Peace Brigade operative about nine hundred meters to our southwest. Tasha, stay on them. Everyone else, maintain your positions and stay alert.”

Emil moved from his position back through the forest toward Lieutenant Copo. The Rodian platoon leader was speaking with a gunnery sergeant when Emil jogged forward.

“Sir, we’ve spotted enemy activity about nine hundred meters southwest of our position. Private Moor has spotted a human with them. We think we may have found a Peace Brigader, sir.”

The Rodian nodded and activated his satellite uplink on his wrist. The information was transmitted to the command ship orbiting Durphon III. There, intelligence analysts could begin disseminating the data for planning.

“Good work, Sergeant. The techies on the Ralroost will give Kre’fey something to work with.” Lieutenant Copo explained. “We need to locate their base, and find out what the hell they’re doing here.”

“Yes, sir.”

Copo began issuing orders to his platoon, as Emil moved back to his fire team. Forward observers were moving toward the river basin. New Republic soldiers were spread out across an upraised plateau, so the targets were actually below them. Any forward movement would require the platoon to head downhill, across the river basin itself, and to another patch of dense forest. It was near that patch, where the enemy stood their ground.

“Sarge, the human is on the move.” Tasha whispered. “He’s heading back into the woods.”

“Lieutenant Copo wants our scouts to move toward the targets. Everyone else is going to double back.” Emil elaborated as he checked his E-15 blaster rifle.

“We gonna box ‘em in?” Fuller inquired.

“That’s the plan.”

“Why don’t I stay here then, Sarge? I can provide cover for Corporal Hagat and keep an eye on the enemy.” Tasha commented.

“Granted. Faji, Fuller, with me. Tasha, you cover Tyl. Let’s move.”

As Emil and his two squadmates joined the other fire teams, Corporal Hagat eyed Tasha; his usual scowl evident on his face.

“I hope you’re as good as I’ve heard.” Tyl commented.

“If I’m not, you won’t be around to care, will you?” Tasha responded.

The Krish shook his head, thought about mentioning chain of command, decided against it, and joined seven other scouts. Together the observers moved down the hill at a quickened, but stealthy pace. Tasha sat perfectly still, hands resting comfortably on the stock and trigger of her SoroSuub sniper rifle.

“Let’s hope Corellian luck isn’t stingy.” she thought.



Emil and his two squad mates maneuvered west. They, along with two dozen highly skilled New Republic soldiers prepared to set up a flanking position on the enemy forces. So far, they had only seen five, but as any self-respecting trooper knew, reinforcements were always nearby. Creeping down a steep, thorn-infested slope, Emil’s squad moved carefully. Durphon III was an unfamiliar world for most of the soldiers, and the last thing they needed was to disturb some wildlife or predator, giving away their position.

Ahead, Sergeant Creg motioned for everyone to hunker down. Apparently he had seen something. Fuller and Faji knelt down beside a large rock, weapons ready. Fuller was carrying his E-15 blaster rifle, like most of the other soldiers, but Emil knew that if trouble brewed, the heavy weapons expert would turn to his weapon of choice, a SoroSuub TTT-54 grenade launcher. Its nickname was the “Thumper.” Emil figured that was the understatement of the millennium. Corporal Fuller Plais was odd in that regard. Most of the heavy weapon specialists relied on the Merr-Sonn MX “Mynock” rocket launcher, but Fuller had insisted on utilizing the TTT-54 for its greater “rate of fire.”

A deep voice resonated over the encrypted comm channels. Emil recognized Sergeant Creg’s voice instantly.

“This is Alpha Five to Ralroost, over. We have Yuvo troops on the move.”

“This is Ralroost to Alpha Five, over. What’s the situation?”

Sergeant Creg began relaying tactical data, including their coordinates, enemy numbers, and the surrounding terrain. Emil instructed Faji and Fuller to hold their positions, and silently moved beside his fellow sergeant.

“We need air support?”

Creg turned to face Emil, and gestured back over his shoulder.

“You tell me.”

About three hundred meters in front of them, a group of fifty Yuuzhan Vong warriors moved through the forest. Many of the warriors wore heavy vonduun crab armor and brandished the coiling, snake-like amphistaffs that had been the bane of many a soldier at Dantooine and Ithor.

“I’d say so.” Emil responded.

“Ralroost, this is Alpha Five, over. Requesting air cover at holding pattern oh-four-six, over.”

“Roger that, Alpha Five; Blue Seven and Eight have been deployed, over.”

Creg turned to Emil and nodded. The two fire team leaders moved back and joined their men. Corporal Plais and Private Hui knelt beside a fallen log, each doing final inspections on their weapons.

“What’s the deal, Sarge?” Fuller inquired.

“We have air support moving to a holding pattern above our position. Once the scouts move into position near the river basin, we’re going to circle around southwest and flank them.” Emil explained.

“Sarge, I’m picking up Lieutenant Copo on the broadcast communication channel. The forward observers have been spotted.” Faji said with a twinge of nervousness. “They’re under attack.”



An explosion sent the New Republic marine in front of Tyl spiraling sideways. The four Vong warriors and the Peace Brigader had disappeared into the forest, but they had left some friends. Four full squads of Yuuzhan Vong soldiers had emerged from the top of the adjacent hill and sprung an ambush. These Vong were armed with a weapon that Tyl had never seen before—creatures that exploded.

“I can’t see them!” someone screamed.

“Echo Four to Alpha Leader, we’re surrounded!” a comm operator shouted.

A thud bug whizzed through the air a half second later, ripping through the young man’s throat. Tyl had leapt behind a nearby rock, narrowly evading a flurry of thud bugs. The Krish slung one of his frag grenades over the rock, and brought his E-15 blaster rifle to bear on the attackers. His grenade ripped through an arrogant Vong warrior who stood in front of his brethren.

A large, hulking warrior smashed into a Twi’lek specialist to Tyl’s left, knocking the scout to the ground. Tyl triggered off three quick bursts from his rifle, drilling the Vong three times in the chest before he could kill the Twi’lek with his amphistaff. The warrior hit the ground hard, vonduun crab armor disintegrating from Tyl’s precision aim.

Two warriors spotted Tyl at that moment, and charged down the hill with a ferocious battle cry. They never made it. Two lancing bolts caught one of the Vong in the neck and the other through the temple. Some eight hundred and seventy meters away, Private Tasha Moor smiled.

“I’ll never live that one down.” Tyl murmured.

Two scouts scrambled over the rock beside Tyl. The Krish saw one of them, the Sullustan, was badly wounded in the ribs. A thud bug had ripped a hole the size of a shockball in him. The other, a young human, had dirt and blood smeared on his face.

“We didn’t have time to get into position!” the young man wheezed.

“It’s called an ambush, kid.” Tyl said, triggering off another round of bolts and sending another Vong tumbling down the hill past him.

Crawling away from the Vong, the Twi’lek that Tyl had saved, slid up beside him.

“Nice shot, Corporal.”

“Any time, Rijj.” Tyl responded.

Another sniper blast ripped through a Vong warrior as shouts and screams from both sides reverberated through the basin.

“Think we ought to move toward the riverbed?” Rijj asked. Tyl could tell that the Twi’lek was running on adrenaline.

A thud bug bounced off the rock, causing all four marines to duck.

“Good idea. Let’s move.”



“This is Alpha Five to Alpha Leader, what’re your orders, LT?” Creg asked over the broadcast channel.

Static permeated across the comm channels, causing Creg to jerk back at the high-pitched noise. Finally, the Rodian commander’s voice answered.

“Scratch the operation, Sergeant. We’ve been ambushed. We’re calling in the air support. Get back to my position!” Copo barked in his thick Basic.

“You heard him, let’s move!” Emil bellowed. “Slick, get on that air strike!”

The young communications operator didn’t even hesitate.

“This is Bravo Six to Ralroost, over. Requesting payload to sector five-oh-five; coordinates are bantha-see-mynock, over.” Faji said calmly.

“This is Ralroost, over. Runners are inbound.”

“This is Blue Seven, coordinates locked in. We’re on the move.”

Faji acknowledged and hustled back up the hill, where the rest of the platoon members were double-timing it back to Lieutenant Copo’s position.

“I thought the LT was moving to box them in?” Fuller asked, as his heavy boots tore through the Durphon foliage.

“He was.” Emil replied, his E-15 tracking through the nighttime forest.

“That’s not good.”

“Not good at all, Fuller.”



Lieutenant Jeedooni Copo and his dozen marines never made it to the scouts’ position. A Yuuzhan Vong ambush on the forward observers had stopped his flanking maneuver dead in its tracks. The Rodian and his team maintained their position on the plateau, awaiting the arrival of Sergeant Merst and Sergeant Creg’s groups. New Republic snipers were laying down vicious cover fire for the ambushed scouts down in the river basin.

Something rustled through the foliage behind Jeedooni. The Rodian turned to find a slithering creature at his feet. It was peculiar in that it glowed a bright red. By the time Jeedooni realized what it was, it was too late. The plasma eel detonated right below him, sending him and three other marines flying through the air.

Emil made it far enough back to the command post in time to see the plasma eel explode. The Vong had launched another ambush on Lieutenant Copo.

“They’ve hit our command post! Move, move, move!” Emil shouted.

Razor bugs began to slice through the woods, ripping vines and tree limbs to shreds. One of Creg’s riflemen went down. The marines began to open fire. Laser bolts ripped through Durphon III’s night. Another battle was under way, in a war nearly eight months old.



Tasha heard the plasma eel detonate to her left. Blood and body parts had splattered over her and the Bothan sniper beside her. By the time she spun around, a half dozen Vong warriors were leaping through the trees toward her ridgeline.

A thin, pale-skinned warrior emerged through a thorny bush, his amphistaff coiled around his left arm. Tasha never gave him a chance to react. Her X-45a sniper rifle blew his head clean off, sending his headless body into the arms of his more muscular partner.

“Do ro’ik vong pratte!” the warrior bellowed.

“And may you burn in hell, too!” Tasha replied, triggering another bolt that ripped through the Vong’s shoulder. The warrior failed to go down, however. Instead, his amphistaff whipped out from his right hand and lashed out toward Tasha. The Corellian woman tried to dodge out of the way, but her reflexes were a nano-second too late. The whip-like coil wrapped around her feet and slammed her into the ground. The Vong warrior’s coufee emerged in his left hand—the bone-like dagger spelling Tasha’s death. The Vong warrior never took another breath. Scarlet bolts ripped through him like turbolasers through flimsiplast.

The amphistaff released its grip on her legs, as a set of firm hands hoisted her up. Tasha was relieved to find Corporal Fuller Plais standing beside her.

“No thank you kiss?” he asked.

“Not until I know we’re going to survive.” she replied.

The last of the Vong attackers fell to the remainder of Jeedooni’s squad. Emil and Creg emerged with the rest of their squad. Emil moved toward Tasha.

“Where’s the LT?” he asked.

“An explosion went off before the ambush.” she said in a concerned tone.

“I found him!” Creg shouted.

Emil, Tasha, and Fuller moved toward the small thicket back in the woods. Emil saw the look on Creg’s face and knew it was bad.

“He’s still alive, barely.” Creg admitted.

The Rodian lieutenant was missing both his legs. Blood was pouring out of him and he was barely generating a pulse. Emil knew he didn’t have long to live.

“Slick, get your carcass over here!”

Faji sprinted through the trees toward his fire team leader. The young communications officer was on his comlink as he approached.

“Call in a medevac, now. And unload your medical supplies from your backpack—the LT’s in bad shape.” Emil ordered.

In the distance, laser blasts still echoed. Emil had forgotten about the scouts in the river basin. He left the medical work to Slick and Creg, and grabbed Tasha by the arm.

“Where’s Tyg?”

“He’s still in the basin. I was covering for him when they…”

A thunderous explosion roared above the chaotic battle, followed by a massive blue and orange explosion.



Tyg carried the Sullustan down to the river basin. Rijj and the young human followed, leaping over the rockbed and sprinting toward the forest. Sporadic thud bugs whistled past them, as Vong warriors gave chase.

“We’re in trouble!” Rijj shouted.

“Take cover behind that treeline and we’ll give our pursuer’s something to think about!” Tyg grunted.

As the Krish approached the trees, he heard the distinct whine of sub-light engines, and knew what was about to happen.

In the sky behind him, a pair of cross-shaped starfighters roared down into the atmosphere. A quartet of blue streaks fired through the sky, on a trajectory toward the forest and the basin. All Tyg had time to do was shout for everyone to duck.

red5_5
5 October 2004, 04:33 PM
Great story so far! I can't wait for more. Keep up the good work.

:)

Kanner Ra'an
5 October 2004, 05:08 PM
Ya, very nice. Gets me my NJO fix now that the novels are done.

Nova Spice
5 October 2004, 07:21 PM
Appreciate the kind remarks, fellas.

I'll have Chapter Two up in the coming week. ;)