It was 22:30 hours aboard the Liberty. A thoroughly exhausted Lieutenant Jeff "Spectre" Mitchell wandered into the Lounge. He was still dressed in his flight suit and had his helmet tucked under his right arm. His short brown hair was totally disheveled and generally he looked as though he'd been in a losing battle with a wampa. His entire body was sore and he had a dull, throbbing headache.
There were a few patrons in the Lounge on this evening, but no one Spectre recognized immediately. He'd been on board the Liberty for two weeks and was still getting to know names and faces. Spectre shuffled his way over to the bar and sat down on one of the free stools. He put his helmet on the empty stool beside him as Mixer rolled up and asked what he'd like.
"Double Corellian whiskey please Mixer, straight up with no ice," he replied wearily. As Mixer brought him his drink, Spectre pulled a datapad out of the front pocket of his flight suit. He clicked the device on and slowly read its contents. His drink arrived shortly thereafter and he took a swig. The whiskey tasted very good, and after his second swallow he could feel the soreness begin to slowly fade from his aching muscles. As he resumed his reading, Michael "Vidster" Videlka strode into the lounge. He saw Spectre immediately and made his way over to the bar.
"Spectre! Good to see you," Rogue Squadron's XO said, taking the free seat beside the newest Corsair pilot. "I heard you were flying today, for real. How did it go?" Vidster took a quick glance into the contents of Spectre's glass, trying to contain the look of surprise that appeared on his face. "Not very well I gather, you don't drink hard liquor very often," Spectre looked away from his datapad and managed a crooked smile as Vidster sat down.
"Well sir, I'll tell you, I've never spent 5 hours straight in an A-wing before. I think the A-wing cockpit has to be the single most uncomfortable place in the entire universe," Spectre concluded, draining his whiskey and turning off his datapad. Vidster laughed.
"Yes Spectre, I think you're right. I'll take the roominess of an X any day," he replied, smiling. "Let me buy you a refill and you can tell me what happened. Why did the mission take so long anyway? Looked pretty routine from what I saw of the briefing," Vidster continued.
"Well, it was routine right up until the party crashers arrived," Spectre said, taking a sip from his newly refilled glass of Corellian whiskey. The ache in his muscles and his head had become nicely dulled at this point. "As you know, Blindman, Kallysto and I went out to rendevous with the supply freighter Replenisher. We all thought it would be a good opportunity for me to get some flight time in..."
Three A-wing starfighters gracefully rose from the deck of the main hangar bay aboard the CRS Liberty. They paused briefly, obtaining flight clearance from the controller on the bridge. Then, in tight formation, they sped out into the blackness of space.
Nestled in the cockpit of his A-wing, Spectre quickly checked his systems. He set standard presets for his ELS system and double-checked the mission objectives. The freighter Replenisher was due to arrive within the next few minutes. Buccaneer Squadron had run critically short of warheads and required immediate resupply before they resumed offensive operations. The trick was to ensure that the supply transfer went ahead without interference. Spectre concentrated on maintaining a tight formation with his CO and XO as the three fighters began their racetrack flight pattern around their command ship.
Spectre let himself relax slightly and he settled back into his seat. The A-wing was a little cramped, he was still getting used to it. He was beginning to fall in love with the little craft though. His longing for an X-wing was slowly starting to fade. Generally, Spectre was really glad to be back in the cockpit of a starfighter again. Suddenly, the soft chime of his comm system interrupted his daydreaming. Blindman was calling.
"Corsair Lead to Corsairs Eleven and Three... I've just received a message from the Liberty. I have some bad news. Looks like the Replenisher has run into hyperdrive trouble two sectors from here. We're going to have to go provide cover while they make repairs. You should be receiving nav coordinates now," Blindman said.
"Acknowledged Corsair Lead, preparing for hyper jump," Kallysto responded.
"Roger, receiving coordinates now," Spectre called over the comm channel. He banked his fighter over to the left, following his two squadmates. Several seconds later the trio of starfighters simultaneously jumped to lightspeed, their escort mission now a rescue mission.
Spectre drained his Corellian whiskey in one long, final pull. He set the glass down on the bar with a dull thump. He wasn't feeling any pain anymore.
"So that's how this particular mission started to go to the dogs. Needless to say, it got worse, a lot worse," Spectre said. Vidster let out a laugh.
"I bet I know what happened next. You arrived at the rendevous coordinates and were jumped by an Imperial fleet." he said, with a grin.
"Pretty much, although I think a single Imperial fleet would have been a lot easier." Spectre said. "As it turned out, everyone and their uncle was out to ruin our day..."
The three A-wings exited hyperspace after a brief trip. They slowed and acquired their target, which lay five kilometres ahead. Blindman opened a comm channel to the freighter.
"Freighter Replenisher this is Corsair Leader, what's your status?" Blindman called.
"This is Captain Emmryson aboard the Replenisher. Are we glad to see you. We were getting a little worried sitting here in the middle of nowhere. Our hyperdrive is still offline. It blew shortly after we started the final leg of our jump to the Liberty. Our engineer is still trying to fix it. It appears we don't need anything in the way of extra parts."
"That's good news Captain, we'll stay on station here and cover you. We can call the Liberty if any serious problems arise," Blindman responded. "Keep us informed of your status and let us know when you're ready to hyper out."
"Roger Corsair Leader, will-do." Captain Emmryson answered, sounding much happier than he had several seconds earlier.
Blindman switched comm channels back to the one reserved for squadron communcations.
"Corsairs Eleven and Three, assume standard patrol pattern around the Replenisher and maintain radio silence. We don't want to broadcast our presence here. This is open space and we're near an Imperial patrol route. Break radio silence only if we are attacked," he ordered.
"Roger Corsair Lead," Spectre called back.
"Yes sir," came the response from Kallysto.
The three fighters neatly split their formation and assumed racetrack patrol routes around the stricken Alliance freighter.
Spectre took another glass of Corellian whiskey from Mixer. He was feeling really good now.
"So, we spent about an hour flying around, waiting for something to happen. We kept close eyes on our fuel status and kept our speed relatively low in an effort to conserve. Just as we were getting totally bored and on the verge of falling asleep, things got messy...fast," he continued, sipping from his newly refreshed drink. Vidster smiled.
"So how many Star Destroyers dropped out of hyperspace on you?" he asked.
"None actually...to start off." Spectre replied. "The pirates came first, followed by the Imperials about fifteen minutes later...
Spectre had been getting drowsy. He tried to fight it, but his eyes just kept getting heavier and heavier. Suddenly, he was saved from a nap he couldn't afford to take. His body flooded with adrenaline as his threat-warning indicator went off with a sharp wail. He quickly checked his sensor displays. Three Y-wings and a pair of transports had dropped out of hyperspace nearby. Kallysto was the first to break radio silence.
"Incoming raiders! Bearing 210 mark 36, 5 klicks out," he called to his wingmen.
"I've got them Kallysto," Blindman answered. "Spectre, ID those transports and ensure that they aren't friendly. Take 'em out if they aren't. Kally and I will keep the Y-wings off you."
"Roger Corsair Lead, starting intercept now," Spectre responded, the cobwebs now completely erased from his mind. This was it, his first taste of real combat as a Corsair pilot. He pushed away the nervousness he felt and let his automatic instincts take over. Configuring his ELS for speed, he broke out of his patrol pattern and raced for the incoming transports.
As he bore in on the unwelcome arrivals, he heard Blindman issuing instructions to the freighter captain, telling him to get moving and start evasive maneuvers. Spectre checked the charge status of his shields and then selected his missile launchers. He set them to dual fire mode and acquired the lead transport. He continued to bore in, flashing past the tight formation the transports had formed. His sensors rapidly classified the ships and indicated that they had raiding parties aboard.
Knowing what he had to do next, Spectre held his course and put some distance between himself and the pirates. Then, he banked up sharply and turned around to head back. After a few seconds that seemed like an eternity, he entered maximum range and his crosshairs changed to yellow and then red. He loosed two pairs of missiles and then rapidly acquired the second transport. After getting a solid lock, he fired another two pairs of missiles at the second ship. The two transports attempted to turn away from the incoming warheads, but they weren't fast enough -- the missiles slammed into their shields, eliminating them entirely and causing significant hull damage.
Spectre slowed his fighter and switched over to lasers. He reselected the first transport and lined it up in his sights. He squeezed off several shots as the transport desperately tried to weave and jink. Spectre's determination paid off and the pirate ship exploded in a brilliant flash. He smiled in satisfaction at his first kill. He flipped on his inflight map, to quickly check on Blindman and Kallysto. He noted that they were locked in a furious furball with the three pirate Y-wings, but seemed to be holding their own. Then, he checked his sensors and found that the second transport had resumed its attack run and had actually opened up on the freighter with ion cannons. Spectre smoothly brought his ship around and after travelling a short distance to catch up with his quarry, opened fire, causing the pirate to break his attack run and go evasive. Spectre continued pounding with his lasers until the transport exploded.
"Corsair Lead, this is Corsair Three. The transports have been destroyed. Do you and Kallysto require assistance?" he called.
"Negative Spectre. We're doing fine. Stick close to the Replenisher. Captain Emmryson tells me their repairs are almost complete," Blindman responded as he triggered a final laser blast that resulted in the death of the second pirate Y-wing. "We should be able to get out of here shortly."
"Roger," Spectre answered, doing a quick sensor sweep of the freighter. Its shields had been knocked down a bit, but it was still in good shape. He continued to monitor the progress of his wingmates and smiled as they quickly dispatched the last pirate fighter. Spectre hoped that they'd get away without further interference. His hopes were dashed as his threat sensors indicated the arrival of multiple problems. He switched to his map to see what was coming their way next. Two Victory-class Star Destroyers had arrived practically on top of them and each immediately launched TIEs. Seconds later, several more pirates arrived, three more Y-wings and two more transports. He called to Blindman.
"Corsair Leader, we're in big trouble here. I show a squadron of TIE fighters inbound and more pirates. Suggest we get the heck out of dodge?" Spectre said. He checked his fuel gauge at the same time. He didn't like what he saw.
"Negative Spectre, we've got to stay and fight. The Replenisher is still not ready yet," Blindman called back, with a distinct edge to his voice. He was worried about their chances too. "I'm going to call the Liberty and see if we can get some assistance ASAP. In the meantime, stick to the freighter like glue."
"Roger sir. Just to let you know, my fuel status is not good. I estimate that I've got ten minutes of fight left before I'll be a sitting duck." he responded.
"Acknowledged Spectre. Kally and I are in about the same state. Let's just do our best. Looks like reinforcements are out of the question though. The Imps have thrown up a jamming field. My long range comm system is useless."
"Terrific, Corsair Leader. Guess we're on our own then. Engaging transports now." Spectre answered. He didn't know how they were going to get out of this one. He knew one thing though, he wasn't going to get captured again. With great determination, he wheeled around and started for the incoming pirate transports.
"Wow, that must have been some fight," Vidster said. He drained his glass. "How the heck did you get out of it? Things must have been pretty bleak," he asked, looking amazed.
"They were. I'm amazed I'm sitting here now," Spectre said, also finishing his drink. "I had to simultaneously fight three enemies. I tried to concentrate on keeping the transports at bay while dodging fire from the pirate Y-wings and the Imperial TIE fighters. I was flying purely on instinct," he continued. "I also had one eye on my fuel gauge the whole time. After what seemed like an eternity, we received word from the Replenisher that they were fixed and ready to roll. Blindman, Kally, and I then concentrated on disengaging safely. We followed the freighter out shortly after it left the area. I was having flashbacks to my capture the whole time while I waited for my hyperdrive motivator to come online," Spectre said, causing Vidster to grin.
"I bet. Well, that was some story. Talk about a baptism by fire," Vidster said, fishing several credits out of his pocket. "Your drinks are on me, you deserve them," he continued, giving Spectre a pat on the shoulder.
"Thanks sir. It was intense, but I can honestly say it's good to be back in the fight. I really can't imagine myself anywhere else," Spectre said, rising from the barstool and gathering his helmet. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go shower and then sleep for a week." Vidster let out a laugh.
"Sure thing Lieutenant. Catch ya later."