Andrelious had already been waiting for some time when the convoy reached the rendezvous point. He was flying in his personal TIE Advanced, Sharpshoot, which was armed with its standard four laser cannons, along with sixteen advanced concussion missiles.
It had been many years since Inahj had been asked to fly an escort mission – such things were considered well beneath Arcona’s pilots. However, with the heavy level of resistance that Celevon had explained, it was apparent that the owners of the convoy wanted to severely beef up security this time.
The ex-Imperial smirked underneath his helmet. Years of training came flooding back to him. He examined the composition of the convoy. The lead ship was a BFF-1 Bulk Freighter, followed by a pair of Modular Conveyors and a Cargo Ferry. The rest of the escort consisted of a trio of Delta-class JV-7 Escort Shuttles. The presence of the JV-7s allowed Andrelious to rest a little easier, but he knew that he was in for a very hard time of it with no friendly starfighter support.
“You three. Stay close to the convoy. I’ll do my best to eliminate everything, but be prepared in case something should slip through,” Inahj ordered over his ship’s radio. The lead shuttle replied in affirmation.
Andrelious circled the convoy at a distance of 2 klicks as it began to amble its way towards the first waypoint. Two such waypoints existed, with a short microjump between them. The Warlord kept his eyes for trouble as he charged his shields to maximum strength, but his radars remained showing only the friendly vessels that made up his charge.
After fifteen minutes of inaction, the convoy began its microjump towards the next waypoint.
One down. One to go. Andrelious thought as he pulled his own ship into hyperspace.
The convoy exited hyperspace with Andrelious at point. The Warlord’s initial sensor sweeps of the area indicated that there were no immediate threats. The Arconan smirked, beginning another orbital patrol.
Maybe Edraven was wrong. All easy so far.
A small alarm among the TIE’s cockpit instruments sounded briefly. Inahj glanced up at his sensor readouts and frowned. A single A-Wing had entered, four klicks away. The Sith immediately targeted it, and began chasing it down. Visual contact indicated that the A-Wing had been painted jet black with silver trim, making it difficult to spot with the naked eye. The Rollmaster was easily able to sense the pilot, however, and the military grade sensors and targeting equipment also had no issue picking the enemy out against the blackness of space. This A-Wing was painted for style, not for stealth.
I must stop him! He’s just an advance scout! Inahj realised, switching armaments to his missiles. As his TIE closed into range, a light on the top of the targeting computer flickered ever reddening shades of yellow, before turning red, indicating that the missile was locked on and ready to fire. With no hesitation, the Warlord fired. The orange tinted warhead accelerated away in front of the Arconan, twisting and turning a little as it rapidly closed on its target. Andrelious elected not to fire a second missile, instead switching back to his laser cannons. If the missile hit, only a few laser bursts would be needed to finish the A-Wing off.
The missile smashed into the rear of the A-Wing with a fantastic explosion, its shields melted away by the warhead’s payload. Inahj squeezed the trigger on his joystick three times, smiling as the laser cannons responded by sending bursts of green plasma in the direction of his new found enemy. The smile soon turned to a frown as the A-Wing accelerated away into hyperspace.
“Frak! Now he knows I’m on my own!” Andrelious exclaimed, making sure his allies in the Escort Shuttle weren’t able to hear him.
Inahj turned his vessel back towards the convoy, peering constantly at his sensor readings. He was expecting the lead element of the strike force to hyper in at any moment, and from almost any direction. Such uncertainty made escort missions particularly tough. Andrelious much preferred to be on the attacking side, finding escort missions to be either exceedingly dull, or incredibly difficult, even for a pilot of his calibre. The Warlord was hoping that today’s contract was going to be the former, but was now resigned to a tough scrap against an unknown enemy.
The alarm that had announced the A-Wing’s entry sounded again. With another look at his sensors, Andrelious could see a large amount of hostiles had entered the area. The attackers, likely to be only the first wave, consisted of four A-Wings, including the one that he had previously damaged, and four Y-Wings. Inahj did not need more than a moment’s consideration to know the A-Wings would be going for him, whilst the Y-Wings would attack the convoy, perhaps attempting to attack the Escort Shuttles first. The enemy were 10 klicks out from Inahj, who was an additional two away from the convoy, giving him plenty of time to close to interception range before the Y-Wings would be able to fire off their warheads.
The A-Wings were all painted in a similar fashion to the one that Andrelious had already encountered, whilst the Y-Wings were coloured green. The Arconan briefly wondered if Halcyon had anything to do with the group, before targeting the lead A-Wing. He patiently watched the distance counter descend as he approached. As the TIE approached within three klicks, a warning light began to flicker orange. The light told Andrelious that the A-Wings were locking missiles onto his ship.
“I don’t think so. No Rebel ship gets the better of me!” Inahj said loudly, as if to talk to his enemies. He threw his ship into a barrel roll, desperate to throw the enemy warhead locks off of his ship. The warning light continued to flicker, whilst a second lit up red. Bursts of laser fire missed Sharpshoot by fractions of an inch as its pilot twisted and turned to evade the attacking A-Wings.
Andrelious was happy to allow the A-Wings to do the majority of the work. He knew he was a better pilot and that his ship was faster, more manoeuvrable and better armed, at least in terms of laser cannons. He suspected that each A-Wing carried up to twelve missiles similar to those he was using, whilst the Warlord now had seven, having wasted his first during his failed attempt to down the forward scout.
One of the A-Wings near collided with the TIE as the dogfight continued. Inahj made the most of the near miss to manipulate his enemy’s ship with the Force, nudging a number of its delicate systems slightly. This attack, unorthodox though it was, proved effective as the A-Wing span out of control. Andrelious chased it, following its path expertly. A few salvoes of laser fire later, and the Warlord had the first kill. The Rollmaster checked on the Y-Wings, finding they were still around eight klicks away – he had about two minutes before they could start firing warheads at the convoy.
Time to take those Wishbones down
Inahj banked Sharpshoot towards the bombers, remembering to constantly jink to avoid the ongoing laser fire from the remaining trio of A-Wings. Selecting the nearest Y-Wing on his targeting computer, he elected to save his missiles, instead opting to close in on the Y-Wings and eliminate them with his lasers. Such a strategy was much slower, but the Warlord was not willing to risk what few warheads he had on a group of older ships that probably did not represent the enemy’s main strength.
Andrelious was squeezing the trigger on his joystick within milliseconds of his instruments telling him he was in range. Burst after burst of green laser tore into one of the Y-Wings, its shields soon buckling under the constant attack. Inahj grinned as he continued to press on the assault on the beleaguered bomber, finishing it off with another few rounds from his lasers. The Rollmaster, still an Imperial at heart, loved to see the ‘Rebel’ ship explode into several pieces, and even allowed himself a quick smile as he moved onto the next Y-Wing. Again the enemy ship fell to the laser cannons of the TIE Advanced, leaving Inahj’s targets as two Y-Wings and three A-Wings.
Inahj frowned as the Y-Wings slipped into torpedo range, his sensors telling him they were already preparing to fire. He now had to act quickly. After despatching the third Y-Wing, the Sith focused on the last remaining bomber. He could sense its pilot about to fire a warhead. Acting on instinct, the Arconan commanded the Force to hold the torpedo in place in the Y-Wing. The warhead armed normally, but was unable to pass out of its launcher. It struggled and struggled against the Force-based hold that the Warlord had imposed upon it, before exploding, its payload enough to shatter the ship that carried it.
Now that Y-Wings had been dealt with, Andrelious was able to turn his attention back onto the A-Wings that continued to relentlessly pursue him as he whittled the bombers down. He targeted the nearest of the three, and quickly realised it was the one that had made the scouting run.
Not going to run this time?
With Imperial Academy textbook precision, Inahj locked his lasers onto his enemy, pressing the trigger many times. Laser bolt after laser bolt burned its way towards the A-Wing, which tried its best to jink away. Slowly, however, the lasers bored their way through the shields, eventually wrecking the rear of the ship. Andrelious left that A-Wing to burn away in space, turning his attention to his remaining two adversaries. He was just about to fire on the closer ship, when his instruments indicated further new arrivals.
This time, the arriving ships were in greater numbers, and were of more powerful classes than the first wave had been. Six B-Wings were already making their way towards the convoy – and six TIE Defenders were about to set their sights on Inahj. It also appeared that a Gamma-class ATR-6 Assault Transport had entered the area.
Things were getting interesting.
“All convoy craft, this is Inahj. There are a large number of B-Wings and an Assault Transport on their way towards you. Prepare for a capture operation. Get anyone that can fight armed and ready to fight off boarders. I’ll do what I can, but I’ve got half a dozen Defenders and two A-Wings after me.” Inahj broadcast. The Warlord, as good a pilot as he was, knew that the odds he was facing were troubling. The TIE Defender was a faster, better armed, and better protected starfighter than the TIE Advanced he was flying. Despite the design being nearly four decades old it was still a favourite among many. In fact, the Rollmaster had petitioned Marick to order several squadrons of them, rather than the XJ-Wings that the Arcona Consul had eventually plumped for.
The TIE Defenders rapidly closed the gap between themselves and Inahj. Warning lights in the Warlord’s cockpit flickered shades of orange and red as his enemies began to lock their weapons onto the ship. The ex-Imperial manoeuvred his ship around carefully, trying not to give away any signs of the desperation he was now feeling. The shields of a TIE Advanced were not the best. One well aimed missile and Kooki would be attending a wake, rather than a wedding. The Sith had charged his shields to full power, having not been hit yet, but that statistic was soon a distant memory as one of the Defenders zoomed past, scoring a hit with its laser cannons. Inahj dumped some laser power into the shields, restoring them fully. An alarm told the Sith that missiles had been launched against him, giving him no chance to do anything but evade. No less than four enemy warheads had been fired, each bearing rapidly down on Inahj. One of these sped towards the front of Sharpshoot, allowing Andrelious to dispose of it with his laser cannons.
As he entered a barrel roll, Inahj watched the path of two of the missiles. They were about to cross over each other, passing within a few inches. A quick nudge with the Force altered the trajectory of one of the warheads, turning a close crossover into a mutually destructive collision. With only a single missile remaining, Inahj made the most of the relative quiet and counter-attacked the nearest TIE Defender, managing several successful laser hits. The Defenders were mostly left in their original Imperial paintjob, though the tips of the wings were marked jet black. Andrelious inferred that black markings meant anti-starfighter squadrons, whilst green was used by the faction’s bomber units. He had noticed a flash of green on the B-Wings, further supporting this theory.
Firing more laser salvoes at one of the Defenders, the Warlord grinned as his enemy’s shields flickered in the tell-tale way they did when they had failed. The TIE Defender promptly accelerated away, entering hyperspace a few moments later.
Hmm. Guess they’re not risking losing Defenders for this operation. Perhaps they’re not that big after all. Inahj thought as the missile he had been evading burned out nearby. The closeness of the ongoing furball ensured that no further warheads would be fired – it was near impossible to get a lock for long enough in such circumstances. The lack of space also nullified a large part of the advantage that the TIE Defenders otherwise possessed. Andrelious knew he had to take some risks, however, as the B-Wings were edging into warhead range of the convoy.
As one of the Defenders flew past, the Warlord again called upon the Force to help him. In the cockpit of the Defender, the pilot was stunned to see his ejection lever move, seemingly by itself. As the ejector seat exited the powerful starfighter, the pilot was left with little but his own thoughts as to what had happened as his now pilot-less ship sped harmlessly away from the battle.
Andrelious was beginning to enjoy himself. The adrenaline rush that he got only by taking part in a space battle drove him on to attack another of his enemies, easily out calculating the Defender. This time the Rollmaster was able to successfully destroy the TIE before it could hyper away. Another two fell in quick succession, both failing to hit their hyperdrive activation levers in time. The space nearby was now littered with parts of A-Wing and TIE Defender, whilst Inahj chased down the A-Wings that had backed off while their TIE Defender allies attempted to despatch Andrelious. The Warlord made quick work of the first of the pair, whilst the second hypered away, clearly unhappy about the odds it now faced.
With the enemy space superiority fighters mostly dealt with, the Arconan started to chase the B-Wings. They were now only half a klick from being able to fire their torpedoes. The Assault Transport was also flying in formation with the bombers, also preparing to fire. Inahj decided to ignore the B-Wings, at first. The transport was a greater threat as it carried the boarding parties that would be used to ‘commandeer’ the freighters. As much as the B-Wings would cause problems, without a boarding party the pirates would not be able to take charge of the ships.
“Escort Shuttles, get ready to intercept torpedoes. You too, on the convoy. Some of your ships have turrets designed for this very task.” Inahj commanded. The most at threat ship was the BFF-1, which was unarmed. Cargo Ferries, however, were relatively well armed and there had even been a few documented cases of ships of that class being modified for use as light escort vessels.
The distance between Andrelious and the bomber wave reduced to the point that the Sith could fire warheads. Without a moment’s hesitation, Inahj fired four missiles at the Assault Transport. The pirates were clearly versed against such attacks, and began firing the ship’s turrets towards the missiles. Two were successfully destroyed, whilst the remaining pair escaped through the flailing defences and made contact, ruining the transport’s shields.
Smiling at the collapse of the Assault Transport’s shields, Andrelious pressed home the attack, firing his lasers at the larger ship. His own shields took a battering from the defensive fire, forcing him to turn away before he could finish the transport off. Unlike the TIE Defenders, however, the transport did not hyper away when it was threatened with destruction. Meanwhile, the B-Wings had launched several torpedoes towards the freighters, having had a clear run with the convoy’s escort occupied. Inahj tried his best to divert the warheads with the Force, but found the majority were already out of his reach, leaving him with little to do but hope that the convoy and its escorts would be able to deal with them themselves.
Looping around in space to come in for another run at the transport, Andrelious partially recharged his shields as he did so. With a few more well-aimed laser bursts, the Assault Transport’s hull armour gave up and the larger ship began to explode. A few klicks away, around half of the torpedoes were stopped by defensive laser fire, but the B-Wings kept on going. Inahj gave chase, re-closing to missile range in seconds. He fired the last of his warheads at the nearest B-Wing. The bomber was immediately overwhelmed by the payload the weapons carried, breaking apart under the extreme stress of the hull.
B-Wings, slow and lumbering though they were, were hated by Andrelious for their sheer durability. Now that he was out of missiles, he’d have to slowly chip away at the B-Wings as they plodded toward their target. All whilst evading the final TIE Defender, whose pilot appeared to possess a little more skill than his wingmen.
As he destroyed another of the B-Wings with his lasers, Inahj noticed the convoy accelerating. It had reached the waypoint and would now be safely clear of the area. It would now rendezvous with elements of the Arconan Navy and deliver its cargo. As soon as the freighters and Escort Shuttles were away, the remaining B-Wings disappeared too. The Warlord quickly had his flight computer note the jump trajectory. Later on that information would be passed back to Celevon and to the DIA, hopefully resulting in the elimination of whoever it was that was assaulting these convoys.
The final TIE Defender, however, did not hyper away. Instead, it continued on an intercept course. Inside its cockpit, the Defender’s pilot cackled as he launched a missile, WITHOUT having targeted Inahj.
The dumb-fired warhead fooled Andrelious’ tracking systems. The orange blur was on top of the Warlord in seconds, colliding with the rear of Sharpshoot as he began to turn around. The impact was enough to drain the TIE’s rear shields, though Inahj immediately transferred some power from his front shields to compensate. A quick analysis revealed that the hyperdrive was now out of action, whilst the explosion had also shattered the main targeting computer. The sensors were also flickering on and off.
“That frakking pirate!” Inahj cursed.
“Tsk. There’s no need for such harshness. Are we not the same?” a voice asked over the TIE’s communication system. Andrelious ignored the voice, instead choosing to activate Sharpshoot’s distress beacon. This was linked to the Arconan fleet: help would soon be on the way. With that job done, Inahj turned to face the enemy TIE Defender, not bothering to target it. Even with his damaged sensors, his years of starfighter savvy told him exactly which dot was the one to worry about.
The pirate fired another warhead, again without targeting the TIE Advanced. This time, Andrelious saw it in time and easily jinked away, before using the Force to jam the Defender’s warhead launchers.
“Must you use your parlour tricks? Can’t you just outfly me? I thought you were the greatest pilot in Arconan history!” the enemy continued to tease with his smooth, Corellian accent.
I don’t converse with pests. I eradicate them. Inahj thought, deciding to switch his commsystem off completely.
Both pilots began to chase each other in space. Andrelious made up for the deficit in speed and manoeuvrability by constantly changing his trajectory, altering both speed and course rapidly. This frustrated the Defender pilot greatly, especially now that he could not fire any more warheads. Any attempts to fire laser cannons were wasted as the TIE Advanced turned seemingly randomly through space, its damaged shields slowly recharging until they were fully restored. The damaged systems, however, remained out of action – a technician would be needed to get Sharpshoot fully operational again.
Despite his ability to evade his enemy proving adequate, Inahj found he had no way of countering his quarry. Clearly whoever he was facing was in the know as to he was and had at least some idea who Arcona were. The Rollmaster decided that he would leave identifying the man up to the DIA, if there was anything of him left after this conflict.
The stalemate continued for another few minutes. Andrelious remaining unable to completely shake the enemy off of his tail for more than a few seconds. Even trying the ‘ejection lever’ trick he had pulled on another pilot failed, his opponent grabbing the ejection lever and preventing it from activating.
Inahj was incredibly relieved when the Last Light arrived. He immediately turned towards it, not bothering to request docking permission. As he approached the Arconan capital ship, enemy still in tow, he suddenly slammed his emergency stop protocol. This feature, a modification he had recently added, stopped his TIE dead in space, but destroyed the engine. Its actual use was for Andrelious to prevent the ship from being stolen, but the tactic proved effective as the TIE Defender shot past.
“What the frak?” the Defender pilot exclaimed, before noticing his opponent had stopped. Smiling in victory, the pirate went to turn his ship around for an easy kill. The smile turned to a frown. The Last Light had activated its tractor beam! Even a starfighter as powerful as a TIE Defender could not escape the immense pulling power of the Arconan Cruiser.
Andrelious relaxed in the cockpit of his crippled TIE, knowing his enemies were dealt with, and the convoy was safe. A few days downtime for his ship was a small price to pay for what could prove to be an important victory.