The First One Through takes the First Hit...
Disclaimer in First Chapter...The First One Through takes the First Hit...At Least In the Movies...Overbridge, Vigilant Watcher
“Excellent, Dawn,” smiled Xander. “Warren and his team should begin cutting into their hull and boarding just after the target vessel’s main power goes offline. Keep tracking them, kiddo.”
“Will do.” Dawn’s smile was as bright as the redness of her hair.
Dawn had always had a crush on Xander Harris. To her older sister’s eternal dismay, she had been fond of referring to herself as “Mrs. Dawn Harris”. Her diary entries were replete with colorful and descriptive language, to the point of being almost graphic, detailing how she intended one day to lose her virginity to him, and Dawn had carefully and closely guarded that particular secret, sequestered in the back of her diary and kept under lock and key. It would be to her eternal shame if that were ever to become common knowledge in the Summers household; Dawn would never live it down.
The events of Halloween had only intensified those feelings. She knew from Natasi’s memories that the Imperial Admiral was in love with the Grand Moff in command of the Death Star, and that they had planned a secret honeymoon together after the Rebellion had been crushed. Now they would never know what had happened to the Empire’s greatest threat since the Clone Wars, but Daala’s feelings for Tarkin had intensified her own feelings for Xander, who had masqueraded as the Imperial sector governor. Perhaps now that love could be returned at last, even though that part of her that called itself Dawn Summers quivered in both disgust at still being a preteen whereas Xander was sixteen years old, and already a man in her view, and at a small measure of lust at wanting him more desperately than ever before.
She looked now at the man sitting in the command chair here on the Overbridge of the Death Star (Dawn still marveled at the idea of actually being on board the dreaded planet killer, even as Xander, her lover at least in her own mind, swore to never use the battle station in such a capacity and had renamed it in that spirit), and her heart lept at just seeing him. Just to watch him, and to listen to him…
A tone chimed from her console, returning her from warm, sexual distraction to cold, brutal reality. She looked down and dreaded for the assault team; a group of Death Gliders was changing course to intercept the shuttle, to blow it out of the stars.
“Buffy? Death Gliders on an intercept course for the shuttle!”
Her sister looked up with some semblance of alarm, then began to input commands into her console. “On it, Dawnie; retasking fighters to fly escort for the shuttle. Engaging Death Gliders now…”Shuttle 2432, on approach to Goa’uld vessel, four hundred fifty kilometers from target
“We got bad guys; Jono, Ethan, man the turrets!”
The two men in question ran to the stern of the shuttle and quickly climbed up into and brought the aft-facing laser cannons online, as Warren fought to steady the Imperial craft on its course. The intensified barrage of ion discharges and plasma bolts back and forth between the Death Star and the Goa’uld ships had caused local space to fill with charged particle scatter. Whatever the shuttle plowed through in its path had either bounced off the deflector shields or adhered magnetically to the hull sternward, causing ionization of the surface material, the effect of which was to bounce the shuttle around as though it were flying through atmospheric turbulence.
“Can you keep it steady, Warren? I can’t get a solid lock on my target!” Jonathan called from the rear of the craft.
Warren shook his head as he had expected flying through space to be as smooth as satin. Apparently he hadn’t thought the matter through so much as that; Imperial Stormtroopers weren’t paid to be accomplished pilots as their bloody work was on the surface of planets. Thusly, Warren was frustrated.
“Andrew, get up here and lend me a hand, we got some serious chop to fly through here!” he called back, and the third member of the Trio scrambled up to the cockpit and took the seat that Ethan had vacated in his haste to man one of the two cannons. He looked at the control board and saw something that gave him pause, but only because he was elated; they had help.
“Picking up TIE drones on approach vector; they’re engaging hostile craft ahead of us,” Andrew replied, grasping the control yoke on his side and immediately feeling the resistance of the shuttle to the debris throughout the space in their flight path. He grunted with exertion as he and Warren together fought to keep the ship flying straight and level to their objective.
“How far out is it now?” called out Ethan from his turret.
“Four hundred klicks, Rayne. Keep those bastards off of us!” retorted Warren.
“I’m finding that rather difficult now, my good sir, as there are so many more of our drone craft out here than enemy targets; I would not risk hitting one of them if I can manage it…”
“Excuses, Rayne, just line up a shot on anything that doesn’t look like a TIE fighter and kill it!!!” Warren shouted back, irritated now that the chaos mage was actually complaining about avoiding a blue-on-blue incident. Their TIE fighters were flying unmanned; no lives would be lost if an eyeball were to get blown to bits in the increasingly intense furball out here. That wouldn’t change until they started flying the more advanced TIE models on board, and besides, they had a mission to accomplish now
Warren checked out the range to their objective one more time. Three hundred fifty kilometers now…Three twenty-five…Klorel’s Ha’Tak
The lights were flickering now with greater frequency, and the Jaffa on the pel’tak
had begun to worry for their ship. Klorel showed no signs of worry, however; he was too angry, too livid for that.
Not only had the shields begun to fluctuate as they neared the point of imminent collapse, but his loyal Jaffa had begun to show signs of potential disloyalty. They needed an object lesson in the foolishness of defying their god, but it would have to wait until after this battle was over and won. That, however, did not appear to be likely because as soon as his ship had moved to protect his father’s from the battle station’s ion barrage, the offending Tau’ri construct had begun to attack them in earnest. Klorel understood now that they had fallen victim to a cleverly laid trap.
Elsewhere in the ship, Jaffa soldiers that were not immediately tasked to guard the various sections of each deck had been summoned to perform damage control duties. The massive ion discharges against the shields had been strong enough to carry over as the shields’ strength waned to spill over into the rest of the ship’s systems, causing shorts and damage to instruments at various consoles and minor components. Effectively, the Jaffa security force had been whittled down to a mere shadow of its previous self, and any aggressors who managed to find their way aboard would not have such a difficult time in infiltrating the vessel and causing whatever mischief they could. That included any Jaffa with designs on rebellion, as was rumored to be occurring on Chulak and elsewhere.
Certain of those Jaffa loyal to Master Bra’Tac were even now working as unobtrusively as possible to pave the way for a certain shuttlecraft from the gigantic Tau’ri station to secure itself, without detection, to the ship’s hull and insert a boarding party. The shuttle’s progress was being tracked from various sensor stations near the pel’tak
and elsewhere by seditious Jaffa where their work could be concealed from the false god on the command bridge. Others were working to undo the lockdown that sealed them from the bridge, hoping that the result would facilitate their entry and rescue of the Tau’ri inside.
Those Tau’ri in question were now watching the spectacle that was the furious space battle taking place with a mixture of wonder and dread. Any minute now and the shields would go down, and the ship itself would suffer, though it would not be destroyed. Stopping the Goa’uld from attacking Earth was no longer in question, the Death Star was handing them their fundaments, but it still would not amount to much if SG-1 didn’t have a plan to get out of there. Even now each of them was casting around the place, looking for an opportunity to take advantage of the present chaos, looking for something, anything.
The gold-hued walls were covered in inscriptions reminiscent of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs; it was the language he had learned on Abydos, the language they had learned in their turn from Ra. A bit of translation helped him to locate the code panel that locked out the rest of the ship from the pel’tak
. He turned now to Jack now and tugged surrepetitiously on the colonel’s sleeve.
“Jack…” he whispered without turning to meet his gaze.
“Space Monkey?” O’Neill replied similarly. Cluing in the Goa’uld to their little discussion at this time would not have been wise, and so O’Neill wisely kept his gaze leveled at the viewscreen as he responded.
“Right side of the door, a foot and a half from the edge and about four feet up. A group of inscriptions that resemble numbers in Ancient Egyptian. Hard to spot unless you know what you’re looking for, and it’s camouflaged to appear indisctinct from the rest of the inscriptions on the wall. If I can create a diversion, can you short it out with a burst from one of those zat guns?”
Jack did his best not to roll his eyes, not only to indicate in any way that a conversation was being held without the Goa’uld’s knowledge, but also for the second most obvious reason; the archaeologist was brilliant, but he was clearly not a sci-fi buff, for which this particular situation called.
“Dr. Jackson,” he whispered, using the honorific to make his point, “if that fight out there keeps going like those of us in the know expect, then in a few short minutes these snakeheads are going to have enough to worry about without us
trying to throw a monkey wrench into the works…no offense, buddy.”
Realization suddenly dawned in Daniel’s eyes. “Oh…Teal’c did say that those ion blasts from the Death Star would bring down the shileds and drain this ship’s power supply. No problem then… and no offense taken. We’ll just wait then….”
And wait he did, listening all the while to the various reports the Jaffa made to Klorel. The last thing he heard was the shield strength dropping now to less than ten percent. The minutes would prove short indeed.Vigilant Watcher, Overbridge
The count stood now at nearly three hundred Death Gliders and pilots captured. It was a shame there weren’t more, but the Ha’tak
out there was making short work of its own remaining fighters. Still, Xander had the beginnings of a crew for the Watcher
as well as a space defense force to supplement the TIE drones. Perhaps when the time came, and he could secure their loyalty, they could be trained on the basic TIE craft, as well as the advanced models that he had known were in the planning stages by the time the Death Star, as it was known then, had destroyed Alderaan. A passing thought, but a good one. He would have to remember it later when this fight was over.
Turning now to face the main tactical screen, he called out, “Shield status of enemy vessels?”
Buffy, hearing this, reported back, “Near pyramid ship stands at nine percent shield strength, collapse is imminent, Xander. Far vessel shows thirty percent shields. Intensifying forward ion batteries now; boarding party is two hundred fifty kilometers from the near vessel and closing rapidly.”
“Good looking out, Buffster, but add a turbolaser barrage to your ion attacks for the next thirty seconds; I don’t want that thing trying to blast Warren and his team before they get there, ok?”
Buffy indicated her assent with a simple inclination of her head. “Very good, Xander. I shall now bring the forward turbolasers online in Zone One and assign the near vessel to their targeting computers. Stand by…turbos have begun firing, thirty seconds and counting.”
The man who had for a brief time tonight played host to the spirit and knowledge of a fictional Grand Moff of the Galactic Empire nodded his head in approval. “Very good, Buffy. Keep on it.” Turning now to the Slayer’s younger sister, he ordered, “Dawnie, send a signal to our assault team; tell them to time their approach so that they arrive the moment that thing’s shields go offline. That should give them time to cut through that ship’s hull just as their main power goes kablooey, right?”
“Righto, Xan. Coding your message…sending.” After only a minute of waiting a tone chimed on Giles’ board.
“What’s up G-…uh, Rupert?” Xander corrected himself, earning a glare from the Watcher stationed at Comm-Scan.
“Warren and his team send their compliments and ask you, and I quote, ‘to please let them do our frakking job the way our stormtrooper commando selves were trained to do,’” he replied with a sniff of amusement.
“Well, they are the best at what they do. I'll keep that in mind, Rupert. How far from the lead ship are they now?” queried Xander to Buffy at the Tactical Station.
“One hundred kilometers and closing, Xander; their shields have been taking a couple of hits from those Death Gliders that are hard on their asses. Ninety-five percent, though…looks like their shuttle can take quite a pounding from those plasma cannons…”
“Just what it was designed to do, Buffster. How long till that thing’s shields go down?”
“One minute, give or take.”
Xander’s eyebrows went up at that piece of data. Perhaps it was premature; after all, Warren and his boys hadn’t even boarded yet, let alone found SG-1 and exfilled; but aside from the reception he would have to organize for General Hammond and his bunch down below in Cheyenne Mountain, he would have to prepare a welcome-back party to greet the Trio when they returned to the station with SG-1 in hand.
“Aaaannd….turbolasers have stopped firing,” Buffy now reported, “Goa’uld shields now at four percent…three…shuttle closing to twenty kilometers…fifteen...”Klorel’s Ha’Tak
The bridge lights suddenly went dark. They came back on after what seemed to be only an instant, but in the minds of SG-1, that one instant signaled the death knell of the ship. Jaffa at their various stations panicked and looked at their god for assurance and confidence, and finding none, felt their panic and overall fear increase to levels never known since they were first implanted with their prim’tah
. This had never happened to any vessel in the vast armada of the System Lords; when a Ha’Tak
’s shields went down, it usually signified the ship’s imminent destruction. They did not know how to react in such situations as when a pyramid ship’s power went offline from an enemy attack. And they were certainly unprepared to deal with the Death Star’s incredible power.
And now various systems throughout the Ha’Tak
, a massive vessel in and of itself, were showing up on the bridge as going offline. The first thing to go was the main engines, which caused a shudder throughout the ship and shaking most of the crew off their feet momentarily.
If they could no longer maneuver, then they could no longer protect their sister vessel, which held the god Apophis, leaving both ships now at the tender mercies of the horrifying battle station. In the minds of the false gods and their Jaffa slaves, ‘horrifying’ was indeed an appropriate term to describe their enemy now. When the primary weapons grid went offline, they realized that they could no longer protect their own from capture by the enemy.
For the first time, the mighty warrior Klorel, son of Apophis, considered the very real possibility of defeat at the hands of the Tau’ri….Assault Shuttle 2432, on final approach to enemy vessel…
The TIE drones shadowing their craft had proven a most reliable escort on the final approach to the Ha’Tak
, Warren considered with gratitude to Xander and his crew. And as much as he hated Rayne, he had to consider the fact that none of this would even have been possible if the man had not pulled his infamous Halloween prank. Sweet Jesus, but they were having the time of their lives…
Jonathan had made a good account of himself on one of the gun turrets, having shot down nearly a dozen Death Gliders, his record only being eclipsed by Rayne’s impressive count of twenty-five fighter kills. Who knew the old wizard was such a good shot, especially with an unproven weapon, on an unproven vessel? And for his part, Andrew was proving himself an excellent pilot; Warren had done his part, surely, but in the middle of ionic turbulence Andrew was truly showing his quality. They had ridden through that particular mess looking damned good, and though a few dozen more bandits were hot on their stern, their plasma shots passed by without so much as scorching the paint. They expected to take a few hits, of course; it was an assault craft after all, not a luxury liner, and their purpose was to board the Ha’Tak
which was now less than twenty kilometers off the bow.
“Andrew, bring the tractor beams online,” Warren ordered as they closed on their objective, a point on the pyramid portion of the ship that was situated on the deck just below the command bridge and combat information center. This was necessary as the apex did not provide enough surface area for a solid tractor lock.
“Aye sir, powering up tractor beam system and cofferdam,” Andrew complied, his fingers moving across his console with virtuoso precision. After a moment, a screen display on his panel changed to show that portion of the ship’s hull where they intended to board. Three crosshairs, arrayed in a triangle to make the best use of accuracy and redundancy, should one of the beams happen to fail or otherwise go offline, showed the best points where the autoaiming tractor beam emitters would target the hull and lock on.
Andrew’s brow began to glisten with beaded sweat as he concentrated on guiding the emitters; he didn’t particularly care for the autoaiming system, and preferred to aim it himself. The targeting computer did help a lot, and he followed its suggestions, but there was still something hindering his progress…
“Warren, cut main engines and let’s go in just on maneuvering thrusters; inertia should carry us the rest of the way until we’re in range for a solid lock,” he suggested, tweaking the reaction control system ever so slightly so as to avoid overcorrection…they were still fifteen kilometers out.
Warren nodded his head and complied with what he considered a most sensible decision. “Main engines offline, cutting thruster power to seventy-five percent also…how’s that help?”
The young mage and stormtrooper commando huffed with disbelief. Warren had actually made it easier for his clumsy hands to manage the job of keeping the damned crate on a straight path. “I feel like Scotty backing that inspection pod onto the Enterprise
’s hull. Damn, but that does help, dude…ten kilometers out, we’re now in range, activating tractor beam system. Get that old bastard up here to take the helm, we’ve gotta get ready.”
“That’s for sure…” snarked Warren, “RAYNE!! I hope you figured out how to fly us back, now get your old ass up here and take over. We’ve got a date with some snakeheads…” Pulling his helmet mask over his head, Warren watched as Andrew spooled up the cofferdam. “Hey, Rayne?”
The Chaos Mage stopped briefly to regard his captors-slash-minders-slash-handlers with a condescending eye. “How now may I be of service, my dear boy?”
Warren only smiled as the cofferdam spun up to its full rotational speed, causing the deck on which they were standing above and aftward of it to vibrate terribly. “Brace yourself…”
The shuttle shook with the reverberations of the cofferdam’s contact, setting everyone’s teeth on edge and rocking Rayne neatly off his feet and into the cockpit with an undignified “Whoooooaa-OOF!” Warren regarded the results of Andrew’s handiwork with both eyebrows raised in amusement.
“Nice job, Andrew; let’s go. Hey, Rayne?” he smirked, “since we can’t tap into the Goa’uld ship’s power grid, I’m counting on you to draw off what we’ve got to keep the shields up. Those Death Gliders are still out there looking to blow this ship to scrap. I already told you that you’re our way home, so don’t do anything you’ll regret later, because we certainly won’t…” He didn’t wait for a response as he donned his helmet mask and sealed it to the rest of the underlying bodysuit. Andrew did the same, and they both strode aft to the belowdecks access ramp, where Jonathan was already waiting with their gear, fully encased in his helmet mask and armor.
“Alright, guys, are we doing this or what? Cuz I don’t wanna be the first to go through the hole; first through always takes the first hit and gets killed!”
“We all watched Star Wars
a thousand times, we all know this. Guess what? That was a movie!” Jonathan pointed out. He took pride in being the most level-headed member of the Trio, and the others knew it. “Those guys were just cannon fodder; we’re the real deal. The ones whose memories we absorbed were a lot better trained in shipboarding tactics than what we’re used to watching.”
“That’s right, guys,” said Warren. “We’re not the run of the mill guys in white armor, we’re kriffing Stormtrooper commandos! And I’ll let you guys in on a little secret…”
“What’s that, O Great One?” qipped Andrew with a look that bordered between sarcasm and adoration.
“The bad guys don’t know who or what we are. We’ll be taking them totally by surprise!”
“Piece of cake!” said Andrew with a shrug of his shoulders, after a moment’s contemplation and subsequent realization. Jonathan followed suit with his own words.
“Yeah, it is gonna be a piece of cake…or a handful of gagh
” was his reply to Warren, who looked at Jono askance.
“bIjatlh ’e’ yImev!”* he commanded the smaller-statured stormtrooper in Klingon. They hadn’t yet allowed him to live it down the one day he tried to eat live earthworms as a dare, pretending they were the Klingon national snack. “Let’s go…”
*"Shut Up!" in Klingon - Thank you Mark Okrand!