All hell is breaking loose in the upper chamber. A laser cannon decorates the panelling behind us with a deadly pattern. We stay low, crouched behind the piles of netting, letting the bundles of trooper armour absorb the impact as they were designed to do. The attacking scavengers loose off another few rounds with their blasters.
We’re trapped down here. It took us weeks to mine the oppressive weight of sand, rock and metal and enter this section of the Ravager. Nobody had ever thought to dig this far, to ignore the ransacked hull protruding from the surface and tap the rich and untouched resources below. Well that was my plan, and it worked, to a point.
These scavengers must have taken out Jenk’s half assed guards and used our ropes to abseil down here, the same lines we’ve been using to haul up the sledges of salvaged weapons, armour and savaged droids. Jenk is holed up near the bottom of the mineshaft, pressed to the wall, tooled up with a pistol, a rifle and a flamethrower.
I shake my head at the kid as he eyeballs Jenk. We still have our weapons; there was no time for them to take my E11 before the crew attacked. Jenk doesn’t care, he is focused on the fight and he has seen me fire a few blasts at them. He knows Case and I can’t go anywhere but back down into the deep.
I roll away, towards the R5 unit. The attackers don’t know that we have located the repair bay. When I plugged the droid into the data port we downloaded every schematic under general classification in the Ravagers’ databank. We know exactly where the bay is, how to get there, and how many ships were trapped there.
Jenk could hardly resist the plan. Why the hell would you throw together a bundle of junk and fly yourself into oblivion when you could jack up a TIE Interceptor? I guessed that at least a few fighters would have been just sitting there 30 years ago when this ship went down, out of service and far from the battle.
‘R5-10-62’ I instruct the droid, ‘bring up the schematic for the repair bay, including the Interceptor, floor projection only.’
The droid beeps and whistles and a green line diagram appears on the dusty floor in the gloom. R5-10-62 has been charged up and is fully functional again. Case crawls over, glancing anxiously at Jenk. The laser cannon tears a hole in the wall to our right. Jenk and his crew fire back. I hear a scream and some shouting.
‘Are we going now?’ asks Case, ‘What about my mother?’
‘No, we wait, but I need to know exactly where this ship is located.’
‘We already know’ says the kid, looking puzzled, ‘in the repair bay.’
‘Listen’ I lower my voice, then raise it again as the blasts resume, ‘we will only get one chance at this, we need to know every inch of that schematic.’ I point out the launch tube, and the position of the Interceptor.
Jenk is calling us and I tell him we are taking cover. He shouts to stay down. I taste acrid smoke and we start coughing. Only Jenk would be stupid enough to use that flamethrower down here. I hear more screaming and the laser cannon falls silent. There are a couple more blasts and then more suffocating smoke.
‘Case’ I look him in the eyes, make sure he is listening, ‘I need you to give me your comm link and take my blaster, fire off a few shots for each of us.’
The kid nods and does what I ask without hesitation. I wait until I am happy that Jenk should think we’re backing him up. Then I take the comm link and snap off the microphone. I take off my gloves and use my fingernail to strip the ends of the exposed wires. I retrieve the booster unit I have hidden in the lining of my flight suit.
It doesn’t take me long to hook up the rig. I put in the ear bud and plug the booster unit into the data port of the droid. It whistles and bleeps at me, as if it expected that I should ask permission. The chamber is now thick with smoke and I doubt Jenk could see me even if he looked right over here.
‘R5-10-62, open a channel to the First Order fleet, route straight to the Finaliser, TIE Command, identification code E1V9R7X6.’
The droid beeps and whirrs and falls silent. I wait. The blasts from the ambush crew are few and far between and I know time is short. There is a crackling in my ear. I hear a scanner and the digital chatter of droid talking to droid as they establish the link. I am sweating. I am choking but too tense to cough.
‘This is the Finaliser, please clarify identification code.’
‘Black Knight Down’ I whisper into the booster, ‘E1V9R7X6.’
‘Please wait’ says the voice, and then ‘code violation.’
‘Black Knight Down’ I repeat, ‘Jakku mission, request pickup.’
‘Negative’ says the voice, ‘all souls accounted for on Jakku mission.’
The mic clicks and cuts out. I clench my fist and smash it into the R5 unit. What the fuck?! The droid whistles and I hit it again. What the fucking fuck?! Case looks back at me and I turn away, head in my hands. All my plans, all my plans and now this; how can they not count me missing, what the hell does that mean?
‘What-’ the kid hesitates, ‘you need to get back up here.’
I stare down at the top of my fist, clenching and unclenching my thumb around my curled forefinger. I am First Order. I slap the top of my fist against my forehead. I am TIE. I am TIE, ‘til death. I can feel it, the rage I cannot control, it is here. I power down the R5 unit and calmly pick up my blaster. It’s time.
Next: The Interceptor