X-wing fighters emerged from hyperspace, outside the orbital band of the planet Tantamir. Great, thought Lieutenant Cole Janson, we’re just outside their close fighter patrol. These guys hate to vary their routines. He keyed on the squadron communication band. “Red Squadron, time to go to work. Lock S-foils in attack positions.” He powered up his deflector shield. “Here they come. Stick to the plan.”
The TIE fighter patrol screamed in, firing rapidly into the close-packed formation of X-wings. At the last second, the X-wings broke in all directions, revealing the four A-wings hiding close behind them, and difficult to see on sensors from the X-wings’ sublight energy wake. The TIEs tried to slow down, or break off, but there was no time. Cole squeezed the trigger and jammed the throttle forward, blowing apart a TIE heading directly towards him and flying straight through the vaporizing fireball. The other A-wings got the rest, as the TIE patrol broke its formation.
“Nice shooting, Green Leader,” commented one of the X-wing pilots. “Thanks, Red Six,” replied Cole. Ahead, the Imperial Star Destroyer Shogundiverted from its holding orbit, slowly coming to full engine power as its angular bulk shifted towards the engagement. Blips began to sprout all over Cole’s sensor screen, as the Star Destroyer began to disgorge more TIEs. That’s right, chase me, thought Cole, as he led the other three A-wings in a wide sweep, while the X-wing squadron reformed and banked in the opposite direction.
The first wave of Imperial fighters was more careful, approaching in perfect formation, now matching the Rebel fighters in numbers, as the Star Destroyer powered forward to get into turbolaser range. Full starfighter dogfighting broke out, with laser fire and bursts of plasma scattering across the vacuum. Cole threw his A-wing into a hard spin, his TIE assailant overshooting him, then bursting into flames when Cole’s laser cannon fire hit his ion engines. Hope Bruce got down alright. Cole swung into a turn, picking a TIE fighter off the tail of an X-wing.
“Emerging from hyperspace at .65, Captain.” “Thank you, corpsman,” replied Alec. He brushed a hand through his white hair, and the scars beneath. He keyed on the communicator. “All squadrons prepare for immediate deployment,” he ordered, then watched the starlines reform outside, as the Alliance Escort Carrier Hornet emerged from hyperspace. So far, so good. The Star Destroyer had gone for the distraction. “Gold Group, Blue Group, deploy, and may the Force be with us.” X-wing and Y-wing starfighters poured out of the Hornet, soaring towards the Star Destroyer’s port flank, while the Escort Carrier itself hung back, trying to draw the Shogun’s attention. “Shields at maximum and priority power,” Alec ordered, taking the direct controls of the Hornet as the first wave of Imperial turbolaser fire lanced towards them.
“Okay, you guys are pissing me off,” Cole growled. He hated TIE Interceptors, and especially the one on his ass. Diving hard, he flew directly at the Star Destroyer, dodging between the turbolaser blasts and skimming along its superstructure. The Interceptor matched him, until he suddenly turned on his landing repulsor unit at full power. G-forces pressed him into his seat as the A-wing suddenly bounced away from the surface of the Star Destroyer like a rubber ball. The TIE Interceptor shot past, the pilot still wondering where Cole had gone when his fighter crashed into a turbolaser battery.
He commed Alec as he rocketed away from the Star Destroyer, switching back to sublights at full. “Hornet, what’s the status? We’re starting to take casualties here.” One of Red Squadron’s X-wings exploded next to him, and he winced. Alec responded, “Blue Group is inbound with escort.” On his sensor board, Cole watched the flight of Y-wings approach, each one establishing a targetting lock on the Star Destroyer for its proton torpedoes, as their escorting X-wings sliced into the TIEs aggressively trying to down the fighter-bombers. “We’ve got to give Bruce more time,” Alec called. “Concentrate fire on the Shogun’s shield generators.”
Static crackled across the comm channel, and Cole swore as a piercing wave of noise filtered through his helmet. Star Destroyer’s trying to jam us. Glancing out his cockpit to starboard, he saw an explosion burst outward from the Hornet. “Fuck,” Cole muttered, as he picked out the source: the Star Destroyer’s squadron of TIE Bombers, hidden behind Tantamir’s moon, had made their presence known, dumping proton bursts into the Escort Carrier as its anti-starfighter laser cannons blazed away at them.
Gunning the sublights, Cole pressed back into his seat as he rocketed straight towards the TIE bombers, followed by the survivors of Green and Red Squadrons. He held the trigger down without letting go, riddling laser fire into the fat, dual-fuselage targets and blowing the lead craft apart, its ordnance going off with a spectacular burst. “Smoke these guys fast,” he called to his wingmen. The TIE bomber gunners spewed out their missiles as fast as they could, while the pilots tried to maintain formation under the withering fire.
One of the bombers managed a shot directly at the bridge of the Hornet; Red Six broke away, throwing power from shields and weapons into thrust, and flying directly into the path of the missile, intercepting it just before it struck home against the Rebel carrier. The X-wing vanished in a burning blast of plasma. Cole blew away the last two TIE bombers in return, eyes hard. Glancing over his shoulder, he was just in time to see a titanic shot of brilliant energy slash upward from the surface of Tantamir, Y-wings and TIE fighters scrambling to get clear of its path, as it slammed into the * Shogun*’s belly.
The Star Destroyer shuddered at the impact from the planetary turbolaser, its rows of onboard lights flickering and shorting out. Its goliath sublight drives flamed out, smoke and fire bursting from its aft quarter. Explosions began to tear the ship apart, as escape pods jettisoned wildly in all directions. Cole reached into the pocket of his flight suit, pulling out a cigar and flicking open his lighter, as he dove toward the planet to congratulate the ground team. *At least I know Bruce is alright. Only a lucky son of bitch could pull that shot off, untrained. *He hoped the assault team had taken fewer casualties than they had, as he smoked in silence, but for the thrum of his engines.