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The Cardooine Aerospace Academy: Tale 3

The continuation of Prowler's tale was set back by several events.

An evening after the end of his regaling the others with the lore of his youth, the Liberty was put on high-alert status when a defection mission went afoul, eliminating any downtime for the pilots. The defector turned out to be an Imperial spy, attempting to lure the Calamari cruiser into a trap meant to eliminate it, or even worse, put it into the hands of the Imperials.

However, by luck, a reconnaissance flight from Corsair Squadron, as well as technicians monitoring communication frequencies, permitted the Rebel group to detect an increase in Imperial activity throughout the area.Admiral Ra?kaat seriously considered this data and entered the meeting point the defector had set with the M/FRG Honor Bound as backup and had ordered the FRG Regis to be en-route to the defection point.

Simply enough, the Imp's weren't ready.

When the Liberty arrived, the Imp defector was waiting for them, but so were a few of his buddies: the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Fire Gale, the Victory-class Star Destroyer Ferocious, the Interdictor Cosmic Grasp and two Corellian Corvettes named 211-A and 211-B. All that plus the nine squadrons of TIEs onboard the capital ships.

While such a battle group would without doubt eliminate any Calamari cruiser on its own, this group did not expect reinforcements. The presence of the Interdictor also prevented any of the Rebel forces to withdraw prematurely, but an Interdictor can be quickly dispatched.

The Honor Bound arrived a few instants after the Liberty, heading for the Cosmic Grasp in a matter of minutes.Five minutes after that, the Regis arrived and assisted the Honor Bound, making a flank attack against the Interdictor.

The five squadrons on the Rebel side made short work of the unprepared Imperial pilots and then started bombardment runs against the two Star Destroyers.

Five squadrons worth of explosive projectiles will single-handedly take down almost any capital ship, but the total annihilation of the enemy Star Destroyers was not the Rebel pilots goal that day, only the destruction of one of them was.

The Fire Gale was targeted first by a wave of dual torpedo shots, making it the target of one hundred and twenty projectiles.The shields all over the massive triangular ship collapsed under the onslaught of destructive energy, leaving its fragile hull to be fragmented into artificial asteroids.

The Interdictor had, by then, been so badly damaged that it was no longer working under its own power; it hung in space, being carried away by the multiple tractor beams of the two Nebulon-B frigates.

The area was now open to hyperspace travel.The captain of the Ferocious didn't ask for more, jumping out of the system as soon as the gravitational shadow went offline The two corvettes followed him out.

The ambush hadn't exactly gone according to Imperial plans.

A few dozen tugs were launched from the Rebel capital ships to salvage a few important parts onboard the Interdictor: primary power grid cells, computer cores, hyperdrive motivators and some valuable gravity-well projectors.In a matter of two hours, almost all of the Interdictor's vital parts had been recuperated, allowing the Rebels to head away.

They had then jumped out of the system and requested further orders from High Command.

Direct orders for the Liberty taskforce were to rendezvous with the CRS Independence on the edges of the Hermyide System and proceed as escort to the Independence until they reached the Rebel Kothlis-II base, which would take a week or so.

The personnel of the winged Calamari cruiser stayed on high status until the second day of the hyperspace jump, to be prepared toward the eventuality of being pulled into realspace by an Interdictor.

On the third day, the pilots of the Renegade Wing were now allowed onto relaxed duty status and had much more free time on their hands.

That evening, they all met in the Lounge and quickly enough, Prowler was herded into a corner and being insisted upon to continue his tale.

Being heavily pressed to start, he took delectable pleasure in making them wait by taking a pose of indecision to what refreshment he would be consuming that evening.

To shorten up the waiting period, the pilots of the wing came to a single proposition: stamp their feet on the floor and yell until Prowler started.

And so they stomped and hollered.

Over the next five minutes, two dozen complaints that referred to a ?chaotic stampede of blithering hellish idiots? were sent to the bridge of the ship and quickly enough, Ra?kaat commed the Lounge.

Yells and stomps blasted over the audio system until Ra?kaat pressed the 'shriek? button and selected it for the ?Lounge area? only.

A high-pitched wail, in a frequency soundless to the Mon Calamari hearing system, blared through the speakers in the Lounge, prompting all of the pilots to jump up in pain and cover their ears.Curses were shouted in several dozen languages as the pilots swore at the blasted fool who had just made their eardrums pop.

The wail stopped.

'to all personnel that is currently within the pilot's Lounge: ATTENTION!? shouted Ra?kaat, in a surprisingly strong voice.

All the pilots jumped up and stood crisply in a precise salute.

?All of you will cease whatever it is you are doing, else I will have the Lounge closed down for the remainder of this tour of duty! Is that clear?? continued the Admiral.

?Understood, sir.? Stryker said.

?On another note, what is it exactly that has prompted you fighter jocks to make such a ruckus?? asked the Calamari Admiral.

Stryker hesitated for a moment, ?Um?one of my pilots, sir, is?well, should be reciting a tale of his youth, as is custom in the Lounge when we have free time?We were trying to get him to start in a more rapid fashion.?

Stryker believed he heard the admiral chuckling.?I see. Well now, keep at it, but my warning still stands. Good evening, gentlemen.'stryker's shoulders sagged in relief as the comm clicked off.

He then turned towards Prowler, who had the widest grin his mouth could allow him to make beaming away.

Stryker pointed towards a chair and said, 'sit, man! And get going!?

Prowler practically ran towards the seat and then smiled.?Enough torture already. Let me finish this story so that you are all satisfied and that we may all sleep in a blissful comatose state.?

Prowler sat and a somber and dour look came over his face.?Only one name can be chosen for the conclusion of this tale: Grievances.?

The briefing given to my team was short, concise and decidedly meant to be that.Our main objective was to head with our Y-wings to the primary moon of Cardooine and jump to the rim of the system to assist in the assault against a ?pirate? group.

My flight rose up through the atmosphere of Cardooine, leaving blazing trails of fire behind us.We formed up with the forty other trainee pilots that had successfully made their way to the base.A few minutes later, the forty-four Y-wings jumped to the rim of the system and began the combat exercise.

When we dropped out of hyperspace, the area erupted into a shining lightshow of electrical fire.Ion mines surrounded us and started taking our group out with pinpoint accuracy.Three Y-wings were disabled in the first two seconds, before we managed to react.

However, standard combat tactics to use when entering a live-fire area is to perform evasive maneuvers, which we did.The remaining Y-wings, including me, either climbed or dove, to port or starboard, in an attempt to evade the mines unerring accuracy.

Sensor data given to me by the astromech located behind me told me that there were 250 ion mines surrounding us in a sphere-pattern that had a radius of four kilometers.We all kept juking frantically, but came about to eliminate the gunnery emplacements.Two more Y-wings from another team were disabled while we destroyed the mines.

We assessed our damage and concluded rapidly that we were still in a good combat status and then waited for what else the mission creators had left for us.

The wide-band radio frequency came alive as a distress signal wailed into our ears.'this is the convoy ASW-FE, heading to Cardooine! We are under attack by a group of unknown crafts! They have disabled three of our vessels so far and will probably be boarding us soon! To anyone who hears this message! This is the convoy??

Attached to the communication stream was a hyperspace vector, on a heading to the outer planet of the Cardooine system, Dviii.The trainee fighter group was at 0.0005 lightyears from it, a mere five minutes in hyperspace travel.Without contacting our base, we all decided to assist the convoy.Mere instants later, the thirty-nine remaining Y-wings jumped to assist the convoy, while we left emergency beacons with the disabled Y's.

The convoy group had four still-functional freighters and they were frantically evading the real pirate forces.

The pirate group consisted of two squadrons of R-41s and several battered and used Stormtrooper transports, though after a good sensor scan on them, one could see they had been modified: a medium-grade turbolaser turret now protruded from the rear of the transport.

The trainee fighters converged onto the pirate fighters in a frenzy of barely coordinated flight.Two R-41s were vaporized quickly, but the others avoided our lasers and came at us. They either looped around in simple banking turns or performed Antillies Loops on us, but either way, we stood no chance.

Five of our Y-wings were destroyed by the missile wave they shot at us.

I remember panicking wildly as terror took over me and I nearly became paralyzed right there, in my ejector seat.

We responded by blinding them with our flare missiles (highly luminous missiles meant for target practice or live training mission) and then taking out another few of their fighters, but only to have the transports come in at us from behind and destroy two more of my wingmates.

The remaining convoy craft jumped out of the area to safety, while we kept struggling for our lives, hoping that somehow, someone might actually come to our aid.

Indeed, someone did. The actual CAF 2nd Battle Group assisted us through the means of a dreadnought and the fighter squadron onboard it.They ordered us on a retreat, which they would cover.They didn't manage to do just that.

The pirates dumbfired their missiles at us, blowing another seven of my comrades to smithereens.

Mach was one of them.

Pain, fear and rage knifed through me in a matter of instants as I realized that my best friend was now gone, killed by ruthless pirates that killed for money, while we killed to protect the innocent that could not defend themselves.I veered off to avenge my friend, yelling in incoherent madness, but Chrizze and Cloud blocked my passage back to the dogfight by damaging my fighter with their ion cannons.I screamed and bellowed, pummeling the control board in front of me with my gloved fists.

I most definitely broke my fingers doing that.

The dreadnought's tractor latched onto my fighter and brought me into the hangar.

The next month was a blur of reprimands, near court-martial experiences and sympathy from friends that tried to cheer me up.I barely heard any of it. I was most definitely mad. I have reviewed how I was during that period of time and my state was identical to that of a borderline case.I could barely see the difference between what I thought what the world, within my maddened mind, and what really was the world.

I thought that Mach has just flown onto the other side of the dogfight and then boarded the dreadnought after I was tractored inside. Even though I realistically knew he was dead, I had convinced myself that he was still alive.

Every time anybody told me that he was dead, I ignored them and told myself that they had simply not seen him in a while.

For yet another month after that, I had several sessions with the CAA shrink. Slowly he proceeded with the treatment reserved to the people that had my mental illness and that allowed me to grasp the reality that Mach was gone.

I kept on visiting the shrink while completing the last month of my stay at the CAA. To keep my thoughts from straying to grief, I focused immensely on my studies.Final exams and tests were of normal difficulty for me, as all of my free time had been spent on studying and training.I aced them off with an overall average of 89%, which was within the fifth percentile of results.

Two days before the graduation ceremony that would officially name my class to the status of pilots in the CAF, I received a holo-transmission from my family.They were coming along by shuttle to assist the diploma ceremony and visit for a few days.I rejoiced inwardly. Seeing my relatives always cheered me up and I deeply needed cheering up.

Suited up in my dress uniform and waiting with my comrades, I stood at attention behind the podium upon which the head instructor was expressing his pride in this year's graduates.

So far, I hadn't seen my family, but I thought that they had perhaps arrived late and we're now waiting within the crowd.In any case, I was positive that they were on-planet when I went up to the podium and received my CAF pilot certificate.

When the ceremony was concluded and that I got through the crowd of backslaps and congratulations from my fellows, I went searching for my family.

I never found them.

The CAF sent out exploration parties the next day, all while I chewed upon my liver in nervousness.

The family shuttle was found four days later. It was barely recognizable, as it had carbonized slightly upon entry of the atmosphere of DviiI's moon.The viewports had given way in the shuttle's final dive, allowing the fire to spread throughout the ship.DNA samples from the human cinders revealed that it was in fact my family that was onboard.

Two tears rolled slowly off Marc's cheeks as he stopped talking.

His jaw tightened and his fists bunched up, showing the turmoil within him.

Sighing slightly, he allowed his physical strain to ease and said, 'my tale is now done. Please don't ask me about it again, anybody. I can't bear to endure the pain of telling it again, else I'll probably go mad again.?

His fellow pilots murmured their agreements and he took this as a good moment to leave them for the evening.

Little conversation followed Prowler's departure.

The pilots quickly finished their refreshments and followed the bomber pilot to their own quarters for some rest.

Prowler wished that within this rest, he'd forget about his past, again.