The Lost Stars

By Tirsis

Chapter 3

Ice and Fire

Robotech is the property of Harmony Gold

Star Wars is the property of Lucasfilm Ltd.

I own neither, god I wish I did.

O=O=O=O=O

Luke awoke slowly, and as he did he registered pain, but not as much as he had feared. Whatever had hit him was lessened by the CVR-3 body armor he wore. It had been given to all the long range patrol riders, and was a great deal better then the bundles of cold weather gear they had been using before.

He had been scouting out a meteor strike when something had jumped him. His mount, a native taun-taun, had fallen quickly and a second swipe by a large creature had knocked him out.

The CVR-3 was good armor, better then what Storm Troopers wore even, but the massive blunt force trauma of the hit was enough to send the young Jedi into dreamland for who knew how long.

Looking around and getting his bearings and finding himself upside down, Luke saw that the creature, a massive wampa, was feasting on the remains of his mount. The young man from Tatooine knew that he would be next.

Taking in more of his location he saw that his lightsaber, probably dropped from his belt while being hung for later, was on the ground below him. Just out of reach.

It was time to work on getting out of here.

O=O=O=O=O

"Commander Skywalker has not checked in at the south entrance either," the tech reported to an irate Han Solo.

Muck stood behind him, already suited up in CVR-3 and said, "It's a nice balmy negative thirty out there, and it's getting worse. And your speeders aren't up yet."

"Then we go out on taun-tauns," Han growled as he headed for the locker rooms to get his own armor.

Muck followed, "Hold up, buddy. The storm is getting worse, and it's going to be a bitch and a half after the sun sets. Give me an hour and I can have our Beta fighters ready for a little search and rescue work."

"What good are fighters going to be in this storm?"

Muck looked at him with a smirk, "Fighters that walk; remember? The Beta's are burly enough that this squall won't knock them around much and each has a bay we can convert for S.A.R. work. I can even have one of the medics ride rumble seat."

Han cursed his impatience quietly and looked over at his friend, "Half an hour, and then I'm just going out with or without you. That kid survived the Death Star; I'm not going to let a little snow do him in."

"Amen, brother," Muck said and ran off for the snow covered boarding tube they had dragged from the Victory to Echo base.

It took twenty minutes and only four Betas were rigged, but now Han stood before the small group of pilots and medics ready to go out searching for his friend. Muck had pulled the Beta pilots from his squadron into this, and they knew that their leader was acting as a point man for the liaison team with the Rebel Alliance. Skywalker was a known quantity with them, almost one of them.

"Alright," Muck started, "each of us will take a sector along Luke's patrol path. It'll be a wide range, but we don't have much of a choice. Han and I will take grid Delta Six." He turned to a tall black man with a chef's hat painted on his shoulder armor, "Slug, you take Delta Eight." Next he turned to a younger man with neatly trimmed blond hair, "Blinky, you get Delta Seven." Finally he spoke to a beautiful young woman with boxing gloves stenciled on her armor's shoulder, "Knockout, Delta Five is yours. Time is life here people. Good hunting."

Han followed Muck up to one of the large Veritech bombers and climbed into the converted bomb bay along side a medi-tech who was checking over his kit.

Muck called back into the bay as he strapped in, "Once we get into position it's going to be slow going, you know that right?

Han grunted, "As long as we can find Luke before anything happens."

"We're using the best life sign detectors on base," the medic reassured him, "we'll find him."

O=O=O=O=O

The armor kept out most of the cold. That was the only good thing Luke could think of at the moment.

He knew he was hurt, bad. He was forced to open his helmet earlier so that he could wipe his face, and his gloved hand had come back stained red. Add in that he was fighting against drowsiness and he guessed that he had a concussion. It also hurt to breathe, which he needed to do in great quantity to keep moving across the tundra, so he figured that he had at least a broken rib.

Only his fledgling connection to the Force and his pure determination had kept him from falling where he stood.

"Luke."

It started as a whisper as he trudged on, but the voice became insistent.

"Luke."

He considered that the concussion was worse then he thought, but was shaken as a blue haze started to form along side him, slowly taking humanoid shape.

And soon a translucent blue Ben Kenobi was walking though the snow along side him.

"Things are changing, Luke. I think it is time for you to continue your training."

Luke blinked, "Ben? But how? I can almost feel you here." The old Jedi chuckled and Luke suddenly understood, "The Force. When Vader killed you, you just vanished…"

"I knew I couldn't win. Vader had only grown stronger over the years and I had let my skills lay idle. So I gave myself up to the Force, completely. It was a skill I learned from an old teacher of mine. And it is he that you must seek out now."

Luke stumbled, whether it was from speaking with his former mentor, or the bad footing, or his slowly fading awareness, he didn't know. But he used his flagging reserves to continue.

"Who?"

"You must go to the Dagobah, there you will find Yoda, who once trained me. He will prepare you for what is to come in this time of change…"

And with that Luke was once more alone.

He stumbled and fell to the ground, his reserves drained and his concentration failing. Pain swept over him, and for a moment he thought he drifted off, but the ground shaking beneath him stirred him back awake. For a moment the young Rebel thought that the wampa had followed him into the storm, but the black shape coming through the snow was even larger.

As it came into focus he saw the triple kite symbol of the REF that was painted on the Beta fighter's leg.

O=O=O=O=O

The medic had finished checking over Luke as Han and Muck watched, trying not to hover over the tech in the small cargo bay of the Beta. Luke was stable for the moment, and that was all that mattered to them.

"Five more minutes and we would have had to head back," whispered the Veritech pilot numbly.

Han shook his head, "I would have knocked you out and kept going, even if I had to get out and push this lump. Any chance of flying back to base?"

Muck scowled, "Winds are too high. As it is we have to go slow, it's gonna take hours to get back. Plus the storm is blocking the comm. signal so I can't call in the others till it breaks up out there."

"Can we still make it back to base?" the medic asked simply as he continued to monitor the bio-scanner in his hand. "I'd like to get him some real treatment fast. He may even need a bacta treatment."

Muck nodded and clambered back into the pilot's seat and started the large robot moving again.

O=O=O=O=O

Leia watched the monitors in the command center as Han and Chewie took out the probe droid. She didn't want to admit it but the brash smuggler was growing on her.

Like a fungus, she thought to herself.

One minute he was self centered, the next he was volunteering for hazardous duty. He was constantly contradicting himself like that and it was infuriating to her. Was it too much to ask for a little consistency out of people?

"It's a fair bet that the Empire knows we're here," the former pirate's voice came over the comm. and the command staff was forced to agree.

General Rieekan ordered, "Prepare for evacuation."

Commander Hammond was already talking into her REF comm., ordering a detachment of Cyclone Riders into the base to help move heavy equipment and contacting the scout fighters that were sitting in orbit, watching of activity.

She then turned to Leia, "How long do you think the Empire will take to respond to that signal?"

"Days, hours, hard to say. If the fleet is as spread out as we've heard then if they did get here in a matter of hours it would only be a token force. Only a few Star Destroyers if we're lucky. We should be able to slip away with the plan we have in place."

The Robotech officer nodded, "The Victory adds a great deal of lifting capacity with all the cargo space we have. We can also give a great deal of cover fire for those shell transports of yours."

The Rebel Princess smiled in return, "We would have had to leave so much behind otherwise. But are you sure that your ship can handle a firefight with an Imperial heavy cruiser?"

"An old Zentradi Destroyer was at least twice as big as the ISD specs, and had even more firepower. We won't get into a slugging match, but we can put up one hell of a fight."

O=O=O=O=O

Less then a day later the Empire arrived, and in force.

The Executor, the massive Super class Star Destroyer under the command of Darth Vader himself led a small flotilla of six other Destroyers that encircled the ice world, ready to blockade the Rebel's escape.

Soon after settling into orbit massive drop ships began to descend into the atmosphere, and after landing disgorged the Empires most terrifying land weapon. The All-Terrain Armored Transport, or AT-AT Walker.

Muck saw the Walkers via the screen in the Victory's squadron briefing room. The feed came from a Cyclone Rider posted with one of the teams manning the perimeter of the base, and the pilot was unimpressed.

"Looks like an anorexic camel wearing tin foil covered plywood."

The rest of the Robotech pilots laughed at the quip, but Paul "Eye-Full" Towers scowled as he leaned over the podium in front of his two squadrons.

The six foot five man focused on this fellow squadron leader, "These beasts may look silly, but each mounts cap-ship grade cannons on its butt ugly snout. Keep that in mind if you feel like pointing out their fugly looks to their faces." He let the pilots laugh for a second then continued. "Talons are going high to help clear a path for the mules to bug out. That beast of an Ion Cannon they have here will give us an opening, and then we go in hot and heavy. Iron Hand runs to take out as many turrets as we can and widen the gap some. Ravens get the joy of tweaking the camel's noses as it were. You run delaying actions and close air support along side your buddies in Rogue."

One of the grey armored Talon pilots called out in a sing-song voice, "Muck-puppy and the kids still need their wet nurses after all."

There was general laughter, and the leader of the Ravens responded in kind by lifting one black armored arm up and giving the other pilots a one fingered salute, which only caused more laughter in the room.

Towers let it die out and then continued in a somber voice, "We have surprise on our side today, but don't get cocky out there. Fly fast and tight. Keep each other covered. Come back alive. Those are my most important instructions to you. Now grab some sky, and let's shake the heavens!"

O=O=O=O=O

In orbit the captain of one of the Imperial Star Destroyers gazed out of the large view port at the ice world below, confident in the superiority of the Empire over this rabble that opposed their rule.

His second in command quietly approached and said softly, "Sir, we have a ship rising from the surface. It is a cruiser class, but in an unknown configuration. It broke atmosphere two minutes ago and started launching fighter craft, also of unknown configuration."

"A defensive screen," the Captain commented, "a surprisingly good strategy. Deploy out fighters to meet them. How long until we are in range?"

"Twelve minutes sir. All batteries are…"

A voice broke in from the crew pit beneath them, "Sir! Incoming missiles from the cruiser! They're the size of fighters!"

"Defensive barrage, all cannons!"

O=O=O=O=O

Talon 8 watched as the Anti-warship missiles from the Victory plowed into the wedge shaped titan before him. Reflex warheads detonated against shields, but each missile could vaporize a fighter and the damage they did was significant. The follow up salvo tore down the rest of the shields.

The word came from the CAG, "All right Talons, let's get up close and personal. Element Three, start your run. Element One, with me and cover them. Element Two, take the screen and watch for those fighters."

Talon 8 was part of Element Two and began sweeping the black for any sign of the 'eyeballs' and 'squints' as the rebel pilots called the TIE Fighters and Interceptors. He envied the X-Wing jocks for their astromechs, the little droid added a pair of eyes, or an optic sensor as it were, and would make his job easier.

Never the less, "Tally ho. I've got six eyeballs coming in at five mark two eighty."

"Copy that, Eight. Talons, engage."

Talon 8 pulled his Alpha Fighter around and formed up with his teammates. The four Veritechs ate up the distance rapidly and soon a low growl was heard in his helmet earpiece.

"Good tone. Talon 8, fox two."

A pack of four smaller, anti-fighter missiles blasted away from his undercarriage alongside the missiles fired from his wingman. A total of sixteen missiles from his flight burned through space towards the oncoming TIEs. The Imperial fighters started evading, showing the TIE's ability to maneuver in a vacuum.

The Robotech based missiles had a much sharper turning radius however, and tracking software to match their agility.

Six spherical explosions of detonating warhead and fighter fuel lit the pitch black sky and four Alpha Fighters sped on in search of more prey.

O=O=O=O=O

Talon Leader, Paul Towers, pushed the throttle of his Alpha to the stops. The Beta on his wing followed him closely as he led the charge towards the Star Destroyer without hesitation. He didn't hold back because he knew what was coming.

An electric blue lance of light shot up from Hoth's surface, striking the great wedge. Discharges flared across the pale metal as electrical systems shorted out in rapid succession all due to Ion Cannon fire.

Paul rolled his fighter in and lined up his gun sights on one of the ships many turrets and firing a dozen missiles as soon as they locked. The Beta beside him broke off and leveled out, it's bomb bay opening and releasing a kludge of a weapon that had been cobbled together just for this.

Six proton torpedo warheads wrapped around a single Reflex warhead and set with a time released impact trigger. A space bomb, one that used the reflex reaction as an accelerant. The device had been kicked out of the Beta by a standard release charge on a course for the hull near the neck of the great ship.

Without shields, disabled by Ion blasts and with Alpha Fighters knocking out the few active turrets the bomb gracefully glided in and hit amidships. The detonation took out a circle of armor ten meters in diameter and ripped away two decks beneath it, including the primary sensor control room.

Blinding the cruiser was the first step, and as Towers started towards the surface of the behemoth he signaled over the comm.

"Base, this is Talon Leader. The party has started and the music is loud. Send the guests on through." With that he used his thumb to toggle a switch on the throttle and his Alpha shifted around him. Folding in on itself the fighter transformed into its humanoid soldier configuration and landed hard on the surface of the Imperial ship, followed by three other Alphas in Battleoid configuration.

They moved swiftly then, running across the surface of the ship, gunpods up and at the ready. The boxy turbolaser turrets could not lower their firing angle enough to hit them as they ran, but the turrets were easy pickings for the robotic knights.

55mm slugs tore into the delicate structure of the turret's gun barrels and in a matter of minutes half of the topside turrets were put out of commission.

Towers watched as the first of the Rebel transports sailed by, unmolested by either the great warship, or its fighters. And as it moved past and streaked into hyperspace he happily called out over the comm.

"Talon Leader here. The first transport is away. I say again, the first transport is away."

O=O=O=O=O

The call raised a chorus of cheers for the harried workers inside Echo Base and Luke joined them, pumping his arm in the air as he ran into the hanger. He jogged past the line of Alpha Fighters getting ready to roll out to confront the Empire's ground forces and waved to Muck who was making final checks on his mecha. The Robotech pilot waved back and settled into the blue trimmed, black fighter and powered up the craft's turbines.

Luke smiled as the low growl became a high pitched whine and continued on to his own squadron. The Rogues were getting ready in the small attack speeders that had been adapted to the cold of Hoth. The craft had nowhere near the firepower of an Alpha or an X-Wing, but their maneuverability was uncanny. And that was what was needed in a ground support mission.

"Feeling better, Sir," asked Dack as Luke dropped into the front seat of his speeder.

Luke smiled, "Like new, Dack. How about you?"

"Like I could take on the Empire by myself."

The young Jedi nodded and watched as the Ravens lined up and blasted out of Echo Base at full throttle, shifting to Guardian mode and skimming away, gunpods gleaming in the sun.

"I know the feeling," Luke said as the Veritechs sped out of sight. Soon the Rogues were set and the speeders blasted out of the base, hot on the heels of their Robotech counterparts.

The sight that greeted them on the battlefield however was one of horror. The Imperials had already started moving and the AT-AT Walkers shook the ground. The infantry protecting the perimeter was totally outclassed, and even with support from fixed artillery and the dozen Cyclone Riders that covered them it was all but a rout.

Then the Ravens and the Rogues passed overhead and Luke could almost feel the relief rising from the battered ground troops as they started falling back.

Ahead of him, Muck drew his team together as he evaluated the lumbering Walkers.

"All right Ravens. Johnny Reb down there is taking a pounding. Let's hit hard and fast on the front line. Break by pairs and stay mobile, hit the big'uns with missile spreads and the little bipeds with CQB strikes. We have a time limit here so let's hit hard and fast. Knockout, with me. Ravens…ATTACK!"

The Guardian mode fighters roared in, Muck in the lead as he dropped down while avoiding cannon fire and landed right next to one of the AT-ST Scout Walkers. The chicken legged, boxy Walker turned to face him, but he had already shifted to Battleoid and one of his armored, robotic fits came in low in an uppercut. The punch from the mecha crushed the Walkers chin mounted blasters and knocked it off balance, tumbling it to the ground.

Knockout's black and red mecha was beside him quickly, landing three short jabs and a haymaker to another AT-ST. The armor on the Imperial war machine buckled, and the powerful ending punch took the abused cockpit clear off its light hips and legs. The two Battleoids then turned as one to face an oncoming AT-AT and opened their shoulder armor, letting fly with four small swarms of missiles that impacted the giant metal beast with a staccato of explosions.

When the smoke cleared the Walker had obviously taken abuse, but it was still marching onward and the duo had to dive out of the way of glaring red cannon fire.

"Ok," Muck grunted, "that didn't work like I thought. Ravens, roll in the heavies. Punch them hard, and then we go hand to hand."

He received a chorus of acknowledgements and shifted back to fighter mode, jetting away with his wingmate right on his tail as the Beta fighters started their attack. The flying brick-like fighters swooped in, each firing two heavy missiles and banking away. These longer range projectiles were four times the size of the ordinance carried by the Alpha fighter and packed a much bigger punch.

Two AT-ATs were hit by four missiles each, detonating against their broadsides. The anti-armor warheads did their job, puncturing the outer armor belt and letting another explosive charge detonate inside the great war machines. With two 'whoomp' sounds that echoed across the battlefield as the Walkers died, panels blown out and parts flung to the four winds.

The Ravens did not stop to celebrate. They still had a job to do.

Alpha's moved quickly, skating along the snow and ice. Beta's struck hard, hitting and fading. Speeders danced among the mechanical legs, covering ground troops and using lightning strikes.

But still, white snow would run red as the massive force of the Imperial Army started Hoth burring.

To be continued…

Endnote: Not much to say here, save that I am sorry for the wait, as usual. See my Author Page for the reasons. Next time sees the second half of the Battle of Hoth as well as the reaction of a Dark Lord to these new players in the war between the Light and the Dark. Until then, kick the tires and light the fires.