Path to Glory:
Wraith Squadron

Part 5

[[Legends of the Fall - 05 - Samuel's Death.MP3]]

The eleven humans sprinted towards the south tree line. Four hundred meters of open ground stood between them and the deep darkness that lay ahead. A darkness that suddenly erupted into another muffled explosion, the brief flash of light energy piercing through the dense forest before being consumed once again by the darkness.

"Banshee Two, Three, respond!" Grifter gasped into the comlink for the fourth time. His lungs objected, sucking in air as they tried to replenish the oxygen his straining body demanded.

Once again there was no response from DDD or Den. Only the distant sound of automatic weapons fire. Grifter heard the distinctive sound of a long burst from a Repeater Rifle, which was immediately followed by what seemed a barrage of carbine blasts. The repeater went silent.

"Pick it up!" Grifter yelled behind him at the ten farmers on his heals. Grifter's acidic muscles screamed for rest. His lungs burned. His heart threatened to tear out of his chest with the strain as he pushed on, begging for more speed from his human legs. As he ran, he scanned down the sights of his raised repeater at the south tree line. No forms were visible yet, only the sporadic flashes of energy weapons that lighted the Binka trees in burst of red light.

'Just a few more seconds,' he told himself. 'Just a few more.'

DDD dived for the cover of the next tree to his right as the one he was originally behind exploded under the concentrated fire of four blaster carbines. As he hit the ground, DDD rolled to a half kneeling position and fired three one-second bursts from his rifle at the dark shapes charging. One of the shapes seemed to collapse to the ground while the other two make their own move for cover. To his left he heard Chief Ogre let out a long burst from his repeater, sweeping the area in front and to his own left. It wasn't exactly good ammo discipline, but they were way beyond that now.

"DISPLACE!" DDD yelled at Den as he rose up for another short burst of his own at the shadows. If DDD's quick burst hit anything, he didn't see the effect. Den seemed oblivious to DDD's order as he fired another long burst from his position, then hunkered down and barked into his comlink again.

"BANSHEE LEAD, BANSHEE THREE, DO YOU RECIEVE?!" Den cupped his ear to the comlink in an attempt to filter out the noise of the firefight raging around him. He repeated it two more times, his repeater rifle remaining very silent for precious seconds.

DDD fired another long burst over Den's head toward their now exposed left before sweeping back towards the forward edge. A dark silhouette at his 320 position popped up to fire a hail of blaster bolts at DDD. The former Jedi ducked down as the tree shattered, sending Binka wood splinters over his back, a few of the wooden projectiles digging themselves into his shoulder. DDD then rose back up in a crouch and sent a seven shot burst of energy into the center of the silhouette, dropping him, or her, cold.

"I SAID MOVE!" DDD screamed at Den. The rookie finally picked his rifle back up. He half stood to run towards DDD's covering position when another hail of blaster bolts whizzed within centimeters of his exposed head, sending wood chips and smoldering dirt flying through the air. Den raised his rifle above his head and fired three bursts blindly into the forest as he ran/crawled towards the Jedi. DDD fired another ten shots as covering fire before leaving himself for new cover. As he did, another concentrated carbine volley tore into the tree he had just left.

DDD ran stooped over, with his head almost at knee level, to pick up Den. Chief Ogre had found new cover less than ten meters from his previous position and seemed determined to stay and fight from one area. Brave, but foolish. Reaching down, he grabbed the inexperienced Wraith by the back of the collar and forcefully dragged him another ten meters down the tree line, firing wildly behind his back and to his side as he did. "SHOOT 'N SCOOT THREE!" DDD heatedly reminded him. The idea of all small unit tactics were to shoot, move, and communicate all at the same time, never staying in one place too long, and never stopping one thing to do another. Unfortunately the 'communicate' aspect of it didn't seem to be working to well.

"I CAN'T GET ONE ON THE COMM!!!" Den yelled again as he rounded another tree. He was about to whip around the same side he had come from to get off a quick shot when three blaster bolts nearly singed his eyebrows off. Instead the Chief spun around to the opposite side of the tree trunk. Seeing three shadows moving to his right, and another two to his left, he fired two quick bursts at the left duo before raking a long continuous burst at the three to the right. The two to the left dove for the ground. The nearest figure on the right seemed to go down, but then appeared to limp further to the right, returning Den's fire as he did.

DDD rolled to his right and finished the limping man off with a shot to the abdomen. He was close enough to see that it was in fact a man. He wore dark clothes and had on a similarly colored helmet. It didn't appear to be any standard issue Imperial uniform that DDD recognized, but it was hard to make out. They weren't storm troopers, or if they were they had forgone the old white on black armor that had been a staple of that once elite organization.

DDD didn't stay in his spot long enough to study. He rolled further to his right, coming to rest next to a fallen log that cut across the tall grass. He fired one burst blindly from the prone position, one more aimed burst from the kneeling, then another wild burst as he dove over the log to the other side, the whole time reaching for his own comlink. He fired two long streams to his left as he ran back towards the tree line. While on the move he dialed in a new frequency. So far Grifter had not responded on any of the pre-assigned tactical channels. It was possible that the initial volley of fire had scrambled the links frequency modulators, meaning that Grifter might indeed be trying to talk to them; just they were on the wrong frequency to hear. It was also possible that the farm had gotten hit the same time he and Den had, and that the Ensign was dead. DDD screamed a call into four different frequencies, all the while moving and shooting at the never-ending shadows that approached.

Den tried the same thing fifteen meters to DDD's left, trying to juggle the act of returning fire and diving for cover at the same time. The two that had been moving in on his left seemed to have picked up a few buddies. Den now could make out five feint shadows approaching from that direction. He raised up to fire a burst, only to be set back down on his ass by thirty or so red lines of death screaming over his left shoulder. Den commando crawled further behind the group of saplings he had hid behind, covering his eyes against the hot dirt being kicked up around him as their attackers probed at the ground where he had been. Once further behind the relative safety of the little shrubs he scrambled on all fours to a slight mound of dirt and grass that lay five meters ahead. As he rounded the top of the dirt mound his binoculars exploded in a shower of hot sparks from a near miss. Rolling onto his back he pulled his rifle across his chest, raising his head up a few inches to put his chin into his neck, and fired the remaining twelve shots in his current power pack in the direction of the tracers.

Dropping the used power pack out of the rifle, he could barely hear the screams of a wounded humanoid above the cacophony of blaster fire around him. It seemed to come from the direction he had just fired. Smiling with satisfaction, he slapped his only spare power pack into his rifle and continued his scramble to the rear, running and diving from tree to tree.

Now ten meters to Den's right, DDD tried his fifth frequency as he sprinted behind a small rock outcropping, just slightly faster than a collection of twenty blaster bolts heading his way. Reaching over his left shoulder with his right hand, he fired a two-second burst as he called out into the comlink in his left hand.

Sliding to his left to vacate the area he had just been in and get a better field of fire, he saw Den approaching closer. Bunching up was not something they wanted to be doing right now. It would allow the attackers to concentrate all their fire on one location and would make it even easier for them to flank the two rebels.

DDD held up his hand to stop Den's approach. "FIFTEEN METERS THAT WAY! GO!" he ordered Chief Ogre, pointing towards a patch of particularly thick grass further towards their rear. They had been on a full blasted running retreat for the last ninety seconds, ever since the first shots were fired. They were running out of forest, fast. There was no way they were going to survive as standing exchange with their attackers. They couldn't make a break for the field; they'd be mowed down in the open instantly. And there was still the possibility that Cole had survived and was brining reinforcements form the house, in which case DDD would like to drag them as long as possible, opening them up for an attack on their own flank. But time was running out.

'At least they aren't using detonators,' DDD thought. So far the attack had only consisted of blaster fire, no heavy weapons or explosives. Whether or not that meant they had no such weapons DDD couldn't be sure. They may have just been conserving them, perhaps afraid to injure their own men. Either way, DDD was not a conservationist. He had no intention of letting anyone find any unused detonators on his corpse. "FIRE IN THE HOLE!" he screamed at Den as he tossed one towards the five shadows that were closing in on him. As the powerful grenade exploded he threw another one to his own right. DDD hunched down, opening his mouth and closing his eyes as he covered his ears with his hand. The deafening boom was enough to blow out ones eardrums from ten's of meters away if the pressure wasn't equalized.

The two explosions seemed to quiet the blasters for a few seconds. DDD took that opportunity to run another twenty meters to the rear, lining up with Den's position to his left.

Den looked up to see a group of the shadows rise up from the ground and continue their advance. He pulled one of his own thermal detonators from his pack and activated the device. Throwing the detonator side handed, he simultaneously fired off another burst from his repeater. He was down to half a charge on his last power pack now. He saw DDD reloading his own rifle to his right. Soon all they would have would be a vibroblade and a non-Force using Jedi armed with a lightsaber against fifteen or twenty blaster carbines. Not good.

Just as Den was about to throw a second detonator, three blaster bolts ripped into his body, tearing through his left arm, shoulder and leg. Den had just enough presence of mind to throw the detonator before collapsing on the ground in agony.

DDD waited for the device to explode before running over to the screaming form of Den. The momentary halt in fire allowed him to run straight to the wounded kid.

"FRELL THIS HURTSSAAAAAAAH!" he screamed in pain. DDD assessed the injuries as rapidly as possible, pulling out a bacta pad from his pack and slapping it on Den's leg. He pulled another one out of Den's own pack and put it on the smoldering hole in his shoulder. Firing a few wild shots at a group of shadows that had moved around to their right after the explosion, he tied off the bleeding arm wound with a tourniquet. He retrieved Den's rifle and replaced it in the kid's right hand.


Den wiped the streaming hot tears from his face with his sleeve and struggled to his feet, crying out in pain as he put pressure on his left leg. He raised up his rifle single handed and fired a burst that went wide, but still managed to make the approaching troopers dive for cover.

As the two Wraith ran/limped to new cover, DDD's comlink finally made some noise.

"Ghostrider to Banshee's Two and Three, give me a sitrep!" boomed Vuffi's voice from the link.

'About frelling time!' he thought. DDD pawed for the comlink as he stood up and ran for his next choice of cover. "GHOSTRIDER, TWO! ENGAGED WITH HOSTILE FORCES 700 METERS SOUTH SOUTHWEST OF PRINCIPLE TARGET! ESTIMATE SQUAD STRENGTH OR BETTER! NO CONTACT WITH ONE OR PRINCIPLES! THREE IS WALKING WOUNDED! REQUEST IMMEDIATE FIRE SUPPORT AND EXTRACTION!" DDD finished as he exchanged fire with an enemy lying down under a fallen tree.

"Three, Ghostrider! Be advised One is aware of your condition and is in route with reinforcements from the south. Phantom is expediting to LZ, ETA twenty-five minutes."

'So no air cover or extraction for twenty-five minutes,' DDD thought. 'Perfect.' The way things were going they weren't going to last another twenty-five seconds. 'Come on Cole, move your ass!'

"Lost him again Banshee One," Vuffi explained mournfully to Grifter.

"Keep trying Ghostrider. One is at the tree line, moving west," Cole responded as he and his group splashed across the stream. The blaster fire was deafeningly loud now. He could still hear and occasional volley from a repeater, but it was much less intense now. The intervals between responses appeared to be getting longer.

Grifter signaled with his hand for the farmers behind him to get down as he ran crouched just outside the tree line. He could make out the general position of the attackers now by tracing the flashes of red lasers back to their origins through the trees. Their forward line appeared to be just a few meters ahead of his current position, maybe forty meters inside the forest. He pulled out one of his thermal detonators and fixed it to his carry rig. He pulled out another and handed it to Ekly, the farmer that had guided him to this location. He motioned for Elky to follow him back to the end of their line.

Once there he tapped the man known as File one the shoulder. Once he had his attention, Grifter handed File his last thermal detonator.

"Translate, quickly!" he told Elky. The farmer nodded acknowledgment.

"Tell File to take five men and follow us another ten meters forward. Then stay there and move a few meters into the tree line. You and I will take the remaining and move around the front to my men's position. Tell him that once he hears an explosion, he and his men are to open up with everything they have and to not stop firing at all, not even for a second. I don't care if they have targets or not. Just let 'em rip. Keep that up for at least twenty seconds. If they see any bad guys moving around still after that, keep firing. Then move by twos forward until they make contact with us again. Understand?"

Elky spoke quickly in Agadis to File. Once finished, the farmer looked up at Grifter and gave a thumbs up. It was a tactic sometimes referred to as the 'Mad Minute'. How ever long the duration, the idea was to get the enemies attention by scaring the hell out of them with the large volume of fire, either getting them to keep their heads down while another group moved in, or just simply mowing them down. Coupled with the element of surprise and a roving flanking force, it could be dreadfully effective.

The group raced to their position, weapons ready, scanning into the trees for any shots coming their way. The Mad Minute would also be an effective means for probing by fire. Grifter had a pretty good idea where the main force of the attackers was, but he'd be able to get a more positive fix on their position if they tired to return fire to File's group.

Grifter patted File on the back as he took Elky and three other farmers and raced diagonally into the forest towards DDD and Den's last known position. File and his group moved straight forward into the trees, mindful of the muzzle flashes they saw before them.

"Banshee One to Ghostrider, any new contact with Two or Three?" Cole asked as quietly as possible under the sound of the weapons fire.

"Negative One, nothing new to report. Ghostrider will advise," was Vuffi's reply.

Grifter double clicked the mike in frustration. Just then he saw tracer fire coming from their right that was unmistakably from a Republic issue Repeater Rifle. Cole breathed a slight sigh of relief as he motioned his group to slide a little further to their right. Grifter could see a line of trees that seemed to cut right between the attacking force and the lost Wraiths final position. "That's our alley,' he said into Elky's ear.

The rescue party started their approach along the trees in question when the second of the two farmers that had gone with Grifter fired off a burst from his carbine. Looking over his barrel quizzically to see if he had hit anything, his face was greeted by three blaster bolts. The farmer, Yul had been his name if Grifter remembered, dropped dead to the ground, a big black smoldering hole where his face used to be. Seconds later more red lines zinged all around Grifter's group as they dove for the ground. Grifter frantically waved his hand for them to hold their fire as they continued crawling under the bushes. The volley of fire didn't seem to track them, only randomly lick out ahead of or behind their initial position. Finally almost twelve meters ahead of where poor stupid Yul's body lay, Grifter gathered up Elky and the remaining farmers, Hirg and Chris, and armed his thermal detonator. He counted down with the free fingers on his left hand, the one that palmed the detonator, as the sighted along the rifle in his right. The three farmers pulled the stocks of their carbines tight into their shoulders, their faces like stone, ready to charge. Three, two, one. Grifter hurled the detonator overhand towards the origin of the biggest line of red lasers. One and a half seconds later the world around them erupted in fire and red laser bolts. File's group opened up on the attackers, making them the defenders in the blink of an eye. The red tracers were laid down so thick one could almost walk across them. At the same time Grifter and his group charged ahead towards the stunned enemy positions, catching them off guard for the second time in as many seconds as they tried to shift their focus of fire to File's group. Grifter howled in rage as he ripped apart a black clad man who was in the process of twisting around to get a shot off at him. The energy output from Grifter's repeater rifle nearly sliced the man in two.

File's group kept up their oppressive fire and started to move forward, pushing the enemy back into the woods, right across the advancing path of Grifter's forces. Grifter dropped to his knees quickly as three of the unknown bad guys swung around wildly, firing almost blind as they finally became aware of the second line of attack on their position. The blaster bolts passed through the air Grifter had just occupied and tore through the stomach of Hirg. The mortally wounded farmer doubled over, clutching his gut, his face distorted into an expression of pure agony.

Grifter raked a stream of repeater rounds across the three, sending some energy through the throat of one as the other two dived for new cover. From behind Cole heard a brand new volley from two repeaters. Grifter hunched down and twisted around briefly just in time to catch a glimpse of DDD running forward, a rifle in each hand, firing full blast from his right and left hip. Grifter grinned a little at that as he tapped Elky on the shoulder.

"DETONATOR!" he yelled above the rain of fire. Elky gave a thumbs up as he reached into his pants pocket and retrieved the thermal detonator Grifter had given him. Grifter motioned to Chris to follow his lead. The three then got into a crouch and lifted up to release another wave of deadly energy at the would be assailants. Elky shot his blaster left-handed as he threw the detonator ahead of the shadowy forms they saw retreating into the words. The explosion shredded four of the figures and cut off the rest. Just then DDD finally reached Grifter's position and dove down beside him.

Grifter had no intention of letting him get comfortable. He reached into his pack and handed Elky and Chris each one of his small holdout blasters. He the drew his other DT-41 from it's sheath under his left shoulder with his left hand and tucked the repeater under his right armpit. Looking to his left and right, he saw everyone nod in ready.

"GO!" he screamed in order as he leaped up and scrambled through the underbrush up the gentle rise that last attackers were hiding over. The four warriors advanced as a line, shooting at anything that moved from each hand. To the left Grifter could hear the last detonator explode, followed by a rush from File's group as well, pinching the enemy between them.

And with that, five minutes after it had started, it was over. As Grifter, DDD, and Elky met up with File' and his group, they surveyed the area. All but three of the black troopers lay dead, two of those had wounds that they most likely wouldn't survive. The third one was the prize.

"Elky, get their weapons and any identifying marks you can. I want a body count and descriptions of all the dead. I want ID tags, unit patches, tattoos, wallets, pictures of their mothers, anything that will tell us who these guys were. Take lonely boy over here and make sure he's secure. Check him for and suicide devices. Make sure he's not sitting on a detonator or something. Then get him and half your people back to the house. Tell File and the rest of 'em they did a good job. Same goes for you Elky. I'll make sure to tell Hatcher. Go," he finished.

He watched Elky round up half his men and motion to File to lead them and the 'man in black' back to the house. He would be a valuable prisoner. Once aboard the Black Cloud, Naval Intelligence would give him a good working over; get the enemy's order of battle, ect. But it had been costly. In addition to Yul and Hirg, File had lost one of his men, and another required treatment for a nasty wound on his back. But he would live. Grifter was more concerned with another wounded man right now.

"Where is he Lieutenant?" Cole said with some concern.

"Over here Ensign, I stashed him pretty good, left him with a blaster. He handled himself pretty well considering. He didn't stop after he got shot up, he kept moving and shooting. If he had gone down I would have been dead shortly after. As it was we're lucky you got here when you did."

"I'm sorry I was late Exec," Cole said. Though for this mission Cole had operational command, this mission was basically over now. A serious clean up job was required now. He thought he might as well leave that to the Sub Lieutenant.

"Well, at least you seem to have found some good help. So you think we can use these people?"

"I'd say yes. Tenas is a good man; his people are dedicated and have good instincts, even if they lack some initiative or middle level leadership. Whether or not any of them can fly I don't know yet, but at the least they could be turned into a damned fine insertion force."

DDD nodded at that when they reached Chief Ogre. "Chief, don't move, we're gonna get you out of here and back to the house. Get you fixed up real good," Grifter said with a smile.

Den gave a little thumbs up at that. He started to sit upright, but winced in pain and let himself be laid back down. "It's ok, drugs are kicking in real good now," he said with a chuckle. "I did it sir, I shot me one of those bastards. Mother freller didn't know who he was frelling with."

"You bet Chief," Cole acknowledged. "Your Billy Badass. Now close your eyes and let those painkillers do their job. We'll be out of here soon enough."

Den nodded and closed his eyes.

"Banshee One to Ghostrider," Grifter called out.

"Go ahead One," Vuffi replied.

"Ghostrider, the FEBA is secure, we're all clear here. Prepare for immediate retrieval. We're getting off this rock." With that Cole removed his last stick of spice and lit it up, blowing out a long blue stream of smoke with a sigh.