By Bulldog, with contributions from Jalb and Wildcard
Toseng Desert Wasteland
Bulldog was weary. The forced march back to the village was rough, and Torsten needed to be stunned two more times to make the trek in relative peace. Each time the effect wore off, the aggrieved teen became loud and combative. He couldn't blame the youth, as he'd just lost his mother and father over the course of a week. Add in the fact that his mother was denied the burial rites dictated by their religion, it bode poorly for relations between the two of them for a long time.
He, Blue, and Bearcat left the village after getting the express promise from the new elder of the village that they would keep a close eye on Torsten in the coming days and support him in his grief. About halfway to the cave, he told the two of them to go in and get some rest while he made some calls. Neither of them fought him on his plan, belying just how tired both of them were after the last few days.
After bidding the other two adieu, he decided to make the trek to his previous transmission site to make contact with the disparate groups of allies across the planet to see if anything new had developed while they'd been planning and executing their ambush. He wished he had refilled his water bottle before making the journey, but he hadn't exactly been thinking clearly either as the guilt over the Zabrak deaths continued to eat away at him.
He came upon "his" ditch and hopped gingerly down into the hole, causing another jackrabbit analog to go scurrying away into the night, nearly giving him another heart attack in the process. Giving himself a moment to calm down, he rubbed his temples vigorously to assuage the pounding headache he'd developed. He took a long gulp of his water, draining the last of it without thinking.
He punched in the first comm address and was glad to have the call answered on the first chime. "Pirate XL reporting, target destroyed. Over."
"We heard, XL. The hairball is none too pleased, I must say. Over."
Bulldog snorted. "Yeah? What did he say? Over."
The sound of a brief scuffle responded to his question, before the chilling voice of Thram Shen'ryu responded. "That was a reckless action, Captain! Just when the patrols were starting to lighten up and allow us to escape, you pull that reckless stunt! They've doubled the sky patrols since you hit that convoy!"
Bulldog winced at his rank and the specificity of their target was just broadcast to any prying ears. A once-general should know better! He took a moment to compose himself and let his anger bleed off, radiating away from him in waves. "Well, sorry not sorry. It had to be done. Over."
"Nonsense! You will bring yourself to my location and submit to my command this instant, Captain! Or I'll have you strung up on so many charges your ancestors will be locked up in the past!"
"Get bent," Bulldog replied angrily. "You broadcast my rank or any other distinguishing targets over the comm again and I'll have you stunned and left behind so fast your head will spin. Pirate XL, out." He severed the connection and then blocked the number to stop Shen'ryu from contacting him again. He felt bad that he was essentially cutting Foo out of the loop, but he couldn't trust that fool of an officer to not blow their cover with his lack of covert etiquette. He'd unblock the connection when and only when he had a solid plan in place that they couldn't refuse.
He rolled his shoulders and neck to bleed off the remaining anger from that conversation. Feeling better, he pulled out his datapad and keyed in the second address on his list. After two chimes, he was greeted with a gruff voice.
Bulldog waited for Guts to elaborate, but it was clear the spacer was done explaining and needed a push. "Well, any of our friends home?"
Guts snorted derisively, and it was carried across the transmission perfectly. "You could say that. At least twenty of them, though I think there might only be a handful of your gang bunked up."
Bulldog's heart sank. He'd hoped against everything that none of the Renegades got pinched, but he quickly brushed it off. "Better than buried. You think your ship has room for them all?"
There was a long pause. Bulldog pictured Guts doing picking his nails disinterestedly on the other end of the call, maintaining the pause for dramatic effect and upping his price. "We aren't doing it."
Bulldog's jaw dropped. He had expected the smuggler to play hardball during negotiations, but nowhere in the neurons of his brain did he think he'd get an outright refusal. Despair threatened to take hold, as he knew there was no way they'd be able to break everybody out with just a U-wing at their disposal. But, before he gave up completely, he decided to play the one card he knew would get their attention. "Name the price. No questions asked."
This time the reply was immediate. "Every single credit you have, not a chit less."
Bulldog smiled, realizing that Guts would expect him to counter and haggle. Instead, he planned to shock the spacer into compliance. "Done. I'll reach out with a time and place. Out." He moved to sever the line before Guts had a chance to try and extort him for more credits or future trade considerations, but the smuggler's reply was immediate.
Bulldog pursed his lips as he was growing impatient. Sleep was calling to him, but he had a long journey back to the cave before he could accomplish that goal. "Yes? I've got a limited number of airtime minutes here."
"Look, you know that medical ship that went down?"
"Vaguely," Bulldog lied.
"They're still there, running a clinic. It's watched, but I can't imagine they're happy sticking around either. That's the reason for the price hike. Didn't want you to think I was being a complete dick just now."
Bulldog snickered. "Just a little one."
"I thought you were leaving."
Toseng City Streets
Two days later, Bulldog once again found himself blending into the crowd of downtrodden citizens as best he could in the occupied capital city. The patrols had intensified since he'd last visited, which meant his attack had put the Imperials on edge. It was a double-edged sword, however, as the increased guard presence made it harder for him to travel through the city to his destination. However, this time he was working his way through the shanty town that had formed between the city proper and the 5 kilometers to the old New Republic base. He wanted to get eyes on that area to see what had become of their old installation, as well as what had happened to the medical staff of the downed CRV Anti-Venom. He kept an extra-keen eye out to make sure Wrant wasn't anywhere nearby, as he was the one man aside from Barand that would immediately blow his cover on sight.
After two hours of smoothly changing his path to avoid Imperial patrols or checkpoints without looking like he was avoiding them, he finally came upon the wreckage of the CRV Anti-Venom. It had been deemed a total loss for flight capability, and New Republic command had opted to leave it where it lay and allow the crew to run their health clinic out of it, open directly to the public. In order to keep it from being a complete and total loss, the New Republic leaders on the planet had decided to build their base near the crash site.
The Imperials hadn't closed the base or the Anti-Venom, which surprised Bulldog as the personnel inside the ship were definitely New Republic personnel. He was completely stumped as to why it was allowed to remain open. He affected a serious limp as he neared, hoping that any prying eyes he didn't spot wouldn't think twice about an injured civilian going in for medical care.
The nearby spotters he did notice didn't spare him a second glance as he joined the waiting queue, and no stormtrooper patrols seemed to come anywhere near this place. Though, in his estimation, the Imperial detachment taking up residence in the old New Republic base could see the entire area around the crashed Corellian Engineering Corporation ship if they thought it were important enough.
As far as he could tell, there weren't even any Imperials at the entrance checking people in. The mystery as to why it was being allowed to stay open was still heavy upon his mind, but he couldn't devote too much brainpower to thinking about it as he continued to remain hyper-vigilant for any threats to his own personal security. One thing he did note was that all those waiting in the queue for care were human. Not one Zabrak was anywhere near this place, which he thought was perplexing considering the large percentage of the population their species made up.
After an hour, he was finally admitted to enter through the open bay door by a harried-looking human orderly in an overly-dirty uniform that looked torn in places around his collar. "State of the injury or illness?" He asked in a defeated tone as his unfocused gaze looked over Bulldog's shoulder rather than into his eyes.
"I've got this limp," Bulldog said weakly as he made a show of lifting up his fake-injured leg.
"How did you come about this injury? Did you fall?"
Bulldog shook his head. "No, sir. Just woke up yesterday and it was like this."
The orderly paused and put his stylus up to his pursed lips as he puzzled over the possible causes. "Well, I suppose we'll have to take a look at the internals to see if there's something else at play if it wasn't caused by falling or movement." He wrote a quick note on a piece of paper, then stuck it to Bulldog's chest. "Internal imagery, inside and take the first left. Follow the signs." With that dismissal, he was already looking at the next person in line.
Bulldog nodded in thanks and hobbled his way up the short boarding ramp. He took the first left as he'd been told, and then followed the signs as directed. The halls of the Corvette were scored by what could only have been blaster bolts, and he spotted more than one stain that appeared to be odd-colored blood.
He continued to take in his surroundings when he nearly bumped into the doctor awaiting his arrival. He backed up awkwardly and mumbled his apologies as he finally raised his eyes, and his jaw dropped.
The doctor wasn't actually a doctor, or at least she wasn't wearing traditional doctor's scrubs or a lab coat. In fact, she appeared to still have her New Republic Navy uniform on, though it was definitely ripped in a few places and her rank bars were nowhere to be found. "Oh, sorry Doctor."
"I'm no Doctor," she replied, "but we're understaffed and this area happens to be the one part of the ship I know how to operate that isn't on the bridge."
Bulldog nodded, his eyes focusing on her more clearly. Her short hair was natty with filth, and her face was equally scuffed, but she still had an air of command and competence about her that belied her squalid appearance. "I see. Then what should I call you?"
"Captain Milo, Kardia Milo" she replied pleasantly. "What is your name?"
Bulldog's jaw dropped. In all of his planning and preparation, he'd completely forgotten to come up with an identity in the event he was stopped by any sort of authority. His mind reeled as he attempted to come up with any sort of name to give this lady to avoid blowing his cover in the event there were any eavesdropping devices nearby, which there were sure to be. "Uh, what? Oh, my name? It's... Vince Reynolds. Yeah, Vince."
Kardia's eyes narrowed instantly, but she didn't make any sound that would tip off any surveillance devices in the area. "I... see, Mr. Reynolds. What seems to be the problem today?"
Bulldog did the same exaggerated showing of his injured leg and pointed. "I just woke up a few days ago, and something felt wrong."
Kardia nodded. "A lot of that going around, I'm afraid."
"Yeah, I have no idea what might have happened to it. I didn't fall. It's almost like my nervous system... forgot how to do its job and now I'm stuck here with a bum leg and no way to remedy that problem. I'm just glad they're letting your outfit provide aid still. Surprised, because I thought you were all Rebels?"
Kardia snorted derisively, but caught herself before saying anything with any real venom to it. "The... Imperials understand the importance of our mission to provide medical aid to the people of Toseng. Without us doing this work out here, they'd be inundated with sick and wounded at their aid stations instead. It's definitely an... arrangement of convenience for them."
Bulldog nodded once, understanding the situation in the words she didn't say. Captive, but allowed to operate so long as they stick to providing aid. Not allowed to come and go freely from the looks of their uniforms and hygiene. "Well, I'm just thankful somebody is here to take a look at this injury. I was about to... take it off... myself if it continued like this!"
Kardia nodded thoughtfully, all the while jotting down some notes on her clipboard. "I see, Mr. Reynolds. Well, we'd better have a look at your leg. As she moved close to examine it, she covertly passed a note she'd just jotted down while they spoke.
Bulldog palmed the note expertly, and read it from afar while Kardia made a lengthy and exaggerated show of looking at his leg from toe to thigh. It read:
"Under constant surveillance. Cameras and listening devices. Don't say anything incriminating. They killed Dr. Pheven in cold blood, and we are missing numerous crewmembers. Presumed dead, especially the non-humans. Have one nurse hidden caring for one of your friends, no contact with her in days. Plan?"
Bulldog crumpled the note covertly, and as he made to rub his head he put the small piece of paper in his mouth and chewed carefully. The ink tasted oily and sterile at the same time, but it was the only way he had to destroy the covert communique. "It's a weird tingling feeling at all times, especially when you touch it there. Really sets me off! GAH! Felt like I was speeding away on a ship, I got so dizzy!" He winced at his clumsy attempt at veiled conversation.
Kardia stood and nodded once more, but a look of worry flitted across her face as she clearly felt he'd tipped his hand a little too obviously as well. "Well, let's get you imaged up and see what's going on inside that leg. Hate to have a ticking time bomb in there that might cause more damage."
Bulldog sighed. He really didn't want to actually undergo the exam, as every minute he was delayed was a chance he'd be caught. "You really think that's necessary?"
"Yes. And even if I didn't, the guards outside will check your admission ticket and then ask for your MRI results. Go on, hobble over to that bed and lie still. It's going to be loud, as the old girl is running on battery power these days."
Bulldog did as he was told, and tried to get comfortable despite feeling that any minute a squad of Imperial agents would burst in and arrest him. The loud banging of the MRI machine was louder than he'd remembered when he'd gotten his knee looked at after a wrestling injury in his youth. It served well to disguise the sound of any booted feet rushing in, so he found himself constantly looking toward the door.
After what seemed like an eternity, the banging ceased and the bench retracted him out of the donut-shaped machine. He sat up slowly and rubbed his ears.
Kardia was beside him at that moment with a prescription slip and a small disc with his MRI results. "I didn't spot anything that could be causing this, Mr. Reynolds. I'm sorry."
Bulldog nodded and cast his eyes down in dejection to keep up the ruse. "I see. Isn't there anything that can be done?"
She pointed to the prescription paper. "That is a prescription for a common painkiller, as well as a specialized neurological numbing agent that is only known to pharmacists by its digital code. Take this to any local pharmacy and they will be able to fill it with ease, as it's a rather rare pill with few patients in need of it.
Bulldog looked closer at the paper, and then a smile spread across his lips. She'd written her communicator code down for that second drug. He held up the paper and pointed to the digits. "You're sure this will be understood by the pharmacists? Looks like a bunch of random numbers to me."
She smiled kindly and nodded. "I may not have been on the planet long, but I interfaced directly with all medical facilities and pharmacies the moment we... touched down in the event we had a patient in need of medications we didn't have in stock. Unfortunately, our stocks are dwindling fast, and time is running out for us to be able to provide care. Sooner rather than later our utility is going to run out and we may not be here any longer," she said with a wan smile.
"I see. Well, thank you for your time. Can I call you if I have any questions about the medication?"
Kardia shook her head in an exaggerated fashion. "They took our communication devices after one of my best nurses went missing, though you will be able to reach the main office with questions and they will be relayed to me. It's monitored by us and them at all hours."
Bulldog nodded and limped away. "Thank you for the examination and prescription, Doc!"
"Not a doctor," Kardia replied with a sarcastic tone as she turned to the task of cleaning the equipment for the next patient.
Bulldog continued to limp his way out of the ship. As Kardia had warned, somebody in plain clothes stopped him rather roughly and demanded to see his test results and prescription slip. Rather than argue, he maintained the cowed mannerisms he'd adapted upon entering the city, and after a few tense moments of study, the Imperial agent returned the image disc as well as the prescription sheet. As he made to move, the man gripped his shoulder tightly.
"Wait a moment. I've never seen that type of prescription before. I need to call this in," he said in an authoritative-yet-inquisitive tone. The agent pulled out a commlink and punched in a code. "Yeah, I need to speak with whoever made Mr. Reynolds' prescription. Now."
After a few moments, Kardia's voice replied disinterestedly. "Yes?
"What is this prescription that is nothing but numbers?"
Kardia's haughty sigh carried over the comms, making Bulldog chuckle inwardly. "Are you seriously still harassing our patients out there, Agent Queen?"
"It's Quinn." The man didn't like being talked down to by a New Republic officer, and his anger was written all over his face and the tightening of his frown lines. "Answer the question, Rebel."
"As I told the patient, it is a neurological numbing medication, highly specialized and rare. It is easiest for pharmacists to find it by punching in that specific code into their systems, Agent. I told the patient as much," Kardia replied, her tone becoming slightly defiant. "You can have your spycam operators confirm that if you'd like? And while we're waiting for that confirmation, perhaps I can give you a list of supplies and medications we need to continue to operate, or else we'll be forced to close and these people will begin flooding the numerous aid stations the Imperials have no doubt been setting up while we took on the brunt of the work."
The agent snarled and closed the connection, jamming the commlink back into his pocket. He slammed the prescription roughly into Bulldog's chest. "Move along, scum."
Bulldog limped away, clutching the prescription in his right hand. After getting far enough away, he looked back toward the Agent as he hassled another patient exiting the medical ship. "Rebel scum," he whispered with a dark look on his face.
The planning session that took place two days later ran from midday until early dusk, and included a few Zabrak elders, Rorrax and his wife, and the three Renegade pilots. A lot of hemming and hawing was had about the best way to crack the prison with minimal risk. The Zabrak's bolstered by their previous ambush success despite the devastating loss of Tarla, their last defacto leader, felt that they were ready for a more direct assault on the ground.
Ultimately, Bulldog had won out by reminding them that they'd caught a convoy unaware and unprepared, but a prison garrison with more troop reinforcements nearby as well as quick reaction starfighter forces in the area would completely crush any straightforward assault. It hadn't been easy, but when he reminded them what the remains of the stormtrooper reinforcements looked like after the Juggernaut's cannons chewed through them, the Zabraki leaders backed off.
The plan they did come up with was pretty straightforward. Blue and Bearcat would execute a lightning strike with their two snub fighters to hit the garrison walls and confirmed troop barracks buildings. Immediately after their strike, they would make a beeline for the airfield and attempt to wreak as much havoc on the grounded fighter craft to reduce the amount of enemies they'd have to face during the following phases of the plan. They would then tear off together to draw any starfighter pursuit away with them, opening up the skies for Bulldog to take his skimmer full of excess weaponry to the prison to load the prisoners. Foo and Shen'ryu would meet him there, and the staffers would provide extra manpower and cover to get the prisoners to safety with the extra blasters carried on the skimmer. He expected that Shen'ryu would be more than willing to be in the front of this phase of the plan for the adulation he would be sure to receive from the prisoners they freed. Once loaded, the skimmer would make their rendezvous at the Anti-Venom to rescue the crew trapped there while Foo's U-wing provided minimal air support if necessary, or peeled off to draw away any nearby fighters still in the skies of the city proper.
Guts and his crew would use the same window in the skies to bring their modified YV-260 light freighter right up to the grounded medical Corvette and load all friendly personnel. The moment all boots were off the ground, they'd lift off and make their escape while the three Renegade fighters attempted to make their own escapes as soon as they were able. The only wildcard was how many New Republic prisoners ultimately were housed in the prison, as it would be a really tight fit for Guts' crew if there ended up being more than 25 incarcerated beings, as the freighter generally only held 30 beings or so, including crew, under normal circumstances. Thankfully, if the crew didn't have a full cargo hold, it shouldn't be too bad for a short trek to the nearest New Republic forces if they made it out of the system alive.
Instead of taking on the direct fight the Zabrak had initially pushed for, the villagers would be separated into small sapper units that would take up various positions around the city and take out passing patrols with lightning-fast ambushes before fading quickly away into the night and making their way back home after their one attack. They had a small window of time to operate, being ordered to wait until the starfighter assault on the prison before springing their attacks, and then melting away while the rest of the operation was underway. If all went well, they'd all be back in their village after hiding their weaponry in the cave system with Rorrax, and then go about their lives while waiting for the New Republic to return and remove the Empire from Toseng for good.
Satisfied with the specifics of the plan, the three parties went their separate ways to begin their final preparations. The Zabrak teams would organize themselves and immediately set off to reach their target locations and set up, using Bulldog and Tarla's scouting information of the Imperial patrol routes as their entry strategy as well as their ambush positions. Their trek on foot would likely take four hours, with the first three being traveled with relatively good speed and the last hour being required for their careful entry into the city to set up their positions.
As the Zabraks left, Bulldog was rubbing his temples to fight off a fatigue-fueled headache. He'd have liked to spend more time planning to make things perfect, but it was becoming increasingly clear that Kardia's crew was living on borrowed time, and that was their ticking time bomb that had to be dealt with before it erupted.
"You ok, Captain?"
Bulldog opened his eyes to see a concerned Blue standing over him.
He stood and stretched out his back. After a stretch-induced yawn, he nodded. "Yeah, I'm good."
Blue was unconvinced, as if she had access to the force and was reading him. "You sure? You look beat."
Bulldog chuckled, but made a better effort to hide his fatigue from his subordinate in an effort to avoid deflating her confidence. He needed her at her best in order to pull off the plan correctly, and then survive whilst on her own. "I'm good. Truly. Go prep your ship. There isn't much time."
Blue nodded, but she didn't leave. Instead, a puzzled look crossed her face.
Bulldog rolled his eyes. "Ok, what?"
"How do you do it?"
Bulldog arched an eyebrow. "Do what?"
Blue chose her next words carefully, pausing noticeably before speaking. "How do you keep... going? With all that's going on, with all the exhaustion, and all the bloodshed?"
Bulldog sighed and smiled wanly. He had the standard boilerplate line of duty and honor and protecting the innocent that he generally told rookies that had asked the same question. He also had the truth, which was still somewhat sappy and he rarely shared due to his aversion to showing any vulnerability— a tragic shortcoming of the men in his family. "Truth, or fluff?"
"Truth," Blue replied definitively.
"Trrruth," Bearcat agreed as he appeared at Blue's side from nearby, his keen eyes boring intently into his.
"Fair enough," Bulldog chuckled. "Are either of you familiar with the poem 'See it Through'?"
Both shook their heads instantly, staring at their leader with rapt gazes.
He opened his mouth, but after a moment of it hanging open, he shut it quickly and shook his head. "Nah, not today."
"Come on, Captain," Bearcat whined.
"If not now, when? We might all be dead come morning," Blue added with an exaggerated pout, jutting out her lip.
"Using my own line against me, eh?" Bulldog let out a long exhale, giving himself enough time to decide if he wanted to abort and give them the fluff answer instead, but decided they both deserved to hear it, having followed his orders to the letter thus far in their campaign of resistance. He found the words bubbling forth easily, having called upon the memorized verses a multitude of times over the years. "Very well. It reads:
"When you're up against a trouble,
Meet it squarely, face to face;
Lift your chin and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace,
When it's vain to try and dodge it,
Do the best that you can do;
You may fail, but you may conquer,
See it through!
"Black may be the clouds about you
And your future may seem grim,
But don't let your nerve desert you;
Keep yourself in fighting trim."
Bearcat snorted involuntarily. "Fighting trrrim?" he joked sarcastically, before a look of horror flooded his face as he realized he'd said his thought out loud. Blue had initially laughed as well, but she was equally aghast at her immediate knee-jerk reaction to her friend's humorous interruption.
Bulldog fixed him with an angry glare and pursed his lips, but he shook off the jibe. "Are you done? Get it out of your systems? Good. Ah stang, where was I?"
"Fighting trim," Blue replied helpfully, her expression as earnest as she could manage.
"If the worst is bound to happen,
Spite of all that you can do,
Running from it will not save you,
See it through!
Even hope may seem but futile,
When with troubles you're beset,
But remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fall still fighting;
Don't give up, whate'er you do;
Eyes front, head high to the finish.
See it through!"
All were silent, as Bulldog watched their reactions to see if they would attempt to pick at his corny sensibilities once again. Instead, Blue and Bearcat's faces were masks of thoughtfulness as the two new pilots digested the stanzas he'd recited from rote memory. He'd never told anybody else about this poem he'd stumbled upon in school, but it had been a well of strength for him as he punched his way, literally and figuratively, through the wake of his mother's death and all of his trials and tribulations thereafter. Even now, despite all the fatigue and stress weighing him down now, the words gave him strength and refreshed his energy like a magic tonic of respite.
The relaxation was short-lived, however, as the pounding footsteps of somebody rushing into the cave drew their attention. This had been a regular occurrence ever since they'd set up shop in the cave, as Tarla or one of the other villagers generally rushed in with some urgent bit of news or a question in need of immediate response. As they expected, it was once again a Zabrak rushing in.
However, this time it seemed different. The elder was bloodied above his brow, holding a copper-tinged bandage to stanch the flow. Once he neared, he skidded to a stop and pointed back in the direction of the village. "He's run off!"
The bottom fell out of Bulldog's stomach as he instantly knew whom the villager was referring to. Blue and Bearcat likewise seemed to understand the ill tidings this villager brought, and they visibly tensed. Still, Bulldog had to hear it for himself before he jumped to the obvious conclusion. "Who?"
"Torsten! He knocked me out, and must have slipped out of the village immediately after!'
"How long ago? Which direction?"
The Zabrak paled before responding. "At least two hours. The tracks led toward the city."
Blue's face was a mixture of sadness and horror as she attempted to process the information. "He's going to get revenge..."
Bulldog did a quick mental calculation. The trip to the capital, if made directly at best possible pace, would likely take three hours on foot if stealth wasn't observed. Torsten didn't strike him as out of shape by any stretch of the imagination, so they likely had less than an hour before the rage-blind youth managed to reach the city and throw an inadvertent, revenge-fueled wrench in their plans. Unfortunately, that meant they'd be rushing their plans by hours, as the sapper teams wouldn't be able to sneak into town as originally laid out.
That also meant that he didn't have the time to fight with the other principal actors in his plan over comms and would be forced to lay out a plan and expect them to follow it to the letter, even if they had a better idea. The whole situation was threatening to spiral out of control if he didn't plant his feet in the ground and pick a definitive direction without outside consultation, which was never a great way to plan a complicated mission.
"Vhat do ve do?" Bearcat asked frantically, looking for some sort of task to throw his newfound frantic energy into.
"Prep the fighters," Bulldog grunted. He turned to the bearer of bad news and pointed back toward the village. "Tell your teams to be ready to roll out soon. They'll ride with me in the skimmer to the city edge. We can't let Torsten alert them before we get there, and we can't let them torture our location and goals out of him when they capture and interrogate him."
Bearcat and Blue rushed off to their fighters, and the villager also ran back the way he'd come to carry out the hasty orders. Bulldog immediately grabbed his datapad and dialed Guts' comm channel, unable to take the time to leave the cave to disguise their location due to the time-sensitive nature they were now forced to deal with.
Guts picked up immediately. "What's the word?"
"It's time to get things in motion. Time is short, so just listen," Bulldog replied as he gathered his thoughts with a short pause. "We're mobilizing. When you hear the explosions, get your ship to the medics and wait for the cargo there."
Guts attempted to argue. "Now just wait a kriffing min—"
Bulldog cut him off. "No time to argue this, as any delay will compromise everything. Get your ship ready, or you won't earn that payday. Make sure there's room for extra cargo just in case. Out."
Bulldog cut off the connection before Guts could again attempt to debate. He then keyed another command to unblock Foo's comm channel, immediately being inundated by innumerable chirps of messages from that end of the channel that had previously been blocked.
He waited what seemed like a minute until the avalanche of message alerts finally subsided, and then called the number. Before he could speak, the raging voice of Major Shen'ryu boomed in his ear.
"You've been relieved of your commission and are to report to my location in binders, placing your forces under my command! Please immediately pass this communicator to the next senior rating in your cadre, you insubordinate pile of poodoo!"
"Shut up, hairball!" Bulldog replied with enough force to cause a strong echo to carry on down the cave.
"Joker, blast this idiot if he opens his mouth and interrupts me again!"
"Copy," Foo's voice called out from somewhere farther away from the communicator.
Bulldog sighed, calming himself down. "Now, here's the play. We're making our move now. Your part is simple. Drop off any spare hands at the coordinates I send after this call concludes, and then resume any close air support or draw off any remaining aerial defenses in the area. The boots dropped off on the ground are going to help me evacuate our friends. I'm sure you would love the idea of being front and center for this phase of the operation and the medals and adoration it'll earn you. Get yourselves ready, and be in position to reach those coordinates at the time I state in the coded burst following this transmission."
Bulldog waited a tick to see if the hot-headed Bothan would interject his nonsensical ideas into the plan, but the line remained silent. "Good, I'll take the silence as agreement. Glad to be playing on the same team again. Failure to follow through will mean you'll be a permanent resident."
"You can count on me, Big Boy," Foo replied, closer to the comm this time.
Bulldog cut off the channel and typed up the coded message with the time and place for Foo's detachment, and hit send as he rushed toward the skimmer toward the mouth of the cave. They needed to get their detachment moving now if they wanted to have any chance of keeping the initiative in the coming engagement. He spun his finger in the air as he passed Bearcat and Blue in their cockpits, telling them to spool up their engines and prepare to move out.
He pulled out the crumpled prescription paper Captain Kardia Milo had given him, and quickly keyed in the numerals she'd written in lieu of a prescription medication. He tapped out a quick message, direct and to the point to leave no confusion: Two hours. Be ready..
He clambered up to the driving section of the skimmer and started the ignition sequence. Almost simultaneously with his own vehicle's engine thrumming to life, the whine of the two snubfighter engines rose in volume behind him. He took one look back, and saw the X-wing of Bearcat and the B-wing of Blue approaching his rear on repulsorlifts. He goosed the throttle forward, being careful to guide it through the narrow tunnels without scraping the sides.
As the skimmer cleared the tunnel, he realized he'd left his gear back in the cave where they'd been bivouacked for the duration of their stay. He immediately looked down to his blaster, knowing he had no extra charges for his main weapon. His gut felt heavy, as he realized his specialized blaster was not going to find any compatible reloads amongst the scant village supplies nor anything the future Imperial corpses were likely to have on hand, meaning he was stuck with the remaining Tibanna gas charges left in his current cartridge.
Just then, he felt a cold sweat break out, with an electric tingle at the small of his back. Feeling a little more comfort now that he was again hurtling into another kill-or-be-killed sortie, he gave way to his instincts and sent the skimmer hurtling down the hill toward the hive of activity that was their allied village. He only hoped they'd managed to scrape together enough teams to be of use.
The tingling in his lower back intensified.
"We've got one chance at a clean run, then we'll likely have company," Blue said steadily.
Bearcat looked over at her B-wing in front of his X-wing as they skimmed above the grassy plains. They were working with automated terrain following systems to keep themselves close to the ground to hide from conventional sensors and radars as long as possible. "Trrrue. Ve should maintain rrradio silence frrrom herrre on out. Make yourrr rrrun and then I'll coverrr you."
"Keep your voices off comms until the fireworks kick off. Please slow your approach a bit so I can get into position," Bulldog's voice requested. "This skimmer isn't very fast, and I'm carrying the party favors. Comm silence from here on out."
Bearcat felt a strange sensation vibrate throughout the entirety of his body, starting at his toes and radiating up through his legs and torso. Puzzled, he attempted to figure out what that feeling meant, but the best he could come up with was the fact that his life was currently in the hands of a droid because it was flying the ship so close to the ground in terrain-skimming mode in the nearly pitch-black of night. He didn't like not having a direct hand in his fate, no matter if the droid could utilize all manner of sensors in the near-dark to keep them flying that he couldn't utilize even with his species' affinity for night-vision.
He hissed angrily as he attempted to banish the feeling of fear, but it remained within the small of his throat as he continued to fight the urge to grasp his flight stick and take direct control of the X-wing. Even flying at the slower speeds the Captain had ordered, the ship was still moving far too fast for him to fly manually whilst staying meters above the uneven terrain.
The two fighter craft took a long, circuitous route toward the city in an effort to give Bulldog the lead time he needed to offload the amateur commando units and then maneuver the skimmer into a favorable position. Once the strike on the prison garrison happened, the skimmer would rush through any roadblocks and come to a stop outside the prison, hopefully to be met with the extra manpower from the other team trapped on the planet.
The added flight time compounded the nerves. He'd been working on his patience in the cockpit, but the hunter's instinct ingrained within the entirety of his being was too deep to cover up completely. His practice with Rainman in the sims bore some fruit though, which was probably the only reason he wasn't taking manual control of the ship and making for his target at best possible speed.
The ship banked hard, and Blue's B-wing followed suit in his port-aft quarter. They were now on their final approach vector. With any luck, the air patrols wouldn't change their patterns and timing and this vector would put them on their final approach with fangs out before anything in the sky or on the ground would see them.
Blue's B-wing strained ahead as the few lights remaining in the city became visible in the darkness. Bearcat felt his ship automatically slip into her wake at the behest of his astromech. With nothing to do, he attempted to scan the skies visually for any threats, but his night vision was no match for this level of darkness.
Bulldog's voice came over the comm. "Jolly Roger."
The code phrase startled Bearcat, as it had been the first thing he'd heard since they'd gone silent on their approach. He immediately set about flipping the switches that would take control of his X-wing back away from his astromech. Once he completed the sequence, he gripped the throttle and stick with his hands and took up visual flying. The light from the city was close enough that his night-vision was adequate enough to keep from scraping his belly on the smoother terrain meters below.
Ahead, Blue's B-wing opened up its S-foils, taking on the cruciform shape it was known for. She gained a little altitude to avoid smacking into an outlying building, the only obstacle between them and a clean strike on the prison garrison. Just below, the familiar skimmer tore out from a blind alley and charged down the street in the same direction.
Blue's fighter belched out a pair of proton torpedoes. The projectiles hurtled toward the guard barracks part of the prison, and would utterly demolish that building and open up the complex to assault.
Bearcat snarled as he belatedly remembered his part of the approach, pitching his nose down as he tore through the space between buildings. His first target was a brightly-lit roadblock with searchlights ablaze, following the warheads Blue had just launched. Before any of the troopers on the ground had a chance to report it, Bearcat lit the entire assembly up with his quad lasers. Troopers were thrown away like they'd been punched by a giant, ragdolling through the air until hitting the ground or walls nearby. His second salvo of lasers slammed into the Juggernaut vehicle that made up the middle of the roadblock, immolating the command compartment with a pinpoint shot through the viewport.
Bulldog's skimmer sluiced through a small gap in the block that had been created by secondary explosions, and continued through with minor scorching on the hull panels. It charged forward on a collision course with the next roadblock.
Bearcat adjusted his course and loosed a proton torpedo at the next target, just as Blue's ship launched another pair of torpedoes at her secondary barracks target. He watched as his second torpedo immolated all bodies at the roadblock just as they turned their searchlights onto Bulldog's skimmer. The light went pinwheeling into the air as Bulldog's skimmer tore through yet another fireball.
Just then, a nova flare erupted as the first pair of torpedoes slammed into the barracks building and sent metric tons of duracrete flying into the air in a cloud of fire. Blue's second pair likewise created an eruption of duracrete and fire on the other end of the complex. As planned, she pulled off and launched two more single warheads at the turrets that had been scouted days earlier, and then made a straight-line toward the airfield to conduct a proton bombing run on the grounded ships. Her hasty snap shots took out both turrets.
Bearcat loosed one more torpedo at the final roadblock, and immediately gained a little altitude. From his vantage point in the air, two corners of the prison complex were a roiling mess of fire and rubble, but a clear gap had formed that would provide ingress to Bulldog and the ground team.
On cue, Bulldog tore through the last barricade that had recently been set aflame by Bearcat's last torpedo, and slammed on his brakes to come to a halting stop against the wall of the prison. Out of nowhere, a U-wing swooped down and dropped off more bodies. They sprinted off toward the skimmer and reached into the hold, withdrawing the spare weaponry Bulldog had brought along to arm the incursion team.
Light fights broke out at random positions across the city as the ambushers sprung their own attacks on passing patrols. They were short-lived, however, as each Imperial was likely being recalled toward the garrison to repel the attack and likely never saw the Zabrak sapper squad attacks coming.
Fire began to rain down upon Bulldog and his team from a few towers inside the complex as well as the walls. Bearcat snarled and kicked his ship over into a steep dive. He fired three quad bursts into two of the towers, causing them to erupt in showers of transparisteel and fire. He adjusted his fire and stitched his fire along one of the wall pathways, sending stormtroopers flying into the air. He pulled up at the last moment, cursing that there appeared to be one last tower still functional. He pulled his fighter into a steep climb to set up another attack run.
"Strafed the airfield, caused maximum possible damage to grounded fighters!" Blue's stressed voice called out over the comm. "A patrol swooped in on my six!"
Bearcat's heart caught in his throat. On the one hand, his best friend needed him. On the other hand, all of the prisoners needed him to bring down the last defenses. His grip seized on the controls as his heart and mind fought for supremacy.
"Go get her," Bulldog's voice called out over the comm. "That last tower doesn't seem to be a problem for us!"
Bearcat mentally cheered that he didn't have to make the decision himself, and immediately broke his skyward climb and went directly for Blue's position. "Brrring them back my vay, Eight!"
A whooping alert from his astromech brought his attention back to his console. On his aft arc, three TIEs were angling in on him and would be in range shortly. No matter which way he angled his approach to provide aid to Blue, the fighters would have a clean shot at him. He couldn't delay, though, as she would likely die if he didn't get to her immediately.
"Stang, I've got trrrailers as vell!"
"No longer," Foo's voice replied grimly. His U-wing scythed through the formation and took down all three TIE fighters before they had a chance to react, darting back into the dark night sky like a predatory animal.
Bearcat breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Ten!"
"I've got another patrol coming in," Foo responded. "Going to take care of them."
"Happy hunting, Ten."
Toseng City Apartments
Sidda had known something was going to happen based on the New Republic comms she'd listened to, but she still wasn't quite sure what to expect. What's for certain, though, is that she didn't expect there to be so many explosions, and definitely no New Republic starfighters in the sky.
Yet the three different sounding engines told her that there were indeed friendly fighters in the night sky, and they were causing all manner of ruckus throughout the city. At the sound of the first explosion, she was out on her balcony with her camera arm ready. While her view of the villa wasn't the greatest at this distance, she could still see the explosions rocking the building.
As she continued to do her best to capture whatever she could on her vid feed, she knew the darkness was too much for her to see much detail at this distance. She thought about packing up and getting dressed for a night out to gather more footage, but the screaming whine of TIE fighters buzzing over her building crumbled every bit of courage she'd built up moments ago.
There was just something eerie about the howl of a flight of diving TIEs, and it was still a fearful sound Sidda couldn't overcome. She killed the lights in her apartment and decided to stay put, hoping she'd get a good view of something to share with the galaxy.
Toseng Villa Complex
The incursion into the prison was going slower than Bulldog would have liked. For all the braggadocio Shen'ryu spoke previously, he certainly wasn't very daring in action now. Each time they encountered some roadblock or barricade, the Bothan would cower and wait for Bulldog to take over and organize the assault.
Thankfully, the last tower and troopers on the wall weren't in a position to pin them down, but the longer they took during this phase of the operation, the more likely it would be that those troopers would reposition and trap them.
"We need to get moving!" Bulldog shouted. Unfortunately, his team consisted of Shen'ryu's staffers. The headquarters officers were not combat trained past their basic training, and they were likely extremely lax in their upkeep of their skills based on their marksmanship up until this point. He poked his head out from cover, and immediately ducked back as the E-web holding the intersection stitched the wall near him with fire.
"What do we do?"
Bulldog looked at the nervous staffer as they cowered further away from the opening where the E-web continued to spit out intermittent bolts of fire. He then looked toward Shen'ryu, who likewise seemed to be unsure of the next plan. He gripped the Major by his shoulder roughly and pulled him closer. "I'm going to go draw their fire. I need you and your people to charge the position."
Shen'ryu quailed at the proposition. His eyes widened, and his lips curled in a mixture of fear and disgust. "You would throw me and my people into the meat grinder to save the glory for yourself!"
Bulldog smacked his forehead. "Fine, you all rush out and draw the fire and I'll charge the damned position myself!"
Shen'ryu was taken aback by the ease with which Bulldog had volunteered to charge in, and was suddenly confused. He seemed to hem and haw over the inherent risks of either action for a moment, but still seemed unsure which course of action benefited him the most.
"Make a decision, you damned coward! Every second we delay is more time for their forces to maneuver and trap us."
Shen'ryu snarled as he rose to his feet. "Go draw their fire. Nobody will call me a coward! We will take that position!"
Bulldog nodded, feeling a strong rush of fear wash over him. He'd seen the Major angry a multitude of times, but he'd never fully been afraid of the Bothan. Now though, the being he saw staring back at him seemed to be a caged animal waiting to strike viciously at the nearest morsel of food. He took an involuntary step away out of instinct, putting himself back to the very edge of their cover. Another salvo slammed into the wall near him, jarring him back out of his stupor. He shook his head clear. "Ready?"
Shen'ryu nodded, holding his blaster out. "Alright. The Captain is going to draw their fire while we bravely charge in and take out the position. Give them everything you've got! Those prisoners are counting on us!
Bulldog took a few deep breaths to calm himself, and then launched himself out into the open. The E-web immediately began tracking him with a steady stream of blaster bolts. He popped off a few shots in return, but his blaster ran dry after the third trigger pull. Cursing, he gripped the gun tightly as he zagged through the open until locking into his next position of cover— a large piece of rocky debris from one of the garrison walls that had been blasted apart.
From behind him, he heard Shen'ryu's roar, followed by the less than confident cries of his subordinates as they surged out from their cover and charged forward. The E-web crew either didn't see them, or were determined to get Bulldog for having the temerity to challenge their marksmanship, so they continued to fill the air around him with coherent light.
It was over in moments. Bulldog dove into cover and lay there on his back with his chest heaving, a sticky sweat attempting to cool him off. He lay there, gulping in air as the sounds of battle died down, leaving him with nothing but the crackling of the fires all around him. He hoped Shen'ryu was able to take the last guard position out, or else he'd have nothing but colorful language to assault them with.
Bulldog sprang to his feet and peered out around his cover. At the guard position, Shen'ryu was waving a furred hand victoriously. Without any sort of pomp or ceremony, the New Republic officer staffers set about opening up the prison cells while Shen'ryu stood apart and observed. No doubt he was attempting to look as aloof as possible to give off the impression that this sort of action was nothing different than he'd done a hundred times over.
Bulldog rose to his feet and trotted across the open expanse. A blaster bolt slammed into the ground at his feet, fired from a guard in a new position somewhere on the wall above him. "Karking hell! They've repositioned!" he shouted as he quickened his pace and took more evasive steps to his goal.
Sky over Toseng City
Blue continued her evasive pathway back toward the prison, continually reinforcing her aft shields with laser power to keep them from collapsing completely. The three TIE fighters tucked into the prime firing position had her bracketed well, and in another few seconds they'd be able to break through her defenses and down her ship. "I need help!"
"We've got a new target that needs to be hit before we can evac!" Bulldog's voice shouted over the comm.
Blue cursed, knowing that she was a liability at this point in time. Bearcat would be forced to go back and hit the target the Captain had called out, and she would be blasted to atoms moments later. However... her heart seized as soon as she realized what would take place activated her comm. "Five, go hit that target! I'll keep these eyeballs busy."
"No," Bearcat responded curtly. "I von't leave you."
"The prisoners need you more than me!"
Suddenly, red lances of light struck out from the darkness, striking the two of the pursuing fighters hammering her shields. The third fighter broke off to avoid the blasts heading its way. Through the explosions, Bearcat's X-wing was illuminated briefly as it climbed to pursue the last fighter.
Relief mixed with annoyance flooded through Blue's system. Her closest friend had saved her life, yes, but he'd put her life above the mission. "Eight is clear, and time to target is three minutes, Twelve."
She shot a glance at her sensors, but Bearcat and his target were out of range at this point. She shook the stress out of her limbs as best she could, and then altered her course slightly to home in on the target Bulldog had indicated. The wall of the complex that Bearcat hadn't strafed was her primary target, quickly followed by the final guard tower. She grinned, knowing just what the three wingtip Gyrhil R-9x heavy laser cannons could do to the infantry that was harassing her leader and the prisoners.
The flames of the prison lit up her target like a beacon. She settled into a picture-perfect path to be able to strafe the entirety of the fortress catwalk to clear it of hostiles. The moment her rangefinder hit 1.8 klicks, she squeezed the firing stud on her yoke, walking the single-fired bolts all along her initial target as fast as her three canons could cycle.
"Get that tower!" Bulldog shouted.
"On it!" Blue grunted as she jerked the control yoke to bring her lasers around toward the last tower. An alert sounded loudly in her cockpit that filled her with dread. "Incoming missile tracking me!" Internally, she cursed herself for forgetting to even out and recharge her shields after Bearcat had saved her life, and it looked like this rookie error was likely to cost her her life or be the reason the mission failed.
"The tower or we're stuck!"
Blue pursed her lips. Fully charged shields shifted forward would be able to shrug off the explosive force of one missile. Her lack of awareness and attention to detail had doomed the mission as she prepared to evade. Before she moved the yoke, though, the image of Loth-Cat from one of their day trips flashed through her mind. Her kindred spirit, found completely by accident, cleared her mind and told her exactly what she needed to do. Instantly, her fear vanished, replaced with steely resolve. If she couldn't put duty over life, she couldn't expect Zynnadi to do the same. She would have to teach that lesson by example, unfortunately.
"It'll be gone. Been nice serving with you, Captain!"
Blue stitched the entirety of the tower with the combined might of her linked lasers and ion cannons, sending a hail of red and blue energy washing all over the last remaining tower. After a moment, one of her bolts finally found something explosive and touched off a blaze that set the entire tower alight. However, the emplacement at the top seemed to be unaffected by her fire and she didn't have a line of sight at whatever was harassing the prisoners below.
She flipped a switch with her thumb and triggered her last laser-guided bomb. The target-laser instantly appeared on her heads-up display, centered directly on the top of the tower. Slowly, the atmospheric bomb maneuvered itself to align its line of descent in accordance with the laser guidance. She couldn't evade the missile if she had any hope of keeping the bomb on her desired target...
The alert in her cockpit grew to a fever pitch, just as the missile tracking her ship came into view through the fires of the base. She closed her eyes and braced for impact.
"Nice shot with that bomb, Four!" Bulldog whooped over the comms. "Tower eliminated! Roll—"
The explosive concussion rocked her in her pilot couch, slamming her head from side to side against the interior of the cockpit in quick succession. The physical impact was quickly followed by the sound of rending metal as her ship was torn apart around her.
Toseng Villa Complex
Bulldog cursed loudly as he watched the missile slam into the neck of Blue's B-wing, immediately severing the cockpit from the rest of the cruciform craft. The now "headless" section of the craft pinwheeled wildly until crashing out of sight. The cockpit section spun wildly as it looked to slam into the ground. Just as it was about to drift out of sight, blocked by the walls of the prison complex, the retro thrusters fired at the last moment to stop the spinning of the craft. Still, moments later a loud grinding sound was heard from outside the walls and down the street.
"All 43 prisoners accounted for, Captain!" Shen'ryu shouted to be heard over the sound of ample flames throughout the detention facility. "Only one loss on the incursion team. Corporal Des'jiang."
"I'm sorry for your loss, Major," Bulldog said earnestly. "Now let's get everybody out of here before there are more losses!"
"She will be remembered a hero," Shen'ryu rumbled, and then headed off to their original entry point at a steady jog. The prisoners all followed, some appropriating the weaponry from the fallen guards as they passed the corpses littering their path.
A hand clasped Bulldog's shoulder, causing him to recoil out of reflex and raise his empty blaster.
"Relax, Captain," Junior said, his hands raised in mock surrender.
"Junior!" Bulldog responded, clapping the Corsair pilot on his shoulder. "How'd they get you?"
"Got shot down during the retreat like an idiot," Junior replied, casting his glance downward in disgrace.
"Hey, we've all been there," Bulldog said soothingly.
Junior barked out a bitter laugh. "Tell that to my father."
"We'll tell him together when we get out of here." Bulldog gave Junior another measured once-over to make sure he was ok, and then clapped him on the back. He suddenly remembered the scribbled note in his pocket that Emala had given him to deliver to Junior in the event he was still alive. "Oh, your girlfriend told me to give you this," he said with a smirk as he produced the paper.
"Girlfriend?" Junior asked, confused. He took the paper, and then realization dawned on him.
Bulldog gave the young Corsair pilot another moment to fully read the note, and then clapped him on the shoulder. "Let's go!"
The two caught up with the rest of the prisoners just outside of the walls. Bulldog skidded to a stop as he surveyed the controlled chaos around the skimmer. Shen'ryu was doing his best to keep things orderly, but there were just so many people frantic to escape that they were clambering aboard the skimmer into any available space. A few were even clambering onto the sides and top of the thing just to reach salvation.
"All prisoners will be loaded shortly, Captain," Shen'ryu said as Bulldog and Junior reached the area near the skimmer.
Bulldog nodded, and then patted Junior on the shoulder. "Go on. Your dad would make me come back by myself if I managed to leave you behind."
"Roger, Captain," Junior said, throwing up a quick salute before joining his place at the end of the dwindling queue.
"The load limit will surely be reached on that thing, Major," Bulldog said, eyeing the skimmer as it began to sink lower on its repulsors.
"We'll take it as slow as we can, Captain," Shen'ryu replied, a wry smile crossing his face. "Now, would it be ok with you if I ordered you to pilot us the hell out of here? I assume you never told me the plan or the rendezvous because you assumed I'd try to leave you behind?"
It was Bulldog's turn to laugh, first at the absurdity of the Bothan Major asking for permission to give him, a mere Captain, an order, and one that made complete and total sense. Then he laughed at Shen'ryu's assumption that Bulldog withheld important information because he thought he'd be left behind. He looked over his shoulder and surveyed the destruction their plan had wrought to the prison, and sadly, the surrounding residential areas. Blocks away, the telltale signs of another crash site drew his attention, and his eyes widened. He turned back and fixed Shen'ryu with a softened gaze.
"Actually, I never told you because there wasn't time. The rendezvous is the downed medical Corvette. I'm transferring command of this escape to you, General."
Shen'ryu's eyes widened. "I am a Major, a fact you are keenly aware of, Captain. And why, now, are you putting this on me?"
Bulldog hooked a thumb over his shoulder. "I've got a pilot down in the field that needs retrieval. I'll get her and attempt to make it back to the rendezvous, but don't wait any longer than you deem it safe. And I called you 'General', sir, because you need to have all your confidence back to make sure everybody gets back home safe. Consider it a battlefield promotion, just like the way the Rebels did it back when I joined up."
Shen'ryu chuckled heartily. "Well, in that case, with my newfound privilege of rank, I hereby promote you to Rebel General as well." He held out a hand.
Bulldog grinned and shook the offered hand.
Just then, Bearcat's X-wing came screaming back into the area, hot on the tail of another TIE that appeared to be lining up a strafing run on the skimmer. Before the Imperial could fire, it exploded from within as a pinpoint quad blast from the X-wing drilled the ball cockpit dead center.
"Break off, Five! We've got what we came for!"
"That's a direct order!" Bulldog shouted, before looking down at his datapad and seeing the channel had been blocked by the other end. He shoved the device into his hip pocket angrily and attempted to scan the skies visually.
Another TIE appeared to be lining up a strafing run down the street, and the whine of more TIE engines filled the area.
"Looks like you might be retrieving two pilots soon, Cap—General," Shen'ryu shouted as he made his way to the pilot's platform of the skimmer. He took one look around the craft, making sure all prisoners were aboard, and then clambered up to the controls. He cupped his hands to his mouth. "May the Force be with us both!"