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Saga - OT Mercy Flight (OCs) --COMPLETE

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Mistress_Renata, Sep 8, 2017.

  1. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Guilt is a powerful motivator. I tried to mention that this was on her mind during the long haul, not sure how much anything came through.
    Yes, to make up for the ones she couldn't save before.
    The sad thing, is that in spite of refusing to carry on, it wouldn't have made much difference. The Empire brought in a new ferry pilot. I think that is on her mind, too.
    Well, Gram is Corellian, too. He's not the type to waffle too long. And don't apologize for tardiness... Darth RL catches up to all of us, from time to time. :)

    So... Gram has come to a decision...
    * * *
    Gram came in the next morning. Ambri had finished another liquid breakfast of something chalky and disgusting, but she was keeping it down. Galdaz was behind him, arms crossed.

    Gram gave her a long look. “Two things,” he said. “First, do you remember the name of the planet? Where the people were taken?” Ambri looked nervously at Galdaz, who had two of his eyes swiveled towards the captain, clearly puzzled.

    “I never knew the name,” she said, “but…but I remember the coordinates.” They were burned into her brain, the most horrible flight of her life; she’d remember them to the day she died. Gram pulled his datapad from the patch pocket on his uniform and held it out to her. Galdaz made a noise of dissent as she took it and the stylus awkwardly and tapped the information into the datapad.

    Gram took back the pad and stowed it, and said, “Two, if I allow you to go, you must promise me on your honor as an officer that you will speak with the Psychdocs when you return.”

    IF I return. But she understood what he was saying. She’d been carrying around this guilt and horror for a long time. Telling him last night…had actually made her feel better. A little. “I promise on my honor,” she said. Gram nodded.

    “I’m clearing you to fly,” he said. “Bermet and his crew have finished up your ship, and they’ll load another batch of the serum. Make sure you wear the heavy winter gear with your flight suit; you’ve still got what you were issued on Hoth?”

    “And the nice heated socks from Captain Allax, I think.” She looked at Galdaz. “You didn’t cut them off, did you?”

    Galdaz sighed. “No,” he said, “we didn’t. I’m still going on record as saying I am opposed to this.”

    “Noted,” said Gram. “We’ve heard from the Swan, she’s inbound, they’re coming here, but it will be hours before they can rendez-vous with us. I’ve got the coordinates for the Imperial relay beacon, I think you should take it out if you can, before you try the second run. We don’t want them sending out for reinforcements.”

    Ambri exhaled, feeling as if something had unlocked in her chest. “Sir, thank you sir.”

    “Three hours to go time,” said Gram. He turned to Galdaz. “I understand your opposition, Affie, but under the circumstances, I think the risks are justified.”

    Galdaz made a face. “There must be other pilots certified for X-wings,” he grumbled.

    “A few. But I don’t think they’ve got the necessary skill level to get past the blockade. If they did, they’d be in the Fighter corps.”

    “Fine!” huffed Galdaz. To Ambri, he said, “The bacta gloves and socks stay on, and we’re going to need to keep the facial bandages on, as well. I’ve got a protective mask you can put over them.”

    “It won’t interfere with my eyesight?” said Ambri.

    “No, you should be fine. And I’ll agree on condition that you do wear the winter gear. I’ll send in Lieutenant Dryza to help you get dressed.”

    The mask made her feel like a Kaminoan sina-dancer. Holes for the eyes, small holes for breathing, a small hole for the mouth, but the rest was pure white, expressionless. The bacta socks squished when she walked, but she didn’t feel pain. Of course, Galdaz insisted on a hover chair. It was embarrassing, rolling into the hangar and doing her flight check in it. Bermet and his techs accompanied her. Galdaz was there, too, and Hchch, and Captain Parnos. She saw a few other crew members of the Queen lurking around the edges of the hangar, pretending to do various chores. It all made her feel very self conscious; as if she was some sort of Grand High Admiral on inspection, with an honor guard trailing her.

    She had Parnos open the cargo hatch, to see for herself that the precious cargo was stowed securely and properly balanced. Bermet’s team had replaced the entire upper right cannon assembly, along with two of the deflector shields. “Try not to take too many more hits,” said the chief, in his high, barking voice. “These are our last spares.”

    “I didn’t think the others were that badly damaged,” said Ambri with a frown.

    “They weren’t. But under the circumstances, we thought that brand new might be better.” Ambri nodded and looked back at the guns.

    “Ranged at 250?” she asked. That was the preferred range for head-to-head starfighter battles. Bermet nodded.

    “Yes, if you run into trouble.”

    “And you will,” muttered Parnos.

    “My plan is to outrun everything.”

    Bermet snorted. “Yes, we pretty much took apart the impulse engines and figured that out for ourselves,” he said. “We flushed all the conduits, replaced the power regulators, and gave an extra coat of sealant to all the stress points.” He cleared his throat, and said, “We’ve also added some isotropic booster mix to the fuel tank; it might give you just a little extra speed without having to put too much extra stress on the engines.”

    She looked up at the engines, and then down to Bermet and his ground crew, hovering in the background. “You’ve been working on this all night,” she said. “I really can’t thank you enough, Chief. It might make all the difference.”

    Bermet actually blushed. “Just doing our jobs,” he said brusquely. They’d done their jobs well, as near as she could tell. It couldn’t have been in any better condition than if it had come from the factory. Better, probably. She looked towards the magcon field, out at the stars, and took a deep breath. Finally, she got out of the hover chair and stretched.

    “Time to go,” she said. She looked to Hchch, the highest ranking officer in her line of command, and saluted. “Commander, permission to get underway?”

    “Granted,” said Hchch, returning the salute. “May the Force be with you, Flight Officer.”

    She made her way up the ladder, and paused. There were new markings on the nose of the plane, just forward of the cockpit. Two straight lines with a circle touching between them. Kill marks, for four TIE fighters.

    “One more and you’ll be an ace,” said Bermet. “We put those on last night.”

    Ambri wished they hadn’t. “Thank you, Chief.” She settled into the cockpit, strapping herself in, putting on her helmet and adjusting the commlink so that it actually reached the mouth hole of the mask, and put her gloves on over the clumsy bacta gloves that Galdaz had created. Most of the fighter pilots she knew were proud of their skill, and were happy to show off the killmarks of the ships they’d gotten. She found it creepy, though. She’d killed, to protect herself and others, and she’d kill again if she had to, but she didn’t think it was something to be proud of. It was wrong to keep score with other peoples’ lives.

    She went through the familiar pre-flight routines and checks. All systems were green, no fluctuations, no worries. “Minni, you ready to go?” She didn’t bother to read the text on the cockpit screen with Minni’s reply, she recognized the enthusiasm in the little droid’s whistled response. One last quick, visual check showed that the flight space was being cleared, with the signal crew taking position.

    She cleared her throat, and opened up her comm channel. “Patchwork Queen, this is Mercy One, all systems green, request departure protocol.”

    It was Gram himself who responded. “Mercy One, you are cleared to launch. Confirm vector coordinates.”

    Easy enough to punch these up. Five hyperspace jumps, the fourth was in red; the signal beacon she needed to take out. She transmitted these back to the bridge, who confirmed they were correct. “Ready to launch,” she said. The repulsors came up to full power, and she put the sublights online. The ship was rising off the deck now, slowly and controlled. She punched in the controls to retract the landing struts and eased the fighter forward, watching the signal crewman. He cocked his head, listening to commands over his own commlink, then dropped his arm. Go.

    She nudged the stick forward and slipped out of the hangar and away from the Queen gracefully, deliberately. She had to readjust the cabin heat; she’d forgotten how hot she’d had it on the way back from Kassallia and now she was getting too warm. She adjusted the artificial gravity, slipped left and right to get a feel for the inertial dampeners, then nodded, switching to her sublight engines and bringing the hyperdrive up to full power. “Minni, do you have the hyperspace coordinates?” They were already flashing on her control panel, with the directional course locked in. She brought the nose of the ship around. “Patchwork Queen, this is Mercy One, we are outbound.”

    Gram responded. “Mercy One, we acknowledge,” and added in Corellian, “Fair skies and a tailwind.”

    Ambri smiled at the traditional farewell from her homeworld, and took one final check of the various data readouts in the cockpit. Flight recorders were recording, flight cams were on. “Here we go,” she said, and punched into hyperspace.
     
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  2. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Aaaand our heroine is cleared for departure! I’m so glad Gram found a way to let her go back and make the run, both for her sake and the sake of those down on Kassallia who need the serum so badly.

    I think the captain’s stipulation that Ambri visit the psych docs once she’s done (and I love that he just knows she’ll complete the mission—in true Corellian fashion [face_good_luck]) is entirely reasonable, given the psychological toll that her earlier failure has been taking on her. I’m curious, though, about why he has her write down the coordinates of the place she went (whose name she can’t remember); he seems to have some plan in mind there. (I wonder if [hl=black]it was Kassallia back then, too[/hl]?)

    Kudos to Bermet and co. for getting Ambri’s X-wing back to working order—and better than working order. I do take her point about the kill marks, though, and could see where her own history would give her some ambivalence about such things.

    Finally, thank heavens they are sending her down with proper cold-weather gear this time—what a difference that will make! [face_relieved]
     
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  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful that Bermet and his team really juiced up the X-wing's engines and other vital systems. That and the cold weather gear will tip the balance towards success. And I agree, that sessions with the psychdocs is crucial. Ambri has used her past to bolster her resolve and compassion for the plight of others, but she needs to let go of the negative emotions she's been carrying. @};-
     
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  4. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 27, 2013
    I like the addition of suggesting the Psychdocs to Ambri--- I really don’t think this is explored much in SW and it would definitely do her good. It must be very awkward having all this medical equipment on, but the important thing is that she’s back in action and prepared for the snow (take that, snow, she has better socks now!)-- this is great!
     
  5. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Yes she is going and better equiped
     
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  6. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Nope, it was somewhere else. But this seems like the kind of thing Rebel Intel would want to know about, possibly investigate... so he's passing it along.

    Yes, I do think there is a lot of psychic trauma in the Galaxy. All the Rebels, fighting against impossible odds, seeing their friends die... and all the civilians under Imperial rule, living in fear of saying the wrong thing, to the wrong person, seeing the cruelty of the people in charge, the sudden disappearances of colleagues, neighbors, friends, family members... much like some modern regimes, alas! Palapatine, as a Sith, feeds on and draws his strength from the Dark Side of the Force, and that is fed by fear, pain, anger. It is in his best interest to cause these things. I think psychmed is probably a huge growing field for the post-Rebellion era!
    Yeah, now that she actually knows what to expect!

    Okay, posting now before the boards go boom again... (seriously, what is UP with this?!)
    * * *
    The first three jumps were easy, smooth. Everything was familiar, no issues, no problems, no Imperial ships dropping out of hyperspace unannounced. She found the Imperial signal beacon, locked her S-foils, and got it with one shot. It wasn’t shooting back, of course, so it was easy.

    Still, as she prepared for her final jump, into the Kassallian system, she could feel her heart rate increasing, had to force herself to keep her breathing slow and steady. Were they waiting for her? They were surely extra vigilant. She switched her comm channel to the one recommended by General Ky-Anour. It was low frequency and low power, she couldn’t use it until she got closer to the planet, but it might avoid detection by the Empire. It was at the very lowest end of fullest spectrum scan.

    They had the planetary coordinates from the Kassallians, and had translated them into Galactic Standard. North of the planetary equator, she’d planned a jump in approximately 192 degrees parallel. It would be a short, fast flight, but her incoming vector wouldn’t suggest her ultimate destination, nor reveal her original flight path.

    “Okay, Minni, this is it. All shields to full.” Ambri hesitated, her hand hovering over the hyperspace controls. “Minni… can we get closer to the planet? A deeper insertion point.”

    The little droid whistled doubtfully. She looked at the readout which translated its response.

    //INSERTION IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO PLANETARY GRAVITATIONAL PULL IS NOT ADVISED

    “I know, it’s dangerous. So are the TIE fighters. If we can get a little closer, the run will be shorter and it will be easier to avoid them.”

    There was a loud squawk of alarm. Ambri looked at the scrolling readout, thinking that Minni’s actual comment hadn’t been accurately translated.

    //HYPERSPACE INSERTION IN-ATMOSPHERE IS NOT ADVISED DUE TO INABILITY TO DECREASE VELOCITY OR PERFORM ADEQUATE MANEUVERS TO PREVENT CATASTROPHIC PLANETARY CONTACT

    “Yeah, I know, we’d crash. I don’t want to enter within atmosphere. I just want to be closer. Within gravitational range, but out of atmosphere. To give us a shorter run.”

    There was a binary sigh of long-suffering and the little astromech burbled softly to itself while it made its calculations.

    //NEW COORDINATES ENTERED

    Ambri looked at them. Yes. A much shorter run. She’d have to drop out the instant she got the signal; a few seconds more and she’d be trying to fly through the planet itself.

    “Okay. Here we go.” She punched in the final hyperspace jump and waited. It was short. The first three had been long, and dull. She squirmed and tried to stretch. Her face itched. It was maddening, she couldn’t scratch it. Of course it was a good sign, it meant the bacta was working, but she was beginning to think of recommending it to Alliance Intelligence as an interrogation device. Right now, she’d confess to almost anything, if she could be allowed to scratch.

    When the signal came, she quickly dropped the hyperdrive engines. The strangely hypnotic patterns of hyperspace coalesced into the starfield and Ambri toggled the comm switch. “Mercy Flight to Center, we are inbound on initials.” The shields were balanced, so she set her sublights and shot ahead at top speed, with one eye on the stars and one on the datareadout. No sign of the Immitis, but there were four marks…no, eight marks…oh, Seven Hells! A full squadron of TIE fighters, converging on her. Ambri shook her head, aiming her ship straight for the planet.

    Minni was calculating the convergence point of the TIE fighters. She’d have to fly straight through them… or break sharply in one direction or another. Which would they be expecting? There were enough of them that it wouldn’t make any difference. She wished she were part of a squadron; she simply didn’t have enough experience to know what to do.

    But she knew what their ships could do. And what hers could do. “Here we go, Minni!” She increased auxiliary power, feeding it all into the engines, and thrust the throttle ahead to full. The first ships were beginning to assemble.

    “Ramming speed, Minni!”

    A loud shriek of protest from the little droid, but Ambri couldn’t argue. We have to get through them! They were firing and her forward shields were taking the brunt of it.

    “How long to atmosphere?”

    //20 SECONDS

    Twenty seconds too long. “Balance to rear shields,” she said. “Let’s try this.” She pushed the stick over, sending the ship into a tight spin, charging at the fighters like a drillbit. After a few seconds, she changed it up, jerking left and right, juking and bouncing, like a drunken hawkbat in a death spiral. She was past the initial four, but they were turning, regrouping, coming after her. More were closing in, from the left and the right. Suddenly the targeting lock was shrieking through the cockpit, along with Minni. Torpedoes, locked on to her. Torpedoes?! Where the karff did they come from? There must be a bomber in there somewhere. “Emperor’s underwear!”

    She dropped the nose, so close to the atmosphere. “Minni! Find me a target!” The best way she could think of to get rid of a torpedo was to give it another target. And there were enough red dots flagged as bogies that one of them would do. The trick would be taking one out without getting taken. This is so above my pay grade!

    She toggled the comm link again. “Mercy Flight to Center, having a problem here.” There was a faint buzzing in her ears. “Come again, Center?”

    “Purple…cont…in.”

    She veered sharply towards the group on the left, debated about whether to extend the S-foils and decided against it, and then suddenly split off to the right, offering her flank while coming into the next flight group at an angle, at the edge of their peripheral vision. They’d come close, a bit too close…she rolled abruptly to stand on one wing and went straight between the front two. The third pulled up sharply, almost hitting her. She felt her ship shudder as it grazed her shields. And an explosion…yes, the torpedoes had found one of the other fighters. The target lock warning was no longer searing her eardrums. But green flares over her ship and buffeting told her that she was taking fire, her shields were dropping to single digits. She hit thrusters full, desperate to get clear. Bermet’s gonna kill me.

    “How long to atmosphere?” she asked again.

    //12 seconds.

    She was wasting time. And three sparkling stars of gold light, shooting past her head… the force of the explosion rocked her craft, while new targets showed up on her scope. “Oh, you’ve GOT to be kriffing me!” she groaned.

    “Mercy Flight, this is Purple Arget Flight. We’ve got this. Please flag us as friendlies. Continue to initials, Center is waiting.” Ambri jerked her head around. Ships. Small ships, gold chromium with rich purple noses, shaped like saucers. She couldn’t see through the canopies, which had gold-mirrored polarized shielding, but she recognized the crest. The Kassallian Defence Forces.

    Ky-Anour had said they’d been holding off the Empire; Ambri hadn’t realized they had aerial defense. “You’re lifesavers, Purple,” she said, turning her nose back to the planet. The Kassallian saucers were not quite as fast as the TIE fighters, but they were crazy-maneuverable and they were firing from four sides, not just from front cannons.

    “I think that’s our line. Go on, we’ve got this.”

    She could see on her scope, two other TIE squadrons inbound. “You’ve got more incoming, 2 squadrons!”

    “We’ll keep them busy. You just get through.”
     
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  7. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    This! OMG! So hilarious! I'm gonna have to steal it for future use in my own fics.
     
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  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Whew, very action-packed =D= "Emperor's Underwear" -- oh yes. That's definitely a unique expression [face_rofl]
     
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  9. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Action, action and more action. I hope she makes it to the surface
     
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  10. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Wonderful tension and suspense throughout this chapter, as I have come to expect from a Renata story. :) Amrbi's definitely playing a dangerous and ambitious game trying to get in so close to the atmosphere; the exchange between her and Minni's readouts made me smile in a very "never tell me the odds" kind of way. And then a fresh wave of TIEs on top of it all—thankfully the cavalry arrives just in the nick of time, in the form of the Kassallian Defense Forces. (I guess that's what that garbled message about "purple" was about.) Keep on keeping on, Ambri... you can do this! @};-
     
  11. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Okay, so I tried to update the other day and got an Error Code 500; apparently the updated boards aren't fond of a Word cut & paste. Going to try something different today.
    I'm not entirely sure that expression is mine; I can't remember if I came up with it or if I heard it somewhere...? Let's just call it fanon & it is up for grabs! :p
    So does she! [face_nail_biting]
    Yes, indeedy! Purple is sort of 'the' color of Kassallia. If they have a flag, I'm guessing it's purple.

    Okay... let's see if I can do this...
    * * *
    She hated to leave them, but what she was carrying was too important, and she’d wasted enough time. Ambri put the nose of the X-wing towards Kassallia, put her shields (or what was left of them) to cover her tail and pushed the engines to their top speed. At 106%, it was shooting like a star. Bermet’s magic mixture must be doing the trick. Minni whistled. A glance over her shoulder showed that six of the Kassallian ships were tailing her.

    “Purple?”

    “Purple Arget,” came the response. “You’re a bit too fast for us to escort you.”

    “I don’t think I should slow down,” she said.

    “Agreed. We’ve got your back. Go on.” She was following the coordinates that Ky-Anour had given her, and now she was entering the atmosphere. She had to slow then. The cloud cover was heavy, and there was a strong crosswind, but it wasn’t actually a storm. She slowed a bit more, with a wary eye on the scope, but it was clear. And now there were three more friendlies.

    “Purple Tyas Flight to Mercy Flight, we are your escorts. Come down to 17.” It was a woman’s voice on the other end.

    “You’re not going to fly me into a mountain?” she said nervously. The woman chuckled.

    “In a manner of speaking, but we’ll guide you. First, we need to get you under the clouds.” She followed directions, slowing her speed and dropping in altitude. And then she was under the clouds, over trees frosted with snow and a massive mountain range ahead of her. Two ships dropped out of the cloud cover ahead of her, and a shadow overhead, coupled with Minni’s whistle, showed two more dropping behind her to the left and right.

    “Now,” said Purple Tyas, “follow us.” They were flying low, zipping through deep canyons carved through the mountain range. She tried to relax. It was unfamiliar territory and she didn’t want to go too fast. She had to admire the maneuverability of the little saucer ships; she wouldn’t mind having the chance to try them out someday. It was getting darker, but they were still on the sunward side of the planet.

    Up ahead, on the side of a mountain, came a flash of green. “These are your beacons,” said Purple Tyas. “We’re going to follow them in.” Twist left, twist right, right, right and left, and then drop. The green beacons showed up ahead, signaling. They were there in case something had happened to her escort. But so far, so good.

    And the saucers were slowing even further, almost stopping. Ambri engaged her repulsors. There was a gigantic crater ahead, whether from a volcano or an ancient meteor strike, it was impossible to know.

    “Here’s the Center,” said Purple Tyas. “They’re waiting for you, Mercy.”

    Ambri took a deep breath and exhaled. “Thank you, Purple,” she said. “I wouldn’t have made it past those TIE fighters.”

    “No,” said Purple Tyas, “thank you.” She hesitated, and added hoarsely, “Our people owe you a life debt we can never repay.”

    Ambri felt her cheeks grow warm. “You don’t owe me anything,” she said. “I’m just glad we were able to help.” There was a trail of green lights forming a cross on the ground below, and she could see some people, beginning to gather at the periphery.

    “Mercy Flight, this is Center. You are cleared to land. Find the center of the cross. We’ve got ground crews to assist.”

    “Note the coordinates, Minni.” She set the ship down gently, unsealed the cargo hatch, and popped the canopy. The wind whipped across the landing field, making her shiver, but the Kassallians had a ladder for her. She climbed out, and glanced at the crates. The others were unloading them, mostly human, but she recognized a few with the distinctive speckling of the native species.

    “Here! This way!” General Ky-Anour was running towards her, with a slew of others in purple uniforms, and several young woman in purple gowns. They threw a cloak of thick white fur around her and rushed her to a small, enclosed mobile shelter. It was warm inside, and she was gently pushed into a well-cushioned chair, while a mug of pinkish-purple liquid was put into her hands. “Are you warm enough?” asked Ky-Anour. “You made it through!”

    Ambri sipped the hot drink. It was creamy, and tasted delicate, almost floral. Nice. “Thanks to your pilots,” she said. “I’d be a goner without them.” She looked up at the sky. “They will punish you,” she said. “The Empire. They know we helped you, they will send other ships.”

    “We are not entirely helpless. We will take that risk. We have set ourselves apart for too long, and now at our time of need, we have no one to call upon.” This was a new voice. Ambri looked at the tall man entering the room, and noted that the others had either jumped to attention or were dropping to their knees. She struggled out of the deep chair and came to attention, too.

    He was Kassallian, and seemed to be an elder, wearing long robes of silvery-white brocade lined with white fur. There were faint traces of grey veining under his skin, and his eyes were sunken. Anxiously, Ambri glanced from him to the others. He was infected!

    The man looked at her steadily. “You are the pilot with the Galactic Alliance, who ran the blockade for us. You are the one who brought us news of this plot against us?”

    “Uh…yes, sir,” she said. “Please forgive the mask, sir. It is a medical treatment that our doctors insisted on.” He looked at her a moment longer, and then dropped to his knees, bowed his head deeply and, to her shock, kissed the toes of her boots. The others in the room also dropped to their knees, bowing their heads to the ground.

    The man got up, a bit stiffly and with help from the purple-gowned women. He took her hands in his. “I am Biarrin o-Kiella, elected Doge of the people of Kassallia. I was given some of this miracle drug, or I would myself be dead now. We owe you, every person on this planet, owe your our lives.”

    Ambri squirmed. “Sir, please,” she said. “I did what I could, and I’m glad I could help. I’m only one of many. Dr. Daya and her colleagues, who found the cure, my captain and shipmates, who gave me authorization to make the run, and my wingmate, Lieutenant Dzin, who died in the attempt. I cannot take the credit when their work was just as important.”

    o-Kiella smiled at her. “Many participate and bear credit. But some bear more credit than others. All of their efforts would have been in vain, if you yourself had not succeeded. Still, the aid of the Rebel Alliance will be noted and long remembered here, and you, Ms. Merrin… your name will be spoken of with honor. You and your children and your children’s children in perpetuity shall have the Freedom of Kassallia and shall always be welcome here.”

    “Uh…thank you, sir,” said Ambri. “What I brought today…it won’t be enough to save the whole planet, though.”

    The Doge nodded. “Three crates are designated for the defense forces, but the rest are being transported to the factories,” he said. “All of our pharmaceutical manufacturing firms have been put on notice, and they are ready to begin producing more serum based on these samples as soon as we can get it to them.”

    “There’s enough for one more load,” said Ambri. “If I can get it through.”

    The Doge turned and looked questioningly at a human woman, chunky and middle-aged, in a sensible brown suit, heavily quilted against the cold. “Maestra?” he asked.

    The lady bowed. “My lord,” she said. “It would be useful, but even if the officer was unable to get through, there is still enough to begin production. What we have from the first load is developing very well, and the first batches that have been produced here are working, combined with the antibiotic treatment recommended by the Alliance doctors.”

    There was a stir at the door, and a young human man came in and saluted. He hesitated when he saw the Doge.

    “Freiley, you have a report?” said the General.

    “Uh, yes ma’am. The shipment is unloaded and Flight Officer Merrin may depart at her pleasure. The shipments are being sent as we speak. Aqua and Viridian Squadrons are standing by to launch.”

    “Thank you Freiley. Dismissed.”

    o-Kiella turned to Ambri. “We are not at full strength,” he said, “and we are, perhaps, not as technologically advanced as the rest of the galaxy. But the Rebel Alliance came to us, reached out to us, in our hour of need when we had not even asked them for aid. We will not forget that. I have decided, with the agreement of the Planetary Council, that we offer our pledge to the Alliance. What we have is at your disposal, such as we can give… raw materials, supplies, bases, weapons, personnel.”

    Ambri frowned, beneath the mask. “This places your world at risk,” she said. “The Empire destroyed your capital, I am told. You will be a target now.”

    “We made ourselves a target, long ago, by ignoring what was going on, by refusing to be involved. Even now, when we have tried to stay neutral, we have been brought to the edge of extinction by the Emperor’s plotting. No more! From this point forward, we fight back. And we hope that we will be welcome as allies.”

    “I will convey your message,” said Ambri. “I have no right to speak for them. On my own behalf only, your Grace… I’m just glad that I was able to help. Really, that’s all. Whatever my past failings, at least I can look back at this.”

    The Doge took her hands again. “Any past failings of yours, and I doubt there are many, are utterly diminished by what you have done for us.” He kissed her hands this time. “Please come back and visit us again. We will be delighted to host you under happier circumstances.”

    “Thank you, sir. Maybe when it’s warmer.”

    * * *
    (Holy [face_cow], it worked! Note to self: save all Word docs as plain .txt before cutting & pasting...)
     
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  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Happy that all supplies are being made into more serum and that the Kassallians are joining the Alliance officially. I agree with the Doge; if trying to be neutral made them a target it's better to be one anyway and be on the "goodright side" of the fight. [face_thinking] [face_laugh] Yes, Ambri needs to come back when it's warmer. And congratulations on a successful posting, @Mistress_Renata -- looks like you were able to update the title successfully as well. =D= ;)
     
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  13. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Great to see that Ambri had all this help from the Kassallians. And now they have joined the alliance with interesting technology
     
  14. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Oh, how wonderful to see Ambri getting not only the assistance and escort of the Kassallians but also their appreciation and gratitude—and a truly warm welcome in every since of the word! Of course her innate modesty makes it all a bit odd and unexpected for her, but she has deserved this for a long, long time. It's a relief to see that they will now be able to continue making the serum in laboratories, and that Ambri won't have to make another one of those dangerous runs. Hallelujah!

    As a sometime specialist early modern cultural history, I have to say I find it immensely cool that Kassalllia has a doge, just like Renaissance through early 19th-century Venice. :D Indeed, the kissing of Ambri's feet and hands is in its way a very sweet early-modern, old-school touch; the moment when everyone kneels to Ambri, on the doge's cue, reminds me of the scene in The Return of the King when everyone kneels to the four hobbits on Aragorn and Arwen's cue. I like Doge o-Kiella; even though he has clearly felt the ravages of the disease, it has not kept him from being resolute and hopeful in the face of the Imperial threat, nor from resolving to join the fight in earnest even when Ambri reminds him of the dangers. (By the way, is his name an homage of any sort? Looks like it might be. ;) )

    Thanks for this life-affirming chapter—I am guessing there is still at least a little more left of this story? I'll very much look forward to seeing the wrap-up. :)
     
  15. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    I missed three updates in a row, but I came back at the right time – because I got to experience the full blast of going from Ambri's confession of her past to the moment when she is told in no uncertain terms that she's redeemed (even if she'll never accept it herself). These last three entries form a fantastic cycle in her story.

    I really like Gram; he has this somewhat gruff, no-nonsense manner about him and he means to tell her what she needs to hear, but he doesn't really know how, does he? She has to undergo the whole process – the common sense arguments, the Kassallian fighters coming to protect her because of the importance of her mission to them, the warm welcome by Ky-Anour and his staff, and most importantly the Doge and his pledge of allegiance to the Rebellion – to maybe be able to put a little of her guilt aside. Of course, given how you developed Ambri's character, we know that her guilt will never go away, but we can hope that she feels she paid a small part of her debt to sentientkind.

    And, now that I think of it, the Rebellion has a new world to set up a base now. Does that mean we can hope for more stories based on Kassallia after this one is finished? [face_batting]
     
  16. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 27, 2013
    And it seems I missed some updates here, too.
    Once again, the action scenes are excellent, especially with the TIE fighters!
    Emperor’s underwear……..LOL
    So much purple……..[face_hypnotized]

    And so much admiration given to Ambri by the Kassallians. But she’s the hero and she deserves it, and she humbly accepts it, if a bit uncomfortably. She should definitely return when snow isn’t out to get her!
     
  17. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Thank you all, glad you're enjoying it. We're so close to the end...

    Their tech may not be quite as advanced, but everyone has a contribution to make! I think the Kassallians are eager to get a few hits of their own in.
    Well, the flying saucers (I couldn't resist!) :D
    This post and one after this wraps it up. I thought it would be nice to branch out in governments, and I envision Kassallia as a cross between Renaissance Italy and old Imperial China... a strong love of art and beauty. I didn't consciously plan o-Kiella as a specific homage, but my subconscious does things I don't know about sometimes... ;)

    No bunnies at the moment, but who knows? I suspect that a small cult forms, believing Ambri to be the living incarnation of the Goddess of Mercy, with her gloves and the sledge enshrined in reliquaries and annual pilgrimages to the spot where her X-wing landed... [face_thinking]

    I'm glad you liked this part because, well... she still has to get off the planet again, right? And so, without further ado...
    * *
    She lingered a bit longer, speaking with the Doge and his council, while she waited for Minni to guide the Kassallian ground crews in making some repairs and adjustments. Her shields were intact, but they had been hammered. She wouldn’t be at 100% going back, but all she had to do was get out of atmosphere and to the jump point. It would take a few minutes to get far enough away to get to hyperspace. The Kassallians were ready to escort her, and to fight. And of course, now that the medicine was safely delivered, she could fight back if she had to.

    As soon as they were in the air and headed towards the outer atmosphere, she put her S-foils to attack position and brought the weapons online. Shields weren’t at 100%, but they weren’t single digits anymore, a great relief. She didn’t talk much on the outbound flight, although she listened to the chatter of the Aqua and Viridian pilots. Their ships were not as fast as hers, and their weapons weren’t as potent. They didn’t have hyperspace capability. They were maneuverable, though, with a wider range of vision and fire than the TIE fighters, and they had rudimentary shielding. They had scored a few victories of their own. She couldn’t fret over them. They were experts on their own ships and probably had more combat experience than she had.

    Minni hooted as they broke atmosphere and the dark velvet of space surrounded them. Ambri could see why on her targeting scope. TIE fighters, everywhere! Before she could open her mouth, she could hear the other pilots through her headpiece.

    “Aqua Leader, Viridian Leader, this is Purple Leader.” A man’s voice, weary. “We got eight altogether, but they’re reinforcing.”

    Immitis is an Imperial class Star Destroyer,” said Ambri. “They’re supposed to be able to carry up to six squadrons, 72 ships. My wingmate and I got three on the way in.”

    “Mercy One, what are the chances they’ll scramble all of them?” A different man’s voice.

    “They’ll almost always keep one back. It’s standard procedure.” She’d never been to the Academy, and ITS weren’t really part of the military, but she’d been on enough Imperial ships and listened to enough fighter pilots to know roughly how things worked.

    “So,” said a woman, “five squadrons, less eleven, four left.”

    “You make that sound so easy, Aqua Leader,” said the second voice.

    “Form up,” said Purple Leader. “Spearhead formation. Mercy Flight, you’re at the back. We’ll tie them up, keep them occupied and you can get through to your jump point.”

    Ambri frowned. “It doesn’t seem right to leave you to take the risks,” she said.

    “This is our war,” said Purple Leader. “You’ve already done enough for our people, and your own people will need you back. Besides, our mission is to escort you safely to your exit. After that, we can bug out and return to our bases.”

    “Understood, Purple Leader,” said Ambri. “But if any of them cross my target range while I’m outbound, I won’t promise not to shoot!”

    The purple and gold saucers formed up in front of Ambri, looking incongruously cheerful with their bright colors. She couldn’t see the TIE fighters, but they were on the scope, angry dots of red. And then… “Four squadrons, there they are,” she breathed. The small Kassallian saucers were already deploying, splitting off and firing, swirling and bobbing in a mad whirlwind of attack, looking like a cloud of micrognats on a hot day. Ambri watched to see what the TIE fighters would do. They were splitting, too, into flights of four, trying to catch the smaller ships.

    In terms of maneuverability, they seemed to be evenly matched, but the TIE fighters were clearly faster. A warning from Minni. She looked forward. One flight had surged upward and were looping, to dive down at her and her escort from above.

    She banked sharply, rolling the ship out of their cannon range as they roared towards her, and finished the roll as they passed, looping her ship to the right to try to get behind them. The Imperials were splitting, breaking left and right, which put two behind her and her escort. The small Kassallian ships could rotate on their own axes, however, and were charging directly at the fighters, firing with everything they had. Their cannons were underpowered, compared to Ambri’s and the Empire, but they were still able to do plenty of damage against the unshielded enemy.

    “Minni, are the hyperspace coordinates locked in?” she asked, bringing her ship up to the right and over. The other two eyeballs were ripping through the small purple saucers with ease, paying little attention to her. Her own pursuers were engaged, and it was easy to come at the TIE fighters from their blind spot on the right. She was firing even before she heard the target lock alarm and had the satisfaction of watching one splinter, the right hexagonal panel shearing off in a shower of sparks while several explosions shattered the cockpit, quickly extinguished in the vacuum of space.

    Minni whistled, and Ambri could see the four jump points locked in to her display. The first was already plugged into the navicomputer, all she had to do was reach it and go. Except there was now a bigger problem. Literally. The Immitis had arrived.

    She swore at length, in several languages, pitching her nose up to climb. She had to stay out of the range of their tractor beams. She was painfully familiar with Imperial prisons and Imperial interrogation techniques and had no desire to renew the acquaintance. The wingmate to the fighter she’d destroyed was turning to come at her, she could see it over her right shoulder, and she climbed, turning to the right and rolling, first right then left. The fighter let loose a barrage of shots that flared off her shields. Something got through. The X-wing rocked, and she heard a howl from Minni.

    “You okay back there?” she asked, pitching the snubfighter to the left and dropping in behind the offender.

    The response was a strange, erratic gurgling and she risked a quick peek at her data readout.

    //DAM..8δ76!!? G REA↔8DI\&& T736 TO… *77#/SHI*8 FA)L33yξ23 AT 49%22

    //$#88RECO(ĦŧĿ44 EXĦ73&$RO Tξ#AC

    Ambri grimaced. They’d hit Minni! She had the hyperspace coordinates, at least for the first few jumps, but if she took any more damage there would be no way to repair it. She had the fighter in her sights, though. The Imperial pilot was bobbing and juking, making it difficult to get a target lock. She fired twice, missing both times. She debated switching over to torpedoes, but rejected the idea. They were expensive and hard to come by, not to be wasted on unshielded fighters. She throttled her ship’s engines, closing on the elusive pilot, and fired again. There was a flash of sparks at his back, but he was intact. Before she could try again there was a flurry of golden bolts and the TIE fighter exploded into a ball of gas which she barely avoided.

    A Kassallian saucer slipped into the slot at her left. “Purple Arget Eight to Mercy One, you okay?”

    “I’m fine, great shooting!”

    “You’re close to the jump point, you’d better go when you can.”

    “Acknowledged,” she said, looking at the Immitis. The Empire would take terrible reprisals against Kassallia for their defiance, because she had made the effort to help them. But would it have been any different if she hadn’t tried to help? Most would have died anyway, and they would have still been brought under the Imperial yoke. There is no win here.

    She pushed the nose of the X-wing up, wincing as she realized that her exit point would take her right past the Star Destroyer. With Minni out of commission, she wouldn’t have time to calculate a new jump. And the Immitis was turning, too, bringing its prow up and trying to turn its belly towards her, which would bring her into range of their tractor beams.

    There was a harsh sound from Minni and she realized that there were torpedoes locked on her. I’m not getting out of here, am I? She pushed her thrusters ahead to full, and after a quick glance at her shields, dropped them by 50%, putting them back into single digits. They were pretty well toast anyway, and she needed all the auxiliary power she could get to make a run for it. Purple Eight slipped out of her wing slot and a moment later Ambri felt her ship rock with an explosion. She realized that the Kassallian pilot had deliberately flown into the path of the torpedoes, giving his life to protect hers. It all seemed hopeless.

    She retracted her S-foils, wanting the extra speed, and thrust forward with everything the X-wing had left. And an enormous white ship dropped out of hyperspace.

    Ambri squealed, pulling the stick sharply back and to the right, desperate to avoid a collision. It brought her between the Immitis and the newcomer. Which was a bad situation, made worse when she realized that the white ship had its gunports engaged. “WHOOOAA!!!” Climb, climb, climb! She managed to avoid the barrage as the white ship opened up with a massive broadside against the unsuspecting Star Destroyer, its shields weakening under the initial assault.

    “What the hell…?” she said.

    “Mercy One, this is Signet Leader, do you copy?”

    Ambri blinked. X-wings. There were X-wings and a few Headhunters, popping up all over the place. “I…copy,” she said. “Who…who is this?”

    “Signet Squadron, off the Swan of Selonia.” Ambri took another look. This was the ship she was supposed to be assigned to? It was huge, almost as large as the Immitis! Pure white, with delicate detailing picked out in gold chromium and two broad red stripes down either side…of course, Corellian bloodstripes. Had those been awarded to the ship? There was some type of sculpture on the prow, a bird with a long neck and wings outstretched. It looked a bit like the Rebel logo, but now she could see it was a stylized swan.

    The man’s voice continued, calm and commanding, with a distinct Corellian cant. “Mercy One, you are to continue to your original rendezvous point. Jump now. We’ll take care of the rest of this.”

    “Uh…Signet Leader, the purple saucers are all friendlies. The Kassallian Planetary Defense forces.”

    “We figured. Go now, the Queen is waiting for you.”

    She glanced to the right. There were a lot of explosions on the Immitis, although her guns were firing back at the Swan. “Acknowledge, Signet Leader, jumping now.” The hyperspace engines were green, the path was clear, and she punched into hyperspace with her mind reeling. Either she had just been rescued by a 650-year-old Royal Corellian heavy frigate… or the pain meds Dr. Galdaz had given her were having some very peculiar side effects.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018
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  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Super duper action! =D= The Kassallians are amazing and certainly kept to their word to be faithful escorts and allies to the Rebellion. And the Swan of Selonia arrived just in time! =D= =D=
     
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  19. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Wow, what a sight—that is some deus ex machina! :eek: I am now very intrigued about this newly arrived Royal Corellian frigate and how it comes to be on the scene just at this moment; love the swan design, and what a cool touch to point out the similarity of the swan figurehead to the Rebel Starbird. :) And it arrived just in the nick of time, too; I was worried there for a sec when I saw poor Minni spewing all that gobbledygook, and I sure hope she (?) will be able to be fixed. Very valiant fighting by the Kassallian fleet alongside Ambri; the Rebellion is blessed to have them now officially on their side. (And can I just say how much I love their squadron colors: purple, aqua, viridian—very artistic! :D ) Looking forward to seeing the wrapup; really been enjoying following this. :)
     
  20. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    WOW, saved by the Corellians, great action
     
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  21. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    I looooove this chapter! Such great action (you really have a thing for writing space battles, don't you?) and the Kassallians are, again, saying something that Ambri needs to hear: "this is our war" – or, well, until further notice, since they're joining the Alliance now! I also absolutely love the description of the Swan of Selonia, and I love even more the fact that it's a 650-year-old Royal Corellian heavy frigate. The Rebellion may be short on ships and weapons, but they have style :cool:
     
  22. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 27, 2013
    Swan of Selonia--- what a cool name and wonderful description! A kind of artistic-looking ship, I’d say. The Kassallians joining the fight as well is great! Once again, the action scenes really make you feel like you’re there joining in.
     
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  23. lordmaul13

    lordmaul13 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 18, 2000
    I've been reading through this one in downtime at work and finally got caught up. First off, fantastic job! I feel like you did an excellent job with fleshing out Ambri's character. She seemed like a real person and I also liked that you revealed her past throughout the story. It was like peeling the layers off an onion.

    I'll also echo what everyone else has been saying about your space battles, they're very good. You've said they're difficult to write but you're making them look easy.

    I don't have the quote but I liked the part where she didn't like the hospital food and said something about it had to be liberated from the Empire. It reminded me of MRE's. I had a veggie omelette MRE [face_sick] in basic training. It's one of the worst things I've eaten.

    I loved the Swan of Selonia. That's a very interesting and unique ship. Is it something you made up or is that actually from some official work?

    My only complaint is that there isn't more. :p

    Well done!

    Joe
     
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  24. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Ah, bumping this reminded me that I am over due for (alas)... THE FINAL POST! I really wish we could tweak the titles, so I could let everyone know this is now COMPLETE. I don't have any particular bunnies in mind for Ambri at the moment, but there is SO MUCH fanon in my head for the Swan of Selonia, I definitely need to use her again!
    Yes, indeed! They don't have much to contribute in the way of ships, but they've got supplies and warm bodies. And by the time the Rebellion is over, it will be summer on Kassallia!
    :) I try!
    A Royal Ship. The flagship of the last Crown Prince of Corellia.
    Well, this is the ship that the Patchwork Queen was supposed to rendezvous with from the beginning, and I tried to mention that Captain Gram had been in touch with them and they were on their way. My 8th grade English teacher would rise up from her grave and come at me with the Compleat Works of Shakespeare if I was lazy enough to do a pure deus ex machina. Not sure I entirely succeeded... [face_blush]
    Hey, not all Corellians are scruffy nerf herders! :han: The ship was rigged for combat, so I didn't get to mention the golden solar sails, which are the primary power source when it is not in action.
    Oh, they're difficult, for me, anyway. Since I'm not a pilot. At one point, paper airplanes were involved, so I could keep track of who was where.
    [face_sick][face_sick] is right! An omelette? There are some things that are not meant to be preserved long term...
    The Swan is indeed all mine, and I see it as a museum ship which has been recommissioned for the Rebellion, sort of as if the HMS Victory or the USS Constitution were refitted and pressed into service.

    This is the end of this story, but I am sure there will be others. Ambri meets her squadron and gets a new callsign. Oh, the role of Major Corven is being played by Wes Studi, because I think he's cool.
    [​IMG]

    * * *
    Ambri peered into the mirror, studying her face carefully. The surgeons on the Swan had done a good job. She could see only a very minor difference to her nose and chin. There had been damage from the frostbite, with some dead tissue needing to be removed and replaced with a graft. Her nose and chin weren’t quite so pointy, now; they were slightly rounder, a bit softer. But no one who knew her would notice any change. She looked at her ears. Part of the lobe and the tips had needed replacement, too, but she didn’t know if there was a difference or not; she’d never paid much attention to what her ears looked like.

    “So that’s what you look like without the mask.” Ambri dropped the mirror on the bed and snapped to attention. “All right, all right, at ease,” said Lieutenant Arkeles. “Docs say you’re discharged today, and it occurred to me you have no idea where you’re going.” He was second in command of her new squadron. An unprepossessing man, with a long chin, long nose, sandy brown hair, light brown eyes… only the twinkle in those eyes and the quirk at the corner of his mouth hinted that he was not as bland and beige as he looked.

    Ambri blushed. “Uh, no, sir.” She’d looked at a few layouts of the ship’s floorplan, but those didn’t necessarily translate to real life.”

    “I figured. Your gear is in your quarters, you’re sharing with Lt. Ennis, I think you met her?”

    “Briefly, sir.” She’d been allowed a few visitors, and her new squadmates had paid a visit, to introduce themselves and compliment her on the success of her mission. The Immitis was now debris, most of the TIE fighters destroyed, a few captured. The Patchwork Queen had headed for the battle once Ambri was safely landed, and had gotten in a few licks of its own. Parnos had brought the rest of the serum down to Kassallia on one of the U-wings and they’d had a chance to see for themselves what had been unleashed by Derricote’s minions.

    “And you got the uniform issued. Fits okay?”

    “I think so, sir.” Ambri looked down at the creamy jacket in off-white, with a red band on the cuff, blazoned with the Galactic Firebird. There was a pale gray battle tab above the red band, showing her participation in the Evacuation of Hoth. Who knew the Rebellion had dress uniforms? “Is there a special occasion?”

    “No. But the Captain’s standing orders are dress uniforms for dinner in the Officers’ Wardroom. The rest of the time, you can wear duty dress. She likes to keep some of the old traditions.”

    Arkeles led the way into the corridor, and she trotted along by his side, trying to memorize the route and not ogle the décor. The Swan had swooping, curved walls on the corridors, with paneling in pearlescent ivory, pale wood, and brushed steel. It looked more like some luxury liner than a fighting ship. Everything was polished until it gleamed, and the personnel on the ship strode along briskly, with intent.

    Arkeles paused to summon a lift. “Home One arrived a few hours ago, with Mon Mothma. The Provisional Council is going to meet with the Doge and his people to talk about shoring up their defenses. They also want to send some media teams down to record the situation there, so it can be broadcast.” He glanced at Ambri. “I’m not sure they can top what you got. I’ve got two kids, and that picture from that farmhouse…”

    “I had to keep my eyes shut,” said Ambri softly.

    “I don’t blame you.”

    “Uh, sir? Do you know, uh… Dr. Daya, the Imperial doctor who created the serum…what will happen to her?”

    “She’s been cooperating and helping make more of the stuff up here. The Intel fellows are going to have a long talk with her tomorrow, and I think the Provisional Council have questions for her, too. But she seems pretty set on repairing the damage her team did originally. Who knows, she may end up working for us. She wouldn’t be the first.”

    “And…um, is there any word… will they be able to repair my astromech?”

    “They need a few parts, should be arriving with Home One,” said the Lieutenant. “You’ll get your droid back, although it may have lost some memory function.” Ambri nodded. She actually had a backup of Minni’s full memory files. Just in case. It was common to memory wipe droids, to prevent files from becoming corrupted. But she liked the little droid’s quirks, and wanted to keep them intact.

    They rounded a corner, went down a short flight of stairs, and paused in front of a broad doorway. Arkeles grinned at Ambri. “Ah, here we are! Pilots’ Lounge, the most important room on the ship!”

    He led the way into a large room, paneled in pale gold wood. There were commemorative plaques and trophies hung on the walls, and models of different types of starfighters hanging overhead, with Incom’s T-65 having a prominent place. A long bar ran along one wall, with tables and comfortable chairs around most of the rest of the room. There were some entertainment consoles in one corner. It seemed very large to Ambri, but then, the Swan had been a carrier once, with three full fighter wings. Now, it carried only one squadron, under strength, at that.

    “Look what the tooka left at the door!” called Arkeles. There was a group of people milling around. Ambri blinked. She recognized her new squadmates. They responded with a shout.

    “Frosty!” Ambri looked to Arkeles for explanation.

    “Hoth, Kassallia…it seemed appropriate.”

    “Frosty?” She still didn’t understand.

    “You shall be known henceforth as Frosty Merrin,” explained a man, rising from his chair. Ambri recognized Jakk Turven, a rugged-looking human with shaggy brown hair. He was in the orange flightsuit, so she figured he’d be on duty during the meal.

    “But I hate snow!” she protested. The others laughed.

    “Even better,” said a woman. This was Tareina Ennis, her new roommate. Slim, with sunstreaked blonde hair cropped short and a golden tan, she seemed more like a model than a pilot. But Ambri had learned that she had served as a Handmaiden to the last Queen of Naboo.

    “All right, all right.” Major Corven, her new squadron leader, was coming forward. She swallowed hard. He wasn’t tall, but he was stocky, solid, with ruddy bronzed skin and dark hair liberally sprinkled with gray, cut short so that it bristled up on his head. His face was sharp, with high chiseled cheekbones, thin lips, and hooded black eyes under rather bushy brows. He reminded her of a bird of prey, and he was looking her up and down appraisingly. What was really intimidating was the red piping on the sides of his pants…Corellian bloodstripes. “Ready to get to work?”

    “Uh, yes sir. I have a lot to learn, but I’ll…I’ll do my best.”

    A felinoid pilot in a flight suit rolled her green eyes, and flicked her tail. Her fur was short, gray with dark stripes and a white muzzle. “Considering her best is slipping past an Imperial blockade and taking out a couple of Imps with their own torpedoes, I think the rest of us will have to step up our game.” Ambri blushed. This was Flight Officer Karrur, from Cathar. She extended her tail to gently brush Ambri’s arm, showing that she was teasing.

    Corven smiled. “I spoke with Captain Parnos and reviewed the footage you shot. I think some work on the range will help you find your way around a blaster.” Ambri blushed deeper. Had everyone seen that? She suddenly remembered there had been a lot of language, too, that didn’t befit an officer and a lady.

    He continued, “Tomorrow there’s a reception down on Kassallia. Better not spill anything on yourself tonight; I hear someone’s getting a medal.”

    Ambri caught her breath. “Not me!”

    Karrur cocked her head. “You don’t think you deserve one?”

    “No!”

    Ennis laughed. “I don’t think you get a vote.”

    “But I didn’t know what I was doing! Dzin, he got killed. If I was a better pilot, I could have protected him. And if I wasn’t so stupid, I could’ve found a landing place closer to the hospital, and—“

    “Stop!” Corven glared at her. “Don’t let me hear you say that again. You are NOT stupid!”

    “But—“

    “Dzin knew better than to get drawn into a dogfight, but he did anyway. That was his mistake, not yours. And you didn’t know the terrain on Kassallia, you didn’t have any intel on weather conditions or anything else. You did the best you could with the information you had.”

    “But—“

    “No, listen to me. And listen carefully. All we expect is that you pay attention, cover your wingman—who is Arkeles, by the way--and do the best you can under the given circumstances. Seems to me you did that.”

    Ambri pursed her lips. “I could’ve done it better. I should have—“

    “Woulda, coulda, shoulda,” said Tarven. “Life is short, especially in our profession.”

    Ennis nodded in agreement. “Don’t waste it trying to relive it. Learn from a mistake, then move on.”

    Corven smiled, and held out his hand for Ambri to shake. “And there you have it, Frosty. Welcome to the Prince’s Own Royal First Squadron, the Signets. Now, let’s get to dinner.”

    THE END
     
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  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Gorgeous décor and wise advice about paying attention, covering your wingman, and doing your best in the circumstances. That's all anyone can do and Ambri did indeed do all that splendidly. Her squadmates, The Signets, sound wonderful, welcoming, and bantering all at the same time. :D =D=
     
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