Andy walked down the gangplank of the dingy shuttle with visible uncertainty. While he'd been cocky enough months ago while speaking with the recruiter at the Rebel rendezvous point after the disastrous retreat from Hoth, his time with his training detachment had washed all of that confidence away. And while he'd passed his fighter training, it was the exact opposite of a ranking than he'd expected going into the whole process. His face flushed as his rank, 20 out of 23, flashed across his mind's eye for what was the millionth time since he'd seen it. The only reason he wasn't last place in the ranking was the fact that his sim-flight experience as a kid and his keen eye for strategic maneuvering had allowed him to diagnose the proper course of action fast enough to allow his reflexes extra time to get into the advantageous position.
The flush of embarrassment turned into rage as his given callsign rang in his ears, in the familiar angry inner monologue voice belonging to his father: Bulldog. It wasn't a name given to him for skill or tenacity by his training officer. No, it was a name borne of sarcasm from his relatively timid flight style in the ship he was assigned to fly: the RZ-1 A-wing interceptor.
Dust and tumbleweeds blew across his feet as he finally reached the bottom of the ramp, drawing an involuntary shudder. At least it isn't as cold as Hoth was, but I'm sure this dustball will fill every crevice of my gear with evidence of its existence. He followed the tumbleweed as it blew across the dirty floor of the hangar, almost cringing as it got caught on the rusty landing skid of an A-wing. Following the corroded skid up from the ground, he found himself looking at an equally grimy looking wedge-shaped fighter. The color originally looked to be black and white, but the dust clinging to the hull made it look more gritty-cream and brown.
A grating voice jarred Andy from his visual inspection. "I assure you, Flight Officer Clark, that she may not look like much, but the interior components are working at peak efficiency."
Andy turned around to find an equally corroded J9 worker drone standing behind him. Its fully bronzed finish was completely caked in what appeared to be oil or hydraulic fluid, and the dust from the planet clung to it with glee. He wondered just how well it was able to move without damaging its joints. "With all this dust around?"
The insectoid visage nodded curtly. "The dust clears out with 99% efficiency of the outward-facing housings during takeoff. The rudder flaps only rarely lock up in spaceflight."
Andy looked back to the dust-caked A-wing and eyed the equally sooty fins dubiously. Beyond the first one that he'd spied with the extra tumbleweed ornament still on its landing skid, the other A-wings nearby in the hangar looked equally filthy, though they progressively got cleaner. The ship at the far back of the hangar seemed cleaner than the others. Andy pointed. "What's with that one back there?"
The droid craned its head with a juddering, grinding sound as it followed his finger. "Ah, that one belongs to Captain Tuki, commanding officer of Black Squadron."
Andy understood at once how things worked in this outfit, and his stomach rumbled as he quickly realized that his ship was more than likely the first one he'd spied. "So, is it safe to assume the one out front is mine?" he asked, voicing it aloud and hoping he was wrong.
"Indeed, Flight Officer."
Andy winced, as if shot. "Wonderful. Thanks...?"
"I am BG-R55. Many here just call me 'Fives'."
Andy nodded. "Thanks, Fives," he replied as he looked around, finding nobody else in the hangar. He thought it was strange that his new CO or anybody else was here to meet him and orient him to the base. "Say, where would I find the Captain?"
The directions Fives had provided were long-winded and confusing. Andy got lost almost immediately in the many caverns that made up the base on Akuria. He'd thought it was strange that the Rebels had set up shop so close to Dantooine, which was a known hideout of an earlier rebel cell, but it was likely that the Imperials thought there was no way the Rebels would have the temerity to set up shop so close to such an obvious location.
After what seemed like an eternity, he found the CO's quarters. Steeling himself, he nodded once to himself before rapping his knuckles on the creaky wooden door. Dust rained down as the vibrations of his knocks shook it loose from the recessed grains in the low-tech hatch.
Andy eased the door open, more out of fear of breaking it than respect, and stepped inside. The room was well-lit by a menagerie of jury-rigged lighting fixtures. The dust common to every other area on the planet was present here as well, coating the lower legs of the bed in the corner and the cobbled-together desk that dominated the room. The desktop seemed to be meticulously ordered and was free of dust, though.
The man seated at the desk barely looked up from his datapad, only glancing to acknowledge that somebody was indeed entering his room. "You my flog?"
Andy arched an eyebrow. "Flog?"
The man looked up. "Flog. Slang for Flight Officer."
Andy nodded, wincing inwardly at his lack of familiarity with pilot slang. "Yes sir. Flight Officer Clark."
The Captain flipped through a few screens on his datapad, frowning. "I see your ranking was toward the bottom end of your training cadre, Clark."
Andy shrugged. "I was used to flying freighters. The RZ-1 is quite a bit more maneuverable."
The Captain pursed his lips. "You still received the same amount of training as the other cadets, no?"
Andy opened his mouth to object, wanting to explain how many of the cadets were used to piloting the old R-22 Spearheads from their old employers, but he could tell that his new CO didn't want to hear excuses. "Yes sir," was all he said in reply. Nevermind that his scores in the X and Y-wing simulations were much more competitive compared to his peers that were mostly one-trick fathiers.
The Captain rose to his feet, sighing in an annoyed fashion. "I see Command still has it out for those of us in Black Squadron, giving us the dregs of their recruits."
Andy's eyes flashed at being held in such low standing, but he managed to barely hold his tongue. He set his jaw and focused on a point on the back wall. It would do him no favors to start off his first tour on a bad foot with his new commanding officer.
"I am not sure if you know, but my brother led the original Black Squadron. Managed to pull a mission that stole some high-level Imp intel."
Andy shook his head. "I wasn't told anything about my new unit when I was given my orders."
The Captain scoffed. "Well, my brother was assassinated by the Emperor's lapdog Vader, along with the rest of his squadron shortly after that mission. I had to claw my way to the top to get my own posting because they claimed he was drunk in a bar shooting his mouth off about their recent score. Each step up the rung took me thrice as long as everybody else," he said, each word tinged with a simmering rage. He looked up, his eyes wild. "But I made it. And when they told me I was going to be commanding a squadron, I had to fight thrice as hard to get Black Squadron reformed. Now we're the obsidian dagger working its way into the soft spots of the Empire's back!"
Andy felt pride welling up within him at the speech, feeling like his new posting was going to be quite the active bunch. While he still had misgivings about the state of their fighters, he thought he had a warrior in front of him.
"My name is Fir Tuki. You are now Black Six. I hope you're ready to do some fighting, because that's what we're here for."
Andy stood up straighter, throwing up an enthusiastic salute. "Yes SIR!"
Tuki smiled. "That's the spirit, flog. Let's just hope you last longer than the five sortie average of most new fighter jocks."
Andy immediately felt uneasy with the off-hand way his commander had just made light of his chances of survival. "Sir?"
The call to their cockpits came a few days later. None of his squadron had made much effort to get to know him in the interim. The tired voice of his flight leader, a Bothan Lieutenant that hadn't deigned to share his name, had outright said, "Look, human, you noobs don't last more than a few combat engagements, so what's the point in getting to know you?"
He thought he heard a few of them making fun of his sarcastic callsign as he trotted past their ships, but he wasn't sure there was really anything he could do about it. Truth be told, he was as nervous as a Klatooine paddy frog in a bowl in a Hutt's snack bowl. Being toward the bottom of the rankings in a training simulation was one thing. Out here, it meant he would likely die if he flew poorly.
As Andy trotted to his seemingly decrepit craft, he felt the nervous energy welling within him. The uncertainty of the coming mission sent a thrill of fear through his body, which he overcame by sheer force of will as he compelled himself to put one foot in front of the other until he reached the foremost craft in the hangar. The dust had added another layer to his ship since he'd last seen it, making him wonder if it would even respond to his flight commands when it really mattered. The thought didn't give him much confidence.
He nodded once toward Fives as he passed the droid, receiving a cordial wave in return. "Good luck, pilot," the droid said cheerily.
A few hours later, the entire squadron returned to the hangar without so much as a blaster score.
As Andy levered himself out of his cockpit, he heard his wingman sniggering about Andy's lack of kills during Black Squadron's ambushing of a lightly defended supply convoy en route to some remote base.
His rage bubbled to the surface. While he hadn't scored any kills, there were only two escorts available to be killed in the first place, and his flight hadn't even been assigned to take them out. He balled his fist at his side while he held his helmet with his other hand. "Got something to say to me?"
The pilot looked back over his shoulder as if he didn't have any worry about any violence Andy could send his way, which galled Andy more. Not getting so much as a challenging retort seemed to be the most humiliating thing that could have happened to him, but he also didn't feel like he could just assault the Arkanian male from behind either. The Rebels might fight like that against the Imperials, but he certainly didn't feel it was appropriate to do it to an ally.
As the feeling passed, his shoulders slumped. He was still angry, but he was now feeling the sudden arrival of post-combat fatigue settling in with a vengeance. Along with the embarrassment and anger and exhaustion was a small trill of elation that he'd survived his first combat sortie without so much as a scratch.
He thought back to the flight, replaying the only point he really felt personal fear. His ship had balked during maneuvering once, likely due to some planetary debris stuck in the flap assembly, but being out of the fight had meant it wasn't a life-ending malfunction. Still, he would need to get it addressed so it wouldn't happen again when it could cost him dearly.
The screeching servos of Fives refocused his attention, settling on the dusty droid. "Fives, you think we can get a tarp to cover up my fighter?"
"We don't have any available, Flight Officer," the repair droid replied. "However, I have requisitioned enough to cover the fighters already. I suppose they'll arrive whenever they arrive..."
Apparently he'd made the request too loudly, because there was an immediate guffaw from across the room. "You hear that, boys? The 'Courage the Cowardly Pup' wants a tarp to keep his precious kennel clean!"
Andy whirled around, spying his derisive wingman. The Arkanian was laughing raucously with a Devaronian. The two had finished out their flight, and neither had been very kind to him during the mission. He balled his fist and set his jaw, making his way slowly toward the laughing pilots.
Before he could close in enough to unleash his anger with his fists, the Bothan lieutenant stepped in. "That's enough, Anthraway. You didn't score any kills either."
The Arkanian shot an angry glance at the Bothan, but only muttered something under his breath before turning on his heel and walking out of the hangar.
"Thanks, sir," Andy said, still working the anger out of his system by rolling his neck and shaking his fists out.
"That's one," the Bothan replied, holding up a finger without looking in his direction.
Whether he meant that it was one thing that he now owed the Bothan for or if it meant it was one mission survived, Andy didn't know. His flight leader had walked off before he could ask.
After a few weeks of fruitless scouting sorties by wingpairs, they finally found paydirt. There was going to be another Imperial convoy lumbering through the same corridor that they'd ambushed the last one, and it was equally lightly defended.
They'd saddled up and jumped into the system in the same way they'd arrived the last time.
"Ok Blacks," Captain Tuki said calmly. "Same as before. First flight gets the escorts, Third gets the freighters, and Second hangs back."
"Again?" Anthraway whined.
"Quiet, Five," the Bothan admonished. "It worked before, might as well do it again."
"Croaker, you can't be seriously ok with being relegated to top cover because we got saddled with the noob!" Black Eight complained, echoing Anthraway's sentiment.
"It's not our job to decide, Eight," Croaker growled, making it clear the discussion was over.
Andy watched on as the other two flights obliterated the escorts as they had the last time they'd encountered a convoy like this, and wished he was allowed to swoop in and strafe the freighters. He was more comfortable with how his craft handled, and the malfunction that appeared before seemed to be resolved. Now he was itching for a chance to actually pull the trigger on a live target.
"Contact!" Eight called out.
"Lead, we have two Gozantis in our exit vector!" Croaker reported.
"Stang!" Anthraway spat.
Andy's heart seized as his wish for combat was granted. He broke out into a cold sweat as his mind attempted to process how their ambush had turned into an ambush of themselves. The location of the new arrivals was almost perfectly blocking their escape vector. And while they could attempt to escape with a different jump, the limited navicomputer capabilities of their A-wings left them very few options. He wasn't very good at nav calculations, so he knew he wasn't going to be the being that found them a new way out.
"What's the play, Seven?"
"Waiting for One to make up his mind," Croaker responded in an agitated fashion.
While they dithered with inaction, the eight TIE Fighters attached to the clamps of the Gozanti cruisers detached and made a beeline for the first two flights of Black Squadron, which were busy attempting to destroy the convoy as fast as possible.
Suddenly Andy's mind quieted as the picture became crystal clear. He'd experienced this before, both in his younger days in the sims and his training with the Rebellion. It was as if the future was already playing out in his mind. He knew that the eight enemy fighters would be extremely vulnerable in about fifteen seconds if he gunned his throttle and threw his craft into what his training officer called a "Darklighter Spin" just before engaging.
Without waiting for orders, he did just what his combat brain had told him to do, eliciting surprised questions from his flight. He ignored their hails as he focused on his intercept point. Giving way to his instincts, fear compartmentalized into a small space deep within his brain, he bored in on the eight fighters that were hunting his engaged squadmates.
He feathered the controls slightly to throw his craft into a spin, and pressed down on the firing stud with a light finger. His Borstel RG-9's spat a hail of scarlet bolts into the middle of the flight of TIEs, scoring many and causing them to break off. Two were hulled completely by multiple blasts.
Just as suddenly as he'd launched his assault, he flew through the disorganized remainder of the Imperial flight. He began to throttle down to wheel around, but the skirmish was all but finished by the time he'd brought his nose around as the rest of his flight had followed his lead, cleaning up two fighters apiece to neatly finish the engagement.
"Attack Pattern Delta on the lead cruiser?" Andy suggested.
"No need, Six," Croaker responded. "They're bugging out now that their eyeballs and freighters were vaped."
True to the Bothan's word, the two Gozanti cruisers moved to jump out of the system. Andy watched them lurch into pseudomotion and wink out shortly after. Fatigue overtook him almost immediately, but the elation of the action overcame the feeling of exhaustion leaching into his system. The thrill of earning his first official Imperial kills since joining the Rebellion buoyed his senses.
"Good work, Black Squadron," Captain Tuki said shakily. "Let's RTB."
The tone at the base was markedly different once all of the pilots returned. The rest of the squadron congratulated Andy upon the exit of his fighter with the clamor of applause and many rough pats on the back. Croaker even tousled his thinning hair in a playful fashion. Even Anthraway the Arkanian had to begrudgingly give his approval, however small, with crossed arms and the slightest of nods from near his own A-wing.
Not all of the tonal shifts were positive, however. Captain Tuki looked on at the celebration of a new pilot's first kills with a haunted expression on his face. He remained detached from the group, staring off toward the gathering but not really focusing on anything in particular. When the pilots all turned and started toward him, he hurriedly spun on his heel and walked into the base.
As the pilots of Black Squadron sans their leader walked back and mimed maneuvers they'd pulled during the engagement, mostly Andy's flight since they'd made the decisive maneuver to scare off the ambushers, Croaker shushed them all with a finger to his lips. "So, rookie, looks like you've got a mind for tactics."
Andy blushed. While he enjoyed the attention and praise, he had always taken compliments a bit awkwardly. His mouth hung open as his mind completely locked up, buffering infinitely as he tried to figure out what to say.
"What's the matter, Bulldog? Cat got your tongue?" Anthraway jibed.
The dig snapped Andy out of his fugue state. His eyes sharpened, but a cocky smirk found its way to his lips. "What can I say? They told me most rookies don't make it past their fifth combat sortie. That's going to change."
The crowd whooped at the newfound confidence their newest pilot displayed. They again showered him with a series of rough but playful pats on the back.
Andy felt elated. He looked around at his squadron, seeing the joy on their faces and excited energy in their movements. Not wanting the party to end, he spoke again. "How about a round of drinks on me? What passes for a bar on this dustball?"
The crowd immediately hushed, and the entire mood shifted to one of caution.
Andy noticed the change immediately, and his mind reeled at the thought that he'd just committed some sort of faux pas that he hadn't been aware of. He hadn't felt much like a person that was a part of the in-crowd, so he hadn't seen where people drank during his time at the base. "Uh... what did I say?"
Nobody would meet his eyes until Croaker stepped closer. "Captain doesn't like drinking, so we're not allowed."
The raging monologue the Captain delivered upon Andy's arrival filled his ears, only this time it took on a new meaning with the recent piece of the puzzle he'd just heard. Now he knew he was on a dry base, which was an absolute nightmare.
Andy and Black Squadron found themselves yet again in the same position as before due to intel regarding an incoming convoy. Only this time, Andy was cagey and alert. He knew that the last ambush was intentional, but their strength was a surprise. While he had felt that sticking to the same plan they'd executed the last two times was risky, he knew he wouldn't be listened to if he relayed his misgivings about keeping things exactly the same.
The Imperial convoy arrived right on time, but they were much closer to the planet than they'd been upon their previous two arrivals.
"That's... new," Anthraway said haltingly.
"Mission stays the same," Tuki replied gruffly. First and Third, let's go get them. Second, fly cover.
Black Eight groaned audibly, but nobody acknowledged it verbally.
Andy pulled his craft into position in Anthraway's port-aft quarter. The rest of Two Flight got into formation, and they pulled high to gain a better view of their surroundings. The rest of Black Squadron accelerated and raced toward the fleeing convoy, which had firmly ensconced itself in the gravity well of the gas giant that dominated the system.
"Wasn't very smart for them to jump so close to that planet. No way for them to escape quickly," Andy mused.
"Guess they thought jumping deeper into the system would keep them safe from us while they made their transit run," Croaker replied.
"They didn't bank on the speed of our ships," Anthraway cheered, noting how close the rest of the squadron was to reaching their targets.
Andy's eyes narrowed as he realized something was off. His mind began running through every possibility as he and the rest of his squadron closed on their prey. The swirling blues and grays of the planet loomed larger in his cockpit as they continued their approach. Looking at his sensors, he saw that there wasn't anything out of place and the only enemy IFF contacts were the ones belonging to the freighters that were about to be destroyed.
His eyes widened as realization of what was bugging him finally crystalized. "Wait. They're luring us in!"
"What?" Croaker asked.
"The grav-well of the planet," Andy explained. "They're pulling us toward whatever is on the other side of that horizon, and we'll be forced to fight because we won't be able to make a jump out."
"No way these Impies are that smart," Anthraway spat.
"Lead, Seven," Croaker called out.
"What is it?" Tuki barked in reply. "We're about to engage!"
"It's a trap!"
Andy pulled up a little higher, breaking formation. His distance from the planet being greater than that of the other flights meant he'd be able to get a better view of whatever was waiting for them. As he continued to increase his angle of travel, he noted that the rest of his flight mirrored his movements without saying a word or asking what he was doing. Whether that meant they trusted him or if they were doing the same as him because it was some obscure Rebel stratagem that hadn't been in the training curriculum, he didn't care. They were with him, and whatever they found on the other side of that planet would be found all the quicker.
Nearer the planet, the rest of Black Squadron began strafing the freighters with reckless abandon. The ineffectual return fire from the armed ships missed the nimble craft by wide margins, and it slackened rapidly as the slower ships began winking off the screen.
"Almost there..." Croaker mused.
As the four A-wings continued their path, the top fins of a Nebulon-B Frigate began to appear. The sight filled Andy with dread. Many of the training sims included these versatile craft, and they were death incarnate to the fragile craft they currently flew. "Frigate!"
"I see it," Croaker replied. "Lead, break off!"
"No!" Tuki disagreed. "We have two targets remaining. Keep firing!"
"Lead, that Frigate will be on top of you in 15 seconds!" Croaker argued.
As the last freighter exploded, the Frigate crested the horizon. It immediately began to fire all of its guns at the surprised A-wings. The wild opening salvo wasn't aimed, but it had the desired effect of causing them to all break wildly in different directions.
Just as suddenly as the frigate appeared, a squadron of TIE fighters pounced on the disorganized fighters. The comms filled with scared pilots calling for help. Fighters continued to corkscrew around and evade their attackers, but nobody seemed able to take charge and call out a plan of attack.
The unit cohesion that Andy thought had existed before his time was nonexistent, which caused him to grimace. Even his seemingly more measured flight lead, Croaker, was silent.
"What's the play, Seven?" Anthraway asked nervously.
Andy waited a beat for the question to snap the lieutenant out of his stupor, but no orders came forth. He looked back at the skirmish, noting that all of them would die if somebody didn't act now. His mind slowed down once again, as it had during his last ambush sortie, and suddenly the picture cleared. "Two Flight, go Gamma!"
He waited a second to make sure his call was comprehended, and then ruddered his nose toward the messy furball the rest of the squadron was embroiled in. A tick later, the rest of his flight lined up in a battle spread alongside him. The Gamma Attack Pattern would give them all clear lines of fire as well as maximize the amount of damage they could do as they scythed through the furball.
"Call out your targets," Croaker ordered, his voice regaining some of the steel it normally had.
As the pilots of Two Flight reserved targets, Andy picked two that would place themselves right on the aft of Black Three, but place themselves in a perfect targeting envelope for his cannons. He glanced down at the Combat Multiview Display and checked his distance. In two more seconds, he'd be in maximum range.
Two seconds passed. The rest of Two Flight unloaded a steady stream of coherent light toward their targets, immediately destroying half of the enemy fighters. The comm came alive with them calling for their embattled squadmates to break into a position that would help them engage more targets.
Andy continued on, waiting until he was within one klick of his targets. Green laserfire spat from the front of both TIEs as they attempted to vape the nimble A-wing before them. "Keep it steady, Three. I'm right on em!"
"Hurry up, Six!"
Andy nudged the controls to port slightly to adjust his aim, and then mashed his finger down on the firing stud. Within moments, the two trailing TIEs that had been harassing his squadmate went up in a cloud of shrapnel. Before he let go, however, another TIE flew right through the last few bolts, disintegrating the port solar array and causing the craft to go into an uncontrollable spin into the outer reaches of the gas giant. Once it entered the atmosphere, a spark from the stricken TIE set off a large blaze that immolated the rest of the fighter.
"Guess some of that atmosphere is flammable," Black Three said in awe at the snaking river of fire as it worked its way around the nearby flammable parts of the atmosphere, eventually running out of fuel and petering out.
"New guy got all three on one pass!" Black Eight crowed.
"Makes him an ace," Croaker responded with a tone of respect.
"It's not over yet," Anthraway broke in.
"TIEs are all gone, Black Squadron. Let's get out of here!" Tuki ordered. The rest of the A-wings formed up and sped away from the lumbering frigate. Ranging shots chased them, but all of the pilots easily evaded the fire.
"We should go a different way home," Bulldog mused aloud, intentionally leaving his comm on in hopes the message would be heard and heeded. While it wasn't an easy thing to plot a jump based on a ship's exit vector, it would certainly reduce the number of systems that needed to be checked if they used the same jump calculations every time. Certainly the officers on that Frigate that had ambushed them were going to do just that, meaning there would now be a ticking clock on how long their base would remain undetected if the Captain didn't change up his habit and take them out of the system a different way.
His hopes were short-lived, however, as the Captain took them straight back the way they'd left the system every other time they'd bugged out. Andy sighed inwardly. While the A-wing was quite limited in the navicomputer department, it could store up to a few different jump coordinates. They needed to use them if they wanted to avoid the Imperials paying them a visit on the ground in their bunks.
As Andy debarked, another crowd greeted him at the base of the ladder. This time, they lifted him on their shoulders as they cheered. He fought through the vertigo of almost being dropped three times before he finally got comfortable enough to enjoy the experience.
After a few more jostling lifts, they set him down. The Mimbanese pilot that had borne his weight feigned a back injury, drawing more raucous laughter. A few more rough pats on the back and head ended the event. The Captain was nowhere to be found, as per usual.
"What was that all about?"
"Your fifth kill, ace," Croaker replied with a smile. "You didn't know?"
Andy's eyes widened. He had forgotten about that important fighter pilot milestone, even though Croaker had said it during the mission as well. At that point, his mind was focused on making sure there weren't any more surprises for them, so he hadn't even internalized what he'd said. "Ace, huh?"
"Don't let it go to your head," Anthraway grumbled, but a subtle smirk crept into his lips.
The group of pilots walked into the base, all of them wishing there was some sort of alcohol for a celebratory toast. The dry nature of the base was especially hard on Andy, who was used to finding whatever dive he could on the planet he was visiting that week. These past few months had been the longest dry stretch in his life since he'd first tasted a drop of alcohol.
The following morning, Andy awoke to a single rap at his door. Before he could answer it, the individual that had knocked once had walked away. He stuck his head out into the hallway and looked in both directions, hoping to see who had woken him up. Shaking his head, he began to close his door, but something caught his eye at his feet on the dusty floor.
Rubbing his eyes as he bent down, his vision cleared enough and his eyes widened. On the floor was a new rank patch. The gold piping around a white patch with a central red pip that replaced his old pipless patch wasn't much of a change, but it meant all the world to him.
He looked back out into the hallways even more mystified. Was this the normal way promotions were handled in the Rebellion? "Thank you?"
As he went to close his door, his datapad chirped. Looking at the message, a look of confusion filled his features.
My office. Now.
The brief message perplexed Andy, as the Captain must have just dropped off his new rank patch. If he wanted to meet, why not just wait outside Andy's door and talk while he delivered the news of his promotion.
Regardless, it was close enough to the time his alarm was due to go off, so he just decided to dress for the day and go meet his CO. Before leaving, he tore off the old Flight Officer patch and affixed his new Lieutenant patch. Taking one moment to admire it in the mirror, he smiled as he left.
Having been on the base for a few months, he immediately navigated his way to his commanding officer's office. He let out a breath, and then knocked softly.
Andy opened the door and stepped inside. "Reporting as ordered, Captain."
Tuki sat at his desk with an air of confusion around him. The room looked to be in a state of extreme disorder. He swiped through his datapad as he searched for something. After a few moments, he set it down and looked up with an arched eyebrow. "Ordered?"
Andy was now equally confused. "I received a message that said to meet you in your office immediately?"
Tuki squinted. "Is that a lieutenant patch on your shoulder?"
"Where did you get it?"
"Didn't you leave it outside my door just now?"
Tuki shook his head. "I did not," he replied slowly, but a thoughtful glance back at the patch and a subtle nod changed the strange energy of the room. He nodded his head once more, as if he were mentally debating an idea. "Eh, let's just make it official. My guess is you were pranked by somebody in the Squadron, but I suppose you've earned it. Congratulations, Lieutenant Clark."
Andy moved to leave, but caught himself before fully turning toward the door. "Captain?"
"Yeah?" Tuki asked, not looking up from his datapad.
"I think we should stop coming directly back to base if there are enemies in the system still."
Tuki sighed in a condescending manner. "You like that new patch, Lieutenant? Zip it if you want to keep it. Dismissed."
Andy left Captain Tuki's office, and found Anthraway down the hallway struggling to stifle a laugh, but failing. "Thanks for that."
"How'd he take meeting his newest Lieutenant?"
Andy looked at his patch, and then back to his Arkanian wingman. His smile grew to an almost predatory leer. "Well, how do you like meeting your newest Lieutenant?"
Anthraway's expression changed from one of mirth to one of a mixture of distress and confusion. "Wait. What?"
He walked past the dumbfounded pilot, being sure to pause so his lieutenant patch was right in front of the prankster's eyes. "Looks like that one backfired, eh, Lieutenant Junior-Grade?"
More scouting sorties, many fruitless searches for targets. The traffic in their sector was drying up. The Imperials either were moving on to other projects, or taking more circuitous routes to wherever their destination was to avoid the preferred Black Squadron ambush system.
That didn't mean the squadron didn't frequent that system. It didn't make much sense to Andy, but the Captain seemed to always program it into the list of jumps for their patrols.
This time though, they hit paydirt again. It had been so long since their last skirmish in the system that this convoy looked unprotected and in the original position of the first few convoys that picked their way through.
"Look at that, Cap guessed it right," Anthraway said. "Let's go blow stuff up!"
"What?" Eight asked in disbelief. "Say again, Lead?"
Andy was equally confused. "Lead, they're sitting ducks out there."
"It's no good. Could be a trap," Tuki replied. He was clearly shaken up by the last time they'd been here months ago and were jumped by the Frigate, and the time before that when the Gozantis had jumped in behind them.
"Sir, there's nothing anywhere near them," Andy replied. "Even if they come in the way those Gozantis did last time, we'll be able to evac without any danger."
The line was completely dead as everybody waited to see what would happen. The freighters trundled on, beginning to turn about so they could make a jump back the way they'd come and avoid the fight that should be upon them already.
"Lead?" Croaker asked.
Without reply, Captain Tuki's A-wing pulled off and took a heading toward their evac point. The rest of First Flight followed belatedly, and then the rest of Black Squadron pulled back into formation.
"Captain," Andy said, not rejoining the formation yet. "We should take this opportunity."
Black Squadron jumped into hyperspace, leaving Andy alone in the system with the freighters. They had once again turned around, realizing they weren't threatened.
"What the hell just happened?"
Back on the deck, Andy made a beeline for the Captain, catching up to him before he pulled his textbook vanishing act. "Captain, about that mission."
"Not now, Lieutenant," Tuki growled.
Andy put his hand on his CO's shoulder to stop him. "We had them man, we had them."
Tuki shook the hand off violently and continued walking away. "It didn't look good!"
Andy was overcome by rage. "It didn't look good? It doesn't look any better than that!"
The Captain turned sharply on his heel and stormed back toward Andy with a wild look in his eyes. He planted a finger firmly into Andy's chest. "I'll order a strike when I'm good and ready!" With that, he turned and stalked off.
Andy began to follow, but a strong furry hand clamped down on his shoulder. He looked back and saw the somber face of Croaker. The Bothan shook his head once, but didn't let his grip slack.
The sound of metal banging on the wooden door of his quarters awoke Andy with a start. Assuming it was another prank, he continued to lay in bed. When the sound came again, he hopped out of bed quickly and padded barefoot across the dusty floor and threw the door open quickly. The grimy frame of Fives was standing out in the hallway alone, and he recoiled slightly at the sight.
"Lieutenant Clark," Fives said in greeting.
"Fives," Andy replied nervously.
"I wanted to tell you personally that the tarps are en route to our base," Fives said cheerfully.
Andy cocked his head to the side in confusion. "You... You came to wake me up and tell me that personally?"
Fives made his own approximation of a nod, made worse by the grating sound of his servos fighting with the dust that had infiltrated his joints. "However, I also wanted to present you with a gift for your promotion as well as your newfound status as an ace."
Andy took the proffered box, noting that it looked like it was the exact size for a bottle of alcohol. Turning it over in his hands, his eyes widened. "I thought this was a dry base?"
"I ordered it special for you, Lieutenant," Fives said in his best approximation of a conspiratorial whisper. "It's always nice when somebody defies the odds. Gives this old model hope. Rebellions are built on hope, you know. Somebody important said that once, and I've hard-coded it to my central processor codes. Also got a case of ale being unloaded from our latest shipment that I planned to distribute to the rest of the Squadron, sans Captain Tuki, obviously."
Andy nodded at the bottle in appreciation. While it wasn't a high-end bottle, it wasn't a bottom shelf offering either. "Thanks, Fives. I'm familiar with this line of bourbon, and I know it's not cheap. How did you manage to buy it?"
Fives enacted a groaning shrug. "We had some surplus materièl that wasn't needed for our ships. It won't be noticed or missed by anybody that looks over my department."
Andy was deeply touched by the gesture, and patted Fives on the shoulder. When he removed his hand, it was covered in a deep layer of filth, and there was a hand-shaped clean space on the droid's chassis.
Later that day, Andy's flight cruised through their patrol jumps, finding nothing of interest at each stop along the way. The other flights were patrolling other systems, casting a wide web in search of possible targets. The rally point was the same system they'd usually used to jump home, which gave Andy severe misgivings due to the frequency with which they'd been spotted there by the Imperials. He'd voiced his opinion to his flight lead, but Croaker merely shrugged and said that the Captain was very much a creature of habit.
As he sat in his eggshell's cockpit during their last transit jump, his mind wandered. If the Imperials were smart, they'd likely have something ready for them if they appeared. What that something would look like, he did not know. Regardless, he prepared to be immediately thrust into the fire when they reverted back to realspace.
His cockpit timer lit up, pulling him from his mental exercises. He flexed his muscles and clenched and unclenched his hands to loosen them up again. With three seconds left, he was ready for anything.
The starlines faded, and the four Black Squadron A-wings of 2nd Flight found themselves staring at the familiar blue and gray gas giant. Their sensors reached out for any signatures there, first displaying that no other friendlies were there, and then finally alerting them to the presence of another convoy of Imperial freighters.
"Cap really knows when to have us show up," Eight said, anticipation evident in his voice.
"You know our orders," Croaker replied. "We are not to engage until we're all here."
Andy remembered the orders, and they felt just as short-sighted now as they did when he'd heard them. These freighters and their paltry escorts would be easy pickings for a flight of four A-wings, and they were fast enough to evacuate if the Imperials sprung a trap. And it would be better for four ships to be trapped as opposed to all twelve.
"They're right there," Anthraway whined. "Easy pickings!"
"We should wait," Croaker said, but his conviction to the order was clearly wavering.
"I can order the attack and we can claim you had comm issues upon re-entry," Andy offered, equally anxious to launch the attack. He figured Croaker was just not wanting the heat from their suddenly reluctant-to-attack CO, and that suggestion would absolve him in the eyes of everyone.
"Somebody's finding their rocks," Anthraway said, impressed.
"Do it," Croaker said after a long pause. "Take the lead on the attack, Bulldog."
Bulldog whooped, being called by his callsign for the first time in a fashion that wasn't derisive. For some reason, that feeling eclipsed the excitement of being given the lead on an attack. Perhaps it was due to the fact that he'd unofficially called some shots in their previous missions and this was his first officially sanctioned combat decision. Either way, he pushed his nose down into a dive and accelerated toward the lumbering freighters.
The Imperials had just now spotted the new arrivals, and began attempting to come about to leave the way they'd come, as it was closer than their planned transit exit vector. Two TIE fighters detached from the lead freighter and came about to meet the four A-wings as they dove toward them.
"Seven, Eight, drop back a bit. You'll get the TIEs," Bulldog said, feeling confident in those odds. "Five, we're going right at them, but breaking to port and draw their fire."
"We're decoys?" Anthraway groaned.
"Textbook feint and backstab," Croaker agreed. "Dropping back as ordered, Six."
"You can have two of the freighters in recompense," Bulldog soothed as he watched Black 7 and 8 pull back a bit to minimize their threat to the TIEs. One of the freighters appeared different from the others, and was an unfamiliar model to anything he'd ever seen before. It had a towering central body and a large container bay attached to one side. Attached to the top of the bay was what looked like three strong manipulative arms. "Five, you recognize that model?" he asked as he pinged the questionable ship.
"It looks like some sort of salvage ship, Six," Anthraway said. "It's not a model I'm familiar with, however."
Bulldog felt a pang of uncertainty, but shook it aside as he and Anthraway continued to bore in on the two TIEs charging them. He hazarded a glance at his CMD and noted that the TIEs would begin firing at them in a few moments. "Ok Five, break to port on my mark... Three, two, one... MARK!"
The two A-wings broke to the left the moment the TIEs opened fire, causing their first shots to miss by a wide margin. Their tracking fire was also too slow to reach them, but it was walking closer as the TIEs adjusted their flight paths to chase the two A-wings. To the defenders, it looked as if the nimble Alliance fighters were attempting to sidestep their defense so they could close in with the rear of the convoy, locking their attention on those two fighters exclusively.
"Hooah, that got him," Croaker crowed.
"Splash two," Eight followed. "Tails are clear, Five and Six."
Bulldog allowed himself to breathe a little sigh of relief, as the unending stream of the TIE tracking fire had been getting dangerously close to his ship. Shaking off the spark of fear that his allies would be too slow in executing the maneuver, he focused his attention forward again.
"Any specific plan?" Anthraway said from up ahead.
That mysterious freighter model drew his attention again. As it sat, the massive cargo bay was facing away from them. It made him extremely uncomfortable to have that blindspot. "I'm going to go high and around to see what's in that freighter. Seven, Eight, go in at the front of the convoy. Five, get the ones at the back."
The A-wings began dodging the ineffectual incoming fire from the freighters and scoring hits with their return fire. It would take a moment to drain the shields enough to start doing damage, but right now they had the ability to attack with fair impunity.
Bulldog continued on his path, dodging some overpowered blasts from the front-mounted dual laser cannons of the mystery freighter. He found himself puzzling over its make and model, wishing again that he was in a craft with an astromech to identify the craft he was attempting to investigate. In another few moments, he'd have a good enough angle to see what was in those bays if they were open.
Two freighters exploded as the A-wings outmaneuvered their defensive turrets and continued to blast away. Anthraway crowed as he'd destroyed one of his two reserved targets.
Bulldog's ship continued its recon path. He ducked under a blast from a new dual laser turret that he hadn't spotted, and rolled his ship so he had to look up to see inside the cavernous maw of the freighter's hold. He side-slipped once again to avoid another salvo from the defensive turrets, but the ambient light from the blasts lit the darkened interior just enough for him to discern what was inside, and his heart sank into his stomach. "Break off!"
Inside the massive freighter bay looked to be racks and racks of TIE Fighters, just waiting to launch.
"What's up, Six?"
"This freighter is full of TIEs!" Bulldog shouted urgently, breaking contact and attempting to distance himself from the convoy.
"Get away from that convoy!"
"Captain?" Eight asked in disbelief.
Eight other A-wings had arrived in the system, but formed up and made for their transit point rather than joining the attack.
"Break contact and head home!"
"They're a bunch of wallowing Hutts though, Lead," Anthraway whined, but followed orders and was outbound.
Bulldog did a quick mental calculation from what he'd seen briefly inside the hold of that freighter, and if it was completely full then they'd be outnumbered by a factor of 5 to 1. Evacuating was the only option. He hung back and waited for the rest of his flight to get clear, and then raced to rejoin the rest of the squadron.
Just as they reached their jump point, fighters started to boil out of the mystery freighter.
As Bulldog debarked, he was met with the red-faced scowl of Captain Tuki. He hurried down the ladder and stood at attention, awaiting his dressing down.
Tuki jabbed a finger into Bulldog's chest. "You ordered that attack!"
Bulldog nodded affirmative. "I made the call."
"Despite the very clear orders I gave on the matter?"
"Captain," Croaker tried to interrupt, but he was silenced by a curt wave from the enraged Captain.
"It was an opportunity worth taking, Sir," Bulldog said, finding enough confidence to stand up for himself.
"We could have all been killed!"
"We weren't, and we took down two freighters and two more TIEs," Bulldog replied, setting his jaw to avoid saying anything further.
Tuki shook his head and put his hands on his hips. "That wasn't your decision to make, pilot. Why didn't your section leader override your decision?" He looked back at Croaker expectantly.
"It wasn't his fault, Captain," Anthraway answered. "The Lieutenant's comms were acting up all day, and they were out at the time of our arrival. Lieutenant Clark took over."
Tuki looked searchingly into Croaker's eyes. "Is this true?"
"Aye," Bulldog broke in. "Couldn't understand a word he was saying once we entered the system."
"I want a full technical readout of that ship," Tuki said to nobody in particular before storming off alone.
"Well, that'll tell him the truth soon enough," Croaker said, deflated.
"Not necessarily," Bulldog replied, eyeing the grimy maintenance droid thoughtfully. "Hey, Fives!"
The droid paused his approach to Croaker's A-wing. "Yes, Lieutenant Clark?"
Bulldog looked back to Croaker. "Have everybody gather in the rec room in two hours."
"Just do it," Bulldog called out over his shoulder as he made his way toward the waiting maintenance droid. As he neared the droid, he stopped and lowered his voice. "How would you like enough credits to buy yourself a nice oil bath?"
If a droid's eyes could widen, they would have.
"We're all here, Bulldog," Anthraway said impatiently with his arms crossed. "What's this all about?"
Bulldog grinned and motioned for them to open the cooler that lay unnoticed in the corner of the room. With his other hand he held the bottle of bourbon Fives had given him behind his back, and held it in reserve for a later reveal.
Anthraway whistled as he opened the cooler. "Where'd this come from?"
"Gift from a friend," Bulldog said dismissively. "But that's nothing." He revealed the bottle, drawing a healthy amount of 'oohh's' and 'aahh's' from the pilots in attendance.
Lacking glasses, the pilots in attendance opted to open an ale each and chug it quickly, and then the bourbon was split between each of the bottles equally. Now having a proper spirit for a toast, they held up their bottles expectantly.
"We're fighter pilots so I'll keep this brief," Bulldog said, thinking on his feet. "A friend of mine was a pilot and gave me this sage advice upon joining the Alliance: fly it until the last piece stops moving."
The raucous cheer and clinking of bottles filled the room, followed by healthy draughts of the fiery spirit. Since none of them had had a drop of alcohol in months, the effects began to settle in almost immediately. Their second ales were open and already nearly gone, and they were bordering on fall-down drunk to a man.
"You're awright," Anthraway said as he leaned heavily into Bulldog, more for support than camaraderie.
Bulldog laughed at the drunken Arkanian's admission. "What, you mean you actually like me?"
"Never didn't like youuuuu," Anthraway said, and then started hiccuping violently.
A booming voice from the doorway interrupted the merriment. "What is THIS!"
"Hey Cap," Anthraway said, hiccuping violently. "Ze Ell-Tee got us some booOOOOoooze!"
Captain Tuki stalked into the room, knocking bottles still filled with alcohol out of the hands of their owners as he went, drawing many complaints. As he attempted to knock the bigger bourbon bottle out of Bulldog's hands, his hand was gripped by Bulldog's free hand and progress was halted. "What have you done to my pilots?!"
"You've got them all wound up and ready to blow, Captain," Bulldog replied quickly, surprised at his own words. The cat was out of the bag now, though, so he pressed his luck. "You're going to get them all killed with your current plans!"
Tuki's eyes widened. It was clear he wasn't used to being challenged by his own men, and he was temporarily flummoxed. He quickly regained his senses, however, and with his free hand he slapped the bottle of bourbon out of Bulldog's hands. "You think you know what's going on here?" He laughed. "You don't know how much you don't know, you insubordinate and insignificant orphan."
Bulldog's mind went blank and the howling of wind filled his ears. His eyes widened and nostrils flared as adrenaline flooded throughout his system. He reflexively swung the fist that had been holding the bottle seconds before, but before he could connect with the Captains head, his superior had ducked the blow and let him stumble past.
The last thing he heard was a cacophony of alarmed shouts and the whine of a blaster.
Bulldog groaned. His face was on a cold, metallic floor. His head was swimming, and his stomach was roiling. He hazarded an attempt at rising, but his equilibrium swam and he fell back to the floor. He tried to open his eyes, but the bright light assaulted his senses.
He felt the ground around him searchingly with his hands, and the smooth metal surface confused him. So far as he knew, there was no place that wasn't covered in multiple layers of dust at the base.
An unfamiliar voice called out from nearby. "Well look at that, sleeping beauty's waking up."
Bulldog groaned. "Hrm?"
"Relax, buddy. We're almost at the ship."
Bulldog's foggy mind reeled. "Ship?"
The owner of the voice chuckled. "Oh, right, you have no idea. You're being transferred to the Liberty."
"Relax, headcase. We'll be skids down in about ten minutes."
Bulldog slowly opened his eyes once again, and once they adjusted, he noticed he was on the floor of some sort of shuttle. He attempted to rise, but again his stomach threatened to empty itself and he opted to relent and lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling.
His head lolled to the side, and he noticed something hazy on the ground near his head. Clumsily reaching out, he snagged the bit of fabric in his clammy hand and brought it right up to his eyes.
It was the patch of a Flight Officer.
True to the pilot's word, they were on the hangar deck of the CRS Liberty in ten minutes. While Bulldog hadn't seen the ship from the outside due to the sudden bouts of vertigo that assailed him each time he attempted to rise, he was able to find his feet well enough to slowly walk down the ramp.
The first thing he noticed was the relatively pristine deck. There didn't seem to be a speck of dirt or dust anywhere. Likewise, the equipment was well-kept and neatly organized and nothing was left out of place. There were numerous maintenance personnel ambling about, but they were also fairly well-ordered in appearance.
Bulldog turned slowly toward the source of the voice. He saw a traditionally handsome human male with a Captain's patch. He shrugged and pointed to his old rank patch. "Flight Officer again, apparently."
Confusion flitted across the young Captain's face, but it passed quickly. "I'm Captain Jeff Young, executive officer of Corsair Squadron. They call me Kallysto though, so if we're not being formal then that is fine by me."
"Ok, Kallysto. They call me—"
"Bulldog, yes," Kallysto interrupted. "That at least was accurate in your paperwork. Didn't say anything about a reduction in rank. Any reason?"
Bulldog shrugged. If Captain Tuki hadn't put it in text why he was being transferred, let alone the fact that he had been demoted, there probably wasn't anything in there aside from his combat record. "I threw a post-mission success party, and the Captain took offense."
Kallysto pondered the response for a moment and examined Bulldog's face intently. After what seemed like an eternity, he nodded. "Very well, please follow me and we'll get you sorted."
After a few twists and turns and a brief turbolift ride, they exited into the small office of what was apparently the executive officer's. They settled into chairs on opposite sides of the well-kept desk, and Kallysto pulled out his datapad again.
"Ok, so you're coming from Black Squadron, which was an A-wing squadron, yes?"
"Correct," Bulldog replied through gritted teeth. His stomach was really bothering him, and he was becoming increasingly distracted in fighting off whatever was going on with it while he was being interviewed. If this went on for too long, however, he might need to make haste to the nearest refresher.
"Says you had five confirmed kills, which makes you an ace."
Bulldog merely nodded, but he was proud to know that that was on his record and it apparently carried weight with his new XO.
"You're joining a wing full of aces, Flight Officer," Kallysto continued, dashing Bulldog's hopes that his ace status held any weight. "Renegade Wing, comprised of Rogue—yes, that Rogue, Buccaneer, and Corsair Squadron are full of ace pilots. That's the reason we snatched you up the moment your name popped up on the transfer list.
Bulldog's eyes widened. "You asked for me?"
"Well it wasn't just your kill total that drew our attention. We saw that you had a specialty attached to your profile regarding tactical analysis, which is something we value greatly," Kallysto said, folding his hands in front of himself on the desk. "Can you tell me what Attack Pattern Delta is?"
Bulldog scoffed. "This one was from Hoth. I was there, you know, just not a part of the Alliance at the time. It's when the attacking flight flies in a straight line to reduce their target profile as they attack a target."
Kallysto nodded and smirked. "Very good, Flight Officer. You'd be surprised how many pilots don't know about that one."
The rest of the interview went by painfully slowly, with the pain in Bulldog's stomach continuing to increase in intensity. He was fighting to hold back either loud flatulence or a very violent bout of diarrhea. Kallysto brought him across the hall to meet their CO, a Lieutenant Colonel they called Blindman. However, he seemed to be quite occupied with some sort of study on his datapad, and the two of them left rather quickly.
"Hey Kally," a voice called out from down the hall.
"Hey, Guardian!" Kallysto said as he waved the new arrival over. "This is Flight Officer Clark, and he's got medical expertise listed in his Alliance bio. Got a question you can quiz him with so we can finalize this?" He looked back at Bulldog. "This is Captain Adam Burns, Buccaneer Leader."
Guardian grinned. "Well, how deep into medical? We have surgical expertise, or just basic medic stuff?"
"Basic," Bulldog replied. "Definitely not a surgeon."
"Roger that," Guardian nodded. He brought a hand to his chin as he thought long and hard about his question.
Each moment that went by was agony on Bulldog's guts. He wanted nothing more than to be shown his billet and to make an in-depth inspection of the refresher.
"What is the best way to apply a tourniquet?"
"Cut away the clothing, find the source of bleeding, and apply the tourniquet several inches above the wound to slow the bleeding enough for the real docs to fix the problem," Bulldog answered hurriedly.
Guardian gave an approving nod, and then continued on his way to wherever he was going before Kallysto had stopped him.
"Wonderful, Flight Officer. Welcome to Corsair Squadron," Kallysto said, patting him on the shoulder. "Let's get you to your billet."
"Yes please," Bulldog grunted, relieved that he'd finally be able to get the relief his body required.
"Hey Kally," another voice called out, halting their progress before it started.
"Hey Jalb," Kallysto replied, looking back to Bulldog. "This is Rogue Nine. Used to be in Corsair not too long ago though. Perhaps you'd like to see your ship?"
Before Bulldog could decline, Kallysto had wrangled the human into giving him a look at his A-wing. "This is Bulldog. He just transferred in from Black Squadron."
"Come along, new guy," Jalb said, waving him along.
"For the love of..." Bulldog grunted, acute pains shooting throughout his abdomen. He looked sadly back in the direction Kallysto had been leading him, but he clenched his lower back muscles and followed Jalb back toward the hangar.
They made small talk along the way, but it was the general surface level talk that neither would remember the moment they parted ways. However, when they exited the hangar, Jalb dropped a bomb on him. "Heard Black Squadron just got wiped out."
Bulldog's eyes widened. "What? How?"
"Scuttle says that the Imps found their base and made a house call. Caught them all on the ground. Looks like you got out at the right time, mate."
The wind was knocked out of Bulldog. Croaker, whom had looked out for him in his own way, was gone. As was his prank-loving Arkanian wingmate Anthraway. And Captain Tuki... "They found our base?"
"Yeah, word is they plotted a course based off of the heading you Blacks took out of a particular system fairly often."
Bulldog nodded. "I... told the Captain that we should either leave no survivors or switch up our plans. He wasn't one to listen to his subordinates..."
Jalb nodded thoughtfully. "A bit too much of that in this galaxy I'd say." They walked a few more paces, and then stopped at a relatively well-maintained A-wing. "Here we are, mate. Corsair Six. Go on, have a look."
Bulldog didn't want to, but he felt compelled to check out his ship. He awkwardly made his way up the ladder and maneuvered himself into the pilot's couch. Due to his posture in keeping his muscles tensed, he accidentally hit the cockpit toggle. He moved to stop it, but decided this would provide the privacy he needed to relieve himself.
As the transparisteel slid shut, he couldn't hold it back any longer. He released the tension in his stomach, and unloaded the loudest, most violent flatulence he'd ever unleashed.
He immediately regretted accidentally closing the cockpit.