Jaq’s piloting combined with Torq’s astrogation has brought the Witch back into N-space near perfectly 106 planetary diameters … and right nearly into a space battle. Jaq barely avoids debris from an unidentified ship, the g-compensators barely compensating, and the collision avoidance klaxon begins to roar. Ahead a damaged subsidized freighter is broadcasting a mayday after taking a random missile hit: “Mayday, Mayday; We’re bleeding atmosphere!” Multiple combats are taking place, around the highport, fighters and system defense boats duel, farther away, two Imperial Ghalalk Cruisers pound surface targets with ruthless missile barrages, and in turn are met by rafts of missiles rising from the planet, sand caster dust creates a brilliant sparkle as it burns in the atmosphere of Stane. A free trader, garishly painted, ad hoc, makes a dead end suicide run at one of the Ghalalks, taking multiple hits, and burning madly, impacts the cruiser with terrific results; it’s hold filled with explosives most likely.
From what Kallen had been reading earlier, it is now apparent that the political situation on Stane has deteriorated badly. The PPF and RA must have risen against the Stane government forces, already badly depleted, they are little more than an untrained and untried militia. Obviously the Imperium has moved forces into Stane to try to support the government, however legitimate or illegitimate it might be. Switching the comm from station to station, it ranges from sudden spurts of intense babble that dissolves into static, that of dying ships, to cold hard military orders. Sensors report a lock, a SDB with Stane Military markings splits off from making a flanking sweep in its squadron, circling back towards the Witch.
“ITH Dust Witch, this is Stane System Defense, Stane Control’s computer was taken out by an explosive at a little after midnight”. A fatigued military voice states, exasperated at the duty of dealing with incoming freighter traffic. “You sure picked a fine time to transit from jump here, heave to for inspection, if you are hauling weapons for the rebels, we’ll burn you down where you stand”.