Chapter 33

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Sergeant Fett followed the beat of the countdown timer: three, two, one. At zero, the charges exploded and an overpressure wave shot out of the drilled tunnel. Simultaneously, Til'trius began transmitting an audio painwave throughout the SKYE compound.

Rodians all throughout SKYE were incapacitated, desperately grasping at their saucers and pointed ears to shut out the hellish sound. Fett thanked his lucky stars that the sound was outside the range of human hearing. As the overpressure wave dissipated, smart smoke grenades launched upwards through the tunnel and began a pre-programmed dispersal pattern.

Every da phelu in the tunnel would come for them soon, but the strike force would no longer be there. Sergeant Chalmers signaled GO and Alpha Team shot upwards. Fett paused for a few seconds for Alpha Team to clear their approach and get out of the way of Beta Team. Then he too signaled GO and Beta Team hurtled into the Building E data center.

On the trip up, his tactical display showed a very different scenario unfolding above than before. Alpha Team had successfully stun grenaded two miners guarding the door to the maintenance room where the hostages were housed. Six hostiles had been flagged as potential Mandalorians. Two of the potentials now lay on the ground incapacitated.

However, rather than panicking, four of the potentials behaved like professionals and reflexively moved into flanking positions in the direction of the breach explosion. Damn those four Mandalorians, Sergeant Fett cursed silently.

As per Fett's orders, Beta Team took positions on the ground level, behind several of the data stacks nearest the breach point. The data stacks rose six stories high from the ground at regular intervals, technological trees in a digital orchard. Specialist Teel rolled a stun mine over to the main door a few meters to their right, and remotely armed the mine.

Outside that door no less than four Rodian miners lay writhing in pain, clutching at their auditory peripheries. Although the audio painwave was effective, at some point the Rodians would manage to stick enough of whatever they could find into their ears and saucers, and they would recover. Better to greet them with a blast than have them come charging in. Sergeant Fett would have preferred frag mines, but damaging the data stacks might handicap Til'trius in unpredictable ways.

With the miners stunned or incapacitated, Alpha and Beta teams turned their full attention to the four remaining Mandalorians at hand. Each data stack had a donut shaped elevator encircling it for vertical travel between floors, while catwalks connected the stacks horizontally.

"Aro, Ronk, engage the two Mandalorians on the fifth level," Sergeant Chalmers ordered. "Once you're in position we'll move to the right flank."

Sergeant Fett saw Alpha Team ride elevators to the fifth floor, out of the cover of the smoke. Aro and Ronk reached for their stun grenades, but as they did so, all four of the Mandalorians tossed grenades in their direction. The Mandalorians synchronized the tosses perfectly, so that all four grenades would strike at exactly the same time from different directions.

Effectively, Aro and Ronk were sandwiched in. They couldn't stay where they were, they couldn't go up, or down, or left. They could go right or backwards, but that would place them directly in the line of fire.

Not having a choice, Aro dove backward and Ronk dove right in an effort to split the fire. Both were greeted by a murderous hail of blaster bolts. Fett saw their life signs go terminal on his HUD.

With two KIAs, and precious seconds slipping away, Sergeant Fett signaled Specialist Wenzlow to throw more smoke, so that Beta Team could get close enough to flank the two Mandalorians on the second floor. As the smoke built density, Sergeant Fett ordered Flanor and Teel to approach and engage.

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