Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Strikeforce: Shantipole (Part Two): What a Blast!

As alarms blared throughout the asteroid base, the members of Wraith Squadron sprang into action. Almost as one, they pounded down the rocky corridor towards the hangar bay, weapons drawn and grim expressions on their faces. All except for Hate, who of course had no expression but seemed to move in a more jaunty manner than usual, as if savoring the blood-letting to come. As they left the command center, their ear-bead comms crackled into life and Pollard’s voice began to speak reassuringly. ‘Remember, all we need to do is hold the Imps off long enough for Commander Ackbar to retrieve the B-Wing schematics from the data-core and then we can then conduct a fighting withdrawal to the life-pods. I can open and close most of the blast doors from here, so should be able to funnel the scum into a killing zone for you. But I need you to tell me which doors to operate; our cameras are off-line after the initial bombardment. Good luck!’

Moving down the corridor, dodging fleeing Verpine and Alliance techs, the Wraiths split into three groups. Vora Vasch split off first, heading into the Main Power chamber. Surrounded by humming power cylinders, Vora sprinted towards the control panel and began to push buttons, apparently at random. Meanwhile, Hate and Glave charged towards the hangar’s main blast door. Skidding to a halt, to their horror they saw that the door’s housing had been damaged by the Imperial’s opening barrage. Pollard confirmed that he couldn’t operate it remotely, so they had to content themselves with pulling it closed manually. It wouldn’t hold the Imperials, but it might just slow them down.

Kibu and Frost-Bow ran through the base’s rec area to the auxiliary blast door. It too had been damaged, so they drew their primitive weapons and began to hum the battle-songs of their peoples under their breaths as they waited for the inevitable onslaught. They didn’t have long to wait, as a huge shadow fell across the shielded entrance to the hangar bay. The vast bulk of an Imperial Assault shuttle moved into position and a steel and plasteen umbilical deployed directly into the hangar. Immediately, a fire-team of five white-clad Stormtroopers emerged and took up covering positions as more of their kind began to follow them. Turning to Frost-Bow, Kibu signalled that everything would be fine. After all, there could only be one or two hands of Skull-Faces in there, couldn’t there? Maybe two hands and a foot at most? Frost-Bow looked down at the furry fanatic and swallowed nervously…

As the Imperial assault began, Glave had an idea and began to run back towards the command centre. Joined briefly by Vora as she emerged from the Main Generator chamber, Glave began to ask what she’d been up to when he was interrupted by a calm female voice over the comm channel. ‘All personnel: be advised that self-destruct protocols have been initiated. Countdown is in progress. Reactor detonation in T-2 minutes. All personnel: be advised…’ As the computer voice continued its countdown, Vora gave him a wolfish grin and a thumbs-up as they sped past Ackbar and Pollard, both hunched over panels in the command chamber. As they passed, Ackbar looked up: ‘I need more time!’. Glave nodded and ran on; he had a plan.

Meanwhile, Hate had moved over to join Kibu and Frost-Bow at the auxiliary blast door. In the hangar, the newly-arrived Stormtroopers had formed into two groups and were moving towards the hangar’s two entrances. As Kibu gestured excitedly, Frost-Bow fired an arrow high into the air above the approaching Stormtroopers. As it hit the far wall, it fell with an audible clatter, attracting the squad’s attention for a brief moment. But that was all that Kibu needed; with a rapid dash, he charged into the hangar and seemed to disappear amongst the rubble and discarded containers that dotted the floor of the hangar. Before he knew it, Frost-Bow found himself skidding into cover alongside his companion. He waited for the inevitable hail of blaster fire, but incredibly the Imperials appeared not to have noticed them! As if on cue, Hate opened up with her own blaster, attracting the attackers attention whilst the stealthy hunters moved through cover towards the umbilical. Quite what Kibu had in mind Frost-Bow didn’t know, but he hoped it was good. Very good indeed.

Glave finally arrived in the lifeboat bay on the other side of the asteroid base. As he arrived, one of the life-pods blasted away into space carrying the last of the Verpine and Alliance techs. The only life-forms left on the base were Wraith Team, Acbar, Pollard and a bunch of lousy Imperials. Glave examined the  two remaining ‘pods quickly. Although they were only equipped with basic thrusters and repulsor fields to keep them safe from asteroid impact, he thought he could reconfigure the systems to give them a bit more thrust. Grinning to himself and whistling, Glave set to work as the computer calmly whispered its countdown into his ear.

Meanwhile, Vora emerged back into the command centre. She’d decided to give herself the best chance of survival by equipping herself with a vac-suit, but now she’d come back to help Ackbar with the data download. As Ackbar mashed the control panel with his fishy fingers, Vora snorted and gently moved the Commander to one side. With a few deft keystrokes, she completed the download and in a moment held the vital data disk in her hand. Giving the astonished Ackbar and Pollard a wink, Vora ushered them both out of the chamber towards the main hangar: ‘This way, gentle-beings..’

In the hangar, things were becoming tense. Whilst Frost-Bow and a nervous Kibu crept ever-closer to the Imperial shuttle, Hate had kept the Imperials attention away from them. Although the droid had dropped several Stormtroopers, the weight of their return fire was beginning to tell. Sparks jumped from rents in its carapace and an unpleasant burning smell was coming from its motivators. Eventually, even Hate could take no more punishment and it sagged to the floor in a smoking heap. At that moment, Kibu leapt to his furry feet at the entrance to the shuttle’s umbilical. Startled, the Stormtroopers held up their blasters, momentarily unsure of what to do with this harmless-looking alien. Before they could revert to type and start blasting, Kibu reached into his fur and pulled out a thermal detonator! Somehow, in all the confusion he’d managed to ‘acquire’ one of the deadly devices and now stood before the might of the Imperial war machine armed with just this and steely determination. Perhaps it was this, along with a feral grin and a crazed look, that sent the Imperials running back the way they came into the shuttle. Chuckling to himself, Kibu turned towards Frost-Bow and motioned for him to duck as he armed the detonator and threw it over his shoulder after the fleeing Stormtroopers…

Glave was justifiably proud of himself; he’d managed to rig the life-pod so that it responded to his piloting. Ok, it wouldn’t outrun a TIE but it was all he had. Moving along the outside of the asteroid, he was beginning to wonder how he’d get past the bulk of the assault shuttle when he saw an explosing bloom within the shuttle’s cockpit. In a moment, the whole shuttle exploded into a million fragments, small pieces of metal pinging off the life-pod’s hull. Not waiting for an explanation for this apparent miracle, Glave pointed the vessel towards the open hangar. Inside, he could see a group of Stormtroopers turning towards a charging Kibu whilst Frost-Bow raced for the hangar’s auxiliary blast door, no doubt to retrieve Hate’s wreckage. Seeing the Imperials lined up gave Glave an idea; with a yelp of excitement, he sent the life-pod careening through them, scattering them like Selayan bowling pins and giving his crew-mates the opening they needed. As the ‘pod came to rest, Glave opened the hatch and yelled ‘All aboard the Glave Express! Please keep hands, feet and other manipulator extremities within the ‘pod at all times!’

Meanwhile, the computer continued its countdown to destruction. ‘Detonation in T minus one minute and counting: 59. 58. 57…’

(To be continued…)

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