Cole ran for the cockpit, leaping into the pilot chair and desperately trying to get the Borrowed Time up and running even as Bas did the same in the engine room. Nak dropped into the dorsal turret and strapped in, swinging the blaster cannons towards the blown-open hangar doors. Verjylla was on the ship’s comm, reporting what was going on as Bee’f left her in a dash for the boarding ramp. The Wookiee and Shikte rushed into the hangar bay at the head of two squads of Alliance infantry trainees, while in the base’s armory Caleb hurried to don his new armor. In Bolthole Station’s command center, Patience was trying to figure out exactly what was going on, but at least part of it became clear as a full platoon of Stormtroopers – 60 strong – charged through the hangar doors with blaster rifles blazing.
Having successfully engaged more of the Empire’s Inquisitors, managing to kill the Mandalorian Inquisitor Skirata and rescuing a young Force-sensitive Mirialan and her parents in the process, the Borrowed Time crew made a call to Alliance High Command once they were clear of The Wheel. Now that they had non-combatant passengers they wanted to check in. High Command congratulated them on their success, and agreed that the rescue changed things. Lacking an immediate solution, High Command ordered the Borrowed Time to head for the planet Dahvil, off the beaten path of the hyperlanes and home to a secret Rebel installation. The crew were going to get a chance to rest while they waited for further instructions.
In one of the vast hangar bays of the space station known as The Wheel a grate covering a ventilation shaft shuddered once, twice, and then fell to the deck unnoticed among the bay’s hustle and bustle. A moment later a particularly dusty Bothan slid out before reaching back in and hauling his gear out; as promised, Bee’f had managed to slip free from the Customs officials and made his own way to the station. Sure enough the Borrowed Time was right there, but she was locked up tight. Clearly the others had gone ahead. Bee’f pulled out a comlink and tried to get in touch, but the immediate response was a lot of yelling about lightsabers, Mandalorians, and security forces.
Several days after the near-destruction or capture of the Shadow Raptor and the destruction of the ISD Iceheart, the crew of the Borrowed Time joined General Cracken and much of the Raptor’screw for a funeral service in the forward hangar bay of the frigate. Crewmen killed in the fighting, either by droids or by ion fire from the Iceheart, Intelligence operatives who’d fallen retaking the ship, a pair of Y-Wing pilots who’d been shot down, and an Intelligence Major who had died rather than unlock the datacore, were laid out in coffins. The ship’s cook, an Ithorian, was the closest they had to a spiritual figure, and gave a short speech about consigning their comrades and friends to the cosmos and the cycle of life. Cracken himself then spoke of how their sacrifice would not be in vain, before the coffins were launched towards a star. The crew were dismissed, but the Borrowed Time rebels were quickly pulled aside for a new briefing. It was time to go back to work.
For the second time in a week the Borrowed Time dropped out of hyperspace for a rendezvous with the Alliance Intelligence frigate Shadow Raptor. Cole had, of course, piloted the vessel on its short trip to transport the Antarian Rangers and drop off the stolen TIE Phantoms. Nak and Shikte had been sent along to act as gunners, and Patience had come along for the ride as the liaison with the Rangers themselves. For once a trip had gone off without a hitch, and the Borrowed Time crew were eager to re-unite with the rest of their number. They initially had some trouble spotting the Raptor: like last time the ship’s dark coloration and limited running lights made it difficult to spot. Eventually, however, Cole picked it out of the void and immediately asked over the ship’s comms why it might be tumbling end over end towards the event horizon of a black hole.
In the darkness of the space between systems, the YT-2400 freighter named the Borrowed Time and three TIE/ph Phantoms dropped out of hyperspace for a scheduled rendezvous. For a moment the pilots thought they had missed their window, until they spotted a Nebulon-B frigate cruising along ahead of them. Painted matte black, with only a few of its running lights on to simulate distant stars, the Shadow Raptor quickly transmitted a challenge for identification, which Cole answered with the codes given to the crew before their departure to Toprawa. The local headquarters-on-the-go for Alliance Intelligence along the Hydian Way, the Raptorhad been where the crew had received their mission briefing from General Cracken. Now it was time for a triumphant return, a debriefing, and hopefully some downtime before their next mission.
Atop a TIE fighter factory on the planet of Toprawa, a black-armored figure stared up at the sky. Far above, the smoke from an exploding Sentinel-class ship hung in the air like a cloud, even as debris rained down and TIEs circled around in confusion. “He got out. Look for the shimmer of his cloak. It’ll make things easier if we catch him alone.” Behind the Mandalorian Duron Skirata four scout troopers nodded, spreading out. Down in the factory itself an Imperial officer and his two squads of stormtroopers were faced with a group of ‘stormtroopers’, rebels, and Rangers who were clearly infiltrating the factory. His biggest concern, however, was that a Bothan had started smiling at him.
An Imperial mining and processing facility burns in the background as Toprawans scatter about, some heading for the ruins of their former cities and some following Jilam’s pleas to head for the mountains, there to be found by the Antarian Rangers and led to caches of weapons and food. Still visible in the distance, the facility’s garrison slowly retreats, having decided to preserve itself for another day rather than get mauled fighting over a ruin. Amidst all the chaos the Rebels of the Borrowed Time stand over the bodies of Captain Solm and his team of Rangers, with everyone thinking the same thing: what do we do now?
Cole guided the Short Trip through the mists as Shikte compared what little they could see of the terrain against the maps they had been provided. Eventually, the Tusken gestured downward; they were as close to their rendezvous point as they could get without the scanners working. The former smuggler put the craft, laden with the rebels and with various crates taken from the Borrowed Time,down in the first clearing he spotted. The rebels quickly disembarked, spreading out to cover the craft, wary after their clashes with the Imperial Army earlier in the day. Cole, in a rare moment of calm, closed his eyes and tapped into another sense. After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and gestured to the others; they weren’t alone in the mists.
Five Days Earlier . . .
In a small briefing room, likely onboard a ship by looking at the construction of the walls, four very different beings wait to see what fate has in store for them. A Sluissi, Chadra-Fan, and Tusken in the uniform of Alliance Infantry wait more or less patiently, while the two Bothans seem much more agitated. For some, this is merely a (somewhat mysterious) reassignment. For others, they have little idea of what they have been pulled into. At about the time even some of the uniformed beings begin to get anxious, the only door into the room hissed open, and a middle-aged human walked in.
“My name is General Airen Cracken, head of Alliance Intelligence. I’m going to be briefing you. Welcome to Special Operations.”