Preparing For the Storm
The situation was improving, the first good news Talon had received all day. Every leak and potential overload in what remained of the Resolve had been safely capped or shut down. Other areas of the ship had been sealed off from the cold, giving the crew somewhere to shelter in the lethal temperatures. They had even managed to restore some semblance of interstellar communication. The men were still working on improving the set up, and the Resolve was incapable of receiving messages, but she was able to broadcast a repeating and automated SOS signal back to Imperial space. Now they just had to hope someone was listening. Other, non medical, crewmen were working on preparing the Resolve for a fight. It was only a matter of time until the New Republic found them here, for all Talon knew they could have found him already and they were preparing for an assault right now. Work was being undertaken to get the less damaged turbo lasers back online and restore some semblance of shielding. Not only that but the storm troopers were busy preparing firing positions in and around various pieces of the hull which lay open and made for obvious entry points for any New Republic ground troops.
Talon hoped no one would find them here. They barely had any kind of power or heat signature, a casual sensor sweep would not detect them. Hopefully the New Republic ships would assume they had escaped after destroying their cruiser. But all it would take would be one thorough enemy captain, one survivor to tell his story, one ship to detect the encoded distress signal and that would be that. Talon, who was currently standing in the corridor outside the make shift office where he had given Jan and the others their orders, looked about him. After a moment or two he started to notice little things here and there. There was a charge to the air beyond the simple sharp of the cold, the crew almost buzzed with an anxious energy, the men about him sounded subtly different and the hairs on the backs of his hands were starting to stand up. He had felt this way before the attack, it was the sensation the Commander had taught him to watch out for. Talon had never been a man to believe in the accuracy of gut instinct, but he was starting to come round to the idea. They were going to be attacked, and soon.
Striding back into the make shift meeting room he walked
over to the internal communicator. The system had been repaired well enough to
allow anyone in any of the ships remaining vital areas to communicate with
anyone in that room. As such there was now a junior crewman in there
permanently, passing messages from one section of the ship to another. Walking
over to the man Talon ordered, half lost in thought.
"Signal the chief medical officer to start setting aside supplies, equipment and tables for emergency battlefield treatment. Then send messages for Jan and the chief engineer to come here for a meeting….. Immediately."
The crewman set about his appointed task whilst Talon just
stood there, brow furrowed in thought. He was not sure how long it took for Jan
and his chief engineer to arrive, he was losing track of time as he speculated
and planned, but the two arrived almost simultaneously. Turning to face the duo,
with both hands behind his back, Talon said welcomingly.
"Ah. Hello again gentlemen. As you are both aware we have been preparing for an attack. I have reason to believe that attack will be coming much sooner than we would like. Chief Engineer Horton, please outline your progress in preparing our defences."
Before speaking the chief engineer reached down and picked
up some of the strewn personal possessions and other detritus that still
littered the floor. Placing these on a nearby table so they formed a crude
outline of what remained of the ship he started to gesture towards various
"We have managed to stabilise the ships systems, there is no longer any risk of a catastrophic or explosive systems failure. In terms of weapons and shielding we have managed to bring the shields back online but they are a shadow of them former selves. The power flow is irregular and unreliable, they flicker and fade unpredictably. Also, even when the shields are working they are only giving out about fifteen to twenty percent of their former power. As far as the turrets are concerned we have been splitting the workforce between the turbo lasers and the point defence weapons about fifty fifty. Most of the forward section of the ship is entirely unsalvageable and working in the rear is dangerous. We may have plugged the leaks but everything there is still very fragile. We are still working there, don't get me wrong, but things are proceeding slowly."
Using his finger the chief engineer began pointing to the
locations of several turbo lasers.
"Here, here and here. We have managed to bring three turbo lasers back online on the port side. We have two functional again to starboard, here and here. These lasers can be turned to fire forward. We also have one functioning to the rear but none of the bridge guns have been brought back online. As for point defence guns we have brought a smattering of them back online right across the ship."
Talon nodded his understanding and gestured towards the back
of the ship on the crude outline rigged up by the chief engineer.
"Focus you efforts here now Horton. Once they work out this is our weakest spot they will put the weight of their air and ground assault here. Plus this is where we have our most exposed and explosive components. An errant torpedo here and the reactor could detonate."
Chief Engenier Horton was making a note of this when Jan
"They won't put their ground forces there, too dangerous. They would have to walk through the trench the ship cut in the ground as she landed, that trench is now filled with fuel, plasma, coolant and various other substances you don't want to go wading through. Plus much of the liquid is highly flammable. Any man who walked through that would surely die." Whether Jan was making a helpful observation or if he was simply trying to do Talon down because he could, Talon did not know.
Regardless Talon made sure his original order stayed.
"None the less, I am worried a low flying X wing could put us all out of action if she was able to make a run on the rear section. We must make this point defensible. Speaking of which Jan, how go your preparations?"
"They are going well." Was his simple and curt reply. Talon had been expecting a more detailed report and Jan knew it. But Jan was still in a mood to be awkward and confrontational. After all, he still believed the man to have received his promotion improperly and he felt that Talon had put the lives of his troopers needlessly at risk by sending them out into the cold. The fact everything had gone well hardly mattered to Jan, it was the fact Talon had taken the risk that angered him. As such he was giving the shortest, most uncooperative replies possible.
There were several seconds of awkward and charged silence
between the two, Talon staring into that bleak white helmet. After a few
moments though Talon broke the dead lock by saying.
“It seems I was not clear, please brief me on the layout of our defences and how you believe the enemy will behave." With these unambiguous instructions Jan was forced to give a more detailed answer.
"These ships were originally designed to hold large consignments of troopers, entire regiments. But given the lack of importance assigned to these vessels were down to only a few companies, without armour or artillery. We do however, have some support weapons and the armoury is well stocked enough to allow every crewman to carry a blaster. We have started setting up firing positions in and near the more tempting entry points. If the rebel dogs come at us there they will be slaughtered. They would have to advance across great stretches of open ground whilst we would be hiding behind barricades and heaps of twisted metal. If there commanders are smart they will send their troops at places where our hull is strong and where there are no access points. Those areas are also the gaps in our field of fire. Once they get to the hull they can start trying to climb up onto the ship or find some way of cutting through, though I doubt they will have brought the heavy kit needed to do that."
Jan also started to gesture to the crude outline of the
"I have placed various lookouts across the ship just in case the rebels start crawling across the hull or they come from some unexpected angle. Roughly half of my men are manning the breaches whilst the other half are held in reserve near the armoury. I have also ordered several mini reserve pools be created out of normal naval crewmen and placed closer to the outer hull. These small squads should be able to hold any new breaches that may be made and delay the rebel troops until my troopers arrive." Jan fell silent for a while, not the aggressive silence of a few moments ago but rather a contemplative silence. After a while he said quietly. "We can hold here, I don't know for how long but we can hold."
"We must hold." Was Talon's swift reply. "If we don't hold we die. We have nowhere to retreat and I will not contemplate surrender. Let us hope the Empire sends rescue swiftly." The plan was set, now all they could do was make ready, get more lasers back online, prepare the barricades as best they could. Gesturing to the two men Talon said simply. "Thank you gentlemen for your reports, return to your duties."
Obediently the pair marched out, followed a few moments later by Talon. But the young Lieutenant Commander was not going to assist in their efforts. Instead he was making for the medical bay. You did not have to know your way around the ship to find the place. The smell of blood and the groans of the wounded carried far. Jan's delivery of medical supplies had gone a long way, everyone was getting at least semi decent treatment now but the scene was still a mess. Those who were treated before the fresh deliveries were a particularly gruesome sight. Limbs had been amputated where the limited supplies meant they could not be saved. They had not been treated with bacta and instead had only the simplest of dressings. Several of them would not survive. Judging by several still bodies, huddled in a corner, several of them had already lost the fight.
The array of injuries was also unsettling, crushed and severed limbs were bad enough but it was the facial injuries that disturbed Talon the most. It was as if they had ceased to be men and had instead become gross parodies of them, beasts to haunt his nightmares. He knew he was wrong to think like that, they were still good men, better men than him even, but he was instinctively uncomfortable. He doubted if that would ever change.
Seeking out one of the medical staff Talon enquired in
"The Commander? Is he able to receive visitors yet?" The man shook his head in response.
"No, not yet. He is out of surgery but he is not out of the woods. His recovery will be a difficult one. He has also yet to regain consciousness, though considering his condition that may be a blessing. When he comes round he is going to be in a lot of pain, and possibly quite some shock. It will take him time to adjust."
Talon nodded his understanding and began to depart saying.
"Keep me informed of his progress." When suddenly a hand shot out and grabbed him by the trousers.
"Lieutenant Rake." The voice was weak, desperate and strangely familiar. Talon would have forgiven any of these men for not being abreast of his promotion and so rather than correct the injured man he simply turned to look at his stricken comrade. It was none other than Yulish, the spindly man whose legs had been crushed by the falling torpedo and whom Talon had carried from the collapsing corridor.
Looking at the pale form of the man who was little more than
a boy Talon noticed that one of his legs had been amputated, the other was only
held together by some form of metal cage. Gently grasping Yulish's hand with
his own Talon squatted down beside him and said.
"Yes Yulish, what is it?" His voice dripping with genuine concern.
"Did we get the torpedoes out? Did we stop the front section detonating?" It was a credit to Yulish, indeed the whole Imperial military, that when he was lying on what could well be his death bed his first thought was still of the mission. Cracking a slight smile Talon nodded and responded.
"Yes young man, we did. You did you job well. The ship landed successfully." Some may have disagreed with Talon's definition of success but that was a minor point. The news seemed to calm Yulish and he returned to just lying there, breathing heavily but very much alive. Talon gently stood up and walked away, smiling inwardly and a renewed vigour in his step. With men and women like that on their side how could the Empire possibly lose?