Just past the Baxel sector, far in the outer rim, lay the planet of Carbaanu. It was no larger than the Raada moon and was home to a small mining colony and farming settlement. The surface could only be described as bland; the barren rocky landscape was nothing other than ordinary, the only variety being the few small grassy plains used for agriculture. The climate didn’t make it much of a vacation spot either. The days seemed to go on forever as the surface boiled under twenty hours of sweltering heat. Nights were no better. They were brief, only a few hours long, but the planet froze in subzero temperatures, making it dangerous for anyone who went outside before the four suns rose again. Few even knew of the backwater planet. Its population comprised of poor settlers and fugitives from worlds that the Empire had taken over. The native species had been wiped out way back during the war between the Old Republic and the Sith. For the first fifteen years of the Empire’s rule, the planet had been virtually untouched by the tyranny and destruction spreading throughout the galaxy.
However, two years ago, Imperial warships entered the system and began a blockade around Carbaanu. Many of the inhabitants of the main settlement had been forced into work camps, slaving all day in the mines. Those on the outskirts were placed under strict rules, extreme rationing, and early curfews. The Empire stripped the entire system of its resources and occupied the cities (the dilapidated housing areas they called cities, anyway), laying down laws that terrified the poor people into submission. People were dying every day, either from being beaten by their Imperial Supervisors or from pure exhaustion and starvation.
A hooded figure sat on a stool in a seedy cantina in a small town so far out from the rest of civilization that the Empire hadn’t reached every corner. This bar was one of the few places not yet placed under Imperial regulations and surveillance. The figure stood, leaving their half-finished drink and a few credits on the counter. They made their way over to a booth in the far corner of the cantina and sat down across from the Sullustan seated there.
“About time you showed up,” the Sullustan said in hesitant Basic.
“Hey, a girl’s gotta make a living, right, Vay?”
Lifting her cloak to reveal her yellow-tipped montrals, the Togruta smirked.
“Besides, I had to grab that bounty that someone I know was too soft to collect.”
“Oh, let it go already, ’Darra,” Vay chuckled, “I’m not stopping you from giving that kid over to the Hutts for a few extra drinking credits, but I sure as hell won’t be caught dead on that job.”
The Togruta grabbed Vay’s cup and drained its contents.
“Hey! I paid for that one, you know.”
“What, instead of flirting for it like you normally do?”
“I had a couple extra credits from the last bounty, alright?”
“Oh, speaking of credits…”
“What did you break this time?”
“It wasn’t my fault! It was that X-Wing pilot’s! I never told them to blow out my hyperdrive motivator!”
“Again, Sadarra? Come on.”
“Someone really needs to make those things less breakable.”
“Let me guess,” Vay sighed, “You need me to go use the credits you just got and grab some parts.”
“Fine,” Vay huffed in mock annoyance, “but only because I love you.”
They stood and held out their hand. Sadarra placed some credits in their palm.
“Be quick,” she said, “meet me back at the Eclipse. Two clicks east. Take my speeder it’s parked outside.”
“How are you gonna get back to the ship?”
“I’ll just borrow someone else’s.”
“Mhm, sure. Just make sure you disable the locator beacon,” Vay said over their shoulder with the wave of a hand as they headed for the cantina door.
Once Vay left, Sadarra walked over to the bar counter, left a couple more credits, and headed over to a busier cantina where she knew she would find some Imperials.
Vay slowed down their speeder as they approached the U-Wing that they and Sadarra had been calling home for the last few years. As they guided the bike into a small area in the back of the ship, an R3 droid came out of the cockpit, rolling up to them on all three struts.
“Hey, Remy. You wouldn’t mind fixing the hyperdrive motivator for me, would ya?” Vay asked, setting their satchel full of ship parts down in front of the astromech.
Remy let out a noise like a grumble and made his way to the hyperdrive, pushing the bag with his front strut.
Vay took a seat in the co-pilot’s chair. A few minutes later they heard a speeder approaching.
“You took your time,” they said, not turning around as Sadarra entered the ship and stored her bike away.
“I wanted to check out some ship parts, see if there was anything I can use to boost the canons a little. No such luck.”
“You run into trouble on the job?”
Sadarra sat in the pilot’s seat.
“Eh, just a couple Black Sun imbeciles. But I think the weapons array might’ve burned out or something.”
“I’ll have Remy check later.”
Sadarra started up the ship’s systems, closed the loading doors, and retracted the landing gear.
“How are those new modifications to the hyperdrive doing?” Vay asked as they started the take-off sequence.
“A couple more adjustments and we just might give Slave I a run for its money. Literally.”
“Oh, speaking of Boba Fett, I hear he’s after a bounty for Imperial high command, some kind of Rebel collaborator or something. We could always-”
“No way,” Sadarra cut them off, “Rule number three- no trouble with the Impies. I don’t need them and three Hutts on my tail.”
“I mean, I guess, but it’d just be fun to steal another one from that bad excuse for a bounty hunter.”
“Sure, like we’ve never done that before.”
Sadarra lifted the ship from the ground and made for the sky.
“So where are we off to?” Vay asked as they broke the atmosphere.
“Gotta grab some fuel, or pretty soon we’ll be running on fumes,” Sadarra answered, setting their heading and typing coordinates into the navi-computer.
“We all set, Remy?” she called over her shoulder.
At the droid’s beep of approval, she activated the hyperdrive, the stars turning into white streaks in the bright blue light of the hyperspace lane.
“Captain, we’ve received a message from the Admiral,” Lieutenant Cole called from her operating station.
Captain Yendar looked down at the young woman from the raised catwalk of the Star Destroyer’s bridge.
“What does it say?” he said, more of a demand than a question.
“He says the Manticore is to rendezvous with the main fleet in the Galov Sector.”
“So close to Hutt space?” he said, “Why?”
“I’m not sure, sir. It may be a station assignment for the fleet. Shall I contact-”
“Just give the coordinates to Navigation,” the Captain snapped, “You’ve wasted enough of my time.”
Cole internally rolled her eyes. It’s hardly been a minute. Get that stick out of your ass.
She sent the coordinates to another communications officer’s terminal and instructed them to send it to Navigation. If he wouldn’t let her take thirty seconds of his time, she wouldn’t let him take thirty seconds of hers.
When her sleep cycle came, she made her way to the mess hall instead of the Lieutenants’ quarters and grabbed a few rations to sneak to her bunk. She got one refresher and sustenance break per rotation, and a 5-hour sleep cycle.
Technically, taking rations out of the mess hall was prohibited, but what command doesn’t know can’t hurt them.
By the time her next shift started and she got back to her station on the bridge, the ship was in hyperspace en route to the rendezvous.
An announcement came over the ship’s comm system.
“All officers and designated Troopers, report to the main hangar and prepare for Admiral Credus’s arrival. We will be dropping out of hyperspace momentarily.”
Cole sighed. Great. Her Captain was already a pretentious prick, she didn’t need to deal with this guy, too. She reached up to her shirt pocket and twisted her code cylinder between two fingers, a fidget she had developed over the last three years.
Time to get this over with.
She arrived in the hangar as the ship came out of hyperspace and took her place in line with the other Lieutenants.
A Lambda-class shuttle was escorted into the hangar, and Admiral Credus stepped out. His dark hair was slicked back, and his pale skin would have blended in with his crisp white uniform, if not for the small wrinkles beginning to form. As he walked down the ramp, two Captain-level Stormtroopers followed closely behind him.
“Admiral,” Captain Yendar said with a slight salute, “As you can see, we have been operating with maximum efficiency, however, I would like to know-”
“Shoot him,” the Credus ordered over his shoulder.
Yendar’s eyes widened.
“What? No, I-”
One of the troopers stepped forward, and the sound of his blaster echoed through the hangar as the Captain dropped to the floor.
“Who is the lead Communications Officer?” Credus barked.
Cole stepped forward.
The Admiral turned on her.
“Cole, Sir. Lieutenant Gracyn Cole.”
“Lieutenant Cole,” he said, his voice icy and his eyes boring into her, “You track and record every communication that is sent and received by this vessel, yes?”
“Er, yes, sir?”
“And there have been no unapproved transmissions, as far as you are aware?”
“Come with me.”
Credus turned on his heel and began towards the exit. Cole almost had to jog to keep up with his swift pace. He turned down the corridor leading to the administration offices.
He entered Captain Yendar’s office and say behind the desk. Cole stood awkwardly at the door.
“Please, have a seat, Lieutenant,” Credus said, gesturing to the seat across the desk from him.
“Is something wrong, sir? If it’s something that I did myself, I assure you that I am unaware of anything I may have-”
“Lieutenant, what I must speak to you about is confidential. Rest assured, I would not discuss this matter with an officer who was untrustworthy.”
“Right, thank you, sir.”
“Now,” he said, folding his hands together on top of the desk, “First, I thought I should inform you myself that you are to be promoted to Captain of this vessel.”
“What?! Er, I mean, thank you, sir. May I ask why?”
“You have shown that you are quite capable of leadership, Captain Cole. From your record, you seem to have quite the mouth.”
Cole shrank down in her chair a little.
After a pause, Credus said, “I like that. It shows that you are unafraid to question decisions and present new solutions. You are now the Manticore’s commanding officer. Now to more pressing matters.”
Credus pulled up a hologram of the communication records.
“Unsolicited communications have been tracked going in and out of this ship. They’re coded, but other than that, they do a very poor job of covering themselves up. We’ve managed to decrypt parts of some of the messages. They include bits of our intel and details of our operations. All we can guess is that we have a traitor on our hands, feeding intelligence to our enemies. It is only safe to assume they are working with the rebellion.”
Cole thought about this for a moment.
“So they’re not smart enough to cover their tracks, but they’re smart enough to keep us from discovering who they are?”
“So...it couldn’t be as high a rank as a captain, but it has to be someone with a certain level of access and authority if they’ve been able to evade you this long. Perhaps a Captain-level trooper?”
The Admiral shook his head.
“No, it couldn’t be a trooper, they don’t have any way to access data files or get into briefings.”
“So it would have to be a Private at the very least.”
“I’ll keep my eyes out, sir.”
“My thanks. Now,” he said, standing up, “I’ll give you your chair back and return to the command ship. Your uniform is waiting in your quarters, Captain. Change into it and resume regular operations on the ship. Await my orders. I’ll let you get to it.”
Cole stood and saluted as he exited the office.
“Yes, sir, thank you.”
One the Admiral was gone, she relaxed and looked around her new office.
So this is happening.
She started towards the Captain’s quarters to change into her new uniform.
The Eclipse dropped out of hyperspace in front of an Imperial fuel outpost. The small space station had two landing platforms just large enough for a transport freighter.
“Remy, shut down all non-essential systems. Leave me engine functions, steering, and landing. Completely shut down the hyperdrive. Don’t let them scan us,” Sadarra said as she steered the ship into the range of the artificial oxygen field. “Vay, grab the jetpacks and ready the rear access hatch.”
“You got it, boss,” Remy said, getting up and heading to the back of the ship and down a ladder to the troop hold.
“Remy, the ship is yours. I’ll signal you when to come get us,” Sadarra said to the droid, standing to follow Vay.
“Ready?” she said to them, grabbing her jetpack from them and strapping it on.
“For one of your plans? Never.”
Sadarra let out a short laugh.
“Don’t I know it.”
Remy beeped over the comm system that they were good to go, then let out something along the lines of “have a nice flight!”
“Will do, Rem,” Vay responded with a smile.
Sadarra and Vay shared a quick glance, then jumped.
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