"STANG!" He shouted, realizing he had hit the snooze function on his alarm four times. He shot out of his bunk and grabbed his flight suit from the crumpled heap in the corner where he had left it the day before. He palmed his door panel, and as the door whooshed open he rushed out into the hallway blindly, bowling over a Mon Calamari bridge ensign carrying a tray of caf in the process.
"Sorry!" Bulldog shouted as he ran down the hall in a dead sprint, unable to hear the curses from the downed crewman.
"I want some butts!" The officer shouted as he examined his new caf-stained uniform.
Bulldog wound his way through the bowels of the Vigilant until he reached the flight deck, skidding to a halt as he saw his CO waiting for him with a dark, angry look on his face.
"When I say we're lifting off at 0700, that means you are in your cockpit by 0645, Lieutenant Clark," Mighty growled.
"Sir, yes sir!" Bulldog replied.
Mighty pursed his lips. "So, what was it this time that kept you from reporting for duty on time?"
Bulldog opened his mouth, but closed it as he realized he had no clear answer that would satisfy his CO.
"Let me guess, Iggy over-pouring again?"
"Something like that, Sir," Bulldog replied, disappointed in himself.
"I had Rev run your ship through preflight on your behalf. After this hop, you're pulling an extra shift of tug duty, Lieutenant," Mighty said sternly.
"Yes sir!" Bulldog replied, relieved that the discipline wouldn't be escalated. Though, would it be the worst thing if I got drummed out of the New Republic at this point? I could find out where the Dalliance was taken by the Rebellion and resume my shipping company...
"Get to your ship, Buccaneer Six," Mighty said with a dismissive wave. "Don't let this happen again!"
"Yes Sir," Bulldog replied with a hint of sarcasm, but it was drowned out by the sound of 10 starfighter engines firing up.
Bulldog was dripping with sweat when he and the rest of Buccaneer Squadron returned from their bombing run. The rest of the group was celebrating a job well done as they walked across the deck while he sat in the cockpit of his Y-Wing.
It had been an easy run, some listening outpost on a nearly empty rock in an otherwise empty system. The squadron hadn't taken any casualties, and it was a quick in and out job. Everybody had made it in, dropped their payload, and made it out without so much as a laser graze of return fire.
The sweat dripping off of Bulldog reeked of booze. He was winded, despite the mission not being overly long or very demanding, either mentally or physically. He just couldn't find the celebratory energy his squadmates had as they patted each other on the back on their way to the debriefing room.
Mighty was approaching. "Hey Six, I figured I'd debrief you now so you can go straight to your tug shift."
Bulldog nodded with a frown. He'd forgotten about his extra duty shift. "Yes Sir," he replied neutrally as he levered himself out of his seat.
Mighty stopped at the bottom of the ladder a tech had attached to his cockpit and waited patiently for Bulldog to descend. He smelled the sickly sweet smell of last night's booze clearly and wrinkled his nose. "I noticed some of your proton bombs missed the mark by a wide margin, Lieutenant."
Bulldog looked at his feet. "I'm still used to projectiles that shoot forward, not down," he replied with the hope of deflecting an uncomfortable dressing down. "I'll run more sim practice."
Mighty nodded, unconvinced. "You haven't been a bomber jockey for long, so I can understand that, but you still qualified for Buccaneer, which means you already passed the requisite skill tests for bombing runs. This level of incompetence is unacceptable, pilot." He paused to let his words sink in. "And for Whills' sake, clean yourself up before you report to Fossil for tug duty. If you think I'm bad, she'll literally eat you alive if you kark anything up on her deck."
"Yes Sir," Bulldog replied neutrally, while seething internally. Yeah, I think I'll be putting out feelers real soon to find out where my commandeered freighter went.
"Dismissed, pilot. Get yourself together, man," Mighty said in a disappointed tone, turning and walking off to debrief the rest of the squadron. Dobber was waiting half-way toward the meeting room and had watched the exchange happen, his face also a mask of disappointment.
"Kriff this," Bulldog said once Mighty reached Dobber and was out of earshot. "If I can't find my ship, I'll switch to Rogue Squadron. My skills and combat record are more than good enough for that group. And it'll be nice to have a leader that recognizes my skills behind the stick for a change."
An alarmed toodle from his red and black astromech caught his attention.
Bulldog hadn't ever had an astromech before, so he was still unable to really understand his new companion. "Nobody asked you, Droid," he replied.
R2-W8 replied in indignant tones.
"Go get yourself a charge," Bulldog said to the droid as he walked off toward the turbolift to the service hangar. He stopped after a few steps and turned around. "Wait, put in my request to transfer to Rogue Squadron, and THEN go get yourself a charge."
R2-W8 bleated a sarcastic tone.
Bulldog sat in the tug barely paying attention to the space around him. He was constantly checking his datapad for an update on his transfer request.
"Hey Pilot," a voice drawled over the comm.
"Are you talking to me?" Bulldog replied.
There was a snort and giggle. "Do you see anybody else out here?"
Bulldog checked his sensors for the first time since he'd left the Vigilant in the slow mechanic's craft. "No, I guess I don't," he replied.
"You pissed somebody off, huh? Don't see many fighter jocks pulling tug duty."
Bulldog's anger spiked. He pulled his hidden flask out of his boot and took an angry swig. "I was late to a mission," he replied honestly as the liquid burned his throat on the way down.
"Name's Jory Zimmerman, but my friends call me Zimm," the other tug pilot offered. "What's your name?"
"Not interested," Bulldog replied as he docked his tug with a container and plotted his return course to the Vigilant.
Another laugh. "Well Mr. Not Interested, pleased to meet your acquaintance," Zimm replied.
Bulldog let out an exasperated sigh. "Look, Zimmerman, I'm sure you're a really nice guy, but I don't plan on being back here ever again, so what's the point, really?"
Zimm guffawed over the comm. "With a sunny disposition like that, I'm sure I'll see you again," he replied through fits of laughter.
Bulldog was raging. "I don't believe it!" He slammed his hand into his bunk in anger. "Denied? DENIED?!" He hurled his datapad across the room, and it shattered against the wall on impact in an explosion of plastic and electronics. "These rebels are lucky I'm even sticking around this place!"
He skipped his dinner and went straight to Simmons' Shock Deck and plopped down angrily on a stool at the bar.
Iggy fixed him with a steely gaze. "Rough day, Lieutenant Clark?"
"Hit me with the usual Iggy," Bulldog replied dismissively.
"I heard you had to pull some tug duty today," Iggy replied as he poured a finger of bourbon into a cup and put it down in front of the seething pilot.
"Did you hear the story about the droid that knew too much?" Bulldog replied smartly.
"Did you hear the story about the pilot that threatened his bartender and got cut off?" Iggy replied back flatly, reaching for the glass of alcohol he just poured.
Bulldog snatched the glass before the droid could reach it. "I'm sorry, Iggy. Rough day," he said with a heavy sigh. "Lots of... feelings coming up lately."
Iggy canted his cylindrical head sympathetically. "I'm not a psychologist, but as your bartender I can listen if you want to talk," the droid replied.
Bulldog frowned. "No, I'm good. Just keep me rolling when you see my glass almost empty," he replied.
"Your account is more than flush," Iggy replied. "But if you cause trouble I'll cut you off, Lieutenant."
Bulldog drank alone. Iggy kept his glass filled.
As time went on, more personnel arrived and the atmosphere was full of many different conversations. Bulldog was 8 bourbons deep by the time the bulk of Rogue Squadron filtered into the bar and took up their usual spot in the corner booths.
He looked over, and they were chatting up their newest recruit, Lock. The new Rogue was tasked with buying the drinks for the entire squadron tonight it seemed.
Lock walked up to the now crowded bar and stood next to Bulldog. "Hey man, You're Bulldog, right?"
"Hrmph?" Bulldog blearily looked up. "Yeah," he replied with difficulty.
Lock smirked. "You're wasted, bud."
Bulldog bristled. "What's it to you, rook?"
It was Lock's turn to take offense. "Rook?" He thrust a hard finger into the inebriated pilot's chest. "I've been in this fight for going on 6 years. Last I checked, that's longer than your 1 year, Rook."
Bulldog forced himself up from his stool with difficulty until he was looking eye to eye with Lock (or so at least he thought he was looking him in the eyes, there were actually three of them in front of him at this point). "Want to see what those extra years mean to me right now?"
"Woah, buddy," somebody said as they got between the two men. "He meant nothing by it, Captain."
Lock stood for what seemed like an eternity, but finally relaxed. "Yes, of course," he replied tersely.
Bulldog allowed himself to be led away from the confrontation by the person that intervened, and allowed gravity to assist him in falling into a booth with a loud "Ooof."
"Look, brother, You need to get yourself together," Jasted said from next to him.
"Uh huh," Bulldog replied absentmindedly as his head lolled to the side while he stared at Lock at the bar.
"You're farkled," Jasted replied with a snicker. "What's gotten into you lately?"
"Get me a drink and I'll talk," Bulldog replied with a sloppy grin.
Jasted nodded and headed to the bar. He had a hushed conversation with Lock while they both waited for Iggy's attention. "He shouldn't be here if that's the case," Lock said loudly in reply to something Jasted had said.
Bulldog's ears popped as rage exploded within his chest. He didn't hear anything else aside from the deafening sound of water rushing over a waterfall as he rose from the booth, took three plodding steps forward, and tackled Lock to the ground. "I've put in my time!" he slurred loudly as he struggled with the surprised Rogue. "Who are you to tell me where... I can... go!" (That's what he intended to say, but the only things that came out were unintelligible roars and grunts).
The two men rolled around the floor and started throwing punches. People attempted to pull them apart, but Bulldog began to flail wildly at anybody that touched him.
Other Rogues began to interfere, pulling Bulldog off of Lock in the process. Other people were fighting with each other. The whole bar had devolved into a wild bar brawl.
Bulldog attempted to pick up a stool, but Iggy flipped a switch that activated the magnetic floor, locking all chairs to the deck to avoid them being used as a bludgeoning tool.
Three Rogues tackled Bulldog and took him down. In the melee, a scrawny man in a maintenance uniform hurled himself into the dogpile and flailed wildly, connecting with two of the pilots on top of Bulldog, taking them off the pile as they both turned their attention to the interfering party.
A chorus of piercing whistles cut through the bedlam as the security force rushed into the bar. Bulldog's helper was clocked from a blindside shot from one of the pilots he himself had hit from behind, and Bulldog's head was slammed against the floor by the remaining pilot he was tangled with, making everything go dark.
"Well, that was a fun night," Zimm laughed from his side of the brig cell.
Bulldog winced as he attempted to sit up, but a sudden rush of vertigo forced him to remain on the floor. "Where?"
"The clink," Zimm replied cheerily.
Bulldog groaned. "Why are you so happy about this?"
"Greatest. Night. Ever," Zimm replied dreamily.
"Not what people usually say when they're in a jail cell," Bulldog replied as he again forced himself to sit up through the wave of vertigo. The room continued to spin, and the back of his head was throbbing.
"I got to see Rogue Squadron!" Zimm beamed.
"Well, maybe got a little closer than I'd intended," Zimm said sheepishly.
Bulldog rubbed his temples to assuage the hangover that was forming. He grunted. "You really idolize those guys, don't you?"
Zimm smiled. "Well, I guess so. I wanted to be a pilot and join them, but I'm not as good as I'd need to be to join them, so I took this posting so I could be nearby. Watch and learn and all that."
"Huh," Bulldog replied. He rubbed his face. "Well, thanks for the assist there, man."
"Don't mention it," Zimm replied.
"Andy is my name," Bulldog said after a long silence. "My friends call me Bulldog."
Zimm smiled as he looked at the split skin on his knuckles. "Well, Bulldog, it really looks like you've got a drinking problem." His face blanched, and he quickly added, "coming from a friend, of course."
Bulldog chuckled, but it hurt his head so he stopped. "Yeah, I just might."
"I don't know, man. I grew up wild, but I never had a problem getting my duties done until recently."
"What happened recently?"
Bulldog's face darkened as he looked at his feet. "Endor," he replied. "And everything that happened the weeks after."
Zimm sighed sadly. "I lost a lot of friends too, Bulldog."
Bulldog looked up and really examined his cellmate's face. "Yeah? I guess I forget that it's not just all about me sometimes." Both men were silent for a long time, until Bulldog broke the silence again. "How do you deal with it? All of the friends you lost, I mean."
Zimm slowly crawled across the floor to sit against the wall next to Bulldog. "I talk to a shrink on the ship, man. It helps, really."
"Yeah," Zimm replied excitedly. "The Doc says I might be suffering from some mild PTSD. He says it's really common with soldiers."
"Who is the Doc? Maybe I'll make an appointment."
The sound of a door opening and muffled conversation from outside the cell drew the attention of both men. The door opened, revealing Dobber.
"Lieutenant," Dobber said sternly.
Bulldog used the wall to help himself rise to his feet. "Commander," he replied warily.
Dobber's face didn't bely any emotion. "Well, obviously you've earned yourself more tug duty with this latest stunt."
Bulldog sighed. "Yeah, I kinda figured that would happen."
"You're also one step away from being busted down in rank and drummed out of the Wing," Dobber replied.
That hit Bulldog like a ton of bricks, which surprised him. Earlier in the day he was excited to find a way out of the wing, but now he was nervous that his wish would actually be granted. "Understood, Sir,"
Dobber waited expectantly. "What do you have to say for yourself, Lieutenant?"
Bulldog opened his mouth, but shut it quickly as he gathered his chaotic thoughts into a coherent sentence. "Well, sir, I think I've been dealing with some heavy poodoo since Endor, but haven't really been able to process any of it properly. With your permission, I would like to begin counseling sessions with the psych staff to see what's triggering my behavior."
"I see," Dobber replied. "I think that is a better response than any of the Command Group expected from you, if I'm being honest."
"So will that be approved?" Bulldog asked nervously, beginning to sweat heavily.
"It was already put into the system before I came in here, Lieutenant," Dobber replied. "We weren't sure if you'd see the need for it yourself, though, so this is rather refreshing."
"Thank you, sir," Bulldog replied, relieved.
Dobber stepped in close. "After this, if you screw up this much," Dobber said, making a small gesture with his hand, "you'll be flying a cargo shuttle full of rubber ewok giblets out of Canto Bight. You're off active duty until cleared by the Psych staff."
Bulldog went to his first meeting later that week after he and Zimm were released from the brig and he'd run a few tug shifts, getting to know the other "forgotten" pilots of the Vigilant.
"Lieutenant," Doctor Ithaas Zeq'aal purred calmly, "I've reviewed your file and your recent outbursts are definitely PTSD related."
Bulldog looked at the Bothan female from across the desk. "I see," he replied.
"That doesn't explain everything, mind you, but it does explain your recent outbursts. We've been seeing it all across the New Republic military service branches, but especially from a lot of the Endor veterans."
"I see," Bulldog replied again, taking it all in.
"That doesn't necessarily excuse your other behaviors, though."
Bulldog bristled and he felt his body tense. "What other behaviors?"
Zeq'aal put on a calming tone while she raised her hands. "Quarreling with your crew and Wing personnel is one thing when it's related to stress from a very difficult few weeks of hard combat. Your file shows a pattern of disregard for authority since you joined, though, and THAT isn't related to any Post Traumatic Stress Disorder behaviors."
"I see," Bulldog replied, slightly crestfallen.
Zeq'aal noticed the change in the pilot's demeanor. "I notice you are sad or disappointed right now. "Why is that, Lieutenant?"
Bulldog pursed his lips as he tried to organize his thoughts. "I don't know, Doc. I had hoped everything going wrong right now could be neatly put in a box with a bow on it and I'd leave here feeling better."
"I see," Zeq'aal replied with a smile.
Bulldog facepalmed. "That sounds stupid now that I said it."
"On the contrary, Lieutenant. You were hoping to figure out why things weren't going your way lately. I am pointing out that they haven't always gone your way since you've joined the Rebellion, but you grew up in a life where you were used to getting your way."
The puzzle piece slid into place in his brain. "YES!" Bulldog replied enthusiastically.
Zeq'aal smiled. "Progress is slow and incremental, Lieutenant. I apologize if you thought we would have one meeting and things would be put neatly into a box and secured away, but that's not how things work in this line of duty."
"I understand, Doc."
"The good news though, is that I'm clearing you to resume duty with the stipulation that we continue to meet regularly."
Bulldog looked up, elated.
"Well, at least you're flying a snub fighter again," Zimm said sympathetically over the comms.
Bulldog smiled as he gazed into the asteroid field. "Yeah, I am. And I'm feeling a little better about it now that I've been meeting with that Psych Doc a few times a week. Thanks for the tip, Bud."
"We're friends, right? That's what we do for each other," Zimm replied.
Bulldog checked his sensors as he watched Zimm's tug move toward an asteroid that had been scanned and shown a high concentration of ice. Command had ordered it retrieved for processing so the ice could be added to the Vigilant's water stores. Since Bulldog was still in the... dog house, he had been ordered to fly cover in his Y-Wing while Zimm slowly crawled toward the asteroid in his tug. "I'm just glad to be in a cockpit again."
"Yeah, I am glad to have you with me too, Weight. Is it ok if I call you Weight?"
Weight tootled pleasantly.
"Sorry about earlier, bud. We're in this together, Weight."
"I still wish I had the skills to join you in a snub cockpit," Zimm interrupted. "I just wish I had the skills to join Rogue Squadron."
"Never say never, buddy."
"Nah, I'll never be that good," Zimm said sadly as he docked his tug with the asteroid. "But you, my friend, you are good enough. Don't give up on that dream, ever."
Bulldog laughed as he wheeled around and headed back toward the Vigilant. "Yeah man, I'll try again later after I get my head sorted out more. And if you want to try and build your skills, we'll hit the sims later today."
"Really?!" Zimm replied, clearly overjoyed. Nothing more was said between the two men for a few minutes.
Weight broke the silence and warbled an alert and flooded Bulldog's display with new sensor information.
"Where did they come from?!" Bulldog cursed inwardly as he saw four new R60 T-Wings appear out of the asteroid field nearby. They all oriented toward Bulldog and Zimm and maxed out their throttles to close quickly.
"What are those?" Zimm asked nervously.
Bulldog keyed his comm to the Vigilant tactical frequency. "Control, this is Buccaneer Six. Four new T-Wings just showed up in the asteroid field and they're burning hard for my location."
"Roger, Buccaneer Six. Alert fighters are scrambling. Fall back to the Vigilant."
Bulldog gunned his throttle to full. "Zimm, drop that berg and beat feet back to the ship!"
"Roger that, Bulldog."
Something was bugging Bulldog. He looked back at his display and couldn't quite place it. "Weight, what is the top speed of a tug?"
New text splashed across his screen.
"Stang!" Bulldog cursed. "So he won't make it even if he drops that asteroid and runs?"
Weight replied with a sad tone.
"Well, there's no choice then, is there?" He replied to his astromech.
"What's the problem?" Zimm asked nervously.
Bulldog brought his lumbering Y-Wing about to face the new threat. "Keep heading home, Zimm. They'll catch you if we both run."
"Then run, you fool!" Zimm shouted. "Don't throw your life away for a lowly tuggie!"
"It's what friends do for each other. I'll be fine," Bulldog said, hoping his lie was covered by his false bravado. "Ok Weight, let's put the shields double front and dump the shield recharge energy into the engines so we can reach them quickly to make sure none of them get to Zimm."
Weight complied with the order with a confident chirp, and the Y-Wing lurched forward with the added speed.
Bulldog linked his lasers and ion cannons to dual fire, and inwardly cursed the lack of warheads. Of all times to not even have proton torps...
"Don't do this!" Zimm shouted over the comm.
"Buccaneer Six, this is Rogue Six. Me and Five are burning hard for your location. Suggest you fall back so we can take these guys on as a group."
"Negative, Six," Bulldog replied. "If I turn and run, they'll catch the tug."
"Consider that an order, Six," Kid replied.
Bulldog cursed and killed his comm for a moment. "Weight, create a comm disruption."
Weight warbled a confused series of tones.
"Just do it!"
He keyed his comm back on. "Can't read your last, Rogue Six," Bulldog replied, hoping Weight was making his reply come through patchy and full of static. It must have worked, because Kid's counter order was equally unintelligible.
He threw his craft into a Wotan Weave as he reached 2km from the four interlopers. They clearly didn't know how to handle the maneuver, as they nearly crashed into each other as they individually tracked the wobbling Y-Wing.
Bulldog started alternating his ion cannon and laser cannon fire at 1.85 km, just outside of the max range of the Ion cannons in an attempt to startle a few of the fighters. He was rewarded with the destruction of one of the fragile T-wing fighters. Another was disabled and heavily damaged, and met its end when it plowed into an asteroid.
The remaining two fighters passed Bulldog's Y-Wing. One continued to streak toward Zimm's tug while the other pulled into a tight turn to pursue Bulldog.
Bulldog chopped his throttle to 1/3rd and attempted to wheel around to catch the streaking fighter, but by the time the wallowing Y-Wing came about, the T-wing was already exiting the maximum laser range. He snapped shots off after it anyway in an attempt to discourage it but was unsuccessful as an asteroid drifted into his line of sight. "Stang! You got one coming up behind you, Zimm! Go evasive!"
A laser blast slammed into his unprotected stern near Weight, eliciting a wail from the droid.
"Even out our shields, Weight!" Bulldog shouted as he attempted to turn into the attack. The more maneuverable T-Wing easily matched his maneuver and remained in a decent firing position. Bulldog shunted all of his laser energy into the shields to shore them up as he continued to fly evasively.in an attempt to shake his pursuit.
The T-Wing stayed tucked snugly onto the sluggish Y-Wing's rear arc, sending dual blasts around its target, connecting with a few.
"This is Buccaneer Six," Bulldog shouted frantically as his shields began to dip down to dangerous levels. "I can't shake this guy!"
"Pull up!" A voice shouted over the comm.
Bulldog instinctively complied, a cause-and-effect action that had been drilled into him with his time in combat where you did what you were told instantly if you wanted to continue breathing. A large asteroid hurtled forward through the space his Y-Wing had just occupied. Unfortunately for the T-Wing, the space rock plowed into it. The flimsy pirate fighter shattered like glass dropping on the barroom floor.
"I got him!" Zimm whooped triumphantly.
Bulldog did a double take. "Zimm! What are you doing here?"
"I doubled back and picked up a space rock on my way back. Gave the other guy the slip in the process!"
"Helluva maneuver. You might have the skills for a snub fighter yet, good buddy. We'll have to stencil a silhouette onto your tug when we get back!"
Zimm laughed heartily. "Yeah-" Static.
The remaining T-Wing hadn't lost his tug target after all, and circled back around to finish the job. Zimm's tug gave off a pitifully small explosion due to there being no ordinance and only battery energy reserves for the short range work craft.
The explosion of rage in Bulldog's chest, however, was massive enough to power the Death Star superlaser. The loud pop in his ears from the bar brawl came again, and the rushing water sound filled his head. Somewhere off in the distance, Weight was warbling and Kid was calling out an order, but Bulldog couldn't hear anything clearly. He broke after the T-Wing and attempted to give chase to the faster craft.
He flipped a few switches on his console and mashed the button on the screen. In an open channel comm channel, he started blasting out a song heavy on distortion and hard string riffs. He also maxed the volume in his own cockpit, drowning out more of Weight's chirps and warbles.
"Hell yeah, WOO!"
He started spitting red and blue energy as he wildly attempted to connect with his evasive target. The faster ship out-turned him and began peppering his shields with lasers.
"Your middle finger's up, yeah, put em up, we've had enough
We take a shot to the chin with a grin, we're tough
We know exactly why you're here, so make it clear, let's go
We know you want to let's go let's go."
Bulldog chopped his throttle and broke into the attack. His ship shuddered with more laser impacts as his pursuer took a few snapshots before he broke the engagement to try and loop around. Bulldog reversed his turn in an attempt to throw off his opponent, and was rewarded with a few snapshots of his own as the T-Wing was surprised at his maneuver. Red and blue energy splashed collapsed the shields of the flimsy fighter before it closed the distance and began wheeling around behind him.
"Hell yeah, hell yeah, we want control.
Hell yeah, hell yeah, a scene to call our own.
Helly yeah, hell yeah, I grip the microphone
And we're picking up speed like a rolling stone."
Bulldog knew he couldn't out-turn the quicker craft, and grimaced at the tables being turned against him. He had been used to being the fastest ship in the air and able to use that speed to out-turn and out-run anything. The T-Wing began peppering him with ranging shots from his aft, forcing Bulldog to throw his craft into a wobbling series of jinks. He looked around, knowing he wouldn't win this fight alone unless his opponent did something terribly stupid.
"Let's go, we can't live forever
One note, the louder the better.
So let's go, we're in this together
Can't you hear me?
Hell yeah, LET'S GO!"
He spotted the original asteroid Zimm had been tasked with retrieving 1 KM away. Knowing that it was chosen for its large composition of water ice, he knew it would break apart if he poured enough energy into it.
"Rising from the ash, counter clash, there is no doubt.
Swinging from the rafters are the kids who never sold out.
Holding out for hope, this shit is dope, hear the crowds shout.
Fighting to survive, one day we'll make them tap out."
As he closed to .25 km, Bulldog poured energy into the asteroid, attempting to break it apart. He saw the fissures forming and steam bleeding off as he superheated the water within.
"We'll raise your voices up, yeah, raise em up, we've had enough.
We're standing up and now we're being heard the gloves are off.
The voice is loud, we have the crowd, the time is now let's go
We know you want to let's go let's go!"
The rock erupted in a cloud of steam, Y-Wing sized chunks of metallic rock, and smaller pebbles shot out in all directions as Bulldog maneuvered underneath it and charged out the other side. He toggled his shields first to the front to absorb the damage as he approached, then to the rear as he passed the maelstrom he had created.
"Get up tonight, stand up and fight.
They are here, they are in sight, they're inside.
And I can't go alone on this microphone
Is this on? Is this on?"
Bulldog hauled back on the stick and chopped his throttle to find his target. The T-Wing had been hammered by all sizes of rocks, with micrometeorites chewing through the top engine nacelle, and two larger rocks had completely sheared the other two engines off. The ship continued to streak forward from its momentum, but it had no longer had any control. It was doomed to streak on into infinity.
"Let's go, we can't live forever.
One note, the louder the better.
So let's go, we're in this together.
Can't you hear me?
Hell yeah LET'S GO!"
Bulldog poured all of his shield energy into his engines and quickly caught up to the stricken craft. He pulled up alongside the ship and made eye contact with the pilot. The look of abject terror on the pirate's face made Bulldog smile. The pirate appeared to be pleading with him. Bulldog licked his lips, and he began salivating heavily. He gave the pilot a one-finger salute and pulled into a roll that took him behind the T-Wing.
"Hell yeah, LET'S GO!"
Bulldog set his lasers to single fire and mashed the firing trigger. His Y-Wing cannons sent an unending torrent of red energy into the helpless fighter. He was roaring as his lasers slowly chewed through armor and melted the electrical components within. The ship exploded as lasers found the fuel reserves, but Bulldog continued to fire on the smaller pieces until his lasers ran dry. Nothing remained except a few melted globules of armor scattering in all directions
The song clicked off, bathing his cockpit and the airwaves in silence. He could hear himself breathing heavily, on the verge of hyperventilating. His finger was still holding the trigger down. Weight warbled an unending stream of interrogatives. Kid was shouting for his attention, as was somebody from the Vigilant.
"Shut that garbage off!" Kid shouted clearly.
Bulldog finally snapped back into his body and shook his head to clear his vision. He turned off the music player before another track could kick on. The entire rage blackout had taken just over three and a half minutes.
"Can you hear me?" Kid asked over the comms.
"I can't even hear myself," Jasted replied.
Bulldog took in one last gulp of air as his heart rate calmed down. "Yeah, I can hear you Rogue Six."
"Get your ship back home IMMEDIATELY for debriefing," Kid said as the two Rogue X-wings took up flanking positions on Bulldog's Y-Wing.
"Understood," Bulldog replied, gently turning his chugging Y-Wing back toward their home.
Weight let out a relieved series of beeps and began listing the damage the ship had taken during the fight. It took the pilot the entire trip back to the Vigilant to read it all.
Bulldog sat alone at the bar and was another 8 drinks deep before any of the other personnel had filtered in after their duty shifts had ended. He motioned to Iggy for another refill.
The droid plodded over and began pouring. "I don't speak for many, but there are a few of us that enjoyed your broadcast. I'm not familiar with the group."
"I pirated it from somewhere long ago," Bulldog slurred.
"What is he doing here?" Somebody asked sternly from the doorway.
Bulldog's head lolled as he clumsily searched for the source of the voice.
Kid strode forward. "Cut this pilot off, Iggy. He's now on the Dry List."
"The hell I AM!" Bulldog replied as he clumsily rose to his feet. To emphasize his point, he threw back the entire refill Iggy had just poured, wincing as the bourbon burned its way down his throat.
"That's it, Lieutenant. You haven't learned a thing. You know why you were denied Rogue membership?" Kid pointed at the glass. "This right here is the reason. You have the stick skills, which I think we all got a front row seat to earlier today, but you got nothing going on inside that thick skull of yours!"
Bulldog clenched his fist and prepared to swing a haymaker that would have taken him to the deck rather than connect with his intended target. Before he could do so, a group of maintenance pilots and personnel shoved their way into the middle of the confrontation, pushing both men apart.
"He's here with us, Sir," a female tug pilot shouted as she fixed a stern glare at the Rogue XO.
"The hell he is," Lock snorted from the gathering of Rogues behind Kid. "He's always here alone. No need to cover for him, Tech Sergeant."
Kid did some mental math in his head and knew that while his pilots would be fine in a brawl with the less-trained gaggle of tug pilots that outnumbered them, he didn't want to fill out all the requisite paperwork that would come with a confrontation. He leaned in close and whispered something to the tug pilot that had spoken to him. She nodded in return, and then motioned for the group of tug pilots to carry Bulldog out of the bar. Four of them struggled with his mostly dead weight.
"Mighty gonna chew his ass out when he's late for his patrol shift tomorrow morning," Jasted said ominously as the crowd dispersed.
Bulldog allowed himself to be carried/led down the winding hallways until they reached the maintenance lounge.
"Ok, set him down there. Deuce, get this guy some water AND black Caf. We've got to sober him up a bit," the female tug pilot leader said. She looked down at the drunken pilot. "Name's Pil, but these reprobates call me Skitch."
"Water!" Deuce shouted, handing out a glass. Skitch grabbed it and forced it into Bulldog's mouth and titled his head.
Bulldog choked, but the sensation brought him back to his senses more or less. He began coughing, and vomited into an offered trash can. More booze than water came out, and Bulldog wretched at the sour smell. Another wave of nausea washed over him, and he hurled up more of the booze he'd imbibed earlier in the evening. He wiped his mouth and swiped the water from a bystander and drank heavily. "Thanks, I think," he said as he sat back in the seat with a sigh.
"You're welcome, fighter jock," Skitch replied with a smile.
"Have no fear, the caf is here," Deuce said with a flourish and exaggerated bow.
Bulldog smirked. "You tuggies are an eccentric bunch, you know that? My friend Zimm..." His smile faded at the thought of Zimm's death earlier today.
The mood of the rest of the room faltered also. "You know what he said earlier today?" Skitch said after a long silent spell.
Bulldog perked up. "What?"
"He sent me a tight beam while the two of you were out there and said you had offered to tutor him in the sim room. It was just a short two lines of text, but it was clear he was extremely excited. That boy wanted nothing more than to be a fighter pilot," Skitch said with a hint of a smile.
"He was a goofy kid, but he was our goofy kid," Deuce chimed in. The others in the room nodded in agreement.
"We saw what you done for ‘im," a large Weequay said in a low, gravelly voice. "We saw that you tried to keep ‘im safe."
Bulldog looked down. "Tried, but failed."
"He made his choice," Skitch said, placing a hand on his shoulder. "He maybe makes it back in one piece if he keeps running, or maybe that pirate catches him and burns him down anyway. You had no control over that, and you need to realize that."
A hulking Klatoonian rumbled some words in Huttese.
"That's right, Pog," Skitch said emphatically. "He said in his culture, you owe it to Zimm's memory to pursue your shared dream, forsaking all other negative behaviors that get in the way."
"The heavy drinking," Bulldog groaned.
"And whatever else you've got going on with your anti-authority complex," Skitch replied.
Bulldog sat for a long while, a million thoughts rattling around his fuzzy brain at the same time. His dependency on alcohol lately, as with the other substances in the past, had a cause. Now that he had identified the cause, he knew he could tamp down on it the next time the situation arose. His face was screwed into a frown as he mentally worked out his feelings on the matter.
"Nobody's asking you to stop drinking completely," Skitch said, misreading his expression. "You can't trust a teetotaler."
"For Zimm," Bulldog said with a smile, holding his caf up high.
"FOR ZIMM!" The rest of the gathering chorused, clinking their glasses of water and caf.
Mighty strolled into the nearly silent flight deck early, as he was used to doing ever since he'd become the CO of Buccaneer Squadron. He enjoyed getting in early to run his checklist first so he could help the newer pilots with their preflight, as well as have sidebar conversations with pilots he needed to have words with. He strolled to his B-Wing and ran his hands along the S-Foils, and gave his Ion Cannons a slight tug to check their give. Nodding in approval, he began to climb the ladder to his cockpit when a sound startled him from behind. He whirled around and his mouth hung open.
"Hey Boss," Bulldog said cheerfully from beside his Y-Wing, pausing with uncertainty when he saw the look on Mighty's face. "Good... morning?"
Mighty recovered himself quickly and continued to climb into his cockpit. "Yeah, Six, good morning to you too," he called. Once in his cockpit, he whispered a disbelieving "what is happening today?" to himself.
This ritual continued for the next several sorties, with Bulldog beating him into the hangar. Mighty had even arrived an hour early on the last day in an attempt to get there first, but was still beaten to the punch by Bulldog and his red and black astromech droid. Word was that Bulldog was still being spotted nightly in the Simmons' Shock Deck, but he was there with a group of tug pilots and mechanical staff, and always had one drink socially but abstained from alcoholic refills as he spent time with the group. The sloppy brawling was apparently a thing of the past, and the last few bombing runs went without any misses from the seemingly refreshed pilot.
Mighty's datapad chirped after he clambered into the cockpit. Since he was extra early, he decided to look at his messages for a spell and catch up on galactic news. A reminder from weeks ago popped up on his screen from an email from Jalb regarding a recommendation for Rogue Membership for Bulldog. It had gotten lost in the shuffle with all that had been happening. He sat in his pilot couch and thought long and hard about what he was going to write next. For all he knew the process was closed since he hadn't responded the first time he was asked, but perhaps he should still give his two cents. He began carefully typing out his reply.
lyrics to "Hell Yeah" by Zebrahead