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ENDOR

 

Part 2 - Attack of the Rebellion


Endor +15 days

CRS Vigilant Hallways

Major Moggaz Murg was headed to his next morning appointment with Lt. Colonel Reynolds and Commander Morrison for another long day of pilot debriefing. They had begun in earnest, but the urge to use the refresher overcame him and he asked for a brief recess. Now on his way back, he absentmindedly scrolled through his datapad as he strolled at a leisurely pace to his destination. Do we call the balance of Blue Squadron next just to finish it up and lock down the new Buccaneer command structure? We have to lock down that situation between Captain Tann and Commander Dobson... Or do we shuffle some other members into the squadron altogether and shake it up? I know there are quite a few promotions coming down the pipeline from Endor that we'll have to square up as well. "So much to do..."

As he rounded a corner near the mess hall, he bounced off of another individual walking the other direction. "My apologies!"

"None needed, Major," Mystic said, embarrassed. "I should really learn to stop walking down the middle of the hallway."

Murg's tentacles fluttered with a chuckle. "Indeed, Lieutenant, and I need to learn to not walk with my nose in my datapad. Were you harmed?"

Mystic shook his head negative. "No sir, tip top shape here."

Murg nodded. "Very well, carry on Lieutenant," he said as he continued on his way. He stopped, a thought striking him, "Lieutenant? It just struck me that I forgot to ask you another question yesterday in the wing commander's office."

Mystic stopped a few steps later and turned around. "Major?"

"I was wondering... Are there any of your friends from Gray Squadron that you haven't seen on the Vigilant that you would still prefer to work with going forward?"

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Battle of Endor

Gray 5

POV: Mystic

The size. The sheer, utter size of it. Mystic knew that, if somehow he was able to survive this fight, hell, survive the next 15 minutes, THAT would be the thing that he would tell his grandkids about.

And they would never believe me.

He managed to jump into a relatively calm section of space, and was able to get his bearings for a moment thankfully before having to engage. Off to his left, he saw an X-wing banking into position. Off to his right, he saw a Y-wing from... I can't recognize the markings. Gold Squadron? He wasn't sure. He couldn't allow himself to get distracted, however, as the space he was in was getting thick with more fighters as the squadrons formed up. So many fighters in one place...

Major Salm's voice jarred him back to reality. "Mystic, you're drifting! Grey Squadron, check in!"

He looked around the unfamiliar controls. He was used to X-Wings. This B-Wing was.. different. Heavier. He missed Runner, his astromech droid, who was actually quite chatty for a droid. The navcomputer here was not a good companion. Oh well. Life goes on, and he went and (and flew) where the Rebellion needed him. These days, Gray flew B-Wings and Y-Wings. Someday, perhaps, he'd be back in an X-wing. Maybe even get someone to listen to that Super X-Wing idea of mine. He missed not being in charge. Sometimes.

He powered up his weapons systems. Charged the shields. The radio was alive with chatter from the other Grays checking in. Impulse. Darius.

"Mystic, checking in. All systems go." His eyes narrowed. He glanced over at the photo of his son, from happier days from a trip to Mon Cal. "Let's go hunting."

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Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Mess Hall

Lock and Rev sat together in the mess hall and ate in silence. More and more bodies were packing in, and they were forced to share their table with people they'd never met before from the maintenance team. They made polite conversation and got to know their probable mechanic teams, and were extra sure to butter those techs up now so they would be keen to push their maintenance requirements to the top of the list if ever there was a need.

"You flyboys are all right, you know that?" one of the mechanics replied with a smile between chews of the desert Rev had given him.

"We just know how hard of a job it is to keep ships in the air," Rev replied smoothly.

Another tech barked out a laugh. "If only the rest of the primadonnas were as smart as the two of you!"

Lock smiled and looked up at the doorway, catching a glimpse of what he thought was Mandalorian armor walking past. He grabbed Rev's arm and the pilot let out a surprised yelp.

"What?"

"I think I just saw Gnoizic!" Lock replied, quickly rising to deposit his tray at the cleaning receptacle and follow his friend.

Rev hurriedly followed, bidding another buttery farewell to their new techs along with an apology for abruptly leaving.

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Battle of Endor

Gold Six

POV: Lock

The blue tunnel of light spun away, turning back into a field of stars, the planet moon of Endor looming just before them, the incomplete second Death Star menacingly looming over it's lush forests.

Fear and excitement melded together within Lock's chest as their objective finally made an appearance. He remembered the first Death Star, and how many pilots had died defeating it--would he be one of those casualties today? The Rebel forces were much larger than they had been that day, but that wouldn't mean anything if the ground team didn't disable the shield. How many TIE Fighters could that Death Star hold? Four, five, six times the number of a regular star destroyer? Ten times as many? They could be easily overwhelmed if things went south.

Lando's voice came over the comm, "All wings, report in."

"Red Leader, standing by."

"Gray Leader, standing by."

"Green Leader, standing by."

Wedge spoke again, "Lock S-Foils in attack position."

As they moved into position, the X-Wings opened their S-Foils, creating their iconic silhouette. It was actually part of what made them so successful--nevermind the fact that it allowed the engines to cool down by dispersing the heat, many Imperial pilots felt fear just at the sight of the cross winged fighters. Not that they would be swayed, considering the behemoth that sat menacingly over Endor.

"May the Force be with us," Admiral Ackbar said gravely over the comms as the attack group approached the second Death Star. Among the fleet more fighters were launching, preparing for a potential battle.

Inside his cockpit, Lock flicked through his sensor readings, frowning. "Fate, what's the status of those shields?" he asked his R2 unit. "Did Solo get them down?"

"Break off the attack!" Lando's panicked voice cut through the comms, interrupting the R2's reply, answering for the black R2 unit settled in behind him. "The shield is still up!"

"I've got no reading, are you sure?" Wedge asked.

"Pull up! All craft pull up!"

Lock didn't need any more than that. He pulled on his flight stick guiding his fighter in an evasive maneuver, keeping in formation with the rest of Gold Squadron as they pulled away from the Death Star, following the Millenium Falcon as it veered back towards the fleet only to see just how screwed they were--the entire kriffing Imperial Fleet spread over them, their wedge shaped star-destroyers like jagged teeth about to take a bite out of them. Behind Lock, Fate squealed as sensors detected hundreds of launches--hungry TIEs screamed from their hangars like ravenous bats on the scent of blood.

Ackbar exploded into the comm, "It's a trap!"

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Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Mess Hall

Gremlin was sullen, having not seen most of her surviving friends from her original Red Squadron since she'd been called to the Vigilant for this organizational meeting. She'd run into Lock on Endor after the Battle, and again, along with Rev, on Murkani--but she knew little to nothing about the rest of them. She wasn't sure if she was staying or going, and the uncertainty would be more bearable if she had seen some of her old friends.

"Ma'am, are you finished eating that yet?" A galley worker asked meekly, motioning toward the hardly touched food on her tray.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Yes, I was parsecs away there for a minute. You can take it," she replied, embarrassed. "I don't have much of an appetite I'm afraid."

"S'okay, Ma'am."

Gremlin stood up and stretched, the bones in her spine cracking loudly. Some of the other personnel eating looked up at the sound, amazed at the sight of the shapely Zeltron in her form fitting fatigues.

Gremlin noticed the stares and blushed slightly, but continued her admittedly sensual stretching routine because it was a way for her to center herself mentally when she was confused or grumpy.

The galley worker that had picked up her tray dropped it with his mouth agape.

The clang of the tray startled Gremlin, and that jolt of adrenaline brought back a flash of the battle that she'd pushed out of her mind in the previous few weeks. Her skin flushed a deeper shade of red, and she hurried out of the room to find a place to be alone.

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Battle of Endor

Blade Nine

POV: Gremlin

She had flown on countless sorties, survived dogfights, dodged death in more ways than she could remember. But as the B-wings of Blade Squadron emerged from the cool blue of hyperspace into the maelstrom of fighting above Endor, Flight Officer Gemilan - known to all as "Gremlin" - was as nervous as a nerf-herder during mating season.

It wasn't the anticipation of battle: she had spent four years fighting for the Rebellion and knew what to expect. Every launch was an adrenaline rush, every safe return to base brought momentary relief, but she had long ago given up hope of surviving to see the end of the Empire. Instead she fought for the safety of her family, far away on her home planet of Zeltros, and for the lives of her comrades-in-arms: friends and fellow fighters who were closer now than blood. Or rather ... they had been.

Time was, she would have looked out of her cockpit and seen them in formation around her: Gnoizic, her wingman; Rev, squadron XO; quiet Shadow; petite Angel, Red's other female pilot and her friend; the former Imperial, Rogue and Lock, Red Leader. Now they were gone, scattered among other squadrons, and she was left at the very back of the fleet, surrounded by barely-trained cadets; missing her squadmates, her X-wing and her astromech; catching far-off glimpses of a half-built Death Star through the serried ranks of Rebel ships while flying, of all things, a kriffing B-wing that still had the fresh, new smell of the shipyards. Not exactly how she'd thought she'd be spending the battle although, from the comm messages she was overhearing, it sounded like other plans were also in tatters.

"Just as well we're rearguard," she grumbled to herself, checking that her wingmates remained on station. "I'd hate to see what'd happen if ...."

"It's a trap!" The words, in Admiral Ackbar's distinctive tones, cut through the gabble of voices, followed almost instantaneously by the hooting of alarms as Gremlin's tactical display lit up like a nebula. She hit the button to open the squadron's comm channel, feeling her heart rate speed up as she interpreted the tactical information coming through.

"Lead! We have two - no, three Star Destroyers appearing behind us ...." And where there were gun-laden Star Destroyers, there would also be fighters. Lots of them. The Rebel fleet was surrounded.

Fox sounded unconcerned. "Noted, Nine. We have new orders incoming. Blade Squadron, stand by."

With the knowledge that the waiting was over, her nerves had disappeared, evaporating like moisture on Tatooine. Now she was on full alert, ready to fight. Gremlin switched comm channels to reach her flight members. "Sharpen up, Three Flight. This is our time. You know our attack patterns - stick with me and we'll show the Imps how B-wings can fight!" Brave words, but they don't know that.

"I'm with you, Nine!" That was Demenal, the Xexto, sounding younger than ever.

I've got your six." Cadet Shi'i Sonnit, Blade 11, was a female Abednedo whose simulator scores had been shaky at times. Gremlin hoped this would be one of her more reliable flights.

"Blade 12 standing by!" The squadron's only Mirialan, Tyr Erith, was a competent enough pilot but lacked the experience of close-quarters fighting - as did most of the other cadets. Gremlin was about to respond when Fox's voice cut across the comms.

"Blade Leader to Blade Squadron. Follow me in on heading one-seven-zero-delta."

Gremlin double-clicked her comm to indicate acceptance then called her flight to follow as they swooped into the new configuration led by their CO. Only then did she realise where Fox was taking them - head to head with the Devastator, one of the most feared Imperial capital ships. The ship which, if gossip was correct, had killed Fox's wife at the Battle of Hoth some years previously. Was this chance - or his attempt at revenge?

"I have a bad feeling ..." she started to mutter to herself as she slipped her B-wing into position, anchoring the rear of the arrowhead formation now aimed at the Star Destroyer. "Oh, Sithspit!"

Two dozen TIE interceptors had appeared from the rear of the Devastator, clearly heading for the rookie squadron. There were no Rebel fighters nearby; they were either concentrating on the Death Star or fighting desperately to stop TIEs of all variants from scoring hits on the Alliance fleet - one frigate was already listing, its engines dead, fires leaping from deck to deck as escape pods were jettisoned like seeds on the wind. Without fighter cover, Blade Squadron would be unprotected, its inexperienced cadets easy pickings for the Imperial pilots.

Gremlin forced herself to concentrate on what was happening in front of her: the TIEs would be on them in seconds. "Three Flight - remember your training; engage the fighters if they're in your way, otherwise stay on target! We need to stop that Star Destroyer before it pounds Home One and the other ships into dust."

And over their comms came Fox's voice, heavy with suppressed emotion: "Blade Squadron .... start your attack run!"

In common with the other B-wings, Gremlin rotated her ship's wing 30 degrees, her gyroscopic cockpit sitting stable and strong as the smaller S-foils swept into the attack position. Together, the squadron accelerated and, with a cohesion they had rarely achieved in training, the B-wings arrowed towards the Devastator, which retaliated by sending up a stream of electronic countermeasures and a barrage of gunfire. There was little the Rebels could do but throttle up, hold formation and hope they could bring their impressive range of armaments to bear on the Star Destroyer before the Imperial fighters reached them. To the Zeltron, accustomed to the speed and fury of X-wing combat, flying straight into the bombardment seemed suicidal but she did not deviate from her course, even though every instinct was screaming at her to avoid the oncoming firepower.

Gremlin cursed under her breath as the first laser cannon blasts hit her ship but the B-wing was built to take such punishment. Its shields absorbed the energy, dissipating it successfully, though she kept a close eye on her control panel to ensure the power was balanced. Another blast: the B-wing juddered, S-foils creaking as near-misses turned into hits. Ahead and to her right, Demenal's craft was drifting out of formation. She snapped out a warning and he corrected his course. They had to stay together, fight together, fire together if they stood a chance against the aptly-named Devastator.

But it wasn't just the Star Destroyer they had to worry about. Fox's voice intruded on the combined thrill and terror of a battle unlike any she'd experienced before. "Stay in formation, people! Interceptors incoming!" Her heads-up display tagged the squints - all 24 of them - but they didn't engage. Instead, they broke formation, swooping above and below the oncoming B-wings before starting to loop back. Their tactics were clear.

"Three Flight, watch your rear!" The squadron comms channel was alive with warnings, advice and - almost immediately - a scream, abruptly cut short as one of the cadets fell victim to the squints. Blade Six winked off the screen; Gremlin hauled on the yoke and fired her lasers, cockpit juddering with the power of the shots, but the TIE Interceptor that had vaped Six corkscrewed away, only to be caught by a well-aimed proton torpedo from the Abednedo, Sonnit. "Great shooting, Eleven! But save your torps, we'll need 'em for the Devastator!"

She pushed her craft back into formation in time to see two more B-wings fall to Imperial fire. Gremlin set her jaw: this was crazy! They were all going to die unless they took evasive action - there were no Rebel fighters nearby to protect them. Surely they had to break formation soon? When would Fox give the order ...

A voice in her headset, familiar despite the panic: "They've locked onto me!"

"Break right, Twelve!" But it was too late: even as Gremlin spoke, the Mirialan's B-wing was gone, blown into a cloud of expanding gas and debris. Again the Zeltron fired at the attacker, shunting power from her engines to all three lasers; the extra boost helped clip the TIE's starboard solar panel, sending it spinning off course, but the Interceptor's body stayed intact. She was tempted to use the B-wing's speed to chase the damaged fighter and finish it off, but Stamm's words rang in her ears - "These cadets need someone with experience as a flight leader" - and she held her place in formation.

Demenal did not. With an inarticulate cry the Xexto spiralled away from the Blades, straight into the heart of the attacking squadron. Gremlin swore and hit her commlink. "Ten, get back here!"

"I'm going to kill that TIE!" He was spraying laser fire indiscriminately; a TIE pilot died with his second volley, just not the one he intended.

"Cadet, this is a direct order â€" get back in formation!" Gremlin was darting glances between her display monitor and targeting scope, watching Demenal kill another two TIE Interceptors with an impressive display of ion cannon shooting at odds with his simulator performances, but more squints were on the way. Many more. Too many.

"I always thought I'd go first." Demenal's voice, always young, sounded older now, worn down; Gremlin had to concentrate to hear him. "She's .... she was ...." And Gremlin remembered: the way the cadets had stood close together at briefings; the quick touch of hands, bony Xexto and tattooed Mirialan, before they parted company to clamber into their B-wings. She tried one last time to pierce the grief which overwhelmed him.

"Ten - Ruano - you have to come back. She'd want you to live ...."

But it was too late. He was gone, blasted out of existence by an Imperial pilot who was flying rings around the B-wings, and before she could react her craft was jolted by a direct hit from one of the Devastator's guns. Alarms sounded, lights flashed, acrid smoke filled the cockpit, but the impact saved her life: the laser blast narrowly missed two TIE Interceptors who were arrowing in for a kill, sending them both skittering away. Someone aboard the Devastator must have ordered the Star Destroyer to stop firing for fear of hitting their own fighters, for the blasts around them quickly died.

"Nine! Are you all right?" The voice belonged to Sonnit, the Abednedo; Gremlin coughed and was about to respond when she heard the words she'd been longing for: Wing Commander Fox, yelling his command above the din of battle.

"Break, break, break!"

At last. They were close enough to the Star Destroyer to go ship-to-ship. Blade Squadron, depleted and unprotected, was still in terrible danger but at least they could do something more than simply absorb the Imperials' pounding. Assuming, of course, her ship didn't disintegrate around her ....

"Nine! I repeat - are you all right?"

Gremlin scanned her control panel, which was awash with warning lights, and forced out the words. "Eleven - my lasers, two ion cannons and primary torp launcher are all out. I've still got some shields and enough firepower to get you into the link with the others so you can take this kriffer out. I'm your wing - you focus on killing the Devastator!"

Behind them, one of the Rebel cruisers fell victim to an Imperial attack but Gremlin barely noticed. She was nursing her broken B-wing, running interference for the cadet with only the secondary proton torpedo launcher and her one remaining ion cannon as armaments, but this was the kind of fighting she knew: scrappy, seat-of-the-pants, as exhilarating as it was terrifying. Blade Squadron was trying valiantly to press home its attack: the TIEs, though much depleted, were still fighting - three were on Fox's tail and another two were moving in for the kill. The Wing Commander was treating his craft like an X-wing, pushing its envelope to the max, staying focused even when his wingman was caught in a hail of crossfire. Even as Gremlin fired at another squint closing in on Eleven, she saw Fox pull off an incredible barrel roll beneath his closest attacker, blowing the TIE to pieces but taking significant damage at the same time. His B-wing was shedding large sections of hull and he was clearly struggling to retain control.

"Eject - why don't you eject?" she muttered to herself, coughing against the fumes as she diverted more power from her shields into the remaining armaments. If she could only get Eleven into formation with the three remaining Blades, they'd stand a better chance of taking out the Devastator. If only ...

The comm link clicked: Fox's voice, hoarse but authoritative, reached the five remaining B-wings. "Blade Leader to group: if you make it past the fighter screen, execute your primary mission. Over and out."

Over and out. Gremlin blinked hard against the stinging smoke. "C'mon, Eleven. Let's do this. Let's show 'em how Blades can fight!"

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Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Armory Range

Lock ran his hands along the instrument of death in front of him, remembering a time when he had to use it to save hostages from a crazed Imperial garrison commander and had to breach the room solo. His Mera Sonn Type CC Blaster Pistol had been with him for years at this point, and without really realizing it Lock had become quite a deadly shot with this weapon.

"Where you been?" Rev asked the silent Mandalorian as he carefully pinged targets with his powered down blaster rifle from 200 meters.

"Around," Gnoizic replied tersely, pushing the range on his targets another 100 meters down range as he flipped out the scope attachment to his weapon and took aim.

"Seen Rogue or Shadow?" Lock asked as he sighted in his own distant target. "I'm pretty sure the two of them are here somewhere."

"Heard the names, but haven't seen them personally," Gnoizic replied as he smoothly pinged all of his targets twice without any misses.

"I wonder how many of the transferred pilots were approved," Rev mused, as he absentmindedly sent his bolts down range but wasn't aiming, still managing to hit every target due to his advanced blaster skills honed during a lifetime of shooting things.

"We'll find out soon enough," Lock replied, sending a rapid succession of bolts into his 5 targets a short distance away, missing no shots.

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Battle of Endor

Gold Six

POV: Lock

Lando Calrissian's voice cut through the comms, "Fighters coming in!"

Suddenly the comm was alive with the chatter of dozens of pilots calling out for assistance, warning others, barking orders but among it all the scream of a Gray Squadron pilot, "There's too many of them!"

He wasn't wrong--he'd seen multiple fighters explode in the initial head to head; as much from collisions as from the flurry of blaster bolts that erupted furiously from hundreds of starfighter's guns. The swarm of TIEs was overwhelming but Rebel pilots, used to fighting against the odds, kept their cool--for the most part. The Death Star was gone from Lock's mind: all there was now was this dogfight. He'd leave the big picture thinking to the people in charge. All he was worried about now was surviving and making sure his people survived. What were his people anymore anyways? Red Squadron had been disbanded and split up between Red, Gold and Blade Squadrons.

"Gold Squadron!" Dodge's voice was alive on the radio, trying to organize the chaos. "Break off by p--Arrghhh!"

Not too far away from his own position he saw Dodge's X-Wing explode into flames. And so passed the Hero of Gabora, he thought grimly, knowing it was a sign of the battle to come. Green lasers splashed across his shields and behind him his R2 squealed in panic. No time to think. Time to fight!

"Shut up, Fate, I got this!" he barked at R2-F8.

Lock pulled hard on his flight stick, twisting and playing with his throttle as he attempted to shake his attacker and slowly make his way behind the TIE Interceptor, which stuck to him like a stink to a gamorrean. Cursing, the pilot pushed his throttle to max and reangled his fighter, putting some distance between him and the TIE. The Interceptor was much faster and closed in easily to Lock, getting confident enough to push his own throttle to the limit in an attempt to catch up to the, apparently, fleeing X-Wing. Just as the Interceptor closed in, Lock set his throttle to zero, allowing the TIE to overfly him and subsequently find himself in Lock's cross hairs. Instinctually he squeezed his trigger twice, firing four bolts at his enemy each time.

He accelerated through the explosion, and though his shields flickered in complaint they held strong and already Fate was working to bolster them to full strength once more. Lock let out a "Whoop!" as he got his first kill of the battle but there wasn't much time to celebrate--already two more Interceptors were on Lock. "Dump our lasers into our Shields!"

"Accelerate to attack speed," Lando said over the comm. "Draw their fire away from the cruisers!"

"I'm a little busy!" he told the General, off-comms, of course. He shifted his ELS system to shield and engines over lasers and pulled off from the two Interceptors, but they stuck to him like flies on a rancor. "This is Gold Six, I have two on me!"

"Copy, Six, this is Seven, we're on our way," said Ranger. "ETA twenty seconds!"

Twenty seconds didn't seem long but in reality twenty seconds running away from death, feeling his cold gray fingers slowly wrapping around you was an eternity. No, twice as long as an eternity. Lock did his best, using every trick he could muster--he pulled left to right, erratically changed his pitch or tried to get behind them only to break off and lead them in another direction. His shields started to whittle down but he refused to five up. Just a few more seconds...

Ranger's voice burst through the comm, "Six, pull up!"

Instinctually the pilot pulled on his stick, sending his fighter upwards, getting out of the way just in time to avoid the volley of lasers coming from Ranger and Bubbles' X-Wing fighters. Red plasma tore through their hulls, causing them to explode--it was so fast that the TIE pilots probably barely had a chance of understanding what had happened to them. Lock, on his part, finally breathed a sigh of relief as he reset his ELS system and started recharging his lasers.

"Thanks, Seven, mind if I tag along with you two?" he asked.

"Not a problem, Six, form up on me," Ranger replied.

"Copy that, Seven," he said as he pulled into formation.

It was hard to hear each other with comms buzzing--Lock caught snips for different parts of the battle field; squadron leaders calling out orders, Lando and Wedge trying to keep things together, people dying. Lock resisted the urge to turn it off and steeled himself--the battle had only just begun.

"Watch yourself, Wedge! Three from above!" Lando called out.

"Red Three, Red Two, pull in" Wedge.

"Got it," Red Three replied, his last words.

"3 of them coming in, 20 degrees."

"Cut to the left, I'll take the leader," Wedge said calmly.

"This is Eight, I have a flight of Bombers and Interceptors incoming," the Nautolan nicknamed Bubbles said, his youthful voice coming in loudly through the comm. "Follow me, making an attack run!"

"Negative, Eight--oh frak, he's moving, Six, follow me!"

Lock banked his fighter, matching Ranger's speed as they pursued Gold Eight. The experienced pilot saw the Nautolan's objective now--and that same objective seemed to have spotted the Nautolan as well. Four TIE Interceptor modified their flight path in unison, breaking off from the bombers and then into pairs in a widening arc, allowing their incredible speed to create some distance before curving back in towards Bubbles, who was making a straight run at the bombers.

Wedge had seemed to realize that the TIE Bomber's flight path as well, "They're heading for the Medical Frigate!" he called out just as four Interceptors began firing at Bubbles in unison, stripping away the young alien's shields with impunity.

Luckily, as brash and headstrong as he was, Bubbles still possessed an incredible piloting skill and was able to break off his attack and avoid lasers long enough to survive the initial onslaught, though now four Interceptors were aggressively pursuing his scarred and injured X-Wing.

"Six, take left!" Ranger called out and Lock did so, maneuvering his fighter to the side as he targeted one of the interceptors that had flanked Bubbles from the left side. Squeezing the stick, he fired three quad bursts into the pair, barely grazing one of them but hitting dead on target on the second one. An explosion from behind shook the other Interceptor off it's flight path and it started to move erratically, initiating some quick evasive maneuvers before ultimately speeding off after Bubbles. Lock noticed that Ranger had successfully been able to destroy both of his targets when--

"Seven! Two right above you!" he called over the comm. Immediately Ranger went into evasive maneuvers himself, spinning and turning quickly in an attempt to either shake off his attackers or gain the upper hand. Though Lock was momentarily split between helping the shieldless Red Eight or Red Seven who was under attack by two TIE Fighters but soon enough the choice was taken away from him when he was under attack himself, only a split second after he'd given Ranger the warning. Had they planned this attack? It felt rather well coordinated for a battle as chaotic as this one--that meant that either they'd seen them from a distance, the same way that they'd seen the Bombers, or that it was just one very unlucky and unhappy coincidence.

"Help! I can't shake him!" called out Eight in a panic.

Lock was busy dumping his cannon power into his shields as he swung his fighter in an erratic arch, doing his best to avoid the enemy's fire. From what he could tell he only had one of his tail. "Hold on, Eight, kinda busy!"

"Oh no! I'm going to die! I'm going to die!"

"You're not going to die, you got to fight!" Ranger replied, in his own dire straits--though he'd managed to take out one of his attackers.

"No! I'm frakked! I lost! FR-AAARRRGGH!"

"Damn!" Lock cursed in his cockpit. The kid was barely old enough to order his own drink! Behind him Fate screamed just as the plasma bolt managed to pass through the X-Wing's shield and graze one of his S-Foils, ruining it's brand new gold paint job. "This guy is good!"

"Six, scratch my back and I'll scratch yours--turn up 40 degrees...Now!" Ranger instructed over the comm.

Lock was familiar with the move and followed the other pilot's instructions, turning his fighter forty degrees. He saw Ranger quickly approaching him from the front and, more importantly, the TIE FIghter chasing him. It was firing steadily on Ranger and Lock instinctively knew his shields were about to give out, but both of them had to stay the course. As they approached each other, Lock and and Ranger moved their fighters so that the bellies of the X-Wings faced each other as they passed by. Both pilots fired at the same time--Lock heard an explosion behind him but when Lock himself squeezed the trigger nothing happened--oh frak, his lasers were completely uncharged!

"Bloody hell, Six!" Ranger exclaimed over the comm.

Cursing himself he tried to clip the TIE but the pilot was expecting something and was able to move his nimble fighter out of the way. Lock poured shield energy into his canons as he spun the fighter back around just in time to see Ranger ejecting from his exploding X-Wing. Damn, damn, damnit! Filled with guilt, Lock fired on the TIE moments later, avenging his squadmate.

Now he was alone.

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Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Mess Hall

Bulldog sat in the mess and swished what the kitchen staff apparently called Caf. He shuddered and forced himself to choke down the bitter sludge. The mess hall was nearly empty with a few assorted clumps of people deep in conversation.

"Yeah," Jasted said from the other end of the table. "I second that emotion."

Bulldog sulked a bit. "The Liberty's caf was better than this bilge, wasn't it?"

Jasted nodded while chewing his breakfast. "200%" he said while chewing laboriously through what was supposed to be a type of granola but had the wrong texture. He hazarded a sip of his own cup of caf, wincing with regret immediately after. "This stuff could strip carbon-scoring off of our S-Foils. I wonder if it's just the leftovers for those of us that missed the first breakfast shift?"

A sudden surge of energy rushed through Bulldog's system. He visibly perked up and jittered a bit. "Woah," he breathed out.

"What's the matter, Dog?" the Rogue pilot asked with a genuine look of concern on his face.

"I guess this stuff is pure stimulant," Bulldog said quickly, as he started tapping his feet quickly on the floor. "I'm feeling amped up like I was a few weeks ago when I..."

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Battle of Endor

CRS Liberty Flight Deck

POV: Bulldog

Bulldog flopped gently into the cockpit of his RZ-1 Dodonna-Blissex A-Wing. To his right, Icestorm flipped him a grin and a thumbs-up from his own cockpit. Bulldog returned the smirk and nodded. He brought his gaze back to his cockpit and ran through his pre-flight checklist. He flipped the main power-bus switch and felt his craft thrum to life around him. The gentle, slightly high-pitched hum was comforting. He had never been as at ease anywhere else than in some type of ship. The hum of his electronics and the gentle thrumming of his sublight engines gave off put him into a zen-like state. It helped to level himself out and get his head right before a mission. He really needed it this time, as sleep was very hard to come by last night after the general briefing dropped a Death Star-sized bomb on the entire battlegroup and the morning briefing explained the commando mission to disable the shields. This whole thing hinges on that commando detachment taking down the shields. If they fail, this whole thing is for nothing. He felt a little tremble that started at the small of his spine and traveled up to his shoulders and then down to his arms, causing his hands to shake slightly.

"Sir, you're all set to go," The deckhand said from the moveable stairwell next to his fighter as he detached the fuel line from the idling A-Wing.

Bulldog immediately clasped his hands to stop the shaking and mumbled out a "Thanks, Chief." Get it together, Dog!

He thumbed the switch to close his egg-shell cockpit canopy and donned his beat-up flight helmet. Absentmindedly, he clasped the chin strap and adjusted his microphone to make sure it was slightly farther away from his mouth to hopefully spare the rest of the wing from having to hear his heavier than normal breathing.

Syntax's metallic voice crackled in over the comm, taking an even tinnier tone due to the source already being a machine. "Remember, we are to remain at the ready until ordered to launch. In the event of unforeseen circumstances, we should provide a psychological boost to the currently deployed Red, Gold, Grey, and Green squadrons and deal a psychological blow to any Imperial forces. Once the ground crews are clear, turn on your shields and start double-charging them. This will give us a bit more durability immediately out of the chute."

Bulldog did a quick visual check and saw that his A-Wing was devoid of ground crew and flipped his shields on. He flicked his thumb over the shield charge control on his flight stick twice and watched as they slowly began to rise from 100/100 fore/aft. Satisfied that his shields were getting stronger, he chinned his mic frequency over to Icestorm. 'Hey Ice, follow my lead out there."

"You know it, Dog," Icestorm's voice responded. "Do you have to say that every mission?"

Bulldog smiled. "We keep coming back after I say it, don't we?"

Before Icestorm could respond, Syntax's voice cut back in. "2 minutes away from reversion to realspace. Dump your laser energy into your shields and charge those if you haven't already. Make sure those shields are ready, pilots."

Bulldog complied with the order, and noticed the chrono in his cockpit began counting down from 2 minutes. With the laser energy added in with his already charging shields, his levels read 184/184. Nodding his approval, he rolled his neck and shoulders and again shook out his arms and hands. He closed his eyes and forced himself to breathe slowly.

After what seemed like an eternity in his mind, he opened his eyes to fully charged fore and aft shields and his laser banks had recharged. He evened out the charging levels to allow for everything to draw the same amount of power from the starfighter's power plant. He would have to take energy away from the engines again if he ran out of shield or laser energy in the middle of a furball, but he'd done that dance time and time again throughout his service with the rebellion.

The cockpit chrono read 15 seconds and was still falling.

Breathe.

10 Seconds.

Do your job.

5 seconds.

Just like you've done hundreds of times before.

0.

The star field re-appeared outside of the hangar's magcon field. The position of the ship as it reverted to realspace afforded all of the pilots a prime view of the uncompleted Death Star II.

"Sithspawn! Look at the size of that thing!" somebody swore over the comm.

"Cut the chatter, Yellow Ten!" Syntax cut in. "Remember, hold position until ordered to launch."

Ra'kaat's voice cut across the main comm. "Launch them all!"

The flight controller's voice cut in. "All Squadrons deploy!"

"Yellows, power up and burn! Form-up on the Liberty's aft by flight group," Syntax ordered.

Bulldog kicked on his repulsors and double-clicked his mic to acknowledge the order. His craft whined louder as it lifted off of the deck. Outside, the Liberty rolled and executed a turn that took the Death Star out of view. He nudged his craft forward and led Two Flight out of the hangar, kicking his sublight drive to full power and retracting his landing gear in the process. His craft began to vibrate gently as his engines spun up to full throttle. He allowed himself a quick glance around and saw the Millenium Falcon and a small group of fighters sprinting toward the Death Star. His eyes lingered on the unfinished station and felt an unwelcome chill take over his body again.

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Mess Hall

Both men were silent for a minute. Jasted sucked in a breath loudly. "Yeah, man. I know what you mean," he said somberly.

Bulldog looked over at his companion, his feelings of anxiety subsiding, but not by much. He twitched a little. "This kriffing caf has GOT to be spiked with something."

"I don't think it's the coffee, bro," Jasted replied dubiously. "I'm on cup 3 and I don't feel any different."

Bulldog shrugged, but couldn't shake the rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins. "I, well, I don't know man. My heart's beating a million klicks a minute."

Jasted was feeling antsy as well, but he was more worried about his intelligence request putting him on some radars he'd prefer to avoid. "I think it's just the last few weeks catching back up with us, brother. I'm feeling it a little too."

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Battle of Endor

Corona Eleven

POV: Jasted

The silence was deafening. Her fighter wing lay dormant yet ready as each pilot went through their pre assault rituals in their respective cockpits. The hangar bay, once full of life and energy, was void of all non essential crew. The grand Mon Calamari Cruiser hurtled through hyperspace to the forest moon of Endor and the orbiting Death Star.

Lieutenant Finelli toggled his metaphorical switch along with the rest of Corona Squadron which engaged their clarity and seriousness. Down time allowed him to think of the wrongs he had performed in his past. He was born and raised on Mantooine, a planet found in the Atrivis Outer Rim, where his family still resided. His father was a Stormtrooper, TK7531, assigned to the planet as a patrol supervisor. TK7531 was charged to investigate crimes in the region, arresting violators of planetary and Imperial law. TK7531 was fair in his investigations. An individual was arrested based on probable cause through evidence acquired by the Stormtrooper, not by whom they were thought to be affiliated with. Regardless, his arrests were many. He truly loved his assignment.

TK7531 was a fine soldier and looked to his two sons to follow in his footsteps with the Empire he believed was grand, fair and respectful of order. His oldest son, who later defected to the Rebel Alliance, was given a chance to serve in the Imperial Fleet as a pilot. It almost killed him when he was given a warrant claiming his oldest was a traitor to the great Empire he loved and respected. It was as if the boy had taken up arms to fight against him. The Empire was not kind to TK7531 after the defection. It was a tarnish on the family's name and he was subsequently demoted for his traitorous son's actions.

The Lieutenant had not spoken to his father in years. His only contact with his family on Mantooine was his younger brother, a level headed minstral merchant who cared not for the war and its politics or taking sides in it. They still remained in contact through the occasional holo message. His brother provided various updates and accomplishments of the family. The last was to inform Lieutenant Finelli TK7531 had been called on by the Empire to be temporarily reassigned. He knew not any other information on his whereabouts.

If this mission went well, Finelli would check in on his brother and acquire an update. It slightly bothered him no one knew where TK7531 was assigned, although it was the nature of both their occupations. Everything was always labelled classified by government bureaucrats on both sides of the war. Each battle fought plagued the Lieutenant with doubt. Were both sides of this conflict attempting to assume undeserved power over an entire galaxy? Is the Emperor all powerful and evil? Is the Rebel Alliance led by the feckless and foolish. He spent more time prodding at the commanders of his own fleet than the decisions made by the Empire. All questions were tucked away for another time.

***

"Pilots, arrival ETA one minute" informed the Deck Officer. "Fuel and weapon checks should be complete."

"Alright Corona, we are the second squadron launched. Rendezvous to the rear of the fleet once we get out of the hangar." Colonel Reynolds gave one, final comm transmission of their overall objectives. "We are the wall. No Imperial rat touches this ship or the fleet."

Several pilots acknowledged the Colonel's declaration, then fell silent again.

A slight shimmy of the cruiser and the familiar sound of her hyperdrive disengaging was enough to notify her crew they arrived at their destination. Fleet radio transmissions trickled in. The Liberty's pilots remained quiet, listening to the other fighter squadrons acknowledge their entry into the system.

"All wings report in."

"Red Leader, standing by."

"Gray Leader, standing by."

"Green Leader, standing by."

"Lock S-foils in attack position."

Adrenaline surged through a handful of X-Wing and B-Wing pilots listening to Red Leader via radio. Activating strike foils usually did the trick for these space jockeys.

"Liberty Control to Corona Leader, you are clear to disembark your squadron after Yellow exits. May the Force be with you."

"Received Liberty. Corona Squadron, by the numbers, move out after the A-Wings." His T-65's four Incom Fusial Engines roared to life through a toggle of a switch. A tug back on the flight stick brought the fighter off the deck where it hovered for a moment. "Corona Nine, see that everyone gets out."

"Aye, aye" Morrison replied.

Two glowing wands waved by the Space Traffic Controller gave Corona Leader the go ahead to leave his assigned area. Tapping the throttle forward, the snub glid to the hangar bay door. And here we go. Reynolds glanced quickly over his shoulder. Corona Two and Three were initiating launch sequences. He could hear their engines humming, warmly. It was, somewhat, peacefully and calming to his ears but short lived. Serenity was interrupted by a commlink disturbance.

"Break off the attack, the shield is still up."

"I get no reading, are you sure?"

"Pull up, all craft pull up!"

There is no reading, how does Gold Leader know that shield is up? "Nine, we are going to have to speed this up."

"Copy, Colonel."

"Corona Leader, Liberty, permission to override..." he was cut off.

"Corona Leader, stand by."

"Take evasive action. Green Group, stay close to sector MG7."

Corona Leader cleared the Liberty and entered the darkness. This is where he had a first glimpse of the Imperial moon sized sphere of death and an astounding amount of support for it.

"It's a trap!" Admiral Ackbar's voice echoed through the commlink, digging a dagger into the chest of those listening.

"Fighters coming in," Lando Calrissian's voice calmly reported.

"There's.. Too many of them!" A frantic pilot from another squadron called out.

"Liberty? Corona Leader." He would not standby any longer. "Did you receive that?"

"Yes, Corona Leader. All fighters maintain the launch procedure."

"Negative, Liberty." Time was not on their side. "Release them all, now!"

"Launch them all NOW!" Ra'kaat's voice carried over another controller's frequency.

"Copy. All ships, all ships, free to launch. Go! Go! Go!" the frantic voice of Lieutenant Veva shouted over the coordination frequency.

X-Wings, B-Wings and A-Wings charged their engines in unison. Droids and humanoids abandoned their hanger duties, clearing a way for the mass exodus of the wing.

"Nine, all fighters. Heads on a swivel."

Corona Eleven lifted from the deck. "RX, we are following Kid out of here." Corona Six was just ahead of Finelli on the rushed launch sequence. He kept his wingman centered on the X-Wing's canopy.

The glow from Six's engine fusial increased in intensity and blasted the ship forward. Eleven slapped the throttle and mimicked the exit strategy. A handful of Yellow A-Wings raced their way past the two Corona's and freed themselves from the Liberty's innards.

Finelli departed the cruiser and was immediately impressed by the Death Star immensity. Basking in its prominence was temporary as he was equally in awe of the Executor, which should not even be present per the intelligence given. A trap indeed, Admiral obvious. Did someone forget to brief us about the entire Imperial Fleet being present or are we not privy to those details?

Blue, Yellow and Corona spilled from the Calamari Cruiser. Red, Gold and Gray Squadrons diverted their attack on the Death Star. Their new objective appeared to be intercepting several wings just launched from the Star Destroyer fleet. The Empire had come to finally end this galactic civil war.

"Accelerate to attack speed. Draw their fire away from the cruisers!"

"Copy, Gold Leader" Red Leader acknowledged.

***

"You heard him." Reynolds cut in on Corona Squadron's private frequency. "They are coming in hot on the Liberty's six. Move to intercept while she is reversing course."

"Received, Corona Leader." Morrison checked his port and starboard. The flight groups had fallen apart in the chaos. The Liberty's fighter compliment was released from her bay in hazardous fashion and without order. He observed a few Corona X-Wings close to his position, located to the rear of the Liberty. "Whomever is on the Liberty's aft, form up on me." He cycled through incoming targets and set his sights on a dozen TIE Bomber's closing in. "Dupe's incoming!"

Hellcat looped around and tucked his X-Wing tight to Morrison's left S-foil. "At your seven, Jedi".

"With you, Corona Nine." Darklighter closed in on Jedi's T-65 and completed the spearhead formation.

"We got to move, boys. They are eating up property in a hurry." With a flick of his left pointer, Morrison dumped laser and shield power to the fighter's engines. His wingmen followed suit.

***

Reynolds punched through incoming targets on his HUD. He lost count as the enemy's numbers appeared endless. Acknowledging Morrison's flight moving to intercept a bomber group Reynolds diverted attention to over a dozen TIE Interceptors looking for a calamari dinner, at the Liberty's expense. "Corona Six, Eleven, I want you on my ass. Rendezvous three klicks, Liberty's five o'clock. We got to break up that squint swarm."

Finelli's T-65 conducted a split-s and huddle to the rear of Corona Six, both chugging hard to their lead. Think we've gone and pissed them off this time. "Almost on you, Lead. You assigning targets?"

"Negative, negative, you are to destroy all enemy ships with prejudice."

"Aye, aye, Colonel." Copied Marco.

"Good copy, going to light um' up." Replied Finelli

"Lock s-foils into attack position. Echelon, go now" ordered Reynolds. He took point, with Finelli taking position to his rear starboard and Marco rear starboard of Finelli. "Shields full forward. We are blowing a hole right through that mob."

The three snubs barreled towards the incoming interceptors. Several klicks from their position Gold and Red Squadron had already engaged the Empire's fighter complement. Emerald and crimson littered the darkness with small, controlled explosions erupting, sporadically within the Alliance Fleet.

"Red Three, Red two, pull in."

"Got him". Radio traffic had increased and was becoming more difficult to track.

Five klicks, four klicks Reynolds counted as the incoming TIE's came within range of his T-65 cannons. He set his weapons to quad fire and locked on to the lead assailant. He squeezed the flight stick trigger, lighting up the ship's s-foils. Return fire from his target knocked on Corona Lead's forward shield, but he did not flinch and stayed true. From his peripheral a red hue took formation into multiple spears thrown by his wingmen. They made solid contact on a squint that broke it's attack and scurried from the hoard.

The TIE dancing with Reynolds took a critical hit. The hull cracked and broke in half like an eggshell. The impact snapped the harness on the pilot's seat and flung the unlucky imperial into space and towards his foes. His body was split in half by Corona Lead's s-foil as it passed by, followed by his upper torso spinning off into Corona Eleven's nose cone, obliterating what was left of him. Blood smeared the ship, forcing Finelli to wince on impact.

Kid's view of the incident was perfect. For a moment, his war torn thought process had to determine who deserved the kill. The Colonel did splash the ship, but the imp was crushed by Jasted's snub. Was he dead after Corona Six split him in half or was his brain still functioning just before the collision with Corona Eleven? This would be sitting in the back of Marco's head until he could have a clear determination of the proper kill count.

Muscle memory kicked in for the Corona boys and they dumb fired into the crowd. Locking on at this close range had become futile. They watched ship after ship pass them at tremendous speed, then scatter after surviving the game of chicken. Their forward shields took a pounding but their hulls were intact. Reynolds ordered "Break formation. Engage, engage, engage!" He pushed his X-Wing into an Immelmann one-eighty and selected a new target. Marco and Finelli broke left and right, respectively. They had successfully distracted the enemy squadron from the Liberty and were crushing skulls.

***

Corona Eight spun left and tagged a bomber in battle spread formation, crippling the ship. Hellcat continued to target the dupe's directly left of his fighter and rolled behind to the next. He tapped the trigger and annihilated the ordinance bay with a pair of well-placed projectiles. That's four, what else you got?

A pair of TIE Fighters caught wind of Corona Eight and moved to assist the bomber squadron. Changing trajectory, they placed their sights on Kinney's T-65 and were setting up for a good shot, observing he had just eaten another bomber. The escort pivoted on their right solar panel in unison and hastened their response to terminate the rebel scum.

"Eight, eyeballs on your port, closing fast" Phelps warned. He moved to cut off his wingman's pursuers.

Kinney broke his attack and dove out of the line of fire.

Phelps acquired a green lock and laid waste to the lead TIE in one pass, allowing the second to chase Corona Eight. "Still got one on your six, reacquiring target."

"Copy." Kinney dumped laser power into the ship's engines and put some distance between him and the TIE.

"Almost got him." Phelps centered his prey on his crosshairs. Good day to you, sir. He quad fired once and demolished it.

Kinney smirked; he had complete confidence in his wingman's skill. "Good shot, Twelve!"

Morrison had crippled a pair of snub escorts and allowed them to hobble back to the Imperial fleet. He cycled through the nearest targets. A slew of proton torpedoes caught his attention on the HUD. A handful of bombers had alluded destruction and dumped their ordinance. Their destination: the Liberty. "Eight, Twelve, break that bomber line, now."

"Copy that".

"You got it."

"Corona Seven, Liberty has incoming," continued Morrison.

"I see them." 2nd Lieutenant Gabriel "Wolfman" Leventhal diverted Corona Seven from close escort of the Liberty to terminate the incoming payload. Leventhal conducted a quick count of enemy torpedoes. "Got twenty three torps, proceeding to terminate."

A Red Squadron X-Wing darted across Leventhal's field of vision of the torpedoes. The fighter was opening fire on an interceptor and smoked it with ease. A second interceptor followed him tightly. Levanthal wanted to assist the red, yet he had to protect the Liberty. He looked over his shoulder as he followed the X-wing to the right of his canopy. The ship soared towards the Liberty's belly and out maneuvered his follower. The interceptor appeared overzealous in the lust for the kill and failed to correct his speed, thus being devoured by the massive calamari cruiser's hull.

"They're heading for the medical frigate" notified the X-wing pilot.

Some damn good piloting, Leventhal complimented mentally.

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Sim Room

"Commander, I'd say you've fallen in love with this slug if I didn't know any better," Summer said with a glimmer of sweat on her brow.

Dobber heaved himself out of the sim's cockpit and nodded. "She's a tough ship. Can't deny that durability. It definitely saved my life last time out."

Summer shook her head affirmative. "Indeed, protected me too. And, if I'm being honest, she's only 10 MGLT slower than an X-wing, so she's not terribly sluggish."

Dobber cracked a smile. "You too, Captain? I thought you'd never have any praise for this, what was it, 'Pregnant Bantha'?"

Dia chuckled as she gave him a playful shove.

A couple of the other pilots had gotten out of their cockpits and gathered around the CO and XO expectantly. Dobber looked around and addressed the group. "Well, Pilots, I'd say we did fairly well on that little training exercise. I don't have final say over the roster for Buccaneer Squadron, but I'd say these sim results will speak positively toward all of you getting in. I'm sure you'll hear one way or another within the next couple of days."

"So that's it for today?" One of the younger pilots asked with a very hungry look in her eyes.

"Oh, ready for another challenge?" Summer asked with a hint of playful danger to her voice.

Dobber shrugged and looked at his chrono. "Well, I guess we have the room for another 20 minutes. Let's dial up a historical mission to test our teamwork... Maybe the one where we have to Rescue a Sullustan leader from the Dargon..."

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Battle of Endor

CRS Liberty Flight Deck

POV: Dobber

Flicking various switches from inside his B-wing cockpit, Dobson finished up his pre-flight check. Pressing the ignition button to his right, the B-wing's engines began to warm up.

Not long now, he thought as the rest of his systems lit up green. Shields, laser, and ion systems were charging to full. Looking to his right he could see Dia sitting in her cockpit completing her pre-flight check. BD-B2 was hopping around on the front console, looking quizzically at the busy activity of pilots and technicians throughout the hanger bay. He hadn't had a chance to speak with her directly since the wing commander discovered them in his quarters together, and they had been too busy during flight preparations and the final briefing to discuss anything together. It had not been a pleasant experience, nor would the further 'discussion' of the matter after the battle - assuming they all survived, of course - be either.

Switching on his communication system, he spoke into his helmet speaker. "Blue Two, switch to frequency Beta-Alpha Seven."

The comm system crackled as Dia adjusted her frequency and came on over the channel. "Go ahead, Blue Leader."

"Just wanted to check-in. Everything alright?"

She looked to her left and gave him a thumbs up. "Systems are fine, boss. Though professionally speaking, I'm looking more forward to this interesting show than the afterparty." He could hear BD-B2 chirp in agreement over the comm.

He returned the thumbs up. "I'm sure," he replied, "that the afterparty will be nothing less than exciting. Depending on your perspective of course."

There was a brief pause before she continued. "Still got my back?"

He gave a quick smile. "Always," he replied before they both switched back over to the regular channel frequency. Turning his attention back to the rest of the hanger, he noticed that the Liberty had begun to what he could only interpret as tilt to its side. Similarly, he noticed that some of the smaller transports and corvettes were frantically changing direction and position, too. That's odd, he thought. Suddenly, he could hear the klaxons begin to wail in the main hangar. Emergency lights began flashing red. Flicking a switch he connected with the main radio control tower. "Control, Blue Leader. What's going on?"

A voice came over the comm. "Just a moment, Blue Leader." Whichever young lieutenant was manning the station must have forgotten to take his finger off the speaker button. Dobson could hear parts of the frantic conversations amongst the senior staff in the tower. Something about Star Destroyers and how long it would take to launch the Alliance fighters from the Liberty. "Your orders, Commodore?" he heard the lieutenant ask eagerly.

There was no mistaking what he heard next.

"Launch them, Veva!" came the bark over the intercom. "Launch them all, NOW!"

The lieutenant must have taken her finger off the comm as there was silence for several seconds. Dobson couldn't help but notice that the first few A-wings and X-wings from Corona and Yellow Squadrons began to frantically take off and make their way for the hangar exit.

The lieutenant's voice came back over the headset speaker with arguments still continuing in the background. "Blue Leader, Control. As soon as Corona and Yellow flights are out you have clearance for launch."

"Roger, Control. Blue Flight One," he said addressing the pilots in his flight group, "commence take off." Pulling up on his controls he felt his B-wing lift off the deck. Retracting his landing gear, he pushed his control stick forward and began increasing his throttle. While it only took a few seconds to clear the hanger, it was not hard to miss the utter chaos that was developing around them as he and his flight group began swinging their fighter craft to the left.

Red laser fire was erupting from the Liberty as well as the smaller ships near them. Green laser fire was pouring from small groups of TIE Fighters and Interceptors as they screamed towards any Alliance ship or fighter in their path.

"Holy Sithspit!" cursed Marc "Prowler" Desrosiers, "They're everywhere!" Dobson could not help but agree.

"Blue Squadron," he said immediately, "pull up, set S-foils to attack position, and accelerate to attack speed, now!" A pair of TIE Interceptors screamed past them as two X-wings from Corona Squadron followed in hot pursuit.

As the B-wings shifted direction to open their s-foils and get above the battle, it wasn't difficult to miss the dozens of Star Destroyers plus the Super Star Destroyer facing the Alliance fleet in the distance.

"Liberty, Blue Leader. What are your orders?" Dobson asked, flinching slightly as what he hoped was an enemy fighter went nova near him.

"Just a moment, Blue Leader," came the reply.

If we wait any longer, we'll get killed out here, he thought with frustration, seeing the chaos going on amongst the fleet. "Blue flight, Blue Leader. Level off and swing around. Stay close to the Liberty until we get clear orders."

"What about the fighters?" asked Dia with a slightly panicked tone in her voice.

"Blue Leader, Control," came a separate voice over the comm. "New orders. You are to maintain a perimeter of no more than 1.5 kilometers near the Liberty. Engage any TIE Fighters that pose a threat to the fleet and draw their fire away from the cruisers. Remaining Blue Squadron fighters will launch as soon as they can."

"Uh, copy control," he replied. "Okay, team, looks like we're on fleet defence." Just then, he noticed two separate flights of TIE Interceptors making an attack run on different sections of the Liberty, green lasers raining down on the massive warship while the blue shields absorbed the attack. It was like watching rain fall on a pond. "Blue Two, with me. Blue Three, Blue Four, take care of those Interceptors at point one-eight."

"Copy, Blue Leader," came the replies.

As he and Dia closed in on the left flight of Interceptors, red laser fire pouring from their B-wings, he could only think about how right she was. This would be more interesting than the afterparty - if they did make it out alive.

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Flight Deck

Bulldog was wired. Something had gotten into his system and kept spiking his heart rate, but at the cost of his focus. He found himself checking the same components in the dorsal access panel on his fighter, picking up and putting down the same components without making any progress on his checklist. He blinked his eyes hard in an attempt to focus on the task at hand.

Purposeful footsteps echoed off the flight deck, heading his direction. "Flight Officer Clark," a measured voice called out from the deck.

Bulldog put the access panel back and secured it back in place. Looking over the front wedge of his craft, he caught the unmistakable appearance of the Chief of Staff for the Sovereignty Taskforce. "Major," he said with a nod.

"Did I catch you at a bad time?" Major Moggaz Murg asked as he gazed up at the pilot from the deck.

"No sir, just doing a routine check on my ship before my patrol later," Bulldog responded, climbing down the ladder he'd attached to the cockpit. "What can I do for you?"

Murg seemed perplexed for a moment. "Doesn't the Vigilant have a full complement of talented mechanics to do this duty?"

Bulldog nodded with a grin. "Yeah, they do. They're a little busy as you can see," he said, waving at the nearly empty hangar.

"Ah, most of the mechanics are currently engaged with the refit operation of the Sovereignty."

"It would appear so, sir. Regardless, I like to check over my craft personally before flying. An old spacer never gets into a ship they don't know like the back of their hand. Anyway, what can I do for you?"

Murg paused and raised a long, suctioned finger to his face in an approximation of thought. "I wanted to ask you why you were out of formation at the beginning of your deployment at Endor. Can you elucidate that for me?"

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Battle of Endor

Yellow Six

POV: Bulldog

"It's an ambush," Bulldog blurted out as he slowly processed the developing situation as two X-Wings from Red Squadron screamed past him on each side of his fighter going in the opposite direction.

"Keep the line clear unless tactically important, Six," Syntax chided. "And focus on getting yourself into the proper position!"

Bulldog cursed inwardly and began correcting his flightpath.

"Belay that last, Six," Syntax ordered. "You and the rest of 2 flight are to investigate a strange gravitic anomaly on the far side of the battle station. Everybody else, form up on Corona to join the fighter screen."

"Just two flight, Lead?" Knight questioned.

"Yes. Since Six was the closest to the station, it made logical sense to send you all. The rest of the wing is needed elsewhere."

"Great, roger that, Lead," Bulldog bit out, disappointed in himself for mentally drifting and costing himself and his flight element a chance to join the fight. "Kriffing Logic. Ok Two Flight, form up. Follow my heading and let's turn and burn!"

3 sets of double-clicks responded. 3 A-Wings peeled off from the rest of the squadron and began following Bulldog's A-Wing. His previous distraction put him about 4 km ahead of them.

"Renegade Wing- this is Ra'Kaat. The shields on the Death Star appear to possibly still be up. We may be experiencing some electronic countermeasures that are jamming our sensors and cannot confirm the status of the shields. There is also a large Imperial fleet deploying to our aft, and there appear to be many Interdictor Cruisers that are not allowing us to retreat to hyperspace. Blue, you have been reassigned from rearguard to eliminate those targets along with other heavy assault squadrons. Yellow, you are to escort them throughout their runs. Corona, you are needed near the Liberty to provide a fighter screen. May the Force be with you all."

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Endor +15 Days

Iggy's Shipboard Cantina 2

Jasted sat in the cantina at the end of the bar by himself. His conversation with Major Nhehl earlier had soured his mood. He was still officially on duty and had a patrol shift coming up soon, so he couldn't tie one on at this time. But there would be time later to come back and really chase the dragon.

"Iggy, hit me with a sonic servodriver. Double, if you please."

The droid hummed a tune to itself as it mixed the order. After a moment, it sent the drink sliding down the bar to the pilot's outstretched hand.

Jasted deftly caught the drink and retreated to a dark corner booth to imbibe in peace. While drinking on duty was frowned upon, the taskforce was currently in flux and duty shifts were light. It wouldn't be the first instance of somebody drinking during a duty shift, and certainly wouldn't be the last. He stared at his drink a moment, lost in reverie. He breathed in sharply, and poured a little of the drink out onto the floor before tossing the rest of the drink back and downing it in a swift gulp. "For my homies," he burped loudly.

The violent belch attracted the attention of a group of spacers taking a break while their cargoes were being unloaded and sorted by the Vigilant's quartermasters. After they all took a healthy look at the offender, they went back about their card game, unconcerned.

"Welp, guess I better get going," Jasted said, the feeling of melancholy being numbed out by the wave of alcoholic tingling. He sighed contentedly. "Yeah, I'll definitely be coming back tonight."

He started hiccuping as he walked down the deckway to his bunk to change into his flight suit.

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Battle of Endor

Corona Eleven

POV: Jasted

Reynolds' flight group was deep in the fight. They had picked off several interceptors and were sending a message out that they were not taking prisoners. Corona Lead disposed of another imp and switched up his ELS to charge forward shields. "Nine, status?"

Morrison's gruff timbre lit up the comm. "Bombers are dwindling but this escort is a nuisance. We are still engaged."

"Copy that." He paused then checked in on another priority. " Seven, what is the state of those torpedoes?"

"Working on them. Did you see the second wave of bombers, Sir?"

Reynolds cycled through his HUD and came upon a new group of TIE bombers targeting the Liberty. How can the Empire afford all this? He let out a slight harrumph. "Just pulled them up."

"Pretty significant bomber group, Colonel" added Morrison.

"Acknowledged" replied Reynolds. "Syntax, what do you have to assist?" He called out to Yellow Leader.

"Colonel, all RZ-1 A-wing fighters appear occupied in combat."

Shit show indeed. He needed to provide more cover for the Liberty. "Eleven, I need you back at the Liberty and assist in disabling incoming torpedoes. Six, provide him cover out of here. Once he's clear we got to tighten up this sector." Reynolds barrel rolled to avoid incoming fire.

"Received." Finelli popped off one final shot on a squint, disintegrating a solar panel and disabling the ship. He pulled away even though it crossed his mind to terminate the imp. Orders are orders. "Clearing. Coordinates set to your location, Seven."

Marco and Reynolds provided cover for Finelli as he weaved his way out of the dogfight and onto his next objective.

Marco banked around and reacquired Finelli's previous disabled target. He squeezed the flight stick and whispered to himself "You have my permission to die." He volleyed four crimson javelins into the hull of the squint, ceasing it's life.

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Endor +15 Days

The Space around the CRS Sovereignty Taskforce

Bulldog eased his A-Wing into another gentle turn to check the next assigned sector on his patrol flight. He glanced at his sensor log and saw nothing out of the ordinary.

"This is boring," Knight's voice glumly chirped in.

"Yeah, it is," Bulldog sighed. He looked at the gathering Taskforce with a disinterested eye. "But at least we've got a bigger group of ships to fly with than before. So that's nice."

"The Sov looks familiar. Just like the... you know... Too bad we weren't stationed on that one," Knight said. "But something good happening to us would just be too out of character for Fleet Command I suppose."

Bulldog smiled wanly as he took a closer look at the bustle of activity around the growing flotilla. Two Nebulon B Escort Frigates Regis and Rehz'nor were parked in a holding pattern next to each-other, a steady line of tug traffic going back and forth between the red and green ships as they exchanged supplies to equalize their stores. Another Nebulon B Frigate and a rare MC30C Mon Calamari Frigate were off to the flanks of the Vigilant. A Quasar Fire-Class Cruiser-Carrier named the Wolf's Lair was ferrying what appeared to be brand new X-wings, A-Wings, B-Wings, and U-Wings to the MC80 Mon Calamari Liberty Class Cruiser Sovereignty. The new flagship had crews all over her surface completing last minute refit projects. More MC80 and MC80A Mon Calamari Cruisers and a multitude of Corellian Corvettes were distributed amongst the system, taking up multiple defensive positions on all possible entry vectors.

The newer Mon Calamari Cruiser prototype Vigilant sat by itself at the "front" of the fleet with little traffic in or out. Engineered with combat in mind, these ships were built for power. She wasn't ready for Endor or the perilous weeks immediately afterward, requiring multiple systems checks. Unfortunately, being new and held out of the Endor fight for contingency purposes left her a little "too new" to the point where typical shakedown checklists hadn't been completed properly. She looked nothing like any Mon Cal cruiser he'd ever seen before, not that that mattered considering all mon cal cruisers were relatively unique in their own way. That notwithstanding, this one was different. If she functioned as intended, she could stand toe to toe with any ship of the Imperial line. Again, big IF, considering her prototype nature. We all know how reliable prototypes are...

"Damn," Knight said, "These ships all look squeaky clean. You'd never know by looking at them how badly the Alliance got tarred at Endor."

"Tarred is a mild way to put it," Bulldog murmured in response, making another looping turn to the next designated patrol sector. He twitched slightly at the thought of Endor and the week afterward, his mood souring.

"We're still here though, aren't we?" Knight responded.

"Are we?"

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Battle of Endor

Yellow Six

POV: Bulldog

The voices of the battle constantly cut across his comms, making Bulldog angrier that he and his wingmen were being sent on a recon mission when it was very clear that their skills and numbers would be put to better use with the main fleet. "Stang!" He shouted as he punched his right hand into his open left hand in frustration.

"Slow down, Six. Let us catch up a bit, " Icestorm's voice cut in, interrupting the death cry of another pilot due to the priority level of his communication overriding the random voice of another pilot in a different squadron.

"No can do, boys," Bulldog said, dumping his laser recharge setting all the way down to push more energy into his engines. He was temporarily pressed back into his pilot couch as his engines spun up to a higher power level before his inertial compensator could catch up to the change in velocity.

"He's speeding up," Knight said incredulously.

"Look, boys, the faster I get in and take a peek at whatever is causing this anomaly, the faster we can get back into the fray and save some lives. Slow your speed down to half so you have less distance to travel back," Bulldog replied.

"That's a big negative, BD," Icestorm said. "We got orders."

"I'll be in range in 1 mic to get a look," Bulldog said. "There's no need for you guys to get farther away from where we're needed." He ignored their further objections and focused on his flightpath. He didn't want to get too close to the station in case the shields were indeed operational. I don't want to find out if I would skip or splat against them.

"Yellow Eight, pull back a bit! You're too close!" Knight's voice called out frantically.

"Seven, if he's not going to slow down we need to take a tighter route to catch-----" Static.

"EIGHT!" Knight shouted.

"He's gone!" Icestorm exclaimed.

Bulldog craned his neck and looked out to his port and aft and spotted the miniature nova that signified where Yellow 8 had collided with the clearly operational shields of the Death Star. He cursed inwardly and gritted his teeth, knowing he had some fault in the greener pilot's death. "Lead- Six. In case it was still in question, the shields of the Death Star are still operational. Yellow Eight is gone."

A double-click was his response. Must be getting hairy over there. Need to hustle this up! He tightened his arc ever so slightly to pull his turn in just a little closer to the Death Star, but still staying far enough away from the shields in his hopeful estimation. The station from this distance still appeared fuzzy to him, as he wasn't able to get close enough to really see any specific details. He was getting closer to his destination, and had the company of Icestorm and Knight apparently matching his speed by dumping their own lasers into their engines.

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Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Service Hangar

Junior angrily walked into the service hangar and stopped in his tracks. Where the main fighter hangar always had an air of frantic energy whenever he'd be on it, this was almost a ghost town. He felt a chill of uncertainty running down his spine as he couldn't quite process the ghost-town feel of this place.

"Are you my new tuggie?" A gruff voice called out from the back office.

"Uh... Yeah," Junior responded, walking slowly toward the office.

A large female Martigrade lumbered out of the office to meet him. Her head was almost as big as his torso, and her large black eyes fixed on the young pilot with an intent gaze. "Name?"

"Flight Officer Reynolds," Junior forced out quietly as he began to throw up a salute.

She waved his salute off and a tight smile. "Name's Fossil, rank's unimportant even though it's higher than yours. Even if it wasn't, on this flight deck you take orders from me, got that? I'm the ACHO for this service hangar, and as you can see I run a tight deck. You put everything back where you found it and in the same or better condition and we'll be best friends."

"Yes Ma'am," Junior said, becoming more comfortable with the shock of seeing a new-to-him alien species.

Fossil motioned toward the last tug on the deck. "This one's yours for the next two weeks. You'll be ferrying loads of armor plates to the Sov out there for the swabbies to put into place. You'll be expected to work quickly but safely, and tomorrow you'll be moving different components to the same destination. Any questions?"

"No Ma'am," Junior responded respectfully.

Fossil nodded. "Then get to it, rook. Report to Lieutenant Calyse."

Junior looked around, trying to gauge where the martigrade was indicating. It didn't take long for the young pilot to catch sight of the yellowish-green skinned mirialan talking with a pantoran and a dug near a U-Wing. Assuming it was her from the rank-pips on her jacket, the Flight Officer made his way over and gave the woman a quick salute. "Lieutenant Calyse? Flight Officer Reynolds reporting for duty."

The mirialan gave him a look over with a bemused smirk. "What do they call you, Flight Officer?"

"Junior."

"Alright, Junior," she continued. "I'm Tattoo, this is my crew. Warrant Officer Panther, my co-pilot, and my gunner, Sergeant Digger. Fossil assigned you to my crew?"

"I... yeah, she did," Junior replied. Tattoo raised a brow. "I'm supposed to help with transportation."

"Alright then, Junior. You're in the right spot. Help the Sergeant get the rest of this load onboard. We leave in ten."

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Battle of Endor

Yellow Four

POV: Junior

Junior banked hard right and flipped the z Axis into a roll, then he leveled out and maxed power to his engines. The squint on his tail kept up with the wild maneuvers but its laser fire was going wide, but getting closer every time. Junior's A-Wing was scarred but in one piece and all that was going through his head was a long and repeated list of expletives. Honestly I'm just happy that at this moment it isn't my ass being blown out into the vacuum of space. This furball is karking insane! I likely won't even see the pilot that gets the killshot on me!

Yellow Squadron, most of it anyway, had been deployed to intercept and dogfight. Pretty standard fare apparently, but it sure as Sith is a lot different than flying speeders through the bush back home. A loud BANG drew his attention back to the fight at hand as his console sparked and lit up with multiple alerts: rear shields down to half and a Cannon offline. Crinking GREAT! Shields low and a gun farkled! Head in the game half wit or you won't have a head anymore.

Banking left and right zig zagging to try and shake the interceptor looking to finish him quickly, he keyed his comm. "Yellow 4 in trouble! I got this squint Schutta on my tail and he won't budge!" Junior yelled into his radio. He knew full well the rest of his squadron hated that kind of language. But at that point in time, I really don't give a Sithing Skrog!

Junior could feel the fear rising in his mind and all he was focused on was staying alive for the next ten seconds. He felt more than saw the Tie Pilot on his six o'clock get a good target solution on him and silently kissed his own ass goodbye.

Then the bright flash happened, but it wasn't searing hot or painful. It was laser fire directly over his canopy obliterating the bogey from radar as Yellow 12's A-Wing whipped past in the opposite direction. "THANK KARK FOR THAT, LOCKER!" he screamed to himself not even knowing whether the first lieutenant had heard him. This is kriffing nuts! How am I still alive at this point? A target popped up on his forward radar. Head in the game, he thought as he shifted power to his shields from his engines and hoped to hell he could stay in this fight with one working cannon while his ship tried to re-route some circuitry to bring the damaged gun back online.

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Endor +15 days

CRS Vigilant Iggy's Shipboard Cantina 2

Bulldog sat glumly in the corner of the room, vision blurring heavily. He held up his empty glass and waved it sloppily over his head. "Iggy! Another!"

The server droid eyed him warily. "You've reached your limit, Flight Officer. I have to cut you off."

"The Sith you do," Bulldog slurred.

"Go sleep it off, Meatbag," Iggy replied gruffly.

"Woah woah woah, easy!" a gravelly voice interjected. "Iggy, whatever that pilot's having, I could use two myself to take the edge off!"

"Of course, Mr. Spencer. On your tab I assume?" Iggy replied.

"What tab, you rusty bucket of bolts?" Pezdah replied incredulously. "I have no debts!" He shouted, adding a very quiet "here, anyway. Do I?"

"You had accrued a fairly healthy tab onboard the Liberty, you confounding Fish Face!" Iggy retorted, serving another patron without looking.

"You heartless bucket of bolts! Did me saving your not life erase that tab?"

Iggy paused. "My memory cores, while obviously experiencing a disruption with the destruction of my previous chassis, are quite clear up until that point. My last uninterrupted memory was me loading glasses into the dishwasher. And then again powering back on in my current chassis that was recovered quite recently."

Pezdah shook his head in disbelief. "No no no, that cannot be right. Brrdkrr and I were pulled from the lounge by some security officer and ordered to get into a U-Wing and fly it at a specific heading. We very literally ran into you as we got into the hangar. We told the security officer that we knew nothing about loading ordinance nor telemetry. You spoke up that you could do those things. I remember saying 'eh Iggy! How do you know how to do that? Your old programming peeking through again?’ and you responded with a yes."

"Again, you groveling gobi grouser, it was not me that you ran into," Iggy replied flatly.

"Then what IG model droid flew in the U-Wing with us?" Pezdah asked, scratching his head. After a moment, he dropped the thought entirely and refocused on his previous goal, not wishing to expend any more brain power. "Anyway, i THOUGHT I saved you. The thought has to count for something, you ungrateful Ugnaught bait."

"Very well, 2 Whyrens Reserves, rocks. On the house. Just this once." He produced two glasses and poured the top shelf brandy into two short glasses over some ice cubes. He slid them down the bar expertly, stopping them just before they would have slid off the edge.

"Not a drop spilled! You truly are a Rembrandt at your craft!" Pezdah bellowed, picking up both glasses and walking over to the drunken pilot. He put one glass on the table in front of Bulldog, taking a brief sip of his own and savoring the fire pouring down his throat. "Glad you were drinking the top shelf stuff, Bulldog. Really got my money's worth out of that favor!"

Bulldog took a sip of his new drink and closed his eyes as he savored the sensation. After a moment, he opened them and shook the offered hand. "Thanks."

Pezdah's eyes narrowed slightly. "You're the reason I'm not currently a cloud of crisped atoms and still walking around sucking down this recycled air. I would say I owe you much more than a brandy, but I'm only saying that once, and saying it now that I'm sure you're too tipsy to remember it," he said as he chuckled lightly.

"Glad I kept somebody alive," Bulldog grumbled sullenly.

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Battle of Endor

Yellow Six

POV: Bulldog

Bulldog began to clear the horizon of the Death Star and started pushing his sensors out in a wide range. "This is Six. The source of the anomaly should be in visual range in 10 seconds." He continued to will his craft to move faster to reduce that time, but he dared not cut his route any closer to the estimated outer limit of the shields. The familiar outline of a Star Destroyer began to appear from the horizon of the battle station. He focused his sensor array in that direction and studied the data coming in. "Sithspit! Lead, Six. There is a lone Interdictor Cruiser on the opposite side of the Death Star. My sensors indicate that its gravity well projectors are online and currently creating a secondary gravity well."

"Roger, Six, relaying to Control."

"I don't think, even with a full volley of our missiles, we can take it out of commission," Knight interjected.

"He's right, Six. According to every sim I've run, 3 A-Wings couldn't take one out without heavier armament than Concussion Missiles," Icestorm added.

"Blue Lead? Yellow Six. Can you spare any B-Wings for this Interdictor?" Bulldog asked.

"Negative Yellow Six. We've got too many targets out here," Dobber grunted in reply.

The voice of Lieutenant Veva, Liberty's flight controller, broke in. "Yellow Six, Flight Control. I need two flight to keep the target painted with a sensor lock to provide ranged telemetry data. The Liberty is launching the two Support Assault Gunboats, some volunteer grounds crew in the leftover 2-seater Y-wings from Blue Squadron, and Pezdah Spencer is in the recently repaired U-Wing with a full load of Torpedoes to tackle the Interdictor. They can launch from range to take the shields down and allow your flight to get in and damage the cruiser's gravity well projectors."

"Roger that, Control," Bulldog acknowledged. Wait, we're scraping the bottom of the barrel so bad that we're using THAT scrounger now?! He shook the grim thought clear and switched his frequency to two-flight. "Ok boys, we need to keep this target painted for Pezdah and his U-Wing to take down the shields to help us damage the Interdictor. Let's slow down a bit and crawl toward this thing slowly to avoid any unwanted attention."

"Roger, Six," Knight replied.

"Wait, the smuggler that charged me four times what that Onderon Brandy was worth?" Icestorm snorted out.

"Yellow Two Flight, this is Pezdah on this bucket of bolts with a gunboat and Y-Wing escort. We will be in range to launch our missiles in 8 minutes. Iggy says we will advise when in range and confirm, ah, telemetry. We have an extra load of warheads and some extra crew to make a fast reload. Since none of you have an astromech droid to handle the extra telemetry duties, one of you will have to manually keep the Interdictor bracketed in their sites to guide the warheads in." Pezdah's voice was clearly stressed, as his voice trailed off "... don't even know what I'm doing flying this thing out here. Brrdkr you reptilian fool, what does this button do and why is it blinking?"

"Don't worry, Yellow Six, I'll get these amateurs into firing position," an unexpected voice interrupted.

Bulldog was confused. Before he could ask for identification, Knight burst in. "Krayt?! What in the world are you doing?"

A steady string of coughs filled the comms. After they subsided, Krayt continued. "I've forcefully moved my quarantine to the inside of one of the old two seater wishbones now. No way I was sitting this battle out!"

"Acknowledged, Krayt," Bulldog replied. "Please hurry."

"Just hang tight," Pezdah interrupted. " Brrdkr says we'll reach firing position short-MOTHER OF GOD!" Pezdah's panicked voice rang over the comm.

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