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Anari Sato // Alsakan // Barren Apartment


Anari inhaled deeply and breathed out slowly as she lowered her macrobinoculars and closed her eyes. The muffled hums of speeders and shuttles in the distance nearly lulled her to sleep. If it weren’t for two Stormtroopers on a distant adjacent platform turning around and returning inside the station, she might’ve succumbed. Her eyes briefly stung before the relief of moisture dulled the pain, and by the time they reopened she once again peered through the filthy window of her shoddy apartment to witness a new pair of white-clad soldiers fill the gaps. It was monotonous watching these grunts “work”—guarding a landing platform that saw no fresh arrivals in over thirty-six hours, slouched and lackadaisical.

But she could work with that. Imperials lax and unaware, believing themselves far from any danger this deep in the Core Worlds. With Coruscant so near and a mighty fleet looming over their heads, with Alsakan towers and monuments decorated with Imperial banners and imagery, one would find it hard to believe that an uprising was about to take place. Under their noses in the bowels of the ancient city, weeks of preparation were about to culminate into an attack that would knock one of the last few legs the Empire could stand on.

She raised her macrobinoculars high above the landing pad and settled on a wide dish angled towards the traffic-filled sky. A heavy flow of information traveled to and from it, helping keep the Empire’s web of communication far-reaching. The amount of transmissions the Alliance could intercept and make use of was incalculable. By planting a unique spike inside that system, High Command hoped that the wealth of knowledge they could obtain as their fleets pressed the attack into the Core could help force a complete and total surrender. Enemy movements could be tracked. False “all clear” signals could be sent to outlying fleets. And best of all, the many worlds still under the grip of Imperial rule would know that the war would soon be over, and the galaxy would know freedom once again.

Lowering her equipment, Anari glanced beneath her to eye a small metallic cup sitting beside her on the windowsill. She took it in hand and brought it to her lips, drinking away the last of the cold and bitter-tasting caf that remained inside. As she set it back down, a gentle chime rang in the darkness behind her.

She spun sharply towards it, her tired eyes struggling to adjust inside the darkened apartment. A hand shot to her left hip and gripped the handle of her scattergun. For the briefest moment she was more alert than she’d been for over a day, her body pumping with a sorely needed rush of adrenaline.

Then, she returned to her senses. She remembered that this rundown apartment without furnishing and any homeliness, with one untouched cot nestled in the corner and a busted light dangling above her, had one unique feature planted in the center of the room: a holoprojector.

It quietly buzzed with power; a blue light was cast from its center and from it the image of a Human male emerged. He wore his rank well on his chest, the color and pattern of General stood out even in holo form. Elik Weinost was a hard and calculating man, the same as the rest of his peers in the Alliance hierarchy. If it weren’t for his dark hair starting to whiten, one might think he was still in his prime. He was built strong with broad shoulders and a buff chest which was joined by an uncharacteristically wide smile.

“Agent Sato,” he started, sounding unusually enthusiastic. Unlike him. “How’s the Alsakan air this evening? It is evening there, isn’t it?”

Anari hesitated in answering. She glanced around the room, taking advantage of the sudden lightning to examine each corner. Nothing around. Not another soul.

“Wouldn’t know… I haven’t gone outside.” She replied in a tired tone, taking one last once-over of the room before allowing her blood to cool. Her hand withdrew from the grip of her scattergun, but she double-checked to make certain her sniper-configured blaster was resting against the wall beside her. As usual, it was. “I don’t have an update to give you.”

“But I do.”

“The fleets are finally in position then?” Anari asked, feigning what little enthusiasm she could muster—and it wasn’t much. “I’ve been waiting for over a week, and I’d like to get started.”

“Your objective hasn’t changed, but the methods you’ll use to get inside has. Furthermore… you’ll be receiving backup in a few hours to see this through.”

An uncomfortable silence followed, both expecting the other to continue the conversation. Elik knew her feelings about accepting aid she didn’t want nor need. It was one thing to be dispatched immediately and know who you’d be dealing with, and another entirely to have it sprung on you after a week’s worth of scouting, watching, and planning all on your own.

She broke the silence. “I clocked every TIE fighter patrol making a pass over that relay. I estimate the exact amount of time I need to reach that platform and get inside undetected. I sat here, I watched, and I waited, for days at a time…” Her voice was calm, but the fire in her eyes betrayed it. “All of it, only for you to tell me you’ve changed your mind and that I need someone to help me do my job?”

“The circumstances have forced undesirable transfers and updated mission parameters for everyone, Anari, not just yourself,” Elik said. “Colonel Trelleck has started to become anxious. Despite my greatest attempts to placate him, he will no longer update us on Moff Gyllard’s movements in the Alsaka Sector. He’s willing to risk his position entirely, but only if a full team is sent in to retrieve him and get him to Chandrila. One operative isn’t enough—and believe me, I talked you up.”

“Undesirable transfers”. “Updated mission parameters”. The Alliance had twenty-four hours in a day—more or less, depending on where they were situated—to plan the push for Coruscant. It was one thing if a fleet needed reinforcing, but it was another to make a solo act a duo or more. She didn’t want to waste her strength arguing the point. If Colonel Telleck wanted a larger safety net, so be it.

“Fine,” Anari muttered through her clenched jaw before turning her back on Elik. She closed the window’s blinds, leaving only the projection to cast light on her lithe figure. “What team have you sent?”

“The Diplomatic Advanced Reconnaissance Team, otherwise known as DART. It’s being led by a Captain Dev Arx, a man of action with the occasional habit of challenging his superior officers. He’s battle-tested and gets results wherever he goes. You’d like him.”

“You said diplomatic?” Anari repeated, skeptical.

“Yes. DART is typically an information-gathering unit; if the New Republic has interests in people, planets, or sectors, they’re one of the best to send in. They’re a capable group of individuals who can fill many different roles if need be. They’re also able to adapt to new and unforeseen circumstances, like this one.”

Her steely eyes returned to Elik’s figure, with her body following. “If this is the condition to get me inside, then so be it. I just don’t want them in the way.”

“Well, Dev is a Captain, so—”

“I don’t care, Weinost, and you know that.” Her disdain for pulling rank was well known. She respected those both capable and cunning, people who could keep a level head in a fight. Dev Arx’s title of Captain was meaningless. He’d prove himself during the operation, and she’d see the type of man he was for herself. “The “updated mission parameters” you mentioned… what’s changing for me?”

Elik’s jaw tensed as he gave her a tight smile, choosing not to let her infamous disregard for her superiors stop him from delving out critical information. Dev had a reputation, too. Maybe putting these two together was a bigger mistake than he realized, but it was too late to cancel DART’s orders.

“Instead of a flyby over the landing pad, Colonel Telleck has insisted that the new plan be entering from the bottom-most entrance of the building. It’s normally under heavy guard—just as you mentioned days prior—so he’s decided to feign orders from Moff Gyllard to fan out and search for insurgents reportedly seen in the area. The sentries will scatter and him with them, and he will use the distraction to meet both you and Cap—… with Dev at the coordinates I’m sending to you now.”

Elik turned and gestured to someone out of view. A notification sounded on her vambrace’s interface, which she examined in silence. Taking those coordinates and combining them with the carefully mapped out terrain above and beneath her, the location for the meeting point was near a shanty town in the poorer part of Alsakan's underworld. It was also conveniently located just a couple miles out from the nearest spaceport.

“You recognize it?” the General asked, eyeing her. “I can never tell what you’re thinking when you go quiet on me.”

“I know the place,” she confirmed, closing the coordinates and letting the projection fade away. “How does his extraction guarantee my entry?” Anari reached for her sniper-configured rifle and knelt down to retrieve a satchel containing its attachments; even with very little lighting, she was able to carefully disassemble the parts and create the pistol configuration, then stowed the parts inside the satchel. “He never gave you the layout inside. He’s holding out.”

“The Colonel claimed the layout was far from complex. He gave no other hint except one: a keycard is required to access the primary console and listening station. Should the mission go south, it can also be used to open the station’s power generator and disable it entirely. He'll provide it when you rendezvous with him.”

“That still doesn’t tell us where to find it,” she pointed out. “The guards go missing and we take the elevator up. What about the men inside to receive and send the signals?”

“An evacuation drill—again claimed to be Moff Gyllard’s orders. The personnel responsible for handling that information will evacuate from the building via a Lambda Shuttle and take off for the nearest planetary garrison. Fortunately for us, it’s far, far away. He guessed you’d have ten minutes or so to enter inside and take control of the relay.”

“He guessed.” She repeated the words, lightly shaking her head. “I prefer facts. What about remaining security inside?”

“Unknown.”

That brought her attention from the weapon in hand straight to Elik. The pistol slid into the holster against her right thigh, and the satchel containing her attachments was brought around her neck and underneath her right arm.

“Do I have to say it?” she asked.

“It’s sketchy. It’s flimsy. It’s treacherous.” Elik agreed, nodding his head with every term. He couldn’t shake the same feeling she did, but refusal meant the Colonel would sound the alarm, thus giving Coruscant time to send additional reinforcements, or simply reinforce what defenses they already possessed. “Treason is death, and once he goes through with his plan of action there won’t be any going back for him. Should we burn him on the extraction with DART, he’ll leave enough unknown variables to risk mission failure. Until he’s safe, he refuses to tell us anything more. Our hands are tied.”

Anari held her stare on Elik for a moment more before resuming her gathering of equipment. She left his view and vanished into the dark, and when she reemerged, she sported a belt containing three grenades across her waist. Under her left arm was a tattered brown cloak with frayed edges and more holes than he’d care to count. With it, she’d be able to blend in in the city slums. There was nothing rich about Alsakan beneath its towers. The underbelly of the world was every bit as cutthroat and dangerous as Coruscant’s.

“DART will be receiving access codes given to us by the Colonel and land at the nearest spaceport. Imperial Customs will be expecting a ship matching the description of their vessel, which he will claim is carrying a rare Alderaanian Wine cache he purchased from a third party to be presented to Moff Gyllard. Customs is ordered to leave them be as he wishes to make the shipment a surprise upon the Moff’s inspection.” Elik hesitated to continue once he noticed Anari’s eyes closed for an unusually long amount of time. “Did you get all that?”

“DART arrives in the system, receives coordinates from you provided by the Colonel, and enters orbit likely escorted by TIE fighters. The Colonel is notified that his shipment of Alderaanian Wine arrives by the spaceport authorities. He then fabricates an order received by Moff Gyllard, the man in charge of their fleet in orbit. He takes a detachment of soldiers, travels down the elevator to the underbelly of the relay tower, then orders every sentry to fan out in search of reported insurgents seen in the area. From there he meets with Dev and myself at the coordinates you’ve just provided to me.”

She opened her eyes and looked at him as though she expected to be corrected.

“That’s correct. It’s the best we could do. Between our dwindling timetable to secure that relay and Colonel Trelleck’s increasing paranoia, it’s the only set of steps he was willing to agree to.” Elik shrugged sheepishly. “It’s congested.”

“It’s sketchy, flimsy, and treacherous…” She shook her head. “Updated mission parameters I'd rather do without.”

“You’re telling me,” Elik agreed, pinching his nose and exhaling from his mouth. “There’s one other thing I forgot to tell you.” He stood straighter and looked over his shoulders, making certain unwanted ears weren’t sat among him. Once satisfied with his environment, he stepped closer to the audio transmitter. The projected image of him expanded. “This man was once one of General Madine’s subordinates—A Storm Commando. He carried out assignments that would make your stomach turn. Now, General Madine believes in second chances. But General Madine saw the kind of man he was and walked away before it was safe. Colonel Trelleck didn’t.”

Anari read between the lines. It was risky for General Weinost to insinuate going against another General’s expressed wishes, but Alliance Intelligence had always operated differently. People like Mon Mothma believed in second chances and redemption, that people had it in them to change if shown the error of their ways. But redemption—the opportunity to change—was a privilege they reserved for a select few.

Colonel Trelleck wasn't worthy. To her, no Imperial was.

“Accidents happen, as you and I both know.” Elik stepped away; his image reduced in size. “Expect DART to arrive in the next few hours. Admiral Ackbar’s fleet will be jumping to lightspeed shortly after they report their arrival.”

Anari nodded curtly. General Weinost’s image vanished and the transmission ended, leaving her to her thoughts. She leaned against the wall beside the window and shut her eyes, listening to the hum of speeders and shuttles outside. Sleep took hold in minutes.
Nareia Norre & Trask Vothoni // Bridge of the Relentless Endeavor...

collab w/ @Sep

~-~-~-~-~-~


Trask turned around as the holographic images of the various ships captains disappeared. He smiled at the various pilots from Gold and Rogue Squadrons. He beckoned them forward. “Welcome aboard the Relentless Endeavour. It’s always a pleasure to host two of the most famous Squadrons from the Rebellion. Apologies for not greeting you in person, we’re in the middle of planning an invasion.” He offered them a smile as he beckoned them around the holotable, turning to Chief Naalwex as he did so. “You can return to your post chief.” The Mon Cala went to walk away, before looking back at the pilots he had escorted here. “They’re going to be assigned here until we have Coruscant, you can get your signature later.” The Mon Calas cheeks went flushed as he rushed out of the room back towards his post.

“You’ll have to excuse him, many of us here fought the Empire hearing stories of both your squadrons. I’m sure you’re used to the fans, it’s why I set you up in the hangar with just you guys and my CAGs squadron so you can have some peace. I’ll have someone show you to your quarters once we’re done here.” He typed in a couple of keys on the table before him, a hologram of the planet Utrost. An image of the fleet appearing in the system in position to attack the Imperial Fleet. “The 62nd will push in above the main Imperial Centre of the planet, taking the brunt of fire. Rogue, Gold and Wolf Squadrons will come in from the other side of the planet escorting the ground forces. Cover them going in, once the LZ is secured Gold and Rogue squadron will push up behind the Imperial force, disabling the Imperial Command ship.” The hologram changed to that of an Imperial vessel.

“Scouting has reported that based on their formations, transport and communication logs that this Secutor Class Star Destroyer is the flagship. She’ll be sat further back, long range is her ally. I’ll give you a full dossier on what we know if its schematics for you to go over. Any questions?”

Marvo stepped forward and nodded towards the holographic vessel. “Disable can mean different things when you need something from Gold Squadron, Admiral.” He smiled at the Bothan and overheard a few in his squadron snickering to themselves. “The question is, what exactly do you prefer we do with this Star Destroyer once we’re behind it? With that strategy it would be easy for us to blow the engines, bomb their bridge to smithereens, or simply unload enough ion torpedoes to send that ship crashing onto the planet’s surface on its own. I just need you to be specific.”

“One moment, please. Before you answer that…” Nareia stepped forward and joined beside Marvo who gave her a curious sideways glance. Unlike her companion, she wasn’t smiling. “We can get your forces down there and clear a path. And Commander Rikks’ confidence speaks for itself…” She glanced towards the man in question and offered him a nod of approval, which he returned, before continuing. “But I’d like to know what we’re to expect when helping secure that landing zone. Did your scouts manage to find out what’s waiting for our forces down there, and if there’s anything we might be able to do before moving on that Destroyer?”

Trask nodded along to both questions. “I’ll get back to you after, Commander Rikks.” He turned back to Nareia as he keyed a couple of commands back into the table. “The LZ is an abandoned Republic Facility. Reports indicate it has a very small Imperial Presence after a local rebel cell tried to set up camp inside it. I need you-” He nodded at Nareia “-to push in slightly ahead of the ships and strafe the facility. It may be shielded, and if so I need Gold Squadron to knock down the shields.”

Trask keyed in a second series of commands, showing the line between the old Republic Facility and the main city. Several spots on the map were highlighted. “From what we know along this approach there are various Turbolaser Tower encampments, hit them on the way to the city clearing the path for ground forces who can then advance on the city. After that path is clear, Wolf Squadron will act as air support while you focus on that destroyer. Once the destroyers dealt with it should be the simple job of cleanup, other than the flagship we’re only facing two destroyers and their escorts.”

Turning his back towards Marvo. “If you can take it out reliably, it’d be a great addition to our growing Navy allowing me to send in the marines. You’re an experienced Squadron Commander, if you use Ion Torpedoes but it looks like that ship is going to kick us in the teeth again I want you to remove from orbit, understood?”

“Understood, sir.” Marvo acknowledged his freedom of choice with a curt nod. “You can expect us to try and put an end to the fleet battle before it’s truly begun. We’ll look to force a surrender. If they leave us no choice, it goes down.”

“And destroying turbolaser towers are one of Rogue Squadron’s many specialties,” Nareia continued from where Marvo left off. That was putting it lightly, but she didn’t come here to compare feats of skill. Vothani’s achievements were impressive, too, and she had confidence in his strategy as the rest did. “I’m with Commander Rikks; we should look for a surrender at the earliest opportunity. We’re not afraid to do what we have to, but Utrost’s defenses are undoubtedly going to be pale compared to Coruscant. Are you willing to offer them a chance as we push towards the LZ?”

There was mixed reception behind her. The murmurs were relatively low, but if one listened closely, they would hear the word surrender being uttered with skepticism. Some were hopeful, and others were not. Not every member joined to talk peace with these Imperials, not until they were sufficiently beaten down to a pulp first. Some of the men and women had frustration to vent and payback to deliver, if not for them then for those they lost in this fight.

Kyrin and Rayce looked to each other, communicating briefly and quietly. Even among Rogue Squadron the opinion on what to do with the Imperials was mixed.

“Enough.” Marvo grumbled over his shoulder. His men and women fell silent, with the other Rogues joining them. Every eye fell on Trask, awaiting his choice.

Trask nodded along to everything the two squadron commanders said. As the murmur of surrender went up Commander Rikks soon silenced it, before Trask had to do it himself. “Should the Imperial Forces surrender we will treat them fairly-” There was a slight murmur from some of the newcomers “-in doing so we hold to our ideals and show that we will not stoop to their level. The ground troops have their orders from the Colonel, if surrender occurs, disarm and secure. The same goes for our operations in space, if a surrender is called cease fire. If it looks like they’re going to try something, target every weapon system you can find.” He cleared his throat nodding as his XO.

“Back to the task at hand-” The holomap changed slightly as it panned over the surface. “-Scouts have reported sightings of several walkers, AT-DPs, STs and ATs are believed to be active though their exact placement is unknown. It seems the local commander isn’t giving us a chance to pinpoint their position. So I want you all to be careful out there.” The door to the rear of the room opened as Ron Duul entered the room. “We jump to lightspeed at 1100HRS tomorrow, ship time. You’ll have full time to review schematics and plans prior to the assault, we expect to be in system by 1130HRS.” He nodded towards the Duros. “This is Commander Ron Duul, commander of my airwing and Wolf-Leader. He’ll show you to your bunks. Should any of you need me before the OP. I’ll be here.”

“Understood.” Nareia took a couple steps back before turning and maneuvering her way through the parting crowd to greet Wolf Leader personally, with Marvo right beside her. Though the murmurs continued, she noticed the uptick in tension fizzled out. Trask’s conditions were reasonable, enough so that neither Marvo nor herself were likely to hear of any complaints once they left the bridge. “Looking forward to working with you, Commander” she said to the Duros.

“Likewise,” Marvo said. “I don’t believe I’ve ever had the pleasure, Commander Duul. Maybe you’d like to tell us a few stories from your side of this campaign? Once we get settled, of course.”

Commander Duul was more than happy to oblige and talked them up before the elevator doors had closed.
Nareia Norre // Emerging from Hyperspace…


~-~-~-~-~-~


At the edge of the Grizmallt system appeared three X-wings in a V formation followed by a dozen Y-wings close behind them. The squadrons closed in on the 67th Defense Force at cruising speed, with each X-wing pilot taking a close look at what resources they would have to work with. Rogue Squadron being divided into four groups was not ideal, but Wedge insisted on it. The campaign to take Coruscant would push their limits in a way not felt since Endor. What remained of the Empire was on the back foot, and it was their job to keep it that way. Slowly but surely all trace of their reign was coming to an end.

“Not much of a fleet,” muttered Rogue Four—Kyrin Onasi—as they entered better visual range. “More escorts than heavy hitters. How’s a fleet like this challenging anything near the Core?”

“With a good strategy,” Rogue Two—Nareia Norre—replied plainly. The support ships were a great comfort to her. Vice Admiral Vothoni’s reputation for success against poor odds even more so. “The Vice Admiral typically retains and protects the territory we’ve captured, but the push for Coruscant is going to take all the manpower we can spare. That includes putting a defensive fleet on the offensive.”

“Which you’d know if you showed up to briefings on time,” added Rogue Three—Rayce Dallows—with a joking tone. His smile was practically audible. “If you weren’t so good at what you do, Wedge would cut you loose.”

“Doesn’t that go for all of us?”

“The rest of us show up to briefings on time.”

“And I love you guys for it, I really do.”

The banter between wingmen would have carried on for quite some time if the time for action weren’t so near. The fighters and bombers were now on approach for the Reckless Endeavor’s starboard side, carefully maneuvering past a couple CR90 corvettes on their way. Glancing through her portside window, Nareia swore she could see the waving hands of the crewmen. Morale appeared to be high, and if this operation went as smoothly as she expected it to, they would all be celebrating on a liberated Coruscant in no time.

A ping flickered across her ship’s dashboard with an incoming call coming from the Reckless Endeavor. She opened the channel and broadcast the audio to her wingmen. “This is Rogue Two, go ahead,” she said loud and clear, eyeing the Venator’s impressive cannons with a growing grin.

“Hey there. Glad to have a few of the Rogues and Gold Squadron join our humble fleet,” answered a high-spirited masculine voice, who then let out a sharp whistle. “High Command really came through for us. Oh, ah, Deck Chief Naalwex at your service. I was told you’d be arriving shortly. You’ll be clear to dock in our starboard hangar—more than enough room, don’t you worry!”

“Much appreciated, Naalwex. We’re coming in now.” Dialing back her ship’s throttle, the rest of the Rogues and Gold Squadron followed suit.

“I’m on my way to meet you, and I’ll be escorting you to the Vice Admiral personally. The layout of this ship is a little complicated at first—you can thank me later!” The comm channel was closed after one final acknowledgment was received.

The Rogues flew inside the hangar, one after the other, and followed the directions provided by a marshal below. Setting down on their designated spaces, Nareia and the others powered down their ships and descended their ladders to gather in front of them. They watched as Marvo and the other eleven Y-wings eased themselves inside before hearing the brisk steps of a new face approach.

They turned and before them stood a sharply dressed Mon Calamari. A handful of medals dangled from his right breast; upon a closer look, they appeared freshly polished and glinted in the artificial light of the hangar bay. As another Y-wing settled down not far from them, a familiar whistle was uttered between his puckered lips.

“I never get tired of seeing fresh ships and manpower coming in,” Naalwex said excitedly, hardly containing his smile. “We’re close now, I can feel it. Coruscant will be back in the New Republic’s hands soon enough.”

“That’s the idea.” Nareia nodded and offered a warm smile. From the opposite side of the hangar she could see Gold Leader—Marvo Rikks—hustling over to them after providing direction to the men that landed. A handful of his wingmen hustled behind him, just as the last Y-wing powered down. “Enjoy your nap, Marvo?”

“As always,” Marvo replied with a smooth hum in his throat, and then acknowledged Naalwex with a respectful nod. It was immediately returned. “Naalwex, you said your name was?”

“Correct. Deck Chief Doil Naalwex to be exact, and more than happy to guide you all!” Naalwex exaggerated his joy with widespread arms. As the last Y-wing pilot hustled over to join the gathering, he proceeded to back away and nod towards the opened doors leading towards the rest of the ship. “If you’ll just follow me, I’ll guide you all to the bridge. The Vice Admiral has been eager to discuss the specifics of the upcoming assault!”

The trio of Rogues followed, with Marvo and Gold Squadron joining them. “Wedge mentioned a special strategy we’re to be a part of?” Rayce asked, hoping for more. Not even the leader of Rogue Squadron got the full story, but he knew that if anyone could pull it off, it would be a few of his own. “What’s he got planned?”

“And why couldn’t he meet us himself?” Kyrin dared to ask.

Naalwex was unshaken by the boldness of Kyrin’s question. Serving with Trask Vothoni had been one of the greatest honors of his military career. His faith in the man was indomitable. Still, he couldn’t blame one of the newcomers for being a little disappointed. Rogue Squadron was famed for their acts of daring and high mission success rate. They were the closest thing to celebrities some of the men might ever see during their time in service, and that afforded them some privilege. The only thing that might top them would be hosting the Jedi someday, another honor the Mon Calamari hoped to have.

“Forgive him. He’s got quite the mouth,” Nareia apologized, shooting Kyrin a look—he shrugged, thinking his remark harmless. Figures.

“It’s quite alright,” Naalwex replied with a dismissive wave of the hand. “The specifics of the mission are currently being relayed to our fleet as a whole. With part of Rogue Squadron and the full strength of Gold Squadron now in our corner, I believe Ultrost is a guaranteed victory.”

“If Intelligence does their job, you might be right about that,” Marvo said, looking between the back of Naalwex and Nareia’s sideways glance. “Dividing our forces to this extent is risky. We’re counting on a few capable teams to divert reinforcements entirely or prevent them from showing up. But should that fail…”

“We’ll adapt,” Naalwex said confidently. “Have you ever worked alongside the Vice Admiral before, Commander Rikks?”

“I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure just yet,” he replied.

Naalwex chuckled under his breath. “You’re in for quite the treat. Have faith, all of you. You’re in good hands.”

Their curiosity piqued, everyone’s interest in meeting this Vice Admiral surged. Naalwex regarded him with deep respect and infectious confidence. The way he spoke of Vothoni made all of them anxious to see what a defensive fleet commander could do when the time came to take the fight back to the Remnant.

They shuffled as a complete unit and passed by many personnel, both human and alien alike. Some chose to salute as they passed by, but whether it was for Naalwex or the group of pilots close behind him was unknown. They winded around these unfamiliar halls for a time; only Marvo was confident in where they were going, with the rest of the pilots unused to the layout of the Venator.

Once they found the spacious elevator and took it to the bridge, the doors opened to show the Vice Admiral’s back turned to them. Multiple holograms of people decorated in New Republic attire surrounded him.

Naalwex quietly ushered the pilots out of the elevator and hurried to the front of the queue, standing tall and proud. He waited for the Vice Admiral to conclude his briefing, or pause it, before daring to mention that the last of his forces were ready to hear of his grand strategy, too.
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