“On your left!”
The Nomad banked right in time for Onecup and the Pathfinder to cut through oncoming enemies, lighting up the sky with a string of explosions. It looked like those simulations had paid off alright. The Rodian was truly coming into his own as a pilot. Bale sunk back in his seat, puffing his cheeks and blowing out. This had to be the fifth time the kid saved his backside in this skirmish. He reckoned he’d never hear the end of it.
They weren’t out of the woods just yet. The Spear, Tavros’ Marauder-class flagship, had been taking heavy fire since coming out of hyperspace and guiding Zentru’la and his team to the Durga. Helos Squadron was down to half-strength and the Nomad had taken more than its share of hits. In fact, his backend was smoking like a Gamorrean steam bath.
Bale flipped the comms and contacted Erinyes.
“Andros here, we gotta pull out or we’re pfassked, boss,” he announced, ashamed of the sudden squeak in his usual gravitas.
There was no immediate response. By the amount of explosions and turbolasers filling the sky over Arx, he didn’t blame her. If she wasn’t already a carbonized smear on the galactic background, she was fighting not to become one. Just like he was. He hoped she was faring better.
He switched the comms back to squadron frequency and announced, “Onecup, bring her around. Helos, on me. Sandflies on the Bantha. Spear, begin away maneuvers. We’re done here.”
Helos Squadron and Onecup came up on the Nomad and they swerved as one, gunning down the enemy resistance. One of his guys went up in flames, and another lost his thrusters and ended his flight against the Spear’s hull. Onecup took a glancing hit, then another, then whipped out of a third shot’s trajectory, nearly colliding with a Helos Z-95. Bale hissed under his breath.
Something caught the corner of his eye, the flare of engines leaving one of the Collective frigates. He craned in his seat. There was definitely something out there and it didn’t look like starfighters. He punched a command into the Nomad’s computers and brought the radar up on screen.
“Onecup, are you seeing this?” he asked.
“What’s that, boss?” The Rodian sounded confused.
“Transports, starboard side.”
“Copy. I see them. Looks like they’re heading for—”
“Shiess,” Onecup answered, echoing his thoughts.
Bale punched the dashboard, then kicked it. Then he called the ground team.
“Alright, Zen. We’ve got troop transports heading your way. We are moving to intercept,” he announced. He was half-surprised by his own words. If they didn’t get out of there now, they likely weren’t leaving. “Better ready yourselves.”
“Copy that, Andros. Thanks for the heads up,” answered Zentru’la’s controlled baritone. The man never lost his cool, no matter the circumstance. Bale didn’t know if he liked that or if it annoyed the ever living milk out of him. He reckoned it was probably both.
He turned his attention to the task at hand. “Spear continue away maneuvers but don’t jump yet. Helos, we have a new target. Onecup, dock with the Spear.”
“Not a chance,” was the Rodian’s response.
A big, toothy grin split the Zabrak’s face. Guess the kid didn’t forget his coonies after all! He didn’t like the thought of Onecup getting blown up, but then the boy was his own master. “You’re choice, kid.”
There were six enemy transports on intercept trajectory with the Durga, with a full squadron of fighters running point. The odds weren’t good for Helos, but then, when were they ever? Bale, for his part, did what he did best: he ran headfirst into the fray guns blazing and yelling obscenities at the enemy. His squadron did the same. It was like flying into a flock of birds, except the birds were shooting back. He held the yoke white-knuckle tight, dodged left and right as turbolasers grazed the Nomad. He swung again and this time rammed one of the oncoming fighters, the Nomad’s reinforced hull tearing through the weaker ship like a wrecking ball.
Bale burst through the escort, his guns trained directly on the front transport. He flicked a switch then slammed his hand down on the away button. A missile shot out of the Nomad’s retrofitted launcher. It struck the enemy ship head on, which belched black smoke and spun off course right into the trajectory of an Helos fighter. Both ships disintegrated on impact. Onecup shot past the Nomad cannons blazing. Despite the VCX starfighter’s lesser agility, the Rodian kid managed to take out the second ship’s propulsors. Helos fighters finished the job.
They destroyed a third ship before everything went sideways and the enemy escort came back around. This time they were ready. They shredded through Helos Squadron like a Sith did through soldiers in a hallway. They didn’t stand a blasted chance. The Nomad took another hit, shuddered and Bale braced himself. It didn’t blow up. That’s a relief, he thought.
“Head for the Spear! Head for the Spear!” he shouted again and again.
What remained of Helos Squadron veered away from the fight, Bale and Onecup in tow. They flew for the Spear, thrusters blazing, but the enemy wasn’t done with them. The Marauder-class warship’s cover fire did little to dissuade the Collective. When the Nomad finally landed inside the ship’s hangar bay, there were only four of them left.
“Alright folks. We make for the Bulwark. Regroup. Resupply. This battle is just beginning. Let’s get ready for round two.”
None of this sat well with him, not with his folks still on the Durga but he reckoned he didn’t have much of a choice.
“Good luck, old man. Be safe.”
Pfassk, I need a drink.