Winter’s Storm

by Neil Lowery

Category: Short Story

a long time ago In a galaxy far far away.....

Tala stood at the mirror, she thought, “getting too old for this." The fourth day of recon missions on Hoth, “but these boys need me," she sighed and then thought of Pointer, her Tauntaun. He seemed to have a happy knack of knowing the territory on this ice bowl.

Tala Quiros was 38. A veteran of many battles and heartaches. She saw in the mirror a couple of flecks of grey. She winced.

An announcement over the tannoy shook her awake: “Recon personnel to debrief."

“Another one," she thought. Ever since commander skywalker was brought back from Outside, fears were growing about this planet. “I have a bad feeling about this," Tala mused as she made her way to the command centre. As usual activity was all around on Echo base; courteous nods of respect from other personnel. She stopped in the vast hangar bay and smiled at the sight of the millennium falcon. “That’s no piece of junk." She was so in awe. A hand bumped her shoulder, “we’re late," Rinko Tyrell said. “Rinks," Tala said. Rinko was 19, broad and tall – a Rebel alliance poster boy.

Rinko had been a constant leader and friend ever since departing Yavin 4 and finding Hoth; as near to family she had. They hurried to the command centre. General Rieekan stood like a rock amongst a sea of nervousness and worry. Next to him was Princess Leia. Tala hadn’t seen her much. although small, she radiated strength and spirit. “Our leader," Tala wistfully exhaled.

Rieekan said, “we have a situation. A probe droid was detected outside in zone 12 by Captain Solo." A murmur shook through the room; “definitely imperial." The murmur rose to shouts and cries as Leia spoke, the din suddenly stopped, “we have a plan for this eventuality: stall and escape, the rebellion will carry on. Our fire will continue to fan the flames of hope." Applause and cheers rang out. “Ok people," Rieeken said, “the empire is coming, give them hell."

Rieekan motioned to Tala, she eased through the parting crowd to him, "recon 1 leader," he said saluting. “General," Tala said, "you're going to be our eyes and ears. The first signs of imperials report in." Tala smiled. Rieekan knew that smile, "report only, no engagement." The smile faded away from Tala, “I can’t give them a proper welcome." "No!!" He said.

The Tauntaun pens were a myriad of smells and baying creatures. Tala wanted a pep talk with Pointer and she bayed as Tala approached, “hey girl, you ok?" Tala took some moss from her jacket pocket. Pointer gave a snort of joy. “Yes, you like this, it costs me some rations." Tala stroked the Tauntauns mane.

“Best tracking skills tomorrow babe," Rinko was waiting outside in the corridor, “hey, no hero stuff tomorrow ok?" "Me?" Tala said smiling. “Yes you, I still remember viga 4." Her squad had been surrounded by twenty Stormtroopers. Tala had gone out to “negotiate" a surrender when she came back with two blaster wounds, after killing ten troopers and wounding five others. “Negotiations went well," Tala said.

Sunny and freezing, as always on Hoth, Recon 1 squad stood in the hangar; small quick moving squads were the alliance go-to before Tala, was Rinko and Estos Devron. Devron was a small man with a big heart and courage to fill an Alliance cruiser.

“We killing imps today," he said with gusto; Tala laughed, “just watching out." “No fun," Estos snorted, “we’re cover sectors one to five today, anything suspicious call in."

Tala took the lead in the formation, as they made their way onto the frozen tundra of Hoth, “eyes peeled, people," she said through the comlink. Rinko said, “my scanner shows movement in sector two." Tala scowled, "we haven’t got our people out there. Estos, hang back while we take a look."

"Ok boss," Estos said. Tala and Rinko moved forward. Sector two had an old monitoring station, the alliance had set it up, not long after arriving on Hoth. “We’d better go on foot," Tala said. As they neared they arrived at a small basin, dismounted and crawled to the lip of a snow dune. Tala got out her macro binoculars; what she saw, sent a shiver down her: Four imperial snow troopers, by a snow transport.

"What do we do?" Rinko whispered. Tala looked troubled, “something I didn’t want to do yet," Tala said slowly.

Rinko felt the blade, but couldn’t scream or shout. Tala clasped her hand over his mouth hard; she saw the shock and bewildered look in his eyes. She leaned in close and whispered, “for my Emperor."

She quickly punched in a code on a small transmitter she had concealed, "Revenge One to base. Way clear soon on sector two." "Copy that. Lord Vader will be pleased."

"What the hell?" She heard Estos shout. It was time to clear up the last strand. Tala rushed up to him, “Rinko was a spy, he tried to kill me!" Estos rushed past her to Rinko’s body. “You!!" he cried. Tala quickly ran forward and grabbed Estos by the collar, putting him to the lip of the dune.

“Ok, it was me," she smiled. Then pushed him over. Estos fell down near where the snow troopers were and they quickly had him at gunpoint. Tala slowly inched her way down, “who’s in charge?" she said. A trooper came forward, “I am." She tore a strip of cloth off her shoulder and revealed an Imperial cog symbol. “Imperial code 113877,” she said forcefully. The trooper saluted.

"The prisoner," he inquired. Tala smirked, "what prisoner, kill him." "But what about questions to him?" the trooper said. Tala sighed, took out her blaster and shot one of the snow troopers. The rest jumped back, blasters pointed at her, “he just shot one of you, kill him!!!" Two bolts struck Estos. He fell. “Tell command, sector two is clear, proceed on that vector." The trooper replied, "what do you do now?" Tala said, “plan B."

Tala rushed up the snow dune, over the lip back to the basin. Pointer was skittish, “hey girl, it’s ok." She mounted her Tauntaun and headed back to base. About a kilometre out, Tala stopped Pointer. She dismounted, “ok girl, one last thing for me, Got to make it look convincing." Tala took out her blaster. She shot herself in the leg. She crawled to the saddle strap and hooked her leg in tight, "To base!!" Tala shouted to Pointer.

The Tauntaun quickly moved forward; Tala knew it would be a bumpy ride back but more scratches and bruises would tell a better story. Soon she was at the entrance, still awake but in pain. Rebel troopers rushed to help, “what happened, where’s Rinko and Estos?” Tala cried, "we got attacked by Wampa’s, only I survived. No sign of imperials.”

"Get her to the med bay!!" Her wound wasn’t bad. And the cuts and bruises superficial. Tala sank back in the bed in the medical centre. The room was quiet, Tala sensed a presence. Princess Leia came into view, “your highness," she said.

Leia was concerned, “Tala, was the mission a success?" Tala smiled, "yes." Leia's concern drained away. “Did Rinko and Estos play their part well?" "Absolutely, “ Tala said. Leia sat on the bed. “You have been the best double agent ever." We had to get the Imperial forces onto sector two – it will be the slowest approach to echo base." A klaxon sounded, “Imperial walkers have been sighted."

Leia sighed, “it begins." Leia went on, “get on a transport and get to the rendezvous point.” Tala looked at Leia, “a new mission." Leia smiled, “do you like hot weather? You’re going to Tatooine."

The end