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 Post subject: Plot 16 - Introduction
PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 5:10 pm 
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Written by Dru and myself. Please be aware, although we both have some ideas, there are no plans from here on in!

This topic is for the introduction only, and will be locked. The actual plot (for everyone else to start) will be posted at 16a. As per usual, 15l remains open for any extra plotlines. Theran, I'm assuming you'll post your defection story as a standalone plot, and Piggy, I'm hoping you'll do the same with your mini Piggy adventure!

So, kick back and enjoy. This is plotting Old School!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Three months following the Battle of Bormari...

Star Wars - Rogue Squadron: Crisis on Keshoc Station

Following the death of GRAND ADMIRAL GRANT and the
dissolution of his renegade fleet, the NEW REPUBLIC finds
itself once again the uncontested superpower in the
galaxy. Unrest stirs in the IMPERIAL REMNANT, however,
as COLONEL ZAKRUS ALLISTRE's return re-ignites old
vendettas.

In the meantime, ROGUE SQUADRON has been working to
recover from the loss of its base ship, while WRAITH
SQUADRON oversees the reconstruction of their own ship,
SACUL. HIGH FLIGHT SQUADRON, hit hardest by Grant's
forces in the BATTLE OF BORMARI finds itself searching
for new pilots under the leadership of COLONEL HALLEY
KADORTO.

While GENERAL ANTILLES oversees the formation of the
new ROGUE TASK FORCE, GENERAL CORRAN HORN and
COLONEL GARIK LORAN take a small group of pilots to an
unassuming supply depot in one of the most backwater
star systems in the Galaxy...

Cue the pan shot

Face winced. Ships were not supposed to shudder like that when they drop out of hyperspace -- especially not his ships. The Sacul's refit was only half over, and while Red assured him that she would, in fact, keep the air inside and the engines running, the test voyage had been a fair bit shakier than he'd bargained for. Considering that she had been totally rebuilt, with extra decks, it was a credit to the skill of his chief engineer that she was flying a little over two months since she was almost destroyed. Still, certain things needed to be checked.

"Red?" Face thumbed the comm button on his office desk, and waited.

"That was supposed to happen, Mr. Faceman, sir," came the mechanic's response, a hint of duplicity in her voice, "We were just, ah, testing the inertial stabilisers. Making sure they could handle a rough reversion, ya know?"

Face rolled his eyes, "Right, I'll expect a full report. What are the odds we'll be able to make the remainder of our approach to Keshoc a bit more graceful?"

"That'll be up to Kai, Boss. All thrusters are firing normally."

Rising, Face toggled off his desk terminal and leaned over the small crib in which his son, Jaden, was sleeping peacefully. He took a moment to savour the feeling of warmth he got every time he looked at the little boy's sleeping face, serene and innocent, before turning out the door to head to the bridge. Keshoc Station was nothing more than a military supply depot, accepting shipments from colossal interstellar transports, then shuttling the arms and spare parts down to the New Republic Army troops on the planet below. The Keshoc system itself was far from remarkable, and strategically valueless. Keshoc III, the only inhabitable planet, offered nothing but silicon and some exotic cacti from its vast deserts, but was nonetheless home to a friendly people, whose longstanding support of the Rebel Alliance and then the New Republic had won the presence of a token defence force.

"So why are we here, again?" Kai wondered aloud as Face passed through the aft bridge doors.

"I told you already, Red and Dru are going shopping." Face presented the line with no hint of humour, but instead offered a hint of exasperation.

"Shopping for what, dust mites?" Kai turned in her seat. "That's about all they're getting, here."

Face declined to answer, meeting her gaze with a broad, mischievous smile. "If there's one thing you ought to know about me by now, it's that my surprises are always good ones. Now, start our approach to the station. The administrator should be expecting us."

"Face," Sacul's voice interrupted, "You have a call."

"I'll take it here, Sacul," he responded automatically.

Moments later, the bridge was filled with the piercing sound of a baby wailing. Apparently, Jaden's nap was not meant to be quite as long as he'd hoped for. With a quick flick across the controls on his chair, he silenced the sound. "I'll, um, be right back. Kai, you have the conn."

* * *

"We're fine, Master Garik, Jaden's only had a bad dream." The voice was that of a four-armed TDL/X2 Nanny droid, and her tone was nothing if not comforting.

"Of course. Of course you're OK, I'm sorry," Face managed between breaths, "I just had to be sure, is all. I'm new at this."

"I know you are, but we can't have you running down here every time the boy makes a sound," the droid had shifted to a somewhat more scolding voice, "You've got a ship to run, you do. I've asked Sacul to kindly wait for me to call you before whipping you up into a panic like she did."

"Right." Face paused, composing him. "Yes, a ship to run. Thank you, Giannah, for taking care of him."

"It's my pleasure, sir. Now you run along."

Before Face could thank her again, his commlink interrupted. "Uh, Face?" It was Kai. "I'm going to have to offer a greeting here pretty soon. Do you want me to have Shadow do it, or..."

"No, I'll be right there." Face gave Jaden a light pat on the head, eliciting a minor gurgle, then turned and hurried out the door once again.

* * *

In fact, Keshoc Station was every bit as boring as Kai had assumed it would be. A fairly typical XQ5 space platform, it featured three broad platforms that served as berthing areas for ships that were small enough to use them spaced around an octagonal central section that grew from bottom to top, terminating in a pair of massive cargo bay doors that permitted the giant transports to deposit their payload quickly before moving on again. The occupied section was actually limited to five decks at the bottom of the facility, comprising barely 7% of the station's total height. Sacul was given a private berth on Platform Three -- one of the few berths on the station that could be used to house and protect classified technology -- and Kai had set her down gracefully, in spite of a flareout on one of the starboard repulsors.

"So, where do they keep all the dust mites?" Kai questioned, sliding up to Dru, "I hear you're starting a collection?"

"Not so extensive as the collection you keep on your bookshelf, I'm sure," he returned in a deadpan.

Kai feigned grasping at an invisible dagger in her chest. "Ouch, Dru, keep your toupée on. We all know that reading is for egg heads and old men like you."

Face cleared his throat loudly. "He's only a month and a half older than I am, you know."

"Yes, and look at you," the Twi'lek shot back, half-walking, half-dancing in Face's direction, "All grown up and raising children, hmm?"

"You'll get your turn," Face returned with a wink. He paused, glancing around the corridor that led from their docking shaft to the main lift. "Hey, where's Theran?"

On queue, Theran dropped down the docking shaft with a clumsy thud, a large duffel in tow. "Sorry Face, er, sir, I was just helping Ms. Kai with her luggage."

"'Ms. Kai?'" Face repeated, "Kai, what have you been doing to this poor man?"

"Only what's in my rights," Kai defended herself with a pout and a stamp of her foot, "I won his services fair and square in last night's Sabacc game. Not my fault he ran himself out of liquor."

Face heaved a dramatic sigh. "Well, Theran, better pick that up if we're to make our appointment. Welcome to the Rogue Task Force, Wraith-style."

* * *

The brief trip from the docking platform to the hotel was uneventful. They'd passed the main concourse, which featured a small holocinema, a couple of restaurants, and half a dozen retail shops which Tyria had described as "woefully insufficient." The hotel, while far from lavish, was a nice enough place, with half a dozen suites set aside for their use. Once they'd deposited their belongings into the rooms, Face had called them out into the hallway.

"So where are you taking us, Faceman?" General Horn enquired, "because right now it looks like you're leading us to the service elevator."

"Very astute, General," Face offered with a sly grin, "this is the service elevator. Now if you'll all please step inside."

As Face exaggeratedly gestured for the others to enter the elevator, General Horn rolled his eyes. Fitting the sixteen of them onto the service elevator would be uncomfortable, but likely not impossible. He still wasn't sure why they'd brought so many people for Dru and Red's "shopping trip," but Face and General Cracken himself insisted that it was probably for the best that they all humour Face in this instance. Since many of the Rogues and Wraiths were on leave, or fulfilling other duties before the Task Force shipped out, Corran had agreed to help fill the crew slots on the Sacul with Rogues, bringing along new recruit Theran Rel, a recent defector from the Imperial Remnant, and Drake Norlem, a Flight Cadet who'd joined mere weeks before the Battle of Bormari, in addition to Deven Tarn, Ailie Datul, and Tyria Antilles, his seasoned contributions to man Sacul's defence turret rotation. The Rogues joined Face, Shadow Lightfoot, Kaiu'kes, Elassar Targon, Voort saBinring, and Void on the Wraith side, in addition to Dru and Red. While the two chief engineers clearly knew more about the purchase than did their escorts, even they seemed to lack answers to some of Face's antics, though Dru continually gave wry grins in response to some of Face's deflections. Whether that was a sign that he knew something, or he was merely enjoying the man's wit, was impossible to tell.

As the lift slowed to a halt, its doors opened into an unlit corridor.

"Yeach!" Kai exclaimed, "it smells like a rancor died in here."

"Maybe one did." Face shrugged. "These levels have been abandoned for a good decade, now. Come on now, watch your step." He brought out a glowlight. "It's about to get really dark in here."

As the service lift closed and began its retreat, the only source of light to the corridor vanished, leaving nothing but Face's glowlight shining against the dirty floor ahead of him. "OK, he ought to be expecting us."

Face led them down the dank hallway, glowlamp in hand, and he could tell that behind him, the Rogues and Wraiths were preparing for an ambush. Sure enough, once they'd rounded a corner into another, similarly dark hallway, two pressure bulkheads slammed shut around them, prompting the raising and arming of fifteen weapons of various type.

"Loran, Garik," a feminine, mechanical voice intoned with an approximation of a Corellian accent, "Wraith Squadron. Visage Enterprises. You will state the passphrase, or you will be incinerated."

"Pure Sabacc with a slice of lime." Face answered plainly, as though ordering a drink.

As quickly as the bulkheads had shut, they opened again, and the overhead lights surged to life, revealing a broad door to Face's right, which opened into a brightly lit room which smelled of freshly scrubbed air.

"Face," Deven began, "I don't think this place is abandoned anymore."

Face grinned as the pilots walked into what appeared to a huge warehouse full of gadgets, everything from what appeared to be a landspeeder that could transform into a humanoid robot to writing implements and flimsyplast.

Kai picked up a piece of flimsyplast and looked over its contents. "Hey!" she exclaimed, "This is Janson's novel!"

While a few of the others hurried over to look over her shoulder, she kept reading. "I didn't think he'd had it published yet. Oh, man, this writing is terrible. Wha -- hey! Now instead of the novel it says 'Watch what you're calling terrible, meatbag?'" What is this?"

"It's piece of flimsyplast that will return any insult it hears," a new voice answered from across the room, "I picked Janson's novel as the default contents, as I figured no one could resist insulting that."

The owner of the new voice, a short, well-built human with tousled light brown hair, strode across the room and shook Face's hand. "Face! It's great to see you. Nice of you to drop by, Boss."

At the last word, Shadow perked her ears up. "'Boss?' Face, what is this place?"

* * *

The assembled pilots walked through the cavernous hangar bay, various bits of half finished projects sandwiched between impressive looking feats of engineering and evil looking blaster cannons. Shadow turned to stare at her CO. "Face... explain?"

Face smiled easily. "This is the fabled 'TechDen'. The cheerful chap on my right is Ziggy. He works for me."

Ziggy bowed slightly, grinning. "It's not often that we see the CEO himself drop in. If you hadn't commed me in advance, I would have thought I was in trouble."

Red stopped in the middle of the row, her arms folded. "Colonel, I am not moving one inch until you tell me what the sith is going on!"

Ziggy glanced at the diminutive engineer. "This the one you were telling me about?"

Face nodded, his smile broadening. "Yup. That's her."

"Feisty. Cute too!"

Red's mouth opened once more, working furiously, but no sound came out. She was 'saved' from embarrassment by Kai, who coolly reached over, placed a finger under her chin, and shut Red's mouth for her. The Twi'lek smiled before glancing at Face. "Question stands Faceman. Where are we? And who's Ziggy? And why's he calling Red cute"

"As I said, this is the TechDen. As you know, I have a small stake in a little company called Visage Enterprises. And Ziggy here heads up the R&D department. This is the TechDen, a small, out of the way workshop for Ziggy to work on some of his ideas without the pressure of..." Face paused, glancing at Ziggy purposefully. "...Meaningful results."

"You don't like the TalkBack Book?" Ziggy smiled, winking at the still flustered Red.

"I don't think it'll make me any money."

"Do you need any more money?" The inventor countered.

"Point."

"Anyway..." Ziggy continued. "I have some toys that you'll be interested in. I've got a little something for everyone. Even General Kargin!"

Dru coughed lightly. "It's Commander, actually. I'm back in the New Republic. But it's good to see you again, Ziggy."

Face quirked an eyebrow. "You guys have met?"

Dru smiled easily. "Face, you know that in my line of work, I eventually meet the most capable people in their profession. Ziggy here once worked with me for a while in the Krayts. I couldn't keep him though, he said he had a more lucrative offer. And now I know what that was."

Ziggy nodded. "Face helped me set up this place quite a few years back. In response, I've come up with three or four inventions that have done rather well for Visage, as well as tweaking a few things for the Boss himself." He turned to look at Face once more. "You know Boss, if you actually sold some of those things I've made for you, we could make a fortune."

"You think I need any more money?" Face replied, smiling.

"Point." Ziggy grinned. "Although I could do with some more sir!"

"I don't pay you enough?"

Ziggy shrugged. "There's not much to spend it on out here anyway. Besides, I'd only buy more toys!"

"That's what I thought." Face turned to the rest of the assembled pilots, amused at their confused expressions. "We're here because Ziggy has come up with a new toy that I want for the Sacul. He's also got some high end capacitor designs for your pet project Dru, as well as numerous other pieces of equipment, whether it's medical..." He nodded at Tyria and Elassar. "...Cooking, smuggling... anything you can think of, there's something here. And it's all free."

Ziggy's muscle twitched in his cheek, but he didn't respond. Face, ever the observer smiled at him once more. "OK there Ziggy?"

"Yes Boss. Just kinda hoping that you're not walking off with my best inventions."

"It's OK pal. I'll make sure that you're well reimbursed for the time." Face leaned in closer and continued in a stage whisper. "And if you're lucky, I'll give you my Chief Engineers comm code." He flashed a grin at Red, who's cheeks were currently living up to her nickname.

"She'll get you for that." Shadow pointed out.

"Yeah, but only when she regains the capacity for speech." Elassar smiled, pushing past the assembled pilots. "Mr Ziggy... show me the toys!"

* * *

Ziggy was truly a genius. Over the next few hours, he managed to find something of interest to each member of the squadrons present, from Dru's flimsyplast newsreader that could deflect a shot from a blaster pistol to Ailie's hand-held comm sniffer and decryption unit.

Face had flitted around the area, looking at various pieces of technology with interest, but nothing had caught his eye in particular. Ziggy had taken his DL44's from him, and swapped out some of the components, assuring Face that it would increase the range of the weapons by 10%. Once the rest of the group had begun to slow down on their frantic wanderings, Face approached the techno-genius once more.

"OK. What do you have for me?"

Ziggy blinked innocently. "I don't know what you mean Boss."

"I mean..." Face continued, his voice mock menacing, "You called me here with something for the Sacul, and I'd like to know what it is!"

"How do you know that I wasn't going to tweak it's hyperdrive again to make the new one .75, or even .7." Ziggy smirked.

Face just stared.

"OK, OK!" Ziggy relented, his hands up in submission. "Walk this way!"

* * *

The area that Ziggy had led them to was at the rear of his lab. A large portion of the wall was taken up by what Face instantly recognised as a sheet of Class II SoroSuub Phantasm Stealth Plating, the armour which surrounded the Sacul. "Ziggy, we already have this.

"I know, Face I helped put together the Sacul, I know what goes into her! The Class III is actually out soon, but initial tests are disappointing. Not every new model is better, which is a shame really..." Ziggy tailed off his internal musings, at Face's stare. "OK, OK.. Let me get to the point. Literally."

Waving his arm dramatically, Ziggy pointed a small remote control at the sheet of metal. From all four corners, a slight stalk protruded from above the armour, as soon as the heads had cleared from the armour, they split like a opening flower, the 'petals' blooming to a circle almost 50 centimetres wide. Then, once all four flowers had 'bloomed', they shuddered minutely, then from the centre of the stalk, darkness began to grow. In less than two seconds, the entire sheet of armour had vanished, and in it's place was a four meter square of absolute blackness.

The assembled pilots stared in disbeleif. "Is it a cloak?" Elassar asked, his gaze shifting over the spectacle, searching for a clue.

Dru answered first. "No. It can't be. If it were a cloak, we'd see through it. No... this is something else." The ever inquisitive engineer whipped out his datapad with built in sensor unit and scanned the apparition. "Nothing. No sensor scans can get through, it's as though the blackness is absorbing everything, from visible light to sensor waves."

"Not quite everything." Ziggy shrugged. "Comm waves will still go through, as will old fashioned radio waves. But your Phantasm plating will absorb those." He smiled. "It's based on the Nightcloak weapon that Zsinj employed a few years back. People have been trying to shrink it for a while now." His smile broadened. "I succeeded."

Face turned his head from the apparition in front of him, to state at Ziggy. "Are you telling me, that this thing will make the Sacul appear to be nothing more than blackness?"

"Yup. She can still be detected, as any thing that's behind her, whether it's stars, or another ship, as they'll have a black shape moving across them... but it sure as hell makes her a sithload more stealthy!" Ziggy's smile increased. "Have I earned my Lifeday bonus?"

"Oh yes." Face turned once more to stare at the new toy. "What's it called?"

"I've been calling it the Nightshroud."

"How long to fit it?"

"Well, I've made it slot into the same space and power grid as the Sacul's shield systems, since there is obviously no point powering both at once. If you give the go ahead, I can get the droids to start fitting it now. The Sacul is berthed in the usual confidential mooring?"

Face smiled. "The word is given."

* * *

[1158 Hours, Galactic Standard Time]

"This is going to delay my installation, isn't it?" The voice was Face's, and was the only indication of his presence. Not fifteen minutes had passed since Ziggy's droids started work fitting Sacul with the Nightshroud, when the whole of Ziggy's lab went dark. At the same time, the room shifted. Not amazingly, but enough for the artificial gravity to kick in slightly before the movement was hidden once more.

"Very unlikely," Ziggy muttered distractedly as his fingers danced across his datapad, "the droids are wholly independent of station power. Losing both power and data to central administration, though, that's concerning enough for me."

As he finished, a strong humm started in a corner, followed closely by the lighting surging back to its previous strength. "Luckily, I've got my own power, for a good couple of years. I'd just as soon -- "

"Face, General Horn!" Ailie Datul interrupted, her gaze fixated on the small comm sniffer in her hands. "Wait, it's gone. For a second, I had an emergency beacon from the station, but it just stopped and gave the all clear."

The room's attention immediately shifted, with Ailie as its new centre.

"What else, Ailie?" General Horn prompted.

"Hang on, there's just... nothing. No comm traffic out of the station at all. Wait, that's odd. Oh!"

"'Oh'?" Face demanded, "What's going on?"

"Well, I'm not familiar with the encryption, but this is an Imperial transmission, no mistake about it. I'm capturing it."

"Put it on our datapads, if you can." General Horn commanded, booting up his own datapad and prepping it. "Let's figure out what we're dealing with, people."

Silence hung over the room as the pilots looked over the datastream Ailie had intercepted, those without datapads looking over the shoulders of those who did. "Can someone tell me what we're looking at?" Face enquired, his polite tone hiding his technical frustration perfectly.

"Sorry Face..." Dru clicked a couple of options on the side of his pad, before nodding. "I think this is COMPNOR," he stated a handful of seconds later, "I haven't dealt with them in years, but I'll stake my reputation on it. Standby... Yes. They're using a new key, but it's a very similar crypto."

"Who's COMPNOR?" Drake enquired.

"They're a political cult, essentially," Theran offered, "In the simplest of terms, they believe the Emperor was right, and seek to return his values to the galaxy."

Piggy took a step closer to Dru. "Let me see your crypto." Dru did. "Hmm. Yes, simple." The Gammorean tapped a handful of keystrokes into Dru's datapad with a flourish -- an odd sight, from a Gammorean -- and took a step back.

"'Dear Blackbird,'" Ailie read from her datapad as Piggy's key translated the message, "'Our result should be ready by this time tomorrow. Settled in here, but still getting used to the locals. We'll be here until we have to leave. Kindest regards, Peregrine.' What does that mean? Result?"

"I don't know..." Face glanced around, his mind flashing at lightspeed trying to work out what was going on. A cold feeling of dread washed over him. "Ziggy, can you work out what went wrong with the grav back then?"

The engineer blinked slowly a couple of times. "Yeah, I think so..."

"Dru, Piggy, help him out. I've got a bad feeling about this."

As the two technical genius' of the squadrons began to access various logs, Corran turned to look at the Colonel. "Face?"

"General, it's like this. We have COMPNOR on the station, we're cut off from the rest of the galaxy, the Sacul can't respond to our hails, as she's been powered down for the upgrade, and something just happened to the gravity." Face clenched his jaw a few times. "Something big is happening."

It was almost four minutes of complete silence as the Rogue and Wraith worked on Ziggy's console interface. "Colonel, I have it." It was Dru, the rare use of Face's rank showing the true seriousness of the situation. "Before I go any further, you need to know that they've just locked us out. We managed to close the connection before they could trace it, but now someone knows that someone is here."

"That was always a risk. What's the news?" Face conceded.

"The station's trajectory has changed. It's now in a degrading orbit around Keshoc. According to Piggy's calculations, which I agree with, we'll pass the point of no return in exactly 24 hours on my mark.... Mark."

Instinctively, Face checked his chrono. Piggy had somehow managed to access the software, and had set a countdown timer running. He glanced at the other pilots and could tell they had the same deadline.

"Let me get this straight..." Tyria spoke up, her voice determined enough to hide the fear. "In 24 hours, this station is going to crash into the planet below. We can't call out, because they're blocking all transmissions and there's still an unknown number of Imperial Agents on this station, presumably armed to the teeth, and will remain here to ensure that nothing goes wrong?"

"That about sums it up." Corran nodded grimly.

"And all we have are the weapons we're carrying, whatever toys Mr Ziggy can give us, and our trenchant wit and good looks." Kai summed up, hefting a particularly nasty looking blaster rifle which she had somehow managed to procure.

Face nodded. "Let's go to work."


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