Stand By

Master Chief Gunnery Officer Tenn Graneet stared at his comlink in disbelief. His gunnery crew was being called to duty again, by Grand Moff Tarkin himself. All of his gunners were to report to their respective stations immediately.

Within the bowels of the Death Star's colossal superlaser.

Graneet put on his helmet, and felt a surge of mixed emotions. Why was he the one who had to do this? Why was he the person who had to pull the superlaser's firing lever? Why had he followed his orders to fire on Despayre, then Alderaan?

'Have I lost my sense of humanity? How far should I go, executing the Emperor's will?' he thought bitterly, as he walked towards the superlaser's central control chamber.

'I was the one who pulled the lever on Despayre and Alderaan.'

Orders were orders, but how far was too far?

'I'm the biggest mass-murderer in the history of mankind.'

The blood of billions were on two hands. His hands.

'I deserve to die for my sins.'

He had noticed the stares. People had found out exactly who it was that had pulled the lever on the Death Star's first two targets, and they stared.

At a murderer.

xxx

He watched nervously as the Rebels started their assault on the Death Star. Watched as the other Imperial gunners fired the battle station's colossal turbolasers at the tiny one-man starfighters. And yet, the Rebels proved to be seemingly above-average pilots, evading almost every shot being fired at them.

'Tarkin and his toadies are idiots,' he thought, as he watched the starfighters approaching the Death Star's equatorial trench, from his computer console, 'Those turbolasers were built and timed for hitting CAPITAL ships, not starfighters!'

Cheers erupted from the other gunners in the control chamber as an unlucky Rebel starfighter got clipped in the rear by a turbolaser. The starfighter, fully-shielded, exploded into a ball of fire, quickly extinguished by the vacuum of space. The gunners manning the turbolasers were apparently motivated by this, as the Rebels suddenly found the number of turbolaser batteries firing on them, doubling in number. The blackness of space was lit up by a flurry of powerful neon-green turbolaser bolts.

Some batteries had to stop firing, as Lord Vader and his deadly wingmen of the 501st Legion personally started tailing the Rebels and taking them down, ship-by-ship.

As several more Rebel starfighters exploded into oblivion from the Imperials' collective onslaught, a klaxon started to sound in the control chamber. Graneet and his gunnery crew rushed to their stations, and watched as their consoles lit up with the coordinates of a new target.

The jungle moon of Yavin Four.

xxx

Even with Vader and his wingmen hot on their exhaust trails, the Rebels continued to perservere. They flew through the trench, heading inexplicably towards the 3rd Sector of the trench.

He knew that they were headed for one of the trench's larger exhaust ports. It was a backup port, that wasn't even in use at the moment. In fact, a thick, durasteel blast door was shut right in the middle of the port's 80 kilometer-long shaft. If the Rebels were hoping to fire a torpedo or bomb into the port, the blast door would take the projectiles, and probably hold solidly.

The Rebels were on a suicide mission, in which the odds were a million-to-one against them. Graneet knew that the blast door would most probably withstand the projectiles' explosions, and that soon, he would be forced to fire upon yet another world.

As his gunners fired up the superlaser's capacitors, he felt fear, cold like a flower of liquid nitrogen blossoming within him. He looked at his gunners, and felt a pang of remorse. They were innocent, he was the monster here.

As one-by-one, the superlaser's systems lit up in readiness to fire, Graneet decided that Yavin would be the last time he pulled the firing lever. As he reached for the firing lever, he stole a glance at the capacitor's charge readings.

The superlaser's internal power balance was delicate, and the titanic laser would misfire if Graneet pulled the lever even two seconds too late. The excessive power buildup would be more than sufficient to blow up the Death Star, and anything a distance of several dozen kilometers.

He made his decision. As he opened his mouth to issue what would be his last orders to his gunners, they all felt a slight tremor beneath their feet. The blast door had held, and the Rebels had failed to blow up the hypermatter reactor. Graneet steeled himself for what was to come.

"Stand by," he said, causing several of his gunners to turn and stare at him.

Was their chief mad? The superlaser could almost misfire now, if he pulled the trigger. One of them rushed to start a power-bleeding sequence on the capacitors.

The capacitors were overflowing with energy, the monitoring graphs spiking way beyond the safety zones. Graneet's gunners scrambled to try and bleed off the excess energy, hoping that they could reverse the power buildup in time.

Graneet placed his hand on the superlaser's firing lever, unnoticed by his distracted gunners.

"Stand by," he repeated.

And fired.

END