One hour later, the Arconan forces that had volunteered for the mission were gathered at a navigational buoy a short hyperjump away from the stricken Star Destroyer. Shade Squadron, with their cloaked TIE Phantoms, had already headed into the area, along with a single fighter from Lightbane Squadron. The first stage of Andrelious plan was for the member of Lightbane to act as a mercenary who had escaped the destruction of their group. The pilot chosen was a young Human female, who, according to the Arconan Rollmaster, had the best accent for the job. Her fighter had been deliberately damaged by her squadron mates, to the point that it showed signs of severe engine trouble. As far as Inahj could tell, the act had held up. The Arconans were not listening to the events unfolding nearby for fear of detection.
“Right. Hit it NOW!” Andrelious ordered, having watched the timer on his Stealth-X cockpit. With perfect precision, the rest of the gathered Arconan fighters jumped into hyperspace. Seconds later, they were back in realspace. The familiar wedge shape of an Imperial-class Star Destroyer greeted their exit. The Warlord turned his ship, looking for the Lightbane X-Wing and the Phantoms of Shade. The plan had called for the Shades to wait while the Hell’s Gate contacted the ‘mercenary’, whilst whichever One Sith squadron was on patrol would begin to investigate the situation more closely. Shade would then decloak and pounce, right as Inahj and the other fighters hypered in. The general intent was to instill a mass panic in the crew of the Star Destroyer, and give the Arconans enough time to eliminate the first One Sith-led squadron before the others could be launched.
Immediately it was clear that things had not quite gone to plan. The debris of several TIEs filled the immediate area. Inahj counted the number of friendly signals on his sensors, and frowned beneath his helmet. Though he was only able to make an educated guess, his instincts told him that Shade had been hit badly. The enemy squadron was apparently flying in TIE Advanced, a deeply Imperial design, whilst the Arconans, even Andrelious, were flying in what the Warlord considered ‘Rebel’ technology.
“Just pick a target. Keep the bombers as safe as you can. Devastator, your B-Wings are fast enough to help with the fighter screen for now! We have six minutes before the Jispnir gets here. And remember, you’re fighting against Sith pilots here! You’ll need all your starfighter savvy right now!” Inahj radioed, clearly frustrated at the fact his plan had been at least partially foiled. He quickly targeted the nearest TIE Advanced, and fired a salvo of crimson laser directly at the fuselage of the Imperial starfighter. Its pilot was evidently one of the Force blind members of the TIE squadron as he flew almost directly into the laser fire, totally unaware of the Stealth-X near him. Valtiere and Graus quickly recorded similar kills, but all three ex-Voidites were looking for a bigger prize. The One Sith pilot.
“Sir, this is Shade 1. We’ve lost five friendlies. The frakking Sith pilot must have realised we were here!” the voice of Commander Kianan crackled. To his credit, the Selenian had taken the situation as professionally as ever, despite the relatively large losses inflicted upon his squadron. Inahj chose not to acknowledge the message. Usually he liked to keep the comm chatter going on during battle, but, with enemy Force users present in the area, it was important to keep focused on the job at hand. He also remembered that doing so whilst flying a StealthX was inadvisable due to the fact it would give his position away, even if only temporarily.
The three ex-Void pilots began to turn the tide of the battle a little. It was obvious that the pilots of the enemy TIEs had never encountered a StealthX before, which made a welcome relief after facing enemies that had long known about Arcona’s possession of such fighters. However, one TIE kept several steps ahead of the Arconans, while racking up the kills against the XJ-Wings and B-Wings. Inahj inferred that this pilot was the One Sith member. Certainly the Force imprint coming from the enemy starfighter agreed with this theory.
Andrelious frowned as his sensors announced the arrival of another twenty-four TIE Advanced. The Hell’s Gate had sent two more of its squadrons into battle. The fight itself was taking place several klicks away, despite the efforts of the Faust-allied pilots to drag it into the range of the Star Destroyer’s turbolasers. Even the greenest of the Arcona Starfighter Corps members were not foolish enough to fall for such a strategy, simply waiting for the withdrawing craft to re-enter the furball whilst concentrating on other enemies.
With another two squadrons for the Arconans to deal with, the battle again swung towards the Hell’s Gate and its fighters. Messages begging for assistance echoed over Inahj’s radio, often followed by the scream of a pilot who’d just lost their ship. Many from both sides had ejected and were floating in space on rather limited air supplies, hoping in vain for a rescue. Meanwhile the seconds ticked down. The Jispnir was now only four minutes away. With the situation as it was, things were nowhere near ready for the Corvette’s entry. Even if the Arconans could pare down the number of enemy fighters, there were still up to three more squadrons in reserve, and that didn’t take into account the chance of other combat capable ships that were typically found on an Imperial owned Star Destroyer. Whilst the Hell’s Gate was long taken from its original owners, there was no way of being certain what was left onboard.
Firing at and destroying another TIE Advanced, Andrelious scrolled through the enemies on his targeting computer. Eventually he settled on one. He had grown tired of being subjected to the occasional harassment of the One Sith pilot, who had now been joined by his two colleagues. Each was baring down on one StealthX, and whilst Valtiere and Andrelious had little issue in evading, Graus was not so fortunate and had been hit several times. Inahj now gave chase to the pilot that would not leave the Templar alone, firing several volleys of laser fire and a pair of advanced missiles at the enemy Force user.
The One Sith inside the TIE began to manoeuvre about to evade the warheads. Graus immediately made the most of the reprieve, and destroyed a Force-blind piloted enemy. His kill count was tiny compared to that of Valtiere and Andrelious, and even some of the ‘professional’ pilots in the Starfighter Corps had managed more kills, but his efforts were far from meaningless. Inahj was certainly glad to have the help of both the Qel-Droma Quaestor and the Templar.
Slowly the Arconans began to whittle down the enemy numbers. Their own losses were stacking up, too, however, with Lightbane Squadron particularly hard hit. That squadron was now down to two fighters, whilst Silver Night were reduced to six. The enemy now possessed nine TIE Advanced, but three of those were piloted by One Sith. Andrelious kept one eye on the timer he had set. It told him that the Corvette was now ninety seconds from its own entry. As he turned his head back to the theatre of combat, he smiled as he saw Dark Sight’s K-Wings launch their salvoes of torpedoes. There were several dozen warheads, each targeted on one of the shield towers on the Hell’s Gate’s bridge. The number of torpedoes, especially considering the fact they were the later ‘advanced’ model, would easily prove enough to destroy the towers, but the Dark Sight pilots knew the majority of warheads would be destroyed by the Star Destroyer’s turbolasers.
The launch of warheads was enough to encourage a pair of the TIE Advanced to give chase to the Dark Sight K-Wings. Sperlan Trackx, whose Devastator Squadron had lost six of their number whilst helping with the space superiority mission, ordered his wingmen to give chase. Lightbane’s remaining duo joined the ex-Taldryan pilot in doing so, and easily intercepted the TIEs, leaving the Hell’s Gate forces with just a handful of ships to resist the Arconan charge.
As he bore down on a One Sith enemy, Andrelious noticed two dozen new signals. Two more squadrons, one of TIE Advanced and one of Defenders, had just launched from the enemy capital ship and were headed their way. He could tell from the Force that they were entirely Force-blind piloted, but he did not relish the idea of that many more enemies, especially as the number of Arconan ships continued to dwindle.
The torpedoes reached within a klick of the Hell’s Gate. The Star Destroyer’s turbolasers began to fire on the warheads. Many were destroyed by the precise defensive system, but the sheer volume of them allowed a few to sneak through. With a series of brightly coloured explosions, the shield generator towers buckled, then exploded. Another bright flash indicated to the expert eyes of the pilots that the capital ship’s shield system had failed.
Having destroyed the shields, the K-Wings turned away from their target and prepared to withdraw. Andrelious had been informed that the Jispnir and its crew would have to be credited with the killing blow if they were to be paid. Now that the Star Destroyer’s shields had been eliminated, the Corvette’s chance of victory was much greater.
Andrelious watched as the timer in his fighter reached nought. The Jispnir hypered in moments later, making a run for the enemy starship. The Hell’s Gate was slightly out of range of the Corvette’s guns, but its own longer range weapons began to lock onto their newly arrived enemy. Inahj knew that the mercenary ship could not take too much damage, but he could not afford to move away from his own battle with the One Sith pilots and their few remaining wingmen. Instead, it was the remnant of Devastator Squadron that assisted the Jispnir, as they targeted the individual weapon systems with their own advanced targeting equipment. A pair of proton torpedoes to each gun battery was enough to render them out of action, but Devastator weren’t intending on stopping there. They continued to fly towards the damaged Star Destroyer, switching to ion cannon fire.
Meanwhile, Inahj and his fellow Void veterans had managed to help reduce the resistance down to the trio of One Sith pilots, but at great cost. Lightbane were left with a single damaged fighter, whilst Silver Night had been totally eradicated. Shade, or what was left of them, had exited the combat area long ago. This left the battle as virtually three on three, as the last Force-blind pilot limped away, electing to hyperspace out rather than risk their own starfighter.
As soon as that Destroyer goes up, we’re out of here. The contract was to kill the Hell’s Gate, not the One Sith pilots! Andrelious declared, using the Force to broadcast the message to his allies.
They’ve got no chance without further assistance, and you know it! Look. The Hell’s Gate just launched a squadron of TIE Bombers. Valtiere replied as he jinked away from enemy fire.
The Warlord knew his ally had a point. Sure enough, twelve TIE Bombers made their way towards the Jispnir. The two Y-Wings had launched, but would prove inadequate against such odds. Even if Devastator, whose B-Wings were approaching ion range, were able to disable the Hell’s Gate, there was little they’d be able to do against twelve fully armed Bombers.
The B-Wings fired their ion cannons. Bursts of blue energy slammed into the hull of the beleaguered Star Destroyer, eventually overloading its systems and disabling its defences. At that precise moment, the Jispnir rapidly increased its speed, whilst firing the entirety of its guns at the Hell’s Gate. The lasers scorched along the hull of the formerly Imperial starship, causing its hull to breach in a number of places. The TIE Bombers, however, were still bearing down on the Corvette and fired an entire salvo of torpedoes. Though he was in a tight turn war with an enemy pilot, Inahj was able to estimate that there were over three dozen warheads bearing down on a ship that could survive being hit by only five.
Andrelious feinted past a One Sith pilot. The enemy was clearly beginning to get a little frustrated as they slipped straight into Valtiere’s firing line. The Qel-Droman Quaestor made no mistake in firing several rounds of laser fire. As they hit, the One Sith owned TIE turned away from the combat area at high speed, hypering away seconds later. Its two colleagues did the same moments later, determined to self preserve.
All that effort and we didn’t kill a single One Sith. Valtiere thought.
The mission was to eliminate the Hell’s Gate…and the Jispnir. There was a little attachment to the files I got from Priest Nortorshin. Luckily those fools on the Corvette were swayed with promises of millions of credits. I’ll tell you later. Andrelious answered, smiling as he watched the mercenary vessel fire desperately at the incoming warheads. It bravely destroyed a third of what had been sent its way, but the sheer number of torpedoes was just too overwhelming for a CR-90 Corvette, and it soon exploded. Seconds later, Devastator fired several rockets in the direction of the Hell’s Gate, before hypering away.
We’ll take the Bombers, then clean up any other loose ends. Inahj instructed, firing an advanced missile at the nearest stranded TIE Bomber, before targeting another. The three ex-Voidites, with such superior craft and with piloting skills that far exceeded the pilots of the Bombers, had destroyed the squadron in mere seconds. The Hell’s Gate, despite the damage it had taken, was still hanging on, though its hull was breached badly in several locations. A number of shuttles had launched from the starship and were fleeing the area. Each StealthX pilot gave chase to a shuttle, quickly dealing with it before turning to another.
Finally, once Andrelious was satisfied, he fired his remaining payload into the Hell’s Gate. Valtiere and Graus, who had been more conservative with their warheads, followed suit. The missiles, though they were not designed for attacking a capital ship, did enough to further wreck the Star Destroyer. It was not entirely destroyed, but that did not matter to Andrelious. As far as he was concerned, the enemy vessel was neutralised. He made a note to have other Arconan forces come by later that day to finish the job.
Thanks for the help, Voidites. I’ll see you in the cantina. Andrelious declared, hypering away.
One hour later
“So. Are you going to tell us what this file that you were given was about?” Valtiere asked as he sipped on a drink.
“As Marick likes to say, I’m going to show, not tell.” Andrelious replied, sliding his datapad at his ally.
Addendum: Corvette Jispnir
Intel: The Corvette, despite claiming to be a mercenary group, has been caught transmitting sensitive data to Clan Naga Sadow. Go along with the mission as planned, but make sure the Jispnir doesn’t make it out alive.
“And what of the Hell’s Gate? My computer told me it was only a few torps away from destruction,” the Battlemaster queried.
“I had Dark Sight go back and finish it off. As I said, the mission called for the end of the Hell’s Gate. Nothing about exactly how I had to do it.” Andrelious replied, with a smirk.
“I really think you’ve bent the rules a little too much, Inahj.” Valtiere answered, knowing his colleagues would not be pleased to hear about his former Commander’s methods.
“I’ll worry about that later. Shall we drink to Void?” the Warlord stated simply, raising his glass.
Graus and Valtiere raised their glasses in unison.