Things were pretty much normal on the Liberty. There were a few new faces on-board as well as some old faces now missing. As usual Corsair Squadron had been doing its fair share of patrols and escort missions. These missions had been no different than normal but some of the pilots had got a little tired of the lack of actual combat recently. Rogue Squadron had been kept very busy though, and it looked as though the elite squadron was finding all the action at the moment.
Fortunately for some of the Corsairs things were looking up. An interesting mission that could not be left until the Rogues were back had just become available thanks to some top class reconnaissance on their fellow Corsairs’ part.
Lt. Col. Bob "Blindman" Lin strode into the briefing room in which Chris "Jalb_K" Reynolds, Matt "Krayt" Housemann, and Jonathan "Condor" Rees sat. Surprisingly a couple of the Buccaneers were also present for the briefing too, so this made it look like the mission was going to be something a little more interesting. The colonel spoke, he looked tired but enthusiastic nonetheless.
"Well Renegades, we’ve been idling our burners lately; but Command has decided go give us a go, so let’s get started". He turned to the Corsair pilots as their faces lit up with the prospect of some kills. "Your squadmates have brought to our attention a relatively unguarded munitions convoy passing through a classified sector on the outer rim. The Empire must have planned to sneak it past us unnoticed as a quick sensor sweep of the convoy revealed only a handful of Eyeballs and Squints escorting, with a few in reserve on board a pair of Corvettes that form the primary defenses for the convoy. Of course we have other plans for this convoy, but our recon did not pass unnoticed so reinforcements are undoubtedly already en-route. Now we would prefer to capture the entire convoy intact, but insufficient time and manpower prevents that. So..." he paused to let the tension build up, then: "Guardian has assigned a flight of two B-wings from Buccanneer that will attempt to destroy the entire convoy and deny the Empire use of these weapons. Three A-wings from Corsair will provide escort for the B-wings and intercept all fighter defenses. Notice I said ‘attempt’, not because I doubt your abilities, but because I want you all out of there at the first sign of trouble… is that clear?"
All the pilots nodded." It doesn’t appear so but we can never rule out the possibility of a trap. Also -- Intel suggests Imperial reinforcements will be heavy and in significant numbers so be careful! This does however leave the question of why is this convoy so important, so as a precautionary measure Flight Officer Ralter will be joining you on this mission to capture anything of great value to our wing and the Alliance in general. To this end we will have commandos on board the Darei to help with capture operations, if any. Therefore Corsair Squadron also has the responsibility of keeping them safe… right?"
Alli walked into the briefing with a sense of purpose, followed shortly thereafter by a small yellow creature that could only be Pika.
"Right!" she said. "Do you think we can rely on these guys?" she asked Pika. She smiled after a small nod came in return then replied "Yeah me too".
A short while later the mission’s pilots had gathered in the main hangar and were completing final checks to their ships.
"So," said Jalb, "you have the honor of flying with the best today! I’ll let you take my other wing if you think you can handle it."
"Sure," Condor replied with a smirk, "I’m not in the mood for lead today, so I will be happy to pass it on to the next best qualified. You need the experience."
"Heheh, you wish Condor," came the reply.
Moments later they were aboard their A-wings with Josh "Hellcat" Kinney and Alastair "Rancor" Harper aboard their respective B-wings. Alli was not yet with them as her modified Corellian Transport was capable of much greater speeds than the fighters. This allowed her to leave later and gave the others a chance to secure the combat area first as well.
Each Corsair pilot switched to their squad channel and checked in. "This is Five, reading all green for go."
"Copy Five, this is Six, all systems operational."
"Nine here, roger that, clear for lift off."
"Liberty Control," Jalb_k said, switching to the wing’s frequency, "Corsair flight of three, requesting permission to launch, noses hot."
"Control to Corsair flight," purred Pashk "Silk" V’tikan, the Bothan flight controller. "Copy, noses hot, permission to launch granted, Force be with you."
The A-wings took the lead and rose off the deck, then glided slowly around to face the hangars exit. Seconds later their engines kicked in and thrust them forward. They swooped out away from the Liberty at one-third power, followed shortly thereafter by the pair of B-wings from Buccaneer Squadron. The snubfighters made formation around Jalb’s craft as he downloaded jump co-ordinates to his comrades.
"Hyperspace in 3…2…1."
The familiar sight of stars cascading in beams of pure light greeted them as they left the relative safety of the Liberty far behind….
Condor checked his chrono; there were mere seconds until reversion to realspace and his mission. He was going to have to work fast, his comrades in Buccaneer and on the Darei depended on it.
The cascade of light shimmered and faltered, finally slowing to a halt. Several shapes began to grow in his line of sight as his A-Wing decelerated from hyperspace. He recognised the shapes of the bulk freighters straight away; there were six of them, protected at the front and rear by a corvette. The Buccaneers’ first task was to penetrate this defensive perimeter to reach their targets. Condor’s combat computer reported eight standard TIE/In Starfighters, or "eyeballs," in the area. Jalb spoke up:
"Right Condor, Krayt and I can handle these guys. You take close escort of the B’s in case any slip by us. We have to give them a clear run to target."
"Roger," Condor replied.
"Oh yeah," added Jalb, "while you’re there do a quick ID of the freighters, let’s see what we got."
No sooner had they split than their combat computer reported a launch of four TIE Interceptors, or "squints," from the corvettes. Condor reacted quickly:
"I’m on them. Give me a hand with the ID run when you’re done."
"Copy that," replied Jalb.
"You sure you’re all right with them?" Krayt queried.
"I’ll shout you at the first sign of trouble," came Condor’s reply.
Corsair Nine and the Buccaneers slipped under the eyeballs’ formation as Jalb and Krayt opened fire. Jalb’s shots tore the left panel clear off his target while Krayt hit his victim dead on causing the cockpit of the TIE to condense into a cloud of ionised gas.
"Woo-hoo!" Jalb screamed. "Chalk up another one for the Corsair boys!"
Meanwhile Condor had pulled aside from the Buccaneers on an intercept course, attempting to take the squints out before they could harass the B-wings of Buccaneer. As Hellcat and Rancor closed on the convoy they each targeted a corvette and began to lock their weapons.
"I’m locked, torps away!" came the reassuring update from Hellcat. His flight of torpedoes slammed straight into his corvette’s bridge section simultaneously lowering the shields of the vessel while blasting huge chunks of armor out of it at a time. It didn’t stand a chance and quickly broke up under the onslaught. Rancor had similar success with his torpedoes hitting the engine section of his corvette and detonating the entire ship.
"The corvettes are down, clear for ID," announced Rancor.
"Only one minute until Alli gets here," added Hellcat. "Let’s make sure there’s no welcoming committee for her!"
The squints had split into two elements as Condor closed. The first continued towards the Buccaneers, the other had broken off and had now targeted his A-wing and was closing fast. He jinked to port to avoid the barrage of lasers and in doing so got a laser lock on one of the other squints. Unleashing a quick salvo of dual shots, he managed to tear one apart in his first pass. He followed up on the second’s tail and had caused severe damage to it when he felt the slam of Imperial lasers on his aft shields. He slew his craft left and right but had difficulty losing the maneuverable squints that obviously weren’t being flown by rookies. The odd stray shot from his pursuers hitting his shields started to worry him. But just as he saw no other option but to call on his wingmen, the welcome sight of Hellcat’s B-wing appeared right in front of him and fired two linked shots straight at his pursuer at point blank range. This surprise brought a quick smile on Condor’s face and the shock caused the squint’s wingman to break off. Seizing the opportunity Condor turned and inverted bringing the fleeing squint into his sight. His first shot was too high, but managed to clip the squint’s starboard wing. The proximity of this shot caused the squint’s pilot to swerve away from the blast straight in line with his second shot. The ball cockpit was sheared end to end by the blast.
"Thanks for the save back there Hellcat!" Condor called.
"Hey no problem Birdman," came the reply, "we Buccs need some kills too ya know."
"That’s the squints taken care of," reported Condor, "beginning ID run".
During the conflict with the squints Corsair’s Five and Six flyers had been kept equally busy. After the initial pass the eyeballs broke formation and juked in all directions. The two pilots had each managed to stay on one and persisted in showering their path with lasers until they were no more.
"Two to one," Krayt mused, "I’d take those odds any day." The remaining eyeballs were then evenly spread on Jalb_k’s and Krayt’s tails.
"Let’s go for the old one two," Jalb replied.
The two A-wings turned to face each other head on as their followers did the same. As they closed to 1.5 klicks they both opened fire at each other just as the eyeballs fired upon them.
Jalb broke up, and Krayt down. The eyeballs realized only too late the old trick they had fallen for. The Corsairs had left behind them four ties and a whole lot of lasers. The combination wasn’t pretty as an inescapable barrage of both Rebel and Imperial energy beams surrounded the lead eyeballs. The resulting explosion made it difficult for their wingmen to see for a moment. One had escaped relatively unscathed; the other had lost a significant part of its port solar panel and thus some of its manoeuvrability. They didn’t see each other until late… far too late. They both tried to break -- but with no time and one of the two damaged, collision was unavoidable.
"Yeah! Scratch eight!" came from a delighted Krayt.
Rancor had already ID’d the first two freighters as Condor’s A-wing came flying past him towards the others.
"Just standard munitions at the moment," reported Rancor. "You take the first Hellcat, and I’ll take this one. Oh and save the torps for later in case we need to finish in a hurry."
"Will do," answered Hellcat.
Just as Condor’s A-wing closed on the remaining freighters, the familiar sight of Alli’s CORT Darei appeared on sensors. The other Corsairs moved to escort and were on her wing in moments.
Condor ID’d the remaining freighters with ease. The first were just loaded with standard munitions, but the last pair’s cargo caught his attention a little better. Both were packed full of starfighter warheads: one load of advanced missles, and the other advanced torpedoes. This was too good to be true for Renegade Wing; warheads were in short supply at the best of times for the Alliance, so this find was like striking gold.
Jalb took control:
"Hellcat, Rancor, disable those freighters now! Alli -- capture them as quickly as possible, reinforcements can’t be far off now. We’ll finish the others off."
Under the combined firepower of the three A-wings the freighters lasted no time at all. The first buckled under a solid wave of laser fire, and the second was dispatched with a few well-placed missiles.
Meanwhile the Buccaneers used their remaining torpedoes to cripple the shields on both of the freighters. Seconds later the familiar blue glow of ion cannons washed over the freighter’s hull.
"Targets disabled," reported Hellcat.
"Copy that," answered Jalb.
The graceful shape of the CORT Darei glided above and lowered itself onto the first freighter.
"Give me two minutes to unload commandos onto the freighters," requested Alli.
"This is Nine, roger that, we’ll cover you."
It seemed like an eternity as they waited. Finally the Darei disengaged off the freighter and moved towards the other.
"So far so good," Krayt reported.
"Doh!" replied Hellcat, "never say that until it’s over…."
The sudden appearance of an Imperial-class Star Destroyer and several corvettes spurred the pilots into action. Moments later a smaller Victory-class Star Destroyer appeared towards their exit vector. The first captured freighter, with only seconds to spare, accelerated towards and under the VSD and escaped into hyperspace narrowly avoiding the hail of laser fire the Star Destroyer had aimed at it.
"That was close," said Rancor. "We won’t be so lucky next time, it’s moving to block our escape."
"We’ll have to force it back so we can get jumped out of here. Anyone got any torps left?"
"We’ve got two each," replied Hellcat, "not enough to dent that ugly piece of space trash."
"I’ve got a couple loaded up to fire on board, too," added Alli.
"We had better save them for our withdrawal," suggested Hellcat. "We’ll need them to pin that VSD down."
"Copy that," answered Jalb. "Corsairs, we’re going to have to keep any fighters off the Darei while she finishes docking. Condor, work with the Buccaneers and hold any forces from the VSD away from the Darei; Krayt and I will do our best to stop any from the ISD. Alli, tell me your guys are almost done ‘cause we’re running out of options… fast!"
"Another minute at least Jalb… just give us a little longer."
"We’ll try, but there’s no promises."
A swarm of fighters poured out the ISD and headed straight towards them. They were only 10 klicks away so they would have a warhead lock on the Darei in little more than a minute. The duo of A-wings kicked their engines up to full and closed as quickly as possible.
"OK Krayt, it looks like we only have one option here, go for the bombers… it’s our only chance."
"Let’s just hope we stay alive long enough to do that then," came the reply.
Meanwhile there was a launch of only 2 squints and 3 dupes from the VSD; it was starting to look a little more promising this end of the engagement.
"I’ll keep the squints off your back, go for the bombers," said Condor.
"Will do Birdman," replied Hellcat, "don’t let us down."
As Condor flew head-on at the squints he switched to missiles and fired a snap shot at the lead fighter. It disengaged immediately and concentrated on staying clear of his warhead. With the first out the way for a while he focused his aim at the second and closed with frightening speed. His target noticed the unwanted attention he was receiving and moved to engage. At this range it was near suicide against a shielded craft; both exchanged laser fire but the squint’s merely deflected on his shields. Condor’s shots hit home and the squint tore apart with ease as he flew through the remains of his foe.
This had left the Buccaneers unchallenged in their run against the dupes. They each took one down in moments from missile lock. The survivor managed to let a twin salvo of torpedoes loose before the clumsy B-wings could turn to fire. The azure projectiles speed off towards the Darei.
"You have incoming!" Hellcat screamed as a hasty warning to Alli. Within seconds of impact a flare launched from the CORT and intercepted the first torp. The second, unchallenged, slammed straight into the transport shaking it end from end. The shields held, barely, and the Darei regained control momentarily.
"Careful guys, another one of them and we’re done for!"
"We are severely outnumbered here Alli! If you’re not going to be done in the next thirty seconds we’re going to have to withdraw."
"Almost there boys, just hold them off for a few seconds."
The squint on the run from Condor’s missile came dangerously close to Hellcat on his evasive maneuvers. It provided an opportunity too great to pass up for the impulsive pilot. He locked all lasers on Hellcat and opened fire. Hellcat saw the threat immediately and dodged accordingly, but it was not enough due to the B-wing’s massive profile. Two of the four lasers from the initial barrage hit his craft, rocking it with the impact. The squint pilot pulled behind Hellcat with ease with his squint’s far superior maneuverability. Just as he was about to fire the missile he had carelessly ignored slammed into his side blowing his craft apart.
"You’re clear Hellcat!" commented Condor. "Our exit vector is cleared of fighters for the time being."
"Copy that" said Jalb as his small flight of A-Wings approached the cloud of fighters before them. "Nine, give us some help out here; Buccaneers stay on escort."
The two Corsairs tore into the group of TIEs narrowly missing the shower of lasers fired upon them and continued towards the large group of dupes behind them. A hastily fired missile from each A-wing took two down instantaneously. As they closed the Corsair pilots switched to lasers and fired into the group. The dupes broke formation and scattered. Despite the trail of eyeballs and squints that followed them the two A-Wings managed to snap off enough shots to discourage any dupes from staying straight enough to get a warhead lock on the Darei. However the sheer number of enemy fighters soon got the better of them, and Jalb had to disengage from the dupes to avoid a pounding of laser fire coming from the fighters close on his tail. This was all the chance the Imperial pilots needed. A volley of about twelve torpedoes sped off towards the Darei at breakneck speed.
"There is more incoming Alli," said a solemn Jalb, "please tell me you’re done."
"Not quite!" said Alli. "What range?"
"Six klicks," replied Jalb.
"We’re in trouble. Torpedoes are loaded up now so we have no missiles to intercept the torpedoes."
"Use the torpedoes then!"
"No can do; they’re not quick enough to get in the way in time -- my launchers are front firing."
"Condor, you’re mid-way to us, try to intercept them first, you’re Darei’s only chance."
"I’ll try Jalb," Condor said.
"Good luck Nine."
Condor saw the shimmer of blue coming towards him. He switched to single fire lasers and hoped he was quick enough. As the torpedoes approached he targeted the first and opened fire. Torpedo after torpedo was shot down, but they appeared to keep coming, never ending. Finally he could see only the blackness of space behind them. A final volley of five torpedoes came towards him from every angle in front. He snapped out five shots, but in his hurry only three hit home.
"Wow," said Jalb, "good shooting, you got them all!"
"That’s a negative," said Condor let down by his failure. "The last two got by me."
"Brace for impact Darei!" ordered Jalb. Mere moments from the fatal impact the elegant forms of Hellcat’s and Rancor’s B-wings glided in front of the Darei and fired a linked shot each. The incoming torpedoes fizzled into nothingness.
"Woo hoo!" said Jalb, "way to go guys!"
"Capture operation complete!" reported Alli.
"Let’s get the hell out of here then!" replied Condor.
"Copy that Nine," said Jalb, "on our way out, ETA one minute." The two A-Wings amidst the TIE swarm turned tail and kicked their engines up to flank, tearing away from the enemy fighters and leaving even some of the squints for dust. The rest of the Alliance forces turned to engage the VSD and head for their exit vector.
The Darei and the two B-wings from Buccaneer let loose with everything they had. The volley of torpedoes served its purpose, slamming into the VSD with such force that it was knocked back as its shields were pounded down. The B-wings and the Darei slipped under the VSD and took the opportunity when it was pinned down to fly past and jump to hyperspace.
The freighter was by now closing fast on the exit vector, however it was moving too slow to slip past the capital ship as the others had. By this time Jalb and Krayt had caught up almost to the final freighter and Condor took their wing.
"I say we charge them," suggested Condor.
"I knew we brought you for a reason," Jalb laughed down the comm. "You’re the lead, Condor; it’s your idea so you have the honor." The others slipped behind him and sped off towards the freighter with the faster squints in hot pursuit. The three A-wings got in range just before the freighter and caught all the attention of the VSD. All three fighters opened up on the bridge and top of the hull while gliding left and right to avoid incoming fire. The VSD was such a big target that even with this movement they hit with all their shots. The incoming Corsairs though were a little harder to hit. The splash of rebel lasers against the Star Destroyer’s bridge was enough to distract the vessel’s commander. The freighter flew past as quickly as possible and jumped as soon as it was able. Seconds later the A-wings that had by now cleared the VSD aimed to do the same. The following squints were close behind but not quick enough as the trio of fighters jumped as one into the welcome quiet of hyperspace.
Back at the Liberty the pilots were met with congratulations from their comrades. They had just had word that the fighters of their ship had been allocated all the captured warheads, which would make their job a lot easier at times. They all met after debriefing for a celebration drink.
"Pretty well done Condor," said Jalb. "You did OK. If you’re really lucky I may let you fly with us again some time. I’m surprised you could keep up with us."
"Gee thanks," replied Condor jokingly, "but I’ve had enough of the little league for the time being."
"Yeah right," Jalb added, "now you’ve flown with the best,‘nothing’ will compare".
"I’ll take your word for it Jalb... for now! Oh by the way, well-flown Buccaneers, you guys can be useful even in those tanks you call starfighters."
"Good job I was there to bail you out, Tweety," added Hellcat. "What would you do without me?"
"I’m sure I’d manage, Kitty, but I had to give you guys something to do, gotta earn your pay."
"You guys never stop do you?" asked Alli.
"We’re Renegades," replied Rancor. "That’s the idea!"