By: Hyp, Guardian, Paladin, Raven, Groznik, Arakyd, Animal, and Slicer
Part 1 -- The Leader
My head was reeling, I felt sick and I ached all over. The room was slowly spinning and that damn thrumming, which was usually just barely audible in my ears, was now quite loud. In short I was sobering up. It was a hell of a state of affairs when you had to be half in the bag before you felt normal, I can tell you. In addition to all my normal unpleasant symptoms of sobriety there was a noxious beeping going off every few minutes.
I managed to get into a semi-sitting position on my bunk and called for the lights. They did little to improve my mood. The beeping turned out to be the door buzzer. Swallowing hard I managed to croak out, "Come in!" and the door slid back, revealing Chris "Electro" Shock, Corsair Leader and my boss. Better known on the CRS Liberty as Capt'n Hook, but not to his face.
Electro looked around my quarters with borderline surprise. It was neat as a pin. Not a thing out of place, no clutter, no mess, hell, with the exception of the bunk on which I was sprawled, the place didn't look lived in at all. It was creepy.
"Erratic," I said. Chris raised an eyebrow and I continued, "Who'd have thought that an obsolete records droid would turn out to be a neat-freak."
My commander shook his head and sat down in the desk chair. He smiled and said, "Raven, you look like shit. As Executive Officer of Corsair you'd think you might take off your flight suit before passing out in your bunk." Leave it to Chris to be diplomatic. Finally he ran out of comments on my appearance and habits and came to the point of his visit. "I've been meaning to talk to you for awhile and I can't put it off any longer."
"Whoa! Buddy, Chris, I can explain." The room really did seem to be closing in on me now. "Honest. Look, the damage was not that extensive, besides how was I to know she was part of a marriage ritual, anyway I don't think they have any legitimate jurisdiction and in any case they can't prove a thing!"
Electro closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I came here to talk to you about Buccaneer Squadron. What are you going on about?"
Leave it to me to throw myself against a locked door only to find it unlatched. I thought fast and tried to dig myself out of the hole I had just created. "Talking about? Me? Oh, nothing, heh-heh, just pulling your leg buddy. Go on, you were talking about Buccaneer." Inwardly I took several deep breaths and said a silent thanks to any gods who wanted to claim responsibility for bailing me out again.
My commander seemed to take that at face value and pressed on. "As you know, Buccaneer was decimated during Corsair's first flight."
I nodded, knowing well the supply raid that had become known as "First Flight". The first operational mission that Corsair flew and that Buccaneer Squadron barely survived.
"Guardian has transferred to Bucc," continued Chris, "but you know his record... I'm worried about him flying Y-wings again. I've conferred with Rogue Leader and Admiral Ra'Kaat and there is a consensus that we need to get a qualified commander in charge of that squadron before it self-destructs."
Now it was my turn to try to figure out what was going on. After disappearing from the Liberty, along with a chunk of Deck 5, I was still serving in the Alliance only because some of my close friends pulled a lot of strings for me. Chris had gotten me the Executive Officer position in Corsair by personally going out on a limb for me, as I was not considered by the brass to be overly reliable. I held up my end of the conversation by asking Chris if he wanted a drink. He declined as I managed to pull out the bottle I keep stashed under the mattress and took a long pull on some smooth 20-cycle-old scotch. It burned going down and the bouquet of the fermented grains cut the fog in my head like a dry wind. The thrumming faded away and I felt the room become stationary. "Chris," I said. "I agree that Buccaneer needs a commander. The previous Bucc CO wasn't at the helm long enough to get it kicked off before the losses Bucc took on First Flight. But, if you want recommendations then that's easy, Storm is your man. He has the skills, the drive, and the ability to whip Buccaneer into shape in no time. If you can pry him from TacOps and Rogue Squadron."
"Eddie turned it down." Electro took the bottle from the table and inspected the label. I managed to find him a glass and he joined me for a drink after all. "You know Storm. He wasn’t keen on giving up his X-wing and leaving Rogue, even for a command position. There are several other candidates, but Buccaneer has gotten a bit of a reputation as a jinxed squadron, and once these things get started they're hard to stop. Recruitment has been fouled up since Buccaneer barely got out of the planning phase. Most of that deadwood has been trimmed away, but even so, finding someone both capable and willing to take it on is not as easy as you might think."
I took another drink and the room came into sharper focus. "So what do you want me to do? Try to talk Eddie into reconsidering?"
Electro smiled like the gundark that ate the canary. "No, Eddie is not about to change his mind. We need a gung-ho stand-up pilot with both heart and guts. Until we find one I was hoping you'd take the job."
Part 2 -- The New Guy
There's something about deep space, when you're all alone. One sun, a dying blue fireball, raged in silent vigil in the center of the system, attended to by four lifeless hunks of rock in a constant fall around the burning orb. I released the control stick of my new Y-wing, laid my head back against the command couch's headrest and squeezed my eyes shut. I could feel the Y's two powerful Koensayr R200 Ion Jet engines' rumble through the cockpit, and the soft beeping of the Fabritec ANs-5d sensor package's display unit pounded out a steady beat.
My new-to-me Y-wing, anyway. The craft was old, itself; it had seen more action than most. There was a small lateral pull to the left, a problem that was noticeable but not threatening. I'd get it patched when I got back. It didn't really matter. I hadn't gone on this shakedown flight for a hardware checkout, I just needed to get away. And since I'd transferred out of Corsair, they wouldn't let me take an A-wing out.
I let out a breath slowly and eased my eyes open. Beyond the transparisteel cockpit I watched the blue star burn its life away, slowly collapsing upon itself. I reached my hands out, took the stick and the throttle, and began running my ship through the sequence I saw so many times in my mind's eye.
I've heard that those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. I've also heard that philosophers are full of Bantha dung. I ran my Y through its paces, watching the imaginary squints blaze and die under my guns, seeing the rest of Defender get torn to shreds. Spirit died first, a victim of a pair of Interceptors' quad guns. Orax and Tracer got mixed up and slammed together, their Y-wings bending around each other in a twisted dance as their screams echoed in my head. Angel fragged another squint, but not before it speared Mac. The last transport jumped, and we began pulling back from the ISD Spearhead's fighter screen. Jinx got out, just ahead of Krayt, and then there were four as N'ran and Vixen both bought it. Shelia's scream still haunts me. I pulled up hard, cockpit green in the light backwash of the Imp's lasers, and tagged two of the bastards. Angel cut across my bow and got another, and Screamer and Pulse cleared.
Two left. I yelled at Cori to take off, but she said she wasn't leaving without me. We killed the last three squints, and were lining up to jump, when the next wave caught up. One more second, and we were gone. Just one...
I let go of the stick again. I felt the muscles in my jaw tighten and set. I wanted to pop the canopy of the Y, let space take me to Cori. "My Angel," I whispered. "Mine."
Instead I regained the stick and kicked the Y around, back towards the Liberty. It was time for Buccaneer Two to rejoin the land of the living. I left the blue star behind me to die, my memories I kept with me.
I touched back in the docking bay and quickly filled a tech in on the problem I'd picked up with the flight control. Then I headed into the pilot's locker room. After quickly stripping off my flight suit I ducked into the showers and turned the water up as hot as it would go.
I didn't do much washing after that. Instead, I stood under the jet flow, letting the water pound my head and back. I felt as tightly wound as I'd ever been, at least in recent memory, so I just soaked, letting the heat take some of the pain and my mind away.
"Hey, buddy," a voice echoed from the lockers. "What's up?"
I pegged the ID of the guy instantly, Flight Officer Vince "Stryker" Rambo, Corsair Twelve. He'd been one of my wingmen in the "fiasco," that the Corsairs simply called First Flight, and a bantering partner ever since. "Not much, Stryk, what's new with you?"
"Just wondering if you heard the news. Bucc's got a new CO."
"Really? Who'd they con into that job?"
I froze, barely keeping my jaw from dropping. "Raven's in charge of Buccaneer?" My mind reeled. It wasn't that I didn't like the man--on the contrary, his laid-back style as Corsair's XO reminded me of most of the guys in Defender. But I didn't think he was cut out for a CO position. He had a way with the troops, to be sure, but his paperwork and organizational skills didn't seem all that great. "Did he name an XO?"
"Not that I know of. Listen, Adam, I'm late for a patrol. Catch ya later."
"Clear skies, Vince." Stryker disappeared, and I was left alone again. I closed my eyes, trying to decide on a course of action. It seemed pretty simple. I was going to have to go congratulate Jim. And keep an eye on him...
Part 3 -- The Transfers
Groz and Hyp
I usually wake before the alarm goes off, but this day I was dreaming of my homeworld of Delaya, and as I climbed the giant trees of my home in my mind, I didn't notice the beeping of the alarm until it had run up to the third level. Unusual, as Wookies are much more sensitive to sound than the Calamari or the humans on board.
After getting up and checking my bowcaster, I went into the tiny refresher to take a shower. The facilities in my cabin were clearly designed for a shorter species, but someone had spilled liquor on my fur in the Lounge last night, and I needed to get it washed out before it stained. The group I had been with had gotten a bit wild, and I accidentally stepped on the Rogue talisman's tail, which led to a rather fun free-for-all and resulted in much broken furniture. It was good to see my squadmates blow off some steam, and good to flex my own muscles as well. There are not many creatures aboard the Liberty that I can "roughhouse" with without fear of crushing them. But Rory the Gundark is quite formidable - and I had several bruises to prove it. All in good fun, of course.
As I stood under the air jets to dry my fur, I thought about how much Corsair had changed. Since our first mission we had not seen much action. But that was okay, we saw more than our share in the freighter raid. And I had not been assigned a replacement A-wing as yet. It still peeved me mightily to have lost my ship taking out that Corvette on my first mission.
Still, I was very grateful that Hyl and Guardian had picked me up as I floated in space in the middle of the battle. Not many of the Buccaneers had been so lucky. With the dead and MIAs, Bucc Leader transferring out, and Mustang going into Rogue, Buccaneer had been down to one pilot. Then two, when Guardian suddenly transferred out of Corsair. Now the scuttlebutt was that Raven, my XO in Corsair, was taking over the bomber squadron as CO. For a human he drank a lot, but I felt he could be counted on in a pinch. At least the Gundark and Rooster seemed to like him and that was good enough for me.
It took forever to get my fur dry and I felt much better after getting it combed out. Picking up my bowcaster and the translator that Parody had made for me, I headed out to get some chow. A nice raw bantha haunch with some of Roo's special sauce sounded pretty good. And I could sharpen my fangs on the bone. I started to hurry.
On the way to the mess hall I got to thinking about Guardian, and how he had pulled me out of the vacuum after I had to eject from my A-wing. He'd been wounded himself, but he manned the search and rescue shuttle and certainly saved my fur. And now that Buccaneer had a CO with combat experience... well a Y-wing certainly had more headroom than an A-wing. So I stopped by Electro's office and spoke with Corsair's CO. He never said a word and I wondered if my translator was working. Then he asked me to take some paperwork to Raven, who he said I'd find down in the Lounge.
"And if you could sign this here," he indicated a datapad he pulled out of his desk drawer. "Sign it and then give it to Captain Lee for his signature as well," he finished. I looked at the pad... a transfer from Corsair Squadron to Buccaneer. Electro has already signed. It seemed that it didn't matter if my translator was working or not. I started to ask him how he knew I would be applying for a transfer before I knew it myself, but he just looked up and smiled. "I'm sorry to lose you Groznik. You're a fine pilot," he said. Then he returned his gaze to the pile of paperwork on his desk.
That was quite a compliment coming from Capt'n Hook. I gave up my thoughts of breakfast and went down to the Lounge.
There I found both Raven and Guardian, sitting at the bar and arguing. I gathered that Guardian was trying to talk Raven into drinking some tea… good luck with that I thought. To get their attention I growled rather loudly, my translator had no idea what to do unless I spoke very softly, remained silent. They both turned, and I handed my former XO the datapad that Electro had given me. I modulated my voice and the translator managed to match my tone, "Captain Lee, Captain Schock said this requires your signature."
He barely glanced at it, tossed back his drink, and scratched his name on the pad. He then handed my request-for-transfer to Guardian and said, "Here Lieutenant, as newly appointed Executive Officer of Buccaneer Squadron, you should countersign Groz's request to become a Buccaneer."
Guardian looked shocked. He looked at the pad, then me, then Raven, then back at the datapad. "Executive Officer?" he sputtered. "Lieutenant? Me?" Raven had turned back around to the bar and had his back to us. He poured another drink for himself from the half empty bottle in front of him. Over his shoulder he said, "Yeah, yeah, raise your right hand, by the power vested in me, blah, blah, swear to uphold the Alliance, don't walk on the grass, et cetera, et cetera, herewith, heretofore, and party of the first part. You're hired. Now take care of Groz's paperwork and quit bugging me. Thanks." The Buccaneer CO seemed intent only on his drinking.
I slapped Guardian on the back by way of congratulations and knocked him clear off the barstool. He looked up and managed to say, "Welcome aboard, Groznik! I guess this makes you Buccaneer 3."
Raven half-turned and looked down on his new XO. "Don't guess," was all he said and then turned back to his drink.
I laughed so hard I nearly blew up my new translator. "You both need looking after!"
I cracked the canopy of my A-wing, sliding the helmet off my head and allowing the cool air of the landing area to blow in on my face. "These A-wings were made for Jawas, I swear," I muttered. Even the ozone laden air of the docking bay felt good after running cover for incoming and outgoing shuttles. Cover duty was generally slow, and this night proved no different. I looked at my chrono, wondering if I could log a quick session in the sims before turning in. I was beat and decided the sims would have to wait. You never get enough sleep on the Liberty.
"Flight Officer David Barnett, Flight Officer David Barnett… please report to the Operations desk…" the overhead PA system began to drone as I was headed for the turbolifts. "What now?" I wondered.
There was a silver colored droid at the desk, "Yeah, that's me... Barnett, what do you need?"
"Good evening, sir. Lieutenant Burns respectfully requests your presence in his office, sir."
"Guardian? Respectfully requests? I bet he does. What's the occasion?"
"There was no message. He just wanted to see you following the completion of your patrol, sir. Good luck sir."
"Thanks. I'm on my way right now." I'd heard that Guardian had been promoted and given the dubious job of Buccaneer Squadron's Executive Officer. I made my way to the squadron offices. They were all dark except for a small cube at the end of the corridor. There I found Guardian, buried under a stack of folders, datacards, holodisks, and teacups. Behind him was a door leading to the CO's office. I noticed an empty scotch bottle in the IN box on the desk. Unlike Guardian's it was covered only with a fine layer of dust.
"Working late, Adam?" I asked aloud to get Guardian's attention.
Guardian looked up. "Working late or starting early, it's hard to tell the difference. Take a seat. What are you drinking?" he asked.
I knew Guardian was big on some herb drink but I opted for a glass of Yukon Jack, a drink native to the Abbaji system. I didn't usually drink hard liquor, but as I was hitting my bunk right after this little meeting, I made an exception. Guardian buzzed the ready room galley and almost immediately a boxish droid shuffled in carrying a tray. Guardian retrieved a pot of tea and my drink. "Thanks Erratic," he said as he finished up what he was working on and closed the datapad in front of him.
The droid didn't respond, it just parked itself in the corner and shut itself down. Guardian sighed, "Erratic is a bit temperamental. Thanks for coming down Hyp. I assume you have heard about Raven's assignment as CO of Buccaneer and my sudden, uh, promotion… to XO?"
I had flown in the raid that had nearly wiped out the Buccaneers. Alliance High Command would need to do some heavy re-stocking of the squad to get it back on its feet and functioning. I had some doubts about Raven as CO, but Guardian would make an excellent XO. "Yeah, I heard the rumors." I replied. "Congratulations."
"Thanks," Guardian said. "Hyp, I've been looking at the sim logs. You have been putting in a lot of time in Y-wings. You've scored some impressive numbers in some of the cap ship missions. I'll get right to the point, it's obvious Buccaneer needs a huge overhaul. There are a lot of new pilots coming out of the training squadrons but most of them can't handle a Y or B-wing. And almost none of them have combat experience."
"So, what's that got to do with me?" I asked, but I could see where this was going.
"Well," Guardian continued, "I'm thinking you might want to trade your A-wing for a bomber. I know that you can fly from the way that you handled yourself and your wingman on First Flight, and I need someone I can count on as we try to piece this squadron back together. You interested?"
A slow grin spread over my face. I had indeed thought of Buccaneer… I had always wanted to fly a bomber... I loved the idea of taking on a capital ship. It looked like I might get my chance. "You want me to fly with Buccaneer? What's Raven say?"
"He's leaving recruiting up to me. If you want a slot you got it," said Guardian. "I cleared this with Electro, and I want you to come over and help us bomb the hell out of the Empire."
"No sweat. Count me in."
Part 4 -- The Old Guard
I knew I was dreaming, but that didn't seem to matter. I'd had this dream before... and actually lived through it once. My Y-wing was jostled wildly by laser fire from a TIE Advanced. My rear shields had already gone past red. Suddenly, the green bolts stopped and I was clear. A quick check of my CMD revealed who had saved my butt. It was one of the new Corsairs, the Wookiee Groznik. Corsair was full of green recruits but they seemed to be learning fast. Not surprising considering what a snafu this mission was turning out to be.
"Thanks Corsair 4," I said, "I was getting kind of annoyed at that bozo. Chipped the hell out of my paint job."
"Welcome Buccaneer," the Wookiee roared and a mechanical voice translated over my comm. I swung my Y-wing back at the two frigates that were blocking the hyperspace exit vector for the freighters. I only had two torpedoes left, and I was still seven clicks out from the frigates. No good, I thought. Another whizzer zipped over my cockpit, its twin-ion engines roaring. Then I heard Rogue Leader order all Buccaneers to stay with the freighters. There were only five of us left. I swung back toward the freighters. A squint rushed by me, firing into my forward shields. I quickly equalized as best I could without letting the lasers drop below double charge. I then heard Predator tell Buccaneer 8 to eject, but he was too late.
The problem with this mission seemed obvious. We were all going to die. It wasn't really a matter of how, just when. We'd walked into a trap and were about to be cluster fu...
My comm crackled to life... "Green 11 to Rogue Squadron, did someone order a pizza?" With that, my adrenaline level shot past the red line. I knew that voice! That was Rick "Minuteman" Morrissey, and if Minuteman was here, Green Squadron and the Rehz'nor would not be far behind. Fatigue burned away and I dumped my remaining shields to lasers and took up a position to cover one of the three freighters our commandos had captured.
Green turned the tide for us that day. Between them and Rogue, they pulled the enemy frigates out of position and the freighters were ordered out. Just as I was about to make the jump as cover for one of the freighters, I was jolted from behind. My ship was spun to port and my head hit the viewport. A TIE Advanced shot past my port engine nacelle. I switched to lasers and blasted a hole in the whizzer's ball cockpit before he could jink. Flames rushed out just before the ion engines overloaded and exploded. One of my lasers blew and I checked my damage indicator. I was fubar, lost ion cannons, launchers, one of my lasers and my hyperdrive. My R2 reported no chance in hell of fixing the hyperdrive.
"This is Buccaneer 6," I said, "I'm damaged. Weapons and hyperdrive... I can't jump out. I've got fighters all over me. Requesting assistance."
"This is Corsair Leader, hang on Bucc 6." It was Chris "Electro" Schock, the leader of the interceptors on this shindig. His A-wing rushed past me. He ran off a whizzer that was coming up on my six. "All right, Kyd, I'm going to run some interference for you. Head towards the Rehz'nor."
"Roger, Corsair Leader," I said. We started toward the Alliance frigate, but my R2 started having conniption fits. "Ah, Electro, it seems that we have company. Lot's of it, and all the wrong color on my screen." The reinforcements from the Imperial's asteroid base had finally put in an appearance. They were between the Green Squadron frigate and us. "Uh, Chris?"
"I see 'em, Kyd," Electro replied. "We'll have to make our way back to Caspa IV." Electro and I swung our fighters around and back toward the gas giant in this system. "Arakyd," Electro said, "I'm picking up an Alliance beacon. Let's check it out."
"Roger," I said, "you lead." We leveled our fighters toward the beacon. No sooner than we'd reached one and a half clicks than we saw a beat-up Imperial shuttle picking up the Wookiee pilot. "Hey Electro, my IFF reads green on the Lamb."
"Mine too," Electro said. "Hang on, it could be a--" Then a new voice crackled over the comm.
"Hi boys! This is Corsair 6, your friendly Imperial shuttle driver! Guardian and I made it out and picked up a shuttle on Vertigo. Thought you could use some SAR. We made up a pick up on Rimmer and, as you can see, we're just snagging Groz here."
"That's great, Hyl," Electro said. "Listen up, Arakyd here has lost his hyperdrive and he needs a ride back."
"Sure, no problem," Hyl replied. "Arakyd, jettison your R2 unit then eject. We'll pick you both up."
"Will do," I said. With that, I blew the couplings on my R2 and hit the eject lever. At this point in the dream I usually wake up, and tonight was no different. I sat up and remembered how glad I felt when I was pulled into that rescue shuttle. Most of Buccaneer Squadron had not been so lucky. The Imperial ambush had nearly wiped us out.
I got dressed and headed down to the Lounge thinking about the aftermath of that mission. Mustang was the only Buccaneer to make it back to the Liberty under his own power. We sweated out the fate of Bucc Leader for three days then heard he'd been picked up and was on the Redemption. But he immediately put in a transfer to another squadron and never came back to the Liberty. Several of our pilots were still listed as 'missing - presumed dead'. Then Mustang was bumped up to Rogue. I was the only one left of the original Buccaneers.
But Buccaneer was not dead, not yet anyway. One of the Corsairs, the one who pulled me out the void in fact, Guardian, transferred into Buccaneer right after First Flight. And I heard that we just got a new CO. I knew Raven from way back when he flew in Rogue. He had his quirks, but if anyone could put together a new Buccaneer, he could. No, Buccaneer wasn't dead... not yet.
And for that, the Empire would be very sorry. Particularly the little Imperial weasel that planned the ambush that took out so many of my friends.