Facebook  Tweet  Discord

  Rogue Squadron  Buccaneer Squadron  Corsair Squadron   Spectre Squadron   Sabre Squadron           Theatre  Library

 

Defend the Vigilant Arc 1.2

Offensive Measures


Contributions by: Dobber, Krayt, Gremlin, and Bulldog. Consultations from Talon and FLATTOP

Edited by: Bulldog (Arc 1.1 to be posted at a later date when completed)

CRS Vigilant Command Lounge
POV: Krayt

The Command Lounge was quiet as the orders were passed out to the senior staff. Major Andrew "Dobber" Dobson and Lieutenant Colonel 9-LOM "Syntax" headed off together to coordinate their deployment while others lingered a while to speak with Colonel Vince "Stryker" Rambo and Lieutenant Colonel Chris "Jalb_k" Reynolds. Lieutenant Colonel's Bill "Jedi" Morrison and Michael "Mighty" Tolle met with Major Tony "Thanatos" Marco as they too coordinated moving their allotted assets to the Black Hawk.

"Three strikes, on three different targets - at the same time?" thought Lieutenant Colonel Alrick "Krayt" Durgan, reviewing the orders and assigned personnel which had been forwarded to his datapad.

Mission Orders

Renegade Wing Task Force 3 is ordered to raid, then destroy, a coaxium depot on the moon of Dolian III. This fuel depot is serving as a resupply stop for Imperial Starships operating in this sector. While these ships would normally serve as an extra defense, New Republic Intel has identified a 12-hour window where no capital ships will be present. A strike in this window will be met with light resistance. The depot is normally guarded by a handful of turrets and a half-squadron of TIE fighters.

Gold Group, consisting of a mixed squadron including a flight X-Wings making up Gold Flight and a flight of A-wings from Corsair Squadron will provide interdiction and starfighter suppression while Sabre Squadron U-Wings pick up crates of coaxium. Once the U-Wings are clear, the X-wings will use their torpedoes to destroy the facility.

The Nebulon-B Frigate Rehz'nor has been assigned to support this operation. Sabre Squadron will deposit the fuel resources on the Rehz'nor, then all ships will regroup with the Vigilant.

The orders concluded with a list of pilots assigned. There were four pilots from Corsair; Krayt knew a couple of them were solid - Lieutenant Gemilan "Gremlin" and Flight Officer Edwyn "Talon" KalDan. The other two were new, with limited flight time. The X-Wings designated as Gold Flight had been filled in with a new pilot, Flight Officer Marshal "FLATTOP" Westfolder, and a pair of reserve pilots from another wing. And then there was Sabre Squadron: their pilots flew the U-Wing starfighter/transport, but had limited combat experience. I guess all groups feel a little green when you've flown with Rogue Squadron for so long, Krayt thought to himself as the briefing concluded.

He left the Command briefing and went out to start collecting his pilots. Rather than ping all of his assignees with a datapad message, he decided to spend the time to seek them out.

As he had guessed, several of them were in the SSD and Iggy was just finishing pouring two glasses of Zeltron's finest spiced wine for Gremlin and Talon.

"Still celebrating your success with the Ready Room?" Krayt asked as he pulled up a chair.

"You bet!" Gremlin grinned enthusiastically while Talon nodded, accepting his drink from the bartender droid.

"Well, you do deserve a drink or two - that was a fine job the two of you did," Krayt said. "In fact, this one's on me," he added as he swiped his credit chip.

"Thanks!" Talon said, knowing free wine tasted that much sweeter.

"But ... that's your last one tonight," Krayt said. The look on his face said the matter wasn't up for discussion.

Gremlin straightened up from her comfortable slouch on the bar stool. "What's going on, sir?"

"We've got an operation. I need your heads clear and your ships on the Rehz'nor in three hours. I can get you up to speed as soon as you're on board," Krayt replied as Gremlin and Talon exchanged glances.

He stood up and noted the next group of pilots he needed to find. "I'll see you there in a bit," he said, tossing the pilots a nod as he strode towards the door. He pulled out his datapad and started pinging the other pilots on his duty roster as he strode out of the bar.

Talon watched him go. "An operation, eh? Reckon we should enjoy this." Their glasses touched with a melodious chime and they sipped the steaming wine. Free was definitely sweeter.

Krayt was still within earshot of the quip, and smiled. The enthusiasm of youth.

*************

FRG Regis Briefing Lounge
Task Force 2
POV: Gnoizic

1st Lt. Kyle "Gnoizic" Mandal stood stolidly against the wall at the back of the briefing room while he took in the scene through the readouts on his Mandalorian helmet. He noticed that most of the personnel here were not looking directly at him but attempted to steal sideways glances in his direction. He knew the stoic visage of a blank Mandalorian stare unnerved people that weren't used to his presence.

1st Lt. Paul "Rogue" Sweet and Captain Mitch "Rev" Ri'chard sidled up nearby and were having a sidebar regarding the changes that had taken place aboard the Regis since they were last posted on the ship.

"I wonder if that bottle of Zelosian green is still inside the mattress of my old bunk?" Rev mumbled.

"Who has that bunk now, Chief?" Rogue asked, perking up at the thought of the alcoholic contraband on a usually dry ship.

Rev crossed his arms and shrugged his shoulders.

"Guess we'll have to ask around, eh?" Rogue asked.

The lights dimmed slightly and the central display lit up. All of the sidebar conversations ceased as the Quarren intelligence Major that had questioned many of the Renegade Wing pilots a few weeks after Endor took center stage.

"Welcome, Gentlebeings. For those of you that have not met me previously, I am Major Mogazz Murg with New Republic Intelligence. I am currently the intelligence attaché to Vice Admiral Vodani of the Sovereignty Taskforce and also her Chief of Staff. We are gathered here on the Frigate Regis, along with the Corvettes Nighthawk and Insane Endeavor with the task of capturing a convoy carrying much needed resources."

"What might those resources be, Chief?" Rogue interrupted.

If Murg was perturbed at the interruption, he hid it as well as Gnoizic would. The Mandalorian was impressed by the unflappable quarren.

"Bacta, First Lieutenant Sweet," Murg replied. "Any other important questions?"

"Let's hold all questions until after the Major is finished," Syntax said from his position at the front of the room.

Murg nodded to the droid in appreciation, then continued. "Intelligence says that the convoy will be lightly defended. Our strikeforce is going to consist of eleven snub fighters plus a detachment of U-Wings to do the heavy lifting. The four fighters of Buccaneer Squadron, under command of Major Dobson will destroy any heavy escort craft, as well as disable any freighters that decide to run."

Gnoizic perked up inside of his armor at the news of his assignment, but still gave no outward indication.

Murg continued. "Lieutenant Commander 9-LOM will command the other seven fighters and fly combat air superiority initially, with Corsair Squadron's three A-Wings handling any smaller escort. The four X-Wings of Rogue Squadron are to conduct a high speed reconnaissance of the convoy to identify the freighters carrying the payloads we require. Once any fighter escort is handled, they will all fall under Major Dobson's temporary command to assist any tasks he deems necessary to keep the freighters in line while the U-Wings under the defacto command of First Lieutenant Costa Guerra will close in with the convoy when they are pacified and lift the cargo we need, as well as deploy commando forces to hijack other freighters as necessary."

Rogue leaned in close to Gnoizic. "Who's Costa Guerra?"

Gnoizic gave a shrug in reply.

As if to answer their question, 1st Lt. Raphael "Hyl" Costa Guerra stood up and waved casually to the room.

"Are there any other questions?" Murg asked. Seeing none, he waved. "No? Then everybody is dismissed. If Captains Daly and Udigg, Major Dobson, Lieutenant Colonel 9-LOM, and 1st Lieutenant Costa Guerra would stay behind, I would like to go over a few more fine details before we deploy."

"That bottle?" Rogue whispered to Rev.

"That bottle," Rev replied.

Gnoizic nodded in agreement as he followed his two singular-minded squadmates out of the briefing room.

****************

FRG Rehz'nor Hangar
Task Force 3
POV: Gremlin

Gremlin gently put her A-Wing down right next to Talon's, taking the time to turn her craft carefully so it would be facing the exit to the hangar in preparation of the mission to come. She saw her CO for the mission standing near the wall as he surveyed the hustle and bustle of the craft transfer.

Krayt stood in the hangar watching the last of the ships in his group touch down. The bustling hangar of the Rehz'nor was quite full. Four A-Wings, four X-Wings and six U-Wings had been parked neatly - the A-Wings and X-Wings closest to the exit, with the U-Wings taking up the remaining space.

Krayt pulled Gremlin aside and ran her through the mission briefing. She listened intently, wondering why she was being given this information, but the answer came soon enough.

"I've decided to make you second in command on this mission. You'll also be leading the A-Wing flight. If something happens to me, it's your job to get everyone else out alive," Krayt said.

It hit her hard. Her last role as flight lead had been at the Battle of Endor, when all three cadets in her element had died. "I … understand," Gremlin replied, but her face showed concern. Krayt picked up on her uncertainty and, typically, dealt with it directly.

"I've been over every piece of data we picked up at Endor - at least everything I can get my hands on. I've found no flaw in your piloting, or your decision making. I know you took those losses personally - but we had walked into a well-laid trap and. At the end of the day, we won. I don't believe the losses in that situation reflect either your piloting skill or your leadership ability," Krayt stated, watching the impact of his words on her face.

Gremlin didn't respond verbally; she nodded, her jaw set. Get everyone else out alive. His words pulsed against her memories: the explosions, the screams. Her cadets.

"Go over the mission again - let me know what concerns you have, then we'll get the rest of the group up to speed," Krayt instructed, then headed to confer with the leader of Sabre Squadron, leaving a sombre Zeltron to consider the upcoming fight.

Two hours later, the group from Renegade Wing realised how spoiled they were with the ready room on the Vigilant. The fourteen pilots and associated support staff crammed into a room with a holo projector as Krayt and Gremlin briefed them on the mission.

After the questions were answered and contingencies set, the pilots were dismissed to get some sleep. The mission launched in ten hours and tomorrow was going to be a busy day.

***************

FRG Regis Bridge
Task Force 2
POV: Mogazz "Barrakan" Murg

Major Mogazz Murg stood at the command console in the middle of the bridge on the Frigate Regis. Captain Daly stood to his right. Ahead of them the main viewport was awash in the blue-and-white tunnel of hyperspace. The navigation officer spoke up from her console.

"Arriving at destination in three. Two. One."

The glowing swirl of hyperspace receded into a line of stars, then regular space, as the Regis, its corvette escorts, and the eleven fighters from Renegade Wing arrived at their intended coordinates. Ahead of them was a convoy of freighters and supply ships.

"Imperial convoy ahead," said the tactical officer as the holographic map on the console came to life. "Thirty ships total, plus two light cruisers for escort. No enemy fighters present."

"Let's get to work then," said Daly, pressing several buttons on his computer panel. "Corsair flight, maintain general superiority. Rogue flight, inspect those freighters. Buccaneer, disable those identified with manifests of bacta."

"Copy, Regis," came the mechanical voice of Syntax, Corsair leader. "Dragon, Junior, stay on my wing."

Murg raised a webbed hand to his chin and began stroking it.

"You look puzzled, Major," noted Daly curiously. "What's wrong?"

Murg turned to look at Daly. "A convoy of this size and priority for Imperial forces should have more of an escort protection force. And it's odd that there are no fighters. There should at least be a Carrier with a full squadron of TIEs."

"We'll take the advantage for now," Daly said as he watched the fighters move forward and begin to engage the convoy. Helm," he said, turning to the cruiser pilots. "Maintain position and await further orders."

"Aye, sir," came the reply.

Daly turned to the tactical officer. "Begin launch sequence for U-wings. Have them hold position near the Regis."

Murg continued to look at the map in front of him, trying to sort through the pieces. The two light cruisers were maintaining position and not adjusting course to engage them. Something just wasn't adding up here, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

***********

Gold Two
Task Force 3
POV: FLATTOP

The Rehz'nor had stopped a short hyperspace jump away. All of the pilots were strapped into their fighters and ready to launch as the Nebulon-B Frigate leaped once more into hyperspace. The pilots waited for flight control to issue their launch orders.

Aboard his X-Wing, FLATTOP felt the familiar tug as the frigate slipped out of hyperspace. He reached over and finished starting up his engines, hearing the sound ripple across the hangar as the rest of the pilots prepared for launch.

On the comms, the Flight Controller called out.

"Sensors confirm no Imperial warships present - we are go for launch."

"All right, Corsairs, let's go!" Gremlin's voice came over the comms. The four A-Wings took off quickly and sped off into space.

"All right, we're up!" Krayt called to Gold Flight, and the X-Wings followed suit.

"Sensors show two eyeballs on patrol," Gremlin informed the Rebel pilots. "Moving to engage." FLATTOP watched on sensors as the fighters turned for a head to head pass. The four A-Wings made short work of the TIEs on a single pass.

"Good shooting, Corsair Flight," Krayt called out over the comms. "Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of their squadron."

FLATTOP shivered. He checked his scanners and saw nothing else amiss, and his visual scan confirmed his sensors. He shivered again. "What are we missing?" He mumbled to himself as he tucked his X-Wing behind Krayt's aft-port quarter.

***********

Buccaneer Three
Task Force 2
POV: Dobber

"Bacta freighter identified," said Modox, one of the Rogue pilots. "Buccaneer flight, she's all yours."

"I copy, Rogue Four," said Major Dobson as he turned his B-wing towards the bulk freighters that Rogue flight was identifying. "I'll get the first one. Rev, take the second. Gnoizic and Rogue take the third and fourth. Watch out for laser fire from the other freighters."

"Copy, Buccaneer Three," came the string of replies.

Switching to proton torpedoes, Dobson let a pair fly loose towards the freighter he was closing on. As they impacted against its hull, he switched over to lasers to bring down the shields, then to ion cannons to disable the freighter. He watched as it began to drift lifelessly away from its original course.

"We've got new contacts," said Syntax over the comm. As Dobson pulled up and away from the bulk freighter, his computer console registered several new craft entering the system. "Two Gozanti-class cruisers with eight TIE Fighters. Six TIE Advanced entering the system, six klicks out and closing."

"Well that dampens our parade," called Rogue as he finished disabling his freighter with the topside dual ion cannons of his Y-Wing. His ship stuck out like a sore thumb among this flight of Buccaneers, being the only Y-Wing with the other three pilots flying B-Wings. He just didn't like that ship, and did his best to avoid flying that tank at all times. The Y-Wing might be a wallowing hutt, but that B-Wing has the acceleration of a Sarlacc!

"All fighters, this is the Regis," came Captain Daly's voice over the comm. "Corsair flight, engage the TIE Fighters. Rogue flight, engage the TIE Advanced. Buccaneer, new orders: you'll have to inspect and disable the freighters yourselves."

"Just peachy," Dobson muttered to himself before responding. "Copy, Regis. Corsair and Rogue flights, keep those fighters away from us. Buccs, let's get this done. Watch yourselves near those light cruisers."

**********

Gold Leader
Task Force 3
POV: Krayt

Krayt led the four X-Wings closer to the fuel depot. As they closed, turret emplacements began firing. He quickly assigned targets to the pilots on his group and the four X-Wings split into two elements, with FLATTOP on his wing.

"Stay low and watch that crossfire, boys," Krayt said calmly. 'Stay right behind me until the last minute, Two."

"Roger, Boss," FLATTOP responded in a strained voice.

"Almost… there…" Krayt said absentmindedly as he jinked and juked to avoid incoming fire, hazarding brief glances at his targeting display to see the distance to his target. The far turrets on the left side of the facility were his, and the close ones were his wingman's.

Two of the turrets, through sheer luck, had fired a perfect group of bracketing shots. Krayt dove his X-Wing down to meters above the moon's craggy surface to avoid them. He hazarded a glance over his shoulder and saw his wingman had mimicked the maneuver just in the nick of time.

"Holy…" FLATTOP huffed out breathlessly over the comms, the warbling wail of his astromech carrying over as well. "Almost lost my astromech's dome with that blast!"

"In two seconds, pop out and take your targets, Gold Two," Krayt ordered. "Two, one, MARK!"

The two X-wings broke away from each other and launched their ordinance at their targets, pulling up and away from their runs. They each took a little splash damage from nearby blasts that drained their shields more than they'd liked.

Thirty seconds later, the X-Wings regrouped and were recharging their shields. The emplacements were silent, though silent might not be technically correct since they were all smoldering wrecks. So far, so good. "Sabre Squadron, you're up!" Krayt called in the support ships.

The six U-Wings slipped out of the hangar and headed towards the fuel depot on the barren moon. They all made a beeline for the deck to avoid any other hidden turrets and began zooming along the surface in a terrain-following flight path that would make the hairs rise on the back of any person, experienced pilot or otherwise, that witnessed the maneuver. The U-Wings kept their keels within meters of the rocky moon surface as they approached their target.

It was at that moment Krayt felt it. He knew the feeling all too well. Something was wrong. Very wrong.

"We've got a squadron of Interceptors launching!" he yelled an alert to his team..

"I don't see anything …." responded Geck, one of the new Corsair pilots.

************

FRG Regis Bridge
Task Force 2
POV: Mogazz Murg

Mogazz Murg eyed the position of the new contacts that had emerged onto the tactical display. He watched as the TIE Fighters and TIE Advanced remained in formation from their locations and slowly made their way towards the defending New Republic fighters. As the fighters engaged each other, he tracked their movements carefully.

"Hmmm," he mumbled to himself. Captain Daly glanced in his direction.

"Something wrong, Major?"

"Possibly," he said after a moment.

"But?"

Murg paused to think things through, and began re-analyzing the entry vectors of the new ships. They had arrived almost simultaneously, even if from different angles and entry points. The starfighters were using standard Imperial attack formations and vectors, but something seemed … off.

"I need more time to think on this, Captain. Continue with your command, and don't mind me."

"Very well," Daly said. "Tactical, instruct Buccaneer flight to engage the light cruisers as soon as they are done with the freighters."

"Yes sir," replied the tactical officer before relaying the command to Buccaneer flight.

As Murg continued to monitor the entire situation, he could hear the voices of individual pilots coming through the communications console as their radio signals faded in and out.

"Get this guy off of me!..."

"Splash one!"

"Form up on my wing. I'm beginning my attack run…."

"Break right!"

"Thanks, Seven…."

"I'm hit! Redirecting power to shields...."

"I think I can make it … I just need to … aaaarghh!"

"Ten's gone!"

As he watched the first X-wing from Rogue Squadron fade off the screen, he was struck by how the A-wings and X-wings were engaging with the TIE Fighters and TIE Advanced. It had initially been eight against three for the A-wings, but they were carving through them faster than he had ever seen. The X-wings from Rogue were having more of a challenging time, but something about the movement of the TIE Advanced seemed -- robotic.

And yet the Gozanti cruisers are still holding their positions. Taking this into account, he walked over to the crew member responsible for short and long-range scanning. "Ensign," he said lowly, "I need you to do something for me. Use our sensors to scan the TIE Fighters and TIE Advanced for life signs. Then do a scan for any radio signals coming from those Gozanti-class cruisers."

"Sir?" asked the Ensign hesitantly.

At this moment, another scream of surprise and pain rose over the pilot chatter.

"Rogue Seven just went down," called the tactical officer. "Corsair flight, finish up and assist Rogue flight immediately!"

"Just trust me, son," he said, placing a hand on the back of the chair. "It may only be a hunch, but I need to know if I'm right."

"How long until the convoy makes the jump to hyperspace?" he heard Captain Daly ask behind him.

"About two-minutes, sir," came the reply from another crew member.

"Very good. Send in the U-wings to the set of disabled transports farthest away from the cruisers. Inform commando teams to have weapons ready."

"Aye sir."

Murg turned his attention back to the console in front of him.

"Well, Ensign?" he asked.

"I've done the scans as you asked, sir," replied the Ensign. "There are a number of different signals being emitted from the Gozanti cruisers towards the TIE Fighters and TIE Advanced. I also don't detect any life signs in either type of craft."

"Thank you, Ensign," said Murg after a moment. "Continue as you were."

Walking back over to the command console, he watched the remaining ships on the screen. One of the light cruisers was heavily damaged, while the other had just lost its shields. The B-wings and Y-Wing were steadily pounding away at their targets. Suddenly, both cruisers disappeared from the screen as they made the jump to hyperspace. It wasn't long after that that the rest of the convoy began to jump, as did the Gozanti cruisers. He watched as the three remaining TIE Advanced abruptly made a break for hyperspace while the U-wings were beginning to dock with the first and third disabled freighters.

"Well done, team," said Daly into the console. "Rogue and Corsair flights take up patrol positions around the freighter perimeter in case any more Imperials jump into the system. Buccaneer flight, patrol near the inside perimeter of the ships."

"Copy, Regis," came Major Dobson's voice.

Murg turned to look at Daly. "How far away were the freighters and cruisers from the jump point?"

"About a minute away, though technically they could have made the jump at any point so long as their coordinates were locked in."

"Yet Imperial and Republic protocols generally follow that ships should not jump until they reach their coordinates or hyper point, correct?"

"Yes," Daly replied after a moment. "But wouldn't you say that our mission has been successful, Major?"

"I would. Perhaps too successful."

A frown appeared across Daly's face as he furrowed his brow. "What do you mean?"

"A medical and supply convoy such as this should have had more of a defence, Captain. The Empire needs supplies, and wouldn't waste valuable resources for any reason -- no matter how stubborn or staunch the commanders are. Especially since we've been gaining ground and disrupting their supply lines since Endor. This should have been more challenging for us."

"Maybe," replied Daly, "but Imperial forces are also stretched thin as they continue to engage us in other sectors. It's impossible for them to protect every convoy thoroughly."

Murg gave a slight sigh. Captain Daly was hearing what Murg was saying, but not open to understanding or seeing the pieces in front of him.

"We have one other piece of evidence to work with, Captain," Murg said. "I want the commando teams to verify the cargo in those freighters."

***********

Corsair Two
Task Force 3
POV: Gremlin

Gremlin's stress levels were spiking with the mysterious target call out by her task force leader, Krayt. He was convinced that a squadron of TIE Interceptors were coming to ambush them, but no scanner data from her or her wingmen had confirmed that call out, making them all extremely nervous.

Her wingman, Flight Officer Tlatren "TP" Pristolaque, another newcomer to the squadron, was adjusting his scanners to a higher resolution, seeking the incoming fighters. "I've got them!"

"Targets acquired." Gremlin marked the twelve Interceptors heading straight for the A-Wings, sending the data to her team. "Hit 'em with your missiles!"

Four streaks of orange light raced towards the interceptors. The New Republic pilots expected a thinned herd of Interceptors, but these ships had been outfitted with shields. Four of the fighters broke off to recharge and the rest continued on.

"Let's get over there!" Krayt ordered his flight of X-wings, heading towards the new threat.

"Corsair, break off by element - we don't want to go head to head with these guys," Gremlin ordered as she and Talon fired off a second, now fire-linked, set of missiles. This time they found their marks and eliminated a pair of fighters, but Geck and TP continued towards the Interceptors as Gremlin and Talon pulled out.

"Pull out, Geck," Gremlin ordered again.

"I've got this," she replied as she worked to acquire new targets. Her concentration was intense, but her situational awareness sorely lacking. "There are only five of them …"

"This is an order! Break off!" Gremlin yelled, starting to loop back around with Talon on her wing.

The four Interceptors and two remaining A-Wings zipped into laser range. As they opened fire, both teams saw the incoming laser blasts splash across their shields. TP realized it was a lost cause and pulled out; Geck held her course, firing as fast as she could - and a split second later her A-Wing erupted in a large fireball, the Interceptors flying through the debris hot on the tail of the retreating A-Wing.

Krayt and Gold Flight pulled into range at the same moment, and opened up on the group of Interceptors, allowing TP to escape. Krayt picked off two Interceptors and Flattop got a third before they evened out their shields. The remaining interceptors split off with the X-Wings on their tails.

"They've given up some speed and maneuverability for the shields," Talon called out on the comms as he and Gremlin continued chasing a pair of fighters. They were tailed by TP, seeking security in numbers.

"Stick with us, TP." Gremlin's voice was curt, her throat tight with holding back her grief at losing another squadmate, but there was no time to mourn. Not yet. "Form up on Talon. Understood?" A double-click on the comms was TP's muted acknowledgement.

***********

Mercy One
Task Force 2
POV: Hyl

Hyl sat in the seat of the U-wing, monitoring the readout on the console in front of him. A message flashed across his screen as he reduced the speed of the U-wing. As he brought it up to the docking hatch of the disabled freighter, a voice came over his headset.

"Mercy One, relay message to boarding team. Advised to verify the contents of the freighter and report in immediately. Over."

"Copy, Regis. Beginning docking procedure." When the ship had docked securely several seconds later, he turned and looked back over his shoulder to the commandos in the passenger area of the U-wing. "Captain Udigg, prepare for boarding. Message also came in from the Regis. Command wants you to verify the contents of the freighter and report back immediately."

Captain Bex Udigg gave a quick nod, and began to give orders to his troops, utilizing all four arms of his Besilisk species at once. As the door opened, they rushed through it and onto the freighter in anticipation of oncoming fire, but were met with none.

"Push forward, weapons ready. Secure the bridge and cargo area," Hyl faintly heard Udigg growl as the footsteps grew more distant. He could only hope that they finished their objectives quickly and without resistance.

Several minutes passed before anyone returned to the U-wing. The first person through was one of the lieutenants attached to the squad. Before Hyl could ask anything, the lieutenant made a dash for the cockpit area and motioned for Hyl to give her the radio.

"Patch me into the Regis, now!" she said urgently between breaths.

Flicking a few switches, the radio crackled to life.

"Regis, this is Lieutenant Wessex of Mercy One boarding team. Come in."

A moment later came the reply. "Lieutenant Wessex, this is the Regis. What do you have to report?"

"It's empty, sir!" she said frantically into the radio.

"What do you mean, Lieutenant?"

"I mean there's nothing here, sir! The freighter is droid controlled. Didn't take us long to override the system to gain entry into the cockpit."

"And the cargo area? Did you secure the bacta?"

"That's just it, sir," she said, looking at Hyl. Hyl could hear the rest of the commando team behind him making their way back onto the U-wing and gave her a puzzled look. "There is none."

***********

Gold Leader
Task Force 3
POV: Krayt

"We've got trouble here!" Sabre Lead's voice crackled in their headsets as a pair of Interceptors began strafing the U-Wings.

"Go evasive!" Krayt ordered as he squeezed off another shot on the Interceptor he was chasing down. "Gremlin - take your flight and fly cover for the U-Wings. Golds, keep these Interceptors busy."

"Attention, Gold Leader- long-range sensors have picked up three squadrons of fighters coming from the planet's surface. They are moving to engage the Rehz'nor," the flight controller relayed. "ETA three minutes."

"Copy that," Krayt replied, extending his senses to encompass more than his X-wing's sensors could show. "Change of plans. Sabres, you've got one pass at that depot. Grab what you can and head for hyperspace. Let's clear these Interceptors and get out of here," Krayt ordered as his flight continued their dogfight with the remnants of the Interceptor squadron.

The three Corsair pilots reached the U-Wings thirty seconds later. On their way in they had launched a second set of missiles, removing the immediate threat to Sabre Squadron's U-Wings. However, as the lumbering ships closed with the depot, a new set of weapon emplacements began firing. "Hold course, Sabre, we've got this. Corsairs, let's take 'em out."

The three A-Wings sped past the U-Wings and strafed the new weapon emplacements, but there were too many to be taken out immediately. Noting a power station on their first pass, Talon called out, "Let's go around again."

"I'm your wing." Gremlin slowed for a moment to move behind him as TP tucked himself alongside, forming an arrowhead aimed directly at the fuel depot. The three A-Wings continued to weave in and out of the defensive fire.

"Corsairs, this is Sabre Lead- we're just about in range but those turrets are going to shred us!"

Talon readied another missile and fired. The detonation blew up the power station and silenced all of the defensive turrets. "You're clear, Sabre!"

"Great shooting, Talon!" Gremlin looked around, assessing the situation with the oncoming squadrons as the six Sabre ships pulled in close to the station and started scanning. Each selected a few containers of coaxium and began pulling them up with their tractor beams, starting their exit as soon as the cargo was secured.

Krayt's flight of X-Wings were continuing their dogfight with the Interceptors. The number of Imperials had been whittled down and it was now a three on four matchup, though it was only the durability of the X-Wings that kept them flying: two of the fighters showed significant damage, but they were still operational. As the last interceptor was disabled, a frantic call came over the comms.

"That's a bomber squadron incoming! They are launching warheads - we need fighter cover!" came the voice of Captain Bill "Owtlaw" Bradley, the Rehz'nor's captain.

This isn't 'light resistance! Krayt thought to himself. "Get the Rehz'nor out of here," he responded to the captain, then added, "Gold Flight, time's up. Let's hit the station and head out."

The X-Wings each fired a pair of proton torpedoes into fuel tanks stored around the depot, the resulting explosions doing significant damage to the structure. Coaxium was notoriously unstable, but at least its volatility meant there would be little fuel left for the Imperial ships when they returned to find their depot in ruins. The remaining Renegade Wing fighters formed up and headed towards their hyperspace jump point.

"Hit the engines and get yourselves out of here, Rehz'nor. They're closing fast. We'll meet you back at the Vigilant," Krayt said, watching the new squadrons of fighters advancing on the radar. "Gremlin, you're in charge - get everyone out."

Krayt flipped his X-Wing over and took up an attack posture towards the incoming fighters.

************

FRG Regis Bridge
Task Force 2
POV: Mogazz Murg

The look on Captain Daly's face was one of confusion.

"No bacta?" he asked. "How is that possible?"

"No idea, sir," came Lieutenant Wessex's voice. "But the storage tanks are bone dry."

A concerned look came across Murg's face. He turned to the communications officer.

"Has Mercy Three reported yet?" he asked.

"Report coming in now, sir," said the comms officer, placing one hand over his headset to listen closely. After a moment the officer reported that the Mercy Three team had also found the freighter empty, save for the droid steering the ship.

"Perhaps it's a ruse?" suggested Daly. "List the cargo manifest as bacta and then place it on a separate freighter?"

"Entirely possible," said Murg. "But I want the third and fourth freighters boarded to be safe. If they're empty, we won't bother with the fifth and sixth."

"We should still board and inspect them. And send a repair team to repurpose the freighters."

"No," said Murg flatly. The Captain looked annoyed that his decisions were being questioned by the Quarren. It was another ten minutes before both of the Mercy teams reported back with similar results. Murg looked Daly squarely in the eyes. "We've been had," he said emphatically.

"What do you mean?"

"Consider the evidence, Captain," Murg began. "The convoy has a lighter than usual escort. Those supporting Gozanti cruisers and TIE Advanced also arrived too quickly and orderly for reinforcements. I suspect that they were waiting for just such a moment to happen."

"Which is not unexpected," cut in Daly. "Republic forces have also used similar tactics to protect their convoys."

"Yes, but we also need to take into consideration that the TIE Fighters that did arrive with the cruisers were being radio operated. I had those fighters scanned, and there were no living pilots in the ships. They were more than likely stationed on the Gozanti cruisers. Or the cruisers were possibly sending artificial intelligence signals to the fighters to operate them. This is why Corsair was able to dispatch them so quickly."

"And what about the TIE Advanced?" asked Daly.

"It's possible that they were programmed using an AI system to enter and exit the system, then have a second signal broadcasted from the cruisers to execute superior fighter protocols. Their quick retreat was also too sudden for even the best Imperial pilots. Which brings me to my next point: the cruisers and freighters jumped before their exit point -- which must not have been their real destination. In order to do so quickly, they would have needed jump coordinates already pre-programmed, in which case would allow them to jump at any point."

"Yes, but it's not unusual to have emergency jump coordinates in place," countered Daly.

"This is true," Murg said. "But they didn't know we were coming. Or at least, that's what they wanted us to believe. Four out of six freighters have no bacta in them. I doubt we'll still find any in the other two."

"Well then, Major," continued Daly tersely, "was this all for naught? If so, we should at least repurpose the freighters to ensure a small victory today for our efforts."

"The freighters should stay. We need to go, Captain."

"What? Why?" asked Daly, raising an eyebrow.

Murg turned to face the communications officer. "Ensign, make contact with the Vigilant and recall all fighters and U-wings immediately. Helm," he said, turning to the piloting console, "set a course for the Vigilant."

"Now just a minute, Major," Daly cut in, "you do not give orders on my ship. You are here to observe and offer support."

Murg turned back to look Daly sternly in the eyes. "I've done all the observing I need to, Captain. Why don't you ask your communications officer if they can get a signal to the Vigilant."

Daly turned to look at the comms officer who had just now turned around in their seat to look at him.

"I've tried two times now, sir. There is no response from the Vigilant. Our frequency must be blocked somehow."

Daly paused for a moment before all the evidence fell into place with this final piece of information. The sudden realization of what was happening dawned on his face. He turned quickly to look at Murg, who had a grim look on his face.

"Now do you see it, Captain?" Murg asked quietly.

"Helm!" Daly barked, "Follow the Major's orders. Tactical, get the fighters back onboard as quickly as possible. As soon as the fighters are aboard, make the jump to hyperspace. We don't have much time."

*************

Corsair Two
Task Force 3
POV: Gremlin

"What're you going to do, Lead?" Gremlin eased off on the throttle, rolling to keep an eye on her squad leader while also protecting her squadmates. Talon and TP were almost at the jump point with the rest of the X-wings close behind. Sabre's U-wings were lagging, their lower-powered engines and cargo of fuel cells making them struggle against the speedier fighters.

"They're going to catch Sabre. They need something to keep them busy for a few minutes. Hold your course and get out - I'll be along shortly." Krayt finished his maneuver and pushed his laser power into shields, trusting the Zeltron to obey his orders.

Gunning his engine, he headed towards the nearest TIE squadron. He closed with them in a slow, wide roll, keeping his fighter just in front of incoming laser fire. At the last moment, he whipped the fighter towards the oncoming TIEs and launched a single, unguided proton torpedo. The explosion caught three of the fighters and scattered the squadron.

As the explosion went off, Gremlin heard voices on the comms: the Rehz'nor's crew, reacting to the bomber attacks.

"Another salvo of torpedoes coming in."

"Shields down to ten percent! We need to go NOW!"

"Shields are out!"

Krayt watched as the Rehz'nor's radar signature disappeared into hyperspace and felt a sense of satisfaction. At least they were safe.

He was halfway to the second squadron of TIEs when the rest of Renegade's craft reached their hyperspace exit point and winked out one by one, leaving a single A-wing behind.

"They're all clear, Krayt. Time to turn back - I'll cover you." Gremlin wanted nothing more than to cram power into her sublight engines and support Krayt's attack, but she held back. Her guts were churning as she watched the X-wing ace dance and dive among the TIEs, red laser blasts lancing into their bulbous bodies. He was fighting hard, but the sheer weight of numbers was against him.

"Krayt ..." Her hand was on the throttle. She'd already lost one pilot today; she'd have to report back to Syntax aboard the Vigilant and tell him how Geck had died. But Krayt's orders had been clear: if something happens to me, it's your job to get everyone else out alive.

But they were all alive; they'd jumped into hyperspace - she could surely help him now …..

"You go too - 'everyone else' includes you! I'll be right behind you!" Krayt's voice came over the comms. Gremlin continued to watch as green and red lasers lanced out across the backdrop of a star-filled horizon. There were two small explosions, then a large one - similar to a proton torpedo, and then her sensors beeped; Krayt's ship had disappeared.

Gremlin sat for a moment, numb, trying to understand what had happened. She could see that his X-wing was no longer there; she could see that the Imperial pilots had stopped firing because there was nothing to attack. There was a strange buzzing in her ears. Her fingers flew over the controls, sharpening her scans, trying to find Krayt's ship … but the remaining TIEs were orienting in her direction. She was the only New Republic ship left.

With a muttered curse that was almost a sob, she slammed her A-wing around and quickly followed her team into hyperspace.

It was a very long hyperspace trip for Gremlin. She pored over the sensor logs again and again, trying to figure out what had happened, refusing to give in to her emotions. Any activity was better than sitting doing nothing - or, worse, re-living their losses. Her research was interrupted by a warning from her ship and seconds later she was pulled out of hyperspace, emerging on the outskirts of the battle raging around the Vigilant. ************************************************************************************* Part 1.1<   Part 1.2    >Part 1.3 >Finale ***********************************************************************************