Join Date: Jan 2004
Chapter 11: Pursuit
DY44’s progress through the jungles of Onderon was slow. Unsatisfactory as it was to Xydan, DY44 wasn’t built for chasing traitors. DY44’s missions upto now had involved covert operations. Spying, demolitions, computer slicing, pathfinding, reconnaissance (which was the team’s primary focus) and emergency operations were common for them. Never before had they tracked an enemy in open, however. Cities, public life and non-military zones were unthinkable. DY44 was a weapon that swiftly scoured enemy bases and cleared them.
Xydan had his doubts about the operation since it was explained to him. It was obvious that the mission had not been officially given to him. It was more like a personal favour for the Commander. A favour Xydan did not owe. And yet, he could do nothing but follow. It was something in his mind, that he had often wondered when he was alone. Is it possible to break free from the Republic’s chains? Is it possible to be freed from commands? No matter how hard he thought, Xydan couldn’t help it. He had to follow orders and he did, even if he had a grudge with the one who gave it.
Their search was going futile. It was now mid-day, when the sun shone the brightest, glistening off the well-polished clone armour. Using tracks, trails and technology (the golden ‘trinity’ of recon) they had managed to get to the beast-rider encampment. There were signs of pitched tents, a fire in the centre and logs well-arranged to substitute furniture. After thoroughly checking the campsite, DY44 spread out and watched the site for thirty minutes. After seeing nobody breaching the invisible perimeter, they regrouped and proceeded with the search.
The footprints that were clear enough before were now lost in a multitude of earth, tossed, stamped and messed up. The disturbed soil helped Xydan’s crew for a while, till they reached an area with dense woodwork. The soil was quite messed up in all directions and footprints were invisible, if present. Without a word, the squad spread out in various directions, constantly reporting observances and any activity, which was mostly animals peeking at the visitors. Most animals took a peek and jumped away. Those that lingered for too long, didn’t last long.
By Evening, DY44 had almost given up their quest. The search was taking too long and since the mission was a private one, they had complete reason to complain. DY44 had to evacuate and they did. They regrouped and returned to square one: the four UR14s. Huddling around the leader’s craft, they watched as the holocommunication unit attempted to make contact with the RAS Garendator. After two failures, Xydan cancelled the idea and decided to check the maps again. Plugging in his datapad, he watched as the 3-dimensional hologram of the area upto 50 miles away lit up. He studied the terrain, the forests and concluded that there were ample ways to get to Iziz.
Irtan, Jesqas and Blade watched Xydan go into a brainstorm. He was pointing into the map, detailing on the numerous possibilities that could arise. Night was setting in, but Xydan continued. He knew that it was just as useless as stupid to hide in a forest here, isolated from the rest of the galaxy. The duo had obviously gotten to a nearby city, or town. Beast-rider towns weren’t many, and the only thing within a walking distance of two days was the walled city of Iziz. Having no other plans, the other three complied and set off.
The UR14s silently lifted off the ground. Xydan’s craft shot out first, followed by Irtan and then Blade and Jesqas, who flew parallel to each other. They set their course for Iziz and maintained low altitude. Once they were twenty miles to Iziz, their crafts suddenly gained altitude and rose high enough to see Iziz. They disconnected formation and flew independently, cutting off communication. Their special radars, designed to automatically scan every ship ID in view set off. Xydan’s guess was that if they were to escape, they would do so in a bought or rented ship. Smuggler, civilian and medium-sized ships, therefore were the first suspects.
Once one such ship was sighted, one of the DY44 would track it down and establish contact with it, masquerading as Iziz Air Security searching for stolen cargo. From the massive galactic databanks, DY44 had downloaded voice IDs for Wefive (which was too easy) and Seliqa, who’s ID was stored in the Jedi Temple, now maintained by Imperial Troops. Xydan’s plan was foolproof, and he knew it.
DY44 scanned every ship, until it came into contact were above the Izizia Ondera. They spread out and flew a few miles away and returned. Having plenty of fuel, they had no problems making several rounds. Xydan feared that the two had already left. Their co-ordinates would be unknown to him, as would be their plans. And Xydan did not like that.
The Emmire rose haphazardly, emitting all sorts of noises, from gas escaping to it’s engines humming randomly. Once the landing pads were pulled up, the ship’s engine shot out exhaust. Inside the ship rumbled, almost bringing Wefive down. Seliqa and Torrd had taken their seats and Wefive was the one to explore the one-corridor ship. There was a closet, empty and a ladder to go up onto the surface of the ship. There wasn’t anything else. The engine would shudder and so would the ship, but Wefive clung to a rod just outside the cockpit as Seliqa and Torrd talked.
“So where were you, Torrd?”
“Right here. There’s a Separatist research lab, underground. It was some hundred miles from here. I led a raid into it and well, pretty much cleared the sector. Those clones went rogue in the facility. Well I was alone in a room and some rookie comes in, guns blazing. My saber already on, I fed him his own laser. I stood on my guard and found that every damned clone was after me. I used a cloaking device to hide myself and stumbled out…”
Wefive found the tale rather amusing.
“And the clones didn’t use their infra-red visors? Not too feasible, Jedi.”
“Nobody said the clones were geniuses. So I got out, jumped into a Sep airspeeder and blasted out of the place. I came down here, hid my saber, flipped up the hood and hid out into the cantina.”
“Sounds like you’re the happy-go-lucky sort.” Wefive commented.
“You can say that.” He turned to Seliqa. “Where did you pick up this piece of garbage anyways? Looks premium Raxus Prime.”
Seliqa smiled and turned to Wefive, who was almost ready to slaughter Torrd.
“Crysm. This fellow turned against his own kin to save me. He came up with the plan to get out, to get to Onderon and all that. Believe me, he can be trusted.”
“I’m not too keen on keeping a clone around in my ship.” He turned to Wefive. “We’ll drop you. Anywhere you like.”
“I’m not planning a vacation. I’d prefer sticking it with you too and helping you Jedi.”
“Yeah, well you’ve done what you could. We’d appreciate it…”
“I’ll appreciate if you keep you damned trap shut and fly the ship! I didn’t kill those brothers for nothing! I didn’t fly ARCs, come with plans and save our skins multiple times just to be dropped off at some planet and live as a mercenary.”
“Poor temper, eh? Well, be warned that we’d be happy to slice you should you show us the slightest provocation.”
“And I’d be happy to fry you alive.” Wefive patted his gun.
Torrd grinned and patted his lightsaber. Once things were even, he got back to his ship, which Seliqa had been flying. If Wefive was fuming, he definitely wasn’t showing it. The ship had finished the last of the departure procedure and was going by a path dictated by the Onderon Air Protocol. The shaft they flew in was clearly visible as a long line of ships moving steadily upwards at a relatively low angle. That was when Wefive noticed something in the radar. There was the green dot that marked the center of the radar and several readings all around which indicated the air traffic. But there two ships darting in and out. At times they would escape the line and rejoin later. They would pretend to be flying at the standard speed, then suddenly speed up and overtake. Seliqa and Torrd ignored it, but Wefive observed the radar as if enthralled by it.
He used a control beside the radar to increase it’s range. Wefive found two more starfighters, some hundred meters behind and carrying out the same routine. Torrd looked at it as well.
“What is it? Looks like some drunken rodian experimenting with spices.” He commented.
“No, there’s something else to this. They’re flying… very systematically. In a very organized method, slow and steady, and coordinated.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem, though I sense they’re all connected…”
“Blast the hull! Those are Clones! The movements, methods, interaction – has to be some sort of Special Recon!”
“Whoa, hold down. What was that? Special Recon?”
“Fast and Effective. One notch below Commandos and ARC Troopers. If they’re here, we have to get out.”
“Couldn’t it be a coincidence?” asked Seliqa, without changing her view through the window.
“Sure, a bunch of drunken rodians experimenting with spices and flying an organized pattern emulating the Special Recon? Unlikely.”
Torrd was getting impatient. “Alright, we’ll get an ID of those.”
He submitted ID requests for the four ships, still darting here and there. After a few seconds, the replies arrived – Unknown. There was no owner data, ship class, seller, purpose, nothing. It was all either blank or unknown. Every ship had an unknown certificate. Wefive found this news even more disturbing. Special Recon was extremely dangerous. It was like commandos without the genetic modification. They were raw clones, with refined fighting abilities.
“Bad.” He commented, “An unknown certificate will mean that they’re flying high-range prototypes. The Republic has not officially sanctioned them, but the army needs no authorization. They have a ship, they’ll…”
He was cut away by a beep from the computer. It was an incoming message, from an ‘unknown ship’. Seliqa was about to pick it up when suddenly Wefive yelled out not to. “Seliqa and me will have to stay shut. No voices. Torrd, you talk and you communicate, got that?”
Torrd nodded with Seliqa and hit the button to initiate communication. There was some static, but the voice that followed was rather clear. It sounded clone, but was oozing heavy Onderonian accent, very poor, as Torrd noticed.
“This is the Onderon Air Security. A heist has been committed at a merchant shop at the Izizia Ondera Spaceport and we need to manually check every ship leaving. Please report your name, purpose and ship.”
Torrd thought fast and spoke on-the-fly. “This is Tarfe Cuir, the ship is the Immerire and uh… purpose. Well, I’m a merchant and have unloaded all my stuff at a merchant shop nearby…”
“What is the name of this shop?” the OAS officer asked curtly.
“The Cututu Emporium, heart of city. I’m off to… uh… Nar Shaddaa to load up and catch a shut-eye. You got a problem?”
“We apologize for the inconvenience, but we will have to check the ship. Please land it at…”
Wefive stepped in and modulated his voice controls on the helmet. He now had a very low-pitched voice, almost like a Hutt. He stepped up and spoke, “This is Vercie Lammar, Captain of the Immerire and I wish to know your name, officer. The inconvenience you have caused me is irreparable. My client will be furious now. I must give complaint!”
As soon as he finished the last words, however, his helmet failed. The voice modifier reset and Wefive’s plain voice was heard. There was silence on the other line. Wefive realized his own mistake. Before he could turn off the communicator, the call disconnected. Special Recon had no more reason to talk. They had they’re target in sights, now they just had to take it down.
“Blast! Go go go! Get the hell out of here!”
Torrd responded by shifting throttle to full and blazing through the traffic. Their start bought them distance, as they saw the ‘unknowns’ lagging behind in the radar. Soon enough, they charged up and pursued their prey, dodging traffic and even shooting the more stubborn ones. Torrd kept bending the control stick, diving, then rising. Running out of the highway would be dangerous. They would be in open air and easy targets.
The chase was harrowing, especially for the Emmire. It was bulkier and not equipped with the latest anti-crash equipment. So much as a scratch with a ship would bring down the craft. That, coupled with the fear of being blasted by the Special Recon was unnerving. Seliqa accessed navigational co-ordinates and using Torrd’s datapad, inserted the Polis Massa co-ordinates. Wefive watched, alerting for traffic ahead and the speeding ships behind.
The ground was relatively far below and whatever was visible of it stood visible only for a fraction of a nanosecond. The highway now wound and separated, as it approached the edges of the atmosphere. Torrd took the lesser crowded path, not only because his instinct advised him to, but also because Seliqa announced the hyperspace route to be in that direction. But the manoeuvre was risky, since it left more open space for the Recon to strike. And the Special Recon took every opportunity they had.
The first shots to connect with the Emmire were fired from Irtan’s fighter. The shield system effectively stopped the blaster fire. The Emmire’s shield was strong, but once it expired, the ship was very vulnerable. The ship was now crossing the bridge between the atmosphere and space. The temperature dropped slowly, but nobody noticed it. It was only when the ceiling hit him that Wefive made a discovery – he was floating. He was not standing on the floor, but was floating the air. There was no gravity in the craft.
“No gravity!” he yelled at Torrd.
“They said… it was damaged.” Torrd replied, dodging a light cruiser. “But there are air tanks, don’t worry!”
“Take a thirty-seven in right, forty up.” Seliqa guided, avoiding another confrontation.
Torrd nodded and turned the ship accordingly. Seliqa further guided him towards the hyperspace route. Torrd kept moving the ship and made sudden turns, which often gave Wefive another hit on the head. He got used to it, though. Sticking his head low, he held on at the shaft behind the cockpit, yelling at Torrd. He kept an eye on the shield levels, which he had made his primary priority. He knew all too well that should the shield break away, they were history. The ship had depleted half-way through and Wefive alerted accordingly.
Seliqa looked up through the window and down into the datapad, then at the navigation computer and punched in the codes. Torrd took a look at them, before the Emmire took another dive and a more sudden rise. Once near the co-ordinates, he hit Autopilot and chose the “Aggressive” setting. The engines roared, the ship shuddered. Wefive tried to get his feet on the ground, cursing the gravity generator. Seliqa run the Hyperspace checks and the systems began to light green. Behind, the four starfighters were incoming, guns blazing. They were far from any highways, so they were relatively secure.
A while later, the Emmire was bombarded by a volley of torpedoes released by their pursuers. The ship’s shields took heavy damage and reached 25%. Wefive watched the shield display, shouting out the diminishing sequence of numbers. The red light went on. Whether it was a hyperspace alert or a low-shield alert was unknown to Wefive. The spacefighters were getting uncomfortably closer, the shields dropped and time was running out. The final checks and engine preparations were complete. They heard the relieving beep that signified that the ship was ready for a jump. But a siren rang out a second later. It was the no shield alert. A few blaster shots would kill them all.
In frustration, Wefive punched the button marked ‘hyperspace’ with his fist. The ship suddenly flung out into the depths of space, after another shudder indicated another hit from their attackers. They had been hit in the rear, but the well-timed jump had almost negated the effect. Wefive crawled back to the cockpit, watching the vortex of stars in relief. The jump had thrown him back due to inertia and the broken gravity generator. It wasn’t serious, since Wefive had knowingly caught another bar outside the closet. He had almost begun to think that was what they were made for.
As soon as the stars had turned into the infinite lines of hyperspace, there was a sigh of relief in the room. Torrd took off his seatbelt and floated in the air. Seliqa checked the astrogation computer.
“Two more days, and we’ll be at Polis Massa.” She announced.
“Wow, what’re we gonna eat?” Wefive asked, looking out into the space.
“Yeah, well you help yourself to some fallen nuts and bolts. We’ll catch lunch at ‘Massa.” Torrd answered. Two more standard days will have to pass. He wondered how many Jedi had been killed. Realizing that he doesn’t even want to know the answer, he decided to meditate floating instead.