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ENDOR

 

Part 3 - Revenge of the Death Star


Endor +15 Days

Space around the Sovereignty Taskforce

Jasted pulled on his stick and killed the throttle. The X-wing and Y-Wing flanking him also stopped in formation, as well as a trailing B-Wing. "Well, this is the position Vice Admiral Vodani told us to hold. Any idea what we're doing here?"

Animal spoke first in a sing-song voice, "Not the soldier's job to question why, but to do and die."

"La luh lah lu la la la la LA," Kid hummed the tune of the old adage mockingly, eliciting chuckles from the rest of the patrol.

"We're meeting a delegation of some sort, laserbrains," the lone B-Wing's pilot chimed in. Jalb had recently and hurriedly promoted Lt. Colonel Michael "Mighty" Tolle, and was taking his new rank seriously it seemed.

Jasted frowned. "Four fighters to meet a delegation? We having a party?"

"Can neither confirm nor deny that," Mighty said, but with a clear smile conveyed with the tone of his words.

"Gotta work on that poker face, El Tee Cee," Kid laughed.

"So we just... wait? What was the ETA again?" Animal asked.

"Should be here in the next few minutes, Major," Mighty said. "Just keep your eyes peeled on your sensors for any newcomers."

Jasted visually scanned the activity in the system, taking a look at the assembled ships that would be his new taskforce. His new ship, a Mon Cal prototype called the Vigilant, was drifting off to one edge of the fleet in a defensive position from another system approach. Positioned on the other entry and exit vectors of the system were more Mon Calamari Cruisers and their respective picket ships. The Regis and Rehz'nor were parked side-by-side as the two Nebulon B Escort Frigates passed cargo between the two ships. Two ships of unfamiliar design were near the Vigilant, something he would be investigating later.

Smack dab in the middle of the system was the new flagship, the MC80 Mon Calamari Cruiser Sovereignty. She was built from the same winged-mold as his old ship, but going through a heavy refit process that was still underway judging from the flurry of movement around the hull. Tugs and workers in zero-g suits flitted around her, adding armor plates, shield domes, and gun emplacements. She would be, when finished, the strongest ship in the whole of the Alliance fleet of her size.

A morose wave of sadness washed over him while he was looking at the familiar outline of the Sovereignty. He was missing his old ship, the Liberty, but also he was worried he might never receive the information he'd requested more than three weeks ago. Before the sour wave could overtake him completely, his astromech chirped an alert. "What's that, R2-RX?" Jasted asked, looking at his display board. The text displayed: New craft exiting hyperspace. 1 T-65 X-wing and 1 Lambda Class Shuttle.

"That's a lamb. It's an Imp ship!" Animal said with alarm.

"Relax, Major," Kid chided. "It's being escorted by an X-Wing."

"Unidentified craft, you are entering Alliance airspace," Mighty said over the hailing frequency. "Please state your business."

"Alliance fighters, this is Lambda Class Shuttle ST-321. We are ferrying Echelon A personnel to the Sovereignty. Transmitting passcodes now," the pilot of the new arrival said calmly.

"Please hold current heading and speed while we confirm," Mighty said sternly. He switched frequencies to the patrol fighters and continued. "Rogues 5 and 6, power up and take position to the aft of the new arrivals and match speed. Bucc 5, move off to the port, and I'll take starboard. Execute."

Jasted double clicked his mic and he pushed his throttle to maximum to get into his assigned position quickly. Kid followed suit and took up a position to the side of him, using an Antilles Intercept maneuver to add some flair to a normally mundane process. Both ships would be able to keep the shuttle and X-wing boxed in if they went aggressive.

"I recognize that maneuver," a familiar voice said over the open frequency.

"Stryker?!" Kid asked incredulously.

"Guilty," Stryker replied as the new X-wing waggled its S-Foils. "How the Sith are ya Kid? And where is my old ship?"

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Battle of Endor

Corona 11

POV: Jasted

The Liberty held her own at the rear of the fleet. She had been the first ship into the system and was still the closest rebel ship to the Death Star. Unfortunately, the Imperials had sprung their ambush and now the ships at the end of the line were the ones closest to the fight at hand. Still though, Imperial fighters flitted about her airspace as if intent on taking down the ship closest to their prized weapon station.

The Liberty's multitude of turbolasers churned out a non stop wave of enhanced particle beams, but had little luck in striking any enemy snubs. She had managed to one eighty and face the Super Star Destroyer Executor, and the Imperial contingent, laying dormant many klicks away. Behind the Mon Calamari Cruiser, an ominous, metal monstrosity orbited the Forest moon of Endor. It lurked quietly in its shield and appeared to have one eye fixed on the conflict.

Finelli had cleared the interceptor skirmish and cruised his way back to the Liberty. Countless Star Destroyers and a dead space station. All that metal and they only sent close range fighters. That is smug, Emperor. He squeezed off a quick blast to a lone TIE Fighter passing by, ending it's life, then checked the HUD. Corona Seven had about finished cleaning up the first wave of torpedoes.

The radio chatter continued. Finelli took a moment to breathe and thought to turn around and assist Corona Leader. Although a good intention, the Colonel ordered him to defend the Liberty from incoming torpedoes and that was what he was going to do. Hey Liberty, your ultimate squad of badasses is here to protect you.

As if hypnotized by its might, his attention was drawn from the Liberty to the massive enemy construct floating silently. It was lifeless. It was cold. It was intimidating. Regardless of the chaos about the fleet, it grew quiet in the cockpit of Corona Eleven with the exception of R2-RX's occasional beep. The Lieutenant lost himself in a maze of thought. What I would have given to have had the chance to light you up. He glanced down at Corona Eleven's torpedo count. Her ordinance bays were full.

No word from the Endor commando team. Sure glad to see those promotions hard at work. Smugglers and princesses, charged to disable the Emperor's prize. Surprised Mothma didn't send her teddy bear collection, the glorious sycophant that she is. He slammed the flight stick right and juked around a wrecked Y-Wing in his path. Corona could have rained fire on that bunker by now.

The Liberty grew larger as he approached. All initial adversarial torpedoes were cleared by Leventhal with the exception of a pair that had impacted the cruiser's forward shield, which she easily shrugged off. TIE Fighters hovered around her, like fleas. Corona Seven was picking them off with little help from the Mon Cal turbolasers and smaller cannon batteries.

"Be there in five mikes, Seven."

"Received." Leventhal euthanized another TIE in his sights and moved to another, weaving through the Liberty's defensive blasts.

Finelli adjusted engine power, charging laser cannons. "RX, notify me when new torpedoes are incoming. Going cannons."

The Astromech acknowledged his pilot with a series of beeps and bloops. His display translated: Understood, Jasted.

Corona Eleven started a spin, clockwise, and unleashed a stream from it's four KK9's, piercing an unsuspecting TIE's solar reactor, creating a small explosion. The fighter was put out of commision. Finelli lag rolled the T-65 and positioned to strike another snub, which was proving to be more difficult from the last. It banked left to right with the Lieutenant in tote. You bastard, I'm going to make it a point to tag you.

Finelli felt his palms sweating as the TIE was making him work for the kill. He squinted and prepared to place one final volley when the metal beast, but behind it was the Liberty distracting him. The TIE sped off from his crosshairs and vanished from view. Something doesn't feel right.

The slumbering super weapon had awoken and she had eight bloodthirsty eyes. She was affixed on the Alliance fleet. Each eye was part of a massive superlaser that worked together to create a planet destroying munition. Today though, she was not hungry for planets. Each cannon in the battery came together to form one at the center of the cornea which produced a violent reaction. Massive amounts of energy were pumped through the darkness in the form of an emerald lance, directed at the abomination's nearest victim.

The MC80 Mon Calamari Cruiser, dubbed the Liberty, was the first to die at the hands of the new Death Star. The enormous power of the Emperor's sphere struck the Liberty on her starboard, a direct hit that engulfed the entire capital ship. Her crew, once bustling with nonsensical tasks, were silenced by incineration. A shockwave formed from the heart shot. It pushed outward from the epicenter and into space, filled with flame and metal. Small fragments of the Liberty spiralled off into the abyss, some others were redirected by the gravitational pull of the nearby moon.

Alliance radio transmissions fell silent after the attack. Corona Eleven was rattled hard from the shockwave and for several seconds thought he had taken a missle to his rear. Then he realized the Liberty had vanished. What happened? "RX, what happened?!" What did I miss?

Warning and alert tones blared from the droid just as the Insecurities and panic broke radio silence.

"Liberty, do you copy? Liberty, what is your status, do you copy?"

"Cruiser Liberty?!"

"Admiral, the Liberty is not on our scanners!"

Lieutenant Leventhal interrupted "She's gone, man!"

"What do you mean she's gone?! Liberty, respond?"

"That Death Star is operational! Home One, this is Gold Leader."

"We saw it. All craft prepare to retreat."

"We won't get another chance at this, Admiral."

"We have no choice, General Calrissian. Our cruisers can't repel firepower of that magnitude."

"Han, will have that shield down. We got to give him more time!"

***

Reynolds chalked up one final interceptor in the sector and lit up Corona's commlink. He had only bits and pieces of what might have happened to the Mon Calamari Cruiser. "Lead to Seven, what is Liberty's status? How is she gone?"

Leventhal was distraught. "We are in some real pretty shit now, man. That's it. Game over, man! Game over!" Madness was creeping in. His home for many a night was razed by that orbiting hellhole. Many a friend he had acquired over the years were reduced to ash in a blink.

"Check that shit, Leventhal" charged the Colonel. "Lead to Eleven, I want some answers. Where is my ship?"

"Colonel, that big, round piece of shit just killed her. Those mother fu..." Finelli's transmission was cut off by his commanding officer.

"You two, hold it together and haul ass out of there. Yellow Leader, Blue Leader, all fighters move it, move it, move it!"

Marco positioned himself into a fluid two formation with his flight lead. "Colonel, on your three o'clock." His nerves were rattled. Each radio transmission was haunting but he managed to throw up a quick salute to the Colonel. It was a sign to let him know he was ready to fight on.

Reynolds hailed his wingman in return then closed his eyes and inhaled. This intel was not worth the price we paid. The commlink sprung to life again, startling him.

Morrison's voice boomed over the speaker, "That bitch is lighting up again! Take evasive action!"

Eight eyes on the death ray began to glow once more. The stragglers in the Alliance fleet slowly put some reality between themselves and the cycloptic orb.

Finelli dumped his laser reservoir into engine power and jammed the throttle forward. Need to move, need to move, need to move. He reiterated it over and over. This was not the time to become complacent in defensive maneuvers. "Seven, where you at? We got to go!"

"Four klicks, on your six." Leventhal sounded lethargic and tired.

"Come on buddy, move your..." A second explosion interrupted the transmission. The MC80A Nautillian had taken a critical hit and was disintegrated by the superlaser. Hull plates and ship components were vaporized in an instant.

"Son of a bitch!" Leventhal adjusted his ELS for maximum speed and charged towards Eleven's aft. There was no rhyme or rhythm in the maneuvers. Survival had kicked in. "The Nautillian just went up!" he yelled. His comm alert had interrupted a communication between Admiral Ackbar and Gold Leader, which needed to be reiterated.

"Yes, I said closer. Move as close you can and engage those Star Destroyers at point blank range."

"At that close range, we won't last long against those Star Destroyers."

"We'll last longer than we will against that Death Star and we might just take a few of them with us."

"Corona Lead, Corona group. You heard the General. Time for payback."

"Aye, aye Colonel. Eight, twelve on me." Morrison tightened up his flight group.

"Yea, Colonel. Lets get some."

"For the Liberty, or death!"

Corona Squadron gathered their strength and set coordinates for the epicenter of the Imperial Fleet lead by the intimidating Super Star "Executor". This was now personal. Not for just Corona Squadron but the entire wing of the deceased Liberty.

***

The force, we have never prayed to you before. We have no tongue for it. If valor pleases you, grant us one request Grant us revenge.

And if you do not, to Mustafar with you....

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Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Wing Commander's Office

The two humans and the Quarren sat expectantly while they awaited their synthetic guest's response to their question. After an uncomfortable amount of time, Jedi cleared his throat. "Syntax? Did you not understand the question?"

The droid remained silent, not giving any indication he was even powered on.

"Did he deactivate?" Jalb asked.

Murg shrugged. "Perhaps we maybe said some sort of ‘kill word' that some manufacturers baked into the coding of their more dangerous models."

Just then, Syntax shuddered and looked around the room again. "No," he responded. "I was merely compiling my memory records of the battle to better respond to your query."

The flesh and blood members of the meeting nodded. "So," Jalb pressed. "What do you think should have been done once we found out the Death Star's superlaser was live?"

Syntax canted his head. "Sirs, the Death Star's superlaser was not a living organism."

Jedi rubbed his forehead. He was sure the droid knew the meaning of the phrase Jalb had said and was just trolling them at this point. "Syntax, he meant ‘functional'."

"Oh," Syntax responded. "I would have ordered the fleet to tighten up into better defensive formations before charging into the Imperial fleet."

Murg was taken off guard by that response. "Would that not have made our ships an easier target for the station?"

Syntax nodded his head negative. "Sirs, it was clear the gunnery crews on the Death Star were fully capable of hitting our ships regardless of their proximity to other ships. Getting into better defensive formations would have cut out needless casualties as our ships and fighters charged haphazardly into the teeth of the waiting Imperial fleet."

"Interesting theory," Jalb nodded thoughtfully.

"Begging the Lieutenant Colonel's pardon," Syntax said with a hint of annoyance, "but I have run the calculations over one million times. It's not merely a theory. Even if the Death Star got another shot off in the time it took our fleet to form up properly, it still equates to fewer casualties when the fleets finally clashed."

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Battle of Endor

Yellow Lead

POV: Syntax

Everyone in the Wing remembers what they were doing when the Liberty died.

For Lieutenant Colonel 9-LOM, callsign "Syntax", he'd been maneuvering his A-wing into position to blindside a TIE Interceptor. The ship was drifting into his sights, he was modulating the throttle to keep the A-wing on track, and he was about to squeeze the trigger.

And then there was a bright flash of green light and an enormous explosion, and the Interceptor juked away, seemingly out of surprise. Immediately following the blast came a secondary explosion - this time an auditory one from the A-wing's comm unit, which had been set to an open channel to allow for inter-squadron communication.

"What in the--"

"--shot went right over my cockpit, I can't--"

"--gone, man!"

"--copy? Liberty, what is your status--"

"--blast came from the Death Star!"

"Where is the Liberty? I don't see the--"

"--debris everywhere, clipped my--"

Syntax switched the comms over to the squadron frequency. The sensory overload was just too much, compartmentalization was key. So many lives lost in an instant, some he barely knew and likely would have never met, others he would consider friends and colleagues. With so much concentrated destruction accomplished in an instant, the very scale of the battle shifted radically - and with it, its urgency. Emotions battled inside his processors as he redirected his focus back to the raging melee swirling around him, laser blasts and explosions dotting the sky in all directions. There would be time for reflection later; his flight group still had a job to do.

"Yellow Squadron, form up on me - Blue Squadron needs an escort, so we're going to make a hole."

A series of clicks of acknowledgment chorused over the comm channel from the rest of the squadron. Not a lot of words being spoken, understandable given what had just happened.

Syntax flicked the comms over to Blue Squadron's channel. "Commander Dobson, we're your escort."

"Glad to have you as a dance partner, Yellow Lead. We've been ordered to engage the Imperial fleet, feel free to clear us a path and engage targets of opportunity."

"Copy, Blue Leader." Syntax switched back to the squadron frequency. "One Flight, on me - we're going to engage the fighter screen. Three Flight, stick close to the B-wings in case anything gets through."

Yellow squadron throttled up, pushing ahead of the slower B-wings and towards an incoming cluster of enemy snub fighters - a mix of standard TIE Fighters and the more agile Interceptors. Four of them banked around in a tight cluster, angling on the B-wings.

"Two, Four, break wide, corkscrew maneuver." The two A-wings darted out away from the rest of One Flight, leaving Syntax and Yellow Three to move in tandem towards the group of TIEs. The quartet of fighters took the bait, diverting towards Syntax and his partner and setting the opposing ships right down each others' throats - the highest of high-risk maneuvers. And with two A-wings versus four TIEs, the odds were not in their favor. The pair of A-wings began swirling around each other as they rapidly closed the distance with the incoming TIEs, the rangefinder on the control panel counting down the klicks until cannon range. The threat indicator for incoming starfighter fire lit up red as green energy lanced from the TIEs' cannons, but failed to hit their targets due to their spin as they continued to close to point-blank range.

That's when Hammer and Junior swept in from the sides, catching the two outside TIEs completely unaware and dumping a salvo of laser fire into each of them. The Interceptor on the right exploded instantly, the one on the left over-correcting as its wing was blown off and sent it careening into its inside wingmate. Syntax dumbfired a concussion missile into the other TIE Fighter at point-blank range, threading between the fighter's wings before the missile detonated behind him and blew the TIE Fighter apart.

"Nice shot, Yellow Lead," Three piped up.

"Thanks," Syntax replied. "I get that a lot."

One Flight formed back up around Syntax, the four A-wings banking to engage another cluster of six TIE Interceptors. This time the TIEs spread themselves out, undoubtedly having seen what happened to their friends.

"Careful," said Junior, "I don't think these guys are going to take the bait."

"Copy, Four."

One Flight closed in on the group of fighters; Syntax dialed up his A-wing's laser recharge rate and shunted his shield power forward, bracing for the inevitable clash. Suddenly the Interceptors broke by pairs and exploited their enhanced agility compared to regular TIEs, the three flight elements each veering off in a different direction at the last moment. Blindman snapped off a quick burst of laser fire, clipping the wing of one of the Interceptors but failing to do any meaningful damage.

"No joy, Yellow Lead," Blindman remarked.

"Keep on them, don't let them through to the bombers."

"Copy, Lead. Four, let's wipe the floor with these Imps."

Blindman and Junior veered left towards a pair of Interceptors making a break for Blue Squadron. Meanwhile, Syntax and Hammer chose their own pair of targets. Behind them the B-wings of Blue Squadron closed on the nearest ISD, looming ever-larger. With the sheer volume of Imperial fighters in the air, it was hard to determine which were an immediate threat to the bombers or themselves, and which were part of the chaotic battle's background noise.

"Two, break for the Interceptor at point three-seven," Syntax intoned.

"Copy that, Lead."

Hammer broke off from Syntax's starboard side, angling to intercept one of the TIEs. Syntax switched the targeting computer over to the TIE's wingman, his targeting reticule glowing yellow as the targeting computer resolved a firing solution. The reticule turned red and the targeting computer let out a steady tone, and Syntax fired off a concussion missile - and not a moment too soon, as one of the A-wing's warning sensors flared red and a barrage of green laser fire stitched its way across the nose of his ship, his shields momentarily glowing hot and rattling him around inside the cockpit.

The concussion missile streaked across the distance to the TIE Fighter, smashing into its port wing and blowing it apart. The fighter went into an uncontrolled spin before its engines ignited, blowing it apart.

Meanwhile, Hammer was in a turning battle with the other Interceptor - and it wasn't going well. Unburdened with shields or a hyperdrive, the TIE Interceptor was slightly more maneuverable than an A-wing, forcing Rebel pilots to rely more on a mix of skill, luck, and intuition to keep ahead of the deadly Imperial craft. Second by second, the Interceptor edged closer and closer towards getting a kill shot, Hammer's warning sensors flaring up intermittently as he dodged and juked. The occasional green burst of laser fire flashed by alarmingly close behind his craft as he pushed the A-wing to its limit, but still the Interceptor stayed on top of him, gradually edging him out with its tighter turning radius.

And then Hammer slapped the A-wing's countermeasure controls.

"Gotcha," he chimed as the flare impacted hard against the hull of the TIE's cockpit, kicking it into a spin. Hammer deployed another flare, this one hitting the fighter's wing strut and blowing the wing in half and sending it careening out of control.

Syntax switched his comms to the open channel. "Blue Leader, I don't know that the skies are going to get much clearer - I suggest you begin your attack run."

"Copy that, Yellow Lead. Thank you for the coverage, much appreciated," Dobber replied.

Hammer formed up on Syntax's wing and the pair came around, watching as the B-wings accelerated to attack speed towards the Star Destroyer.

"One Flight, Three Flight, form up on me - we're going after one after the Victory Star Destroyers, Nova Flare maneuver," said Syntax.

Forming up on Syntax's wing, the eight A-wings arrayed themselves like a wide phalanx and barreled in on the nearest Star Destroyers at a shallow angle.

"Switch to concussion missiles, transmitting targeting data.... now," said Syntax, tapping several buttons next to his own craft's targeting computer.

As the A-wings swept low over the bow of the Star Destroyer, dipping below the capital ship's protective ray shielding, their targeting computers resolved firing solutions on numerous turbolasers scattered along the dorsal side of the ship. The A-wings fired their concussion missiles in unison, the projectiles glowing orange as they skimmed along the Star Destroyer's hull before impacting the turrets, blowing them apart in succession and crippling the ship's weapon systems.

"Excellent work, Yellow Squadron. Engage targets of opportunity - there are certainly plenty of them out there."

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Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Mess Hall

"So this kid can't get his hands off his stick because of the adhesive, and his CO is just ripping him a new one because he won't get out of the cockpit!" Wolf ribbed, his volume rising with every word.

"So what happened?" Junior asked, awestruck.

"He took back off," Wolf laughed.

"Not even!" Gemilan, known as Gremlin amongst her friends, snorted.

"They say he's still flying out in space, waiting for the glue to lose its adhesive properties," Wolf said somberly. "Accruing enough flight time to retire with full pay to boot."

"Who did that to the poor kid?" Gremlin asked, laughing but also kind of worried.

Wolf shrugged. "Nobody knows. I've heard from a guy that knows a guy that knows a guy that he kind of looked like this dude over here," he said, nodding toward Ant.

Anton held his hands up. "The glue came off after a year, along with a layer of skin. They said the flight time didn't count toward my retirement though."

Raucous laughter ensued.

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Battle of Endor

Green Five

POV: Ant

"Spast!" Anton cursed as a green blast flew past him, inches from his port side. He pulled hard on his control columns, causing his A-Wing to bank hard to the right. No sooner had he done this than the massive wing of a TIE fighter went barreling past the area his ship had been moments before. He continued his sharp bank, the metal hulls of multiple ships, both Alliance and Imperial, zooming rapidly past his vision until he had turned a full 180 degrees. The TIE fighter continued on, heading straight toward a trio of Y Wings that were just coming around from an attack run.

"Oh no you don't you Imperial shit," Anton gritted his teeth and opened up with his ship's RG-9 laser cannons. The first two blasts missed, but the third hit dead center in the TIE's exhaust port, causing a quick, brilliant explosion to engulf the craft. Bits of debris scattered out in all directions.

"Too damn close, Green Five!" Commander Crynyd's angry voice came over the comms. "Get your head out of your ass!"

"Sorry about that sir," Anton growled, yanking his ship in yet another 180 degree turn, his eyes focused on the progression of a TIE Interceptor and two fighters that had just finished an mostly unsuccessful strafing run against the Nautilian, his home ship. "Still kinda in disbelief that the Empire's damn superweapon is operational!"

"Let's deal with one problem at a time, shall we?" Lt. L'ulo L'ampar's voice cut in. Anton watched as the skilled lieutenant deftly took down two TIE fighters immediately after coming out of a loop. "Focus on the interceptors, keep them away from the bombers and cruisers."

"Roger that, Green Two." Gadol Malcott's voice came over the comms. "Got a trio coming for a cluster of Gray Squadron's B-Wings. Green Five, you want in?"

"I got my own target, Green Nine." Anton answered, watching as the trio of TIEs turned for another attack run. "Got three harassing the Nautilian."

"I see them, Green Five. Need some help?" Famz asked.

"Gladly," Anton answered as his A-Wing streaked towards the enemy aircraft. They'd see him coming, but with Green Seven's assistance, the odds were in his favor. "I got the leader."

As the trio grew larger in Anton's cockpit view, Green Seven came streaking by from the right, his lasers separating the wing of one of the TIE fighters in a shower of sparks, sending it careening out of sight before exploding.

Anton immediately followed, opening up with his lasers and raking the Interceptor's front cockpit. Anton caught a brief glimpse of the pilot raising his hand in front of his face in the fractions of a second between the cockpit glass shattering and the entire Interceptor exploding. The explosion forced the surviving TIE to sharply jerk away. The large wing of the TIE caught the edge of the Nautilian's hull and it collapsed in on itself. What followed was an awkward sort of tumble as the TIE scraped along the capital ship's hull, exploding after several seconds against the Nautilian's shields.

"Boo yah!" Famz yelled over the comms.

"Nice work, gentlemen!" Lt. Shara Bey's elated voice congratulated them.

"They're flanking!" Laren Pierol suddenly bellowed into the comms. "Eleven, heads up!"

Anton jerked his head in the direction of his squad mate to see two groups of six TIEs converging on Green Eight and Green Eleven from opposite sides.

"Pull up!" Mori Sallen yelled. "Get out of their firing line, Eight!"

It happened too fast. Anton felt his chest tighten as he noticed a seventh TIE, an Interceptor, was closing from above. "No, no, down! GO DOWN!" Anton yelled into the comms while staring with horror as the scene unfolded..

The words were too late. Both A-Wings pulled up, Green Eleven passing directly into the firing line of the Interceptor. A barrage of green lasers burst forth, tearing into Green Eleven's engine, damaging one and detonating the other.

"Gaaaaaaaaaaaah!" Mori's scream took over the comms for several seconds as her A-Wing went tumbling off course before exploding some distance away.

"Mori!" Laren yelled. "Where the hell did he come--"

Laren's transmission was cut short as one of the TIE fighters from the starboard flanking group pulled sharply up and opened fire. There was no yell this time as the lasers hit dead center and Green Eight's A-Wing disappeared in a glowing fireball.

"Son of a Sith!" Famz's voice yelled. He boosted his A-Wing towards the group of TIEs in a blind rage.

"Green Seven, pull back!" Lt. L'ampar's voice yelled. "Pull back, you idiot!"

Famz wasn't listening to reason, however. It took several near misses from a pair of the TIE fighters to cause him to break off his assault. "Gaaaaaaah!" he yelled in rage as he banked sharply to the left.

"Get your heads back on straight!" Lt. L'ampar reprimanded.

A pair of X-Wings from Red Squadron came barreling by, opening fire and wiping out three of the offending TIE fighters.

Anton, however, was focused on the Interceptor that had come from above and killed Mori. "Where do you think you're going!?!" He yelled, pulling his craft up and doing his best to steer clear of the chaotic dogfight involving the remaining TIEs, Green Seven, and the two Red Squadron X-Wings. The offending Interceptor seemed to catch on that he was being chased and turned hard to the left. Anton followed him unblinkingly as the Interceptor led him under the medical frigate, over the Nautilian, and to the left and right of multiple ships. Anton's hands were clenched in rage. He'd seen teammates die before, but for some reason, this instance had caused his vision to go red. Maybe it was the active Death Star, or maybe it was the weight of this battle in particular. Whatever the reason, he was beyond angry. As he banked around yet another Alliance capital ship, his eyes widened and his rage evaporated, only to be replaced by shock.

A TIE fighter was completely level with him, obviously sighting him in. This was it, the TIE had the drop on him. There was nothing he could do. "I'm so stupid," Anton thought as his jaw clenched and he eased up on the stick.

A burst of laser fire came from below, causing Anton to blink as it punched through the TIE fighter's hull and detonated it. An A-Wing went barreling through the dissipating fireball from below and disappeared over the capital ship to his left.

Anton wasn't able to catch the markings on it, but it didn't matter. He had a clear line of sight on his quarry now. "Goodnight, you bastard!" he yelled as his laser cannons opened up on the Interceptor. They raked across the TIE's hull, causing a rapid chain of small detonations and ending with the Interceptor being engulfed in a brilliant fireball.

"Green Five, you alright? Where'd you go!?!" Famz's worried voice came over the comms.

"I'm good, Seven." Anton said, his breathing slowly returning to normal as he made his way back to the fray. He could not let himself get caught up in his emotions like that again. "Coming back around."

"Form up, Green Five and Seven. Gold Squadron's got a few Y-Wings cut off from their main group." Lt. Bey commanded. "We're heading there before the TIEs get to them."

"Yes ma'am, on my way." Anton grimaced, opening fire on a pair of TIE fighters that flew across his field of view ahead. His lasers found a target, destroying one of the two fighters. He considered chasing the second before linking up with Lt. Bey, but this dilemma was solved for him. A blast from a nearby B-Wing atomized the second TIE mere seconds after its companion.

Anton had just broken away from the cluster of capital ships when a green glow pulled his sight from Green Four. Rigid lines of green were gathering in the center point of the Death Star's focal lens. Before anyone could react, a massive blast shot past Anton's ship. He whirled his A-Wing around just in time to witness, to his horror, the last parts of the Nautillian being consumed by a massive fireball. Huge shards of metal went spinning off in all directions, the only remnants of the once proud capital ship he'd called home. Everything seemed to slow down. There was dead silence in all directions. The sounds of the raging battle around him slowly deafened to be replaced by an ever-present ringing in his ears. He stared open-mouthed at the spot where the Nautilian had been seconds before as a huge chill ran down his entire body and his stomach dropped away. That was his base ship. My home... Everything on it... All of those people... It seemed like an eternity before his shock was interrupted by a muffled statement through his comms. Anton shook his head as his hearing began to clear.

"Green Five!" Lt. Bey's voice repeated, coming through with a shaky undertone Anton had never heard before. "Green Five, do you read?"

"Y—yeah... Yes ma'am, I read." Anton managed to stammer in response.

"Let's move, those Y-Wings still need us." Lt. Bey commanded, voice still shaky.

"Understood ma'am," Anton responded numbly, pulling his craft in the direction of his cut off brethren in the Gold Squadron.

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

Endor +15 Days

The Space around the CRS Sovereignty

Tattoo maneuvered the ungainly U-Wing alongside another tech working on the exterior of the CRS Sovereignty and locked the ship into position expertly to avoid accidentally crisping or smashing any of the multitude of technicians working in zero G suits exacting the multitude of last minute refit projects.

"And we're in position," Digger said with finality, monitoring his sensor board.

Junior looked out of the window and examined the workers milling about, the sparks of many different welding torches lighting up the otherwise black space. "Hard to believe all of this is happening at the same time. The manpower required for this is pretty crazy," he said in awe.

"Yeah, well they've got the Sov and Vig techies working on this thing, so it better get done quickly so we can have our staff back," Tattoo grumbled.

Junior's expression turned sour and he slumped back into his chair. Tattoo and Digger looked at each other for a second. "What's wrong, kiddo?" the dug asked after a moment, returning his attention to his sensor boards.

"Try us," Tattoo answered.

"You wouldn't get it," Junior shook his head. "You don't know what it's like to see your home just.... Explode."

Tattoo raised an eyebrow. It was Digger who reacted first though, tearing his attention from the sensor board. He grabbed onto one of the pipes on the ceiling of the cockpit and vaulted over, almost landing on top of Junior. "Want to run that by me again, kiddo?"

"Calm down, Dig," Tattoo put a hand on the dug's shoulder. The smaller alien turned to look at Tattoo for a moment before grunting and shrugging the hand off, heading back to his post. Tattoo watched him go before she returned her attention to Junior. "Don't worry about him. The Battle of Endor hit all of us hard.

"We all lost someone..." Her eyes grew distant, " A lot of us also lost our home, too..."

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Battle of Endor

SAR U-Wing Mercy Two

POV: Tattoo

Witness the power of this fully operational Death Star...

"It's the Liberty!" Shouted Boogie, dark eyes glued to the horizon.

A beam of sickly-green light. An explosion in the black of space. Where once the mighty Rebellion ship had dominated the field, only a cloud of rapidly fragmenting debris remained. Smaller fighters and frigates scrambled to get out of the way. Another massive shot fired and a second Mon Calamari capital ship began to fall apart. Tattoo knew that one, the Nautilian.

"But it wasn't supposed to be finished," choked Silver from where she stood behind the cockpit. A hand across her mouth muffled her words. "This can't be happening." Her angular face was pale in the glow of the screens.

Tattoo stared at the superweapon in numb shock, unable to process the despair that threatened to wash over her. The fleet was swift to begin evasive maneuvers, but the damage done already was staggering. As if summoned by the awareness of such devastation, blips began to pop up on the navigation screen. Distress beacons, dozens of them pinging across the dash.

"What do we do?" Digger asked from the back, rifle draped across the Dug's long forearms while his specialized feet flicked the safety on and off.

Tattoo forced herself to breathe. Tapping the nav console produced a faint hologram that superimposed across the transparisteel canopy, highlighting the nearest beacon targeted. "We get to work."

Immediately, the small crew took their stations. Though Tattoo could hear Silver sniffling as she readied the makeshift infirmary that was their cabin, she was confident in the professionalism of her people. They would hold it together in the face of this crisis.

Pulling on the yoke to turn the ship about, Tattoo engaged the thrusters and sank against her chair in the momentum that followed as the U-Wing lurched forward. Battle raged on around them, a myriad ships zipping by in a blur of lights and the flash of laser fire. Skirting combat for as long as possible, the U-Wing moved through the battle space with all the agility of a rather ungainly bantha, diving or swinging wide to avoid debris litter among the conflict. Though equipped with an M-45 repeating ion blaster that Digger had fallen head over heels for, and a pair of KX7 laser cannons under pilot control, Tattoo preferred to save the firepower for desperate moments. Theirs was a mission of peace and preservation - occasionally of the self variety.

The nav computer beeped a proximity alert, though the mangled shape of a disabled X-Wing had long since come into view. Shredded by some sort of projectile and marred by scorch marks, its smaller hull resembled Swiss cheese. As though ripped open by some phantom claw, the cockpit had been opened like a tin can. Reverse thrusters brought the U-Wing to bear alongside her fallen sister. Even Tattoo's naked eye could see that the pilot's chair was missing. Ejected.

"Floater," Boogie warned, rising from his chair even as the ship slowed. "Call it now."

"Dead? Hundred credits." Asked Digger, stroking at one of his whiskers.

"Nah, this one'll make it." Boogie sounded confident in his bet, stalking past where the Dug sat in the cabin. Digger nodded thoughtfully.

"Ever the optimist."

"You know I hate that," Tattoo called over her shoulder at the pair of them.

Boogie paused in donning the helmet to his EV suit. "The gambling, or the optimism?"

"Both. Don't jinx us." If she had faith in anything remaining, it was devoted to the notion that the universe took notice when you taunted it. Tattoo gave them a squint.

Digger gave a raspy, barking chortle, as close as his species came to laughter. "You mirialans and your superstitions!"

Boogie smoothed back salt-and-pepper hair before sliding his helmet into place with a determined click. The hydraulic hiss of the airlock preceded the opening side door and he stepped through without another word into the chamber waiting beyond. The porthole closed at his back.

The missing pilot failed to respond to Silver's hails. Finding them would be a relatively simple task thanks in part to the locator beacon still pinging their position every few moments, but that was only half the battle. In the darkness of space, everything looked the same. Pitch black. Searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack, more than a few sweeps of the spotlight were necessary to find his seat drifting slowly ever outward. Brilliant slashes of canonfire that filled starry sky and highlighted the pilot's unmistakable silhouette after what felt like an eternity.

Once Boogie had carefully retrieved the man from the cold clutches of certain death, Silver helped guide him onto one of the gurneys. With the helmet removed, he appeared to be a young human fighter that seemed barely old enough to shave, let alone fly, but Tattoo couldn't be certain of his age from where she sat. They all seemed like children to her when laid out on that stretcher, helpless and in need. Silver quickly began administering care, attaching the monitor that would track the man's vitals. A faint, steady beeping joined the background noise as the machine came online.

Boogie rejoined Tattoo in the cockpit, throwing himself into the chair at her side once he'd doffed the helmet. His hands were shaking as he pulled off his gloves. "Let's get to the next."

"You good over there, Boog?" Tattoo asked softly, watching him as her own hand passed over the controls.

Boogie nodded, and she didn't press him further. He would talk when he was ready. Engaging impulse, the U-Wing rolled smoothly away from the wreckage before thrust engines roared to life and allowed them to speed away. Tattoo touched the nav computer and reached for the next nearest flashing red light.

The ship shuddered around them, metal groaning in protest under sudden assault. Laserfire streaked across the canopy, blindingly scarlet. Tattoo grabbed for the yolk even as Boogie announced the enemy fighter.

"On our right!" he exclaimed. "TIE inbound!"

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Pilot's Quarters

Dobber sat on the edge of his bunk with his hands holding his head. A pounding headache refused to subside, and he was extremely close to wandering by Sick Bay for some migraine medicine. "Welp, here we go," he said as he levered himself off of his bunk and took two steps toward the door when a knock from the other side stopped him.

"Enter," Dobber said as he took a step back in order to avoid being face to face with whoever was visiting.

The door opened with a loud protest from the hinges, revealing a cringing Jalb. After the sound subsided, Jalb gave a sympathetic look. "My door was like this too. I can ask the Major to pull some strings to get it fixed quickly for you if you'd prefer, Commander."

Dobber shrugged. "I'm really only here once a day and deal with the sound coming and going for bed, so it's no big deal, Lieutenant Colonel. I appreciate the offer though." He gestured for the Wing Commander to come in, offering Jalb the only chair in the room. Dobber sat back on the edge of his bunk, making his head pound harder.

Jalb shrugged at the hinge and took the offered chair. After composing himself with a deep breath, he spoke again. "We have some stuff to talk about, Commander."

"Yeah," Dobber sighed as he steeled himself. "I suppose we do."

"First and foremost, I wanted to see what you thought about the B-Wings your boys flew at Endor," Jalb said pleasantly.

Dobber was caught off guard, clearly prepared for a different line of questioning. "Sir? It performed admirably. We took losses, but who didn't in that furball?" Dobber sobered at the thought of his losses, and continued. "Even when my shields went down a few times, the armor held me together until I had a chance to recharge."

Jalb smiled wanly, "Good. We're getting some replacements for Buccaneer Squadron, and I wanted to hear from a few people how they felt about the ships. Glad to know they're rugged enough to handle some rough rides." He pulled a flask from his pocket, took a sip, and offered it to Dobber.

Dobber nodded, taking the offered flask and took a long draught. "Yes sir, tough ships. My pilots all took back any bad things they said about them before the battle."

Jalb nodded. "That's great to hear, Commander. Though, I can't imagine it's tough to do better than those clone-wars era wishbones." He paused as his face soured slightly and he nodded quickly as if in the middle of a mental debate. After a moment, he resumed eye contact with Dobber. "I think... we should also discuss what I walked into onboard the Liberty a few weeks ago..."

Dobber took another long pull from the flask, and sighed, whispering "here we go," under his breath.

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Battle of Endor

Blue One POV: Dobber

Pulling back on his flight controls as hard as he could, Dobson tried to keep pace with the TIE Fighter that was chasing Dia's B-wing. It didn't help that he had two more tailing him, their green laser blasts narrowly missing his craft.

"Blue Nine or Ten, a little help please," he spat into his helmet communicator.

"We're on it, Blue Leader!" replied Blue Nine.

Thumbing the ‘fire' button on his control yoke, he fired off a few shots at the TIE Fighter he was chasing. They all missed. "Dia," he called as they raced between two GR-75 transports, "I can't get a lock. I need you to level off. I'm going to use my ion cannons."

"Ion cannons," she asked exasperatedly, "are you crazy?!"

"You asked if I had your back," he said. Quickly glancing at his left display, he saw that her shields were down to 30% and dropping. "It's now or never!"

"Then make it count!" she called as she leveled off her B-wing.

The TIE Fighter matched her speed and position. Slightly reducing his speed and switching to ion cannons, he got ready to fire. I have one shot at this, he thought as he angled his craft to take the shot. As the green laser blasts lanced out from the TIE Fighter and pounded her B-wing's shields, he squeezed the trigger once. Three blue ion bolts lanced out towards the Imperial fighter - and hit true. As the fighter lost power and slowed to a halt, Dobson accelerated his craft back to attack speed and narrowly avoided hitting the fighter that was drifting in space. "You okay, Blue Two?"

"Yeah. Thanks, Blue Leader," she replied.

"Good. Fall back behind me while your shields recharge."

No sooner had he said that then a green laser blast shot from the uncompleted second Death Star. The MC80a star cruiser Nautilian, similar in design and size to Admiral Ackbar's Home One flagship, exploded into a cloud of fire and vapour.

That's two cruisers down, he thought with alarm, and the Death Star's shields are still up. I don't know how much longer we'll last if this keeps up. Surveying the scene around him, Imperial and Alliance starfighters continued to race between the Rebel fleet, firing at each other. An A-wing from Yellow Squadron streaked past his view from left to right, chasing a lone TIE Bomber. As the A-wing poured scarlet laser blasts into the Imperial bomber it exploded into a cloud of shrapnel. As Dobson maneuvered his craft to begin chasing two TIE Interceptors he noticed to his lower right, a new voice came over his radio.

"Squadron Leaders, this is Home One control. Form your squads up as best you can. We are engaging the Imperial fleet. Repeat, we are engaging the fleet."

"Engaging the fleet?" asked Dia. "We won't last long against them."

"We'll have to do our best, Blue Two" Dobson replied. "Blue Squadron, form up on my wing. Angle your deflector shields and head for the Medical Frigate Redemption." A string of affirmations poured over his comm system. This would only give them a short amount of time to recharge their weapons and shields, but little time was better than no time.

As the Alliance fleet and fighters made their way towards the fleet of Star Destroyers they were met with a shower of green turbo laser fire. The Redemption, as well as any other nearby craft, returned fire. Bright explosions filled the space around them.

"Fighters, dead ahead!" called out Ten Numb.

"I see them, Blue Five. Weapons free, everyone!" The cluster of B-wings sent out multiple streaks of laser fire into the cloud of TIE Fighters and Interceptors closing in on them. Several shots hit their targets and the TIEs exploded into clouds of gas. The rest either raced past the B-wings or took evasive action. "Everyone alright," Dobson asked.

"Shields took a beating, but I think we're OK," said Blue Twelve.

By the time the group had cleared the first line of Star Destroyers, they were forced to take evasive action, splitting off into pairs again. Nearby TIE Fighters of any variety wasted no time pursuing them.

"Yellow Leader, Blue Leader. We could use some cover, fast" he said as he and his wingmen began taking evasive action.

"Hold on, Blue Leader. We're on our way," came the reply.

As the B-wings dove down and away to the left, Dobson witnessed three Corellian corvettes heading between three Imperial Star Destroyers and a swarm of TIEs. They were cut to pieces within seconds, the ships exploding into balls of fiery gas and shrapnel.

"By the Force, look at that!" exclaimed Blue Three.

"I see it, Three," Dobson said. "Home One Control, this is Blue Leader. What are our orders?" Static filled the comm system. There was no response. As a half squadron of TIE Interceptors screamed towards them, Dobson began to break to the right, his wingmen in hot pursuit. Three A-wings from Yellow Squadron appeared from nowhere and cut all six of the Interceptors down. That was too close! he thought. He tried again. "Home One Control, what are our orders? Come in, Home One!"

"They must be jamming communication somehow to the capital ships," Dia said.

Just great, Dobson thought grimly. "Then we'll need to take care of them before we lose any more ships." Levelling off his B-wing, he glanced at the closest Star Destroyer on his monitor. His computer display read it as the ISD Harbinger. "Blue Squad, form-up into attack wings. We're going to punch our way through!"

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Officer's Lounge

Murg looked at the pilot sitting across the table from him. "Lieutenant Paul Sweet, callsign Rogue. Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds sends his apologies for not being able to meet you despite making you wait until this late hour. I hope you weren't too put out?"

Rogue shifted uncomfortably in his chair, but responded with a tight smile and a terse "No."

"Excellent, sir. So let's get down to brass tacks here. We are organizing the taskforce under Vice Admiral Vodani, and we're trying to figure out where our Endor vets will fit in with the new pilot openings. Do you have a request in your posting?"

"Is Red Squadron here?" Rogue asked hopefully.

"Unfortunately, no. They have been sent elsewhere already. As you can imagine, there are many fires that need to be put out all over the galaxy with the scattering of many Imperial forces. We still don't know where the main fleet retreated to either," Murg replied sympathetically.

"Oh," Rogue replied.

It was Murg's turn to be slightly uncomfortable. "Is there something wrong? Have I offended you in some way?"

"No, Major," Rogue replied. "I'm just used to having plenty to say, but rarely being listened to from the command staff I've served under. No offense meant."

Murg shuddered with a chuckle. "A sentiment I share, so there is no offense taken with that statement. If I may attempt to assuage your worries, I believe this might just be the best group of commanders I've ever seen gathered in one taskforce."

Rogue crossed his arms as he sat back in his chair. "If you say so, Sir."

"I do say so, Lieutenant," Murg replied icily, his practiced vocal control being the only reason he wasn't relaying his growing frustration. "Is some of this distrust stemming from the orders at Endor that got some of your friends and comrades wounded or killed? Specifically the order to close in with the Imperial fleet?"

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Battle of Endor

Red 8

POV: Rogue

"Yes I said closer! Move as close as you can and engage those Star Destroyers at point blank range!" Lando Calrissian shouted over the open comm, his voice level priority overriding the other comm traffic.

"At that close range we won't last that long against those Star Destroyers," Admiral Ackbar's gravelly voice replied ominously.

"We'll last longer than we will against that Death Star, and we might just take a few of them with us!"

The fleet moved as one and headed towards the Imperial Star Destroyers at full military power, as soon as the capital ships were in weapons range they opened fire with the Imperial warships powering up and firing back. The space between the larger ships erupted with lethal red and green light.

Rogue watched as he saw in the distance the Millennium Falcon speed towards the bridge of a Star Destroyer, it was followed by flashes of green laser fire from the pursuing enemy fighters.

"She's gonna blow!"

Rogue saw the shield tower on the Star Destroyer explode, followed by a smaller explosion that was once a friendly ship piloted by Red five, his friend, Grizz. Rogue only had time to shake his head once in the realisation that Grizz had just been killed as the Nebulon B Frigate that he had saved from the TIE Bombers was now in an unbalanced fire fight with an Imperial Star Destroyer, both ships pounding away at each other with their main weapons. Selecting single fire mode, Paul started a strafing run along the Star Destroyers left side, adding his weapons fire to that coming from the Alliance Nebulon B Frigate. With one of the shield towers destroyed on the Star Destroyer, some of the incoming fire from the Frigate and his X-Wing made it through the enemy warships weakened shields. He concentrated on one of the Destroyer's weapon emplacements sending two proton torpedoes at it. The torpedoes struck and detonated, totally destroying the gun emplacement and sending a huge gout of flame from where the weapons had once been. Despite the Frigate's best effort and that of nearby Alliance fighters the Imperial Star Destroyer managed to overwhelm the Alliance Frigate. Explosions and flames started to appear along the body of the Alliance Frigate, shortly followed by escape pods as the crew tried desperately to save themselves.

"I'm hit! Aaargh!" Another scared pilot screamed as fire from TIEs chewed through his hull and disabled his flight controls, careening helplessly into the hull of a Star Destroyer. His stricken Y-Wing blackened part of the hull, but did no noticeable damage.

"Good shot Red two," Wedge's voice sounded over the comms, one of many voices amidst the chaotic radio waves.

The sector that Paul was now in had the resemblance of a uncoordinated brawl, as laser fire flashed all around, all semblance of order seemed to have melted away from both sides, now it was a simple matter of kill the enemy kriffer that was trying to kill you and not die in the process and hope you don't get hit by a friendly doing the same thing.

"This is Red Six, I've taken too much damage, ejecting!"

Rogue heard Leo's desperate shout before it was replaced with the sound of static and then nothing. "Shade, make sure the shields are balanced fore and aft, the way this is going we're going to need all the protection we can get." Shade warbled an affirmative. A TIE Fighter flashed in front of his X-Wing and instinctively he squeezed the trigger on his flight stick. One of the red laser bolts clipped the top of the left solar wing panel on the TIE but before he could turn and finish off the fleeing TIE, incoming fire meant that he had to take evasive action and lost the damaged fighter in the surrounding maelstrom, not knowing the fate of the enemy ship and its pilot.

"Son of a...."

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Officer's Lounge\

Murg examined the pilot sitting before him earnestly. Something about the (man?) in front of him was making his skin crawl, but he wasn't exactly sure if it was the cold demeanor, impassive attitude, unending silence, or the faceless helmet staring back at him without so much as a twitch.

He made a show of going through his datapad again, swiping through screens that were unrelated to the interview at hand, then paused on the local weather of Mon Cala and brought a hand to his chin and made an exaggerated pensive sound. "I see here that you... managed a quite interesting kill at the battle of Endor a few weeks back. Care to elaborate on that stratagem? Might be something worth teaching our new Y-Wing recruits."

Gnoizic remained motionless, not even acknowledging that anything had been said.

Murg became a little more unnerved. "Ok, a bit of a rocky start here, no big deal. Would you like to talk about your partner Rev and how you two joined the Alliance?"

Gnoizic still stared at the Major but made no indication that he'd even heard the question.

Murg was quite fed up with this behavior. "Look, Lieutenant, we are trying to put together the best fighting wing we can because it is going to be a hard road ahead to stamp out the remnant of the Empire. Skill alone doesn't punch your ticket with this taskforce. You have to prove to be a team player." He paused, making another show of looking at his datapad while forcing himself to calm down internally. "I also see here that you did some insertion work. Have those skills dulled with your time in the cockpit?"

Gnoizic tilted his head. "The weather report on Mon Cala has a lot of information about my past it seems, Major. I hope I don't have to travel to Mon Cala and spend the credits on scuba gear to kill the person that's been spying on me my entire life."

Murg narrowed his eyes in embarrassment, setting his datapad on the table in full view. "Let's just say the interview is done and it went swimmingly, and you don't have to go to Mon Cala to deal with any spies."

Gnoizic stood up and tilted his head. "As you say, Major."

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Battle of Endor

Gold Eleven

POV: Gnoizic

Try not to die.

Gnoizic's sendoff to Lock now echoed within his own head from the moment everything started going to hell, practically mocking him for saying it.

They'd expected resistance. Of course there would be some sort of defense for the Empire's newest toy under construction, no matter how secretive they were being about it.

They hadn't expected this, the overwhelming force of a massive Imperial fleet, and all the various TIEs that poured out of their hangars like a black and grey tidal wave. And they certainly hadn't imagined the Death Star would be armed, operational, and primed to pick off Rebel cruisers seemingly at will.

Try not to die.

The battle had now completely devolved into chaos as the two fleets merged together to prevent the loss of more cruisers from the Death Star's planet-killing laser.

Which... How does that even work? Gnoizic found himself pondering as he maneuvered his Y-Wing through the battle, trying and failing to rejoin with his flight leader, Norra Wexley. If one of those shots, even at low power, can devastate Jedha or Scarif, shouldn't the beam continue through a cruiser with ease? Or if you park a Mon Cal Cruiser in front of the laser, could you save a planet? Or...

"Watch out! Squad at point oh six!" he heard Lando warn over the comms, and snapped out of his thinking. There would be time to parse the greater ballistic logistics of the situation later.

"I'm on it, Gold Leader," Red Two chimed in. That had become the new normal as the Rebel fleet started stalling for time, waiting for General Solo's strike force to get the energy shield down. Squadrons were mixing and merging together as opportunity arose. Flight elements mattered a little less than who was nearby.

"Good shot, Red 2!" Wedge called.

So let's see who's in the neighborhood. Gnoizic checked his scopes and saw an A-Wing dancing through the space between the medical frigate Redemption, a Corellian corvette, and a Star Destroyer, chasing down a trio of TIE interceptors at incredible speed. A quick glance confirmed it was Red Four, Kyel "Zoom" Sanclere. Gnoizic watched as Zoom launched a missile at the tail pilot, carved through the second and boosted through the explosion it left in its wake, and...

The lead Interceptor was blindsided by an X-Wing, throwing Zoom's A-Wing into a quick dive to dodge the incoming ally. "Stealing my kills, Biggs?" Zoom chided over comms.

"You've lost a step, Zoom," Red Nine, Rob "Biggs" Baden, shot back, a mocking tone emphasizing the other pilot's callsign. Gnoizic had met both of them the night before at a sabacc game. The way he understood it from their table talk, the two of them went way back, and were glad to be reunited for this battle to end all battles.

"Oh? You want to play that game? Looks like we're about to find out who's really slowed down over the years. Another squad of squints inbound. Try to keep up!"

Gnoizic opened his comms and turned his Y-Wing toward the incoming fighters. "Deal me in."

"Is that the Mando?" Biggs asked.

"The noisy one, right?" Zoom added. "Sure thing, kid! Target rich environment; should be one or two left by the time you catch up."

The A-Wing and X-Wing darted ahead, ducking and diving through a barrage of shots from the TIE Interceptors, briefly stabilizing just long enough here and there to take some careful shots and knocking a couple of starfighters off apiece before returning to more evasive maneuvers.

Gnoizic's lumbering Y-Wing joined the fray soon after as the Interceptors regrouped on their faster, more threatening foes. Their mistake, he thought, as he managed to pick one off at long range and tried to get an angle on its wingmate, before it was shredded by Biggs doubling back as it chased Zoom.

"This is the Defiance," another voice said over the comms, putting obvious effort into not sounding panicked. "We've taken heavy damage and have a flight of bombers inbound. Any nearby starfighters, we need your assistance now."

"That's us," Zoom responded to their makeshift flight channel as he broke his pursuit of another Interceptor. The flight of six bombers were a ways off and closing on the crippled cruiser, but the three Rebel pilots were indeed the closest aid the Defiance had. "Biggs, Gnoiz, I'm going in; keep our friends off my six."

"On it, Four," Biggs acknowledged, adjusting his vector to follow Zoom, who was already rocketing away.

"Right with ya, Biggs," Gnoizic added as he formed up on Biggs' wing.

The remaining half of the TIE Interceptor squadron apparently caught on to Zoom's attack vector and made him their priority target, speeding after his A-Wing at full throttle. Biggs clipped the trailing one in the starboard solar panel and sent it careening toward the forest moon below.

Dumping as much power as they dared to their engines, Biggs and Gnoizic pushed their ships to the limit trying to keep the Interceptors in range to, at the very least, discourage clean shots on Zoom's A-Wing. Gnoizic scored a minor hit on one of them, causing it to juke hard to starboard and disengage.

As the bombers approached optimal firing range, Gnoizic noted that Zoom's shields were down, all of their charge rerouted to maximum speed as the daredevil pilot gained on them. Zoom fired off two missiles, which satisfyingly eliminated their targets as he reached cannon range and opened fire on the third bomber, then the fourth.

A green flash lit up Zoom's A-Wing as one of his pursuers' shots made purchase. "Dammit. Stabilizer's gone loose!" His A-Wing jinked hard to port before nudging its way back onto its former trajectory. "Can hardly line up a shot."

"Get out of there!" Biggs pleaded.

"No can do," Zoom replied. "I see my lane. I can get ‘em. Just have to keep steady." His A-Wing's engines burned brighter and his ship pulled further away from his tail of TIEs and his wingmen.

"What are you doing?! Zoom!"

Seconds later, Zoom's A-Wing banked hard and collided with the port wing of one bomber, sending the two ships spinning into the other bomber, igniting an explosion as the bombers' payloads went off, taking the three ships with it.

"Not bad for a guy who's lost a step, eh Biggs?"

"Zoom! You crazy sonofa-" Biggs started. "What the hell was that?"

"What, you've never done an offensive high-speed ejection in combat before?" Zoom shot back, as though he'd done it a hundred times. "Radioing for pickup. Hang in there you two!"

Gnoizic checked his scopes. Sure enough, the Interceptors were inbound on the two of them, with the one he'd clipped earlier roaring back at him for revenge. His shields took a bit of a beating as he sent his Y-Wing into an arcing dive back towards the bulk of the capital ship combat. "Taking heavy fire here!" he shouted into the comms.

"I'm on it, Gnoiz!" Biggs confirmed. And in one quick maneuver, the crippled TIE on Gnoizic's tail was swept away.

Gnoizic breathed a sigh of relief, just long enough to see the four remaining Interceptors converging on Biggs' X-Wing. Biggs sent his X-Wing into a snap-roll, banked hard, and cut his throttle to send one of the enemy fighters shooting past him, right into firing range. But the other three stayed on his six, delicately dancing away from Gnoizic's covering fire while peppering their target with laser fire.

Gnoizic heard Biggs swear something over the comms. "Ruptured fuel tank. Leaking. I'm out!" Gnoizic watched as Biggs' pilot seat shot out of the cockpit, carrying him to relative safety just as a final barrage ignited his X-Wing's fuel supply.

And now, the remaining three Interceptors' attention turned to the hapless Y-Wing trying to assist its now-fallen comrades. Not for the first time, Gnoizic cursed himself for volunteering to fly the craft for this battle. His love of heavy ordnance was going to be the end of him.

Try not to die.

As he crossed into the shadow of a nearby Star Destroyer, a desperate ploy started forming in his mind. Gotta even the odds somehow.

"Trip! Short-fuse a proton bomb. Second one." His astromech, Tripwire, beeped an acknowledgment.

This was pit fighting. Using every inch of the terrain, every combatant, every tool at his disposal, conventional or improvised. And that was his comfort zone. No rules. Just pure instinct and a drive to keep going. It had served him on Rodia. It had served him on Corsin. With any luck, that grim determination would serve him here today, too.

He flew straight at the turbolaser batteries of the nearest Star Destroyer, juking at random to avoid being hit by them and the Interceptors tight on his tail. As he closed in, he hesitated for mere milliseconds to break his cadence, then took a hard dive down towards the massive hulk below. That momentary hesitation froze one of his pursuers as it took a shot, right as a turbolaser fired. The Interceptor was annihilated instantly by the blast of friendly fire.

Spamming some ion turret shots behind him sent the second Interceptor tumbling through space towards another part of the Empire's densely packed fleet, but the third continued its careful pursuit, not wanting to meet the same fate as his wingmen. No matter how hard Gnoizic tried to weave through capital ships in his attempt to ward off his tail, he was consistently met with small barrages of laser fire that ate at his shields, threatening to take a bite out of his hull.

Try not to die.

As his shields started to dissipate, Gnoizic shunted their charge to engines, propelling the Y-Wing to unnaturally fast-ish speeds at the nose of another Star Destroyer. He pulled the ship tight to the Star Destroyer's hull, and the Interceptor followed safely behind. He dumb-fired a torpedo at a turbolaser, then elevated his ship slightly to prepare for a bombing run on the rest of the turbolaser bank beyond. He dropped the first bomb on a turbolaser, then barrel-rolled, releasing a second bomb upward into space, away from the Star Destroyer's hull.

Any squint pilot worth a damn would notice the bomb as it was dropped and dodge immediately. But that wasn't the point. As the bomb went off, Gnoizic cut engines, yanked hard to starboard on the stick, and jammed the rudder pedal to put his Y-Wing into a tight, flat spin. As expected, the Interceptor dodged around the explosion...

...and right into Gnoizic's targeting reticle, as expected. In the blink of an eye, the last Interceptor tailing him was eliminated.

Gnoizic grinned behind his T-shaped visor. As he throttled up to intercept a nearby TIE swarm and embrace the chaos of battle, the echoing voice in his head shifted to a more menacing tone. Try not to die, little TIEs.

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Hallways

"So, where are we going now?" Ant asked as he followed the group of pilots he had eaten dinner with through the alien but-yet common hallways of the Vigilant. The decks of all Mon Cal cruisers were the same, though the pathways in each ship were as unique as the ship's exteriors were.

The de facto leader of the pack turned and shrugged at the same time. "I dunno, kid. I'm not really looking to tie one on today if I'm being honest," Wolf said.

Junior chimed in. "I would like to get some stick time in the sim room, boys and girls. At this hour, the sim room wouldn't be occupied officially I wouldn't think."

"Unless there's an OP coming up that we don't know about," Gremlin replied alongside Ant.

"What, you think you want to challenge your betters?" Wolf chortled, again tousling the youth's hair.

Junior threw Wolf's hand away. "I'm getting really tired of you doing that. Let's see those hands on the stick. If I win, you stop treating me like a kid."

Gremlin and Ant made an ominous "ohhh" at the challenge, egging the two pilots on as per the usual ritual.

Wolf shrugged and feigned a yawn. "As if it's much of a challenge beating our newest Tuggie."

Junior's face turned red. "So you're afraid of losing to a tuggie?"

Wolf nodded immediately. "All right, all right, kid. And WHEN I win, you're doing my laundry for a month."

"DEAL!" Junior grunted, shaking hands vigorously with Wolf to seal the challenge.

"I almost feel bad, you know. This isn't even a challenge!" Wolf retorted confidently.

"I'll sweeten the deal, then," Junior growled. "I'll do your laundry for a month AND take on a patrol duty of your choosing. And if I win, you pull some of these tug shifts for me."

"Definite deal, bro," Wolf laughed.

"I've never heard of somebody giving up more in a deal after the other party agreed to the first terms?" Gremlin whispered in a confused tone.

Anton shrugged in response. "Bad deal maker maybe?"

The four pilots wandered along still, but this time with a purpose and destination in mind. They passed the ship's cantina, loud synthesized Jizz music emanating from the dark bar. They paused briefly, as if their goal had changed, but Junior trudged on. The others followed the youth as his determination had shaken them from the spell of the good times that could be had within the cantina.

"Are you sure you don't want to reconsider the challenge and just go throw a few back?" Wolf asked with a heavy hint of irony.

"No," Junior said with a set jaw. The four pilots continued on.

Gremlin shook her head, disappointed that the cantina would not be visited. "You flyboys and your egos."

"Same dianoga, different trash compactor," Anton chuckled under his breath as he followed along, ready for the show.

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Battle of Endor

Green 5

POV: Ant

"Green Squadron, form up." Lt. L'ampar's voice was back to its usual steadiness. "We've got orders."

"No rest for the wicked," Anton grunted as he pulled on his control lever, banking his A wing right. The squadron were just coming back from protecting a cluster of Y-Wings, and yet again, were needed elsewhere.

"On the way, Green Two." Came Glenn's voice as he shot past Anton, heading towards a circling trio of fellow Green Squadron A-Wings that included Green Leader, Green Two, and Green Six.

Green Four came up above Anton's ship and slowed to his pace.

"Nice work back there, Green 5." Lt. Bey's voice came over the squad comms. "Going to be honest, I was a bit worried."

"Yeah, well, the prospect of even more of my fellow soldiers dying kinda out-numbed the destruction of our home ship," Anton responded back sarcastically, his voice having more anger than intended.

"Ain't it a bitch?" Glenn's voice added on.

Lt. Bey laughed sadly. "Indeed it is, but let's focus up here."

The two A-Wings closed the distance, falling into the circular pattern with their squad mates.

"Command wants smaller craft to focus on the Super Star Destroyer." Commander Crynyd explained.

"What?" Kris Balurn's voice came over the comms. "Did they not see the blasted Death Star take out two of our capital ships? Why focus on the damn Star Destroyer!?!" Balurn protested.

"That's assigned to a different group, Green Nine, but the Executor's about to become a huge thorn in our side." Commander Crynyd went on. "Focus on the vital ship systems."

"Any specific targets?" Glenn asked.

"Short range scanning, shield generator, weapons emplacements. The usual," Commander Crynyd answered. "Straight shot to that massive son of a bitch. Standard piercing formation, I'm the point. Now get ready."

"Roger that," Anton said as a chorus of other voices echoed his.

The A-Wings all shot forward, the squadron's commander going forward as the other ships formed a sort of rudimentary cone formation, Green Leader at it's tip.

Miraculously, the squadron made it past the halfway mark to their destination before they encountered any resistance. A pack of TIEs on their scopes suddenly banked hard and leveled with Green Squadron, roaring straight toward the Rebels.

"Here we go, open fire, all weapons systems!" Commander Crynyd roared, and brilliant lights from laser and missiles of the A-Wings lit up the ships, all heading towards the TIEs. The Rebel volley was answered by the TIE's opening up with their own weapons systems as a brilliant exchange of laser fire lit up the space around both clusters.

Anton felt a laser blast deflect off of his A-Wing and cause it to dip slightly. He gritted his teeth but kept his grip firm on his control lever. If he didn't, he'd careen right into Green Nine. He focused forward, his arms tense as the exchange went on. Two of the volleys found their mark. One destroyed the front viewscreen of a TIE fighter, causing it to collapse in on itself for a second before exploding, while a second lost its wing. It spun out of control and Anton watched it in satisfaction before a voice came over the comms.

"I'm hit, my shields, they're out!" Kokely yelled.

"You're fine, stay with the group!" Lt. Bey commanded.

"I... I can't! They may hit---" Kokely began. He pulled his A-Wing down, attempting to escape from the line of fire.

Anton watched in anger as Green Six broke from the group, right into the path of the crippled TIE. The two ships collided and detonated into a mix of sparks, chunks of metal, and fire.

"PUSH THROUGH!" Commander Crynyd roared into the comms.

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Hallways

Gremlin followed the pilots on their mission to have a simulated pissing contest, still looking back to the cantina they had passed. She vaguely wondered if any of her friends were there.

As luck would have it, one of her previous comrades rounded the corner as he was heading to the freshers.

"Rogue!" she squealed joyously.

The pilot recoiled and a hand reflexively came up in defense, but he instantly relaxed when he recognized her. "Gremlin!" He wrapped her in a hug. "I was starting to think I was the only one of us here!"

"Same!" She replied, releasing the hug. "Lock and Rev are onboard but they've been pretty busy, so..." She smiled sheepishly.

"Lock? And Rev?" Rogue asked, surprised.

"I met up with them on Mukani," she explained, then looked back to the group she was with. "Look, these guys are hitting the sim room, do you want to join?" she asked.

"I've got to hit the fresher something fierce, Gemi," Rogue replied. "I'll catch up so long as I can find the dang place!" he shouted as he hustled into the bathroom.

Gremlin smiled. She finally had one of her old squadmates onboard. "Perhaps this won't be so bad after all," she whispered to herself.

"Hey Red, you coming?" Wolf called from farther down the hall.

"That's racist!" Gremlin grumbled with a smile on her face as she jogged to catch up with her new companions.

"Don't be so dramatic," Wolf groaned.

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Battle of Endor

Blade Nine

POV: Gremlin

The remnants of Blade Squadron were above the Star Destroyer now, still fighting, still trying to target their collective weapons while holding off the surviving TIE Interceptors. Ahead, the Devastator's bridge loomed like a cliff-face. Stramm had taken command; Moonsong, Blade Three, was calculating the attack data, preparing to transmit it to the remaining B-wings. Together, the bombers would coordinate their laser fire, proton torpedoes and ion cannons into a powerful combined assault that should - if all went smoothly - bring down the behemoth beneath them. But first, they had to evade the TIEs which continued to harass the remaining B-wings.

All Gremlin's concentration was focused on protecting Sonnit, Blade Eleven, so the Abednedo could add her B-wing's ordinance to the squadron's firepower. Gemi's craft had lost much of its heavy weaponry, but it retained just enough to be able to endanger any TIEs which came within her field of fire. Fancy manoeuvring was out of the question; her B-wing was juddering now, the damage from the Devastator's laser cannon spreading as components sparked and failed. She had shut down the audible alarms but the blinking red lights told their own tale: the bomber couldn't survive much longer. Unless the TIEs got to her first, the B-wing would either explode or lose all power. Either way, her long-term future didn't look good.

She wasn't alone - Cadet Fanty, Blade Four, was also struggling. "Too many TIE fighters! We've got to get out of here!"

"That's a negative, Blade Four," said Stamm, his voice clear and cool despite the crackling in Gremlin's headset. "Keep the comms clear of chatter!"

"Two coming your way, Nine!" Sonnit warned. "I'll cover you ...."

"No, Eleven! Focus on the attack. The others are inside the Devastator's defence envelope; you need to be there too if we're to have the best chance to bring it down. I'll look after both of us." Gremlin reduced her shields, throttling back the engines; her B-wing slowly began to fall back from her wingmate's flank.

"But –"

"That's an order, Cadet!" Her voice was harsher than necessary, fear crowding out decorum. Gremlin paused, aware that she was panting for breath. She forced herself to speak calmly. "Just trust me. And keep going. You can do this."

A short pause. "Good luck, Nine."

"I'll need it," the Zeltron whispered to herself, then double-clicked her comm in assent. She let more of her speed bleed off and added a realistic wobble of the yoke, her gaze focused on the two dots on her scope which represented the oncoming TIEs. Come on, you two - I'm easy pickings. Come and get me!

The fighters split, one curving above, the other arrowing up from below, clearly seeking to trap her between their lasers. Gemi threw in a couple of slow turns as if she was trying to escape, but kept her B-wing in a vertical attack run posture. Just as the TIEs were nearing their firing range she hauled on the yoke, pulling the craft horizontal; the main aileron swung, groaning in protest, before vectoring downwards. The position change confused the TIEs and their laser blasts slid past, flashes of green contrasting with the red-lit cockpit. Gremlin fired a proton torpedo from her secondary launcher at the lower squint - it was more of a distraction than an assault, under the circumstances - then rotated the B-wing around the horizontal aileron, trying to bring her remaining ion cannon to bear on the TIE diving from above. An explosion below showed the torp had detonated, but she couldn't spare a glance at her scope to find out what damage, if any, it had caused. Gremlin pushed every erg of spare power into her ion cannon, sending a beam of blue light towards the second squint, but her reserves were dropping quickly and the ion bolt fell short of its normal range. She tried to channel more energy into her shields but they were dangerously low, leaving her all but unprotected - and the second TIE was stooping on her like a hawkbat on its prey.

Kriff - this is it .... was all she had time to think before the squint was back in range.

The laser blasts slammed into the main aileron and sent her B-wing spinning sideways, jamming the gyroscopic control system which stabilised her cockpit. G-force dragged at her as the inertial dampers failed; emergency alarms clamoured for her attention. The TIE shot past and, for a fraction of a second, Gremlin thought the pilot was going to make a second pass to finish the job ... then she realised he was accelerating to follow Sonnit's B-wing, which was almost within the Devastator's envelope. The Abednedo was on the verge of joining the remaining three Blade craft, adding to their chances of success; her attention was on Moonsong's data transmission, keying the information into her avionics. She seemed oblivious to the danger.

"Eleven - behind you ..." Gremlin's voice was garbled by gravity's pull. She tried to focus on her display, but her vision was distorted. "Eleven! Squint ... coming ... break ....." Bile rose up in her throat as her B-wing continued to spin; she swallowed and tried again to warn the cadet, but Sonnit's death cry echoed in her headset before she could force out the words.

The emergency warnings became too loud to ignore. The B-wing was disintegrating around her. She couldn't trigger the escape pod mechanism because of the speed of her ship's spin but she could - barely - lift a gloved hand to her chest box and hit the button ....

Explosive charges shattered the cockpit milliseconds before the pilot's couch was hurled into the void. The force of the ejection cancelled the spin, translating instead into momentum away from the Devastator. The remaining Blades had achieved the squadron's final aim: the Imperial Star Destroyer started to list sideways as gouts of flame radiated outwards from the hyperdrive's engine room, but Gremlin was unable to savour the sight.

When ejecting into space, there is a single, terrifying moment where the enormity of the event is almost overwhelming. The frantic noise of battle and whip-crack of ejection is replaced by deep silence; the portable life support shield fires almost simultaneously and the flood of breathable atmosphere, coupled with the removal of imminent danger, leads to a sense of elation at having cheated death, for now. But the shimmering magcon barrier does not keep out the intense cold; nor does it stop the pilot, once an enthusiastic participant, from being a mere observer of events now far outwith their control. And the numbers ticking down on their heads-up display remind them that this is just a temporary peace - death, forestalled, is still stalking them.

If the Imperials don't get them first.

Gremlin sagged, gasping for breath, swallowing convulsively until the nausea subsided. She had twice been EV during battle but the after-effects of the spin made this experience the worst yet. Silhouetted against the explosions engulfing the Star Destroyer, she could see B-wings but her vision was too distorted to allow her to count how many had survived. Her headset crackled with an incoming message.

"Blade ... all surviving ... form up ........ fight isn't over ....."

"Nine here - I'm EV ..." Her headset popped and fizzed, obscuring any messages she may have made or received. Gemi tried to make adjustments, her fingers already stiffening with the cold. "Blade Two? Stamm! I'm EV - can you hear me? I need SAR ..."

There was no reply. In the haste of preparing for battle, determined to wear her X-wing flight suit, Gremlin had forgotten to tune her emergency transponder beacon to Blade Squadron's frequency. Instead, she was broadcasting a Red Squadron ID code. Thinking they were the only survivors, the B-wing pilots vectored away from the dying Star Destroyer, heading towards the Death Star where the battle was now reaching its height. A final, silent explosion tore apart the Devastator, the flash of light grabbing Gemi's attention before she was buffeted by the shockwave of its destruction.

Her personal life support bubble protected her from the debris and the physical effects of the shockwave gradually wore off, but memories of the battle only grew stronger as she hung in space, shivering, hoping for rescue. Her flight - Tyr, Ruano, Shi'i - all dead. Her cadets. She was supposed to protect them, but she hadn't. Her friends from Red Squadron ... her family by choice, not by blood. She should have been with them, but she wasn't.

She drew in a breath which turned into a sob; white clouds puffed into the remaining atmosphere and the numbers on her helmet's display - air supply, temperature, remaining survival time - slipped inexorably downwards. Only then did she spot the frequency for her emergency beacon, glimmering at the bottom of her HUD, and realise what had happened. She gasped, frustrated and annoyed with herself, then started to laugh - a giddy giggle.

"If I die, at least I'll die a Red!" She paused; laughed again. "Though I'm red all the time. I'm a Zeltron!"

Her headset crackled. " ... gonna die."

"What ...?" Her lips shaped the word, but she wasn't sure if she said it.

"I said, you're not gonna die. Typical pilot - all drama." The voice was abruptly clear; above her, a shadow loomed. Gremlin squinted upwards, blinking through ice-encrusted lashes. Was that ... a shuttle?

The voice returned. "Get the tractor beam on this one and ID the next floater."

"Wilco. Next ID is on your screen. Get a bit closer if you can; I've got the Emdees on standby - this one sounds on the verge of hypoxia. That's it - tractor's got ‘em. Bringing them in .... they're through the magcon. Doors closing - stand by ..... punch it!"

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Hallways

Bulldog wobbled his way down the relatively deserted halls. Being off-duty hours, only those individuals that drew evening shifts would be about official business. The rest would be left to their own devices. As such, there were no other occupants of the hallway to see him stumbling and steadying himself repeatedly as he lost his balance. He rounded a corner and nearly knocked somebody over. "Hey pal, watch..."

Jalb steadied himself and took in the disheveled appearance of Bulldog with a wry smile. "Flight Officer," he said in a sly tone.

Bulldog jumped to attention and threw up a salute, smacking himself hard in the forehead, knocking himself back off balance again slightly.

Jalb's smile burst into a chuckle. "Tossed back a few, I see eh mate?" He waited a few extra moments before returning the salute. "I thought Iggy was supposed to cut people off at a certain point of inebriation. I'll have to check on that."

Four more pilots rounded the corner deep in jovial conversation and stopped, quickly throwing up salutes as well.

"Aw Kriff it. If I have to keep saluting every time I see somebody I'm never going to leave my quarters again," Jalb groaned, returning the salutes before quickly dodging down another corridor to reach whatever his destination was.

"Yo, Dog," Wolf asked, "How drunk would you say you are at this very moment?"

"Izhat obvious?"

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Battle of Endor

Yellow Six

POV: Bulldog

Knight's voice jarred Bulldog's gaze from his sensor lock on the Interdictor Cruiser. "Six, it looks like the Interdictor is launching a fighter screen."

"They had to spot us sometime I suppose," Icestorm added. "Should only be 16 fighters if memory serves... Yep, 16 confirmed."

Bulldog looked at his chrono. This couldn't be timed worse for the attack run. "Pez, Yellow Six. How far out is your element from being able to launch?"

"Ahhhh, Six, uh, 1 minute," Pezdah replied. "We are taking a bit longer route to hopefully avoid detection. We can hurry up if necessary. "

"Negative," Bulldog replied, "We have some fighters to deal with."

"Well- Iggy says keep the telemetry flowing so we can launch as soon as we reach the launch point."

"Steady, Six. Trust your skills," Krayt chimed in calmly, and then erupted in another fit of coughing.

Bulldog gritted his teeth. Fighters coming in, and one of us can't use missiles to thin their ranks. Sithspawn! "Roger, Krayt," he grunted. He chinned his comms over to the 2 flight frequency. "Ok Two Flight, we need to tackle these fighters. One of us has to keep the telemetry flowing so the warheads can find their marks. Who wants it?"

"You're trash with missiles anyway, Six. You keep the sensor lock," Icestorm said, the hint of a smile coming across in his voice.

Bulldog grinned grimly. "Roger. I'll hold the lock. I'll try to dumbfire a missile at the fighters to see if I can get lucky," he said as his grin faded. "Ok, weapons free- accelerate to half speed! Battle-Spread formation to launch missiles- then open up the throttle and slide into Vic Formation to punch through. Keep position, and report any problems. I'm lead element."

Two sets of double clicks acknowledged the orders as Bulldog watched the two A-Wings taking up a place to the left and right of his craft. He strained his eyes forward to hopefully make visual confirmation on the 16 TIE Fighters heading toward him and his wingmen. Stang! I can't see them! "Seven, I can't spot the targets without sensors. Point me in the right direction."

"Roger, Six," Knight replied. "Down two marks, and heading straight at us. Just now entering missile lock range."

"Am I facing them yet?" Bulldog replied as he nudged his stick down and held it for a split second, making sure to flip his weapons over to the magazine of 12 Concussion Missiles his A-Wing carried.

"Roger. Getting solid tone. Launch!" Knight shouted, the keening wail of his targeting computer carrying on behind his voice.

Bulldog squeezed the trigger once, and his craft shuddered ever so slightly as it burped out an orange- streaking warhead. He noticed four other missiles streaking out in front of them. Nice. They dumbfired one each as well after their lock. He slammed his throttle forward and felt himself pushed back into the couch in his cockpit before his inertial compensator could save him from the effects of the sudden acceleration. Like most pilots, he wanted to feel a fraction of his maneuvers so because it helped keep him aware of his position in the overall battlefield. However, flying with it off was suicide because the high-G maneuvers tended to cause red-outs and blackouts. Some pilots fly with it jacked up to 100%. They don't last long. The TIE Fighters were just barely visible to Bulldog, and getting easier to see by the second.

"Getting into range in 30 seconds, Yellow Six." Pezdah reported over the comm.

Before he could reply, Icestorm's voice cheered over the comm. "Splash Four!"

"You got one, Six!" Knight whooped. "I can't believe he got one!"

Ahead of them, four fireballs erupted in the TIE formation, indicating that the odds had been reduced slightly in their favor. The TIEs started firing at range in response to the sudden reduction of their numbers. The verdant bolts fizzled out harmlessly just in front of them, having run out of energy from being too far away. However, where one fizzled out too early, another bolt crept closer as they walked forward their deadly green wall of pain.

Bulldog thumbed the weapon switch back to lasers and simultaneously dropped his craft into a brief dive, mirrored by his flight element expertly. This maneuver dropped them below the first wave of lasers that would have hit them had they continued forward. He squeezed the trigger and started ruddering to the left and right to spread the scarlet bolts of energy across the TIE battle line. This slewed his back end starboard and port, allowing his lasers to have a larger spread at the cloud of TIEs bearing down on them. More deadly waves of red energy bolts joined the spread from Knight and Icestorm's A-Wings flanking him as they both did tight Darklighter spins to spread their shots out while being harder to hit.

The TIEs adjusted their fire, a few of their bolts jarring his craft harshly as they impacted against his forward shields and began draining them quickly. Bulldog jinked in response, still snapping off shots while he tried to avoid incoming fire. As the two forces passed each other, Bulldog noted four more TIEs had been eliminated in the frontal attack as he slowed his throttle and yanked the stick back to tighten his turn to pursue.

"Six! The scope shows the line of sight on the target is broken. We're 10 seconds out. Get that reticle back on target!" Pezdah shouted.

Bulldog double-clicked his mic. "Seven, take Five and continue the fight," he said as he returned his sensor lock to the Interdictor."

"Roger, Six," Knight replied. "Five, on me. Execute a Skywalker Loop to pursue."

Bulldog continued streaking toward the Interdictor, shunting some laser energy into his depleted forward shields from the initial fighter pass. He flipped the laser recharge rate on his flight stick and watched as his recently depleted lasers began to slowly refill. He also cut his throttle a little to make sure he could keep the target painted with a missile lock and not overrun it with the A-Wing's superior speed.

"Six, you've got 4 trailers giving chase. We've got two left over here and then we'll give pursuit," Icestorm reported.

"Five, How far away are they from me? I've got to slow down to maintain this lock and I'll be a sitting Hutt out here!"

"Looks to be about... 5.5 km, Six."

"Telemetry is good! Launching in 3, 2, 1. MARK!" Pezdah's gravelly voice boomed. After a few seconds, he continued. "All warheads launched from the magazines. We're loading another salvo. Our escorts are out of Torps though!"

"Roger, Pez," Bulldog replied as he maintained the lock for the warheads to find their mark. The Interdictor loomed large in his cockpit view. He was still far enough away to be out of range of any Turbolaser threat, but he was getting dangerously close to warhead range if the Interdictor had a warhead launcher. That will certainly complicate matters... He lowered his speed even more by thumbing the recharge toggle on his shields to maximum.

"Second salvo away!" Pez's voice shouted over the comms. "We're out of warheads, Six. First set should hit the target in 5 minutes. The follow up launch should be there 30 seconds later. Keep that lock maintained!"

"That's an eternity," Bulldog grumbled to himself, as he cut the throttle more to stay out of range of the Interdictor's possible warhead launcher. He craned his neck around to try and get a visual on the pursuing TIEs his flight element reported.

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

Endor +15 days CRS Vigilant Hallways

Wolf was laughing at his squadmate's expense as he half-carried his drunk friend down the hall. On the other side of the inebriated pilot was Junior, but he was still angry and focused on the challenge at hand.

"Where?" Bulldog groaned, his eyes still closed.

"We're going to get you to your bunk, buddy," Wolf said, "but first I have to go show Junior why he can't touch me in the sim room."

The three pilots carried on with slow progress, followed by Gremlin and Ant. "He's wasted," Ant said to Gremlin.

"Yeah," she replied. "I think I'd rather be having whatever he had instead of watching an ego contest."

"Agreed," Ant sighed. He looked ahead and his gut fell slightly. The Quarren Major that had been conducting interviews with Lt. Colonel Reynolds and Commander Morrison was walking toward them. He had spotted them and continued in their direction with a purpose. "Oh boy, we're about to get chewed out I think."

"Flight Officer Krenn," Murg said as he neared, ignoring the rest of the situation completely.

"Major," Wolf said as he threw up a salute as best he could. The other pilots saluted as well. Even the inebriated Bulldog slapped his forehead with shaky muscle memory.

"I would like a brief word with you, if you don't mind? I'm aware you are off duty and you can decline if you wish."

"No no, now's fine," He looked back to Ant. "Hey man, can you take over here for me? Go ahead and get to the sim room. I'll catch up shortly I think?" He handed Bulldog off to the other pilot and watched them continue on.

Murg nodded. "Yes, this won't take but a minute."

Wolf rolled his shoulder to pop it now that his dead-weight load was lifted. "What can I do for you, Major?"

The Quarren pulled out his datapad and clicked a button. "Ah yes. Can you tell me why you took a leave of absence from Yellow Squadron for about two months and returned only a few weeks before the battle of Endor?"

Wolf grimaced. "Long answer or short answer, sir?"

Murg put a hand up to placate the pilot. "You are under no threat of discipline whatsoever. I just noticed the discrepancy when I was shuffling rosters after our work the past few days and wanted to figure out what had happened. Plus, I think your friends are waiting for you, so give me the short form answer."

"Well sir, to be completely honest," Wolf took a short pause and continued, " I had to follow a lead on my father's whereabouts. Once that turned into a dead end, I came back."

Murg nodded. "Fair enough, Flight Officer. Carry on."

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Battle of Endor

Yellow 10

POV: Wolf

Why did it have to be yellow?

"Yellow, this is Shoreline. Heads up, more coming in, one-two-zero from Bullseye!"

Ducking his head to look past the canopy spar, Wolf took just moments to spot twelve new flashes. Twelve flashes of the Endorian sun off metal. Twelve TIE Fighters. They were definitely turning hot on them.

"Leader, Ten. I see them. Ten o'clock, hot," Wolf said, adjusting his sensors to keep a clear picture. Ahead, the battle raged on. The entire might of the Imperial Fleet loomed large ahead, an impossible barrier of durasteel and energy. Beyond that, a Death Star. The very sight of it made his insides run cold. Just a few minutes ago, it had erased the Liberty from existence. Just like that.

"Copy Ten. One and Three Flights, split into pairs and engage jammers," Yellow Leader, 9-LOM, said. Better known as Syntax, the droid was an exceptional A-wing pilot. Colorblind too, Wolf thought as he flipped on his A-wing's jammer system and dumped shield and laser power to his engine banks. Hastily repainted, the Yellow wedge of their A-wings looked garish and horribly bright. Wolf was certain every TIE in the galaxy could see them.

"Where the bloody hell is Two Flight!" Kallysto, Yellow Eleven shouted into the comms as the incoming TIEs began to fire. Wolf jinked and kicked the rudder to twitch the A-wing's nose left and right, then pulled wide of Condor, his wingman and let the TIEs pass between them.

"Busy, as usual!" Junior, Yellow Four called back.

Craning his neck, Wolf kept one eye on Condor's A-wing as they turned in towards one another again, and the other on the TIEs. The enemy squadron scattered, breaking into four-ship flights. As he and Condor passed one another, Wolf kept the turn while Condor straightened out until Wolf was able to slot in on his wing again.

"Ten, Nine. I'll take the lead pair, you take the trailing pair," Condor told him.

"Ten," Wolf said, his voice quick and calm, his callsign all the acknowledgement Condor would need to know he was following orders. A quick data-link between their craft let Wolf see the four-ship Condor was targeting and Wolf quickly selected the lead of the second pair. Dumping a little energy into lasers, Wolf lined up the first shot.

Green energy blasts lanced out from the TIEs, attempting to spear him and Condor, but only one managed to impact. Glancing to his right, Wolf saw his shields had only taken a minor hit. The TIEs flitted in and out of his targeting reticle and for a moment, just a few heartbeats, the battle faded away. Wolf felt the restraints against his shoulders, the inertial compensators keeping him at a steady .6G, the worn controls beneath his gloved hands. The TIE twitched left, right, up, and down. Right into his sights.

Squeezing the firing stud, a short burst of red laser energy speared the first TIE in the trailing pair, causing it to spin wildly out of control. The second TIE broke hard and Wolf let him ago, as chasing would take him out of position.

"Good shot, Ten," Condor said as one of his targets went up a burst of flame and debris. "Full power, extend."

Double-clicking his comm to acknowledge the order, Wolf grunted against the G as he shunted the power from his lasers back to his engines and accelerated. Falling only slightly behind his wingman, he pulled up and rotated to follow Condor into a wide, fast turn. The pair looped back towards where the rest of Yellow was engaged.

The squadron comms were suddenly abuzz with activity as the pilots began to fight in earnest.

"Watch it two, you picked one up!"

"I t--, this is Twelve! I took a hit!"

"Where are you, Twelve?"

"Watch out, two from above!"

"I can't bloody see you, Twelve!"

"Where the hell is Two Flight!"

Condor angled towards the outer edge of the melee and Wolf saw the three TIEs he was aiming at. They were firing at a lone A-wing, which was evading wildly. That must be Twelve, he thought.

Looking left, he saw Condor give him a hand signal. Two fingers ahead. Take the second TIE. The comms were too busy to talk effectively anymore, so the signals were easier. Flicking his targeting computer to the indicated fighter, he pulled wide of his wingman and fired the moment it edged into his targeting cone. If he hit it, great, but it should at least force it to evade and not shoot Twelve.

It worked. The TIE broke off its attack and he flicked his computer to the third TIE. This one was already turning in on Twelve again, and Wolf kicked his rudder hard to side-slip beneath Condor's A-wing and fired.

The shot was lucky and clipped the TIE's large solar panel. Not a kill, but it was enough to make the TIE pilot break off his attack. Condor must have smoked his target as Wolf's scopes told him only two remained. There was no time for jealousy. No time for congratulations. With surging adrenaline, all Wolf had time to do was rejoin his wingman and keep pace as they looped back towards the fight again.

"Thanks!" Twelve shouted.

"Got one! I got one!"

"Home One Control, this is Yellow Leader," Syntax cut in. "I'm detecting a large amount of comm traffic originating from one capital ship. Sending data packet on the source now."

"Yellow Squadron, Shoreline," the voice of the battle dispatch controller aboard Home One replied after a moment. "We've confirmed a priority target. We've identified the Imperial Battlecruiser Pride of Tarlandia as a communications hub for the fleet. You are being diverted to assist Riot Squadron in eliminating its capability. Rendezvous with Riot Squadron at Two-One-Zero Bullseye, one hundred, devils three below plane."

"Yellow copies all," Syntax's mechanical voice replied. Wolf heard the tell-tale click of the squadron frequency before Syntax continued. "Yellow break off and regroup twenty klicks at zero-nine-zero from Bullseye."

Checking Condor's six, Wolf looped back under his wingman's Starfighter and rejoined him on the left-hand side. Holding up a hand, he signaled the other A-wing was "Ok" and then clenched his hand into a fist for zero contacts in pursuit. Condor tapped his helmet to acknowledge, then throttled back to give Wolf's A-wing the same assessment. Receiving the "ok" and "zero" in return, the two A-wings pulled hard for the rendezvous point.

There they met up with only five other A-wings. It wasn't long before they found out Yellow Three was lost much earlier in the fray, making One Flight a three-ship. Luckily, Three Flight was intact. Wolf took a moment to wipe the sweat from his eyes and pumped as much energy into his shields and weapons as possible while they had a moment's breather. Around them, the battle raged. Star Destroyers and Rebel cruisers pummeled each other at point blank range. Laser blasts lit up the battle space. Wolf could barely comprehend what he saw.

For a moment, he let himself wonder what the hell he was doing there. Just over a year ago, he'd been flying rescue missions on Sluis Van. Now he was in the middle of the biggest battle in history. A battle for the future of the galaxy. A battle his father hadn't wanted him to be a part of in any way.

"Riot Squadron will be meeting up with us at the waypoint I'm transmitting to you now," Syntax's voice said, shaking Wolf back into full focus. His shields and lasers had begun to overcharge, so he backed off the power a bit in case they needed a quick escape. A waypoint popped up on his scope, projected across his canopy for quick reference. A box also appeared, highlighting a Star Destroyer.

"The Pride of Tarlandia is the target. It's running communications for the entire fleet. We take that out and the fleet is deafened for a short time. That short time may be the difference between winning and losing this battle. Stick to your wingman. Do your job. On me, Yellow."

Riot was already there when the squadron arrived. Wolf hadn't said a word to Condor in a while, but his wingman's silence was a good thing. It spoke about confidence in him to do his job without being watched or told. They'd worked well together so far and Wolf was determined to keep him alive. That was his job.

"Yellow, this is Riot Leader. We're loaded up with missiles and ready to hit the Comms ship. How's your strength?"

Syntax's mechanical voice sounded almost giddy. "Riot, Yellow Leader. We are seven strong, armed with jammers. We'll cover your attack as best we can."

"Copy, Yellow Leader. Riot will throttle back and try and disappear into your jamming field."

Wolf took a moment to check on the status of his systems. The Jammer was running on low power, the engine power diversion sapping some of its strength. It would still play havoc on enemy sensors, filling the space with noise for anyone not tuned to the same IFF signal. The feature had been added just months before and was relatively untested in combat. Wolf hoped it worked.

"Riot is synced to your sensor systems, Yellow. Seeing good noise and clear pictures. Ready when you are."

Wolf stared off into the distance, where that projected square indicated the location of the Pride of Tarlandia. Between them was one hell of a battle. The Death Star suddenly lit up and another Rebel warship vanished into exploding gas.

The thought of how many souls were just killed aboard that warship was hard to grasp. Back home on Sluis Van, he'd seen a mine collapse, killing a dozen workers. He and his father had worked to save those they could, digging through the rubble and giving what aid was possible. Here, there was no rubble. No chance of survival. The Death Star simply eradicated life. His father had always taught him that life was precious and that violence was anathema.

But that weapon could not remain. This Empire could not remain.

"All right Yellow, this is Leader. Jammers on full. One flight, echelon left. Three Flight, echelon right. On me."

Jammers on full meant dumping all that laser power he'd just saved up. Time for speed and cover. They kept the Pride's sensors from detecting Riot until it was too late. They'd look like a single unit of A-wings, instead of two. Maybe it would work.

Wolf throttled forward as the squadron blasted off towards their target. Between them, a mass of laser fire and explosions. He forced his breathing to slow, to keep his eyes scanning, and to keep his wingman in view. Condor was just ahead and to his left. To his right, Kallysto and his wingman.

Sure wish Two Flight were here, he thought. Four more A-wings would be useful right now.

Passing through the battle felt like flying through the A-wing proving grounds again. Up, down, left, right, jink, twist, roll, dive and side-slip. Each maneuver saved his life. Each maneuver threatened to pull him from his wingman. There came a cry over the comms of being hit but he couldn't make out the voice. The Pride grew larger and larger, filling the projected square box until the dagger-like prow reached out towards them.

"Yellow Leader, Riot will go for the shield generators! Can you cover us that far?"

"Yellow Three Flight, go straight for those domes. One flight will try and divert the fighters," Syntax said just as peacefully as if he were relaxing in the cantina. Condor responded only by clicking his comm switch twice and they were suddenly flying straight at an Imperial Star Destroyer. The batteries rotated and tracked them, firing instantly. Wolf saw two hit his shields, blowing his rear one entirely. Scrambling to shunt power and rebalance them, he saw Kallysto suddenly spin away on fire.

"Ejecting!" The pilot's call came just before there was a flash of fire and a friendly icon winked off Wolf's screen.

"Three Flight, pull off hard right after we reach the bridge!" Condor said just before he too took a direct hit. The front of his A-wing began to break apart, the wedge-shaped nose looking like a broken tooth. The space below them turned from black to metal gray as they flew low and fast over the destroyer's hull, aiming for the bridge.

"Nine, pull off right, I'll cover you!" Wolf said, but it was useless. How do you cover someone against a Star Destroyer?

"Keep your Jammer on!" Condor said, grunting the words out. His A-wing wobbled and threatened to spin out of control, but his skill kept it flying straight. To avoid hitting him, Wolf spread out to his left and pulled his gunsight up to aim at the conning tower on the right-hand side of the bridge. He could risk a look behind to check on Riot. He couldn't even risk a look for his wingman. Every instinct told him to pull away, to help Condor get out of this, but success here, now, could turn the tide. Destroy the Empire.

Then maybe I could find my dad.

"Yellow Ten, off right!" he called, firing a burst of laser energy at the tower and then rolling to pull hard right past it. The spherical structure flashed past him and then he was rocketing back into open space. Risking one glance behind, he saw a pair of red-painted A-wings fire their missiles and the same conning tower he'd just run at exploded.

One down, Wolf thought and then looked around for his wingman. Condor was nowhere to be found. No marker indicated his datalinked position. Fighting back frustration and anger, Wolf looped back around, determined to finish this fight. If he died, he'd do so trying to save the lives of every innocent in this galaxy.

One day dad, you'll understand.

The battle raged for nearly ten minutes. Three Flight lost Twelve in the fourth minute of the skirmish and Wolf was forced to join the decimated One Flight. Riot Squadron lost nearly a third of their number in the attack but it wasn't long before both towers were down and the real assault began.

"Remaining Yellows!" Syntax called just as they completed another harrowing pass at the bridge. "We need to take out the comm array. It's just aft of the bridge. Follow me in. Any remaining Riot's with missiles?"

"Negative, Yellow," came a frantic voice that was not the same Riot pilot they'd spoken to before. "We are empty!"

"Yellow, drop jamming, go lasers. Do as much damage to that array as you can!"

Wolf acknowledged and turned off his jamming pod, shunting its power back to his lasers. Pulling hard into Syntax's wake, he did his best to shield his sensor signature in Yellow Leader's IR signature. The two A-wings careened low over the dorsal rise of the enormous ship, then pulled up hard at the bridge, rolling over and cutting speed to pull their targeting indicators right down onto the enormous comm array.

There it is, Wolf thought and fired. He only had a moment before blowing past his target, so he kept the firing stud held down. More turrets tracked him as the pair pulled off left, looping around for another pass. First his forward shields were hit, then his aft. With no time to readjust, Wolf pushed them full aft and gunned straight for the array.

A blast pierced Wolf's A-wing's armor just forward of the cockpit, knocking out his right gun and jammer pod. Flipping on his auto-targeting, he let the remaining gun track the target, the laser cannon swinging down on its gimbal to lock on. It lost some power this way, but he'd get a more sustained period of fire.

Roaring in from the right side of the bridge, Wolf pulled hard G, turning onto target just as another shot took out his right engine. The A-wing slewed hard to the right and it took every bit of rudder to pull back onto target. When he did, he was rewarded with a bright green target lock. Pulling the firing stud, he let the laser track, flying straight and level. He was done after this run, he might as well make it last.

His rear shield went out just as he passed overhead, his A-wings cannon rotating straight down, firing away. Behind him, Syntax fired as well. Two more shots lanced out for his unprotected rear section, but struck Syntax's shields instead. Yellow Leader pulled off and Wolf struggled to follow, wondering if his squadron leader had saved his life on purpose or by circumstance. Either way, he was grateful.

At Wolf's three o'clock, the comm array exploded and the Imperial ship's bridge bled fire and atmosphere from what seemed like every viewport.

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Sick Bay

Dobber sat on one of the many open medical cots and waited for the 2-1B droid to return a diagnosis. Nearby, an FX-7 droid chirped happily to itself as it went about monitoring an unconscious patient. Dobber couldn't see who it was or what the species of the patient was due to the bulk of the medical assistant droid blocking his vision.

"Sir, your results are back in," The pleasant, high-pitched voice of the 2-1B medical droid said as it plodded back toward him.

"Let me guess, migraine," Dobber said impatiently.

"Indeed, sir," Cutter replied with an impressed tone. "What led you to this diagnosis?"

Dobber snorted, instantly wincing with regret as his migraine flared. "I've had one or two in my lifetime, Cutter."

The droid nodded. With a crisp flicking motion, it's clawed hand retracted, revealing a wicked-looking hypo needle. "I have this treatment ready to be administered, Sir."

Dobber recoiled a bit at the large needle staring him in the face. "Woah Cutter," he said with his hands up. "How about a pill?"

The 2-1B paused in calculation. "There is a pill form of treatment, but it is unpleasantly large for human ingestion."

"GIve me a size comparison I would understand, please."

"The size of, say, a Jogan fruit, give or take a few millimeters." Cutter paused, examining Dobber more closely. "Of course, I believe it could be turned into a suppository, if you'd prefer."

"Ok Cutter," Dobber sighed, resigned. "Give me the shot."

"I think you could have managed that suppository," Krayt murmured from the other bed with a snicker, before yelping in surprise as the FX droid took another blood sample suddenly.

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Battle of Endor

Blue Leader

POV: Dobber

The Imperial Star Destroyer Harbinger's grew increasingly massive as the B-wings from Blue Squadron raced in formation towards it. Green turbo laser fire began lancing out towards the bombers but there was still enough distance between them and the Star Destroyer that they were able to avoid most of the fire. That changed as they drew closer.

"Angle deflector shields to double-front," Dobson called into his helmet microphone. "We need to target their primary systems. Odd numbered members with me; we're going after the shield generators and targeting array. Dia," he continued as a green turbolaser blast splashed against his shields, "take the even numbered members and hit their power generator underneath. Yellow Squad, Corona Squad, keep those TIEs off our backs!"

"Copy, Blue Leader," came several replies over the communicator.

As if in one motion the B-wings dove together down towards the nose of the Star Destroyer's bow. Dia's group continued down to get to the Star Destroyer's underside while his group leveled off and began skimming the surface towards the command bridge. A hail of turbolaser fire continued to race towards them.

"Switch to targeting computers," Dobson said as he activated his. His computer screen lit up in an array of yellow and red lines. Pressing a few buttons in his cockpit, the image shifted to one of the bulbous shield generators on either side of the Star Destroyer's targeting array. "Arm proton torpedoes." The red numbers indicating the distance from his current location to his target steadily decreased, and the targeting computer began giving a consistent whistle as the permanent lock was achieved. "Fire proton torpedoes!"

Squeezing the trigger three times he watched as three blue proton torpedoes streaked towards the right shield generator. Several more lanced past him as the others began to launch their own, while more headed towards the left shield generator. The green turbolaser fire began shifting away from them and up towards the incoming torpedoes, and while a few of them were shot down enough made it through. Crashing against the surface of the shield generators they exploded into balls of fire, and as they made their way towards the stern of the Star Destroyer, both generators erupted into cascading towers of flame.

"Angle rear deflector shields and watch out for TIEs," Dobson said as they cleared the Star Destroyer.

"Blue Leader, this is Two," said Dia over the comm.

"Go ahead, Two."

"We managed to soften up the main power module, but we'll need another run."

"Copy, Two. Set your group up for a second run. Everyone else, redirect power to shields and follow me."

Swinging his craft right and around, he and his squad mates began putting some distance between himself and the Star Destroyer. Turbolaser fire continued to track them, but they were able to thankfully miss most of it.

By the time they made it to the bow of the ship again and angled their deflector shields, they were met with another hail of turbolaser fire. This time, he couldn't help but notice several TIEs racing towards them as they appeared from behind the stern of the Star Destroyer.

"How about that TIE cover?" he called into his microphone. Two X-wings from Corona Squadron raced past his left to intercept the oncoming fighters, though it was as if the TIEs didn't even care to notice them. A hail of fire erupted from the TIEs, slamming against the shields of the B-wings. He heard Blue Nine give a cry of surprise before the message Blue Nine has been destroyed flashed across his screen. The TIEs screamed past them.

"We've lost Nine," Dobson said into his comm. "Blue Seven, Blue Eleven, hit the targeting array. Three, Five, target the bridge with me."

More torpedoes lanced out towards the targeting array, as well a number of red laser blasts. The targeting array erupted into a ball of fire. Although green turbolaser fire continued to lance out towards them, the accuracy was now far less effective.

"Blue Leader, Two," came Dia's voice over the comm. We've taken out the underside power generator."

"Music to my ears, Two." Targeting the bridge of the Star Destroyer, he waited for the tone to shift to a solid lock before firing. "Torpedoes away!"

As several more torpedoes from the three fighters made their way forward, he began to pull up on his flight stick. As they moved in unison up and away from the Star Destroyer, he couldn't help but notice the bridge erupt into a ball of fiery gas. Several seconds later, other explosions began erupting across the hull of the Star Destroyer before it was ripped apart into several chunks of slag and a cloud of debris.

"Look at her go!" cried out Blue Twelve.

"Great job, everyone," Dobson said with a sigh of relief. "Rendezvous at mark oh-five. We've still got work to do."

Looking at his computer display, the name of the next Star Destroyer closest to them was the ISD Vehement. Just then, a new voice came back over the communicator.

"Blue Leader, this is Home One Control."

"Go ahead, Control."

"Communications have been restored. It seems the Harbinger was creating a jamming signal. You have orders to continue to assault the Vehement. Riot and Yellow Squadrons will be responsible for taking out the next Star Destroyer beyond that one. Corona Squadron will provide cover for you."

"Copy, Control. Alright boys and girls, same idea as last time. Odd numbers with me, even with Two."

"You got it, boss," said the translator for Ten Numb.

"Corona Leader, this is Blue Leader."

"Go ahead, Blue Leader," replied Reynolds.

"We're beginning our attack run. Keep our tails clear."

"With pleasure, Blue Leader. Corona Four, Corona Five, with me. Six, Eight, and Nine, cover the B-wings heading below the Star Destroyer."

Diverting more power to their shields, the B-wings swung around and broke off into their respective groups. As they dove towards the Star Destroyer, waves of green turbolaser fire rose to meet them. The incoming flak was more intense this time.

"Watch your intervals," said Dobson as his group began skimming the surface. His shields lit up as they absorbed more hits from the incoming fire. "Switch to targeting computers."

The computer screen switched back to the yellow and red numbers as he once more targeted one of the shield generators. He couldn't help but notice out of the corner of his eye several red dots slide in behind them.

"TIEs behind us. Corona, where's our cover?"

"We're on it, Blue Leader, but there are a lot of them!"

Hearing the targeting computer give off a steady tone indicating a lock, Dobson switched over to his proton torpedoes and squeezed his trigger. "Torpedoes away!"

As two proton torpedoes lanced out towards the bulbous shield generator, they were immediately intercepted by the forward batteries of the Star Destroyer. As they exploded into balls of flame, he noticed that only a handful of torpedoes were able to get through to their destinations. Far fewer than their initial run on the Harbinger. He felt his B-wing shake as fire from what could only be the interceptors began pouring from behind them.

"Balance deflector shields and pull up," he said as the shields shifted from double-front to a weakening bubble surrounding the entire craft. More red dots on the scope began shifting behind them. As the group began to pull up, Blue Eleven's voice crackled over the comm.

"Shields are gone. Flight controls not responding!"

"Bail out, Eleven," cried Blue Three, "Bail out!"

"Ejection system not - AARRRGHH!!"

Looking to his left, Dobson saw Blue Eleven's B-wing erupt into flames as laser fire from the TIEs behind them connected with his engines. The momentum and angle of the B-wing's debris caused it to spiral towards the Star Destroyer's targeting array. It went up into a plume of flames as they flew by the bridge of the Star Destroyer.

Pouring the last of his laser energy into his shields, Dobson called out once more over the comm. "Blue Squadron in need of support! TIE Fighters on our tails! Blue Eleven down!"

"Blue Leader, Two," came Dia's voice. "Omega-Theta, now!"

"Dia, are you crazy?!"

"JUST DO IT!" she shouted into his helmet.

Flicking a switch to close his S-foils, he and the remaining members of his flight dove straight down behind the Star Destroyer. Their path would lead them right into the massive ship's engine wash, which could potentially rip a starfighter apart if it stayed there too long.

As they dove, TIE Fighters and Interceptors in hot pursuit, Dia's B-wing group and accompanying Corona flight of X-wings shot out from underneath the belly of the Star Destroyer and began pulling up. As both groups entered the engine wash field from behind the Star Destroyer, narrowly avoiding colliding with one another, his B-wing began to shake.

This had better work, he thought as he saw his shields melt away.

"Weapons free!" cried Dia over her comm. Had Dobson been able to look behind him, he would have seen the X-wings and B-wings send a hail of laser fire towards the TIEs as they tried to break away at the last second. All the pursuing TIEs exploded into balls of fiery gas.

Finally clearing the engine wash section, Dobson gave a sigh of relief.

"You're clear, Blue Leader," said Dia.

"Thanks, Two. How is your group holding up?" he asked as his group opened their S-foils again and began heading away from the Star Destroyer.

"We're fine and took out our target, but we lost Blue Twelve during our attack run." That meant the squadron was now only operating at 75% capacity.

"I copy, Two. Looks like we'll have to change our approach. Have your group make runs on the shield generators. Everyone else, follow me and recharge your shields and weapons." A string of affirmatives came over the comm. This time it was much easier for the available Corona Squadron fighters to keep them covered.

As the B-wings swung around, he could make out Dia's group changing their approach vector to begin their run on the shield generators. Numerous proton torpedoes lanced out towards the generators, and the B-wings didn't take nearly as much fire due to their positioning behind the Destroyer as well as the targeting array being destroyed. It wasn't long before the generators erupted into gaseous balls of flame. The shield status of the Star Destroyer on his computer screen read 0%.

"Great job, Blue Squadron. Begin attack runs on the Star Destroyer using ion cannons."

Shifting shields back to double-front, blue bolts of ion cannon fire came from several directions as the remaining pilots from Blue Squadron hit the Star Destroyer from multiple angles. It wasn't too long before the Star Destroyer was disabled, its electronic systems winking out.

"She's dead in the water! Fire at will!" cried Dobson. More torpedoes and laser bolts rained down at multiple angles towards the Star Destroyer's hull. A Medical Frigate as well as two smaller transports also began shifting their position to get closer to the Destroyer, their own turbolasers pouring showers of scarlet lasers across the white hull of the Imperial ship. Within moments it descended into a cascade of fire and flame as the ship exploded and was torn apart. Cheers rose up over the comm system.

"Great job, Blue Squadron," Dobson said as he flew past the explosion towards the Frigate. "Let's see what's next."

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Iggy's Shipboard Cantina 2

Jasted's mood soared with the good feelings from the news of Stryker's whereabouts. The mini reunion had brought most of the old Liberty guard to the bar to celebrate their previous leader's return. He hadn't been with the squadron while Stryker had been in command, so he took a position on the periphery of the group and soaked in the wonderful stories members had shared of old comrades from the past and present.

The old guard of Corona threw back drinks like nobody's business, and Jasted had joined in kind. "So where the hell have you been?" Kid asked.

Stryker tilted his head. "I could tell you boys, but then I'd have to kill you," he laughed as he chugged another Ion Sucker through the embedded straw on his helmet in a long slurp. He took the can and smashed it against his helmet. "Who's turn is it now?"

Animal clapped Jasted on the back. "I'm pretty positive it's your turn, good buddy!"

"Roger roger," Jasted said with a smile as he disengaged from the gaggle of Coronas and other Liberty vets and headed over to the bar. He waved Iggy over, and gestured to the group of inebriated pilots. "Iggy, another round for the Coronas, please."

"Belay that order," Jalb said in a commanding tone from the doorway.

"JALB!" all of Jasted's group shouted in jubilation, himself and a few other bar patrons also joined in.

"Sir? Are we cut off?" Jasted asked the Lt. Colonel as he waded through the crowd that had surrounded him.

"Certainly not, my friend," Jalb said with a sly smile. "The problem was with the order. Corona Squadron is no longer stationed on this ship."

Jasted felt the news like a gut punch. "So we're being transferred?"

"Also certainly not," Jalb laughed. He looked at Iggy and produced a large denomination credit chit. "Iggy, a round for everybody, including," he gestured to the group Jasted was with, "Rogue Squadron!"

A loud cheer erupted from the pilots, and Jasted's mood soared with pride. "Kriffing right!"

"The Rogues ride again!" Stryker shouted joyously. The other personnel around him cheered as well.

Jalb wandered over to Stryker and clasped the man in a tight hug. "It's great to see you again, Rambo!"

"You too, Reynolds!" Stryker replied. They separated, and Stryker looked around. "Wait. Where's Durgan?"

Jalb smirked. "Krayt's still in quarantine for some fever he picked up recently. Goes nice with whatever he had right before Endor. He's supposed to be cleared soon, but I would caution you from going to visit because that 2-1B droid is a real nut buster in sick-bay."

"Cutter's still a stick in the mud for regs, eh?" Stryker replied with a laugh.

Jedi snuck through the crowd undetected and patted Jasted on the shoulder. "Hey, kid, I got this information you were looking for. You can thank Major Nhehl for expediting the request through his contacts."

Jasted looked at the datacard in Jedi's hand and took it slowly. "I was told this would take weeks. The Major's got some serious contacts, huh?"

Jedi nodded with a smile, before his mood sobered. "Look, I haven't read anything on this because it's none of my business, but you may want to find somewhere quiet to open this up- for better or worse."

Jasted nodded, downing his new drink quickly and palmed the datacard. He discretely exited the bar and headed to his bunk, his ears buzzing and chest bursting with anticipation at what he was about to find out.

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Battle of Endor

Corona 11

POV: Jasted

If the darkness could blister apart, the eleven X-wing's from Corona Squadron would have been the grounds for it. Full throttled, pissed off and crammed sorrow, the pack tore its way into the iron fist of the universe. The Empire would pay for the cowardice strike on their sweet Liberty and the undeserved execution of countless souls.

This is a resilient bunch of bastards. All rallied and accounted for. Everyone reporting in was a miracle in itself and a miracle would be what they needed to survive combat in such dire straits. Colonel Reynolds went through a mental battle strategy while punching through the Imperial Fleet. His team followed. They snaked through the cluster of Alliance and Imperial cruisers that came together in a dangerous attempt to bury each other. Turbolasers cranked out carelessly in one another's direction. Alliance ships were out gunned and out armored but anything was better than succumbing to the will of that operational battle station.

Blue Squadron had already devised a plan to take on one destroyer, the Harbinger, an ImpStar that was wreaking havoc on smaller Alliance corvettes. Corona had come within range of this particular capital ship and looked to bypass it. Reynolds wanted a clean shot at the Subjugator, an unmolested Imperial warship . He was about to relay the order to set targeting computers when Commander Dobson requested a fighter screen. Blue was swamped.

"Yellow Squad, Corona Squad, keep those TIE's off our back!"

"Copy, Blue Leader" acknowledged the Colonel. "Corona Four, Five, Six, Eight, with me. Nine I want you with us, also."

"Aye, aye, Colonel" replied Morrison.

"We are running cover for Blue. Ten, take the rest of the squadron to mark twelve, and disrupt target identified as Subjugator. We will provide support once Blue is clear."

"Copy that," acknowledged The Contessa.

"Get it done, people." Reynolds fighter banked hard to port s-foil and swooped to Blue's coordinates, half of Corona tailing him.

***

Corona Eleven spun through some debris and a slew of incoming TIE interceptors that were seeking a quick rebel kill. He followed a pair of Corona X-Wings with Phelp's and Leventhal on his aft. The Subjugator, locked on and looking like a fine target to unleash pent up rage. The hanger on the belly of the beast purged the remaining fighter compliment. It's Captain recognized incoming hostiles.

"They know we are coming in heavy handed. Squint wing, inbound."

"Copy that, Ten." Finelli charged shields to double front and took a glance at the ordinance bay. I am going to jam these torps straight up that destroyer's fraking ass.

A half dozen TIE's lit up on approach, tagging the forward shields of Corona Ten and Two. Both T-65s peeled off their run and dived away from the aggressors. The TIEs continued to pursue the pair and disrupt their run on the command ship.

"Don't break your approach!" yelled The Contessa. "We'll draw their fire!" She located the nearest adversary and changed her stance from heavy strike to dogfight.

"They look like a bunch of jokers. Give them hell, Ten!"

"Received," responded Twelve. "Proceeding."

Leventhal, Finelli and Phelps blazed onward, weaving through random wreckage and sprawled out bogies attempting to thwart the attack. This was not their first rodeo with a destroyer, although their numbers were always greater than three and supported by heavy rockets and/or space bombs. The trio devised a plan to bring it down and watched, upon approach, lay into a Nebulon B Frigate's deflector shield.

"Their countermeasures will bring down our torpedoes from this distance," began Phelps. "We are going to have to get close and personal."

"Go delta, and hit that starboard shield generator above the bridge." Finelli added. "Keep on my aft for approach." The three ships lined up single file, Corona Seven bringing up the rear.

"Full throttle or my ass is grass." Leventhal peaked behind him. An Imperial crowd was forming as if magnetized to his presence.

Won't need cannons. Finelli dropped ELS from lasers. The T-65 shook as the pace quickened.

***

The Subjugator's Captain Rinzler paced through the bridge, ever watchful of the incoming threats and targets his ship was encountering. "Redirect turbolasers, ready counter measures." His tone was confident.

"Sir, we are taking fire from that rebel frigate, what are your orders?"

Rinzler paused and stood at parade rest. "Increase port shields."

"Yes, Captain."

"Contact squadron leaders. Forward batteries on alert for incoming." He pointed at the Subjugator's forward sensors, flagging the three incoming Alliance snubs. "I want their heads on a pike."

"They are within long range defenses, Sir."

With a monotone snicker, he proclaimed, "Acquire target."

The Captain received a hasty response. "Locked on."

He nodded to his subordinate and approved the launch. " Fire".

Several silo doors off the Subjugator's hull cranked open and set in motion anti-space craft missiles.

***

"Jasted, you got two coming, buddy!" The projectiles were small and quick but no less deadly to the T-65's armor.

"I see it. RX, more power to thrusters." The astromechs dome twisted 360 degrees while searching for a solution in the cryogenic power generators. Corona Twelve and Seven made similar adjustments, attempting to out race the threat looming over.

Leventhal, once more, checked his aft. The Imperial light show forming to his backside was getting too close. "Oh man, they got a bounty on our head." He zigzagged in response to several thuds on his ship's upper fusial.

Phelps fixed his ever-watchful onto the incoming munition. "Jasted, I got you covered."

"You better- going evasive." Corona Eleven went into a flat scissor, but kept on course.

Corona Twelve held steady. His IFF on the incoming bombardment. Two missiles screamed onward, hunting the point X-Wing. Crosshairs were centered and awaiting for a green lock. With a snap of his trigger finger Phelps lobbed off a shot that struck and obliterated one.

"Good hit, here comes the other!" yelled Leventhal.

The second over shot Eleven and cut between the group. It continued by a pack of determined interceptors in tote, and then redirected to have another go at it.

They came to the bow of the dagger shaped cruiser and skimmed the surface, piercing passed tower cannons that laid down a relentless defensive cover. "Missile coming back around. Six, ready counter measures." Phelps stated.

"On it."

Finelli leveled out the fighter and mashed its right rudder to pitch her and gain a better alignment with the shield generator. "Switching to proton torpedoes. Targeting computer free. "

"Towers want a piece of your ass, Jas. Keep moving!"

"Frak these towers, what about that missile?"

Leventhal shook his head at the impatience. "Almost in range." Several love taps from imperial cannons had kept him busy and jostled the cockpit about while he juggled defensive tactics. He hovered his left hand over the flare deployment toggle switch and began an audible countdown. "Three... two... one..."

A flash from Corona Seven's dispenser, followed by a high pitched whistle ignited a flare. It burst outward with such heat intensity it rivaled that of the T-65 thrusters and lured in the projectile that intently hurled it's body into the light and eliminated itself from the equation.

"Missile down, missile down." Phelps proclaimed. "Start ascent on the bridge. Towers are still hot." The Subjugator's cannon defense continued their unwelcoming. "Three klicks out. Stay frosty, boys."

***

"Captain, missiles were intercepted. Enemy element approaching the bridge."

"Notify all craft, change priority IFF to identification Corona." Rinzler ground his molars in protest of the X-Wing's blazing towards his position. "Bring them down, now!"

"Forward batteries cannot keep up." There was a slight unease in the room. "Sir, shall we increase forward shields, two hundred percent?

He shook his head and scolded his Lieutenant. "They are coming for the generators. Can't you see that?" Those snubs do not have enough firepower to get that done but I'm sure not giving them a handout, either. "Lieutenant Clu?"

"Yes, Captain?"

"Heel to port. We will shake these flies off."

"You heard the Captain, heel to port!" Speakers throughout the Subjugator sounded with a growl. A slight shake and the ImpStar complied with the bridge officer's order.

***

"Starboard is rising. Make adjustments."

"Received, Twelve." Finelli acknowledged the destroyer's hull attempting to run them over. He yawed with it and increased pitch to get some distance from the frame.

Phelps continued monitoring the run. "Almost there. "Going torpedoes."

Leventhal noted the move on armament and switched up. "Torps ready. Dropping flares." Corona Seven jettisoned two additional in an attempt to break up the TIE's tormenting rear shields. The move proved smart and allowed some breathing room for the generator strike. A handful of the Imp's scattered from the bright, light emitting out from the decoy. "We got some room. Won't last long."

"Copy. Jas, one klick. Let's do this!" Phelps let out a war cry.

Incom Corp would have been proud of these Corona boys and their flagship product standing toe to toe with a Kuat Drive mechanical juggernaut and, as time slowed, the three approached the bridge at an obtuse angle. Peeking out from atop the bridge, Finelli could make out a portion of the starboard, deflector generator dome waiting for him on a metallic horizon. Torps away, a-holes.

***

Corona Eleven was the first to broadside a pair of proton torpedoes on the armored globe. The sound they produced was oh so familiar along with their furious luminosity that blinded the Subjugator's command staff on passing of their view port, immediately followed by a T-65. The bridge's chamber shook after the impact. Captain Rinzler lost his balance and braced himself up on the command console.

"Cap.." Lieutenant Clu attempted to speak but was drowned out by a second wave freed by Phelp's and a quick glance of Corona Twelves' belly. The bridge clattered once more and came to a stop only to be subject to the final salvo released by the tail snub that charged through and vanished from sight.

"Damage, report." The sound of a group of TIE's in pursuit now filled their ears.

"Captain, generator one shows critical damage but it is still operational."

***

Looking over his right shoulder, Leventhal could see their target was still intact even after he had a solid hit. The TIE's in pursuit were closing ground. Dammit.

"Target is still intact," announced Phelps. "Let's hit it aga..." Phelps hammered the flight stick and took evasive action. The group had buzzed the bridge and positioned themselves on the stern of the Subjugator. This had put them within range of the Imperial Fleet's flagship, Executor.

"Go evac!" Three X-Wing's broke formation and dodged the incoming barrage from the Super Star Destroyer's array of weaponry.

"Twelve, rendezvous back at mark twelve. We can have another go." Finelli wanted the kill, bad. One more check mark on his helmet.

"Won't be necessary," interrupted a smooth talking Colonel Reynolds.

Finelli, Phelps and Leventhal watched in disappointment as the generator they had worked on burst into flame and shrapnel followed by Corona Lead's T-65 erupting through the center of the explosion. It was a well-timed final hit by their boss.

Finelli pounded on the transparisteel canopy and directed discontent to the astromech. "Son of a bitch, that was ours!" He flung the snub into a sharp turn and pointed her nose cone at the Impstar. That second one is mine, thought the Lieutenant just before the wing's executive officer crushed that thought.

"Let um' loose!" declared Morrison who was trailing behind the Colonel and directing four others in the squad to unleash their ordinance bays on the Subjugators final generator.

The passing X-Wings struck their mark, terminating the destroyer's shield defensive measure and thus exposing its skin. "Shield's down!" Morrison exclaimed.

The Contessa splashed her bogies from earlier and was back on primary target. "I'm going to close on the engines, who's with me?" She thrust the throttle forward and bee lined to a proven blind spot on the Star Destroyer's stern.

"Right behind you," responded Corona Four.

"Corona Five, too. Let's do it!" Kendy Idele agreed gleefully.

***

"Additional flight of snubs are causing damage to ion engines."

"Status of squadrons?" questioned a humbled Rinzler.

"They have taken heavy damage. Shall we ready your shuttle?"

The Subjugator's Captain stood tall and proud. He would not abandon his ship if the enemy succeeded in her destruction. "No." He responded. "No that will not be necessary, Lieutenant." He looked to his crew about the bridge who did show their mettle today. He was more than satisfied with their performance. It was his choice; he would go down with his ship.

"Sir, there is catastrophic damage to engine one."

"Noted, Lieutenant." And as if nothing had been brought to his attention he asked "I will fight to the end. Are you with me?"

Lieutenant Clu took a moment and stared at his superior officer. He was a vision of professionalism and honor then blurted out with little hesitation "to the death." The bridge chamber shook more violently this time and he took a better footing before he saluted him.

Officers about the deck were reserved in emotion. They brought themselves up from their assigned stations and followed the lead of Lieutenant Clu, falling in line and saluting their Captain. "Very well, my friend. Good to have you. Good to have all of you."

Power ceased in the damaged ion engine. The Subjugator was being whittled to death.

***

"Lead to Ten, well done." Reynolds was pleased with The Contessa's progress in dismantling the destroyer's forward motion.

"Thank you, Sir!"

"Nine, take your flight and set fire to the bridge."

"Aye, aye, Corona Leader." Morrison called out to his flight, "Seven, Eight, Twelve. On me" and they merged into a finger-four strike formation to accomplish the order.

Reynolds cleared another TIE from the board and took a moment to observe Morrison's group approaching the bridge. Looks like a good day to die.... His thought was disrupted by Admiral Ackbar.

"The shield is down! Commence attack on the Death Star's main reactor!"

Calrissian was quick to acknowledge. "We're on our way. Red Group, Gold Group, all fighters follow me!"

Well, I'll be damned. Commandos got it done after all. "Nine, abort! Abort! Abort!"

"We heard it, Corona Leader!" Morrison pulled away from the attack run.

"Six, Eleven, clear your IFF. Form up on my mark." Reynold's voice sounded stoked. "All right boys, you heard them."

"Frakin' yeah we did, Colonel!" Finelli clamored.

"Aye, Colonel. Changing course." Morrison made a note to his flight group. "We are keeping an eye on these guys. They got to punch through."

"Flanking positions." Reynolds charged up Corona One's thrusters, throwing her forward. "Gentlemen..." He paused. "Let's plow the road."

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Iggy's Shipboard Cantina 2

From where they were sitting in their booth, Lock, Rev, and Gnoizic watched what seemed to be the entirety of the old Renegade crew amidst a joyous celebration, though what exactly they were celebrating the former Reds were unsure of--but it was infectious.

"Well, at least this group drinks," Rev commented with a shrug. A smirk formed on his lips as he lifted his own drink, ironically non-alcoholic, to his lips, "Remember that one posting where it was a dry base?"

Lock snorted and even Gnoizic showed some emotion, shuddering slightly. Neither of the three were heavy drinkers per se, but they had all adopted rather happily the typical free-spiritedness and idealistic defiance of authority that the Rebellion espoused. Even Lock, who had flown as an Imperial for years, fell in line with the philosophy, so when the commander of said dry base had removed his freedom to ruin his liver, he balked and immediately set to work, recruiting his friends and subordinates in an effort to defy the base commander. Sadly, those efforts proved to be in vain when the CO found the still that Shadow, Trick, and Angel had started with one of the mechanics. He frowned, suddenly, when he recalled that shortly after the base had been attacked and destroyed, and they'd barely escaped with their lives.

"Yeah," Lock replied. "Trick died there."

"She was a good one," Rev replied with a grimace. He lifted his drink, "Here's to Trick."

Lock drained his beer, following the older pilot in a toast. "Aye, she was a good one," he replied, thinking back. A small smile appeared on his lips, "Remember when she painted the seats of the ready room brown and after the briefing it looked like--" Lock burst into laughter at the memory. "Oh! I still remember how you all looked walking away! And then! And then she asked if the mission had scared you all so bad that you had all crapped your pants!"

"How about we remember the good things," Rev growled, doing his best to hide a smile with a scowl.

"That is a good memory--for me!" Lock laughed.

Gnoizic wasn't paying much attention to the conversation, his attention focused across the room, on the Renegade pilots. Because of his mask and stoic personality, it was always difficult to understand what the man was thinking or even looking at, but when you'd flown and fought in life or death missions with someone for nearly four years, a keen observer would begin to notice details. Both Lock and Rev had a pretty good idea of what had caught the mandalorian's attention; another mando at the center of the Renegades gleefully pounding alcohol.

As soon as Lock noticed he haphazardly smacked Gnoizic on the shoulder, the knuckles of his fingers regretted the decision as soon as they made contact with the beskar. Annoyed, Gnoizic snapped his head towards Lock, who was grinning, "Don't worry, you're still the prettiest mando in my book."

"You weren't saying that last time he beat you at sabacc, or the time before," Rev grinned.

Lock turned towards Rev, mock hurt in his face, "I thought you were pro-good memories!"

"Those are good memories--for me!"

Both Lock and Rev laughed. Gnoizic shook his head.

Under his helmet the mando grinned, "Kriffin' Nerfs."

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Battle of Endor

Gold Six

POV: Lock

"The shield is down!" Admiral Ackbar announced to the fleet, his voice clear as day admist the chaos of the battle. "Commence attack on the Death Star's main reactor!"

"We're on our way!" Lando answered immediately. "Red Group, Gold Group, all fighters follow me!"

Lock squeezed the trigger, sending a volley of red bolts at his target, narrowly grazing the TIE Interceptor before pulling on his fighter's stick and cutting down on the throttle as hard as he could while maintaining momentum and swerving the nose of his fighter towards the Death Star. As soon as it was in view Lock slammed his throttle to full speed, "Fate, give me as much as you can on the engines."

Weaving past fighters and debris, Lock flew his way over to the Second Death Star. The very operational Second Death Star. So much for all the Bothan lives, Lock thought grimly to himself.

As he made his way towards the rendezvous point, Lock quickly brought up a list of the fighters that were still active in Gold Squadron--Gold Leader, Gold Three, good, Gold Four, Gold Six, himself, Gold Nine, Gold Ten, Gold Eleven, good. They were in much better shape than he had originally thought, and it seemed like his flight had taken the brunt of the losses. He pushed the guilt to the back of his mind, storing it away like he'd done countless times before, to concentrate on the battle at hand. He was still in the fight, and so were Angel and Gnoizic. He hoped that Rev, Shadow, and Rogue were doing just as well in Red Squadron.

Red and Gold fell into formation together as they approached the Death Star, with Wedge taking the lead, followed closely by the Falcon and Gold's A-Wings. Lock fell in behind Red Seven, with Gold's three remaining Y-Wings just behind him. What was left of the two Squadrons reached the Death Star faster than Lock anticipated, a stream of TIE Fighters and Interceptors screaming behind them. Green bolts flashed over the formation but they kept it tight.

Lock pulled on his stick as they approached the surface. They had to remain low, making it more difficult for the turbolaser cannons to target them but that required a deal of skill in itself, ducking and weaving around them, all while keeping an eye out for construction equipment--monstrous cranes that even now during the battle were at work, sweeping enormous metal plates into place, constructing the shell of the behemoth the Rebels were attacking. How many of those operating the cranes had nothing to do with the Empire's plans? Yet another thought to push away--one that he had been pushing away for quite some time now, if truth be told. Lock had been Imperial once, too.

"I'm hit!" someone called out on the radio--Lock immediately recognized the voice. Gnoizic!

"On my way!" Lock said, cutting his thrusters for a moment as he twisted and pulled on his flight stick, doing a complete one hundred and eighty degree turn before slamming his thrusters back on to full speed again. Gold Nine--Norra Wexley's Y-Wing--shot past him, following the rest of Gold and Red to the entry point only a few kilometers away.

Four TIEs were hot on her tail and Lock was able to shoot one down as he passed but shifted his priorities to the two Y-Wings in the back taking the brunt of the attack from the pursuing TIEs, Golds Ten and Eleven.

"Pull out, Ten!" Gnoizic ordered the Y-Wing alongside him but it was too late.

Lock saw one of the Y-Wings explode under a hail of green turbolaser fire. The TIEs, flying above and taking advantage of the position, turned to fixate on Gnoizic's Y-Wing. Lock aimed the nose of his X-Wing towards them and started firing off quad bursts. He managed to clip one of the interceptors but the rest dodged easily from the distance that they were at. Lock's sweat felt cold under his helmet and his eye widened as he realized that he wasn't going to make it.

A voice Lock didn't recognize suddenly invaded his comms, "Gold Eleven, evasive maneuvers! Corona Squadron's got you covered!"

Dozens of red bolts rained from above onto the pack of TIEs that had begun to zero in on Gnoizic and four exploded simultaneously, scaring the rest off. Lock hooted out a celebration in his cockpit. When he looked up he could see that Rebel Reinforcements had finally arrived--alongside the X-Wings of Corona Squadron were three A-Wings from Green Squadron and some B-Wings from Blade. He wished that that was the only thing he saw... closing in on the fighters was a pack of TIE Fighters as dense as the swarm that they'd clashed with at the beginning of the Battle of Endor--how long ago had that been? A few minutes ago? A few hours? It was all a blur. It felt like this was all there had ever been and all there would ever be.

He could hear Wedge and Lando confirming that they had entered the Death Star. Lock made a quick decision. "Eleven!" he called out to the Y-Wing's pilot. "Form up on me."

Lock could see that Gnoizic's Y-Wing wasn't in the best condition but it was still flying, and in Gnoizic's hand it would continue to do so. He formed up into position with Lock, "Are we going to hold hands or get back in the fight?" Gnoizic asked after a moment.

Lock snorted, "Let's show these Imps."

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