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ENDOR

 

Part 4 - A New Chance


Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Iggy's Shipboard Cantina 2

Jalb drank in the jubilant atmosphere he was currently experiencing. The return of Stryker was ample reason to be merry. Rogues old and new had surrounded the old workhorse and plied him with ample Ion Suckers as tribute for his tales of yore as they feared he would be leaving again soon. Only Jalb and a few others knew how long the visit would last.

Jalb half listened to the old CO as he regaled the younger crowd with the old mine-racing challenge they used to run as training. He smiled again, remembering his runs through that mission, both simulated and live. His smile waned a bit as he realized he hadn't been able to run that particular mission with his newer recruits as of late due to their heightened workload.

"Ok kids, I think that's enough for the old man for one night," Stryker hiccuped. "I don't exactly know where I'm headed next once the delegation moves on, and I don't think they'd appreciate me missing that flight out."

The crowd didn't move much, however. Jalb looked to Jedi and gave him a nod. Jedi nodded back and stepped in. "Ok you Flyboys, get your exhaust ports moving and leave Grandpa alone!"

"Grandpa?" Stryker chortled. "You're older than I am!"

The crowd dispersed around Stryker and coalesced at the end of the bar near Iggy, haranguing the droid with more drink orders in a boisterous manner. If the droid was frustrated by the drunken gaggle, he made no sign of it as he made the drinks in the order his auditory receptors picked up the requests.

Jalb sidled up to Stryker and sat down. "Sorry about the kids. They've only heard stories from the old breed and have a minor case of hero worship."

"S'okay," Stryker burped, the sound being muffled by his helmet. "Kinda nice being... Back. Does this technically count as being back?"

Jalb nodded somberly. "Yeah, the Liberty took the first blast from the active Death Star. She was gone in an instant."

Stryker tilted his head in sadness. "Somebody in Intelligence dropped the ball on that one, eh?" He shifted up in his seat and looked Jalb straight in the eyes. "What was it like making a run at that thing?"

Jalb shivered, both at the piercing gaze through his CO's visor as well as the memory he was just asked to dredge up. "Honestly mate, I couldn't give you any frame of reference that would do it justice. You just keep getting closer and seeing more details until you can make out individual turbolaser towers, and your entire frontal arc is just full of metal and towers shooting green shit at you. With better gunner coordination, that station could have just sent a wall of light at us and vaporized everything on approach."

"Better in an X-Wing than a capital ship I bet," Stryker replied. He clapped his hands loudly. "Damn, I wish I had been there!" He exclaimed wistfully.

"Yeah," Jalb responded, and then sucked in a breath sharply. "Though, as far as ships go, the Vigilant isn't so bad."

"She's too new," Stryker said with a hint of disgust on his face. "A good ship needs some dirt on her decks and scars on her hull."

Jalb barked out a laugh. "You're not wrong."

"Hic. Speaking of too new," Stryker looked to Iggy and belched loudly in the face of the bartender. "Iggy! You need a new name for this establishment. Iggy's Shipboard Cantina Two is... a little TOO on the nose, no?"

Iggy's photoreceptors dimmed in what appeared to be an eye roll. "And what would you call it, Colonel Rambo?

Stryker scrunched his face deep in thought as he leaned in and supported his weight with the bar. "Simmons'... Sim... Simmo..." He lifted his helmet above his mouth and vomited violently on the bar.

Iggy reacted quickly, a shock prod popping out of his chest cavity, and shocked the vomiting pilot. The pilot yelped in surprise and recoiled from the shock, suddenly sober on his backside on the floor. The crowd of pilots and personnel cheered, but also edged away from the puddle of soured Ion Suckers on the bar.

"Grandpa's on the deck!" Somebody shouted from across the room, and raucous laughter ensued.

"That's quite a shock you're packing, Iggy!" Jalb snickered, then snapped his fingers as his eyes went wide. "Simmons' Shock Deck!" The veteran staff cheered loudly at the name, and the newer personnel that had no idea about the reference joined in with the inebriated exultation.

"The SSD! I love it!" Stryker shouted, giggled uncontrollably for a moment, and then suddenly sobered as he looked up toward Jalb. "How's the new Wing? Got a competent leader for this taskforce? Who is..."

Jalb interrupted him with a wave and another laugh at the random-fire questions from his old CO. "Why don't you stay and find out, mate? Take my job and let me just worry about 12 bodies for a change." He knew full well who the leader of the wing was, but he had to keep up appearances until the official announcement happened, if it ever did.

"We'll see," Stryker replied coyly, standing up shakily with his hands supporting his weight on a table edge. "But first, I would be much obliged if you could point me in the right direction to the 'fresher. The damned kids got grandpa drunk again."

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Battle of Endor

Corona One

POV: Jalb

There was not much left of them. A mix of thirteen snubs from Red and Gold Squadron, led by a worn out junker of a YT-1300 freighter, advanced towards the superstructure. Corona Squadron provided flanking support alongside a few remaining Blade B-Wings, and three Green A-Wings were racing out in front as a wave break against the TIE defense. A wall of crimson energy washed over the Empire's TIE perimeter, paving a clear path with several miniature novas where TIEs used to be. Return fire from the Imperial fighter screen destroyed two of the lead A-Wings, but the path was clear for the main assault complement to make their run.

Every klick closer enhanced the reality of how enormous this metal monstrosity really was. Each tower and structure on the surface was a goliath, a masterpiece unto itself. It was an intimidating sight but it did not deter Reynolds.

Jalb keyed his mic active. "Listen up, Corona. Once we hit the surface, we're continuing escort for the Gold and Red boys. Six and Eleven, we are taking point. Nine, take your flight and cover their tail. Ten, divide your group and watch their flanks until they hit that tunnel."

"Aye, Aye, Colonel."

"Copy."

And if they don't get this done, we will. Reynolds was not about to throw that over the commlink. It was not a motivating declaration but was a legitimate battle strategy he kept on the back burner. The Death Star must die. There is no other acceptable outcome.

***

The Death Star's defenses were dense and continuous. A constant pounding from the endless turbolaser towers tormented their shields. Red and Gold delved deeper upon its surface and weaved their way through construction sites and oncoming munitions with Corona and a few other fighters hovering around their convoy as watchful guardians. Red Leader was scorching through the maze and proving hard to keep up with. He was laser focused on his trajectory.

"Squad, two klicks out. Break them up."

"On it, Corona Leader." The Contessa said as she left the formation with her wingman.

"Nine, half dozen trailing us."

"Got it. Eight with me." Morrison pulled back throttle power and drastically dropped speed. The TIE's charged by which placed him on their six with a clear shot. He tagged one with a quick quad fire blast followed by a stream of cover fire on the rest. Kinney joined in and assisted with chasing them off the strike group.

"Confirmed visual, tunnel approaching." notified Phelps.

"Hold the perimeter, boys. Almost there." Reynolds continued to monitor and observed oncoming at his helm. "Kid, twelve o'clock. They are trying to cut off access to the entrance."

The frak they are. "Intercepting, Corona Leader," Marco acknowledged and careened to the threat. He made a quick move as if entering the tunnel. Two interceptors met Corona Six at the access point and took him as bait before he redirected away from the surface thus clearing the way for Red and Gold.

"I'm going in," Red Leader advised. His T-65 shot passed one last attempt of thick tower bombardment and whipped into the bowels of the Death Star. Gold Leader and the surviving members of their squads followed him.

Reynolds moved to cover Marco after losing his visual of their priority objective. "Corona, the strike team has entered the target. Rendezvous at mark six point one and clear it. Await my signal. And for kriffing sakes, watch the fire from those towers!" Good luck, Red. Good luck, Gold.

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Simmons' Shock Deck

Lock was the only of his group that had stayed at the bar and continued to sip his drink while he observed the jubilant atmosphere. He did a double-take at the marquee sign above the bar that had originally said "Iggy's Shipboard Cantina 2", but it now said "Simmons' Shock Deck".

"Did I drink that much that I'm seeing things now?" He murmured to himself as he set his glass down.

Jalb wandered over and set his glass down and appropriated Gnoizic's old chair. "Mind if I join you?"

Lock shrugged. "Free galaxy," he said glibly.

Jalb laughed genuinely at that comment. The sincerity of it made Lock smile too. "That's good, Lock, real good."

"So, who was that guy in the Mando gear?" Lock asked curiously.

"Stryker, the old CO of the wing," Jalb replied, and then his smile grew wider. "I'm about 95 percent sure he's here to take my job back."

Lock was stunned at the honesty of it all. "You're smiling about somebody taking your wing? Wish I could say I looked as pleased as you do now when I lost Red to Antilles."

Jalb patted Lock on the shoulder, still beaming. "Look, mate, I was just a caretaker. The day he went off, the entire wing just kind of fell into my lap. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the gig, but it never really felt like it was mine, ya know?"

Lock was still stunned. "Do you think it has something to do with that last Op we were a part of and that old CO we had to contend with?"

"Most definitely," Jalb replied, his smile waning a bit at the memory from the past few weeks. "But that doesn't make it any less welcome."

"Doesn't seem fair," Lock replied, anger at the injustice welling up from the politicking that had taken place. "First they bust you down a rank, then they take your wing away."

Jalb put his hands up in a 'cool-off' motion. "Yeah, life's not fair sometimes. Doesn't mean something good doesn't come out of the sithspawn. Speaking of El-Tee, I have it on good authority your last CO put you in for a promotion and it was approved. Won't be a lowly Loot much longer. Try to act surprised when they tell you though, wouldn't want them busting me down another rank for leaking information," Jalb said with a hearty laugh.

Lock was stunned again, his anger completely replaced by pride. "Sir. I... don't know what to say," he stammered.

With a smirk, Jalb stood and motioned for Lock to rise with him. "No need to say anything. But you CAN buy the old CO a drink, eh?"

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Battle of Endor

Gold Six

POV: Lock

The clash between Rebel starfighters and TIEs was brutal--explosions happening on both sides as they made a pass on each other, then again as the survivors turned to enter the massive furball that had spun into life over and around the Death Star's surface.

The next few minutes were some of the most chaotic of his entire career, the only thing stringing it all together was each new TIE. Acquire target, shoot, destroy, next target, over and over again. The pattern would break when he or Gnoizic became the target, but in the end it was still only another variation of the same dance. Lock's arm burned, but adrenaline kept him going. He had one more shot in him, one more turn, one more target, and then another and another.

"We've got to clear the exit vector!" someone said over the comm--was it Rev? Lock was sure that it sounded like him but he couldn't afford to check; his complete attention was on the TIE Interceptor trying to get Gnoizic from behind.

Lock pulled his fighter down and left, easing his starfighter behind the Interceptor, following it with his sights until the HUD blinked breen. Squeezing the trigger, Lock fired a quad shot at the squint, hitting it dead on. The Interceptor managed to survive, and intent on continuing said survival, it pulled away from Gnoizic but Lock followed, leading the TIE with his targeting reticle until he was in range once more. Again Lock fired, this time killing his objective.

"Thanks, Six," Gnoizic replied, pulling into formation next to Lock. From his cockpit, the pilot could see that Gnoizic's Y-Wing was in bad shape.

"Eleven, your fighter is heavily damaged, head back to the fleet," Lock told his wingmate.

"I'm good, Six, I can still fight," Gnoizic replied, clearly annoyed at Lock's suggestion.

"I know, Eleven, you'll fight to the death, but we've lost enough people today," Lock countered. "Head back to the fleet. Please."

There was a moment of silence, "Copy, Six. Watch yourself."

"Always do, Eleven," Lock said, breaking off his fighter and heading towards the exhaust port that Red and Gold had designated as their exit. "This is Gold Six, heading towards exit point."

"Copy that, Gold Six. This is Red Ten, I have Red Eleven with me," answered Shadow, who was flying with Rev.

"Copy that, rendezvous at Alpha-Oh-Six," Lock guided his fighter towards the coordinates, about half a kilometer above the surface of the Death Star, just above the exhaust port that Wedge, Lando, Angel, and the rest would be exiting when the time came. Lock, Shadow, and Rev wouldn't be the only ones converging in this sector of space; an enormous furball had evolved, with ships from Corona, Blade, and more dogfighting the endless TIE Fighters.

It seemed that for every TIE they killed another two popped up. Lock managed to reunite with Rev and Shadow but their reunion would be cut short, as a flight of Interceptors split them up again. Two went after Lock, another two after Shadow and four after Rev in his B-Wing, clearly thinking that just because he was in a bomber it would be easier to defeat him.

The older pilot put the TIEs through their paces, managing to disable two of them before the Fighters got the best of him, burning through his aft shields with their combined spray. Their green bolts started to burn through the B-Wing's engines, overly damaging the sensitive hardware. Detecting the damage, Rev did the only thing he could, really. He reached down to the side of the cockpit and pulled the emergency lever--instead of his ejection seat going off, the head of his B-Wing detached seconds before the rest of the body exploded, allowing Rev to survive in the small pod. He shunted what laser energy he had left into his engines and pushed the pod hard as he could, rocketing away from the battle field.

"Red Eleven, leaving the battle--I've taken too much damage. Still have two TIEs on me," Rev announced over the comm to his squadron.

"Copy that, Red Eleven, this is Gold Eleven, taking care of tail!" announced Gnoizic. Lock cursed--hadn't he ordered him to return to the Fleet? Damned Mandos!

That said, the Y-Wing fell upon the two TIE Fighters chasing Rev with a vengeance, toggle firing his ion and laser cannons at the fighters, disabling and destroying them with such effectiveness that neither had a chance to scream out before they succumbed. "Thanks, Gnoiz!" Rev called over the comm. Gnoizic and Rev went far back, to Corsin, where they had fought as the Red Rancors together.

"No prob, Rev, I'll escort you back," Gnoizic replied and turned his fighter to follow what was left of Rev's B-Wing back to the fleet.

"Looks like it's just you and me, Red Ten," Lock replied, as he finished off his attackers and started making his way over towards Shadow.

"I'd celebrate but I've got two eyeballs between us," Shadow replied, his voice audibly strained.

"You mean four, I have two, you have--" "Damnit, Lock!"

Lock laughed--was it even possible in a situation like this?--and targeted one of the TIE Fighters harassing Shadow. It was heavily damaged, probably by Shadow himself, so it took only one shot to shoot down. The second TIE saw himself outnumbered and started to run away--a grave error! Shadow noticed and swung his X-Wing towards the enemy and managed to get a great shot off on him. Four red bolts hit the TIE's engines, causing it to explode almost immediately.

Moving into formation on Shadow's wing, Lock continued, "So, about those eyeballs--"

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Service Hangar

Tattoo was exhausted. Her and Digger had been running double the normal trips to and from the Sovereignty to ferry armor and gunnery components to the still under construction flagship. They had help from a few others from time to time, including the wing commander's kid. He was a nice guy and a hard worker, and they'd been happy to have the extra set of hands. Seems he had earned the uncreative moniker of Junior, and she could tell it bugged him a bit.

"I cannot wait to sleep," Digger said as he padded alongside her as the two of them headed off the deck and made a slow but determined beeline for their bunk area.

Tattoo snorted tiredly. "What's sleep?"

Their third companion for the last few runs giggled deliriously. "I don't know about you two, but the showers are calling me," Skitch replied huskily.

"At the rate they've worked us, I'd be afraid to shower for fear of falling asleep and drowning," Digger replied, stumbling slightly.

Tattoo spotted the massive bleach-white alien known as Fossil standing in the doorway of her office. "Straighten up, the old lady is watching," she whispered sharply as she rolled her shoulders back and walked taller.

"If it isn't my favorite maintenance crew," Fossil boomed from across the distance. It was her normal volume and not a yell, lending more weight to the size of the Martigrade's lungs that she could push out that much sound at her normal speech level.

"Aye Aye, ma'am," Tattoo shouted back. "U-Wing Mercy Two is back on the deck and being refueled!"

"Excellent news, 2nd Lieutenant Calyse," Fossil replied with a massive toothy grin. "Any issues?"

Tattoo and her crew finally reached the ACHO and came to a crisp stop. "None, though there still appears to be plenty of work to be done to get that ship ready for action."

Fossil nodded, and then smiled again. However, the way her species' massive black orb-eyes looked, it was impossible to tell if the baring of teeth was good natured or a grimace. "Well, some bit of good news for you three is in order I suppose."

The three pilots waited expectantly. Fatigue overcame Skitch after a moment and she wobbled slightly. Digger deftly caught her, but then almost lost his own grounding in the process. Tattoo quickly reached a hand down and steadied her Dug crewman.

Fossil laughed. "Ok, out with it I suppose. You three are in for a much deserved break. Most of the department is expected to attend a ceremony of sorts tomorrow. You three are officially off duty until then, and I'll have Zimm run the morning deliveries. Enjoy the extra sleep," she said graciously. "Dismissed."

It was a testament to their exhaustion that none of the three cheered. They merely nodded, threw a half-hearted salute, and trudged on toward the showers.

"Calyse?" Fossil called out as the three had just reached the hangar exit.

Tattoo's shoulders tensed, and she snapped off a hissed curse. "So close," she grumbled as she turned around. Digger and Skitch hurried their pace to get out of sight to avoid a similar delay and speed-walked down the hall.

"You may want to linger a while. Our new A-Wing tech is getting ready to debark from that last transport, and I think you'll be interested to see who it is."

Not bloody likely. Tattoo put on a brave smile as she walked back toward Fossil.

Fossil put up a hand to stop her. "Just linger here a minute and see for yourself," the massive alien replied, turning around to face the crew walking down the gangplank.

Tattoo leaned against a tug to see around the massive bulk of her Martigrade overseer, just in time to see a face that showed much more vitality and a lot less blood than the last time she'd seen it. "Impossible," she whistled softly.

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Battle of Endor

SAR Mercy Two

POV: Tattoo

Were it not for the proximity alarm on the U-Wing's console screaming warning, Tattoo might have missed the escape pod entirely. Even before contact was established, it was clear something was wrong. The lights normally present on the outside of the vessel flickered ominously in an erratic pattern. Flipping on her own ship's spotlight to achieve visual contact, she reached over and thumbed the comms online.

"Nautillan Pod Nine, this is Mercy Two. Do you read us?"

The voice that answered was trembling, but held a tone that sounded accustomed to carrying authority. "We read you loud and clear. Are you here to give us a lift?"

"Yessir, your carriage has arrived. We'll get you out of there in a jiff," she replied, the smile audible in her voice. It was always good news to get a hail back, confirming several things all at once: that the occupants were alive and cognizant, that their communication array still functioned, and they had air with which to speak. All good signs on which to start a recovery.

The radio buzzed, words mixed with some sort of frequency interference. "Repeat? Unable to make that last message out," Tattoo asked.

"We're dead in the water." Another hissing noise. "... sustained damage, we lost propulsion! Computer goes.." Crackle. "... can't get anything to work!"

"Okay, who am I speaking with?" Tattoo asked.

"Dreski Hi--" the radio filled with static and she could make out no more. Exchanging a look with Boogie, no words were necessary, the need understood with the little information they'd been given. Standing from his seat, her copilot moved through the cabin toward the side airlock, helmet in hand.

"We're coming in, Dreski. Stand back from the door." She advised the escape pod. Hopefully they would receive that message.

Tattoo angled the U-Wing's front-facing wingtips upward, sailing smoothly forward and a short impulse burn brought them to a standstill hovering just above the damaged pod. Gently she rolled her craft to one side until the two airlocks were aligned, benefiting from the narrow profile of her rescue craft to nestle close to the other hull. Boogie palmed open the external door and met the pod's metal exterior. It was near enough to touch.

Tattoo waited and listened. No further fearful communications came from the stalled pod's occupants. Something about this situation didn't sit well with her, and she found herself chewing faintly at the thumb of her glove. A few minutes passed.

"Boogie, give me an update."

"It's the door, Tatt," Boogie's voice held a strange, but familiar reverb from his helmet's microphone. "Jammed or something. Onboard computer ain't responding, electrical is definitely a problem. I'm gonna have to cut her open."

"Hurry it up," Tattoo cautioned, unable to stop herself. "We won't have an X-Wing swoop in to save our ass while we sit vulnerable like last time." Boogie didn't reply. Tattoo fought the urge to fidget in her seat, closing her eyes briefly in the effort. You're worrying for nothing, she told herself. Just focus.

Drawing his torch in a slow circuit, Boogie cut into the panel and through the airlock's hydraulic cables rather than attempt to melt through the door itself. A spray of fluid escaped the tubing as the pressure inside was released, freeing the mechanism that kept the airlock sealed. Boogie hooked his fingers around the lip of the door and, with his bodyweight, began to pull the large barrier aside. Without the hydraulic assist, he had expected the hatch door to be heavy. Instead, it was nearly immovable. It screeched in defiance of his efforts, a grinding sensation palpable in the vibrations felt through even the protective layer of his gloves. Something truly was jamming the rails on which the door normally slid fluidly.

Able to persuade the door to open little more than half the width of his person, Boogie squeezed himself into the pod. Within, the passenger space had seen better days, walls blackened with soot near the terminal and chairs uprooted from their bolts. The air smelled of smoke and melted plastics, tainting the U-Wing's cabin with the stench until the air scrubbers cleared it.

Waiting to meet him on the other side, the pod's few occupants rushed forward as soon as the entryway cleared. "The Force was with us today!" One of them declared in relief, an older male twi'lek whose nearly white lekku were draped across his shoulders. Another, a smaller human woman surged to embrace Boogie in a desperate hug.

"Woah there," he staggered back in surprise. "Are any of you hurt?"

"Ooshan might have broken something," the first man gestured toward the youngest among them, a twi'lek girl with skin the color of an ocean on a clear day. She held her left arm clasped in the other, a frightened look on her young face as she limped forward.

"I'll take care of you, darling," Silver said cheerfully from the far side of the door, already fishing for supplies from one of the cabinets as evidenced by the racket she was making.

Twisted around in her seat to watch around the headrest, Tattoo took comfort in the routine they followed. She was worried for nothing after all, she reminded herself, laying a hand on her chest as though she could will away the wave of anxiety that rolled over her.

The next thing knew, she was on the floor.

Tattoo gasped, or she tried to. The air had been knocked from her lungs, an aching in her back corroborating the knowledge as she blinked at the canopy above the cockpit from where she lay. Stars streaked across the U-Wing's field of view in a tight circle; they were spinning.

A claxon that filled her with terror rang deafeningly in her ears, red lights flashing from half a dozen terminals all at once. Her brain struggled to process, to remember what that sound meant, but it was strangely difficult. Thoughts came only with great concentration, like digging through mud in search of something she knew was buried there. Suddenly her fingers touched upon it.

Airlock emergency closure protocol.

Staggering to her feet, she braced a hand against the back of her chair and pulled herself into the seat. The craft responded to her tug on the yolk, a burst of the maneuvering thrusters bringing their cartwheeling to an abrupt end even as she turned to survey the scene in the cabin.

Medical supplies had been scattered across the passenger space. Silver lay prone amid the mess on the floor, worryingly unmoving. Tattoo leaped from her seat, fighting against the surge of dizziness that struck her to reach Silver's side.

"Silver! Silver, can you hear me?"

The other woman responded with a groan, stirring from where she had been thrown. Her wrist was bent in an unnatural direction, something she only seemed to notice belatedly, staring at it with a wide-eyed look on her face as Tattoo dropped to a knee next to her.

"Hey, are you with me?"

"What the frak was that?" Digger's frazzled voice called down from the gunner's seat.

"Silver, I need you to focus, darling. Can you get to the seats?" Tattoo asked as she took Silver's hand in her own and with the other grabbed the nearby splint kit meant for one of the evacuees off the floor. She wrapped it around the woman's slender wrist already beginning to swell and let the device do its near-magic.

"I-I think so," Silver's voice sounded frail as she sat up. "Ouch! That hurts!"

"Sorry," Tattoo replied with a grimace, guiding her toward the row of seating and helping her to belt in. It was then that she realized what felt so strangely out of place.

Boogie was missing.

Tattoo jerked upright in alarm, looking down the short row of stairs to the airlock door. It was sealed, red lights still blinking around the perimeter. Her eyes swept the rest of the cabin with growing concern. The ship was as empty of him as it was of anyone else beyond herself, Silver, and Digger still up high in the gunner's perch. She was on her feet in an instant running back to the cockpit, throwing herself into the pilot's seat.

The comms light came on with a button press. "Pod Nine, do you read? Pod Nine, acknowledge!" Tattoo demanded, feeling sick to her stomach.

"Where's Boogie?" Silver asked blearily from the back, noticing only then.

"Pod Nine!" Tattoo worked hard to keep the growing panic from her voice. "This is Mercy Two, please respond!" She waited two breaths. No response. Flicking to another channel, she tried again more directly.

"Boogie, this is Tattoo." Silence. "Boogie, please..."

"TIE inbound!" Digger roared above the soft whirr of his seat's servos, bringing weapons to bear. Tattoo could hear the sharp, metallic burst as those KX7 cannons came online and fired off a salvo under the Dug's trigger.

Tattoo scrambled to bring up the nav computer's map, wasting precious seconds while she allowed the U-Wing's sensors to make a scan for the Nautillan escape pod. Nothing.

"Tatt!" Digger broke her concentration from above. "Get us the frak out of here!" The shrill repeating noise accompanying his cannonfire threatened to drown out his gravelly voice.

"I'm on it!" She cried, slamming the throttle forward. There was no time to do anything but run.

The U-Wing's engines came online with a vengeance, burning hard and hurtling them forward even as the enemy craft came into view. Tattoo jerked the yolk forward and to the right, and the ship darted downward, spiraling away from the TIE Fighter's advance.

Emerald laserfire screamed by the transparisteel viewshield, missing or deflected by the shields. Digger returned fire.

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Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Simulator Room

Anton sat and watched the simulated tilt taking place on the prominent view screen in the sim room. It periodically shifted from one perspective to another amongst the two participants. One pilot, the younger one, was flying intently and focused on his target. The other, the drunk one, was all over the place. At one point he was chasing a meteor rather than his opponent. Despite all of that, the younger pilot never seemed to get an advantage in the dogfight.

"It's almost like that old movie!" Gremlin giggled.

"What's that now?" Anton asked, bringing his attention back to the room rather than the contest at hand.

"You know, that one where the Teras Kasi master was only able to kick butt when he was drunk... Drunken... Adept?"

It clicked in Anton's mind after a moment. "Oh! Drunken Master!"

Gremlin snapped her fingers. "That's the one! Man, that actor was great."

"I heard he did all of his own stunts," Anton replied.

Wolf smiled as he interjected himself into the sidebar. "I do my own stunts in the cockpit. When do I get my fame and fortune?"

Anton chuckled. "But do you do it while wasted?"

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Battle of Endor

Green Five

POV: Ant

"They're down... I can't believe it!" Glenn's voice came over the comms. "The shields on that blasted station are down!"

"We may actually pull this off!" Erol Massani yelled.

Anton watched as Green Three did a brief spin. Normally, this would have come with a reprimand, but Commander Crynyd seemed not to mind.

"Damn right, this is it boys and girls!" Crynyd said.

Green Leader streaked past Anton's cockpit, expertly maneuvering around a trio of gun towers. The TIE chasing him wasn't so lucky, clipping its wing on the second tower. It careened directly into the third tower, exploding across its surface.

Anton streaked forward, opening up with his lasers onto another TIE that had banked right and was tracking Green Leader. The lasers tore through the ship's armor and it disappeared in a fireball. As he leveled his A-Wing out, Anton's eyes focused on the massive, circular shield generator.

"Hey Green Seven, you down for a run like old times?"

"Hold on that, Green Five." Commander Crynyd's voice answered before Glenn could. "I'm getting word over the comms. Some Reds and Golds are heading into the Death Star. They need support. Greens Three, Four, and Seven, you've volunteered. Meet them on the approach.

"Roger that," Came a trio of replies.

"Looks like you get to take the whole ball yourself." Glenn joked as he turned his A-Wing around and, with Green Three and Green Four, disappeared around a cluster of the Executor's towers.

"I'm gonna leave you with one ball when all this shit is over," Anton threatened jokingly.

"Cut the chatter, continue focusing on the weapons systems!" Lt. L'ampar commanded. There was a pause before L'ampar continued. "You can grab each other later."

"Sir!" Anton laughed in acknowledgment. He grinned, his eyes focusing on the shield generator as his A-Wing took off towards his new target.

The disruption of the Death Star's shields seemed to significantly embolden the squadron. Even L'ampar seemed to have lightened up slightly. Anton managed to push any thoughts of celebration to the back of his mind. There was still the Death Star to contend with. And---

"SPAST!" Anton yelled, yanking his A-Wing to the right. A trio of TIEs had seemingly appeared out of nowhere and went streaking past him, firing their weapons as they did. One of the lasers glanced off of his shields. He snarled. Getting real sick of this trio formation the Empire's doing. It was a very simple, yet very effective tactic that the Empire had taken to using: two TIE Fighters and a TIE interceptor in the middle.

Anton was just debating whether or not to turn and engage, when something came across the comms that made the grin slide off of his face.

"Three, watch your left. YOUR LE----" Static took over as Glenn's transmission was cut off.

"I don't see----" came Three's reply, his statement cut short as well.

For yet another time that day, Anton felt the ringing in his ears begin to take over. He had lost another squadmate and now... his best friend. He felt his eyes begin to burn. That was it. His wingman, his squadmate that he had flown with since the beginning... Gone... He didn't even know the status of Lt. Bey. Any and all attempts to hail her were met with silence.

"We've got to give those fighters more time!" Admiral Ackbar's gravelly voice cuts in. "Concentrate all firepower on that Super Star Destroyer!"

"What does he think we've been doing all this time?" Crynyd replied over the squad frequency sarcastically. "Five, Two, take out the shield generators!"

Anton gritted his teeth and pushed forward, doing everything he could to fight back the tears that were on the verge of spilling down his face.

"The generator, the generator, the generator." He repeated to himself. Directly in front of him, he saw Green Two come from around a tower and fall into place in front of him.

"Follow me, Five." Lt. L'ampar commanded. "Let's give those Imperials something to fear."

"Roger that, sir." Anton acknowledged.

He followed Green Two in an arc over the remaining few towers, space suddenly appearing in all directions. Anton had been flying among the base of the Executor that he had briefly forgotten where this battle was taking place.

"Left of center, put all your remaining HM-6s into it!" L'ampar transmitted as Anton watched his A-Wing fire onto the massive generator. The shots impacted on target, and Anton followed up with his own barrage, unloading his remaining three missiles at the same spot.

For a brief moment, Anton thought that something had gone wrong. Before worry could seep into his mind, however, the tower exploded, sending a massive hunk of metal flying directly under his A-Wing.

"Whoaaa!" Anton yelled, pulling his A-Wing to the left hard and just barely avoiding the gigantic spray of fire.

"Nice work, Green Five!" L'ampar said as the pair leveled out.

"Our cap ships gonna take that down, or is that what those B-Wings have been waiting for? The bridge?" A quick scan of his surroundings showed him that the massive super star destroyer was still a threat without shields, as an unfortunate X-Wing disintegrated instantly as it took a direct hit from a turbolaser tower.

"The bridge." L'ampar confirmed. "They should ha---"

"AAAAAAAAAARGH!" A long, drawn out scream came over the comm, interrupting their exchange.

"Who was that!?!" Liasa Pugan's voice came over the comms.

The comms across the channel went silent as, from their respective positions around the Executor, all of the remaining members of Green Squadron watched their commander's A-Wing go spinning out of control. One of Green Leader's engines sparked heavily as he twisted and turned, and yet, Anton watched the ship. Even in his ship's death throes, Commander Crynyd arced the A-Wing down, directly at... the bridge of the Executor.

In equal parts horror and admiration, Anton watched the ship plow directly into the central command section of the bridge, sending a geyser of fire out of the entry point. Soon, the entire bridge began to erupt in flames and the Executor itself began to dive out of control, plowing itself into the completed portion of the Death Star like a dagger stabbing a ripe meiloorun fruit. One of the largest geysers of flame he'd ever seen erupted out of the impact zone, as if it were another flaming super laser lancing out toward his A-Wing.

"By the Whills..." Liasa's voice came over the comms.

"Ten, on your---!" Anton didn't finish the transmission. A pair of TIE fighters, taking advantage of Liasa's distracted state, had sighted in on her. Anton numbly watched as Green Ten disappeared in a fireball, the TIEs flying off across the stricken, dropping Executor.

"Come on, Red and Gold." Anton said aloud. "Come on... We can't take much more of this."

"They aren't paying us enough for this," Pick grumbled.

"Let's take that payment in blood," Anton replied.

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Simulator Room

Rogue wandered around the halls until he finally found the simulator room where Gremlin had said she was going. After almost walking by the door, he stopped and backtracked as he heard the sounds of cheering going on. He peeked his head around the corner and saw the same gaggle of pilots he passed on his way to the refreshers earlier.

"Took you long enough!" Gremlin shouted, walking over and pulling him into the room.

Rogue shrugged. "You never can tell how these Mon Cals are going to be laid out the way they build them."

"Or," Gremlin dug an elbow into his ribs, "you could have just come with us and used that fresher right across the hall," she said as she pointed to the pristine-looking refresher doors.

Rogue facepalmed. "Of course there's a fresher right here."

"You're here now, that's all that matters!" Gremlin replied cheerfully.

"You run into anybody else? I thought I heard Lock and Rev in passing, but couldn't find them," Rogue asked.

"We're it as far as I know," Gremlin replied. "I can't imagine they were transferred after the last run we had, but you never know what command is thinking..."

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Battle of Endor

Red Eight

POV: Rogue

"The shield is down! Commence attack on the Death Stars main reactor."

"We're on our way. Red group, Gold group, all fighters follow me."

"About kriffing time, at least we've got a chance now Shade!" Rogue shouted at his astromech. Shade gave a high pitched whistle in reply. "You got it little fella, all we got to do now is survive this." Rogue threw his X-Wing into an aggressive manoeuvre as he tried to get onto the tail of a TIE Interceptor that was going after a B-Wing.

One of the laser bolts from the X-Wing impacted the fuselage, for several seconds, the TIE Interceptor seemed to be on fire as flames crawled over the hull of the Imperial fighter. Something critical must have failed in the enemy ship; an explosion consumed most of it leaving bits of rapidly cooling molten blobs hurtling off into space.

Rogue had ended up fighting near the fleet's flagship, Home One. He was listening to the comms chatter coming from Gold and Red leaders as they made their way through the superstructure of the Death Star, on their way to try and destroy its power generator.

"We've got to give those fighters more time. Concentrate all fire on that super Star Destroyer!"

As the Admiral was speaking, Rogue was chasing down a TIE Fighter that had flown close to the bridge of Home One. The TIE Fighter headed away from the Alliance flagship possibly heading back to Imperial lines or to initiate another attack run on the Alliance flagship. As Rogue closed in on the TIE, a Star Destroyer in the distance exploded, one moment it was there, the next there was nothing left. This seemed to distract the enemy pilot as Rogue managed to get a lock on the TIE Fighter, one burst of quad weapons fire and the TIE Fighter was destroyed. He pulled his fighter up and headed towards the Super Star Destroyer.

Already Alliance capital ships had started firing at the massive Imperial ship. Turbolaser fire seemed to be peppering the Imperial flagship from all Alliance cruisers and in some areas getting through the weakened shields and impacting on the Executor's hull. As Rogue drew closer to the massive ship he saw two A-Wing's make an attack run on one of the shield towers, both fighters firing the concussion missiles they had. As the two A-Wings's sped away, the shield tower had taken too much damage and blew apart. Rogue was heading towards the rear of the super Star Destroyer as the display on his X-Wing's HUD showed that two of the outer engines on the right of the Executor had taken heavy damage. Targeting one of the engines and switching over to proton torpedoes, he made his attack run.

A Y-Wing had formed up on the right side of Rogue's X-Wing, no communication was needed, and both pilots knew what needed to be done. He squeezed the trigger and sent every torpedo he had left towards the targeted engine, the Y-Wing that had joined him was doing the same thing at the other damaged engine. Both fighters peeled off as the torpedoes headed towards their targets. With the Executor's shields severely weakened, the torpedoes tore into the damaged engines and completely destroyed them, adding to the damage being inflicted on the Super Star Destroyer.

Rogue winced as there was a scream over the comms that lasted several seconds before it abruptly stopped. There was a huge jet of flame coming from the bridge of the Executor, smaller explosions were also starting to appear along the command tower. The Super Star Destroyer was caught in the gravity well of the Death Star and now with the primary control for the ship destroyed it was pulled down into the Death Star.

The Executor plunged into the Death Star, the tip of the Super Star Destroyer piercing and driving deep into the metal, smashing through decks and levels like they were made of nothing. The Executor exploded and where the ship had impacted into the surface of the Death Star there was now a huge wall of flame twice the size being spewed forth from the Death Star.

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Simulator Room

Commander 9-LOM "Syntax" walked into the simulator room, pausing for the briefest of instants to survey the inhabitants and reference any previous strands of inquisition he needed could be found here. There were 24 simulator pods spaced evenly around the room, but only 2 were in use. There was a small group of pilots gathered around a display on the rear of one of the active pods. Flight Officer Mike Krenn, callsign Wolf, Human male, Corsair Squadron. 2nd Lt. John Vorwald, callsign Knight, Human male, Corsair Squadron. Flight Officer Anton Whitemont, Callsign Ant, Human male, Currently Unassigned. Flight Officer Gemilan, Callsign "Gremlin", Zeltronian female, Currently Unassigned, Lieutenant Paul Sweet, callsign "Rogue, Currently Unassigned.

Seeing no strands of inquisition with any of these beings, he turned around and began to leave when his auditory receptors heard a collective shout of admiration and applause as well as a younger human male shout "Kriffing Dog! What in the Sith was THAT maneuver?!".

Strand of inquisition present? Move in for closer examination. Syntax turned back around and approached the gathered crowd, noting that both active sim pods were opening, and a young human male was hopping out and quickly approaching the other. Flight Officer Kyle Reynolds, callsign Junior, Human male, Corsair Squadron.

"Junior's never heard of Segnor's Loop!" Wolf guffawed. The others joined in with his laughter. "You all owe me some credits. I knew my boy could do it even after tossing back a few!"

"For the record, BD, I never would have bet against you under normal circumstances..." Knight hedged dubiously.

Junior continued approaching the other sim pod. "What in the Hutt's Bucket is the Segnor's Loop?" he questioned. The young pilot stopped in his tracks the moment he saw Syntax and immediately stood to attention, throwing up a salute. "Sir!" The other pilots followed suit.

He initialized his vocabulator, "As you were, pilots. Flight Officer Reynolds, regarding your query - Segnor's Loop is a snub fighter strategy where the pilot feigns a retreat before doubling back and making a secondary unexpected attack." He paused momentarily as he wirelessly downloaded the logs of the sim for the dogfight that just occurred. In another moment, he saw the maneuver Junior was tricked by, and watched the scenario play out in 8x speed. "You performed a split S. That's the last thing you should do. Your opponent is tight on your tail and has you in his sights. A Defensive Spiral maneuver would have been a more suitable maneuver from your position. This would have allowed you to possibly force an overshoot and regain the advantage or at least get back to a neutral turning battle or flat scissors."

The young flight officer had a confused look on his face, but he shook it off quickly. "Sir, thank you sir."

The occupant of the other sim pod finally levered himself out of the faux-pit with great difficulty and stood with the rest of the pilots, placing a stabilizing hand on the sim pod frame. "Heyyy kid, no sweat. Thisssis' how yougetbetter. Keep flying against people that have been doing it for a while and you'll learn new tricksss," the Human pilot said with a sloppy smile, a lot of sweat beading his forehead. Swiping it away clumsily with his sleeve, he continued, "and HEY, s'not like you made it easyonme. Yer a NATURAL. The only reason I'm being hard on you s'that I donlike seeing new pilots get killed out there where it countssss Y'know, bro?"

Syntax focused his optical receptors on the new individual. Flight Officer Andy Clark, callsign Bulldog, Corsair Squadron. He warmed up his vocalizers again. "Flight Officer Clark is correct. Keep honing your skills here and they won't let you down out there." He canted his head toward Bulldog and continued, "Flight Officer, I would like to have a word with you if you have a moment to interface briefly?" While he waited an electronic eternity for the human's response, he instantaneously referenced the public and private scheduler for Bulldog and knew full well he had a clean slate for the rest of the evening. Still, it's polite to ask, as annoying as it is.

"Ssssure, Commanderrrrr," Bulldog replied a little blearily. "What can I do y'for?"

Syntax fixed his visual receptors more closely on the pilot and engaged his biometric scan subroutines. High BAC detected. He paused a microsecond to consider addressing the pilot's inebriation, but ultimately decided to avoid the confrontation on the pilot's down time. "I have been referencing the after action reports and the flight recorder data from several of our squadron's pilots at Endor, and I wanted to know what was going on in your mind when you..."

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Battle of Endor

Yellow Six

POV: Bulldog

Bulldog continued to split his attention between his sensor lock on the Interdictor in his forward arc and the blackness of his rear arc as he strained his eyes looking for the pursuing TIEs. "I can't see them, Five," he said nervously.

Icestorm's strained voice responded, "Busy, Six. This last guy is really good. Seven, can you scrape this bandit off my tail? My shields are almost gone!"

"I need you to turn to port to set up a Corellian Slip, Five!" Knight responded. "That's it. That's it... Break to starboard on my mark... 3. 2. 1. Mark! FIRING!"

"That got him Seven," Icestorm replied, the relief evident in his voice. "Good shooting, Knight."

"No problem, Five," Knight replied. "Six, we're in pursuit. Those TIEs are almost at maximum laser range for you! Prepare to take evasive action."

"How far away are you guys?!" Bulldog felt panic rising in his stomach.

After a pause that seemed like an eternity, Icestorm finally responded. "6 km, Boss. You're going to be alone for about 2 minutes. We've dumped more energy into our engines to catch up. Hang tough."

Bulldog's ship shuddered and startled him. His shield indicator showed his rear shields took a heavy salvo from his pursuit. "Sithspawn!" He cursed as he threw his A-Wing into a spiraling corkscrew. The maneuver kept his crosshairs and sensors locked onto the growing silhouette Interdictor Star Destroyer, but made his ship much harder to hit from his pursuers. Verdant bolts of death filled the space around his ship as he was shoved all over his cockpit by the g-forces of his maneuvers. Every so often his ship would bounce with the impact of another laser bolt, but the odd stray bolt didn't do nearly as much damage as the full salvo he absorbed moments ago. Still though, I'm not going to make it to the target at this rate! He shunted his shield energy to be stronger aft to protect himself.

A keening alarm drew his attention to his sensor board. "What now," he muttered as his gut went ice cold once he realized what the alarm signified. The Interdictor Cruiser had gotten a sensor lock on his A-Wing and launched a missile, following his sensor lock back to the source. The zoomed in picture of the interdictor on his fighter's main display showed the warhead burping out of the launcher near the bridge. After a lazy turn, it headed directly for him. "I've got a missile coming straight at me!" More laser hits fizzled against his aft shields, draining them to dangerously low levels. "Blast it, Ice, where are you?!" He started to randomize his weave to reduce the likelihood of the TIES predicting his position. However, a quick glance over his shoulder showed him just how close the quartet of TIES were to him. I'm finished! he thought with a mild sense of fatalism. But I'm not making it easy on you Huttlovers! He quickly cycled his shields again to refresh the shields in his aft section, leaving his frontal arc completely unprotected. The ship bucked again with another heavy blast, and a piece of his hull over his fore access panel flew off in a shower of sparks. Another keening alarm wailed in his cockpit. Hazarding a glance to his display, he saw two systems damaged: His inertial compensator and his targeting camera array. The latter limited him to visual range, and the first protected him from the worst of his maneuvers. Well, it looks like I'm going to really feel the rest of this fight! He looked up from the display and strained his eyes forward to see if the missile was close yet, then looked back over his shoulder frantically to check his pursuit. He shunted all remaining laser energy into his shields to replenish what was just lost to prevent any other damaging shots.

Just then, two of the TIES in the rear of the formation erupted into violent balls of shrapnel.

"Splash two!" Knight's voice whooped over the comms. "We're almost there, Six!"

"The last two are making a missile lock difficult, Six," Icestorm reported. "They might overshoot you if we can get some ranging shots past them, but we're still out of laser range."

Bulldog looked forward and thought he saw the small flare of the Interdictor's missile against the white bulk of the Interdictor's hull. A tight smile formed on his lips as sweat dripped off the tip of his nose. I know what I'm going to do with you. He straightened out his flight path a bit and slowed his throttle. He glanced back over his shoulder to check the position of the TIEs continuing to send lasers all around him. That's it, keep coming in... He looked forward again, his ship shaking more regularly as lasers found their mark more often. The shield alarm started wailing in his cockpit, letting him know his protection was dangerously low. Almost there...

"Six, you need to keep jinking! You're a wallowing Hutt!" Icestorm's voice pleaded over the comms. "Seven, what is he doing? Is he damaged?"

Bulldog sucked in a deep gulp of air and held it. The missile bearing down on him was getting dangerously close. Annnnd..... NOW! He snapped his stick to the right and pulled up briefly, making sure to keep his crosshairs on the Interdictor for the incoming friendly torpedo barrage. The deep breath he was holding was punched out of his chest as the g-forces shoved him back into his pilot couch. The missile passed harmlessly underneath his A-Wing, unable to compensate for the sudden and violent maneuver. It instantly slammed through the transparisteel cockpit of one of the TIEs pumping lasers into his shields. He panted heavily as the forces on his body lifted slightly.

The other TIE fighter panicked and veered off to starboard to avoid the cloud of shrapnel that was his wingman moments ago. Bulldog snapped his craft back to the left and was thrown deep into his pilot couch as he executed a tight Tallon Roll to position himself to the aft of the remaining TIE. His vision began to gray out heavily and tunnel as the g-forces of the maneuver continued to try and force him through the bottom of his seat. "E chu ta!" Bulldog grunted through clenched teeth as he held down the trigger on his flight stick, cycling his underpowered lasers mercilessly into the twin ion engines of the shield-less TIE. While underpowered, crimson bolts hurled from his dual RG-9 laser cannons still melted the armor where they hit, and his 5th shot landed at the base of one of the thrust nozzles of the TIE's engines and welded it shut. The TIE began to corkscrew wildly away from the fight and began flying a tight circle as one half of the thrust was at full power, careening off in the direction of the Death Star chasing it's own aft end every few seconds.

"Holy Life Day!" Knight exclaimed. "What a maneuver!"

"That's my DOG!" Icestorm whooped. "That dude's going to be riding that vomit comet until somebody picks him up!"

Bulldog joined them with a weak "Whooooooooo!", relief flooding through him as he was able to breathe again. Unfortunately, it was short-lived elation as his canopy was awash in green light from a nearby turbolaser blast. "Stang!" He cursed, focusing back on the mission at hand. The fight had taken him within the maximum firing range of the Interdictor's conventional weaponry. He immediately threw his craft into another weave to make it harder for the Imperial gunners to track and started recharging his shields and lasers, constantly dumping the laser energy into his shields to make them recharge faster. Despite the maneuvers alternately graying and redding out his vision, he made sure to toggle his shields so they faced forward, and grimaced to see that he only had a faint red bar in the front, indicating less than a 25% defensive screen. Even a glancing blow will likely fry my ship. FOCUS!

"The warhead salvo should be on target in the next 30 seconds, Yellow Six!" Pezdah's gravelly voice reported. "The extra salvo will be there 30 seconds after that! Stay on target!"

"Roger that, Pez," Bulldog panted, narrowly avoiding another massive green bolt of energy. More blasts were tracking his new position as well as some firing wildly trying to predict his next position and restrict his maneuvering options. They're trying to box me in. Of COURSE we run into the one rearguard interdictor that has competent gun crews.

"Six, what if we send a spread of missiles into the shield domes?" Icestorm's voice inquired.

"Tough target... to hit. Recessed... on bridge... try it," Bulldog replied between maneuvers, gulping in large breaths of air to keep himself awake. He gritted his teeth again as he jinked away from another wall of light headed his way.

"Let's do it," Knight said. "I'll take the Port, You take the Starboard, Five. Keep that lock on the ship however you can, Six."

"Heavy... fire..." Bulldog mumbled, shaking his head to clear his vision repeatedly.

"We see it, Six. We'll give them something else to worry about," Knight replied. "Fire all of your remaining missiles at your tower now, Five!" 9 concussion missiles streaked toward the starboard dome, while 8 rushed toward the port shield dome.

Almost immediately, the fire slackened around Bulldog as the gunnery crews attempted to track the new incoming threats from a different sector of space. He winced as a particularly well aimed blast vaporized 3 missiles in one shot. However, none of the other shots found their mark, and 14 concussion missiles slammed into the two recessed shield domes with great accuracy. Both domes overloaded and exploded in an eruption of debris and fire jetting up from their recessed locations on the bridge tower. Great shooting! Targets... tiny.

Seconds later, the salvo of warheads launched by the support ships arrived on the scene and slammed into the dorsal surface of the hull near the port gravity wells. The localized shields for that section were overloaded instantly without the augmented strength from the primary shield domes and the Nova Flare stratagem proved again why it is so deadly against the Imperial capital ships. After the first few warheads exploded against the weak shields, the remaining line of explosive projectiles plowed into the hull and tore massive gashes into the protective armor. Secondary explosions deep inside the hull continued to buckle the durasteel near the wide impact crater. Bulldog nudged his stick to the starboard and centered his reticle on the other half of the target and the secondary salvo slammed into the other gravity wells, destroying them instantly as well.

"This thing's out of commission!" Knight howled triumphantly. "Let's head back to the main fleet and get back in the fight!"

Almost out of commission. The turbolaser fire from the Interdictor was sporadic and random as systems failed all over the stricken capital ship. He closed in and flew close to the hull to remove the chance of one of these random blasts from ruining his day. He jammed his throttle forward to speed back up now that he wasn't trying to keep the interdictor in front of his craft. Trench Run disease in full effect here, Bulldog grinned as he was glad that the Imperials still refused to add smaller point defense lasers to their capital ships, making them extremely vulnerable to snub fighters closing in and surface-flying along their hulls. He raced up the ship from the frontal tip of the wedge and charged toward the bridge tower toward the aft. Within seconds he reached his desired position, he pulled up on the stick and centered his crosshairs on the bridge viewport. Thumbing over his weapons control to warheads, he mashed the trigger to unleash two concussion missiles. The missiles flew true and a geyser of fire erupted out of the bridge viewport. Bodies of Imperial officers and bridge crew hurtled out of the hole as the vacuum of space was no longer held at bay. I hope they saw that entire situation develop and felt just as hopeless as I was when I watched them kill my father's disabled ship at Hoth!

The trio of A-Wings formed up to the aft of the stricken Interdictor and matched speed with Bulldog's ship as he continued to charge his shields and lasers, taking a long loop back toward the opposite side of the Death Star to return to the fight at hand.

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Observation Lounge

He was alone. But for the first time in three days, Commander Dobson felt at ease. Leaning against the frame of one of the portside windows in the surprisingly empty Community Room, he gazed down at the uninhabited planet they were orbiting. Rich blue bodies of water, lush green continents, and swirling weather patterns over several regions created a picturesque piece of tranquility. Yes, the Second Death Star had been destroyed weeks ago, but not without great cost to the Alliance and the Imperial Navy. So much death, he thought. But we're so much closer to restoring the Galactic Republic from the Empire.

He heard the entryway door hiss open behind him. Turning his head slightly to the left he made out Dia entering the room dressed in her squadron flight suit. With the Liberty being the first Alliance ship destroyed by the new Death Star, all their personal belongings had been vaporized with the rest of the ship. Procuring new clothing, while not impossible, was more challenging and less of a priority due to the intensive post-battle logistics the Alliance fleet was trying to coordinate. Medical supplies and personnel transfers were more of a priority than a fresh pair of socks. Or undergarments.

"Commander," she said as she greeted him. "Didn't expect to find you here." She leaned her body in a relaxed position against the opposite side of the frame, her hands crossed at her waist.

"Captain," he replied with a nod. "No Bee-Dee-Bee-Two with you?"

"No," she said with a slight grin, "I left the little scamp in my temporary quarters to recharge his power cells." She turned to look down at the swirling gas giant the Vigilant was currently in a holding position over. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"Agreed," replied Dobson, returning his gaze to the varying hues intermixing in what must have been very violent storms on the planet.

Neither one of them said another word for what seemed like several minutes. In truth, they hadn't had a chance to really talk or see one another since the battle. The awkwardness of being found and reprimanded still felt fresh. Ten Numb had temporarily taken over the duties of slotting in flying duty assignments – at the behest of Wing Commander Reynolds. After what seemed like an eternity, he was the first one to break the silence. "So ... how are you doing? After the battle and all?"

She turned to face him, looking down for a moment then tilted her head back up to meet his gaze. "Still a bit shaken, at times. But, uh, I'm doing good. Saw one of the ship's counsellors to deal with some anxiety. Spent some time in the ship's gym to work off stress after patrols. But, otherwise, good."

"That's, uh, good to hear, Captain," he replied. Sithspit, this is so awkward he thought to himself.

After a moment Dia opened her mouth and continued. "And, actually, it's Major now."

"Major?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yes. I finished patrol duty a little over an hour ago. Wing Commander asked to see me again on the way back from the flight deck. While he did commend my service to the squadron, especially during Endor, he also made it clear that my actions in your quarters were... inappropriate. Which I completely understand." She glanced away momentarily before she looked back at him. Her mouth and eyes gave a clear signal that she was sad about something. "I should also let you know," she continued, "that in addition to this being entered on my personal record ... I'm being transferred."

"Transferred?" he choked out in surprise. "Where?"

"I'm being transferred to General Syndulla's group. I don't know any more than that, other than they need someone with experience to fill the ranks of her squadron."

He was a bit taken aback at this. He'd had a stern, though somewhat understanding, discussion with Reynolds about what had happened. And in truth, she did come on to him. But he was partly responsible as well. It didn't seem fair that he had a demerit put on his file while she had consequences that were more severe.

"I also owe you an apology. I didn't intend for this to happen, especially to your record and credibility. My actions were ... unacceptable. I'm sorry."

He blinked at her, processing everything that was happening. "I'm sorry, too," he said sympathetically after a moment. "It's unfair, but –"

"No, no buts," she said, cutting him off. He knew better than to argue with her over this, and nodded his head slightly.

"So," he said after a moment, "when do you leave?"

"In a few hours. Shipping out with some other personnel and materials once the deck crews get them organized."

It was far too short of a time to do anything about it, and he was on patrol duty soon. This was not how he wanted to spend his final moments with her, as sudden as this all was. To say it stung a little was an understatement. Standing up straighter, he took two steps over to her and took her hands, squeezing them gently. "Then I guess that now is as good a time as ever to say thank you," he told her.

"For what?" she asked, slightly surprised.

"For having my back during the battle," he replied. "For being a great officer despite the outcome. And for being one of the more interesting – and incredibly beautiful – individuals who has entered my life."

There was no missing the blushing smile that grew across her face. "You are too sweet," she said standing up a bit straighter. She also gently squeezed his hands. "Thank you for having my back. I don't know what--"

Just then the entryway doors hissed open again. They both turned to see Lt. Colonel Reynolds standing in the doorway. They immediately dropped their hands and twisted to face him, each taking a step away from one another.

"Relax, you two," he said holding up both hands as the door hissed shut behind him. "It's okay, I'm off duty as well. Not here to reprimand you." Dobson was fairly certain that he and Dia both gave a slight sigh of relief at the same time.

"Something we can do for you, sir?" Dobson asked.

"Was just on my way to the mess hall to grab a bite to eat. Morrison mentioned he'd seen Dia heading this way, and I thought I'd check here. Wanted to let you know that there was an error in scheduling. Your shuttle isn't set to head out until oh-eight hundred tomorrow morning."

Dia paused for a moment before saying, "Thank you, sir. I'll be sure to be ready then."

Reynolds paused for a moment before continuing. "It's also my understanding that there is a holovid feature showing in the Recreation Room later this evening. It, uh, might be a nice activity to attend. Especially with recent events."

Dobson blinked for a second or two. "Thank you, sir," he said awkwardly. "I'll be sure to look into it later."

"You lovebirds should," he said, turning back towards the door. As it hissed open, he glanced over his left shoulder. "I know I would if I were you." The doors hissed shut as he left.

Dobson and Dia turned to stare at one another in surprise and confusion. "Do you think he has us bugged with trackers? Or is it divine providence he shows up at just the right time to interrupt things?" Dia asked.

"If he does, he'll give me a heart attack one of these days," Dobson replied. "That, or he is actively trying to shorten my lifespan by a few years."

"Well then," said Dia as she moved closer and slid her arms around him, "we'd better enjoy this while you're still young."

Before he could say anything she reached up with one hand and pulled his head closer to hers. Her soft, warm lips pressed softly to his. He wasn't sure how much time had passed before she pulled away, but he was fairly certain he was not standing on solid ground as his feet must have mysteriously grown wings, levitating him off the ground. He felt his face become red from the surprise kiss.

"That was a good warm up," she said with a grin. "There may also be an encore after the show this evening. It would be a shame if you didn't attend."

She will be the end of my career, he thought privately. "Encores are nice," he replied, trying to keep his voice level while not being overly enthusiastic. "Provided the encore doesn't get us into any further trouble, of course."

"I've learned my lesson," she said with a small laugh. "I'll see you there." She gave him a final kiss on the cheek before making her way to the door. "One more thing," she said as she turned around and slowed her walking pace while moving backwards. "We're both due for some shore leave in a few months. I expect you to let me know when yours is. An exotic location would be nice. With flowers. Some place where we can be ... flexible," she finished with a wink. He was fairly certain that his heart had decided to leap out of his throat and enter its own orbit somewhere in the vastness of space.

And with that, she was gone.

Oh yeah, he thought as he tried to process what she had said. She will definitely be the end of my career. Checking the chronometer on the wall nearest the door, he saw the time and made his way to the exit to get ready for duty. It was still a long road to defeating the Imperial Navy, but now more than ever he had something to look forward to once this conflict was over.

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Battle of Endor

Blue Leader

POV: Dobber

The cloud of TIEs had been lessened in the last 5 minutes of the battle, but they weren't completely leaving him alone. Having their escorts pulled to cover the fighters making a run on the recently shield-less Death Star had left the 9 fighters of Blue Squadron dangerously exposed. Pairs of TIEs and Interceptors would scythe through the B-Wing formation in quick hit and fade attacks periodically. Riot Squadron's A-wings were nearby, but heavily engaged in a vicious furball themselves and unable to render aid. Blue 10 had been the victim of an unlucky collision with two TIEs 30 seconds earlier. The tougher B-Wing had survived the collision, but not without damage to the flight controls. It was shortly cleaned up by the TIE's wingman as Dobber and the rest of Blue Squadron watched helplessly, the whole scene having happened in an instant. It's a wonder that sort of thing hasn't happened more during this battle!

Dobber jinked to starboard to avoid a turbolaser blast the Imperial Star Destroyer Annihilator's gunners sent his way from long range. He pulled the yoke of his battered B-Wing to the left to avoid the follow up Ion blast. It was close enough that the hairs on his arms stood up as a slight electric tingle traveled from the yoke up his arms. "Son of a Sith!"

The Executor, the flagship of the Imperial fleet, had recently crashed itself into the incomplete Death Star, flames and wreckage were still erupting from the impact zone. The effect on the Imperial fleet had been instantaneous. Star Destroyers and other support ships slipped out of formation, as if unsure whether to stay and fight with the centerpiece of their defense gone or to make a fighting retreat. The sudden lapse in coordination had been seized upon by the rebel fleet, with several more capital ships falling to withering fire.

His ship bucked violently with a sustained blast from one of his pursuing bandits. FOCUS! "Little help here?" He called out nervously across the squad frequency. Green blasts flew by either side of his cockpit as he made evasive jinks to either side.

"Roger, Blue Leader," Dia's voice replied. "I'll be there in 10 seconds!"

His ship continued to shudder as he dumped laser energy into his shields to shore up the weakened defenses. Still though, his ship had performed admirably and taken the punishment he was promised it would. No way I'd still be alive in my old Wishbone! The target profile on this thing is extremely small. As if on cue, a turbolaser blast clipped the outer edge of his forward shields, draining them to a dangerously low level. "I'm not going to make it!"

"I got him!" Blue 8 shouted triumphantly. "You're clear, Lead!"

Relief flooded through Dobber as he flicked the shield direction toggle in his cockpit a few times, cycling them around to even out in both directions. "Thanks Eight. Good shooting!"

Before Blue 8 could finish his joyous whoop in response, static filled the line. His sensors displayed the message that Blue 8 had been destroyed.

"He took a turbolaser blast head on," the translation software droned in a neutral tone, letting Dobber know what Ten Numb's warbling Sullustan dialect had said but ignoring the unmistakable anguish the tone had belied. 7 of us left? Not good odds here. "Blue Lead to Blue Squadron, form up on my position. We're going to get this Destroyer for Ten and Eight if it's the last thing we do!"

"Roger, Lead" Summer's stressed voice replied. "Tighten up on One, Blues!"

The 7 B-Wings of Blue Squadron fell into a tight formation of overlapping shields for grouped protection. It reduced their maneuverability, but it also provided a much greater bubble of protection. "Launch all remaining torpedoes at the bridge on my mark," Dobber ordered. He checked his sensors and saw they were clear of the TIE threat for the immediate moment. "Watch your spacing for launch. 3, 2, 1. MARK!"

18 Proton Torpedoes belched forward, blue streaks flying straight and true toward their intended target.

"Hit the deck and skim the surface, Blues." Dia grunted. "Get below their line of fire!"

Dobber nodded in agreement, ignoring the slight breach in rank order. " Pop up at the last second and take aim at the bridge. Let's try to drill through that sucker!"

The 7 B-wings closed in with the Annihilator, only taking one direct turbolaser blast. The overlapped shields held, and nobody took any noticeable damage. "Animal, you ok? Looks like your shields took the brunt of that blast," Dobber asked. "Drop back to the rear of the formation!"

"I'm good, lead," Animal responded, his ship slowing to take a rear position in the pack to gain more protection as his shields recharged. "Got a little wobble in my controls, but she's holding together."

"Lead, the ship is starting to maneuver!" Prowler shouted urgently.

Dobber noticed the shift in position and grimaced. The new vector had taken him out of the lead on the attack run. "I see it, Four. Three, you're in first. We'll follow your run. Attack Pattern Delta!"

"Roger, Lead," Mighty responded, surging forward slightly while the rest of the Blues slowed into a straight line. Tri-linked scarlet lasers and similarly linked blue ion bolts alternately stitched their way up the star destroyer as Mighty's cruciform S-Foils rotated above his cockpit, allowing him a better look at his position in relation to the capital ship to avoid a collision while expertly alternating his weapon toggle to maximize the fire rate of his weapons.

Dobber nodded in admiration at the skill displayed. I didn't know this ship could do that! "Blues, follow him in, and for Force's sake, watch your S-Foil positioning!" He gripped his control yoke tightly and mirrored his lead striker's alternating weapon fire. The hull of the Annihilator sped by meters from his cockpit as his alternating red and blue fire fizzled against shields. As he reached about halfway along the length of the star destroyer, he nosed up and took aim at the same location Mighty's first shots landed against the weakened bridge shields.

"Lead, Four," Prowler chimed in. "My scopes show another two squadrons of TIEs inbound."

Dobber cursed inwardly. "Ok Blues. Finish your attack run and make an evasive dash for the Home One for covering fire!" He pulled away at the last minute, seeing his last triple laser blast melt the transparisteel of the main bridge viewport. "We'll have to hope this is enough to take this beast down."

"Your shots opened up the bridge, Lead! We're boring through with our runs," Animal reported from the end of the attack line.

"Blue Leader, this is Riot Lead. We'll intercept your pursuit at point 25 on your exit vector. They won't touch you."

"Roger Riot Lead," Dobber breathed with relief. "These guys are all yours, we're all outbound to that location." He switched frequencies back to his squad, "Rest easy, Blues. We've got some zoomies from Riot Squad inbound to intercept our pursuit."

"The Annihilator is retreating!" Dia shouted triumphantly. "Should we wheel around for another run, Lead?"

"Negative, Two. It's their lucky day. Let's recharge shields and see where the fleet needs us," Dobber replied, adjusting his ELS settings to maximize his shield recovery.

"I think I'm in love with this ship!" Mighty shouted happily. A chorus of cheers responded in kind.

Well, 5 short of a full chorus, Dobber thought sourly as he checked his sensors again to make sure no surprises were lurking nearby.

"Move the fleet away from the Death Star!" Ackbar's gravelly voice shouted over the supreme tactical frequency.

"All ships and fighters, this is Home One control. Disengage all aggressive actions and get away from the Death Star immediately!"

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

Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Docking Bay

Angel disembarked the shuttle into a relatively empty main docking bay. The first thing she noticed was how neat and orderly everything was, which was a definite departure from the norm she was used to aboard rebel ships. She still had a slight limp, and took the ramp down to the deck gingerly to avoid aggravating any of her prior injuries.

"You lost, pilot?" Somebody called from one of the offices along the wall.

"Not a pilot anymore!" She called back, trying to locate the other end of this conversation.

"Maybe for now you're not with that limp," a massive white alien she'd never seen before replied. "But you've got the posture and air of a pilot if I've ever seen one." The alien waved a large three-fingered hand, "name's Fossil, and I run the hangars."

"Jeni," Angel replied cordially, making a show to look around more closely and let out a whistle. "Cleanest hangar I've ever seen."

Fossil smiled, her already large head showing large white teeth to match. "And I plan to keep it that way for as long as I'm in charge."

Angel nodded. "Well then, I suppose I should report to you. I'm the new A-Wing mechanic."

"Ah, Lieutenant Courtner, previously Gold Three at Endor," Fossil replied. "You're famous."

"Famous is not the word I would use for it," Angel replied with a blush.

Fossil waved a massive hand dismissively. "Anybody that knows anything knows that it wasn't just Lando and Wedge that flew into that monstrosity. And three of the four others made it out alive, though one looks like she ended up worse for wear."

"Four new holes, neatly patched up by a lengthy bacta bath," Angel winced, remembering the queasy feeling of bobbing up and down in the viscous healing fluid.

"Well, you're new 'callsign' is Alpha One, and you're now my lead eggshell mechanic. I'll show you to your billet," Fossil replied, motioning toward the turbolifts.

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Battle of Endor

Gold Three

POV: Angel

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

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

Lieutenant Jeni "Angel" Courtner looked quickly left, spotting the YT-1300 just below. And ahead, the Death Star. That YT-1300 was the Millennium Falcon. Gold Leader. This was the moment to make a difference, the moment to avenge all those deaths, all those moments of terror that kept her up at night.

The moment to avenge her.

All fighters follow me.

"Yes sir," she said without keying the comm and kicked the A-wing into a tight turn to pull in behind the modified cargo hauler. It was fast, fast enough that she gave her A-wing all the lead it wanted to race behind. Angel let it run, like the wild animal it wanted to be, with its pilot barely hanging on.

The Death Star grew large. Soon, towers, gun emplacements, observation bubbles passed in a blur, engines screaming. Skimming the surface of the broken superstructure, she followed the Falcon as it pulled up hard and then kicked in all the rudder and stick available her, inertial compensators kicking into high gear as she turned into the yawning coolant shaft. One moment Angel saw the metal structure of the port's ring, and then suddenly it was all pipes and girders.

"Lock onto the strongest power source, it should be the power generator."

With a flick of her left hand on the throttle, she keyed in the command to her flight computer and a new waypoint flashed back at her. Girder. Pipe. Wire. She couldn't see any path ahead, so she clung close to Gold Leader's tail. If the Falcon could fit, so she could she.

"Form up. Stay alert, we could run out of space real fast."

No kidding, she thought as she rotated her craft in a half roll to avoid a half-constructed walkway. The ceiling narrowed and the walls began to close in. Her hands were so tight on the controls she felt her knuckles begin to cramp. She dare not look for her wingman, Jake Farrell. She knew he was somewhere up ahead, perhaps in front of the Falcon.

From behind her she heard a sound like screaming electrical wires. She knew those sounds, TIE Fighters. A bolt flew just over her cockpit and she juked slightly, her A-wing's left side scraping something as she did so. Sparks flew and she readjusted, heart climbing into her throat just as Gold Leader pulled into another terrifying turn. Grunting against the G, she kept pace just as the ceiling closed like a mouth about to swallow her.

She wanted to reach for the picture attached to her dash but she couldn't spare the time or the attention. Another juke. Half-turn. More speed. A sudden throttling back and then more laser blasts. A scream from Red Seven as his X-wing exploded. He was two spots behind her! Those TIE fighters were closing. Another shot hit the pipe just ahead of her and she rolled, pulling after the Falcon as more shots split the space between her engines.

I'm going to die right here and I won't even see it coming, she thought. Maybe that was a mercy. One flash of pain and it'd be all over. I hope it was quick for you, she thought to Kier's spirit.

The comm channel crackled with Gold Leader's voice. "Split up and head back to the surface and see if you can get a few of those TIE fighters to follow you!"

"Copy, Gold Leader," Jake replied, so calmly that Angel wondered how he was flying her wing. It was how Gold did it. The experienced watched the new, only she'd gotten separated from him during the battle, only being reunited moments ago.

The Falcon went left and Angel saw Jake pull right. Stick to your wingman, she thought and pulled hard after him. Behind her, Norra Wexley's Y-wing did the same, as well as two TIE fighters. The red-lit tunnel they found themselves in widened out and she had just enough room to roll right and avoid a shot from one TIE and nearly collided with her Y-wing trail. Shoving the throttle full forward, she boosted ahead of him, letting her fighter have its reign again.

Jake suddenly twisted left and she was going too fast to follow. Hurtling ahead, she saw a sheer wall rise up ahead of her and she pulled hard right. The G's mounted quickly, pushing her into her seat. Her flight instructor told her once that she had nearly an inhuman tolerance for G, but this tested that sorely. Her ribs hurt, her eyes feeling like they were going to pop in her skull. A TIE fighter smashed into a wall, exploding into slag. Hot metal blew across the pipe, but Angel found the opening and her tiny craft shot through it, hurtling into the dark.

Fingers tapping on her throttle controls quickly, she told her flight computer to map an exit to the surface. Its response was painfully slow. Flicking on her lights, she rotated her fighter, hopping a pipe, entering a crevice and shot out through a girder into another lit tunnel that looked far too similar to the last one.

Come on, come on...

Her comm crackled again. "There it is."

"All right, Wedge. Go for the power regulator on the north tower."

"Copy, Gold Leader. I'm already on my way out."

There was a sound, like a giant falling onto the floor above her quarters. Then an almost imperceptible thump. Suddenly, everything began to shake around her.

"Move the fleet away from the Death Star!" Admiral Ackbar's voice was distorted, interference heavy with static. Angel's eyes grew wide as her heart soared.

We did it.

Then her brain caught up to what her eyes were seeing.

I need to get out of here fast!

Her flight computer chirped and a path lit up before her, turning right a split second ahead. With another gut-wrenching turn, she managed to stay with it. There came the sound of tearing metal and Angel hoped that was the Death Star and not her fighter coming apart.

The answer came as a gout of flame erupted in front of her. Screaming, she shut her eyes in reflex, her A-wing hurtling through it. There was an intense jolt that even the compensators were unable to shield her from. She was thrown upward in the straps, and she felt something snap wetly inside her shoulders, where her restraints held her down. Her left hand became numb, the throttle shoved full forward. Using her rudder and stick, she flew entirely with the computer's guidance, unable to see through the smoke and flame.

BANG.

The sound was loud enough to hurt her ears before something hot blew straight up through her right leg and through her abdomen. Her canopy breached somewhere over her left shoulder and when she cried out, only a bloody cough answered. Her vision narrowed, darkening at the edges. Her right hand kept the stick moving, but her legs wouldn't respond.

Her eyes finally drifted to the holo on her dash. A smiling young Zabrak girl in an X-wing flight suit stared back at her. Someone from another life, just months before.

See you soon, she thought.

Her chest tightened and it became hard to breathe. Another cough was so painful she almost passed out. By instinct alone, she kept the A-wing on path even as a horrific fire grew around her, creeping past her darkening vision. Angel hoped it would be quick.

Another turn. Another, and she was done. Her right hand had nothing left to give and her head sagged against her chest. A voice from a long time ago touched her mind. A memory of a mother she never really knew.

Gold Three exited an exhaust port, engines burning full and bright as the Death Star went up. Debris followed the shockwave and slammed into the tiny fighter, sending it hurtling. The power finally gave out and soon it drifted, dying.

Inside, its pilot dreamed.

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Endor +15 Days

CRS Vigilant Simmons' Shock Deck

It was stout and bitter- a drink that ate like a meal. Jasted took a swig from a personalized stein and slammed it to the counter as his favorite brew was now gone. He looked about the recently renamed Simmons' Shock Deck to a sparsely dispersed group of stragglers. The majority of pilots had left after Stryker had retired for the night. He didn't want to go to bed. He sat there, lost in his own thoughts.

What am I doing? He brushed both hands through his hair in frustration and took a moment to rub the front of his face. The alcohol was doing it's job halting his emotions from the atrocities he had witnessed and caused several weeks ago at Endor. The drinking masked the anguish with sarcasm and a hint of anger. The anger stemmed from more recent news. Hellcat, Darklighter, and Wolfman were reassigned without notice by General Madine. That news had brought him back to the bar, before he even had a chance to view the files he was given by Jedi earlier in the night.

Good hunting, brothers. I'll see you again soon. He raised his drink to honor his former squadron mates. Empty. Frak.

Bulldog sat slumped over at the other end of the lounge, reeking of whatever he had decided to funnel down his gullet. He struggled to hold his balance on the newly upholstered stool but managed to slur out "Keep em' coming, Iggy" while twirling a finger about.

"How did you get back in here?" Iggy asked, perplexed. "I could have sworn I overserved you earlier. There seems to be no possible way you are still upright, Flight Officer."

"ANOTHER!" Bulldog growled.

Jasted attempted to acquire a drink before the other drunken pilot and rudely slid his mug with a flick of a wrist. "Fill it up, droid."

Iggy had already initiated pouring sequences on Bulldog's refill while snagging the mug projectile. The droid fixed a stern glare at Jasted and conducted a scan of his vitals. A red beam burst from Iggy's optics, highlighting the human from head to toe. "Lieutenant, your alcohol levels show you are highly intoxicated. I have been informed that due to your service to the Rebel Alliance I am to continue to serve your every need but I must insist you retire to your quarters."

"Request denied." Jasted pointed a finger at the robotic bartender and reiterated his previous request. "I said... droid." His tone came off demanding and smug... "Fill....it."

"As you wish, Lieutenant." Iggy proceeded to place another in front of a fading Bulldog then stomped over with the stein in hand. Recently downloaded programming from command staff allowed more leeway for intoxicated pilots. They had earned their keep.

A short stack of holo-pads rested on the bar to the right of Jasted's elbow. They had collected over the months and he had not had the interest or will to go through them. Morrison delivered a data pad earlier in the night as a professional courtesy. It was inevitable. He would have to confront his demons and activate the collection of communications.

Iggy placed another pint in front of him and redirected interest to the pile of digital mail laying on his bar. Red eyes probed the top holopad. "Lieutenant, these appear to have originated from Mantooine."

Jasted rested his forehead on the counter and mumbled "Mind your own business."

"That is your home world, according to the Vigilant's mainframe." Iggy continued to dump additional information. "This particular communication is dated after the Endor conflict and appears to have details regarding a bounty puck being collected for your head."

"What the frak are you talking about?" Jasted peered up as if punched in the gut.

Bulldog's head perked up, and he attempted to eavesdrop. This was the only conversation in the lounge at the moment.

"The mercenary, Knightmare, is charged to bring you in for violations of treason to the Empire and patricide."

"Patricide?! What did you do!?" Interrupted Bulldog.

Jasted had tangled with the legendary Knightmare and his cronies before. They were relentless in their pursuit of a bounty, killing several of his acquaintances several years ago. Bogie and Oddball; always in tote. The trio was, indeed, a force to be reckoned with. "You getting all that, BD?" he yelled.

"Dude, KM is a legend in the Outer Rim."

"Knightmare is a murderous thug. I hope they do come to collect. I have unfinished business with those thugs."

"Lieutenant, permission to scan further?" Iggy inquired.

"Now you ask?" Jasted pushed the pile of holopads to the IG unit and shook his head in disbelief. "Knock yourself out". He grasped his mug a little tighter. A sinking feeling crept into the pilots belly. This train is rolling.

Bulldog jumped off the bar stool and slid it closer to Jasted. Dragging its feet created an obnoxious metal on metal ear piercing racket. The few drinkers sprinkled about the lounge area winced for several seconds. He sat down next to Jasted and dug further for information while Iggy proceeded with analysis.

"So.... You met him before? Knightmare."

Jasted hesitated for a moment. The alcohol made it easier to respond. "He's killed many of my friends in the Outer Rim. He and that pack of wretches he flies with.

"Who put the bounty out, Igg?"

"Flight Officer Clark, this appears to be an Imperial bounty originating from Mantooine. The garrison has issued the puck to Knightmare, Bogie and Oddball. Dead or alive, Lieutenant Finelli is to be brought in for crimes against the Empire. They have been long aware of your defection to the Rebel Alliance and your involvement in the destruction of the Endor Death Star."

"Who sent the holocomms?" Asked Jasted. "My brother, I assume?"

Iggy checked the inquiry. " That is affirmative. He is aware of the treason bounty placed on your head but is unsure of why patricide. Further inquiry shows your sibling has been unaware of TK-7531's current assignment.

"Did you off your old man, Jas?" Bulldog was fully invested in the conversation and it had sobered him up a bit.

"I haven't seen him in years. He was reassigned from the Mantooine Garrison as punishment for my defection." Jasted gave Bulldog a firm response. "I did not kill him. He was a good father, I just did not agree with his loyalties." And I'm questioning my loyalties with this New Republic spin on the Rebel Alliance. He threw his mug up to his lips and chugged the rest of the liquid inside. "Another Iggy."

"Me too." Bulldog downed his drink as if in a competition. "What's up with the datapad?"

Jasted snatched it up off the bar and stared at it. "Commander Morrison went out of his way to get this." He shook it slightly and looked at his drinking companion. "This will have answers."

"What's on it?"

"Intercepted Imperial code. Hopefully the whereabouts of TK-7531. They did something to him, trying to set me up as a pawn". He took hold of his refreshed stein and shoved the datapad in his hand over to Iggy. "How long to search the code and get some answers?"

Illuminating orbs from Iggy's retinas swept old over the item pushed forward . " Analysis complete. Awaiting Lieutenant Finelli to confirm audible access."

Bulldog threw back another Corellian Whiskey. He placed a hand on Jasted's left shoulder. "We doing this or what? We got some leave coming up. Sneak out of here and go on a guns blazing firefest. Karking A!" He slammed a closed fist on the bar counter, accidentally knocking the empty whiskey glass to the floor. It exploded on impact. "Nobody frames a Renegade pilot!" he yelled in disgust.

"With all do respect, Flight Officer Clark, the warrant of arrest appears to be legitimate."

"The frak it is!"! Jasted knocked over his stein. "Confirm access, where is TK-7531?"

The two pilots waited anxiously for Iggy to disclose the datapad's contents.

"The following is a list of Imperial members of service and their current status. Analysis complete. Validity one hundred percent on Commander TK-7531."

Bulldog had become impatient. "Spill it, Iggy. My drink is empty!"

Iggy continued.. "TK-7531 assigned to battle station Death Star, location Endor as security advisor. Presumed killed in action by Rebel insurgents. Military and civilians aboard battle station Death Star presumed dead."

"Dude..." It was all Bulldog could muster.

"I did kill him. Holy frak," Jasted mumbled disbelievingly. It was hard to swallow but a cold truth he was willing to accept.

"It was all of us, man. We were under orders to stop that thing. It would have destroyed entire planets of innocent people."

"Would it have?" Jasted stood up. "I need some time alone." He pushed his stool in and took hold of his stein. With a final sigh of disparity he walked towards the exit and realized the inevitable. "Knightmare is coming."

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Battle of Endor

Corona Eleven

POV: Jasted

"I've got a persistent bugger on my six!" Jalb shouted nervously over the comms.

"I'm on him, Lead," Jasted replied. He located his squadron leader and pulled a hard turn to engage. "I'm on him, tally-ho!" He snapped off a shot at the oblique angle he was coming from, but the shots missed. Continuing his turn, he found himself in prime firing position. "Got him in two more seconds, lead!"

Green fire flashed from behind Jasted, startling him. He looked down at his sensors and saw he picked up a trailer himself. "Woah, I've got one on my tail too!"

"Disengage, Eleven," Jalb replied. "I'll scrape this guy off on one of the cruisers!"

"Negative, Lead!" Jasted replied. He shunted his shields full aft to give him time to line up his kill shot. He settled his crosshairs on the twin ion engines of the TIE interceptor trailing Jalb. His finger squeezed the trigger as his ship shuddered heavily from an overcharged blast from his pursuer. The impact took his shots off target, flashing over his target's ball cockpit.

The shots spooked the TIE, as he broke hard to port and disengaged from his pursuit of Jalb, but began to make a run at another rebel ship that was limping along with sparks trailing from an engine.

"Oh no you don't," Jasted growled. He pulled up on his stick and rolled his ship, executing a textbook reverse throttle hop. At the end of the roll, he took another snap shot and was rewarded with the canted solar panels both being sheared off at the connection to the ball cockpit. "Got him, Lead!"

"Get away from the station!" Jalb ordered. "It's going to go nova!"

Jasted complied with the order and pushed his engines to their red-line. He heard their strain in his cockpit, even louder than the warning warbles from his astromech. "Come on, come on!" He mumbled to himself as he willed his ship to speed up. Green laser fire traced past his cockpit, reminding him that he had a pursuer. Checking his sensors, he got an R2's eye-view of the pursuing TIE fighter, and the Death Star behind it slowly shrinking. "This guy is still with us?!"

The TIE's outline was silhouetted against the brightest flash he'd ever seen, making him wrench his eyes closed to protect his vision. He saw spots in his vision even with his eyes closed.

"Brace for impact!" Contessa called out.

Jasted's ship shuddered as the initial shockwave passed his X-wing. He opened his eyes to see the TIE fighter get obliterated by the shockwave that was constricting his protective shielding. "And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you need shields," he said to nobody in particular. Eventually the shockwave passed, and he was still alive in one piece.

"We made it!" Kendy shouted jubilantly. "We're out of the danger zone!"

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

Endor +16 Days

CRS Vigilant Pilot Bunk

A keening wail of an alarm woke Bulldog suddenly. He sat up in bed and started looking wildly about his room in confusion, grasping at a flight stick and throttle assembly that weren't there, kicking at rudder pedals that didn't exist. He flailed about in this manner for another 10 seconds as his heart-rate spiked, looking for attacking fighters pumping lasers into his shields.

His vision finally cleared and his surroundings came back into focus. The source of the offensive noise was not his cockpit, but his alarm clock. In a fit of rage, he brought his fist down upon the cheap electronic on the bedside table next to his bed. The fist landed center mass, ceasing the alarm with a plastic crunch and sent electronic components skittering across the floor. He growled in pain and anger, cradling his smarting hand.

He groaned loudly as the pounding in his head had not subsided with the silencing of his alarm. His hand also continued throbbing in pain. Drool trails were still wet upon his chin as he dug his palms into his eyes.

He forced himself to slow his breathing and bring his heart rate back to normal. Still slicked with a cold sweat, he shivered at the thought of what just happened. "What the kriffing hell was that?" He asked nobody in particular.

His datapad chirped, startling him again. He slowly reached for the device, groaning again at the hangover pains that were associated with the movement. He dimmed the display and brought it to his face, taking several hard blinks to clear his vision enough to read the screen.

Orders: Transferred to Buccaneer Squad. Buccaneer 6. Report to Buccaneer CO's office at 0800.

New Mandatory Event: Wing Organization Meeting in the main briefing amphitheater at 1400.

New Mandatory Event: Promotion Ceremony in the main briefing amphitheater at 1600.

"Transferred? What in the..." Bulldog looked at his alarm clock for the time, but the shattered display was no help. Looking back at his datapad, he swiped the top of the screen down to display the ship time. "0600. Better hit the freshers and try to kick this hangover with some electrolyte-heavy fluids and caf..."

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Battle of Endor

Yellow Six

POV: Bulldog

The 3 Yellow A-Wings took a lazy turn toward the horizon of the Death Star. They rendezvoused with the heavy hitting support element that had provided the punch necessary to take out the Interdictor Cruiser and were making steady progress to the main fight on the other side of the battle station.

"Yellow Six," Krayt radioed. "What is the status of your ship? My sensors indicate you have some systems damage."

"Roger, Krayt," Bulldog replied breathlessly. "A laser snuck through my shields and pinged my ship near the fore access panel. My inertial compensator is busted."

"That's not going to be a fun problem to deal with in a furball, Six," Krayt replied. "You should put her down on one of the other cap ships and call it a day."

Bulldog shook his head side to side adamantly. "Negative, Krayt. I'm seeing this thing through."

Part of Krayt's heavy sigh carried over on the comms at the beginning of his reply. "Look, BD, I officially can't order you to do anything since I'm technically AWOL right now. I'm just saying, you're one high G maneuver away from killing yourself."

"He said he wasn't going," Knight retorted sternly.

Krayt relented. "You got it, zoomie. Let's get back into this fight."

"I'm picking up a small ship in our path," Icestorm cut in. "What is that? It looks like a miniature star destroyer."

"Brrdkrr says he knows what that is!" Pezdah shouted loudly into the comm. "Well? What is it you overgrown iguana?" He paused, the sounds of Trandoshian speech carrying over the comm. "He says it's a Raider-II Class Corvette. 'Rare ships' he says."

"Weapons? Shields? Fighter Complement?" Krayt asked.

"Begging your apologies, he says he does not know," Pezdah replied.

"Let's engage full throttle," Bulldog said. "Let's hit them fast."

"We should be cautious," Krayt replied. "No need to get surprised by any hidden weapons systems."

Bulldog kicked his throttle to max, his vision graying out slightly as his body adjusted to the maneuver without his inertial compensator. A 10 kilo weight slammed into his chest. "No sweat," he mumbled with supreme effort.

"Slow down, Six," Krayt shouted. "Let's take this thing as a group!"

Knight and Icestorm's A-wings kicked forward as well, outpacing the slower U-Wing carrying Pezdah and Brrdkrr, the two-seater Y-Wing carrying Krayt, and the three other support staff craft that had participated in the attack on the Interdictor from range.

"We'll take the first pass and draw out any surprises," Bulldog said as he continued to visually scan the area, forgetting his sensors were damaged. "Seven, let me know if anything sneaky shows up. My sensors are still down."

"Roger, Six," Knight replied. There are 2 TIEs launching for intercept at mark 39. Icestorm and I will scratch those bandits."

"All yours, boys," Bulldog replied. He watched his squadmates break off from him and make a head to head run with the two TIEs. Those Imps must be desperate or suicidal.

Knight and Icestorm made their head-to-head pass with the TIEs, resulting in 2 explosions as the A-Wings flew through the wreckage and continued on their way to the new Imperial ship. "Scratch 2," Icestorm whooped. "IFF tag identifies this ship as the Corvus. I'm not detecting any hidden surprises, and I think that might have been the only fighters it had."

"Five, break now!" Knight shouted. A double blast of green laser fire scythed the area Yellow 5 had just been. A blue ion bolt missed Knight's A-Wing by a craft-length as he jinked as well. "That was TOO close," he huffed.

The three A-wings weaved as they made their attack run on the Corvus. They all held down the triggers and cycled lethal light through their dual blasters. The return fire was ineffectual, missing widely at every turn. The scarlet lasers fizzled against the ray shielding of the ship, but none of the bolts actually reached the white hull.

Bulldog and his wingmen pulled away and continued to weave as they avoided the tracking fire. The other fighters in the rebel raiding party closed from their original heading and started scything laser and ion fire across the aft shields of the Corvus. The tracking fire chasing the A-wings immediately aimed at the new attack, freeing up the A-wings for another run. "Let's hit the bridge, boys," Bulldog huffed with difficulty.

Three miniature novas erupted where the second rebel wave had been moments before, reducing the 5 attackers to 2.

"Concussion missiles!" Krayt shouted. "This thing has warhead launchers!"

"Where were those damn things hidden?!" Pezdah's gravely voice rose in alarm.

"All ships and fighters, this is Home One control. Disengage all aggressive actions and get away from the Death Star immediately!"

"Uhhh, we're awfully close to the Death Star, boys," Knight said ominously.

"Let's put these engines to good use then!" Icestorm replied.

Bulldog dumped his laser energy into his shields and then toggled the ELS settings to dump all laser recharge energy into his shields. His ship lunged forward to reach a new top speed, tunneling his vision heavily as a 100 kilo weight slammed into his chest.

"We'll never make it far enough away," Krayt grunted, resigned. "This might be it, boys. It's a good day to die."

"Screw that!" Pezdah whined. "I'm gonna live!" His UT-60D spun wildly on its port S-Foil and he dove underneath the Corvus. Once the Imperial ship was between him and the Death Star, he pulled his S-Foils forward for maximum speed.

"He's got the right idea, boys!" Krayt shouted as he evasively rolled his lumbering Y-Wing in the same manner, pulling him out of the way of a pursuing missile in the process. "Put that thing between you and the station!"

"Keep an eye on your aft sensors for any missile launches, boys!" Knight warned as he fired a few dual bursts of lasers at Krayt's pursuing missile, destroying it with his third burts. "Your tail's clear, Krayt!"

"Good shooting, Seven," Krayt replied, relief evident in his tone.

Bulldog and his wingmen joined Krayt and Pezdah as they sped off, keeping the Corvus's bulk between them and the Death Star.

"Another spread of missiles have been launched!" Krayt shouted. "Use your chaff when they get close!"

"Uh..." Bulldog croaked, looking down at his damage report. "I've got another problem here, boys."

"Your countermeasures are out, aren't they, Six?" Knight replied.

"Bingo," Bulldog replied in a lackadaisical tone, feeling woozy from the reduced oxygen his brain was receiving due to the G forces punishing his body without his inertial compensator. He couldn't slow down because the explosion of the station would get him, but he couldn't keep pushing himself at this speed before he completely blacked out and eventually died. "Go... without me," he huffed. "S'okay."

"Krong to that!" Knight replied. "Cut your throttle, and we'll get your missile, Six! My bogey's arriving in 15 seconds, Five. I won't be able to position myself in time."

"I got him," Icestorm replied determinedly. His A-Wing chopped throttle and rolled directly behind Bulldog's A-Wing. For the briefest moments, the pilots were meters away as their ships were cockpit to cockpit. Icestorm waved and smirked, and then the moment was gone.

Bulldog couldn't move his arm to wave, afraid that if he let go of the throttle or stick that they would fly back and be stuck to the back of the cockpit. He continued to hold onto his controls with a white-knuckled grip. He turned his head to the side to try and see his wingman, regretting the decision instantly as he was now too weak to fight the G-forces to look forward again.

"Deploying countermeasures!" Pezdah shouted frantically. The explosion over the comms carried on for a while, then a triumphant shout of joy from the Mon Cal scoundrel let everybody know his ship had survived.

Krayt and Knight likewise deployed their chaff at the last instant, the superheated junk causing the warhead to explode prematurely, buffeting their ships and punishing their shields, but otherwise leaving the two pilots unscathed as Pezdah had been.

Out of the corner of Bulldog's eye he saw the situation unfold differently for his long-time wingman. Icestorm's A-Wing deployed chaff and caused the first warhead to splash his shields. His ship bucked wildly with the shockwave of the concussion missile, but he couldn't get his aft end around in time to deploy another round of chaff. The missile targeting Bulldog struck his shields, overpowering them and deforming the port engine assembly and maneuvering fins.

"I'm hit!" Icestorm shouted frantically as his ship tumbled wildly out of formation away from the rest of the fleeing ships, tumbling end over end.

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Endor +16 Days

CRS Vigilant Mess Hall

Knight was sitting with a very haggard looking Bulldog as well as another pilot he just met at the table. "So, you were with Green at Endor?"

"Yeah," Anton replied between bites of powdered eggs. "And I got rolled into a mixed squad for Fondor."

"I heard you guys really took a pounding there," Knight followed up, wincing as he realized the indelicate comment would land poorly on somebody he just met.

Anton pursed his lips and bowed his head. "Yeah, lost eight of twelve at Endor, and Fondor we lost more..."

"Brutal," Bulldog grunted out, taking a long draught of a clear-pink colored liquid.

"Too much sauce?" Anton smirked.

"Yep," Bulldog replied. "Need to rehydrate."

Knight chuckled. "Yeah man, you look ROUGH."

Bulldog belched quietly, switching to chugging caf. "That's rich, coming from a guy with a bionic eye," he said between gulps. "I've got a big day ahead of me."

"Yeah BD, I think we all do," Knight replied.

"Got my new orders," Bulldog replied matter-of-factly.

"Let me guess," Knight replied slyly. "Corsair?"

Bulldog shook his head, taking another drink of his pink drink.

Anton looked on in amazement as the sloppy-drunk pilot he had helped carry to the sim room the previous night alternated his fluids. "Tug duty?"

"Nope."

Knight's face scrunched in thought. "Buccaneer?"

"Bingo," Bulldog said with a wink. "Matter of fact, I need to report to the CO after a trip to the fresher to relieve some fluid pressure. Seeya boys." He belched forcefully as he stood up, wafting the two men sharing his table in the rancid smells of fermented alcohol and recently consumed eggs.

"Gross!" Knight snapped, trying to fan away the smell. "You're going to fall asleep in the cockpit of one of those wallowing hutts!"

"That's the idea!" Bulldog replied over his shoulder as he left.

Knight and Ant both bid the pilot goodbye and looked at each other. Ant broke the silence first. "I take it you didn't realize he wasn't in your flight group anymore?"

Knight shook his head negative. "Nah."

"Weird, isn't it?"

"Yeah."

"Welcome to the club of not knowing who you're flying with. I still haven't gotten any orders either."

"Oh, I got orders this morning. I'm in Corsair Squadron now. Still a zoomie."

Ant's palm went to his forehead. "What the Sith? I'm like a fart in the air ducts here!"

Knight looked over Ant's shoulder and smiled. "Well hey, man, I wouldn't worry too much about it," he soothed. "You've got a pretty looking girl headed your way."

"Hey guys," the new arrival said cheerfully as she set her tray down and sat in Bulldog's recently vacated seat. Her face scrunched as she waded through the after-effects of Bulldog's belch.

Ant's mood rose with the new arrival. "Hey!" he said a bit more loudly than necessary, drawing some looks from other eating personnel.

"I've got to go see my CO too," Knight said, rising with a smile. "I wouldn't worry about it, man. Your orders will come through soon enough I'm sure."

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Battle of Endor

Yellow Seven

POV: Knight

"EJECT, Five!" Krayt yelled.

"Punching out!" Icestorm replied.

Knight watched the scene as it unfolded. Icestorm's canopy shot away from the stricken craft back toward the direction they had been coming, and by sheer chance of luck his pilot couch shot out of the doomed A-Wing sending the pilot in the direction they were fleeing due to its violent rotation. "Five's EV! Pez, you've got to pick him up!" The A-Wing erupted shortly thereafter, peppering the unfortunate pilot with shrapnel that struck his lower legs.

"And eat another missile! I don't think so," Pezdah replied. A loud growl carried over the comm after his declaration of intent, along with what sounded like meat hitting meat. "Ow! Ok, fine, you kriffing lizard! If we eat a missile, I'm haunting your ghost the rest of our undead lives!"

"We're too far away from the Raider for them to get a lock on us, Pez," Krayt replied. "You're safe to pick him up.."

"Six! Throttle down a little so the g forces don't kill you," Knight said as he rocked back and forth in his seat, anxious to put as much distance between his ship and the Death Star per the open comm announcement from Home One flight control. Come on, come on! Slow down a little BD, but not too much!

"We're doing fine, boys," Krayt soothed, as if he knew what was going on in the other pilots' minds. "Keep that ship between us and the station. Seven, stay with Six and pace him, I'll stay near the U-Wing." His Y-Wing rolled back to stay near Pezdah's U-Wing while it picked up the ejected pilot.

"Cut that throttle a little, Six," Knight soothed, and after a few seconds, Bulldog's stricken A-Wing obeyed by reducing speed. He adjusted his throttle until he was just behind the pilot, constantly adjusting his throttle to keep pace and avoid crashing into his wingman. "We're going to be fine, Six."

"Copy, Seven," Bulldog replied weakly.

"We got Yellow Five safely inside, we're outbound again!" Pezdah shouted. "Hold on back there! Iggy, see what you can do with his wounds. Yes, I'm aware you aren't a medical droid, you rusty bucket of bolts!"

The flight of 4 rebel fighters continued on, adjusting their flight paths to keep the Corvus between their snub fighters and the Death Star. Knight slowed to let Pezdah's U-Wing overtake him to defend against sudden attack. Come on, come on, come on!

The radio burst to life again, startling him. "Green Group, Yellow Group, this is Home One. We have Imperial launches from the Death Star! Watch for evacuations! They may be trying to reach the forest moon."

"Scanners up," Krayt ordered, now the de facto leader of this mixed flight. "Keep your eyes open."

"Got a Lamb leaving the station," Knight reported. "Left 3 marks, down two-ten!"

"Looks like it's already got a trailer," Krayt said, seeing an A-Wing from Green Squadron get into firing position behind the fleeing shuttle. "Looks like... Green Four is on it."

"Rebel fighter, abort your run. Repeat, ABORT!" A harried voice called out in the open channel. "Friendly aboard! I repeat, FRIENDLY!"

"Friendly, Green Four. Identify yourself," the A-wing's pilot replied.

"Green Four, this is Commander Skywalker," the shuttle pilot responded. "Repeat, vessel is under friendly control."

Luke Skywalker?! Knight's jaw dropped as he eavesdropped on the conversation. He focused his sensors on that shuttle. Only one lifeform aboard. If there was a top-secret commando mission to the Death Star, I would imagine it had more than one man. High casualties everywhere today it seems... His jaw set with a grim feeling of uncertainty of the fate of the rest of his friends on the other side of the battle.

"Commander?" Green Four questioned. "Not your usual ride. I always heard you were an X-Wing jockey."

"I was kinda in a hurry," Luke replied, chuckling.

"You're gonna be in a bigger one," Green Four replied ominously.

Pezdah's voice cut in and jarred Knight back to his immediate surroundings. "Got another Lambda making a run, should cut in front of our current path."

"Speed up and engage, Yellows," Krayt ordered. "I'll catch up and disable it if necessary."

"And if they're aggressive?" Bulldog asked as his A-Wing accelerated with Knight. He was sounding better after throttling down for a spell and letting his body recover.

"Blast it," Krayt said icily.

Knight double clicked his comm switch to confirm the order. "No mercy," he mumbled under his breath.

Behind them, the Death Star erupted.

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Endor +16 Days

CRS Vigilant Main Briefing Amphitheater

"Ladies and Gentlebeings, thank you for arriving on time for the moment many of you have been anticipating for the last few days," Major Murg said from the podium. "We have gone through a long and thorough review of the pilots assembled and believe this is the group that gives us the best, most competent fighter wing and taskforce in the entire New Republic fleet." A round of pilots rapping their knuckles against the back-rests of the chairs in front of them began. Murg allowed it to continue and it eventually ran its course. "Rest assured, we WILL be the tip of the spear going forward, and we will be the best equipped unit for the task."

He looked at the room and paused. "Vice Admiral Vodani regrets that she could not be in attendance today, but important matters aboard her flagship, the Sovereignty, have conspired to keep her tied to her desk there. Rather than let those issues delay the entire group from starting our mission, she has deigned to equip the Vigilant Taskforce fully so we can begin hunting down Imperial Remnant forces immediately."

"To lead this taskforce, we have the very competent Rear Admiral Tolden in command. He will be handling the macro of our maneuvers along with the various captains of the ships. To handle the day to day of starfighter operations, the Wing Commander and his staff will be in charge. I'd like to call Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds to the podium at this time."

A healthy round of applause and plenty of 'Whoos' commenced while Jalb stepped up to the podium.

"Ok, let's calm down," Jalb said at the podium. He took a moment and looked at all of the assembled personnel and there was a genuine smile on his face and a hint of mistiness to his eyes. He looked down and composed himself. "When I took command of Renegade Wing, it was out of necessity. Well, as of yesterday evening, that necessity has ended. I would like to call Colonel Rambo to the podium, whom many of you already know and have served with so you know the man. Those of you that don't know him, know that he's simply the best at everything. Thank you all for giving me your very best at all times." He stepped away from the podium and covertly swiped a tear from his eyes while the room applauded furiously, both for Jalb's gracious hand-off and Stryker's elevation.

Stryker stepped up to the podium. "I want to keep this short and sweet, but first I want to give Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds another round of applause for his valiant efforts to keep the wing whole throughout one of the most trying times in our existence. Step forward and be recognized by your people, Lieutenant Colonel."

Jalb stepped forward to a thunderous applause. He nodded and smiled, but stoically managed to avoid breaking down into full on tears this time. He waved a final time and stepped back in line.

Stryker resumed. "Don't be too sad for him, though. While he may not be running the Wing, he will certainly have his hands full keeping the Rogues in check as their OC. I have also just been informed that Captain Marco has been chosen as his new XO, and has now earned the rank of Major."

"I know it's unorthodox for the wing commander to not also be Rogue Leader," Stryker said, anticipating the confusion many of the older Renegades were feeling. "I am the Wing Commander, and recently promoted Lieutenant Colonel Morrison will be the wing XO. The two of us plus three other pilots will be flying in an executive flight called 'Renegade Flight'. We have just recently decided on one of those pilots, but I believe the Admiral would like to break that news so I will hold off on that announcement."

"I would also like to address the squadron names. Now that we are no longer attempting to avoid tracking, we will be shedding our temporary squadron names of Corona, Blue, and Yellow. Renegade Wing will now consist of Rogue, Buccaneer, and Corsair Squadrons once again! And speaking of Buccaneer Squadron, I would like to announce that the new commander of that squadron is Lieutenant Colonel Tolle, and he has chosen Commander Dobson as his XO. Also, just recently I was informed that Buccaneer has accepted the transfer of Captain Ri'chard and recently promoted 1st Lieutenants Clark and Sweet into their rolls."

Some of the Corsair pilots and older support personnel were uneasy, losing one of the steady pilots from their squadron, but the room applauded loudly but briefly. Likewise, the small gathering of Red Squadron veterans were uneasy at losing two of their own.

"I saved Corsair Squadron for last," Stryker continued, "not because they are the least, but because they have had the most news to report. I will have the Corsair CO come up shortly to announce that news, but I first wanted to also announce that we will be taking on a training squad in the future whenever the New Republic has a need for it, and we will also be recommissioning Skull Squadron and Spectre Squadrons in the near future, but no news on that exact date at this moment. With that said, I would like to pass the podium to Lieutenant Colonel 9-LOM so he can fill you all in on the recent additions to Corsair Squadron!"

The room erupted in applause with all of the positive news they had just received, with many members patting some of the specifically named pilots and personnel on the back in congratulations.

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Battle of Endor

Gold Six

POV: Lock

The column of fiery destruction that had, at one point, been the Executor, flashed bright enough for most if not all of the Endor system to see it.

"Whoa, look at it go," Shadow commented.

"Let's clean up these Imps--the attack group is almost at the reactor," Lock replied. He pulled on his flight stick, cycling through targets. The Imperial pilots were in disarray--they had never trained for a situation like this and it showed; Lock knew it very well, he'd been an Imperial pilot for a time himself. He found a TIE Interceptor attacking a B-Wing. "Red Ten, target selected. Follow me in."

The two X-Wings dived in unison towards the TIE, destroying it between the two and they repeated the process once more until finally Lock heard it:

"--opy, Gold Leader, I'm already on my way out!"

"Move the fleet away from the Death Star!" Ackbar ordered.

Gold Four and Nine exited the Death Star just then, racing out at top speed as explosions began to consume the interior of the behemoth. Wait, where was Angel? He checked his data, selecting through friendly ships until he located Angel--she was still in there! And on top of that, she was exiting out the wrong port! A rational pilot, in this situation, would get as far away from the Death Star as possible, but Lock shunted power away from his shields and into his engines and raced towards Angel's position.

"Fate, find me Angel's exact exit point!" Lock demanded. His R2 unit protested but started his calculations.

"Gold Six! What are you doing!? We've got to get clear!" Shadow protested, but still followed Lock in.

"Copy that, get out of here, Red Ten," Lock replied. "That's an order." Fate finally gave Lock a location and the pilot made his way that way. A TIE Bomber was heading towards the same place, probably thinking he could snipe Angel's A-Wing as she exited.

"I'm stay--"

"Get out of here, Ten!" Lock yelled into his comm. Reluctantly Shadow peeled away.

Just in time, too. Fire began to burst from any opening it could find; plates of durasteel were flung out into space with great force--Lock was forced to slam his stick to the side and put his fighter into a spin as one fly past him, slamming into a TIE Fighter that was less lucky. As the reactor exploded inside the Death Star, it would destroy critical systems and ignite the oxygen scrubbers, turning most if not all breathable air in the superstructure into an aggressive fire wave that only grew in size, force, and complexity every time a new air scrubber blew. It wasn't just the oxygen; blasters in the armory, filled with tibanna gas, reacted just as violently, adding to the death wave that expanded through the interior--it's flames so intense that the actual materiel the Death Star was build from started to melt and buckle under its own pressure, imploding upon itself as the power of the central explosion grew in strength... all within a matter of seconds. From the Death Star's hangar ships were fleeing, abandoning the failing folly of Emperor Palpatine's final death machine.

Lock was peripherally away from the destruction around him. Plates lifted and he readjusted, scraping his fighter more than once on them. Turrets tried to fire upon him but suddenly they exploded and were sucked into one of the many chasms forming on the surface. Fighting his X-Wing, he managed to get into range of the Bomber and started firing. His first quad shot hit the TIE's wing, scaring it enough to start pulling away from his objective.

"You're not getting away," grunted Lock between his teeth. He fired twice more, destroying the bomber.

Just then Angel's A-Wing flew out of the Death Star--at a glance Lock could tell it was in bad shape. Fire followed behind her, like death's hand trying to pull her back in. Luckily, Angel's A-Wing kept on going, speeding past Lock and his fighter on a straight course, using the force of the explosion and the laws of gravity to keep going.

"Gold Three! Do you copy?" No response. "Gold Three! Do you--"

"YEEEHHAAAAA!"

Lando's voice cut through the comms, interrupting Lock who muffled a swear. Much like Angel, the Millenium Falcon had only just gotten out ahead of the explosion, except that Lando's freighter was in much better shape.

As Lock turned his fighter to pursue Angel, he saw the surface of the Death Star finally cave in upon itself, momentarily shrinking before finally exploding in a light so bright that it momentarily blinded Lock. "Fate! All energy to engines! Get us out of here!"

He heard Fate respond with a wail and suddenly Lock was thrown back into his ejection seat. He could hear the X-Wings engines being pushed to the limit, as it attempted to race ahead of the explosion's shockwave. Already debris was flying past Lock's fighter--it was the last thing he saw as his vision began to recover.

Then something hit him from behind and it all went black.

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