Approaching Vanduul "Brawler"
Idris System

Mavor stared at the floor of the cargo hold of the Aegis Redeemer. He and the other four men in his squad shared the same conversation; they were all dead silent. In moments they were going to attempt to intercept a Vanduul Brawler and capture it. While the rest of the crew had been on several boarding missions before, this was Mavor's first. He put his pack on the floor and checked his gear for what felt like the 100th time. Standard issue weapon and survival kit were surrounded by a full complement of explosive devices: C4, trip mines, grenades, and electronic trigger. He knew these well, but he didn't know if he'd come back alive.

He thought then of his father. Major Venter Bris Convusco was a military lifer, joining the service just like his father before him. Even dad had to deal with these thoughts. I'd bet he'd be proud of me now. Even though he died at the Grinder, like so many others before him, he had been the best father a boy could ask for. Mavor's mother had died of a strange alien illness when he was young, but Venter had raised him to be a tough Navy brat. Mavor lived most of his life on ships or military bases. He knew and loved the UEE with all he had and knew they'd eventually bring order and justice to the ‘verse. His father had taught him not only the value in dying for what you believed in, but for living for it as well. His childhood had been a happy time, albeit filled with rules and protocol. However he knew that Venter was just preparing him for this moment. He'd definitely be proud of me. I'm a Marine like my father and grandfather.

"You ok there rookie?" asked Corporal Peiten, Squad Leader, "You're looking greener than the usual rookie." Peiten smiled at him, but the smile was a bit condescending. He thinks I'm not up for this.

"Just thinking of how much damage we're going to do to these Vanduul , sir," replied Mavor.

"Good. We'll see what you got, kid," Peiten stood and addressed the boarding crew, "Pilot tells me we are inbound for a Brawler, 2 mikes. Gonna start getting bumpy. Get ready." In unison they all responded, "Sir yes, sir!" They all fastened up their loose gear and tightened their mag-boot straps. The 3 man weapons team, Spalder and Tones, and made sure their battle armor was secured as well. Several seconds later a dull crash rocked the hull.

Peiten looked down and held his earpiece closer, "Ship is taking fire, but our escort is drawing them off. Get in positions." Everyone stood up at the order. The weapon specialists initially took point by the docking collar, until Bennoit, the Tech Specialist was ready and stood up with his cutting torch. Bennoit moved up to doorway to get ready.

"You ready for the most exciting thing in your life, Mavor?" Boarding pilot Traven Cliff asked. Cliff had put in the good word to get him on the boarding squad months ago. Always told him it was the most awesome thing he'd done in his life. It was helpful to Mavor as well to have a childhood friend, a fellow Navy brat, here as well.

"Shut up, Cliff. I need to concentrate. You don't even have to do anything for the first half of it," Mavor shot back.

"Yeah, but you'll need me to fly you home. So be nice!" Cliff had a stupid grin on his face. Mavor could tell he was excited and smiled back.

"Cut the chatter, ladies! Go time!" Peiten demanded and signal to Bennoit. Bennoit immediately dropped to one knee and the cutter fired up. The moment the flame went blue, the inner door openned and he immediately placed the firey torch to a groove, expertly separating the alien metal of the Vanduul ship.

Moments, no, years passed. They were told it would take about 30 seconds to get through, but every moment went by in slow motion. Some seconds it looked like Bennoit wasn't moving as he worked through hinges or thicker grooves. Other moments he would gain a foot.

Finally he finished and Peiten gave the order, "MOVE!"

Spalder and Tones dropped their face guards and moved to the door, making space for Bennoit to back between them and behind. Their timing perfect they both kicked the door while putting their armored forearms over top of their weapons, to further shield their faces. The door fell with a slam that rattled Mavor's teeth.

Immediately the Vanduul on the other side openned fire with their blasters and two jumped forward with knives in hand. Tones bayonetted the closest one through the throat while Spalder's laser blaster cut the second one in half.

While the door fell Mavor readied a flash grenade. Once the first two Vanduul were out of the way, he threw the grenade over the shoulders of the weapon specialists. They immediately dropped to prone positions and used their blocking-forarm to completely shield their eyes.

A shockwave of air hit Mavor's face. The boarding team, other than Spalder and Tones had also taken cover, but he now knew it was safe. He got up and gave a hand signal to his crew. Peiten barked a new order and the weapon specialists moved forward again.

The Vanduul came stumbling out of their barricades and around the corner, firing wildly. Blinded and deaf, they were no match for the lasers trained on them. Spaulder called out, "Clear!" kneeling down and covering the corner. Tones did the same, covering the other direction.

The squad moved into the cargo bay. Bennoit, once inside, set down his tools and began to ready a sentry-bot to hold the entrance to the Redeemer. Mavor moved forward and set up trip mines ahead. The UEE men would be safe from them, but they would cripple any Vanduul attempting to rush their position.

As he finished setting up the second explosive, blasts erupted from down the hallway and Spalder was knocked to the ground, weapon flying from his hands. Tones fired back down the way, retreating while Peiten dragged Spalder next to the sentry. Blasts had found the space between the plates of his armor and had wounded him. Blood was running from the wound and soldier smelled of burned flesh.

Tones spoke up, "Sir, they were setting up a sentry of their own as I fell back. We're pinned down." Peiten nodded and took Spaulder's blaster. "I'm going to take a look. Convusco, ready high explosive."

"Sir, high explosive? That could cause a hull breach and kill us all!" Mavor was not keen in experiencing the cold embrace of space. Peiten looked up as he finished attaching a personal mirror to the rifle's bayonet, "That's an order. It will work."

Mavor removed the correct explosive from his pouch and primed it, "Ready." Peiten nodded. He then edged back up to the corner and put the bayonet of the gun out. Half a second later the blaster was knocked from his hands shattering it. "Ok, they are all crowding around it. Their sentry is 60 feet up, left side of the corridor."

Mavor nodded. He moved a dial on the explosive very carefully and then carefully stepped toward the corridor. He then threw the bomb slightly around the corner, bouncing it off the right wall. They heard the Vanduul cry out, but the priming cause the blast to erupt the moment it met it's mark. Metal shrieked and bent and moaning could be heard from the survivors after.

Tones now stepped back out and fired 3 bursts down the hallway, "Clear." Peiten called out, "Move move move!" and the crew moved out and down the hallway, except Bennoit who was dragging Spaulder back into the Redeemer. As they ran down the hallway, they saw the high explosive had indeed blown up the turret and blown the cockpit door off as well. Tones moved into the cockpit. Cries of Vanduul protest hit him and blaster fire followed it, "Clear!"

Cliff now moved up ahead of everyone. As they all got toward the cockpit, Mavor saw Cliff move to the pilot's chair and push the dead Vanduul's corpse out of it. "Can you fly it?" asked Peiten. It wasn't a joke. While Cliff definitely was trained in flying several UEE ships, the Vanduul ships had a unique control scheme.

"Yeah, but we have a problem, sir," Cliff reviewed the navigation and the view outside the cockpit, "Our escort is almost gone, and there are still Vanduul out there. Peiten jumped into the cockpit as well and looked around for a moment. He was looking from panel to panel, and then stopped and stared at a certain panel for a second. Mavor didn't have a clear view of the cockpit. Both Cliff and Peiten jumped up and pushed their way out of the cockpit, "Fall back! Abort mission! That is an order!"

Mavor's look of confusion betrayed him. "The Vanduul are firing on the Brawler," was all Cliff could get out as they all made it back to the docking clamp. Waiting for them was Bennoit, also looking confused. "Back in the ship! Missiles inbound!" Peiten nearly yelled in Bennoit's face. At that moment an explosion rocked the Vanduul ship. A warning klaxon in Vanduul called out and the Vanduul ship lost it's artificial gravity.

The squad briefly began floating, but then hit switches on their suits. Their feet all suddenly magnetically locked back to the floors. "Move, Move, MOVE!" Peiten yelled at them again. It wasn't as easy having to slowly clomp-stomp their way back into the Redeemer. Tones was the last to arrive back in their original ship and nodded to Peiten. Peiten keyed his mic and called to the pilot, "seal and get us out."

As the ship disconnected from the Vanduul ship and moved away, Mavor looked out a viewport. The Vanduul ship was on fire and as they moved off exploded. He learned later that the Vanduul had not actually tried to destroy their ship, but that chaff released from the Redeemer caused missiles to change course into it. While their mission was technically successful for the boarding crew and Spaulder survived his injuries, they did not take the Vanduul ship or ever have a chance for it in the future. However he still regarded those days in Squad 268 as the best of his life.