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A Moment's Notice
By: Barraken

[Cockpit of Mercy 3, Hangar Bay, CRS Vigilant, 2100]

Often, the pilots and crew of SAR craft sit idle during a raging battle, waiting for their call to action. This is not too dissimilar to what crews did during downtime or routine patrols like this one, awaiting some sort of external stimulus in the form of new orders or a random incursion of unscheduled visitors. It would be at this time when the pilot and co-pilot of Mercy 3, Moggaz "Barraken" Murg and Rich "Wildstar" Vogel would exchange banter about recent events.

"Barraken, do you think the current operation we're sitting out is a rescue mission or a prelude to a recapture of Toseng?" asked Wildstar.

"I don't think the New Republic would go against a sovereign world's wishes," replied Barraken, "but I'm not in the military intelligence business these days. Therefore, your guess is just as valid as mine."

Wildstar resigned his line of questioning. "You're right. Since you gave up your major rank, you don't have the information clearance that went with it."

"Just keep doing your job and you'll be fine," Barraken reassured his friend.

The chatter was suddenly broken up by the voice of Rex "Wizard" Troy, Vigilant Flight Control Officer, coming through over the cockpit comms. "I have direct orders from Captain Quell to deploy Mercy 3," Wizard began. "A pilot from Tiger Squadron has had to eject about 300 clicks away from our patrol area. We are the closest vessel to the pilot's last known flight vector, so we're asking you guys to bring him in. He's far from us, but still well away from the main action."

Wizard continued. "However, we can't risk even this loss, so we're sending Skull 11 and 12 to cover the operation. They've been away on a training exercise but have been recalled and will rendezvous with you at one-point-two-six. The pilot's most probable coordinates have been downloaded to your navigation system and you may begin the mission when you're clear for launch. May the Force be with you."

"Copy that, Wizard, and thanks," Barraken acknowledged. Turning to his crew, he shouted, "let's get ready back there! Sticky, be ready with that tractor beam and Papi, have what you may need to stabilize the pilot set up!"

A few minutes of frenetic activity in the U-wing's crew cabin passed before a flight controller's voice announced, "Mercy 3, you have clearance. Launch when ready."

"Aye, Vigilant Control," Barraken cried. "We're on our way!" He then moved a Quarren tentacle in the manner of a human hand to push the throttle lever forward and get his U-wing up to speed. Barraken then turned to his co-pilot.

"First waypoint," he said, "is the rendezvous point with Skull Flight. What's our ETA?"

Wildstar studied the scanners beside him and replied. "Five minutes, sir."

Barraken then queried, "Any sign of enemy activity within even decent chasing range?"

"Seems pretty quiet, at least for now," the co-pilot retorted.


[Mercy 3, Deep space, 2125]

Barraken and Wildstar were peering out of their frontal viewport for the Skull Squadron flight that was to accompany them on this mission. The X-wings with Skull markings greeted them just a short minute later. Wildstar, Mercy 3's communications person, was the first to speak.

"Howdy boys," the disgraced Blue Squadron pilot said. "Glad you could come along for the ride."

Joker, Skull 12, was the one who answered. "Sending escorts to cover a pick-up this far from the action?"

Barraken, almost always the sensible one, answered back. "The way we've been losing pilots lately, Joker, you'd understand if I showed you the data. The shorter answer, of course, is we can't risk it."

Poker, Skull 11, interrupted the chatter with something even more sensible. "Let's get a move on, OK?"

Barraken, acknowledging the X-wing pilot, declared, "All craft, direct all weapon and shield energy to engines and set engines to full throttle. We'll close distance until we're about 150 clicks from the operational area, where we'll begin to recharge weapon and shield systems."

"Copy, Mercy 3," Poker said. "Let's go!"


[Mercy 3, Deep space, 2140]

The improvised flight group of one U-wing and two X-wings made up the distance to where the downed pilot was thought to be quickly, and when Wildstar saw that a certain point was a given distance from them on his navigation screen, he gave a nod to his pilot.

Barraken announced to all craft and crew. "We've reached the operational area. Begin stabilizing your defensive systems and start scanning the area for any lifeforms. If there's one here, odds are it's our Tiger."

Turning to Wildstar, he said, "It looks quiet, but I'm not taking any chances. Jam all Imperial communication frequencies and throw up a squadron mask around us. If they're going to find us, they'll have to see us."

"Aye, sir!" came Wildstar's acknowledgment. After completing his tasks, he spoke up again. "I say we group up in formation, a bit loose, but not too loose, and start flying in a zig-zag pattern. That way, Skull can cover us and get their scanners in on the act, too."

Barraken thought for a moment, then nodded. "You know, I like that. I was kind of mulling over the possibility, too. Wildstar," he continued, "since it's your idea, you can give the order."

Wildstar gave his friend an enthusiastic thumbs up and announced on the comm, "OK, Skull, form up in a three-stack formation and start flying in a zig-zag pattern. That'll allow us to augment our sensor coverage by using yours while you protect us."

Poker replied, "I like that thinking. Let's do this!"

The three craft then assembled in the stack, an X-wing above and below the U-wing, and they started flying in the zig-zag pattern proposed by Mercy 3's co-pilot.


[Mercy 3, Deep space, 2210]

Mercy 3's ad hoc flight group had been scanning the area for some time when, finally, something registered on Joker's scope. "I'm picking up a lifeform reading. Point oh-three-five, 10 clicks away."

Wildstar adjusted his scanner to focus on the area Joker announced. "I'm picking it up, too. Barraken, taking control for a closer look." It was understood that this was one of the times the co-pilot would have control of the craft.

When the U-wing was within visual range of the lifeform, it became apparent. It was a Sullustan in full New Republic evac suit, as determined by Barraken's macrobinoculars. "Objective spotted," he said. "Sticky, power up the tractor beam and bring him in."

While Strongarm, the flight engineer, worked to get the crew cabin door open, Sticky got the tractor beam ready to point out the door and at the pilot outside. When she saw she had a clear shot, she pressed a button and the beam was activated, slowly bringing its target inside to safety.

Once Sticky shut the tractor beam off, Papi began evaluating the pilot's condition while Strongarm closed the cabin door. When the door was secure, Strongarm gave a signal and Barraken retook control of Mercy 3 for the trip back to the Vigilant.

The three craft flew home fast, but not nearly as fast as they needed to earlier. "Papi," quizzed Barraken, "what's the status of our pilot?"

Papi reported, "The Sullustan appears to have a couple of broken ribs but is otherwise in good shape. The medical team aboard the Vigilant has been alerted to prepare for your arrival."

"Thank you," uttered Barraken. "Skull Flight, keep it tight until we're home."


[Hangar Bay, CRS Vigilant, 2315]

A levitating gurney carrying the Sullustan pilot of Tiger Squadron was the first debarking from Mercy 3 following its return to base, its enlisted crew soon following, and the pilots last to deboard from the U-wing, whereupon they were met by Captain Quell for debriefing.

"I don't suppose very much happened out there," inquired the Vigilant's commanding officer.

Barraken, of course, had a comeback. "Actually, a lot more happened than you think, sir. We did get to refine some search tactics and learned how to work with other units." Turning to his co-pilot friend, he continued, "Credit Lieutenant Vogel for the sweep pattern that eventually allowed Joker to find our pilot."

"Excellent," Quell said. "Make sure you note that in your formal report."

"Right, sir," Barraken replied.

Captain Quell stated, "This rescue may have been easy, but the next one may not be. I just want to make sure you're ready."

"Yes, of course, sir," said the Mercy 3 pilots in unison.

"Dismissed," cried Quell.

After saluting the ship's captain, Wildstar turned to Barraken and asked, "You up for rumble pins?"

"After this, why not?" answered the Quarren as the pair headed for the rec area.

Unbeknownst to the friends as they left the hangar, Wildstar's datapad chirped a quiet message alert that was muffled by the fabric of the copilot's seat in the cockpit. Having fallen out of the human's pocket unnoticed in his haste to debrief with Captain Quell, it sat alone in the empty ship.

Due to the security measures on the forgotten datapad having been disabled by Wildstar before the debrief, the whole text was visible on the screen...

"Head's up. Big things are coming your way. See you all soon. - Raven"

The End...