Date: 46:4:24 (11 years after the Battle of Yavin)
Part One: Exploration
P7J-935, Unknown Regions
The ancient Stargate's event horizon broke up into the nothingness from which it came, leaving only an indestructible naquadah ring, half buried in ice and snow, a trench disintegrated before it where a gout of cosmic matter had rushed out of the gate moments earlier.
"Bloody hell it's cold!" Major Ash Morgan gasped, reaching to turn up the thermal clothing they all wore under their armour and pulling the heavy padded jacket tight around her.
General Nick Fel looked at his long-time friend Commodore Mike Burn and laughed. "She thinks this is cold!"
"Here come the Hoth stories…" Colonel Anton Moore muttered.
"You never had to do tauntaun patrols on Hoth," Nick continued obliviously. "This would constitute a hot summer's day on Hoth."
"It wasn't that cold," Captain Amaya Karrde said sardonically.
"You never had to go out in it," Mike retorted. "You freighter pilots got it easy."
"Neither did you, you told everyone you were allergic to tauntauns and bribed them into taking your patrols with miniature fruit candies." Cat Craig called across, having to shout over a sudden icy wind.
"Who told you about that?"
"Who do you think?" Nick grinned.
While the others bickered, Ash set up the heating unit that would defrost the DHD and keep it ice-free for their return and Moore began unstrapping the six military speeder bikes they'd brought through the Gate with them. Rogue Squadron's engineers had spent the best part of a week modifying the bikes for this mission, installing more sensors and stealth equipment, insulating them so they'd run in sub-zero environments, and painting the bodies white for camouflage.
The Rogue Squadron team currently on assignment to Earth's Stargate Command had come to this lonely planet, once the home of a civilisation that had been wiped out by climatic changes that turned it into an iceball, to scout out a suspected Imperial listening post, hoping to find more information about High Admiral Steele's forces. The Imperial warlord was currently allied with the Goa'uld and they needed to know everything they could about him—specifically the size of his fleet, who exactly he was allied with and where his Advanced TIEs were coming from.
"Okay, you've got your search grids," Nick said. "Me and Cat will take sectors one through three, Mike and Amaya take four through six and Moore and Ash seven through nine. Keep contact at all times."
The six jumped on their speeder bikes and drove off in three different directions, hunting down the tiny station that could answer so many of their questions.
Nick stopped his speeder bike to swipe away ice that was forming over the weather-resistant cover of his sensor systems. As Cat pulled up beside him, he tugged his goggles up, glad to get them off his eyes, and gasped for breath, the cold air stinging his lungs.
"You think this is cold?" Cat mocked, laughing lightly.
Nick gave her an accusing glare. "Don't mock my rebellion memories."
"Race you to the next checkpoint!" Cat shouted as her bike kicked up a trail of snow behind her.
Nick grinned and pulled on his goggles, kicking his throttle to full and charging after her. They raced along at hundred of kilometres per hour, rising and falling over snowdrifts, snow lashing against their faces, beating any exposed skin.
Suddenly, Cat slowed a little and shouted down the comm. "Nick, I've got something metal on sensors, but it's moving towards us."
"Hold on, let me look…" Nick glanced down at his sensors, a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Another hit moving away from the other one a hell of a lot faster…" Cat paused for a second and looked up, "Oh, God. Swerve! Swerve!"
Nick rolled his bike to one side, throwing himself off it as a rocket blasted through the air and crashed into a bank of ice, detonating with a wave of fire that melted snow and ice for dozens of meters around.
"I'm reading buildings a few kilometres from here," Ash called to Moore. "Too extensive to be a listening post."
"Could be ruins from whoever used to live here," Moore reasoned, kicking up his engine. "Let's take a look anyway."
The planet had never been densely populated or overly developed. Surveys made by the SGC and records from Tok'ra archives suggested a race of relatively intelligent humanoids, at the stage of discovering and refining their first metals. Hence, most of their buildings were made out of stone. Harsh storms had worn rock buildings away to practically nothing within a few hundred years, cracking walls into chunks by constant freezing and re-freezing, eroding the chunks till practically nothing was left of once lively towns and villages.
Rising up over a high bank of snow, they saw that it had been large as far as towns on the planet went, and relatively well preserved from the elements by the rocky basin it was built in. Single walls that had once been part of entire structures stood lonely and crumbling, the last remains of a civilisation doomed by the same planet that spawned it.
"Kind of unfair that the Tau'ri can ruin their own planet and get away with it," Ash said, "yet these people did nothing and the planet rejected them."
"You wouldn't be so hard on our Earth friends if you'd been to Nar Shadaa," Moore commented, pulling out macrobinoculars and scanning the town, before letting his speeder bike drift down through the ruined streets.
"It's like… hold on, something coming through from Cat and Nick," Ash said, switching on her comm.
"Swerve! Swerve!" The transmission cut off as soon as it began.
Moore had gunned up his engines in a split second, twisting the bike around—and landing himself directly in the sights of several Imperial snowtroopers.
"What is that?" Amaya said, pulling down her hood so she could hear better.
"That sound, idiot!"
"I've no idea," Mike said stopping to listen to the low drone. "Sounds like a starship engine." He pulled up his macrobinoculars and scanned the horizon, spotting a tiny black speck moving towards them. He increased the digital zoom and enhanced the resolution, getting a better look at the blurry object. "Get down!"
Amaya cut her repulsors and let the bike crash into the snow, rolling off it and flattening herself against the cold ground. Moments later, a ship shaped like some kind of domed crustacean with added fins and engines roared overheard, spraying them with ice and snow.
"Gamma Assault Transport," Mike said, "We're in trouble."
Amaya scooped out her comlink so fast it almost entered hyperspace. "Karrde to Fel." No answer. "Karrde to Craig. Nick? Cat? You there?"
"We're definitely in trouble."
"Moore, Morgan? You get that?" No answer.
Mike hit the throttle, "C'mon, let's follow that transport."
Nick scrambled to his feet and unhooked his blaster rifle, just in time to see a flash of green rocket by him before coming to a stop a dozen meters away, dropping to the ground in a combat stance.
The figure was covered in dull green armour, with a distinctive T-shaped visor like the old Republic clonetroopers. It was the armour of a Mandalorian warrior, and the man was instantly recognisable as Boba Fett, feared bounty hunter.
Nick fired off a blaster bolt but missed entirely as Fett leapt up into the air on his rocketpack again, landing at the other side of Nick and drawing a pistol.
Meanwhile, Cat had remained on her bike, circling round and coming back at Fett, her bike's blaster cannon firing wildly. Fett abandoned his shot at Nick, jumping up out of the way at the charging bike. A gleaming twelve-inch vibroblade miraculously shot out from one of his wrists, slashing down and then back up as Cat passed, slashing off her bike's stabilisers and narrowly missing her head as she spun out of control, diving off the bike as it crashed through the snow.
"I need to tell Glantry to get his family affairs in order…"
Fett charged through the snow towards Nick, vibroblade still extended. Nick ducked out of its way, his movement hindered by the heavy snow gear while Fett's armour aided his. He dived through the snow and rolled over to face upwards, seeing Fett charge him again with the killer blade. Nick scooped up one of the severed bike stabilisers and held it up in defence, knocking the blade away. Their weapons locked, grinding together.
"What brings the mighty Boba Fett way out here to the Unknown Regions?"
"Actually," the bounty hunter drawled, "I'm not Boba Fett." He smashed his helmeted head down against Nick's head, knocking him into a daze and pulling the pistol again.
Cat had picked herself up and retrieved the other stabiliser and charged the hunter, smashing it around the back of his neck. He grunted at dropped the pistol, hitting his rocketpack and blasting away to safety.
With one last desperate, semiconscious lunge, Nick thrust the stabiliser towards him like a spear.
Moore didn't hesitate for a second, driving the bike right through the group of faceless troopers, their long masks and cloaks obscuring everything about them. Their shots went wide, weapons pointed at all angles as the speeder bike rammed them, lifting one trooper right off the ground and depositing him in a broken heap a few meters later.
Ash had pulled out her staff weapon and was using it like a lance, charging snowtroopers on her bike as if in an ancient jousting competition, blasting them from a distance or just smashing it into them at close range.
Realising too late that he was heading towards a wall too fast to swerve, Moore jammed his cannon on, blasting the icy wall to pieces and charging through the debris. He circled round, weapon blazing again, gunning down two more snowtroopers.
"They're setting up an E-Web!" Ash called, spinning round and opening up with her cannon, blasting the tripod-mounted gun into tiny pieces and scattering the three troopers around it. Moore followed through after her, picking off the troopers as they dived in all directions.
"Where the hell did they come from?" Moore said, not relaxing despite the apparent lack of any more Imperials.
"There!" Ash shouted, zooming away as a white Chariot Light Assault Vehicle, probably modified for cold conditions like their bikes, rose up from behind a ruined building, mounted blaster cannons swivelling to target them.
Moore dodged past its shots, pulling out a small thermal detonator and tossing it under the LAV. The lethal bomb exploded, throwing the LAV up into the air and blowing out its repulsor lifts, smashing it down against the snow. Another detonator thrown into its engine compartments finished the job.
"Moore to Burn," Moore pulled out his comm. "We've had a slight problem here, but we sorted it. What's your status?"
"We're on the trail of a Gamma Assault Transport," Mike answered. "I'm hoping it'll lead us to the outpost. What's the word on Nick and Cat?"
"No idea, we're going to go look for them."
"Good idea, we'll carry on in this direction, we're almost up into sector three, skirting two."
"Do you see something up ahead?" Amaya asked.
Amaya made an exasperated noise. "That's getting old now. I meant… pull up!"
Mike saw Amaya suddenly pull her bike up towards the sky and followed suit a moment later—a moment too long. His stabilisers crashed into the practically invisible netting, tangling up in it, twisting the bike around and flipping it over, tossing Mike hard onto the ground.
The Togorian struck a split second later, appearing from nowhere as it shed its camouflage cloak, all teeth, fur and sinuous muscle. Terrified, Mike crawled backwards through the snow, ducking and dodging the feline creatures huge claws as it slashed him.
Roaring up her engine and spinning back round, Amaya drove straight towards the pair of them, expertly ramming her stabilisers into the Togorian's side and knocking it off Mike. The beast roared with fury and lashed out with a huge arm, digging its claws into the back of Amaya's bike.
She accelerated, turning up the repulsors and bouncing high in the air, dangling the alien in the air, then dialled them back down again, smashing it into the floor. The tough creature bounced along the snow, snarling. It grabbed the back of the bike with its other paw, driving its claws into the chassis. Amaya swerved from side to side, trying to shake it, but it kept clawing its way up the bike, its sharp talons puncturing the seat right behind her.
She yelped and flicked a switch on her manoeuvring controls, sending the bike into a suicide cruise, then dived off the side of it. She landed in a crouch and pulled her sidearm, firing off three shots. The last one hit the bike's fuel cell and detonated it.
Mike walked up behind her, panting. "Good shot."
"Thanks. How's your bike?"
"Ruined, we're walking the rest of the way," Mike said. "And I'm fine, thanks for asking."
Nick's stabiliser twisted one of Kast's rocketpack nozzles upward, throwing him off course. The helpless bounty hunter screamed as he hurtled through the air, his body smashing headfirst into a solid glacier. He crumpled and dropped to the ground in a heap, snow avalanching down from the top of the glacier, burying his smouldering body.
"I killed Boba Fett," Nick breathed. "I. Killed. Boba. Fett!"
"You killed a Boba Fett impersonator."
"You're too good at deflating my ego. It's not good for a pilot." Nick pulled himself unsteadily up off the ground and brushed himself down.
"I do it for your sake," Cat said, wrapping an arm around him to keep him upright. "Your spine needs a break from carrying that big head every so often."
Nick smiled. "You're sweet."
Part Two: Discovery
Moore and Ash pulled up behind Mike and Amaya, having picked up an exhausted Nick and Cat and driven them here on the back of their bikes, leaving the pair's wrecked vehicles behind.
"What happened?" Mike hissed, pulling down his macrobinoculars and ducking out of sight. In the distance, the transport was sitting on the ground next to a small bunker.
"We got attacked by a bounty hunter," Cat said.
"That's probably what our Togorian friend was," Amaya said. "Who did we piss off?"
Cat pointed towards the bunker and raised her eyebrows.
Mike held out the macros for Nick. "Take a look."
Nick dropped down low with Mike and Amaya and peered carefully over the small ridge. "Gamma Assault Transport, numerous troops, very small building," he noted. "Entrance to an underground facility?"
"Looks like a freight elevator. Not your usual listening post outfit."
"We'll have to go in quietly," Moore said. "Otherwise they'll set the self-destruct on their data core and reception equipment."
"Okay," Nick said, pulling a rebreather mask over the rest of his cold-weather gear. "Stun spores it is."
"That'll do for the officers inside," Ash noted. "But the troops have emergency oxygen supplies. Anybody got an Ewok?"
"Never mind, I'll do it." Without further warning, Ash jumped onto her speeder bike and revved the engine, driving it straight past the grounded transport with a crazed war cry. The snowtroopers looked confused for a moment, then jumped on their own vehicles and gave chase—leaving two troopers, a single officer and any crew left on the transport.
Cat sighed. "Crazy girl."
"Circle round behind them and slip onto the elevator," Moore instructed, running around the ridge out of the view of the last troops and ducking down behind the small snow-covered metal bunker, the rest of the team ducking in next to him.
"Wait." He crouched down and crawled around the corner, hitting the activation panel on the elevator. Moments later, the door hissed open with a seemingly thunderous whoosh. "Go!"
The team dived round the corner into the cage-like elevator and hit the panel again, sending it plummeting downwards.
The elevator opened up into a small storage bay and hangar of some sort, a dark area filled with boxes, crates and various repulsorcraft and weapons.
"Find the ventilation system," Nick said, starting to hunt around the concrete room, pulling off his goggles and heavy jacket now they were out of the biting cold.
"Got it," Mike said. "Pass me the stun grenades." He broke open the panel and places half a dozen stun spore grenades in the pipe, setting them to slowly release their incapacitating contents after a few seconds, then closed up the panel.
A few minutes later, they ventured carefully towards the illuminated door at the far end of the bay, relieved to see an unconscious Imperial officer lying just inside it. The corridor beyond led to what looked like a security checkpoint, complete with two slumped Imperial commandos. Mike opened the blast door.
They entered onto a walkway circling the edge of the circular area, looking down on dozens of consoles arranged on the ground, unconscious operators collapsed on them. A pair of staircases let down to the main area.
"This is no listening post," Mike grinned, practically bouncing down the metal staircase. "This is a full-blown Intel centre!"
He immediately pushed an unconscious operator, still logged into the system, out of his seat and started working at his console. "I've got everything here, Nick. Full access to Steele's Intelligence network."
"Get a copy of it all."
"Sure thing, I'll just… hold on," he said, something catching his eye. "Project Executor."
"What is it?" Nick said, an odd chill shooting down his spine.
Mike punched a few commands and the central holoprojector sprung to life, showing a translucent red, three-dimensional representation of a starship's schematics, slowly rotating in the air. The ship mostly consisted of a narrow triangle, with a flat tail protruding from the bottom edge. Underneath it nested a dozen massive drive nozzles. The surface was mostly smooth looking, except for the middle of the triangle, which looked more like a tiny cityscape, building up to one large tower topped by two spheres. The scale showed it to be approximately eight kilometres long—meaning the tiny lumps on its surface were actually huge towers.
"He's building a Super Star Destroyer."
Nick had seen a Super-Class Star Destroyer only a handful of times—Executor at Hoth and Endor, Iron Fist once or twice, Lusankya occasionally—and while the visage of an regular Star Destroyer gave him chills, the sight of this war machine filled him with fear. "This is very bad," he said.
"Oh yeah." Mike skimmed through the files, "Looks like he's working with a System Lord called Sobek." The projected image changed to that of a fierce and intense looking man, totally bald, the muscles on his neck and bare arms standing out prominently. A long, dark cape flowed behind him, flapping in the non-existent wind near the two Ja'ffa who flanked him, towering over the Rogue Squadron team with long, terrifying crocodile helmets.
"Sobek was the God of Crocodiles, Power, Protection and Fertility," Cat said. "He was admired and feared for his ferocity, said to be the son of Neith, my personal favourite. He supposedly created the River Nile from his own sweat."
Amaya looked distastefully at the image. "Must've been a fun guy to be around on a hot Egyptian day."
"Shutting down the system and pulling the datacore," Mike said, plugging his datapad into the terminal and setting his slicing routines going. "Could take a few minutes to crack this."
The door they'd entered through hissed open again, framing a tall Imperial officer. "You're in violation of Imperial law!"
Moore quickly drew his sidearm and placed a neat shot through the man's head. "Does that line ever stop anyone?"
Two snowtroopers stepped over the officer's body, shooting down into the Intel centre. "Just a few more seconds!" Mike shouted.
The other four dropped behind consoles for cover, pulling out blaster riffles and returning fire. "Must've come from the transport," Cat suggested, firing off a quick shot that holed through a trooper's chest-plate.
"Done," Mike said as a heavy door across the room unlocked itself and rolled up. He ducked low and crawled across the room through the door, tapping another control and watched a hatch in the floor iris open. He reached in and pulled out a large, shielded datacore by the handle mounted on the top of the heavy cylindrical object.
"Keep it under cover!" Nick shouted, blasting repeatedly up towards the entrance. He fired up again, sending a trooper plummeting towards the floor with a short scream.
"Proton charges ready, Amaya?" Moore shouted over the noise of the firefight.
"Sure are!" Amaya called back, crawling around fixing the high explosives underneath all the consoles and setting the silent timers.
Once the doorway was clear, they charged up the stairs and through the facility, guns blazing, Mike trailing behind carrying the bulky datacore. The elevator ride up the surface seemed to take forever, the cage rolling upwards agonisingly slowly.
When the doors opened, they wished it had taken a little longer.
"Not good," Nick understated, faced with the Gamma Transport pointed directly at them.
Bizarrely, it didn't open fire. Didn't drop troops. Didn't bark commands. Even more bizarrely, it twisted around and settled down on the ground, slowly lowering the boarding ramp. Moments later, a familiar figure stood at the top of the ramp, grinning.
"Thought you might need this, being a bit short on bikes and all," Ash called.
The others didn't disagree.
Cheyenne Mountain Facility, Earth
Nick Fel, Cat Craig and Mike Burn sat alone in Nick's office, lights dimmed, holoprojector turned on, and the visage of a Super Star Destroyer spinning slowly in the middle of the room. The red light cast eerie shadows on the concrete walls, sparsely decorated with images of his family and homeworld before the Death Star shattered them all, images of Nick with friends and heroes of the Rebellion, a group holo from Mike and Amaya's wedding on Endor and a lonely New Republic flag.
"At least we don't have to worry about those TIEs anymore," Mike said optimistically.
"Any word on those reinforcements?" Cat asked. "We're going to need them."
"I'm working on getting Hunter out here full time," Nick referred to the Star Destroyer Mike formerly commanded. "But the Council doesn't see an immediate threat from something so far away."
"Steele wouldn't shy from razing an entire planet to get one person, never mind a Republic task-force," Mike noted. "Are we putting Earth in more danger than we're protecting it from?"
Nick nodded slowly. "We need to find a new home."
Rogue Squadron's story continues in "Last Stand at Farpoint"...