Title: The Battle of Metellos Galactic Era: Imperial Period Date: 40:2:26 (5 ABY) Placement: 1-2 Weeks after the events of The Rough Cut: A Tragedy. Keywords: Metellos, Victory I-class, ATR-6, TIE-Avenger (TIE/ad) Images by Ansel Hsiao via FractalSponge: TIE-Avenger, Victory-class, Vigil-class Characters: OCs Genre: Action The Battle of Metellos - Green Side - White light smoothed to saturation. Lines and angles laid dormant by blackness germinated. Hard edges formed and bone-white planes spread in the void. Shadows nipped behind bric-a-brac and gave rise to geometric oddities. Pieces converged and pieces coalesced. A floating fortress capped by a T-shaped tower lowered into high Metellosian orbit. * * *"Come right to course." The order sunk into one of two operations pits. Hands glided hands over the navigational complex that kept the Obana Lettle from falling from orbit. Footsteps and low voices sounded routine in this home away from home. Flat screen monitors drizzled morning reports over the bridge's commuters. The captain in grey stood at the center of this informational cosmos. He signed and handed a datapad back to an ensign. "Standby to have the tugs run out," the captain said, adding to his previous order. He keyed a mission clock to one of the overhead monitors. "Let’s beat the Vigil this time." An approving murmur blossomed in the pits. Nearby, the Tactical Actions Officer motioned to a subordinate to follow her to a relay station. The captain's order would speed down and over kilometers of fiber conduit until it resurfaced on the air officer's station in the flight hanger. "Where's my cargo resupply?" Behind the captain, a grey cap and blue eyes popped up to deck level before darting to the bank of telemetry readouts in the pit. "Metellos Central shows no launch of the Fat Kath, sir," the hat owner replied. "Metellos says that they're checking on it." "Officer on deck!" The TAO piped from over by her terminal. "Good morning, Captain," Admiral Sigurdsson returned the captain's quick salute before joining him at the forward viewports. He was the shorter man, but his white uniform lent him the air of wisdom and authority. "All went well through the night?" "It did," the captain answered. "Task Force Two-One-One has begun resupply procedures. The Lettle just entered her CRS lane." The captain pointed to the pair of sharp green ovals on the three-dimensional SNO. "The strike cruisers will meet with the resupply ship first, and then move—" With his data pad, he rotated the SNO to a digital locator pin, "— to here and establish a High/Low parameter for the fleet. The Tonnant will move in afterwards." His finger shifted the display to the Nebulon-B frigate icon leading the task force. "She's patched her holes, what?" Sigurdsson asked. "Yes," the captain answered. "The XO received the final report last night. The Tonnant's crew worked repairs over the last hyperspace transit." "Good," the Admiral said. "I want to run the Tonnant through an Operational Reactor Safeguard Exam when we return to Weerden." Sigurdsson glanced around the bridge. "Where is the XO now?" "Racked," the captain smiled. "Apparently, a week's worth of Middle Watch was staked in the last pazaak game. It worked out well enough. I want the XO standing watch when we ship out the day after tomorrow." The admiral's gaze went out over the long nose of the Victory-class Star Destroyer, then up to a data feed monitors. "I'm glad you've bucked the trend and kept those." He nodded to the list of fighters checked out to squadron pilots. "Do you miss it?" Fighter Squadron TFA-89 was on patrol. The Beedee Bees. Radio call sign: Stinger. Although not the first time asked that question, the lines in the captain's face lessened. "Part of me hopes that the Bees are never reassigned to another craft, sir. They are the best dogfighters in these—er..." "Complicated times," the admiral supplied. "Complicated," the captain nodded. "When I flew with the Bees, we were attached to two carrier wings—one even as far out as the Quellor Run." The captain shrugged off his nostalgia. "Who's to say what's to come as this new republic fleet creeps down the Namadii. A re-org is—" "Sir?" The Communications officer. The captain waved him forward with his report. "Metellos says that the Fat Kath is grounded with a bad motivator, and the Tymithum is inbound as of eleven minutes ago." "What's this?" The captain jerked his head towards his TAO. The TAO tucked a strand of wheat-colored hair under her black garrison cap. She had light freckling on her pert nose. "Parts and a technical crew," she read from her data pad. The tip of her finger flicked the manifest scroll. "Twenty onboard. It looks like a replacement Fill Order." "There were none filed when we left Hyabb," the captain replied coolly. Admiral Sigurdsson leaned in. He carried the light scent of sandalwood. "There's that problem of corrosion on the hypermatter impeller assemblies. Perhaps it's a fast-forward from the Chief Engineer?" "That's unlike him, sir. Chief checks all orders through the CIC," the captain answered. "One of the other watches might have failed to log it," the TAO trailed over her pad, missing the instinctive assessment Admiral Sigurdsson made of her captain. "Or, it may be for the convoy. The Lord Negs—" Edwin Chorus, Imperial Inquisitor, the Marques of the Negs and reigning head of House Chorus; Lord Negs had taken an officer's berth on the Obana Lettle. Of the six ships that made up the House Chorus convoy, only the Tarkin-class cruiser had a serviceable brig for captured combatants. But that ship could not accommodate both Lord Negs' inquisitorial staff and the ship's normal crew. Therefore, His Excellency had requested to come aboard the Lettle. As with most requests made by members of the Imperial Court, it had been granted. "—and so the shuttle would land here. We'd ferry the shift workers over to the Hech-See dreadnought in smaller craft," the TAO explained. Task Force 211 was a force of war. The motley collection of Metellean ships sheltering inside its protective sphere had played a supportive role during the sacking of the rebel base on Hyabb—another request fulfilled. The two House Chorus cargo supply vessels were depleted while the three small cruisers went unscathed from space battle. Only the convoy's aged Dreadnaught-class cruiser had taken damage and that from ground artillery during the landing of HC infantry units. Nonessential personnel had vacated the old cruiser, forcing numerous delays and course corrections since Hyabb. "Has there been any contact with the Tymithum?" the TAO asked the pits. "Have they been verified?" "Negative," Communications replied. "It could be a bad transceiver, but transmissions are being blocked. No bio signals, communications, mag strobes—" "Anything from the Wanu?" Admiral Sigurdsson asked, referring to the strike cruiser gliding two kilometers off the Lettle's port bow. "No sir," Communications answered. The captain turned to the SNO. A yellow blip approached a grey wire-frame cube of space surrounding the fleet. The captain did some fast maths and directed Communication's attention to a third monitor. The screen went black before it started showing different exterior shots of the Lettle: Imperial probe droids extending the eyes and ears of the ship. "Imp transponder just flashed on the Tymithum, sir," an ensign called from a communication station. "Lambda-class shuttle. Wanu is hailing her on all channels." "Some old military tech could've inadvertently activated on takeoff, sir," the TAO suggested. The captain keyed the public address system. "All hands to General Quarters." He nodded to the TAO indicating that he was taking full command of the Obana Lettle. "Captain, I believe I'm needed on the flag bridge," Admiral Sigurdsson said. He exchanged salutes with the captain and departed for the turbolift. The captain pulled a code cylinder from his uniform's breast pocket, clicked it into a port on his datapad, and keyed in a quick encryption sequence. The plaintive whaaa of twin ion engines burst over the bridge speakers. "STINGER 44, TRILLETH," the captain raised his voice to the bulkhead intercom, using the Lettle's call sign on the combat frequency. The response was metallic. "Copy, TRILLETH." "We need some eyes on the Tymithum," the captain said. "They might be having trouble. Warning yellow, weapons hold." "Copy that, TRILLETH. Warning yellow, weapons hold." The intercom pinged and squeaked as the lead pilot switched onto another channel to relay the command to his flight. Two green TIE icons broke from the squadron's HAVCAP line in the SNO and darted out towards the yellow shuttle blip. "Present headings will bring Tymithum within tractor range here," the TAO said, dropping a red digital pin on the SNO. She zoomed the image map out a thousand kilometers. The upper atmospheres of Metellos were 63 thousand kilometers distant, but that number was decreasing rapidly as the Lettle descended to a resupply orbit. "Snug," the captain muttered. He shrugged into the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus a fire control technician brought him, and allowed the FT to adjust and clip the face mask at his shoulder. "Another Imp transponder just flashed," a voice called from one of the pits. "Got bio markers! Twenty-six lifeforms… got a solid handshake!" "Wanu confirms single ATR-6," TAO said, already in her SCBA harness. "Wow! That transport just light-hopped from Hespran Dock." The TAO's smile was bright in her face. "That's impressive, sir. BoSS must love them." "Patience," the captain murmured. He watched on the third monitor as the Weican edged into view. The admiral downstairs was positioning the nimble Carrack cruiser to protect the Lettle's vulnerable underbelly. Meanwhile, the Vigil was increasing its distance behind the larger Star Destroyer. Like the Obana Lettle, the Vigil was a wedge ship favored in capital ship slug fests, and the Vigil's captain wanted plenty of swinging room. A pinging bell recalled the captain's attention. The yellow dot tagged LMDA:Tymithum had abruptly changed its heading with the arrival of the assault transport—a green dot, ATR6:Allitor. The two green STINGERs shot forward to intercept the yellow dot. "Maintain this heading," the captain said. "Maintaining course, Captain," the quartermaster at the helm control echoed. The next voice heard was over the comm by an operations specialist in the Combat Information Center—or, CIC—several decks below the captain's feet. His youthful voice cracked, but it was otherwise calm. "Tymithum is targeting our starboard deflector shield dome." The yellow blip turned a hostile red. The captain motioned to the TAO to make the operations specialist the radar point of contact. "Steady, Lettle," he said. "The Allitor just blew her power harness," the CIC specialist confirmed. "They're trailing atmosphere." "A hundred-millisecond light hop will do that," the TAO answered with some authority on the matter. "Prep Hanger One for an emergency recovery of a troop transport," the captain said. A dozen kilometers away, STINGER Seven danced through a pestering of green laser fire. He snapped the TIE-Interceptor into a tight barrel-roll over the Tymithum's cockpit, glancing up at the shuttle's viewports as it passed. They were fully polarized. "Launch! Launch! Tally two A-P-T," STINGER Eight called out. Seven jinked and dropped below the shuttle's flight line as his wingman pulled a hard loop to end up trailing the Tymithum by about three kilometers. Two blue trails of ionic fire streaked towards the Obana Lettle, but the Tymithum's torpedoes never reached their targets. Radar-guided lasers onboard the Victory-class Star Destroyer shredded the deadly missiles in seconds. Up in the bridge, the captain stared out into the dark star field to where the Tymithum would be. "Did the shuttle acknowledge our hails?" "Still hollow, Captain," Communications answered. "STINGER 44 free to engage the hostile," the captain ordered. On the SNO, TFA-89—the captain's beloved Beedee Bees—switched to CAP. At nine kilometers distant, set against the backdrop of the busy Metellean system, the Tymithum's destruction was just another flash of light. The captain turned away from the viewports. "Away Fire and Rescue. Assume deck," he ordered. "Get that wounded transport here on the double." "Very good, sir," the TAO responded. "SUNCHASER is approaching tractor range on the ATR. Also—" she sent a report to the captain's data pad, "—Metellos Central is in chaos. They've put all requests on hold concerning the Tymithum." "Keep trying. Warm up Duelist squadron. We'll buzz their towers a few times if Metellos needs a clearer picture of our priority." The TAO moved away to carry out the orders. The bulkhead intercom warbled with the Lettle's CIC. "Wanu reports increased activity, sir. Grid 41TMD04 to 41TMD112. Multiple contacts inbound. Vectors set on the HC convoy. Battle cruisers taking attack formations. Fighter launches. IFF—are Metellean Houses?" The intercom paused. "All Metellean call signs." "Stations stand by," the captain ordered. Four large red icons appeared on the SNO—capital ships. Cruisers and destroyers. Dozens of smaller red icons representing frigates, corvettes, and snub-fighters materialized around them. "Endor," someone breathed. "It's a coup," someone else said. "All stations manned and ready," the TAO called out from her station. The captain glanced out the viewports before going back to the SNO. "Darken ship." * * *The strike lead of TUSK Flight separated her four TIE-Avengers into two pairs, and then ordered them into a loose formation. TUSK Two, her wingman, trailed her by two kilometers and higher by a thousand feet. "TUSK, FENCE In." TUSK One reached forward, pausing long enough to verify a dozen different settings around the elliptical cockpit. Satisfied, she thumbed the master arm switch atop of her flight yolk. The Heads-Up-Display projected in her helmet lenses changed to a comfortable green while a blue targeting pip appeared in the virtual distance in front of the Avenger. One's right thumb slid away from the rubberized nub of the weapons release button. Her right index finger reared over to the cannon trigger like a fanged serpent. TUSK 2-4 performed a similar ritual—an action ingrained by innumerable training hours. Electromagnetic shields weakened as re-channeled energy fed the ion reactor and greedy power systems. The Avenger was as agile as it was versatile, but its true strength was the warrior inside who unleashed a furious hellstorm on the enemy. TUSK One keyed her mic to a scrambled frequency. "BOOMBOX, TUSK One. I hold one HOSTILE… bull's eye—” she searched for the spherical coordinates of the primary target and read them aloud. BOOMBOX was the mission commander aboard the Wanu who calculated the combat area bulls eye and kept all the TIE fighters in the task force from running over each other as things blew up. "BOOMBOX concurs. Tracking CR90 Corvette flanking at 128 klicks. No friendlies in the area. TUSK cover HOSTILE at 75. Weapons free." TUSK One clicked her mic to signal she understood the orders. All ships in TF 211 now knew that TUSK was cleared to engage a CR90 gunship and hostiles within their specified strike zone, keeping all threats 75 kilometers away from the Obana Lettle. TUSK One locked the HUD center-forward, but let the other data streams turn with her head. Every TIE pilot held their own preferences on how the fully-enclosed helmet projected the digital cockpit. TUSK One's settings created a ghostly shell that afforded an unrestricted view around the fighter. Watching both the early warning receiver and her wingman's position, One opened the mic to his frequency. "Mudbug, bracket target 3.8 clicks," One ordered. "Bekleiten flushing." Two zippered his mic and broke right. TUSK One's little blue-grey fighter disappeared into the cold dark of planetary shadow. A white blot down between her toes grew rapidly into the chunky rectangle of a CR90 corvette, its bright anti-collision lights marking it against the blackness. A common gunboat tactic, it was a lure into its laser-lined maw. TUSK One settled the targeting pip on the corvette and throttled up to military power. Whoever devised the Avenger's missile warning alarm must have been one giddy son-of-a-womprat. TUSK One's reaction to the trilling, wonking, trumpeting noise was instantaneous thanks to ten years of strapping a TIE to her butt. She swirled the TIE over and around, jinking her fighter through spins and maneuvers. "Spiked," she gritted through her teeth. The sudden changes is acceleration and direction smacked her with an artificial gravity that rivaled atmospheric g-forces. She lifted in her seat harness as she rolled into an inverted power dive. Then she smacked down again as the Avenger became intent on smashing her into an oblate sphere not unlike the shape of the cockpit. "TUSK Two, Magnum." TUSK Two's missile tracked along the corvette's radar. The CR90 could respond by shutting off its radar or by turning its cannons towards the weapon. It chose the latter. TUSK Three and Four also called out missile launches over the open frequency, presumably to spoof listening ears aboard the CR90. The planetary shadow gained hundreds of red laser stitches. TUSK One rolled again and pushed the flight yoke forward, driving the TIE into another power dive. Somewhere behind and above her, the corvette's missile was seeking the hot ionic wash of her engines. She rolled a third time and yanked the yolk back while burping the engines to counteract momentum. Her thumb popped out flare decoys to confuse the heat-seeking missile. "TUSK One… has one SAM west… of bulls," she called. "Defending." Twisting around in her seat, TUSK One looked over the Avenger's rear deck—possible because of her helmet's link with the TIE's external optical sensors. A death meteor, bright and sharp in the airless void, plummeted eight miles down to the left of her position. TUSK One held her breath and counted. If the missile changed course, she had about 12 seconds to re-fire her engines and evade. The missile continued straight, lost of her scent. TUSK One pitched toes-over-tea kettle into a classic belly-up "Dead Spider". She bumped the thrust vector controls and yawed her fighter until the cold puffs of gas put her on a trajectory that would pass under the CR90. Using both her hands and voice commands, she quickly darkened the TIE and switched to passive radar. "TUSK, BOOMBOX. Two bandits Head On. Northeast 58 klicks from your position. X-wings—zapping BANDIT 1 and 2." The Wanu's sensor suite had pinpointed the pair of X-wing fighters rushing to assist the CR90. BOOMBOX transferred the range and targeting information to TUSK flight. The fast moving X-wings would be on top of TUSK in three minutes, possibly spotting TUSK One and spoiling the mission. "TUSK Two anchored," Two responded. Good man—he kept One's silent coast off the comm. "TUSK 3 and 4 attacking," TUSK Three radioed in. Three, the flight leader for the second pair of TIE-Avengers, was a veteran of a dozen space campaigns. Killing Inner Rim yank-n-banks was his forte. "TUSK Two. SAM. Defending." Somewhere in the darkness, TUSK Two began combat maneuvering of his own to avoid another CR90 missile. He rocketed downwards and out of the planetary shadow. The missile's seeker head chose the hottest signature and banked towards the white sun. Planetary gravity and the thick Metellean atmosphere would take care of the missile after it spent its fuel on the hopeless chase. The CR90 fired two more missiles, but Two slipped them—even coming back and feigning an attack on the corvette. He pulled up and outside of gun range and the corvette stopped wasting ordinance on the pesky TIE. Inside her drifting TIE-Avenger, TUSK One watched the corvette for the tell-tale signs that it detected her. The heavy double cannons of the ventral turbolaser swiveled past a few times, each time a little closer and a little larger than the last time. Staring into the barrels of the enemy—coming face-to-face with that crisp mortality—was known to freeze rookie pilots. TUSK One shook the tension out of her left hand. Over on the dorsal side, TUSK Two streaked in and careened away from the corvette, loosing a crisp line of red flame at the corvette. The corvette shredded the missile and counter-punched with a commendable laser volley. Using the distraction, TUSK One keyed up a weapon in the stores management system, flicked on her active radar, and peeked through the rocket's onboard radar to see what it saw. The CR90's ventral turbolasers swung in her direction. Too late. TUSK One thumbed the weapons release button. "TUSK One, Bruiser away." One yanked up on the stubby handle of Avenger's Emergency Power Unit to dump stored energy directly into her engines. Her helmet slammed into the headrest as the TIE tore out of gun range. TUSK One had used the inverted Dead Spider position to give a pair of two-meter anti-ship rockets slung on underwing brace pylons a clear picture of the target. Her missile flew a short two-seconds before it punctured the CR90 just behind the port-side airlock cylinder and detonated. The airlock oxygen tanks ruptured and bathed the interior passageway in orange fire before the cleansing vacuum swept it away. "Shack on the target." Glancing over her shoulder at the debris field, TUSK One checked on the corvette. The critically injured gunship began the long, slow drop out of the fight. "TUSK, BOOMBOX. Alpha check to TRILLITH." TUSK One punched her position into the flight computer and zapped BOOMBOX her range and bearing to the Obana Lettle. "New picture, TUSK," BOOMBOX said. "Report on Uniform 8." TUSK One frowned underneath her expressionless flight helmet. She toggled her mission comm card and checked the frequency listed as Uniform 8. It was one of the STINGER channels. She listened again to the Bees squadron commander's urgent request even as she put her fighter onto its port solar panel and pulled the nose hard around. TUSK Two rolled in tight off her right shoulder and matched her speed as she pushed the throttle to full military power. Ahead of them, fire as bright and cutting as a plasma torch jetted from the Obana Lettle's hanger. END - Coming this fall - The Battle of Metellos: Red Side Spoiler: Green Side The author takes liberties in this work while making an effort to align with Star Wars Canon and Legends. Terms common to our vernacular may appear in this story in effort to maintain pacing and engage the reader's attention. The content of this work as it concerns Task Force 211, the SNO, Metellos, and House Chorus is largely the author's creation in this and in his previous works. No mention of a Second Imperial Fleet was found in Wookiepedia or the Essential Atlas. Therefore, Task Force 211 (11th of the Second Fleet) reflects the author's license that fits his narrative. Command structure—and that of the task force in general—will align more to US Navy conventions than what may be common in the Star Wars galaxy. For the purposes of the Metellosian Arc, the Second Imperial Fleet is stationed in the Bormea Sector with homeports in the Corulus System. Metellosian versus Metellean Outside the Metellos Solar System, Metellean is the more frequent demonym used to describe someone or something from that planetary system. Metellosian is the older term and is regarded as High Formal in some areas of the galaxy. Metellosian also is the name of the native language of Metellos rendered in Galactic Basic. Spoiler: Obana Lettle Obana Lettle VSD(2)-65 The VSD Obana Lettle completed its Class II refit on 37:1:29, extending its anticipated service life for another thirty years. It saw much action in the early years of the Galactic Empire, becoming a namesake of stalwartness and survivability. It suffered near catastrophic damage during the Battle of Palanhi (36:1:12), saved from destruction only by a blind hyperspace hop to the nearby loyalist planet of Mrisst, where it was sheltered until aid arrived. Some time afterwards, the Lettle—as her crew refers to her—was teamed with the Vigil, the dogged Clone Wars battleship for which that ship's class is named. The duo has formed the core of many formidable battleship battle groups since.