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Amongst Stars: Torrid Squadron


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Osetto
06.15.2013 , 12:41 AM | #1
Amongst Stars: Torrid Squadron
This story can also be read on Fanfiction.net
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Prologue

The renewed conflict between the Galactic Republic and Sith Empire has been approaching a boiling point. The two sides have danced upon the precipice of open engagement, awaiting the final spark that ignites the next hot war. But as weapons prime and tempers flare on the ground, the coldness of space offers little respite.

In its attempts to push back against the encroaching Imperial armada, the Senate commissioned an elite strike force composed of pilots willing and able to defend Republic space. A squadron of heroes, outfitted with advanced technology, to serve as a symbol of hope. A symbol of the Republic's resilience, of its fortitude, of its commitment.

Inspired by the exploits and heroics of Dagger Wing, ever since that group's mysterious disappearance in the last war, many have pledged their resources and offered continual support to the Navy, hoping another group would fill the void left by the legendary squadron. Those hopes were answered six years after the Treaty of Coruscant.

Torrid Squadron was born.

Senators provided funds in the hopes of sharing a bit of the group's good publicity. Admirals provided guidance, directing the squadron to where they were needed most. And pilots provided an ever present pool of recruits for any newly opened slots on the team.

But openings were few and far between. In their years of continued operation, Torrid Squadron had not suffered one casualty, new members coming only when an old one voluntarily stepped down. The twelve pilots operated without error and with utmost precision, defending the Republic's borders and retaliating against those who would upset the peace.

But the treaty was crumbling under the heels of the aggressive Empire. As worlds changed hands, as resistance groups lashed out against their oppressors, it became clear that the Cold War was coming to an end, and the need for the Republic's elite could only increase in the time to come. And so, Torrid Squadron stood ready to face whatever threats it might encounter.

No matter the source. No matter the cost.
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Osetto
06.15.2013 , 12:42 AM | #2
Episode One: “Pilot”


Chapter One


11 ATC

Within the swirling blue tunnel of hyperspace, a military convoy traversed the stars faster than the speed of light. The central and largest craft, a Wanderer-class transport. The elongated tube of orange and gray metals was a stripped down version of the Republic's Thranta-class corvette, trading its offensive capabilities to instead act as a high-mobility medical facility. The cargo: over a thousand refugees seeking sanctuary as their world steadily slipped into secessionist hands.

Supporting the transport were its escorts. Its protectors. Torrid Squadron.

Twelve Gallant-class starfighters, advanced single-pilot vessels modeled after the Republic's trademark Liberators. Each fighter possessed a chassis that was large enough to accommodate a hyperdrive and astromech droid. A chassis that was painted a vibrant red to accommodate the squadron's stylized persona. Wings unfurled, the vessels adopted their trademark T-shaped design as they traveled beyond the speed of light. And on the edge of each wing, laser cannons ready to tear asunder all but the most fortified and shielded craft.

Torrid Leader took their place at the head of the formation, as much as a formation could even be had in the alternative state of being they found themselves in. Inside the cockpit, the Human examined the dials that rest in front of him, monitoring the constant stream of data presented through the various viewscreens. The man possessed the grizzled visage of a man in his late thirties, years a majority of which had been spent embedded in galactic strife. Below the neck, the squadron's uniform red and white flightsuit. Thick. Stocky. Utilitarian.

"Tessa, status report," the Human spoke up to no one in particular.

"Convoy currently on schedule, Commander Nolante," a soft, feminine voice announced over the starfighter's internal speakers. The voice possessed an even, almost monotonous, flow. It belonged to TS-AA, 'Tessa', the squadron's collective astromechanical droid interface. Twelve physical units. One shared programming. The squadron's secret weapon. "Estimate 126 minutes until drop into realspace."

"Acknowledged," said Nolante as he engaged team-wide communications. "Torrid Squadron, report in."

"Torrid Two, standing by." Haron Gregard, Human male, age 32. Executive officer under Commander Nolante and Imperial defector. The man's regal tone and posh appearance was at odds with the established image of a hotshot Republic pilot, but his unmatched skills in a starfighter granted him a place amongst his comrades.

"Torrid Three, standing by." Rol Dunn, Kel Dor male, age 35. The majority of the orange-skinned pilot's face was hidden under a set of black goggles and the antiox breath mask that covered his mouth. The alien's voice was utterly deep and possessed an electronic tinge as it passed through his mask's speakers, a voice that commanded all who heard it to take notice.

"Torrid Four, standing by." Dala Kaarn, Zabrak female, age 36. The pilot possessed a vocal tone matching her stern demeanor as well as her intimidating appearance. Her tanned face was adorned with a series of markings and tattoos crisscrossing her skin, rising up and beyond the crown of horns that sat atop her head. A fierce and dedicated combatant.

"Torrid Five, standing by." Ono Seraak, Togruta male, age 30. The pilot looked as vibrant and energetic as the vessel he sat in. Bright red skin with dotted white patterns which extended to the pointed headtails that draped over his shoulders. An eagerness rest behind the alien's eyes, even as he sat still, even as he traversed the stars.

"Torrid Six, standing by." Bella'varao, Twi'lek female, age 28. The pilot's soft features belied her proven determination and thrill for combat. Far from a being of luxury, her pale green skin was not pampered toward drawing the attention of any interested parties. With her headtails safely tucked behind her, she hardly considered herself a Twi'lek, or even a person, more an organic extension of her starfighter.

"Torrid Seven, standing by." Fen Kayda, Mon Calamari female, age 33. The amphibious pilot possessed a slick, reddish-brown skin tone and the typical fish-like features attributed to her species. Large, elongated head. Bulbous eyes. Thick, webbed digits. Not soft spoken, so much as conservative with her tone, one that was well-suited to the calm, calculating mind she possessed.

"Torrid Eight, standing by." Marvus Verandii, Devaronian male, age 38. The pilot's red skin and devilish features were right at home within the brazen starfighter, and his sly demeanor seemed tailor-made for the life of an elite starfighter pilot. The one the ordinary citizenry adored, and the one more than capable of riling the ire of his superiors.

"Torrid Nine, standing by." Breks Delgo, Duros male, age 33. The pilot was a man of contrasts. His voice possessed a natural grit and coarseness, but his nose-less face offered an utterly smooth visage. His cool blue skin was at odds with his piercing solid-red eyes. His current calm would be overridden by his passion in the heat of battle.

"Torrid Ten, standing by." Rem Altess, Human female, age 29. Designer of the squadron's TS-AA interface. The pilot seemed a contrasting mirror to her commander, bearing none of the physical or emotional baggage of the conflict with the Empire. Her features suggested an ordered outlook, one of duty over personal flair.

"Torrid Eleven, standing by." Dreb Renub, Sullustan male, age 32. The pilot with gray skin and mouth flaps that never seemed to stop flapping. Whatever events his black eyes witnessed, his tongue had already offered its own take on them. The bard, the jester, always a tale ready for telling, regardless of if its recipients desired to hear it.

"Torrid Twelve, standing by." Wess Soraldo, Mirialan male, age 34. The pilot possessed an uncompromised stoicism. His green skin possessed a series of geometric tattoos, telling the tale of his passing into the realm of adulthood and becoming a decorated pilot. A soldier's soldier, doing what he was trained to do, how he was trained to do so with utmost precision.

"Alright," Nolante said over the comm. "We've over an hour before we drop into realspace. From there, it should be a clear shot to the station where the refugees will disembark."

"What kind of danger were they expecting that they requested an escort from Torrid Squadron?" asked Marvus, an utter lack of severity in the Devaronian's voice.

"They weren't expecting any danger," Nolante replied. "There's been some reported incidents with pirates in the area, but nothing for us to worry about."

"One of the senators who secured us funding also happens to represent the refugees we're escorting," Haron added. "He and a few others plan to be at the station when we arrive to personally offer us their thanks."

Marvus chuckled over the comm. "Ah, of course. Senators and their publicity. We're supposed to put on a show."

"He says… with delight," said Seraak, a calm warmth to the Togruta's teasing.

Marvus cracked a sharp grin unseen by his fellow. "You know me, I'm all about putting on a show. Getting to do it without getting shot at is an added bonus."

"You're a credit to the Navy, Marvus," Soraldo offered, completely deadpan.

"It's a shame we won't have time to sign autographs and give out voiceprints to the refugees afterwards," Kaarn suggested, oozing with sarcasm.

"It truly is," Marvus replied, a contrasting sincerity in his voice.

"Assuming everything goes according to plan, does the admiral have another mission lined up?" Bella'varao asked. "One that actually helps the war effort?"

"There are more ways to help the war effort than blowing up Imperial space stations and trespassing cruisers," said Fen, her words possessing the usual bordering-on-cold delivery.

Bella replied with a quick chuckle. "Yeah, but they aren't as fun.”

"Speak for yourself," Dunn muttered.

"I always do," Bella declared.

"Can you guys keep it down? Some of us are trying to get some shut eye," Delgo's groggy voice sounded off over the comm.

The Mirialan released a heavy sigh. "Surely it's against regulation to fall asleep piloting a damned starfighter.”

"We're in hyperspace, so technically Tessa's piloting," Delgo replied. "Besides, watching the swirly blue tunnel gives me a headache."

"Some Duros you are," Renub joked, the other pilots offering their own laughter.

Within the cockpit of Torrid Ten, Rem ignored the chattering of her squadron mates, her attention focused on a peculiar reading on her console. "Commander, I'm picking up an abnormality with our flight path."

Checking his console, Nolante saw the same reading. "As is mine. Tessa, shed some light on this?"

"At once," said the droid. "Running diagnostic…"

"Could it be a mass shadow?" Haron asked.

"Impossible," Rem quickly replied. "We're on an established and well-monitored hyperlane. Any gravity wells along these coordinates would have long since been cataloged."

"The abnormality is probably with the reading rather than the route," Delgo suggested. "Starfighters aren't known for hyperspace travel."

"It seems like-" Rem started, before being cut off by the violent shaking of her vessel. The other ships in the convoy experienced the same as the hyperspace tunnel surrounding them collapsed. The streaks of stars on the horizon relaxed from their stretched state until they were mere dots on the endless black canvas. Torrid Squadron and the transport had unexpectedly dropped into realspace. And as the pilots recovered from the shock, they realized they had, in fact, been pulled out.

Flanking the Republic convoy on both sides was an Imperial dreadnought, Harrower-class. The two massive, wedge-shaped ships ran parallel with the Republic transport. Sharp metallic death, dozens of turrets and point-defense systems lined their every surface. As the ships floated motionless, Republic and Imperial alike, the pilots of Torrid Squadron stared outside their cockpits with wide eyes and trembling hands.

"Commander, we got two Imperial capital ships within firing distance,” Haron called out.

"Commander, I've got no control," Marvus added.

"Me neither, I can't move," Delgo followed.

For each pilot it was the same. No matter what they tried, their ships followed none of their commands. They were held in place with nowhere to go. Panic began to spread amongst the pilots as they quickly realized they were powerless and firmly within the grasp of the massive dreadnoughts. Chaos was overtaking the squadron, with no one to guide them.

"Uh… Commander?" Seraak spoke up, looking for some modicum of insight.

The commander had none to offer.
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Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.15.2013 , 12:43 AM | #3
Chapter Two


Trapped between two of the most powerful ships in the Imperial fleet, the commander of Torrid Squadron, for the first time in his career, didn't have some plan of action, some trick up his sleeve, some way to get his squadron and the transport out of this predicament.

"Sir, we can't just sit here, we have to do something," Haron advised, struggling to maintain his usually calm demeanor.

"Right," Nolante said, snapping out of his stupor. "Haron, try hailing the Imperials. Dunn, get in touch with the transport's captain. Kaarn, inform the Den of our situation." The three pilots acknowledged and went about following their orders. "Tessa, why can't we move?"

"Our convoy appears to be trapped within the combined tractor beams of the dreadnoughts," the electronic woman answered. "They are holding us in place."

"Not only that, but they're somehow acting as an interdiction field," Rem explained. "They dragged us out of hyperspace and we can't jump back in until we're out of it."

"Leaving us stuck in place as they blow us into space dust," Fen coldly offered.

"Not quite," Rem replied. "Whatever they're doing to keep us in place is utilizing all of their power. The interdiction field should dissipate if they try to power their laser batteries."

"Then we just have to give them a reason to fire on us," Soraldo stated.

"Wait,” Seraak called out, “we don't even know why they stopped us in the first place.”

"They're Imperials dreadnoughts,” Renub quickly replied. “What do you think their purpose is?"

"They could be after someone aboard the transport," Delgo suggested.

Bella practically shouted at the Duros, "like we'd hand them over if that were the case!”

"Whatever they want, they're not telling,” Haron explained. “Neither ship is responding to our calls.”

There was an uneasy moment of silence, one that was broken by the Kel Dor's electronically tinged voice. "Commander, I've got the transport's captain on comm.”

"Patch them through," Nolante ordered. A moment later, a small hologram began to light up from the squadron leader's console. The faded blue image of the transport's captain appeared, presenting a trembling Human garbed in officer's attire.

"Commander Nolante!" the Human yelped. "What's going on? Our ship won't budge and our engineers can't fix it!"

"We've been locked down by the Imperials, captain. Have they tried contacting you?"

"No, why? What do they want?"

"I'm afraid we don't know," Nolante admitted.

The brief exchange was cut short by Seraak's voice spilling into the squadron leader's cockpit. "Uh, Commander, I might hazard a guess. I'm reading new energy signatures."

"Imperial interceptors," Haron added. "The dreadnoughts are deploying full complements."

"How many?" asked Nolante.

"One hundred and counting," Haron replied.

Nolante returned his focus to the holographic image before him. "Captain, bolster your shields and keep your hyperdrive primed.” The Commander paused, before lifting his gaze toward the roof of his cockpit. "Tessa, we can't deal with those fighters stuck like this."

"If I divert power to the engines, we may be able to overcome the effect of the tractor beams," Tessa explained. "But because of the dreadnoughts' relative mass, there's a chance that attempting to move out could tear our ships' hulls apart. And should they survive, the shields could be irreparably-"

"I don't care, do it," Nolante ordered.

"Sir," Kaarn spoke up, a softness in her otherwise fierce tone. "Word from the Den is that there are no available reinforcements in the sector. We're on our own."

Nolante dipped his head as he felt everything quickly slipping from his grasp. But as he tightened his grip around the starfighter's control, the Commander drew and released a deep breath. The man raised his head, sharpened his gaze, and focused on what lay before him. "Torrid Squadron, defend the transport and take out the fighters!"

"Aye, sir!" the pilots replied.

Within each of their ships, Tessa went to work giving their engines just enough of a boost to escape the Imperials' hold. Each pilot's fingers wrapped around their vessel's controls as they watched the dreadnoughts' complements of interceptors emerge from their hangars, black and gray gnats fast approaching their positions. HUDs and dials flashed and flared as the ships' artificial intelligence worked toward freeing the Gallant starfighters.

"Boost ready in 3… 2… 1…" Tessa voice rang out in each cockpit. With a sharp ping, the pilots received the confirmation they so eagerly awaited. With a flick of their wrists, the pilots of Torrid Squadron surged forward, breaking loose from the dreadnoughts' hold. Just as the Republic fighters took flight, the Imperial interceptors had already begun to close the gap. "Equalizing power flow. Status report: Engines at 96%, Weapons at 82%, Shields at 23%."

"It'll have to do," Nolante muttered. "Tessa, engage Bifurcation. Torrid Squadron, circle the transport and watch each other's backs. Defense Arrangement Besh."

The Republic starfighters diverged into two groups, the odds turning toward the leftward dreadnought, the evens turning toward the opposite. The approaching interceptors released their first volley of bolts, the green lasers streaking across the black void toward their targets. The nimble Imperial crafts evenly divided their attention between the Republic transport and its escorts, but regardless of their choice, their one and only goal was their target's destruction.

The Gallant fighters were operating at sub-optimal levels, their defensive systems possessing only a mere fraction of their usual capabilities. The innovative designs and technologies housed within them came with a drawback, the Republic starfighters were not as nimble as their stock brethren, which in turn, were capable of being outpaced by the standard Imperial interceptor. The battle they found themselves in would come down to the capability of its pilots, and the Imperials possessed a significant numbers advantage.

The pilots of Torrid Squadron fanned out, whilst maintaining a healthy proximity to the Wanderer. With the dreadnoughts' laser batteries offline, the massive ships served as the fighters' only pieces of cover within the vast openness of space they had been dropped into. The squadron split into pairs, hugging the dreadnoughts' hulls as they attempted to outmaneuver their opponents, taking shots at the targets they could get behind. Each pairing had a squadron of enemies unto themselves, and as the first batch of interceptors fell, their numbers remained strong.

Nolante and Dunn circled back around the dreadnought, picking off the Imperial fighters harassing the transport. Neither side was equipped with heavy weaponry, forcing them to whittle away at their foes. Lucky for the Republic fighters, the Imperial navy valued its swarms over properly outfitting its smallest craft. The interceptors were destroyed with a couple well-placed shots, but the constant barrage from the scores of enemy fighters meant that even the most accurate of Torrid Squadron struggled to line up their own ships' blasters as they dodged incoming fire.

On the opposite side of the battle, Bella broke her attention away from the fighters, going after the dreadnought's offenses, Marvus covering her flank. Assaulting a line of laser cannons, her first strafing run make little impact against the hardened turrets, the capital ship maintaining its shields despite its focus on locking down the transport. But she would not relent, rounding about the ship's command center and readying another barrage. She knew they had little chance of destroying the Imperial titans with their current loadout, but there was a point in every commander's mind when the losses became too much to bear. As their fleet waned, as their capital ships were slowly crippled, the Imperials would be forced to release their grip on the transport.

But with no established motives, no vocal threat, Torrid Squadron could only guess the kind of commander that led the enemy forces. But even the most stubborn, prideful Imperial could not risk such a fleet for such insignificant gains. What they hoped to gain in the first place was a mystery that swirled within each of the Republic pilots' minds. But there was little time to dwell on such issues when the danger they found themselves in was the same regardless of their ability to understand it.

The massive onslaught they faced forced the Republic pilots to carefully balance going on the offensive, protecting the transport, and self-preservation. One by one, the interceptors began to fall at the hands of Torrid Squadron, but the swarm continued to sting despite their best efforts. Green bolts of energy flashed as they impacted against the Republic transport's shields, which struggled to maintain their integrity as more and more ships slipped past their defenders' attention.

The pilots of Torrid Squadron diverted their focus inward, picking off the interceptors that managed to violate their zone of control. The Republic pilots had managed to take out a quarter of the enemy fighters, but the sustained battle was taking its toll on the Gallant fighters. A stray bolt managed to score a direct hit on the right wing of Torrid Eleven, eliciting smoke and fire that was quickly snuffed by the vacuum of space.

"Shields at 3%," Tessa informed Renub, her monotonous voice imparting none of the severity of the status report. "Right weapon systems offline. Structural integrity compromised."

"Commander, I'm about to lose a wing!" Renub hastily shouted over the comm.

"Stay calm," Nolante offered, doing his best to assuage the Sullustan. "Fen. Delgo. Reinforce Renub's flank.

"Aye, sir!" the pilots sounded off. Torrid Seven and Nine pulled back to take position behind their damaged ally.

"Commander, the dreadnoughts are fielding more ships," Haron stated. "Extinction-class bombers."

"They're bringing out the heavy hitters," Nolante declared. "Don't let them reach the transport."

The heavy fighters took flight from each of the dreadnoughts' hangars, on a straightforward vector toward the Wanderer. Tucked beneath the bombers' wings were an allotment of concussion missiles, capable of tearing apart all but the most reinforced hulls. And with the transport's weakening shields, they were more than capable of ripping it asunder.

The pilots of Torrid Squadron momentarily ignored the swarming interceptors to take down the approaching bombers before they could unleash their payload upon the helpless refugees. Dividing themselves once again, six pilots each turned from the transport in opposite directions to intercept the Extinction-class bombers. As their foes closed in, the Gallant starfighters lined up their shots against the first wave, only to hear the chirps and alarms of their ships' defensive systems, detailing a missile lock on their fighters.

"Dammit, they're not after the transport!" Kaarn shouted. Each group of six had a full squadron of bombers targeting them. Before the Republic pilots could get a clean shot, the bombers released their volley of concussion missiles. The Gallant fighters immediately took evasive maneuvers, fanning out as they each contended with two missiles fast on their tails, tracking their every movement.

Pushing their starfighters to their limits, the pilots struggled to outmaneuver the missiles, one more so than the others. The damage Renub had sustained earlier hampered his movements, and as he powered ahead, his cockpit began to shake as the metals between it and his right wing warped and shattered. Had he maintained his velocity for much longer, his damaged wing would have ripped itself from the starfighter's chassis. But it wouldn't receive the chance.

The first missile impacted, followed shortly by the second, the explosions of which ripped the Gallant starfighter asunder, scattering the debris in a brief display of sparks and flame.
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Syart's Avatar


Syart
06.15.2013 , 02:43 AM | #4
Replying to subscribe because I need to know what's going on and what will happen next
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.16.2013 , 02:27 PM | #5
Chapter Three

The pilots of Torrid Squadron watched in horror as their comrade's signal perished from their consoles. Then came the auditory cue, Tessa's electronic voice filling their cockpits.

"Torrid Eleven offline.”

The squadron commander's fists tightened around his controls as he gritted his teeth, letting out a soft curse. But there was no time to dwell. The remaining starfighters still had the missiles on their tails.

The Gallant fighters performed whatever maneuvers they could to shake the tracking ordinance. As the concussion missiles neared Commander Nolante, he began to roll his ship. As it rotated, the twin missiles on his tail overcorrected their flight paths, colliding with one another. The explosion rocked the commander's chassis, but he ultimately made it out unscathed.

Haron found himself caught between the missiles approaching from the rear, and a bomber coming straight for him. Maintaining his vector, the pilot juked his craft at the last moment, his chassis almost colliding with that of the enemy ship. The Extinction-class bomber didn't have time to react as it collided with the same ordinance it had previously unleashed.

The others dealt with their troubles in a similar fashion, putting a stray interceptor between themselves and the missiles, having them collide with one another, or making them impact ineffectually against the dreadnoughts as they skimmed over their hulls. Kaarn was the last to rid herself of the troublesome ordinance, escaping the explosive blasts with only a light singe on her wings. However, her expert maneuvering could not account for the movements of her opponents.

Looping around the broadside of the Imperial dreadnought, an enemy interceptor collided with her. The Gallant starfighter remained intact as it ripped right through the Imperial craft, but what remained of her shields had been totally obliterated. The destroyed interceptor's squadron had already begun to target the weakened Republic starfighter. A series of bolts streaked across the void and struck Kaarn's unshielded chassis, ripping it open to the vacuum of space under the Imperials' collective fire.

Once more, Tessa's voice filled the cockpits. "Torrid Four offline."

Haron let out an uncharacteristic snarl as he saw his comrade's demise from the viewport of his cockpit. Sharply veering toward the calamity, the ex-Imperial set his sights on the regrouping squadron that struck down Kaarn. With unerring accuracy, he unleashed his weapons upon the group of interceptors. One right after another, they fell to the Gallant's blasters.

What remained of the fleet of bombers headed straight for the transport, still carrying most of their allotment of explosive ordinance. "All pilots, focus on taking those bombers down," Nolante ordered. "Gregard and I will cover you."

The pilots of Torrid Squadron formed up, once more directing their focus inward. With the bombers in their sights, the Republic starfighters locked onto the targets with the help of Tessa. The red bolts lashed out across the blackness of space, fired in short, controlled bursts. The lasers struck their targets, each pilot eliminating a bomber before they could reach the transport.

Behind the two groups, Nolante and Haron intercepted any Imperial fighters that threatened their comrades. Firing over their partner's shoulder, the two pilots focused on eliminating the ever present pool of Imperial interceptors that remained on the battlefield. Their opponent's forces had not yet been reduced to half, and the Gallant fighters were reaching their limits, but they refused to yield. And soon, their efforts appeared fruitful, as the enemy forces pulled away from the transport.

"Their breaking away from the Wanderer!" Seraak announced, finding some modicum of joy in the turn of events. "We did it!"

"Not quite," Fen replied. "They're not retreating… just redirecting their focus."

"Form up and head toward the leftward dreadnought," Nolante ordered. "We're taking the fight to it."

"Aye, sir!" the pilots called out in unison. The Gallant starfighters regrouped, heading toward the capital ship in a line formation as Imperial forces gathered behind them.

"Gregard and I will hold off the interceptors,” Nolante stated. “Dunn, lead a strafing run on the dreadnought's turrets."

"Aye," the Kel Dor quickly replied. "The Harrower's shields are still strong. We must concentrate our fire. Tessa, direct the other units to match this ship's target."

"Understood," said Tessa. A small symbol appeared on the other ships' consoles, signaling that they were subservient to Dunn's targeting. Torrid Three began its attack run, seven other pilots following close by whilst the commander and his executive officer pulled back. One by one the strafing starfighters unleashed a series of bolts as they dove, then rose above one of the dreadnought's laser batteries. The line of four turrets flashed as the shield protecting them fizzled out, allowing for the continued assault to turn them to scrap.

Above the dreadnought, Nolante and Haron harassed whatever Imperials approached their comrades. The two Gallant starfighters were not much of a force by themselves, but with two of the best pilots in the navy behind the controls, they knew how make the most of them. Side by side, the senior members of Torrid Squadron lashed out against the Imperial fighters and bombers that tailed their squadron mates, only pulling back to deal with the occasional aggressor that would target them. The two had each other's backs, and had nothing on their minds other than the utter desire to keep their allies safe.

Having dealt with one of the dreadnought's turret lines, the attack group rounded about to take out another, only to be targeted by an Imperial squadron that managed to escape their protectors' sights. Bolstered by a bomber, the Imperials opened fire on the starfighters attacking their capital ship. Green bolts and concussion missiles streaked across the open space toward the attack group.

"Everyone, break formation!" Dunn shouted. The eight pilots removed themselves from the line and spread out, narrowly avoiding the swift torrent of laser fire. The Gallant fighters looped around to face their attackers, but Delgo found himself the target of the released missiles.

Juking his craft about, the Duros found himself unable to shake all of the ordinance tracking his every movement. With only a single missile left on his tail, he had nothing with which to collide it with. The pilot surged toward the edge of the dreadnought's face, hoping to force the missile into the capital ship's hull as he rounded the corner to its belly. The maneuver was successful in preemptively detonating the missile, but in his escape he maneuvered his starship directly between the dreadnought and the Republic transport, trapping himself once again in the tractor beam.

The Duros pilot cursed as he found his starship unresponsive. Its energy levels were low, and shields nonexistent, the ship had no chance of escaping the dreadnought's hold as it had once before.

"Commander, I'm trapped!" Delgo called out, a crack in his voice. "I can't-"

"Hold on, Delgo, we're coming!" Nolante replied, immediately pulling his ship toward his distressed ally. Through his console, he saw an Imperial squadron descending upon the frozen starfighter. Nolante and Haron sped forward, attempting to interrupt them. The Imperials within their sight, they opened fire, raining down upon them a torrent of red bolts. The lasers clipped some of the interceptors' wings, shattering their hulls and ending their threat, but it wasn't enough. The struck fighters blocked the laser fire from reaching their accompanying bomber, who sent a another missile straight toward the defenseless pilot.

"Commander, it's-" Delgo managed to whispered before his craft was torn apart by the explosion.

All was silent but for the inevitable words of Tessa. "Torrid Nine offline.”

"No…" Seraak muttered, hands struggling to maintain their grip on his controls.

Nolante and Gregard continued their pursuit of the Imperial squadron, their sights dead set on eliminating that bomber. Together, they unleashed a steady stream of blaster fire, striking the bomber that had struck down Delgo. Even beyond the craft's destruction, the lasers continued to pelt the shattered debris until it was little more than specks of dust.

"Attack group, form up," Dunn commanded. "We have to-"

"Sir,” Rem interrupted, “the dreadnought's laser batteries are coming online!"

"Everyone! Get away from that ship!" Nolante shouted.

The pilots of Torrid Squadron jerked their control as they attempted to flee the empowered dreadnought, but were unable to escape its wrath. The capital ship directed the entirety of the remaining turrets on its upward face toward the fleeing starfighters. The torrent of laser fire lashed out against the Republic pilots, who struggled to dodge the concentrated flurry. Bolts of energy designed to fell other capital ships surged over the pilots' heads. Others were not as lucky. A single bolt directly struck Soraldo's chassis, splitting it in half.

"Torrid Twelve offline," said Tessa.

Just as the surviving starfighters escaped the dreadnought's immediate reach, one of the capital ship's bolts glanced one of Bella'varao's engines. As she rocked within her shaking chassis, her console immediately began to flash vibrant, red warnings on her viewscreen. Then came Tessa's voice. "Status report: Engines at 52%."

"Dammit!" Bella cursed, slamming her fist against the side of her cockpit. "Rem, tell me that thing firing at us means the tractor beams are offline."

"One of them is," Rem answered. "The other is still operational. The transport still won't be able to escape."

"But now one of the dreadnoughts is free to open fire on it," said Fen.

"We can't escape, and we've no way to get the other dreadnought to release their grip before we're all destroyed," Marvus muttered.

"The interdiction field is only up between the two capital ships," Rem explained. "There's still a chance to save ourselves-"

"No," Nolante interrupted. "I'll not abandon that transport! There's a way to do this, we just have to-"

"Commander… I know what to do," Bella softly spoke up. "If you can keep those fighters off my back, I can disable the second dreadnought."

"How would… no, no I won't allow it," Nolante declared. "There has to be another way."

"With all due respect sir, even if my hyperdrive weren't shot, my chassis would be torn apart trying to jump to hyperspace," Bella explained. The Twi'lek's body relaxed as she let out a soft sigh. "It's been an honor serving under you, sir. Tell the transport to prepare to jump."

From within his cockpit the commander offered only a silent salute. Composing himself he spoke to his team. "You heard her. Take down those fighters and prepare for a microjump as soon as the transport is clear. Regroup at the posted coordinates."

"Aye, sir," the pilots acknowledged, softly. Solemnly. As the lasers from the Imperial forces buzzed around them, the pilots altered their course to defend Bella'varao. Opening a channel with the Republic transport, Commander Nolante told the captain to prepare a jump to hyperspace. It didn't matter where. A microjump would last mere moments but put them thousands of kilometers away from the battle, with Imperial forces having no way to track them.

What was left of Torrid Squadron gathered together in a wedge formation centered around Bella. Fire and smoke emanated from her damaged engine, quickly being suffocated by the vacuum of space. As the scores of Imperial interceptors put the squadron in their sights, the Gallant fighters readied themselves for their last strike. Speeding past the Republic transport, the group of fighters directed themselves toward the dreadnought still holding in its place.

"Warning: current flight path will be interrupted by the dreadnought's tractor beam," said Tessa.

"Tessa, divert all power to engines and disengage all safety limiters," Bella ordered. "We're punching through."

"Warning: structural integrity already compromised," Tessa continued. "Current course of-"

"Tessa, perform previous directive and extricate yourself from this unit.”

There was a barely perceptible pause.

"Understood. Torrid Six offline.”

"Goodbye... Tessa," Bella whispered.

The squadron was fast approaching their target. With the dreadnought's shields still raised, they had no hope of disrupting it from the outside. Instead, their focus was on the capital ship's leftward hangar. As they dodged the incoming bolts from pursuing interceptors, the Republic starfighters cleared a path going forward. Haron led the charge, taking precise shots at the areas left and right of the hangar. Before getting themselves caught in the ship's tractor beam, the other pilots broke formation, fanning out as only Bella remained on her current flight path.

Her hands tightened around the ship's controls as she passed through the tractor beam, the magnetic field stripping away the metal of her outer chassis. But she would not be stopped. With a determined glint in her eye and a smile on her face, she breached the capital ship's hangar at top speed. The damaged craft shot through the hangar walls continuing inward toward the ship's core. Passing through layer and layer of metal, she only perished after crashing into the dreadnought's power station.

Explosions rang out within the capital ship, a fiery plume escaping from its hangar into the vacuum of space. The dreadnought had lost its power, and unable to maintain its tractor beams, the Republic transport was finally freed. The pilots of Torrid Squadron breathed a brief sigh of relief as they watched the Wanderer blink into the void, escaping the other dreadnought's wrath.

One by one the pilots of Torrid Squadron warmed up their hyperdrives, preparing to jump to light speed. Only needing to put some distance between themselves and the Imperials, the pilots punched in whatever coordinated that could. However, what remained of the enemy forces would do everything they could to prevent that. The full might of the Imperial fleet directed themselves toward a single foe. Commander Nolante. Bolts from the operational dreadnought surged toward the squadron leader as the swarm of fighters descended upon him.

Dunn and Seraak were the first to jump, followed by Marvus. Fen and Rem activated their hyperdrives soon after. Haron readied himself to jump, but saw that his commander was under attack. But before he could lend a hand, the stars around him began to stretch, Tessa having already propelled him into hyperspace.

As the Imperials continued to encircle the remaining member of Torrid Squadron, he found his path obstructed no matter where he directed his ship. No matter how many fighters he pushed through, no matter how many he destroyed, others had taken their place. Unable to jump to hyperspace, and with no other targets to focus their attention on, the final Gallant starfighter fell victim to the concentrated fire of the Imperial fleet. As he lost his shields, as he lost his engines, as his chassis threatened to disintegrate, he thought only of his comrades and the lives of the civilians he had preserved. Removing his hands from his ship's control, the pilot leaned back in his seat, closing his eyes, cracking one last smile before he succumbed.

----------

Exiting hyperspace, Haron found himself alone amongst the darkness. Punching in the set of coordinates given to him by his commander, Tessa plotted the course and the ship was underway to regroup. As he traversed the swirling blue tunnel of hyperspace once more, the pilot frantically tapped his fingers on the side of the cockpit.

Minutes later, as he finally dropped back into realspace, Haron was relieved to see his comrades' signals light up on his console, as well as that of the Republic transport, safe and sound. As he studied the readings, however, he slowly realized that only six had made it. Dunn. Seraak. Marvus. Fen. Rem. Himself.

Opening the team channel, Haron reached out with increasing trepidation. "Commander? Commander Nolante? Are you there? Commander!"
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.24.2013 , 09:37 PM | #6
Chapter Four


The journey home was long and painfully silent. The convoy was six ships short, but still headed for its original destination. However, the route would prove even longer than previously anticipated as Tessa plotted a more secure route through hyperspace.

Haron placed a hand on his console, opening communications with the transport. "Captain, have you finished your diagnostics? Is everything holding up?"

"Yes, lieutenant, just a little body damage," said the relieved captain. "All systems are up and running."

"What about the passengers?" Haron asked.

"There are still some murmurs of concern, but things have mostly quieted down," the captain explained. "Honestly, we can't thank you enough. We didn't think there was even the slightest chance we would escape."

"No thanks necessary, captain. Just doing our job," Haron stated, attempting to maintain his stoicism. A silence persisted as the pilot kept the channel open, but formulated his thoughts. "Captain, might I commandeer your ship's long-range communications system? I'd like to contact command."

"Absolutely, whatever you need."

Haron offered his appreciation and closed the channel. "Tessa, patch us through to Admiral Trevel."

"Right away."

As Tessa worked toward reaching command, the pilot was once again alone with the silence. Tapping his fingers on his lap, Haron looked to his console, which displayed a constant reminder of his allies' fates. Twelve icons. Six bright. Six dark.

----------

On the Republic capital of Coruscant, within the grand halls of the Senate, a senior Navy officer sat at a desk within a quaint chamber, overlooking a series of datapads that lay before him.

Admiral Trevel. Human male, aged 52. The officer's face was unmarred by marks or scars, but it bared the grit that came with decades of a stressful career. Clean shaven and clean cut, the admiral's eyes darted between three readouts of different situations across the galaxy. Despite the haste with which his sights moved from item to item, he possessed a calmness about him, an unyielding focus. Focus that momentarily faltered with the sharp ping that resonated throughout the office. Immediately shuffling the datapads to the left side of the desk, the admiral answered the communications terminal that sat on its right.

"Admiral Trevel, this is Torrid Squadron Astromechanical Assistant 'Tessa'," said the monotonous female voice. "I am speaking through Wanderer-class transport number-"

"Tessa? Tessa!" the admiral exclaimed, jumping up from his seat. "What's your status? What's going on?"

"Lieutenant Gregard would like to update you regarding the-"

"Yes, yes, of course! Patch him through," the admiral said with urgency. As he leaned forward with anticipation, he was relieved to see the pilot's image emit from the compact terminal's holoprojector. "Lieutenant Gregard, it's good to hear from you."

"Admiral Trevel," Haron began. "The transport is safe and we are on route to our target destination. But I'm afraid Torrid Squadron is down six pilots, including Commander Nolante."

The admiral let out a heavy sigh as he sank back into his chair, softly burying his face in the palm of his hands. "I'm sorry, Haron, I wish there were more we could have done."

"I'm just grateful one of us was able to make this call, admiral," Haron admitted. "What matters now is how we move forward. We have to respond to the fact that we were openly attacked by Imperial forces."

Trevel let out another sigh as he scratched the base of his chin. "I'm afraid this brazenness is what's tying our hands. After being informed of our inability to send you reinforcements, I sent word to the Senate Security Council about our possible response."

"What options did they give?" Haron asked.

"None."

"None?" Haron balked. "Sir, we lost half of our squadron! Two Imperial dreadnoughts fired on a defenseless transport filled with civilian targets! They managed to drag us out of hyperspace for the sole purpose of destroying us! They openly defied the Treaty of Coruscant, and we are simply not going to respond?"

"I understand your disapproval, Haron, but the senate wants answers before they let us rush into a situation that gets more people killed," Trevel offered. "They are going to wait for an official report and they want to look at Tessa's databanks regarding the incident."

"'Incident'," the pilot muttered under his breath as he rubbed his brow in frustration. "Fine. I'll have my official report ready as soon as possible."

"Look, Haron, if the senate is going to take things slow, use this opportunity to do the same," Trevel suggested. "Not just for your sake, but for that of your team. You need time to recover."

"I know, admiral. I know," Haron replied. "I'll not let this be the end of Torrid Squadron."

"It won't be," said Trevel. "But there is a matter that needs addressing. Torrid Squadron is without a commander… and you were Nolante's XO…"

"I am not ignorant of my position, sir," Haron admitted.

"Torrid Squadron needs a strong leader," the admiral declared. "I believe that you can provide it one."

Silence overtook the channel as the pilot offered no immediate response, staring at the readout of his squadron's status. "Thank you for your time, admiral. We'll send word once we've arrived at our destination."

The pilot's image flickered and faded from the admiral's desk as the communications channel closed. Trevel leaned back in his seat, running his hands through his graying hair. Leaning forward, he returned his attention to the datapads that continued their constant stream information. Rubbing his eyes, the admiral let out a low sigh as he reached for the desk's terminal. With the press of a finger, he opened communications with his assistant.

"Karyn, get me the Director of SIS."

----------

Ceasing communications with the admiral, Haron closed all open channels as he was left alone with his thoughts. Only a few seconds of silence passed before the lieutenant began banging his fist repeatedly against the interior of his fighter's chassis. The pilot stopped after the fourth knock, letting out an exasperated grunt and burying his face in the palm of his hand.

"Tessa, how much longer until we reach our destination?" Haron asked, not lifting his face from his gloved hand.

"Estimate 82 minutes until drop into realspace," Tessa promptly answered.

The next hours proved to be the longest the pilots of Torrid Squadron had ever experienced. They were accustomed to long flights, spending hours at a time cramped inside their single-person vessels. But this time was different. The usual playful banter had been replaced by a morose quiet. Each pilot resigned themselves to the loud silence of their own thoughts, breaking it only on occasion to receive a status update from Tessa.

As the almost unbearable trip neared its conclusion, the calm voice of Tessa addressed each of the pilots. "Approaching target destination. Dropping into realspace in 10… 9… 8…"

As the hyperspace tunnel collapsed around them and the stars returned to their rightful alignments, the squadron was greeted with the sight of a Republic orbital station, a temporary hub for the refugees before taken to their new homes. Surrounding the space station were four Thranta-class Corvettes, warships diverted to the area as soon as word was received that the traveling transport had been attacked. In addition to the bolstered defenses, a fifth vessel hovered a short distance from the facility.

'The Den'. Seeker-class Carrier. An experimental redesign of the corvettes that surrounded it. The vessel, while bulkier than its cousins, had traded much of its offensive potential for its large hangar and ability to properly service the starfighters it housed. It possessed advanced communications and logistics equipment, allowing it to operate in the field without support from larger capital ships.

The Republic transport and its escorts parted ways, the Wanderer setting a course to dock with the space station, the Gallant starfighters returning to their home.

Torrid Squadron moved into formation, Tessa providing them their flight path as they headed toward the carrier's hangar bay. Within the Den's interior, a siren wailed as various mechanics and technicians cleared the floor as the six starfighters passed through the magnetic barrier that sealed in the open chamber's atmosphere. One by one, they slowed their approach, relying on repulsors to carefully maneuver themselves within the carrier's hangar. Extending their landing gears, the six starfighters touched down in their assigned spaces close to one another, however some were closer than others as six of the twelve slots remained unoccupied.

The vessels each let out a sigh of their own as they rested their weight on their supports. Disengaging their crafts, the Gallant fighters' wings folded inward, hugging the chassis and compacting its size. Finally, the roofs of the cockpits slid forward, granting the pilots their freedom from the confined spaces.

The Den's hangar staff had already begun to swarm around the docked vessels, connecting fuel pipes and various sensor cables. Worker droids zipped across the hangar floor. Various cranes dashed across rails mounted on the hangar ceiling. As each starfighter received its fair share of attention, the pilots were free to pull themselves up from their seats. Hopping out of the cockpits, the pilots took a couple steps on top of the folded wings before hopping to the hangar floor.

Looking at their vessels, the pilots saw that they had not escaped the battle unscathed, scorch marks and dents marring the pristine chassis that had left the Den earlier that day. Tearing their gazes away from the war-torn fighters, the pilots locked eyes with one another. Stepping away from the bustle that surrounded their ships, the pilots of Torrid Squadron regrouped in the middle of the hangar.

"Haron, did you get in touch with Admiral Trevel?" Dunn asked.

"Yes," Haron replied, less than enthused. "As of now, command is aware of the circumstances of our attack, but the senate requires additional information before they'll authorize any sort of formal response."

The other pilots looked on with exasperated expressions, unwilling to believe they had experienced anything but a horrid nightmare.

"You're kidding me right?" Marvus balked. "What additional information could they possibly need?"

"This is the senate we are talking about," said Fen matter-of-factly. "All the things they've tolerated these past few years… they aren't going to go to war over the loss of six starfighter pilots, no matter who they are."

"What about the transport?" Marvus shouted, the Devaronian accompanying his words with the wide flail of his arm. "Just because they made it out alive, it doesn't matter that they were attacked?"

"This attack wasn't like other acts of aggression the Empire has committed," Haron declared. "The attackers… the targets… the methods… everything about it was unusual."

Rem, maintaining her calm, gently scratched her chin as her eyes fell to the hangar floor. "That means the senate wants corroboration before they issue a response."

Marvus' eyes went wide. "What, like they don't believe us?"

"It would explain why they want to look over Tessa's records of the battle," Haron offered.

The Devaronian folded his arms. "Fine, let Tessa tell them about how we were attacked by an entire Imperial fleet.”

"Things might not be that simple," Seraak muttered. The Togruta began softly stroking his chin. "Think back, who actually fired the first shot?"

"The Imperials did when they somehow ripped us out of hyperspace," Marvus declared.

"Does interdiction qualify as a hostile action under the Treaty of Coruscant?" asked Seraak.

"It's hard to qualify something that hasn't been utilized for centuries," Fen admitted. The Mon Calamari's eyes fell to the floor as she crossed her arms. "Can anyone even remember the last time a military target was successfully stopped while traveling through hyperspace?"

"Whatever, it's not like that excuses the fighters," Marvus replied.

"Again, which side actually fired first? Only Tessa can actually give an accurate answer," Seraak stated.

"No! I am not going to let our friends' deaths be dismissed because of some arbitrary technicality!" Marvus shouted.

"There's nothing we can do about it now, Marvus," Dunn attempted to calm the pilot down. The Kel Dor was successful in easing the tension present in his comrade, but he could not totally eliminate the other pilot's brewing concern. "Honor their memory by cooperating for the time being."

"Dunn's right," Haron admitted. "As much as we desire action, we gain nothing from being disruptive. We don't know the specifics about who attacked us or why. We'd be stabbing in the dark at an insurmountable foe were we to retaliate now. The best thing to do now is wait and rest. Torrid Squadron was dealt a harsh blow, but it will survive."

The pilots were interrupted by a voice sounding out over the hangar's loudspeakers.

"Lieutenant Gregard, please report to Conference Room 1. Lieutenant Gregard, please report to Conference Room 1."

"Return to your barracks," Haron suggested. "I'll join you soon enough."

After a series of mutual nods, the pilots split up, five making their way to their quarters, one making his way toward the front of the vessel.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
07.06.2013 , 04:18 AM | #7
Chapter Five


Haron walked down one of the narrower corridors of the Seeker-class Carrier, his deadened gaze permanently affixed ahead of him, not bothering to divert toward any of the passing crewmen that would walk by. The ship's pristine and brightly lit interior began to blur in the lieutenant's vision. His senses dulled, Haron appeared to be walking on autopilot.

As the pilot traversed the ship's central corridor, he snapped out of his stupor only to find himself in front of the conference room's entrance. Prodding the door's control panel, he was granted entrance and stepped inside. In front of him sat a round table equipped with a holoterminal at its center. The seats that surrounded the table were empty, save for one. A single person sat patiently across the room, flanked by two armed soldiers. A senator and his security.

Quickly rising from his seat, the regally garbed Human circled around the table to greet the entering pilot. He was young, but old enough to have a firm grasp of his station. His skin was fair and pristine, softened by a life of luxury. His entire being expressed a primness and order surpassing even the ex-Imperial pilot.

"Mr. Gregard!" the senator greeted with exuberance as he rushed to meet the pilot, his guards following with a calm haste. Standing in front of the pilot, the senator immediately took hold of his hand and began shaking it. "Or would you prefer Lieutenant Gregard. Or just Lieutenant-"

"Haron is fine," the pilot calmly stated as he regained control of his hand.

"Haron it is. I am Senator Bartron, I represent those refugees you and your squadron protected."

"Yes, I know who you are," Haron admitted. "You were also one of the senators providing us funding and resources."

"Good memory. Had I known then how effective you'd be, I'd have pledged double, triple what I had," Bartron declared. "Because of your squadron, thousands of men, women, and children owe you their lives."

"Thank you, sir," Haron stoically replied. "We were just doing our duty. You really ought to be with them on the station instead of here with us."

"Listen, I was told that not every member of your team made it back," Bartron explained, his normally jubilant tone momentarily subsiding. "I just wanted you to know that you have my full support moving forward. If there is anything you or your team needs, do not hesitate to call upon my aid."

"That is… appreciated, senator," said Haron. The pilot's head dipped as a silence developed between the two. The lieutenant's eyes began to shake as he struggled to formulate his thoughts. "If I might… I have a question to ask."

"Absolutely, go ahead," Bartron graciously offered.

"Who exactly was on that transport?" Haron asked. The senator gave the pilot a nod, scratching his chin as he thought of a proper way to explain.

"My world is in a state of political discourse. Certain parties are beginning to question the worth of our ties to the Republic," Bartron explained. "Secessionists and separatists are gaining traction, so I consider it my duty to do all that I can for the Republic whilst I'm still able. The passengers of that transport consist of our greatest scientists, technicians, and doctors who were willing to relocate to the core worlds along with their families."

"What kinds of scientists and technicians?"

"Mostly agricultural and infrastructural specialists," Bartron stated. "People who could help rebuild the worlds still wounded by the last war."

"No weapons techs? Anyone with knowledge of defensive systems?"

"Not a one. I honestly can't think of any reason why the Empire would take an interest in them, let alone open fire on them," Bartron admitted.

"Were any groups pushing for Imperial allegiance back home?" Haron asked.

"None with any sway," Bartron answered. "The only parties with backing wanted complete independence."

"Could someone have been aboard that wasn't supposed to be?" Haron suggested.

"There's always the chance, but the transport's crew double checked everything before they left the planet's surface," said Bartron.

Haron began to slowly scratch his chin. "Nothing about this attack adds up.”

"This is the Empire we are talking about. They don't think like we do.”

"I know the Empire, and I know its methods," Haron emphatically stated. "This is something different."

"Ah, yes. If I recall, you yourself defected shortly after the Treaty of Coruscant was signed, did you not?" Bartron offered. "When you were with them, we were in a state of open war. Now that we are 'at peace', perhaps the Empire would be unrecognizable to even someone such as yourself. The Empire still seeks to strike at the Republic, but with the treaty in place, they must choose their targets carefully."

"You're right. Which is why I'm starting to think the transport was never their target to begin with," Haron muttered. "Thank you for your time senator, but if there's nothing more you need from me, I'd like to take my leave."

"Right, of course," Bartron assuaged the pilot. "I merely wanted to offer my sincerest thanks in person. I'll not take up any more of your time."

With a mutual nod of their heads, Haron ducked out of the conference room and back into the pristinely white corridors of the carrier. He began his march back to the barracks where his squadron mates were settling down. Haron's journey was one of silence as he was consumed by his own thoughts. He began to think about those who lived, those who died. He began to weigh the values of each before struggling to shake the thoughts from his head. He wondered if the entire incident was an accident. Maybe they had stumbled upon the Imperials without them knowing. Maybe the Imperials overestimated the strategic value of those aboard the transport. Maybe the refugees were never a part of the equation to begin with.

Within the belly of the Den, the pilots' quarters were situated in six modestly sized chambers. Two pilots per dwelling, though now four of the pilots found themselves without a roommate. Locked down, they were now forced to wait for their superiors to determine a proper course of action.

Standing in front of his quarters, Haron gazed onto the nameplate that sat above the door's control panel.

Commander Nolante

Lieutenant Gregard

The pilot closed his eyes and opened the door, entering shortly after. The pilots of Torrid Squadron had been given sufficient accommodations, sharing a room with only one of their fellows when other outfits would force four or more into the same allotment of space. The dwelling possessed a dual symmetry, each pilot's bunk situated against opposite walls to the left and right of the room's entrance.

Nolante's possessions sat where he had left them on the right side of the room, undisturbed since the day's beginning. Haron made one pass over the empty dwelling before trudging over to his bed. Sitting on the bunk's edge, still encased in his flightsuit, the pilot ran his gloved hands through his hair and his eyes drifted to the floor. His gaze became affixed to the cold, smooth paneling beneath his feet. Seconds passed. Then minutes. Each spent silent, and alone.

----------

Across the vastness of space, far from the borders of Republic space, an Imperial ship sat amongst the dark void. A Gage-class transport. The wedge-shaped vessel was only half as long as an Imperial Dreadnought and much slimmer. It possessed a similar chassis to the Terminus-class destroyers that made up the bulk of the Imperial fleet, albeit with far less offensive armament. But what it lacked in firepower, it more than made up with logistical systems that made it perfect for issuing commands and conducting operations from a safe distance.

Within the transport's bridge, Imperial officers spread across the spacious area monitored various terminals and systems. Standing at the front of the deck, two men watched the image of a holodisplay unfold between them and the vessel's viewports. The projection detailed a tactical appraisal of an engagement between Republic and Imperial naval forces, numerous blips marking each side's forces, until the opposing forces were removed from the battlefield. As the two men stood side by side, the smaller and elder of the two offered a slight smirk at the display.

Admiral Fiernan. Human male, aged 58. The officer possessed a worn and aged face wrought by years serving within the harsh hierarchy of Moffs and Sith, but managed to maintain the image of propriety assumed of a high ranking Imperial. He wore a pristinely white uniform, decorated with the various symbols of rank and past service, his receding hairline hidden under a matching cap. Commander of his own fleet, master of a multitude of vessels and warships, the man had long ago abandoned the frontlines, and his thin, almost frail physique proved as much.

The man at his side, however, was anything but frail. In fact, he differed from his commanding officer in many ways. And yet everything about him seemed to be an emulation of sorts, enacted by both his own will and by necessity. For he was the only non-Human standing on the bridge.

Malaf'era'sidoru. Core name "Feras". Chiss male, aged 33. Tactical Advisor and Security Liaison. He stood a head taller than the admiral, who was of average height, and possessed a remarkably trained physique. He wore a dark gray officer's uniform, but it showed no sign of rank or privilege, as he possessed none. He was not an official member of the Imperial Navy. He was a foreigner, an alien, on lease from the Chiss Ascendancy. His face might be considered handsome amongst those he surrounded himself with, if not for the striking blue skin and piercing red eyes that alienated him from the Human crew.

As the admiral watched the details of his apparent victory with budding glee, Feras observed patiently, arms folded behind his back, face stoically directed forward. His eyes darted between the more minute readings offered by the projected display. Power readouts of the Imperial Dreadnoughts, casualties amongst the fighters and bomber squadrons, movement vectors and other details.

"I've finally done it," Fiernan muttered to himself. The admiral possessed a coarse, but delighted tone. Ripping his gaze from the tactical readout, he looked to the officer manning communications a short distance away to issue a command. "Patch us through to Grand Moff Kilran."

The officer offered a quick affirmation and began tapping away at her terminal. The holoprojector rescinded its tactical readout, and the admiral and his advisor were left with a clear view out the bridge's forward viewports. Fiernan gazed into the stars that dotted the empty space in front of him, his head held high and a comforting delight pulsing through his veins. A few moments later, the holoprojector began to flicker back to life, this time emitting the image of the Imperial Grand Moff.

Rycus Kilran. Human male, aged 49. Military commander second only to the Minister of War. A man strong in both body and mind, capable of inspiring both courage and fear. The left side of his face was covered in scars earned in the fire of battle, the Grand Moff was a charismatic figure to his people, and the embodiment of terror to his enemies. The man presented himself with utmost composure as his image looked down upon the admiral.

"Ah, Admiral Fiernan. I take it you have something to report?" Kilran suggested. He spoke with the smooth regality expected of an Imperial Moff, but his words carried an additional impact born from years of military service.

"That's right, sir," Fiernan quickly replied alongside a dutiful bow of his head. "I'm happy to report that my operation was a success. The interdiction technology performed as predicted and Torrid Squadron is no longer a threat."

"Did you conform to the established parameters?" asked Kilran.

"We may have strayed slightly beyond our projected losses, but we successfully carried out the mission in such a way that the Republic cannot retaliate without serious repercussions," Fiernan reported. "And now Admiral Trevel's pet project is officially out of commission."

"You managed to successfully eradicate them, then?"

"We destroyed six of the twelve, including their commander," Fiernan explained.

There was a pause as the Grand Moff stared down the admiral. "You were unable to destroy a single squadron with two fully stocked Dreadnoughts at your command? Am I understanding you correctly?"

"Yes… sir," Fiernan stumbled. "But we had to make sure we didn't accidentally-"

"If I may," Feras interrupted. His voice immediately contrasted with that of the admiral's, possessing a low, smooth tone. "The point of the operation was never to fully eradicate the pilots of Torrid Squadron. It was always our intention to allow a certain number to escape. Had they been wiped out, the Republic would be more inclined to respond, and the resources dedicated to them would just be pushed along to the next project. By leaving some part of the group intact, the Republic wastes time and resources determining how to proceed and how to rebuild what they've come to rely on. This was the best possible outcome."

The Grand Moff slightly turned his head, affixing his gaze toward the Chiss, offering only a stern silence. The admiral violently cleared his throat before placing a hand on his advisor's tall shoulder.

"I apologize for my subordinate speaking out of turn, but what he said is correct," Fiernan stated. "Torrid Squadron had become more than twelve pilots and their advanced ships. They were a symbol to the Republic. Now that symbol is broken, and the more they try to mend it, the more shattered it will become."

"I've little time for supposition and theory, admiral," Kilran declared. "Especially when it involves risking valuable military assets. I authorized your operation because Trevel and Torrid Squadron were a considerable threat. If it turns out that that threat has not been neutralized, you will not escape punishment."

"I understand, sir," Fiernan humbly stated. "But what of the interdiction technology?"

"Technology that can only be utilized with prior knowledge of the target's route and severely diminishes whichever vessel it is installed within? I'm afraid I don't see it proliferating amongst the fleet," Kilran sardonically offered. "I await your official, and factual, report on the operation. Kilran out."

The image of the Grand Moff flickered and dissipated as the transmission ended. The admiral took a deep breath and exhaled before turning around to face the rest of the bridge.

"Maintain your posts, keep in contact with the forward fleet, keep me informed of any new developments," Fiernan ordered.

As the bridge officers went about their assigned tasks, the admiral stepped away from the holoprojector and waved for Feras to follow. The Chiss heeded his direction, moving closely behind his superior officer. Stepping out from the bridge, the two walked the corridors of the Gage-class transport, free of the eyes and ears of the vessel's staff. Feras moved out from behind the admiral, walking side by side with him.

"How many times have I told you that you aren't to speak out of turn? Especially when I am conversing with the Grand Moff," Fiernan chastised his advisor. "You are an alien with no rank. You're supposed to be my bodyguard. What if Kilran thought that it was you who came up with our plan?"

"I did come up with our plan," Feras coldly stated.

"Yes, but coming from you, it has no merit," Fiernan stated. "Had you suggested it in the first place, we'd have never received authorization. Then where would we be? Hmm? Trevel and his prized squadron would be free to harass us as they've done for years and years. Now we no longer have to worry about them. We can rebuild our fleet, develop our interdictors into something that doesn't cause us to almost lose a dreadnought to a single fighter."

"It wasn't the interdictor's fault," Feras commented. "Had you followed the plan exactly as outlined, that situation would have never arisen."

"No plan, no matter how great, can fully predict how an enemy will act," Fiernan stated. "You don't know Torrid Squadron like I do."

"And yet, instead of completely destroying them, I managed to convince you to let some of them survive," Feras reminded. "Five to be exact. Which, had you properly executed the plan-"

"Need I remind you that your entire career rests in my hands?" Fiernan warned.

"From the way Kilran spoke, it would seem yours rests in mine as well," Feras coldly stated.
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Osetto
07.10.2013 , 10:31 PM | #8
Chapter Six


The next 48 hours came and went with no update for Torrid Squadron. Command was silent. The Senate sat on their hands. The six pilots knew the truth of the matter. There would be no response, no retaliation, no retribution for their lost comrades. The Empire had won. Not only that, but they did so with the knowledge that the Republic would be too afraid to move against them. The big picture meant the Republic couldn't risk upsetting the peace over the loss of six pilots. Meanwhile, the six living pilots struggled to find their own peace.

Within the hangar of the Den, six starfighters lay dormant. Six, where there ought to be twelve. As bright and well-kept as the open space was, there was an overwhelming darkness. The ship's entire crew gathered in the chamber's center. Scores of uniformed figures stood in rigid alignment, their heads bowed in silence. They surrounded six empty crates, each covered with tapestry bearing the insignia of the Republic Navy.

Officers. Technicians. Fellow pilots. They had all gathered to mourn the loss of some of the Navy's finest. Stepping from the crowd, a lone figure broke the ordered ranks, slowly making his way around the figurative coffins. Haron Gregard. Garbed in his officer's uniform, the Human wore a stoic facade, offering a picture of stalwart regality amongst the morose setting. Standing opposite the gathered crowd, the man stood tall, head held high, arms neatly folded behind his back.

"Today… we mourn the loss of our comrades, six men and women who gave their lives in service of their government and its people. It is a dark day for the Republic… for the Navy… for Torrid Squadron…"

The pilot panned his gaze across the gathered attendees, the other members of Torrid Squadron standing directly across from him. The five pilots had traded their flightsuits for formal garb much as he had, also emulating his stoic presence.

"But even in our darkest days, we must not abandon hope. We must believe that, eventually, the dawn will come. But it does always come easy. Sometimes it is up to us to shine the light, to cast off the darkness. And until we do, we and the ones we care for remain helpless, scared, and blind. This is not the end for Torrid Squadron. We will rebuild. We will recover. But most importantly, we will remember."

Haron paused to take a deep breath, releasing it a moment later as the gathered pilots and crewmen watched in complete silence.

"Dala Kaarn, a dedicated and loyal pilot. Bella'varao, a fighter to the end. Breks Delgo, a calm mind and a kind heart. Dreb Renub, a friend to all. Wess Soraldo, a patriot and loving father. And finally, Commander Nolante… he was the best of us. Six pilots. Six brothers and sisters. Gone, but not forgotten."

Haron raised a steady salute, each person in attendance reciprocating the action. As the lieutenant lowered his hand, the five pilots across from him were the final ones in the hanger to lower theirs.

"I know all of you are wondering where we go from here. And sadly, I cannot offer an answer. As unwilling as I am to allow Torrid Squadron to die, there is no clear path forward. We may never return to the way things were. We may be forced to split up, from one another, from the Den. I do not know. But I will not stand by and watch us be destroyed at the hands of the Empire, or worse, at the hands of the Republic. We have given so much to this government and its people, and I do not intend to stop giving anytime soon. But Torrid Squadron needs a new leader."

The lieutenant looked to his comrades, who each offered their own looks of support.

"No one could properly replace Commander Nolante, but it is our duty to press on, and to preserve the standard he set in place. A confirmation from Admiral Trevel and a senate oversight committee is required before someone can officially become the new commander of Torrid Squadron. But as Nolante's XO, I possess nominative authority as well as prime candidacy. However, I must announce… that I will not be submitting my name for the position."

The dead silence that hung over the hangar was suddenly disrupted as the gathered attendees found themselves murmuring to one another in disbelief. The other five pilots of Torrid Squadron remained quiet, but their wide eyes were enough to spell out their surprise.

"It's not enough to be a good pilot or tactician. A leader needs to be someone who can command respect from more than just their peers. They need to be someone worthy of being looked up to. By soldiers and senators. By the strong and the weak. By the young and the old. I, sadly, cannot be this person. But such a candidate does exist within Torrid Squadron. In reality, any one of us could take command, and we would follow them to the ends of the universe without a second thought. But for one individual, I believe them to be the key to Torrid Squadron's survival. Under their command, we can rebuild, and we can recover. That is why I am officially recommending the position of commander be filled… by Lieutenant Rem Altess."

The announcement struck the woman deep to the core, the last person expecting their name to be called. As the Human pilot stood at attention, she struggled to maintain her stoic demeanor. Rem's heart began to race as she remained silent, her comrades slowly laying their gazes upon her. On the outside, they saw the same collected and composed individual they had always known, even when she was out of formal attire. But on the inside, a weight pushed down on her unlike any she had experienced before. And under that strain, she realized that everyone was waiting for her response.

"I…" Rem muttered. Her eyes locked with the man opposite her, the man who had laid this burden upon her, the man who believed her more worthy than himself to assume the role of commander. And through those eyes, she could sense the unfiltered belief that man possessed in her. Standing tall, Rem offered a firm salute. "I'd be honored."

Haron reciprocated the salute. As did their fellow pilots. As did the ship's crewmen. Silence swept over the hangar once more, but it carried none of the moroseness of silences prior. Little had changed. There were still only six pilots where there ought to have been twelve. The battered chassis of the surviving starfighters sat along the edge of the hangar, a constant reminder of the pain they had endured. Torrid Squadron was still without an official leader, and it would be months before they could even resume operations. But through it all, there was a newfound assurance.

Torrid Squadron would survive.

End of Episode One
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Osetto
10.09.2013 , 03:00 PM | #9
Episode Two: “Recruits”


Chapter One


Flying through the vacuum of space, twelve Gallant-class advanced starfighters were drawing in on their target, and the only thing resting before them was a field of rocks ten times the size of their vessels. The heavy debris that littered their path required utmost precision to avoid, the squadron breaking and returning to formation multiple times.

"The Imperials have established an illegal space station in this sector," a female, monotonous voice sounded off in the starfighters' cockpits. "Your ships have been outfitted with a heavy ordinance load out capable of crippling the station's systems. You'll have no support on this mission, so you'll be dealing with the station's automated and starfighter defenses. Destroy that station. Good luck."

Circumventing a large asteroid, the Imperial station entered the pilots' views. The disked structure featured multiple hangars and pylons topped with turrets. A fielding station, the facility served as a jumping point for pushes deeper into Republic territory, capable of holding a full arrangement of fighters as well as refueling capital ships.

Moving into a wedge formation, the Gallant starfighters made the first strike, releasing a volley of blaster fire toward one of the turret pylons. The heavy bolts impacted with a shimmering flash as the station's shields absorbed almost the entirety of the energy. The element of surprise was lost, and the Imperials moved to strike back.

Squadrons of black and gray fighters poured from opposite hangars of the disked structure, setting the meager Republic forces in their sights. Remaining in formation, the Gallants moved beneath the station's belly. The reduced turret coverage meant they could focus on the swarming defenses.

Moving in unison, the Republic fighters targeted their foes and slowly began eliminating the lightly defended forces. But soon, the Imperials surrounded the tightly formed squadron, and began nipping at their heels. Laser fire rocked the shielded Gallant fighters. Sticking together, the squadron attempted to circle around, to outmaneuver the lithe Imperials, but found themselves unable.

The Republic squadron left the belly of the space station, seeking cover in the surrounding debris field. The Imperials followed, continually pestering them, slowly whittling away their shields. Soon the Republic pilots realized that the thing they had hoped to be their salvation, would prove to be their downfall. The asteroids floated and flowed, converging and parting, cutting off and inhibiting the fleeing starfighters. The nimble Imperial forces outmaneuvered their foes, continuing their assault.

Within the blink of an eye, things went horribly awry. Three of the Gallant fighters were crushed by one of the asteroids. Three more were felled by Imperial fighters. Half their forces diminished, the Republic squadron could only bide their time, until one by one they were reduced to mere scrap and particulate.

"Damn it!" a pilot cursed, tossing his headset at the screen ahead of him. The electronic panel faded its depiction of space until it went black and the surrounding instruments powered down. 'Please Exit' flashed in red on the screen and the hatch above slid forward. Begrudgingly, the pilot began removing himself from the cockpit.

The man climbed out of a wingless, stripped down chassis, into a compact chamber lined with more like it. A plethora of wires and electronic equipment flowed into and out of the simulators, a lone astromech sitting behind each one. On the walls in front of each chassis, a screen displayed the current occupant's status, actions, and progress in the mission.

In the center of the chamber stood Rem Altess and Haron Gregard in officer's garb. Both were pictures of formality, the lightly colored hairs atop their heads kept short and worn clean. The leader of Torrid squadron divided her attention between the twelve, now eleven, active screens, while the executive officer intently studied the datapad in his hands.

"Nero Ferrid. Fail," Haron stoically declared, not lifting his gaze from the electronic tablet.

"You gotta be kidding me!" Nero shouted as he stomped across the chamber. The young Human wore a relaxed orange jumpsuit, mixing military and civilian garb. "How was that a fair test?"

"The simulation is a fair test of a pilot's skill, handling, and operational procedure," Haron explained. Rem kept her attention solely focused on the simulations still in progress.

"What're you talking about? Asteroid fields aren't that dense," Nero declared.

"That was technically a debris field," Haron quickly replied.

"You would never field ships that sluggish in an operation like that," Nero emphatically stated.

"In the right hands, the Gallant-class starfighter is more than capable of handling an operation of this sort," Haron explained. "Your hands obviously aren't the ones we're seeking. Please, exit the testing area."

"What if the simulation was off, huh?" Nero asked. "What if your droid miscalculated or something? I mean, I only controlled one ship, how do explain the loss of the other eleven?"

"The TS-AA constructed the simulation from recordings it took from an actual mission," Haron declared, finally lifting his eyes from the datapad to cast his sharpened gaze at the protesting pilot. "We know it's possible because we were there. As for the other pilots, the simulation takes cues from you, its leader, to guide their actions. You failed. Your team failed. End of story. Each and every pilot of Torrid Squadron is capable of being its commanding officer. If you are incapable, then you are unworthy of a spot on this team. Please, exit the testing area."

The failed applicant stared down the executive officer before storming out of the chamber in a huff. Returning to his datapad, Haron resumed pouring over the constant stream of information he was receiving.

"Have you requested the next applicant?" Rem softly asked, her eyes still darting between the simulation screens that lined that walls.

"Yes, sir," Haron stated after a few taps on his datapad.

"Here's hoping they're more qualified… and even-tempered," Rem commented.

"When you put out the call for hotshot pilots, you're going to get hotshot pilots. Namely, the hotshot pilots that were passed over back when we were recruited," Haron declared.

The sound of the door opening behind them momentarily drew the pair's attention. The tall humanoid that stepped through approached the commander and her executive officer with a pep and a bounce in his step. The figure's flightsuit held tight to the man's muscular frame whilst his head went unadorned, revealing him to be a Nautolan. The man's head-tendrils hung behind his shoulders, and he wore a beaming smile on his face. Taking his position in front of Rem and Haron, he stood a full head taller than the Human male.

"Zal Tobek, ready and able!" the Nautolan boisterously stated.

"Greetings," Rem offered, holding out a hand from behind her back.

The Nautolan took hold and gave it a firm shake. "It's an honor to be here, sir!"

"Well, we're proud to have you," said Rem.

"You will be tested in unit four," Haron interrupted. "You will be guided through the simulation and evaluated on your performance throughout. Good luck."

"Ba-boom!" Zal offered alongside a valiant of his arm before making his way to the empty simulator. The two members of Torrid squadron watched the Nautolan quickly climb into the electronic chassis, squeezing his large frame into the compact simulator.

"He's… enthusiastic," Rem commented. "How many applicants are left?"

"Seventeen."

"How many have completed the simulation?"

"Eight managed to finish the simulation. Five received passing scores. Two of those five managed to complete it with zero casualties," Haron listed.

"Will we have enough pilots for phase two?" Rem asked.

"It's difficult to say," said Haron. "But with the current trend we should have enough."

"Then I'll stay the night to recalibrate the simulators for linked operations," Rem revealed.

"Very well, commander. I'll make sure the others are ready for tomorrow's tests."

"How goes preparations for phase three?"

"We're still trying to find a suitable location," Haron admitted. "Republic worlds with the right features not currently in the process of political upheaval are in short supply."

"We'll find something. I know we will," Rem declared.

As the pair fell silent, the viewscreen above the ninth unit grew bright with the explosion of a destroyed Imperial space station.

"Pull up the data of number nine," said Rem.

Tapping away at his datapad, Haron looked over the pilot's data. "Chanta, aged 26. Graduated from the Naval Academy in-"

"Chanta? Just Chanta?" Rem interrupted.

The executive officer paused as he reviewed his datapad. "That's all it says." The data from the simulator popped on Haron's screen, giving a readout of her performance. "That's weird."

"Not really, people of certain species and cultures often only possess a single name," Rem explained.

"No, I'm looking over her results," Haron stated. "She managed to complete the objective, but there was a single casualty. Her."

"Was she caught in the blast at the last moment?"

"Actually, she crashed over two minutes prior," Haron revealed.

"The simulation shouldn't have been able to continue without a leader to guide the other pilots," Rem declared.

"I guess she did well enough for Tessa to see the simulation through to the end.”

Rem tore her gaze away from the screens to look at her executive officer. "Was that an option?"

"You tell me."

Emerging from unit nine, a pilot carefully climbed out and stepped away from the electronic chassis, scratching the back of her oblong head.

"That's technically a failure, you know," Haron quietly reminded the commander as the pilot slowly made her way toward them. Rem remained silent, studying the approaching figure. A yellow flightsuit encased her body up to the neck. Two long tendrils hung from the back of her head, and two stubby ones hung from the front of her fishlike face. Her skin was a dark blue, and possessed an almost aquatic sheen. Only a few meters away, the commander recognized her as a Selkath.

"Chanta, correct?" Rem softly called out.

"That right, sir," Chanta replied, a natural grit in her voice. As the two locked eyes, the Selkath forced herself to keep her head up.

"You passed. Report back tomorrow for the next phase of testing," Rem calmly directed.

"Of course, sir!" Chanta replied, shooting off a quick salute after she collected her senses. The commander reciprocated and offered a firm nod as the Selkath made her way toward the exit.

"An odd assortment we seem to be collecting," Haron commented as his gaze fell back to his datapad.

A slight curl appeared on Rem's lips. "Any stranger than what we had before?"

"No. I suppose not," Haron eventually replied.

The commander's eyes continued to absorb the information displayed on the screens above the simulators. Each possessed different pilots at different stages in the mission. Each possessed a unique individual employing different skills and maneuvers. Each possessed a person of suitable rank and background to join Torrid Squadron. But in order to fill one of the six open slots, they would have to prove themselves worthy. A task not easily accomplished.

Eventually, Rem's gaze settled on the blank screen above the newly unoccupied simulator. "Send in the next applicant."
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Osetto
10.09.2013 , 03:02 PM | #10
*Edit*
Chapter One previously split into two posts due to forums not liking posts over a certain word count. Full chapter has been edited into previous post.
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