Beyond Rebel Assault III: AfterBurn (Rookie One, OCs - 8 ABY - UPDATED: 12/17)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Dashren2001, Oct 3, 2012.

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  1. Dashren2001 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 20, 2008
    star 1
    [IMG]

    Dramatis Personæ
    "Rookie One"/"Blue Leader" - Male Human - New Republic Ace Pilot
    Dane Rumol/"Green Leader" - Male Twi'lek - New Republic Pilot
    Yalessa Dreiga/"Red One" - Female Human - New Rpeublic Pilot
    Relan Sentrem/"Red Three" - Male Human - New Republic Pilot
    R4-H7/"Ghost" - R4 Agromech Droid - Rookie One's droid
    Ru Murleen - Female Human - New Republic Agent

    8 ABY

    Part 1 - Protection

    A quick, continuous series of beeps sounded within the cockpit. The man within turned toward his horizontal radar, catching the glowing red dot of a starfighter that had decided to put him in a target lock. Moving from sight to thought to movement in under a second, the pilot forced the yolk away from his left knee. A large orange ball and the stars surrounding it spun clockwise around him as he forced his ship into a diving, counter-clockwise spin. The stars left little curving paths in his vision, and it was difficult for him to keep his eyes from focusing on the planet that loomed in in front. He forced his fighter to keep spinning as it made a wide turn toward the other direction.

    Streaks of green formed at the lower edge of his vision, then disappeared into the darkness. His pursuer's aim was getting better. He knew exactly what the pilot on his tail was trying to do. Chasing a target turning as sharply as himself, the average pilot would gradually cut back on speed and follow its prey, waiting for its guns to finally catch up. It was typical, book-approved logic. It worked most of the time.

    There were exceptions.

    He moved his left hand from the throttle bar to a half-circle button. He held it down it until the lower half of a circle of lights next to the button was completely blue. With the full strength of his shield generator protecting his backside, he stopped his fighter's roll and cut back across the spray of blaster fire. The metal around him shook twice as his shield absorbed shots, and with each vibration, his upper neck had clinched in anticipation.

    A lot of pilots said that they were ready for death. Most of them were lying.

    Every time he used his considerable shields to slip through enemy fire, as confident as he was in the invisible magnetic force fields that had kept him alive these many years, his mind prepared for the worst. Once again, the worst failed to come. Instead, he continued his turn away from his pursuer's field of fire. Quickly pressing more buttons, he brought his shields back into balance and kicked in his afterburn. Fuel was dumped directly into his thruster lines, the glowing blossom of blue light from his thrusters doubled in size, and his fighter shot around its turn.

    Shutting down the afterburn as he came around, he now had a good look at the ship that tried to send focused light up his tailpipe. It was a ridiculous hodgepodge of ship parts, consisting of the cylindrical cockpit from a TIE Bomber with three pylons pointing outwards. The two lower pylons connected to a pair of Y-Wing engine nacelles, while the top graduated to one of the S-Foils of an X-Wing.

    The fighter may have been given a name, but the general community of pilots already had one ready for such ships: Ugly. An Ugly was a ship constructed from the parts of several different ships. They were mostly seen under the control of smugglers or independent fighter pilots hiring out to protection details for smugglers. It was the ultimate child of necessity. Starfighters went through months, sometimes years of testing before put into production. During these tests, the designers considered weight, air resistance, gravitational distribution, presented target, and a myriad of other factors until they were sure they had made the perfect subject for a particular job. Sometimes the job was to take a beating from surface turbolasers and deliver two tons of bombs onto a target. Sometimes a fighter was needed, with the agility to dodge enemy fire and bullseye targets. Each ship was built with a function.

    Uglies were the result of cheap, independent pilots building a ship from whatever they could afford. Between the thruster at the back of the TIE core and the two Y-Wing engines, the beast had plenty of thrust, but hardly more than rudimentary handling. This was never more apparent than when the pilot who, nothing more than prey a moment ago, brought his New Republic B-Wing around and focused its three laser cannons on the Ugly.

    The targeting reticule flashed from green to red, and he let the energy fly. Three, then another three bursts of red light flashed toward the abomination. He ignored his targeting computer, needing no more than the burst of blue and white flame to let him know that the target was finished.

    The pilot continued on, now headed straight for the main body of conflict. As he rushed forward, flashes became explosions, sparks became laser blasts, and flecks became chunks of starships blown apart from hulls. He forced the throttle of his ship to its metal limit. The B-Wing had been designed by a collection of brilliant minds to be a next-generation assault fighter for the New Republic. Sporting a collection of lasers, ion cannons, and projectile launchers, the fighter made up for its minor lack in speed and maneuverability in massively powerful shield generators and nearly-unmatched firepower.

    He had been chased a long way outside the main field of battle. It took his burning thrusters several precious seconds to put him within target range of the firefight. When his targeting computer found its first subject, a swift TIE Interceptor gunning for an X-Wing, he wished more than anything that he was behind the controls of a quick A-Wing stunt fighter. Metal creaked as he continued to push the throttle bar against its own limits

    With the flick of two switches, his computer recognized the friendly X-Wing as Red Three and opened his own comm into the larger channel.

    "Red Three," he said, trying to keep his voice level, "Break toward me. I'll take care of the squint behind you."

    The voice that came back over his radio was young, determined words pushing through fear. "Trying to, boss. Already lost two stabilizers. Headed for you."

    The X-Wing came around toward him, trailing a black stream of crystallized carbon dioxide. The wounded starfighter's turn was wide and slow. Too slow. He realized that the X-Wing just wasn't going to outpace the Interceptor's line of fire. Forcing the afterburn button into the panel around it, he dumped fuel into the thruster as quickly as his engine could handle. His seat pushed him violently forward, shoving him toward the two ships. The Interceptor continued to pour energy at the snubfighter. The X-Wing was going to get blown to pieces.

    The X-Wing would be little more than a ball of flaming scrap well before the Imperial was in laser range. Without thought, he flicked fire control over to his launchers. A B-Wing's projectile cannons could load nearly any type of missile, from specialty sonic-percussion burst rockets to simple concussion missiles. Now, he armed his fighter's proton torpedoes and hurried his computer to gain a lock. He let a pair of purple comets fly.

    The torpedoes rushed for their target. The Interceptor brought its guns around to lock on Red Three. The B-Wing pilot simply begged his ship for more speed.

    "Go, damn it!"

    There was a burst of red and orange, then another burst of blue.

    "Red Three?" he called into his headset. "Red Three, come in!"

    Just as he reached proper firing range, the light faded. In its place floated two clusters of scraps. The glass and viewport framework of an Imperial Interceptor collided lazily with a burned and fragmented gray wing.

    He had got his Interceptor, but the Interceptor had got its X-Wing.

    His stomach began to convulse. Tightening and shaking at a steady pace, It almost drew him away from the massive fighter battle before him. This wasn't anything a medical droid could stop with location-specific bacta and a stasis. This was purely human anger.

    Taking a slow, calm breath, his left hand danced across a keypad. A stream of data leapt and bounded in his viewport. Targets, hardly larger than confused insects on his cockpit window at this range, were bracketed in red and green.

    Another pair of Uglies, each built from the bastardization of a Skipray blastboat and an unrecognizable Corellian-style ship, were the first to enter his computer's vision. They were taking a wide route around the main battle, probably to get a sneak strafing run on the B-Wing pilot's base ship, a MC-40 light cruiser.

    A long, curving battleship of Mon Calimari design, the MC-40, designated the Steadfast, featured two large engines atop its rear and an even larger single engine below. Built to carry a single squadron of fighters to-and-fro while possibly defending itself, the MC-40 was a big, lumbering, light gray target in a sea of black. Sure, its shields could take a couple or more shots from an Imperial cruiser, but a series of laser blasts in combination with concussive explosives in a single spot could easily break through its shields.

    The front end of a Skipray carried the loadout to pull off such a feat. Two of them, fully-armed, were enough to put a hole in an MC-40. Their broad flight path suggested they were planning on just that.

    He had other plans for them. Another thumb flick, and his targeting systems divided his B-Wing's armaments among two targets. Squeeze. Four comets, two of purple and two of red, soared toward the Uglies. An explosion of multicolored fire surrounded the two ships. He pushed forward.

    A stray TIE Interceptor had apparently seen the source of the lasers and torpedoes. It streaked for him, opening fire with its four cannons. He shifted his shields completely forward and dove. The stream of green comets followed. He cut the B-Wing back up through the field of fire. Green crashed against crackling blue light, filling his viewport for a slow second. The bursts subsided, and he brought the B-Wing's cannons to bear on an Interceptor that was now determined to fly past underneath.

    He squeezed the flight yoke, and triple streams of red blasts flooded the quick fighter's path. There was an explosion of yellow fire as the ship caught a blast, then a large burst of blue as the Imperial ship's ion engines combusted. The ship did manage to pass beneath him, though in several more pieces than intended.

    "Great shooting, Rookie One!"

    His eyes took a second to refocus. Taking a breath, he looked into the core of the battle, and realized that he had brought down the last enemy ship. Three X-Wings, followed by three A-Wings, slipped into formation and headed back toward the Steadfast.

    He hated this part. The battle was over, and they had won. Not only won, but dominated. For the sixteen pirates that had bit it, only one Republic pilot had lost his life.

    One more than was necessary.

    This was where he had to act excited. He might have to present a bar or two, maybe even accept one. They had prevented a complete shipment of weapons and starfighter parts from reaching one of the most powerful Imperial Warlords. This was a solid victory for the Rpublic. He was expected to be thrilled.

    "Rookie One, you there? The shipment's ours," came over his ship's radio.

    He was supposed to be ecstatic, so he made himself sound as such. "I put down the last squint, you think I don't know? And how many times do I have to tell you, Green Leader? Rookie One is a nickname. It's not my callsign,"; he said.

    Green Leader shot back through the channel with mock rudeness. "My apologies, Blue Leader." He laughed. "Let's head back to the Steadfast."

    Blue Leader, a caucasian human male in his early thirties known as Rookie One, eyed the floating wreckage of Red Three for several seconds. He thought about the words he would say on behalf of the lost Rebel pilot in the Steadfast's common room.



    Last edited by Dashren2001, Dec 18, 2012
  2. Dashren2001 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 20, 2008
    star 1
    Part 2 - Landing

    The hanger's opaque blue field was as alien as ever. Rookie One guided his flattened fighter through the wall of light. For a second, he was as heavy as his father. The ship's artificial gravity combined with the hangar's to produce an overbearing presence. Just as his muscles adapted to the weight of the air around himself, the ship's gravity generator shut down. His body again weighed the same as it did on any civilized planet. He took a breath.

    There was a bounce beneath him as the B-Wing's landing struts met the Steadfast's hangar. Rookie One had a certain respect for the MC-40. It wasn't as big or powerful as a full cruiser like the legendary Home One, not even close. It carried little more than a group of cocky fighter pilots, as though there were another kind, to the battle.

    It did its job without complaint. This was remarkable to Rookie One in that it was something a hunk of Mon Calimari durasteel could do that most New Republic pilots could not.

    To his right, an X-Wing's canopy rose to reveal a green Twi'lek in the typical Republic orange overalls and white helmet, more or less the same outfit Rookie One himself was in. The X-Wing pilot took his time to remove the helmet, tossing it to the deck. It bounced several times before spinning to a stop several meters away. Meanwhile, the pilot grabbed a hold of the ladder brought against the side of his fighter and slid down it. The pilot landed, bow-legged, among friends. A ring of Republic fighter pilots had surrounded the specific pilot. Jaws moved, shoulders shifted, and the Twi'lek pilot was surrounded with questions. He apparently loved it. Flicking several switches on his flight vest, the pilot led a surrounding wall of recruits toward the Steadfast's common room.

    "Ghost," Rookie One called towards a mass of droids and equipment in the hangar's far corner. An R4 agromech droid, sharper in angles than the R2 Unit series, popped up from underneath several large bits of starfighter. It quickly rocked back and forth between its primary legs, shaking off stray bits of metal. Deploying a third leg from within, the droid rolled towards his B-Wing.

    "Have fun while I was gone?"

    The droid whistled, bobbing front-to-back vigorously. The droid's communications lit up a circular series of small bulbs below its main preceptor. The lights flashed from blue to red. The faithful droid was admonishing its owner for using a ship that lacked an astromech slot. He should know better in the future, the droid said.

    Rookie One laughed. "My apologies, Ghost. Did you get the telemetry from the battle?"

    Another series of toots and whirls told him that the droid had, in fact, completely recorded his B-Wing's data stream and was breaking the battle data down as they spoke. Rookie smirked at how quickly the droid had gone from admonishing him to doing his technical work.

    Ghost had been fiercely loyal ever since he had been assigned to Rookie. At the time, the little dark red cone-topped agtromech was merely "R4-H7". As soon as he'd received the droid, Rookie One practically demanded that it contain notes from all of his previous flight data so as to better synchronize with him in combat.

    The droid administrator, a robot himself, had whirred and clicked for several seconds before asking him if he was sure that he wanted to give the new droid access to all of his flight data. Rookie had said yes. The droid asked him for a verification code. Rookie provided it. The use of this code had automatically set off a small red flag at the top of the food chain within Republic command. Rookie One later had to justify his decision to General Nadine.

    This level of security was required for what was usually a mundane request because his complete flight data contained, among other things, a story that most of the New Republic wasn't aware of.

    He scoffed. Most of the galaxy wasn't aware of it.

    Knowing what Rookie had done, R4-H7 had immediately bonded with him. Knowing that this agromech droid was now one of the few creatures in existence to know of his past missions, Rookie had accepted the bond almost just as quickly. It was tough to know the defining moment of your life wasn't going to be declassified until well after you were dead. All he wanted was one or two people who could see history like he could. Ghost could. He was grateful for that.

    Rookie was too impatient for the ladder, instead hopping out of his B-Wing's cockpit and catching the lip on his way down. Stopping on its grip, he dropped to the hangar floor. Ghost paused to make a mournful tone, a sound of embarrassment, and hurried to his side.

    "Good shooting out there, One."

    Rookie turned toward the voice. It had come from the X-Wing pilot he had watched slide into a cluster of fellow pilots. Rookie squinted to get a better look at the Twi'lek through the surrounding shield of orange. It was Green Leader.

    Rookie One flicked his first two fingers away from his forehead, a silent thanks. Green Leader nodded back before being swept back up in the moving tide of celebratory pilots. It was only fair.

    Green Leader, Dane Rumol, had been the leader of this assault, not him. The green-skinned male was just as old as himself, possibly older, but Dane carried on like someone half his age. As soon as he stepped out of the cockpit, Dane was an early-twenties greenhorn pilot ready for the next round of Corellian whiskey. Behind the yoke, Rumol was slightly more stern about his words and commands. Slightly. Sometimes Rookie wished the man would be a proper figure of command. Fights between the two ocurred from time to time.

    Rookie made his way down a corridor toward the ship's common room. The meager, thumb-width lights lining the hall flickered. On the priority list of things that required energy on a New Republic Light Cruiser, they were apparently quite low. Lower, probably, than the cooling unit keeping the booze chilled in the commons. Of course the liquor had to be chilled and ready: this ship, and many it traveled with, was still floating through the open emptiness of space thanks to young pilots in orange flight suits. These pilots continued to make their fighters do what they did thanks, often, to the victorious reunion they could expect on their base ship.

    These were kids who had watched the destruction of the first Death Star with their parents in a small living room. Ignoring the Imperial tripe about Rebel threats on society, their parents had told them about the brave souls that had risked everything to show the Empire that the galaxy wouldn't take well to being oppressed. Growing up, these young men flew little model ships around their living quarters with names burned into their minds: Skywalker, Farlander, Dreis, Antilles, Darklighter. Men with purpose, focus, and a willing to throw everything away for an ideal. Just the thing for a 10-year-old's idol search.

    Rookie had been among those names. He had flown in the fateful attack on the Emperor's second toy. He and Ru had survived the assault, the only ones of their flight group to do so. His proton torpedoes had decided not to turn down toward the Death Star's core, instead detonating upon the walls on either side of the exhaust port. Maybe he'd fired them too early, but his flight telemetry guaranteed he'd launched them right on time.

    But this was public record in the New Republic's archives. What connected him to Ru and Ghost wasn't, without questions asked, available in any archives except for Mon Mothma's own. The Phantom project had been about invisibility. Apparently memories of it were just as transient.

    Rookie stepped into the ship's common's dimmed lights. Several circular tables surrounded by chairs made up the center of the room. To his own left, a small supply and drink bar extended across a corner. On a larger ship, the music filling the room from the opposing corner would be accompanied by colored lights and a thumping bass projector, but the MC-40 wasn't outfitted with that level of facilities. In the center-most table, just under a dozen pilots, still in their orange-and-white flight suits, chatted loudly. Six or seven technicians, mostly female, were integrated among the seats.

    Rookie One slipped past low tables and stopped a mere meter from the pilots' congregation. Green Leader noticed and turned towards him. In a chain reaction, random pilots around the table noticed each others glances and turned towards Rookie. The music seemed to grow louder as the voices in the room dimmed.

    He had come to say something, but the words wouldn't come.
  3. Dashren2001 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 20, 2008
    star 1
    Threw together a cover image for the story and currently working on part 3. Wondering if anyone is reading this thing, lol
  4. Dashren2001 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 20, 2008
    star 1
    Part 3: Communication

    Light shot from surrounding walls and low-hanging glowslats. The wide beams of purple, green, and various other tacky neon colors mixed in odd ways against the seven or eight orange flight suits situated around the table before him. Combined with the thumping beat of popular Corellian street music, Rookie One had to fight to keep the scene from throwing him into vertigo. An aileron roll at full throttle in an A-Wing, with various stars and nebulas twirling around him, was nothing compared to this.

    The Steadfast's common room was not a place Rookie One found himself very often. In his younger days, he probably would have liked the place a lot. In the days when he was absolutely sure he could bring down the entire Imperial Navy with an snub fighter and a couple of decent wingmen. Hell, he thought, he and Commander Kariby could've brought down three Death Stars by themselves back then.

    After just five years, however, most of this either didn't interest him or disgusted him outright. In those five years of keeping quiet about the destruction of an Imperial Super Star Destroyer and an even larger production facility, he felt like he had aged twenty.

    They had given him a significant rank bump after the Phantom Incident. But it hadn't been what both he and Republic brass knew he deserved. The promotion couldn't have been big enough to arouse questions as to why a guy his age was wearing that many gold bars. Rookie One had spent a long night since fighting the urge to leap into a crowd of his peers and shout about his daring assault on Vader's own command ship with just Ru Murleen and a stolen Imp ship. After so many years, that urge was gone. He had vowed to do what was in the best interest of the Rebel Alliance, now the New Republic, and they had made their decision: apparently it would be best if the galaxy didn't know about what happened above Imdaar Alpha.

    Rookie One didn't understand their commands at the time, nor did he respect them. But he followed them.

    Now a man, Rookie had not discussed the events of the Phantom Incident with nearly anyone who wasn't there since it had happened. So he was commander of an entire three squadrons of pilots, thirty-six jockeys, that had no idea why they should respect him. For lack of a leader, they had thrown their young eyes at Dane Rumol, Green Leader. Just over six-foot-tall, the green-skinned Twi'lek from Thyferra had an impressive flight record. The young recruits, mostly cocky kids looking for adventure, had flocked to him the instant they realized that they didn't like Rookie One very much.

    Dane asked curiously, "Major?"

    Rookie jerked his head, and his past slipped back into the deep rear of his mind where it belonged. He looked down at Dane, purposefully-ignoring the cluster of pilots staring at him. The New Republic guidelines were ambiguous as to whether this was an appropriate time for them to salute. The pilots' hands stayed where they were.

    "First Lieutenant," Rookie One said, still struggling with his words. "Enjoying your drink?"

    Dane looked up at the Major confused, and a couple of the flocked pilots laughed awkwardly.

    "Yessir. Would you like to join us?" Dane gestured at one of them. "Yalessa was just telling us about an Interceptor that she tricked into a crossfire. It was getting good."

    Rookie forced a smile. "I bet it was, but I wasn't there to see it. I was a little busy on the edge, planetside."

    Several of the pilots took a step back from their pack huddle. Rookie continued to stare at Green Leader. Two of the flight jockeys downed the last of their drinks and hurried out of the room. Finally, Dane set his drink down with a solid noise and stood.

    "May we discuss this outside, Major?"

    "I don't think so, Lieutenant." Rookie could feel the anger building within. He turned toward the overweight, four-armed Besalisk behind the bar, to the half-circle of technicians as they burst into laughter, to the mildly-confused pilots around himself. "Who here is familiar with the callsign "Red Three"?"

    Feet shuffled, heads turned. An uncomfortable silence fell over the table, and the entire room caught on. Within seconds, almost every eye in the space-bourne catina was on Rookie One. He caught this, and it was only marginally harder to keep his voice from breaking. His sight remained on Dane.

    "Come on," Rookie said. "More than one of you were Red-something a few minutes ago. Who here knows about Red Three?"

    The silence grew thicker, and Rookie's stomach begged him to shuffle out of the room. His point had been made, it was time to go. But Rookie was determined to make every person he could feel what had as he watched the proton torpedoes arrive a moment too late.

    "He's in our flight," a young woman said. Being the only female in the group, Rookie assumed this was Yalessa.

    "That's right. Anyone know his name?"

    Another silence. More shuffling. The girl glanced quickly to a boy directly to Rookie's right. The Major caught Yalessa's eyes and turned towards the Private. "Pilot," Rookie One said, as though asking him to continue a sentence he never started.

    He looked up, the edges of lips twitching nervously. "Relan," he said. "His name is Relan."

    Rookie nodded and slowly brought his gaze across the remaining pilots. "Now, anyone know why he isn't here? Was he not a fan of the ship's stocks? I wouldn't blame him if he wasn't. Any ideas?"

    This was what he had been waiting for. Rookie hoped that they knew about Relan's death, but were simply drowning out their sorrow. He looked between their eyes, catching looks of recognition and sadness. Then someone else spoke.

    "Relan is a lone Nexu, sir. He's probably off in his quarters, telling his journal about the TIE he almost bagged."

    Rookie looked at the young pilot who had spoken up. With short, curly blond hair, the boy had the looks of a Tatooian, but the accent of a Corellian. Rookie One almost instantly hated him, and he couldn't say why. A primal anger bumbled inside, tightening his abdomen.

    "So you're saying that if I headed into quarters and started knocking down doors, I'd find Red Three whining about not getting to do anything in these pirate hunts?"

    The Tatooian smiled, "Probably, sir."

    Some laughs came from the pilots around them. Rookie One flinched as his pectoral muscles clenched into impossibly-tight clumps. Looking to one another, the pilots raised their glasses. Thought left him, and Rookie swung. His hand wasn't a fist as it met a stray glass. The container was knocked away, spinning, to crash into countless shards on the room's floor. Rookie stepped forward and grabbed the boy's collar with his left hand, pausing only to look him in his shocked eyes before bringing a right hook crashing upon his jaw.

    As the pilot dropped to the makeshift cantina's floor, Dane leapt from his seat, slid over the table, and pressed his weight against Rookie One. The First Lieutenant didn't dare push Rookie away, but he placed his hands against the commanding officer's wrists and looked into his eyes. Dane was taller than the Major by a solid three inches, but it was nearly half a minute before he felt his leader loosen and bring his arms back down.

    Rookie One stepped back, his eyes flicking between Dane and the fool scrambling to stand. Rookie took a breath, and the fog of rage slowly drifting away. He took a deeper breath, the smoke of burning leaves and fermented grains filling his lungs. The light burn tickled something in his mind, and Rookie's muscles began to relax.

    He turned towards Green Leader, and spoke through stammered breaths. "You wanted to talk outside, Lieutenant Rumol?"

    Dane and Rookie walked along side one another into the hall. The violent clash of colors gave way to a steady muted white, the thumping bass line to a light hum. They walked for several of the corridor's blocks, Rookie One's breathing coming back into moderation. Finally, Dane stopped. Rookie turned to face him, realizing that the Lieutenant had taken control of their discussion.

    "Sir, I respect you, I respect your title, and I respect the New Republic command." He paused as a young woman slipped between them with an active datapad. "But they don't need this. We know Relan is gone, I saw him drop off my sensors. Do you think what they need after every one of these pirate battles is a reminder of how soon they could die? The big enemy they signed up to fight is running, and these boys are just being used to clean up the mess."

    Green Leader stood in the hall, shoulders squared, and tried to catch his breath. In this moment, neither of them had ranks. This was simply a pilot speaking with a peer. Dane continued.

    "I don't know what you went through, but it wasn't with us. Rubbing our noses in it won't help anything."

    As if suddenly remembering, Dane saluted Rookie before turning and heading back for the common room. Rookie One just stood as he was, his fingers grasping at nothing. The floor beneath him stopped solid for a second, then shook violently, before finally settling into a gentle hum as the Steadfast entered hyperspace.
  5. Dashren2001 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 20, 2008
    star 1
    Part 4: Progression

    The words hit Rookie One hard. The fact that they had come from a subordinate didn't matter. That Rookie could have enacted severe action against Rumol for the verbal slight never even occurred to him. The statement could have come from the mouth a lowly Jawa, it still would have had the same impact.

    As the Twi'lek pilot returned to the rudimentary cantina, Rookie admitted that no, none of the pilots aboard the Steadfast had been with him during the Phantom incident. Again he had to remind himself that they didn't even know about it, and it would be impossible for them to learn of it. At the age of twenty-six, Rookie One had become the haggard old pilot full of irrelevant stories and unrelatable frustration that he and his old friends on Tatooine used to mock. How had he aged thirty years in the span of five?

    The dirty blonde Major began the short walk to the pilots' quarters. There he would greet a picture of his parents in a simple frame, next to a similarly housed image of woman slightly older than himself. The woman had high cheek bones and a small nose, with curly reddish-blonde hair. She looked like the kind of woman one would proverbially bring home to mother. Her unassuming looks betrayed a history of piloting and espionage that had brought her path across Rookie's two separate times.

    She was accomplished Republic pilot and agent Ru Murleen, and she had disappeared from existence three years ago.

    After the Phantom Incident, the Rebel Alliance decided to keep Rookie One and Ru Murleen out of the field while they secured everything relating to the event and sealed it up tight. During this time, the two pilots grew close. The relationship that resulted was casual and natural; the occasional stolen kiss in the mess hall, the periods of sleeping together between periods of sleeping alone. Meanwhile, the two had become educators. Rookie was spending his time focusing the various men and women rushing to the Rebel Alliance after word of the Death Star's destruction into useful fighter pilots. It was a rewarding job. It was a rewarding two years.

    Then she was gone. Rookie spent countless credits on his connections inside and outside the Alliance in attempts to get any information on her. Everytime, he hit a solid wall. It wasn't the type of dead end caused by someone's death, but more accurately the type that was put up purposefully to prevent the person from being found. Rookie recognized this and it fueled search.

    Eventually, an itch brought Rookie to request a transfer to an active squadron. He didn't care which, so long as it was actively deployed away from the Core Worlds. Rookie spent the next three years with four separate squadrons on patrols of relatively pointless import, thinking that maybe one day they would simply run into one-another again like they had five years ago on Imdaar.

    Rookie One had almost reached his quarters when his thought process was brought to a very literal halt. The floor beneath him shook violently, and his body experienced a solid G in several different directions in the span of a second. He paused for a moment, his hands flush with the cold durasteel floor, waiting for an explanation. Rookie knew, however, that there were only two reasons for an emergency hyperspace deactivation, and he was fairly certain it wasn't a benign navigational error.

    As the young Major rose to his feet and began running back towards the hangar, a voice came over the Steadfast's comms.

    "All hands to stations, all pilots to your ships. This is not a drill! I repeat, all hands to stations..."

    Rookie One continued to run down the hall, leaping to the side and bouncing off the wall as he dodged past a frantic engineer at speed. As he hurried past the doorway to the break room and was caught up in a wave of fellow pilots, the word he was fearing most came over the ship's speakers.

    "...Interdictor..."

    He put more energy into his gait and pulled a small comm unit off of his flight suit's belt.

    "Ghost, you there?" he asked through quick breaths.

    A fast series of high-pitched and alarmed beeps came back over the small cylinder.

    "I know, I heard it too. Have one of the techs lower you into my X-Wing and get it prepped, I'm almost there."

    An affirmative whistle was all he needed to hear before replacing the unit. The chaotic noises of the pilots and others rushing through the tight halls dispersed as he entered the hangar he had left two hours ago. Taking a small leap over a large black hose being dragged toward an X-Wing, it occurred to him that after the hour that would have been spent letting the fighters cool, they would only have been refueled for sixty minutes at best. He doubted any of them would have a full tank, nor a full rack of projectiles. Except one, his own. Rookie One had flown one of the Steadfast's two B-Wings in the last sorte on a whim, which meant that his designated Incom X-Wing-class snubfighter was full-to-the-brim of juice and boom.

    He came to a halt at his X-Wing. With the technicians in panic mode, he lifted a standard ladder and leaned it against the lip of the fighter's cockpit. Once inside, he shoved the ladder away with his helmet and then put it on in one motion. The second his hand and helmet were back within the confines of the tight control area, the flat canopy began to lower. Ghost informed him of the status of his full fuel tank and six proton torpedoes. Rookie switched his radio to the general Republic channel. It was exactly what he was expecting: the Steadfast's commander was frantically informing everyone that an Interdictor-class Star Destroyer had pulled them out of hyperspace, captured the Steadfast in a tractor beam, and was now vomiting TIE Fighters and Interceptors. Every few sentences a pilot attempted to interject, but was silenced by someone else. Rookie One doubted he would be shouted down and spoke.

    "Attention all pilots, this is Rookie One. Lift-off in sixty seconds. Mark. General?"
    "Yes, Major?"
    "General, we do not have the ships to bring down a Destroyer of that class. I recommend that you prepare an emergency jump to the nearest piece of Republic space. As soon as you have it, send it to all the fighters. The second the tractor beam is down, jump."
    "Agreed, Major. Don't leave us waiting too long, and good hunting."
    "All due speed, sir," It was a standard well-wishing when you didn't want to bring luck into the picture. Rookie One raised his voice and continued, "All pilots switch to Republic combat frequency two."

    The bars representing the power dedicated to the engines, shields, and lasers came to life. The bisected multi-tiered circles of green around a small X-Wing icon representing his shield direction and strength appeared next, and the rest of his read-outs followed. He switched over his radio frequency over to the one dedicated to the fighters and the Steadfast's command. A myriad of emotional voices flowed from the radio.

    "This route was supposed to be Republic-known only! What is a..."
    "We're not armed for this! Hell, it's been months since I even flew a sim against a..."
    "Everyone cut the chatter and wait for the Major's commands."

    That last voice was Dane Rumol, Green Leader, the same voice that had lashed him earlier. Rookie One interjected on cue.

    "This is the Major. We're going to stick with the call signs from the earlier battle. Continue prep for lift-off, thirty seconds and counting. Everyone sound off."

    Rookie One heard each of the eleven remaining fighter pilots aboard the Steadfast check in. For this fight, as it had been during their confrontation with the pirates that had cost them Red Three, the squadron would be divided into three groups, Red, Blue, and Green. Rookie One, as of now Blue Leader, was in direct command of Blue and Red groups, while Rumol was in charge of Green group. Ultimately, Rookie was in charge of the entire squadron, but it was helpful to have a second flight leader to help coordinate things when the squadron inevitably got separated.

    After Green Four finished sounding-off, Rookie One took the radio again. "This Rookie One, Steadfast Squadron lifting off now."

    His X-Wing leapt a meter from the bulkhead and the snubfighter's forward landing strut began to retract as he slipped through the hangar's shield at twenty-percent thrust. Blue Two followed closely behind, and a small stream of X-Wings began to emerge from the Mon Cal cruiser. The bulbous Star Destroyer was fourty-five seconds away at full trot, but the gray-blue blob of Imperial fighters were now close enough to become distinguishable ships. Three squadrons, two sets of twelve TIE Fighters and one of Interceptors.

    As he zeroed his lasers for two-hundred-and-fifty meters, Rookie One wondered why the Interdictor was sending only three-fourths of the standard number of fighters that it carried. More interesting, however, was why it was without the standard support of two or three Imperial-II-class Destroyers. It was unusual for an Interdictor to be out hyperspace-trapping without other capitol ships alongside to wipe up the catch.

    Maybe Steadfast Squadron had been lucky.

    "Alright," Rookie began, "I'm seeing two squads of eyeballs and a squad of squints. It could be better, but it could be a lot worse. Our primary targets are the two tractor beam projectors around the edges of the primary underside bay. We don't have time to take out the shield generators, so we're going to brute force the tractor beams. Shields double-front for the first pass, then split them and full throttle back around. This shouldn't take more than two passes. Green and Red groups, go for the tractor beams. Blue group with me, we're going to be circling the Destroyer's midline to draw away fire from Green and Red and picking off fighters." He paused to take a quick breath and eye the radar. "Contact in ten seconds."

    "Roger that, boss," Green Leader responded. "Okay, punch through the bucket heads, reform in a stagger, and start dumping your torpedoes on my mark."

    Rookie One could see the fighters clearly now. He shifted all of his shields to the forward half of his fighter, and the rest of his squadron followed suit. He wanted to acquire lock and start dumping lasers and torpedoes into the octagonally-segmented viewpoints of the TIEs, but they weren't within range of his lasers and he needed to save his proton torpedoes in case Red and Green groups needed help breaking through the Interdictor's shields.

    He hated these seconds, staring straight into the eyes of Imperial scum and having to fight his finger away from the trigger. He told Ghost to tag several TIE Interceptors in the center of the approaching mass. Four of the dagger-winged fighters were bracketed in soft red light. The target distance counter activated and read two kilometers. Rookie's eyes were on the distance counter almost as much as the fighters themselves.

    One-and-a-half kilometers. Between the distance and lack of atmosphere, he could hear the signature hellish whine of TIE engines in his mind. One kilometer. Several years ago, Rookie One had flown a captured TIE Fighter through a canyon in a training exercise. To be brief, the experience had been awful. It had served only to reinforce the belief that a single Republic X-Wing was worth at least several TIEs. Of course, he had never been in the seat of an Interceptor.
    Five hundred meters. A light volley of green lasers erupted from the wall of Imperial fighters. Most of the shots missed, though a few did make contact and bounced off or were absorbed entirely by the X-Wings' shields. Once such shot slammed into Rookie One's shields just above the right side of his head. The hauntingly-beauitful cascade of blue energy rippling away from the strike didn't distract Rookie from the distance counter.

    As what sounded like Red Two shouted "Here they come!" over the comm, the distance counter hit the two-hundred-fifty mark. Rookie One didn't bother to wait for his targeting computer to acquire lock, instead simply touching the rudder slightly starboard and choking the trigger. The four wing-mounted lasers fired individually in sequence. The first two shots missed just above the Interceptor, the third glanced off its left wing, but the fourth found home and pierced straight through the viewport and, presumably, vaporized the pilot.

    As the rest of Steadfast Squadron lined up to slip through the TIEs, Rookie One had just enough time to let off a volley of shots at the next target. The first two went through the starboard pylon connecting the ball cockpit and wing. A small explosion separated the two chunks of Interceptor and began to tumble. Rookie tweaked his X-Wing thirty degrees clockwise and slipped through the gap, wiring and components bouncing off the top and bottom of his shield.

    Rookie One double-checked that there were still eleven X-Wings behind him before speaking.

    "Red and Green groups, head for those tractor beams. Blue group, break starboard with me. Here we go."
    Last edited by Dashren2001, Oct 22, 2012
  6. Dashren2001 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 20, 2008
    star 1
    Part 5 - Assailment

    It would be several seconds before Rookie One's X-Wing would reach the imposing capital ship. With the eight massive half-spheres spread across the top and bottom of Interdictor-class destroyers, he had always found their image far less imposing than those of the typical Imperial wedges, such as the Imperial-II's. In a way, One was forced to study the Interdictor's shape, considering it's main job was to stop and hold ships. Larger ships, anyway. Nimble little starfighters like Rookie One's X-Wing danced and weaved far too quickly to be concerned by the slow targeting systems of the typical tractor beam.

    Rookie One spoke into his helmet comm, “Looks like there's two more waves and you're at the beam projectors. First wave in five seconds, twenty to target. We'll draw away everything we can”

    “Roger, continuing toward target,” came Dane Rumol's reply.

    Rookie noted the slight but unmistakable waver of uncertainty in Dane's voice. He wondered if this was the first time the Twi'lek had come up against a capital ship. It was a startling experience for many, occasionally startling enough to cause a few pilots to lose their nerve entirely. Rookie was relieved to see all eleven X-Wings of Steadfast Squadron faithfully heading toward the Interdictor, continuing full-speed toward far superior enemy firepower.

    “Blue group, on me,” Rookie began again. “Let's cut through that second wave.”

    He was already bringing his X-Wing back toward the engagement as three “rogers” come back over the comm. It didn't look like any of the fighters had broken off to engage Rookie's small team. Rookie realized that was good for now, but if the Imperials remains this dedicated on their target, they would tear the Steadfast to shreds before the Squadron even reached the tractor beams preventing the ship's escape. This would be tricky.

    Rookie One shifted his shields to full-front and cranked his engines to full output. His wingmen matched. The time between the TIEs turning from small gray dots to recognizable shapes within targeting range was short, and he opened fire. His first few shots peppered the top of an Interceptor, shredding it. He gave the TIE Fighter just off its starboard the same treatment. The rest of Blue group began firing as well, and Rookie watched as several well-placed shots went straight down through unsuspecting ball cockpits, vaporizing the ebony-covered pilots inside. He counted six destroyed TIEs, possibly seven depending the accuracy of Blue Four's proton torpedo.

    Yes, Rookie nodded, definitely seven. That left only five fighters in the second wave, more than enough for Red and Green groups to blast through.

    As the diamond of X-Wings rocketed down through the debris, missing the remaining fighters in the second wave by meters, Rookie One hailed the Steadfast.

    “General, we don't have time to pick off all of the fighters. Can your gunners hold them off long enough for us to shut down these beams?”

    There was an agonizing pause after his question, and for a moment Rookie One considered that his message had been disrupted by the Interdictor. The sound of an explosion full of fire and static was the first response, followed by the General's shouting.

    Negative, Blue Leader! They're swarming us. We need some assistance immediately or you won't have a hangar to come back to!”

    “Roger that, General. Red One, you're now Red Leader. Take your group back to the Steadfast and swat some flies.”

    But Major, what about the tractor beams?”

    Rookie shook his head. Looking at his radar, she was questioning his commands just as she and Green group were about to hit the remains of the second wave.

    “Yalessa, I trust you to protect the Steadfast, you trust me to set her free. Go.”

    Yes, sir,” was her simple reply, but the words belayed a renewed confidence in herself and Rookie One.

    Red group's three X-Wings peeled away, and the three remaining TIEs from wave had barely noticed the snubfighters in their wake before they were torn apart by red energy.

    “Blue group, full trot back around to Green group and open fire on wave three!”

    The X-Wings' engines dimmed slightly as the diamond came around in a sharp turn, then exploded in glorious blue once more as they rushed to rejoin their flight mates. The third group of Imperial fighters weren't quite within visual range, hardly more than amorphous gray specks, but Rookie One was already beginning to get that awful tingle in the back of his neck.

    Every had pilot had a tick, something inside them that went off when all of their adrenaline and flying instincts had betrayed them, and that whatever was going on around was about to get much, much worse. The twitch in his neck pulsed, and with each pulse, he heard an echo of a voice from earlier. With each utterance, it became clearer, until he recognized it as Yalessa's voice.

    It was something she had shouted as they were lifting off from the Steadfast to go after the Interdictor: “This route was supposed to be Republic-known only!”. She was right. Rookie One was quickly coming to the sickening realization that not only was this a trap, this was a special trap. Just as the Imperial fighters composing the third wave began to take shape, the words that come over the comm did nothing but confirm his grim suspicions.

    This is Green Leader. I'm seeing eight squints surrounding four... what the sith are those?”

    Rookie told Ghost to get a full scan on one of the four central Imp ships, and his stomach fell through the bottom of his cockpit. The wings were like the twin-pointed fins of an Interceptor, but mirrored so that they pointed both fore and aft. The pylons and central ball cockpit had a large half-disc shape extending from the back, reminiscent of Darth Vader's infamous X1 prototype. Worst of all, the entire menacing package seemed wrapped in a full shield.

    These were the production models of the X1, known as TIE Avengers. The love child of one very determined Admiral, Avengers were known in pilot-speak as “brights”. “Bright” was a catch-all term for any more advanced TIE that was a result of the Empire finally wising up and investing money in quality fighters over large quantities of X-Wing fodder.

    Steadfast Squadron comprised of young pirate-hunters and glory-seekers. In conjunction with the Interceptors and the precarious situation their base ship was already in, Rookie One knew that several more good men and women were about to join Red Three.

    “They're brights,” Rookie shouted into his comm. “Dump a few torpedoes their way and go around them!”

    A quiet “Brights?” came over the comm from what sounded like Green Three. The Interceptors and Avengers were coming into view. He locked onto one of the Avengers, and Ghost whistled at him that he had a solid missile lock. Rookie One waited. These precious few seconds of surprise were all that he and his three wing mates had.

    “Steady, Blue Group,” he said. “On my mark, protons on a bright and then start flooding them.”

    The sandy blonde pilot breathed deep, hoping that none of the motley crew intended to defend a lowly ship like the Steadfast would panic at the sight of the Avengers. They had already held their ground once, but he wouldn't have blamed them if they choked the throttles this time. Thankfully, they impressed him once again.

    A tiny voice in the back of his head almost wished a few of them had broken ranks and turned tail, it would have made it easier when they were inevitably blown away.

    No, Rookie thought. They had done the Republic proud so far, defining its image by crossing their arms and looking down their noses at nearly-impossible odds. He owed it to them to not mentally relegate them to an empty grave so quickly.

    The distance counter dropped and dropped, and finally hit a much smaller number that Rookie liked.

    “Mark!”

    His craft shook softly around him as a pair of comets erupted from either side of his fuselage. They were quickly joined by six more. The torpedoes had several seconds to travel.

    “Hold your fire,” Rookie said, unconsciously holding his breath.

    The fiery rockets reached the cluster of TIEs. A mix of multiple explosions and bursting shields made a new count impossible, but Rookie One knew that there were definitely a few more Imperial pilots sucking vacuum. He clamped down hard on the primary trigger.

    Once again, his group combined their shots into a tight ribbon of crimson. The TIEs scattered. Most of them turned away from the center of the group before twisting down toward Blue Group. He could see now that torpedoes had obliterated an Interceptor and an Avenger, with a second Avenger missing half of its port wing.

    The wounded Avenger continued toward Green group, as did an intact one and three Interceptor. Just as the cluster began to scatter, Dane Rumol's group's torpedoes closed the distance, but the TIEs were already juking. Only one projectile hit home, though it was an impressive sight as the fireball soared straight into the center of the cockpit before detonating. As it erupted in Sienar parts, the remaining fighters opened up on Green group. Dane and his flightmates were already lifting up and around them, but several well-placed shots overloaded the underside of Green Four's shields and tore apart the blocky rear of his fuselage.

    The explosion was such a surprise, the young man didn't even have time to scream.

    As Rookie One bit his teeth and saw the man's icon disappear from the radar, a field of segmented black eyes and vicious blades came into focus. The battle had officially become chaos.
  7. Thumper09 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 9, 2001
    star 4
    Great story so far! :)

    You've got some great descriptions here, both in your action scenes and in general. The action is well-paced, concise, and easy to follow and visualize, which is no small feat. Kudos for that.

    The interactions between Rookie One and the other pilots are fascinating, especially with how the other pilots gravitate more toward Dane because of the perceived gulf between them and Rookie One, and how they view each other. (I don't know if that made sense just now, but I hope the gist of it came through okay.) I think it's natural for people to seek out leadership from those they relate to better, and I'm curious to see if things improve on either side as they get to know each other better and fly together more.

    You've got lots of phrases and such that I like, but so far this passage is my favorite:
    Heh heh! :D

    Looks like the squadron is in a bit of a pickle, but they're doing pretty well so far. Curious that the Interdictor doesn't have other, larger ships for a protective screen, like it was mentioned. I hope they come out of this without any more casualties after Green Four.

    I'm looking forward to reading more. Keep up the great work!
  8. Dashren2001 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 20, 2008
    star 1
    Thank you for the kind words! This story is a personal treat for me. I played the hell out of Rebel Assault II as a kid, and thought Rookie One was far too important a character to not have any EU or Fan material. Are you familiar with those games, or just reading for the starfighters? Either way is good with me. :D

    I'm trying to take a darker approach to the average pilot, much like the X-Wing books did. And yeah, the Interdictor flying solo will be explained. Cool that you noticed that, especially since you seem to be the only reader.

    Either way, if you're not familiar with Rookie One, check this out:
  9. Thumper09 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 9, 2001
    star 4
    You're very welcome, and I am looking forward to reading more. :) I'm vaguely familiar with the character of Rookie One, and I know of the Rebel Assault games but never played them (have a cool poster from the first, though), mostly because I figured there would be a lot of dogfighting in them. No matter what game I'm playing or console/platform I'm using, I totally suck at dogfighting, and since starfighters are my favorite part of the GFFA my lack of skills in that department annoys me to no end, LOL. Never even got past the training portion in the X-wing computer game, though I had tons of fun putting every ounce of energy into an A-wing's engines and zipping through the obstacle course gates.

    Thanks for the YouTube link! I'll check that out when I have a chance. The "Admiral Ackbar as Himself" credit on it is awesome.

    I'm glad you're going for the grittier approach. I liked that about the X-wing books. The situations these pilots are in won't be all sunshine and roses, and some characters will reflect that. I think it's more realistic that way, and it'll be interesting to see where you go with it.

    Many stories with original or lesser-known characters might take a little longer to find their audience, but don't get discouraged. :) It's great that you're exploring and writing about a character who means a lot to you, and that comes through in your work. You might be able to post the link to your story in the DownTime thread in Resource, since the odds are pretty good that some of those people are familiar with the Rebel Assault games. That thread's been quiet since The Move, but I'll see if I can dig up the link.

    ETA: Downtime linky
    Last edited by Thumper09, Dec 20, 2012
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