Victory-class Star Destroyer Bastion
For the first time in a very long time, Erinyes climbed into the cockpit of a Brotherhood-flagged starfighter.
It wasn’t where she wanted to be, really; if the Taldryan Consul had had her way, she’d be in the thick of the battle she knew was coming aboard Mattock Station, hewing through scores of Collective troops with her lightsaber. Then she’d spent the trip to the Arx System listening to the Clan’s top military leaders insisting that her job was to oversee the entire battle. Erinyes had, in turn, informed them in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t spend the entire battle stuck on the Bastion’s bridge.
The argument had gone back and forth until one officer suggested that, with the Secutor-class Star Destroyer that carried most of Taldryan’s starfighter corps out of action, maybe the Consul could take the field in one of Tempest Squadron’s spare TIE/D Defenders? It would at least let her get in on the fight, the brave soul had reasoned, while both ensuring Erinyes had a high-level view of the battle and reinforcing Taldryan’s depleted fighter forces.
It was a compromise solution, and like any good compromise, it left everybody angry—but it also let them get on with tackling the real issue. Taldryan’s Summit and their military advisors (minus Zxyl, of course) had spent the rest of the hyperspace voyage working out the best plan they could. The Clan’s naval forces were no match for the firepower of an entire Collective battle group, especially with the Resurgent in drydock. The Severian Principate’s fleet was en route, but it was up to Taldryan to keep Mattock Station’s shields online until then.
Luckily, Taldryan had plenty of its own soldiers to bring. Rian, Vodo, and Appius would take to the field with the battle-hardened Dark Fire Brigade, supported by the elite Typhojem and Derriphan assault battalions and the skittish Sephi spy and assassin, Dasha. Two squadrons of TIE/D Defenders, Tempest Squadron and the Summit Guard’s Hyperion Flight—with Erinyes flying as Hellcat One—would escort the strike team to Mattock Station.
Meanwhile, Battle-Team Tavros had volunteered to capture a hostile capital ship and using it to wreak havoc among the enemy forces. Based on the scans Zxyl had been able to provide, the Collective Dreadnaught Durga was the most viable target. One of Ektrosis’ members, a recently-arrived Battlemaster named Meleu, had volunteered to join Ankira, Aylin, and Zentru’la in their assault while Bale and the Z-95 Headhunters of Helos Squadron flew escort for Zentru’la’s Upsilon-class command shuttle. If all went well, Aylin would be able to use her slicing expertise and the Collective’s reliance on automation to steal the Dreadnaught right out from under their noses, then inflict as much damage as possible before the Collective had to destroy the Durga in self-defence.
A wicked smile crossed Erinyes’ face at the thought of the Collective reducing one of their own capital ships to scrap. Battle Group Scargill, the task force assaulting Mattock Station, was the same one that had stood by to invade Taldryan’s home system while the Collective tried to turn its government against the Clan. That incident might not have erupted into open war, but as far as Erinyes was concerned, this battle was very much a grudge match.
“Two minutes to realspace reversion. Stand by to open bay doors.” The notice reverberated through Erinyes’ helmet speakers and pulled her back into the Defender’s cockpit. After a moment of staring dumbly at the fighter’s controls, the gears of her memory began to turn, and she worked through the rest of her pre-flight checks. Then a gentle wave of inertia marked the Bastion’s arrival in the Arx System, and klaxons sounded throughout the hangar as the doors began to retract. As the abyss revealed itself, Erinyes saw needle-thin spikes of green and orange erupt from gunmetal blurs trailed by ion-blue streaks. The forms of half a dozen Collective Dreadnaughts were easier to make out as they spewed fiery bolts at Mattock Station and Taldryan’s own flagship, the nigh-defenceless Resurgent.
“Hyp’rion Flight, stand by for launch.” Erinyes allowed herself a chuckle when she heard how the flight controller shortened the squadron’s name. In the chaos of battle, there was no time for extra syllables. “Hellcat One, stand by for launch. Three, two, one… launch!”
The force of the Defender’s acceleration pushed Erinyes back in her seat for a split-second, but abated as the craft emerged from the artificial gravity within the Bastion’s hangar, and her sensor board immediately lit up with green and red dots. A quick glance at another readout confirmed that the Collective was fond of Republic snubfighters. That was fine by Erinyes; plenty of those had died to TIE Defenders over the years.
Within a few breaths of chemical-tinged atmosphere, a swarm of Collective fighters had turned away from Mattock Station, ion trails collapsing into blue-white auras around them. A moment later, a familiar voice came over the comm: Andan Taldrya Marshall, leader of Hyperion Flight and overall commander of Taldryan’s starfighter forces in this engagement. “Fighter wing, engage the pointers on approach and keep ‘em off the transports. Stay away from the cap ships until our cruisers take down the Lancers.”
Erinyes spared a glance as Andan and the rest of Hyperion Flight peeled off from the rest of Taldryan’s fighters and dove toward the nearest frigate, then brought her Defender into formation with Tempest Squadron. The “pointers”—Imperial pilot’s slang for X-wings—were close enough now that she could make out the shapes of the fighters’ hulls through the engine glow. A yellow indicator started blinking on her HUD, signalling that one of the Collective pilots was trying to acquire a missile lock.
We’ll see about that, Erinyes thought. Throwing the Defender into a roll, she lined her targeting reticle up with the offending X-wing’s cockpit and squeezed the trigger.