[RoS: Escalation] Team Strongtails

Tali: Dark Jedi Brotherhood
Strong: Dark Jedi Brotherhood
Grot: Dark Jedi Brotherhood

“It looks so much bigger up close.”

“I have felled larger beasts. Size alone is insignificant.”

“That is still a pretty big ship—andt now it’s launching fighters.”

“Ah… The tussle before the kill. Very predictable behavior, yes.“

“You almost hadt me convincedt,” Tali sroka replied glumly as she fidgeted with a minor thruster tuning knob in her cockpit. Behind her, R3-N3 gave a binary sigh and undid the adjustment to maintain level flight. The sleek E-wing held its position beside the Trandoshan’s squat Star Wing, the assault gunboat bristling with firepower but still not matching the escort fighter, despite its upgraded engines.

Inside its angular cockpit, Grot licked his lips with anticipation. He had every weapon armed and ready and as more targets appeared on his scanner, he was feeling a familiar tingling in his trigger fingers. Space combat was not quite as fulfilling as hunting on foot, but there was a certain undeniable glee in turning an enemy fighter into a blazing inferno of scrap that spoke to his violent soul. And he could always rationalize it later as merely scrapping metal, rather than blasting the pilots within, that counted for something as well.

There seem to be quite a few of them out there, lady Sroka, a new, lower voice joined the comms exchange. I have no doubt in your abilities, but you are only two ships. Are you sure you would not benefit of some assistance? The concern was palpable, even if muted by decorum and self-restraint imposed by a Csillan upbringing.

“Ve can handle one squadron of TIEs between us, can’t ve, Grot? You just stay back andt keep yourselves safe from those bombers, Strong,” Tali replied, letting out a calming breath as she gripped the controls with renewed determination. A lot was riding on their success here, but the Force was with them, she was sure of it.

“Fighters inbound, cut the chatter,” Grot grunted, his reptilian mind now solely focused on the kill. “Cover me. I will draw their fire and break left.” All joviality had left his voice as the targeting matrix locked in on the lead TIE and he adjusted his deflectors for the inevitable first pass. It was the most dangerous of maneuvers, a mug’s game for sure, and he could tell the enemy pilot—no, enemy starfighter—was surely thinking the same. That would make their response predictable.

He aligned the jamming beam upon the lead TIE, muffling its comms and playing havoc on its targeting systems. The fighter swayed, no doubt from the pilot hastily trying to mitigate the sensor baffling, and that was the moment he opened fire.

Streaks of red lashed out, whizzing over and under the TIE’s bulbous canopy as Grot zeroed in his aim. The effect was immediate, as the distracted starfighter hurriedly blurted out a stream of emerald green return fire and broke formation, trying to evade the murderous fire.

The Trandoshan did not care. His eyes were already on the second fighter that found itself leaderless and struggling to contact the visibly still intact squadron commander. Confuse, disorient, demoralize, the same tenets he lived by on the hunt applied in the void as well. The hesitation to break cost the second fighter dearly, ruby red bolts from the Star Wing’s laser cannons perforating its starboard wing, the craft breaking apart a moment later as a major power conduit overloaded catastrophically.

The first pass concluded, Grot veered left as he passed through the enemy formation, the TIEs fleeting past his vision in a blur of grey and black. Flying in after the Star Wing, Tali managed to snap off a parting shot, catching a TIE in its port solar array but to little effect. Her own shields shimmered with a few near misses, but held firm as R3-N3 immediately rerouted power to ensure their integrity.

“The squadron is splitting up. Take care of the others, I will pursue these five. Good hunting.”

Tali would have liked to protest about him choosing the ‘lesser’ prey, but there was no time to argue in the middle of combat. There was but to do or die.

“Breaking right. May the Force be vith you.”

Grot snorted as he set his Star-wing into a roll. The Force has nothing to do with this he thought, firing his lateral thruster as he set up behind a disoriented TIE. Separated from the rest of it’s squadron, the pilot was desperately trying to get his bearings and rejoin his comrades after the violence of their initial assault. He smirked, squeezing the trigger and sending a spray of bright red bolts over the helpless fighter’s cockpit. His prey jerked left out of his sights, and the Trandoshan jerked the control stick hard to follow him, only for a spray of bright green bolts to slam into his shields. The console in front of him shrieked alarms as his portside power-coupling failed. The ship wobbled dangerously as the engines sputtered, and he raced to re-route the power.

He was bait! he thought, blood racing as the two fighters pulled up on his tail. So they’re not completely incompetent! The mercenary kicked his fighter hard down, struggling to evade their deadly stream of fire.

“Grot! I am coming to assist!” Tali said, making to pull up from her own attack run.

“No!” Grot hissed back “Focus on the hunt!, I have survived far greater wounds than this!”

With a flick of a switch Grot finished re-routing power, and the pursuit turret on the underside of his ship popped up from it’s mounting. The Trandoshan threw his ship into a roll, the turret opening up with red plasma bolts. One of his pursuers was struck at the junction of his starboard solar array, sending it careening in a cloud of flame and debris, while the other scattered out of the turret’s targeting field.

Tali felt her anxiety rise as she watched the intensifying dogfight on sensors. Two starfighters against two squadrons, iIt seemed almost like madness, but they couldn’t afford to pull out now. With the starfighters distracted, she lined up an attack run on the Geta.

The turbolaser turrets guarding the hanger bay swiveled towards her as she approached, throwing out a torrent of bright green bolts. She swerved and rolled back and forth, the turrets unable to track her erratic movement, and let loose a counter-barrage from her ion cannon. The turrets sparked and powered down as the blue bolts impacted them, temporarily overloading their systems, and she drew away with a victorious cry.

“Strong! You’re clear to begin your boarding run!”

Strong laid on the bench, fists clenched around the bar above his chest, the barbell’s localised gravity field dialed up high enough to make his arms tremble. Green light flashed across the viewports as TIE Bombers tried to strafe the Ladies Delight, his crew juking the vessel as it made a run on the Geta’s hangar bay.

The Chiss was no pilot and was trying to put his mind at ease with physical activity instead of fretting on the bridge, bothering his pilot and crew. He let out a long breath as he pushed the bar back up, the intercom coming to life with a crackle.

Sir! Defenses around the hangar bay have been neutralized, we’re making our run. ETA, uhh…soon. Very soon.

“Affirmative,” he grunted, placing the barbell on its rack and getting to his feet, cracking his neck and stretching. Grabbing a towel he wiped the sweat from his shining bald head and turned to his rack of gear. “Inform the others I will meet them at the loading ramp!”


The TIE pilot squeezed off shot after shot, grumbling as the bomber’s targeting system kept having trouble locking on to the Nubian vessel. Some kind of shield interference was scrambling the craft’s ability to get a clean lock, and he’d already seen the silvery ship’s pursuit turret pick off his wingman’s dumbfire attempts. Glancing over, he saw another of his squadron try to get too close, perhaps to slip their torpedoes in too quickly for the countermeasures to stop them, only for that same turret to pierce the transparisteel front, the glass bubbling up from the heat and the bomber spinning away out of control.


The Ladies Delight dove up, twisting in a shining barrel roll at the hangar bay of the Interdictor, before righting itself just inside the magfield. Up on the vessel’s bridge, a Zeltron woman in her early twenties had a vicious grin on her face as she turned the pursuit turret on those inside the bay. Red fire spat out in a broadening circle as the J-type settled on its struts, taking the space left by the departed TIE squadron. She laughed as her turret raked across a squad of stormtroopers, before hearing the ding that the landing ramp was dropping.

“Aww, ruin my fun,” she grumbled, settling back in her seat. “I could cover them fine from here!”

“Or you could hit the Boss,” hissed a middle-aged Devaronian woman. “Keep it in your pants, I’m sure you’ll get to fire again,.”

In the hangar bay, a squad of stormtroopers were arrayed near the lowering landing ramp, blaster carbines up and ready. Or, they thought they were ready.

HAVE AT THEE! came the bellow from the ship, before an armored figure rocketed out, quite literally, at high speed with a shield in front of him. Stres’tron’garmis plowed through the middle of the troopers, knocking a pair of them down and causing the rest to try and track the rocket-propelled Chiss with their weapons as he skid to a halt just short of a bulkhead. He spun, shield held high and power hammer to his side.

Which was why none of them were prepared when the Expansionist pirates who slunk off the Delight after the big Arconan’s display came up behind the stormtroopers, relying on their lack of peripheral vision to waylay them. Vibroknives, swords, and at least one adventurous soul with a garrote wire made quick work of the shellshocked soldiers.

“Hangar bay is secure, Lady Sroka,” commed the woman on the Delight’s bridge. “Master Garmis bade you join him at your convenience.”

Outside in the bay, one of the pirates was showing the Chiss a holomap, pointing out key points, and receiving nods of understanding from the massive man.

”Yes, we could simply make for the bridge, or we could do a run for their reactor core! An imminent meltdown should force the crew to abandon ship, and that would allow us to use the Geta against her own escort!” suggested the Chiss, with a grim-sounding determination. ”Hold this bay against all enemies, and we shall accomplish our mission.”

The big man was not happy about working with pirates, but his orders to assist had been clear. That, and, he glanced towards the dwindling dogfight outside…

I could not let her go it alone, could I? Even with that mercenary.

“Sithspit,” Grot hissed to himself as emerald bursts stabbed left, then right of his field of vision, the wildly jinking Star-wing narrowly evading destruction yet again. They were not aces, that much was for sure, but they weren’t quite as straightforward as the Collective’s suicide tugs either. No, these Severians fell in the annoying trough of ‘dangerously competent’, and the Trandoshan knew the galaxy’s unmarked graveyards were littered with bounty hunters brought low by such competence.

However, he had no desire to join his peers. Not before the Ancestors decreed it was his time. Until then, he would continue reaping a tally, and counting the score.

“Four,” he muttered, swerving to the left and bringing his ship on another head-long pass against a circling TIE, the other stubbornly on his tail. Gunning the engines, he shunted all available power to the thrusters while worried alarms alerted him to the quickly depleting rear deflector screens.

The oncoming TIE fired, but he easily evaded its clumsy attack, an errant bolt searing the tip of his starboard wing, but little else. The enemy pilot panicked, seeing the Star-wing rushing on ever faster, and broke before the pass. Its silhouette expanded as it banked, solar collectors angling deliciously towards him like a beast presenting its jugular.

It would have been a crime not to shoot.

He had nary enough power to spray the TIE with crimson laser, the weapons whining as they sipped power from the overburdened reactor that still fed the Star-wing’s ion engines first. As the first enemy crumpled into a cloud of stellar debris, the Trandoshan made his move.

Jerking back on the throttle, he fired every maneuvering jet he’d fitted on the Star-wing and swerved the ship around, coolant bleeding in a light green cloud as power conduits hissed under the strain. The pursuing TIE was caught completely by surprise, overshooting its target and instinctively banking to reacquire. It was the last mistake the pilot would ever make.

“Five.”

The second silhouette in as many seconds presented itself and the Trandoshan licked his greedy lips, pressing the trigger on his control column and—nothing. The weapons screamed in protest, capacitors empty and still charging. He stared in horror as the TIE came around, the pilot surely realizing his own peril as he stared down the stationary Star-wing’s guns, but still somehow miraculously alive. Grot could almost see the glow of green beneath the TIE’s cockpit as it prepared to finish him off.

A trio of red beams skewered the TIE like an insect, piercing its solar arrays and shattering the cockpit bubble. The ship vanished in a brilliant fireball before the Trandoshan’s orange eyes, the angular shape of an E-wing speeding past with the last two enemies in hot pursuit.

“A little help?!” Tali cried over the comms.

Recovering swiftly, Grot brought his ship around and sat off to deal with the stragglers. Perhaps he shouldn’t count the kills before the bleeding.

==

The Star-wing and E-wing touched down within the Geta’s hangar bay in close succession, bleeding electric embers upon the deck and marred by smears of carbon flash, but ultimately victorious. The pilots disembarked swiftly, the Twi’lek looking visibly relieved as she tossed her helmet into the cockpit and brandished her saber-glaive. Both feet firmly on the ground, even if it was the deck of a hostile warship, was preferable to the horrors of void combat.

Beside her, Grot seemed indifferently excited, the hunt extending in his mind as a singular continuum. It mattered not if he was piloting a craft or brandishing a pair of slugthrower pistols. Points were points, however he accrued them.

“Which way?” he hissed, lamenting the score of stormtroopers littering the hangar floor. He’d been denied. There’d better be more ahead.

“Take the corridor to the left, you’ll find an accessway that goes down. Four levels, then left again and you’re in engineering. Reactor’s right up ahead, you can’t miss it,” a Revenant slicer instructed, holding up a holomap of the Geta’s deck plan she’d freshly pulled out of a data socket.

Strong’s gaze followed the purple Twi’lek with concern, the state of her ship hinting at injury. But to his relief she seemed unharmed, though he chided himself on not having been able to fight by her side. At least now, he could make good on that lapse.

“I shall lead the way!” he bellowed. “Follow me!” Hefting his power hammer and riot shield, the towering blue Chiss sat off in vanguard, wading into the claustrophobic corridors of the Severian spaceship while the air bled with whining klaxons.

Tali and Grot raced to catch up to Strong’s energetic pace, and together they bounded through the corridor towards the reactor. They quickly found the accessway the slicer had talked about, a maintenance shaft which carried pressurized coolant all the way down to the reactor level. The entrance was sealed securely behind a small, circular panel, roughly a meter across and made of thick duranium.

Too thick to cut through quickly, and there was no telling what pipes or wires she might nick in the process. The last thing she needed was an explosion of coolant to make the shaft unusable— or kill them. Tali tried the keypad adjacent to it, but it quickly became clear to her that it needed maintenance codes to be opened.

“Frak…” She frowned, her lekku twisting in frustration. With a sudden burst of inspiration she turned and pulled up her comlink. “René! I’m gonna needt you to unplug from the Songbirdt and make your vay here, there’s an access panel…”

CLANG

An earshattering noise cut her message short and made her teeth chatter as the entire corridor shook around them. Turning back she saw Strong hammering away at the now dented panel.

“Strong! Wait!”

CLANG

With a second blow the panel popped free just enough for the Chiss to stick a big meaty hand in and begin to pry it open with Grot’s help.

"My sincere apologies Lady Sroka, but we haven’t the time to take a delicate approach! No doubt the Principiates will seek to retake the hangar soon!"

“The ship’s main coolant supply runs just beyondt that panel! You couldt have blown this entire corridor!”

With a yank, Grot and Strong pulled the panel free, and threw the thick duranium aside. “Indeed Lady Sroka!” Strong said, grinning as he stuffed himself into the shaft “And yet, I did not!”

Tali huffed, her lekku stiffening in annoyance as she followed the Trandoshan and the Chiss down the shaft. The maintenance panel was tight, right enough that Strong slid and banged against coolant pipes as he clambered down the metal ladder. They neared the bottom of the shaft and saw the hatch that no doubt led down into engineering.

With firm hands, Strong reached down, undid the hatch, and prepared to drop into the corridor below, but Tali stopped him.

“Vait!” She cried, closing her eyes and concentration. Anxiety, fear, resolve… panicked minds reached out to her through the Force. The more she concentrated the more she could make out the details. “There’s a group of men guarding the corridor just below!”

“I see them too” Grot added, pulling a scanner from a pouch on his belt “Five men on Scan-pulse and a fusion furnace signature. A heavy weapons team. Drop and there won’t be enough left to take a trophy from.”

"Then what are we to do? Wait in this shaft until they retake the hangar?"

“There is more than one way to skin a razorbeast,” Grot said, a vicious grin forming. He pulled out a small canister from his belt pouch. “My armor is vacuum sealed.”

“Vhat does that have to do vith… Is that dioxis?!”

"Yes. You Jedi are good at holding your breath, yes?

“Not a Jedi, andt is this not a var-crime?!”

“Var-crime?” Grot asked, tilting his head in genuine puzzlement.

"We’re not exactly in a position to be squeamish, Lady Sroka" Strong said, fitting on his respirator "And I know you can hold your breath quite long enough."

For a moment Tali was struck speechless, only able to gape and sputter as Strong pulled open the hatch just enough for Grot to toss the canister through. The high pitched hissing was clearly audible for a moment, and shortly after the choking screams of the unfortunate soldiers caught in the cloud.

When the coughing stopped they dropped down and raced through the dissipating cloud of poison towards the now vacant barricade outside of engineering. They vaulted over the plasteel barriers and past the corpses of the heavy weapons team. Soon they came to the entrance of the reactor control room.

They opened the door, startling the team of three engineers working the controls.

“Pirates!” One of them screamed and reached for her sidearm, only for a glowing yellow blade of plasma to leap to her neck, stopping her mid-draw.

“I vouldt not recommendt that.” Tali said evenly, her voice almost hypnotically calm. “You should hand that to my friend and take a seat over there.”

The woman obeyed, her eyes going slightly glassy as the suggestion took hold in her mind. Grot and strong quickly rounded up the other engineers and began to tie their hands up. Tali, meanwhile, turned to the reactor panel and realized that she didn’t have the first clue how to sabotage a reactor.

“Beep-woo-bop.” A glum beeping startled her, and she turned to see René rolling into the room behind them.

“Ah! René! I have just the job for you!”

The droid made a low-pitched, sad-sounding whistle as it trundled into a waiting position, rotating a photoreceptor on the Twi’lek.

“I needt you to cause a reactor malfunction, a meltdown,” she ordered, pointing at the terminal.

The astromech looked at the terminal, then at its mistress, then back again, before retracting its center wheel and going still.

“René…,” she scolded, staring at the droid. It spun its dome back and forth and let out a lonesome whistle. “Vhat? Vhat is the problem?”

“Umm,” the bound technician spoke up, drawing three sets of eyes and a droid’s attention to her, causing the woman to wilt. “He…he’s saying that’s too complicated,” she said quietly, wincing. “There’s over two thousand of us on this ship; do you really have to destroy it? What did we do to deserve this?”

“They are the enemy, and prey, show no mercy,” hissed the Trandoshan.

Tali chewed her lip, looking from the dejected woman to her droid, “René, can you disable the sensors monitoring the reactor?”

The droid booped and popped open a panel on its front, a scomp link probe extending out to connect with the terminal. Tali nodded and looked at the technician, “You.”

“Y…yes!?”

“You vant to save as many of your friends as you can?” she asked, voice steady.

Strong raised an eyebrow, standing with his shield raised in the direction of the corridor leading into the reactor monitoring room. He could hear movement down the hall, the crew preparing a counter-boarding action to push out the ‘pirates’ before they could do too much damage.

"Young lady, this may be your opportunity to save a great many lives; you would be wise to follow my Lady’s suggestions," he rumbled, hand clenching the haft of his hammer.

The Twi’lek gestured to Grot to bring the woman to the terminal. An awkward shuffle ensued, the woman still bound and held up by the mercenary.

“You vill broadcast to the ship, andt tell them that the reactor core is going to meltdown. Everyone needs to leave. Now. René has done his job, yes?” she glanced at the droid who was withdrawing its probe with a beep. “Very goodt. So. You vill tell them to get to escape pods. Or, ve actually damage the reactor, andt maybe none of us leave alive.”

The woman nodded fiercely and took a deep breath, before nodding once more.


“All hands! The reactor has been sabotaged by Tenixir forces! Immediate meltdown imminent! Abandon ship, abandon ship!” came a frantic call over the ship-wide intercoms. Up on the bridge, the crew cursed, senior officers were scrambling over displays that showed… nothing from the reactor. The more junior officers and such were already running, the idea of dying to a reactor explosion didn’t appeal to many.

“Status unknown, captain! No readouts from the reactor monitoring station!”

“Blasted pirates,” grumbled a gray-haired man in a captain’s uniform. “It is likely a bluff! Prepare shuttles to collect escape pods. I’m sure some of our crew is being cowardly.”

“But, sir, what if it isn’t a bluff?”

“Send a team of troopers down there! I want that section secured!” shouted the captain, ignoring his subordinate’s words.

“Sir…we…uh, can’t raise any. Some sort of jamming is being broadcast from the hangar bay where the pirates first landed.”

“Incompetents!” roared the man, turning towards the turbolift at the rear of the bridge, drawing his sidearm. “Come on then. We’ll do it ourselves!”

The lift dinged open as the captain and a small cadre of bridge officers approached, the door sliding open to reveal a pair of seven-foot and change tall armored figures. One was crouched in front of the other, a pair of riot shields held forward like a wall. The other in death trooper armor had both arms over the first’s shoulders, a slugthrower in each hand. He fired a short volley of three shots from each pistol, dropping the captain and his entourage.

What was left of the bridge crew scrambled for weapons before hearing the repeated message concerning the reactor meltdown.

"Anyone who wishes to live should make for an escape pod or suffer the same fate as your leaders! We are not here for prisoners," shouted the shield-toting man as he rose to his full height and stomped in, armored boots ringing on the deck.

Grot shot a Lieutenant who thought to play hero while the rest of the crew began dropping blasters and ran for emergency exits.

“The ship is ours, apparently, lady Sroka,” stated the Chiss with a bow and a chuckle, waving towards the command console. She sighed and looked down at the controls before tapping a key. An underlying hum that none of them had really noticed died down as the gravity well generators shut off.

“Mission accomplishedt, ve shouldt headt back to the hangar,” she declared tiredly.

This was when the sensor alarms began going off, as the VSD Vel opened fire on a passing freighter.

“Vhat are they doing!?”

“That ship is not of the pirates or even the Hutts,” stated Grot, looking at the sensors. “…the Vel is still headed this way and is already acquiring targeting locks on this vessel.”

Out the viewports, the trader’s vessel exploded, what was left of its hull spinning in the dark.

“So much for being done,” sighed the Twi’lek.

Your orders, ma’am?” Strong asked curtly, his military professionalism rising to the front as the situation seemed to escalate.

“We completed our mission,” Grot hissed, “there was no mention of taking out a second ship in our contract.” He paused to lick his lips. “It is bad for business to give handouts.”

“Ve’re not in this for the money,” Tali snapped.

“Are you not?” Grot inquired. “Your loss, then. It pays well.”

“Ve’re here to help the Revenants escape, andt as long as that Star Destroyer is blasting everything that comes near, ve have not achievedt that,” she pressed.

Grot raised a clawed finger to object, then thought about it and lowered it again, hefting his slugthrowers instead. “Fine. What do we do?”

Tali ran a finger under her chin, trying to think of something, when suddenly a staccato of dull tremors shook through the vessel from stem to stern. A moment later, a score of surviving TIE bombers passed the bridge windows in tight formation, rotating for another pass.

“Sithspit, ve forgot about those, didn’t ve?”

Not forgotten, lady Sroka, only left to their own devices. They posed no threat to us then, not with the expert piloting by the Lady’s Delight.

“Well they pose a threat now,” Grot hissed. “I will go deal with them myself.”

“Fine, take them out before they bomb us to smithereens. In the meantime, ve’ll have to findt a vay to deal vith the Vel.”

Grot turned on his heels and left for the hangar, leaving the Chiss and Twi’lek on the empty bridge. Had it not been for the impending mortal peril, Strong might have considered it almost romantic. Then again, impending mortal peril was more of an afterthought, as his focus seemed transfixed upon the furiously pondering Twi’lek.

If I may be so bold, lady Sroka, perhaps we could take a page out of your erstwhile captain’s book and apply the Val’teo-maneuver? It might be a bit direct, but it does thrust into the core of the problem.

Tali turned her attention to him and raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Val’teo-maneu—? Oh… Oh!”

”If you intend on any thrusting, at least mute the comms first,” the Trandoshan groaned over their communicators.

The pair exchanged awkward looks, clearing their throats of some suddenly appeared debris, before returning to the fight at hand.

“Alright, if ve’re going to attempt the sigh Val’teo-maneuver, ve’re going to have to control this ship somehow,” Tali muttered, looking over the control panels and cursing herself for never having studied up on how to actually make that happen.

A depressed warble sounded behind them where, forlorn and forgotten, the heroic R3-unit sat, contemplating its existence.

Excellent timing!” Strong exclaimed, reaching over to pick up the droid and haul it over to the captain’s command lectern. “Plug in, and assume direct control of the engines. We shall bring the fight to these Principate hotheads at once!

There was something akin to a binary protest from René, but dejectedly, the droid thrust its dataspike into the socket and began to work. The ship, however, did not move at all.

“Is something vrong?” Tali inquired.

The droid, working feverishly on its given task, extended a shock probe and hissed it in the direction of a central console.

I believe it is trying to communicate something,” Strong observed astutely. A series of lights were flashing on the console in question, having freshly been unlocked by the droid’s efforts.

“Those must be the ship’s controls,” Tali reasoned. “See if they vork.”

The Chiss wrapped his meaty fists around a pair of control yokes far too dainty for his size and gave them a gentle tug. Almost immediately a low rumble sounded throughout the Interdictor before slowly, very slowly, the vessel began to pivot as it ponderously came to a new heading.

Outstanding!” Strong exclaimed, mesmerized how a gentle touch on something so small could shake the world. Beside him, R3-N3 rolled its photoreceptor and continued on its task of keeping the controls operational.

“Goodt, now set us on a collision course vith the Vel. Ve have no time to lose!” The moment she’d said that, the bridge shook again as the bombers came back for another pass, sparks erupting from a nearby console as it blew out in a spray of electric embers. She hissed in frustration and called for the Trandoshan. “Vhere in Bogan’s name are you?!”

==

“Just one more…” Grot muttered to himself, licking his lips as he zeroed in on the hapless bomber. Without a fighter escort, it had been trivial to pick them off one by one and though the Geta looked worse for wear, one of its interdictor generators blown and a chunk of its starboard superstructure continuing to vent into space, it was still operational.

“Twenty!” he exclaimed victoriously as the burst of crimson fire tore through the TIE’s bomb bay and it detonated in a violent fireball. Swooping through the debris in his Star-wing, the mercenary called back to his compatriots.

“You are all clear, now get thrusting.” He cut the link before the venomous reply.

==

“—salt your voundts you disrespectful lizardt!” Tali vented, smacking a fist into a console with enough force to shatter it. Behind her, Strong tried his best to keep the ship steady while observing the heavy panting of his frustrated superior.

Um, lady Sroka,” he inquired as politely as he dared. “There is a slight hiccup in our plan.

Tali turned around, golden eyes blazing. “Vhat now? Ve’re just going to ram it andt escape. Vhat’s difficult about that?”

Strong pointed through the cracked viewports at the Vel that was by now turning its turbolasers at them while picking up speed.

I believe they are being unsporting and intend to avoid impact.

“Ah…”

“Perhaps René can make the autopilot—”

The droid beeped sadly.

“Or…not…”

Strong clutched the controls, watching the growing Star Destroyer out the forward viewports. It was firing at anything that came within its range, civilians and pirates alike. He clenched his fists as he watched another freighter fleeing the chaos implode from turbolaser battery fire. That the Vel was chewing away at the shields of the Geta was also…concerning.

”Good René, are there any escape craft left on this deck? Perhaps that which the senior crew were assigned to?”

The droid’s link to the ship spun, as did its dome before it chirped an affirmative.

”Excellent! Could you by chance force the doors between here and there open, and close any others?”

The two Arconans heard a series of clunks as doors sealed, and a blast door near the rear of the bridge opened.

“Strong, you think ve can make it to a podt in time after impact?”

He stared out the viewport for a few moments before responding. The big man reached up and pulled his helmet off, showing a sheen of sweat on his bald scalp before he looked over at the Twi’lek.

“Tali,” he spoke more quietly, “I do not know if there is enough time for this idea. It is unfortunate that it is the only one I have managed to think of thus far. I am no pilot, but this is a simple enough maneuver that I believe I can handle it on my own.”

“On…on your own? Vait, Strong, no, no. I am not leaving you to die,” she stated firmly, stepping in and glaring up at him.

“We only need one pilot, Tali,” he said gently, smiling down at her, “And you are more important to the Clan than I.”

He reached out and took the glaring Quaestor’s hand, lifting it up and pressing his lips to the back of it, “I promise, I will do my utmost to make it out of this alive so you can chastise me properly.”

Her lekku twitched in annoyance, her jaw set in a grimace. She didn’t like the plan, that was obvious. She didn’t like that he was right, either.

”If you two are done with your self martyring flirtations, now would be a good time to get off the ship.”

The two Arconans on the bridge darkened in color, Strong releasing the hand he was holding and clearing his throat, taking the controls back up.

”I shall not die here, Miss Sroka!”

“See that you do not,” she stated, gesturing for René to follow her as she walked towards the turbolift, looking over her shoulder at the hulking figure. “See that you do not, Strong.”

He glanced back as he heard the lift close, making sure she’d actually left, before letting his shoulders sag. The Chiss…was not optimistic about his odds as he steered the Interdictor towards the Destroyer. He was certain that he could land the blow, but surviving…

”This is Strong to the Ladies Delight, please escort Lady Sroka’s craft out of the hangar bay. I shall be departing this vessel via escape pod. Do try and find me.”

==

In the cold of space, a trio of vessels sat. One yacht and two fighters, watching as two capital ships closed in on one another. The sensors showed the Vel’s fighter craft had been sent towards the planet, harassing vessels trying to flee or strafing ground positions indiscriminately.

”I am annoyed, the large one shall gain many points through this maneuver, though personal combat would be more honorable,” hissed Grot, watching the Geta adjust course again.

”He vouldt likely agree,” responded Tali, watching with apprehension. She closed her eyes as the tip of the Interdictor impacted with the forward decks of the Destroyer, pushing the ship off course and plunging through armored plating, even as the Geta crumpled with the impact. “Hurry,” she whispered as detonations began to tear both ships’ superstructures apart.

”Picking up a signal,” came a voice from the Delight nearly a minute into the destruction. ”One life sign aboard. Too much interference to tell if it’s the boss. We’re moving to collect…unless you think he’ll fit in that fighter of yours?”

Tali stiffened in her cockpit as she heard a rasping laugh from her Trandoshan wingman and a teasing tone from the Delight’s comm officer.

”…repeat, this is Garmis, requesting pick up. Please. Hurry. I fear I miscalculated my rocket pack exhaust and how quickly it would clear before entering the pod.”

She relaxed a little, shaking her head as the comms filled with Strong’s coughing.

”Pick him up, Delight, René is plotting the vay home.”

”Confirmed.”

”Mission successful? Perhaps they will pay a bonus for the Destroyer,” asked Grot.

She simply sighed and closed her eyes while the two warships slowly disintegrated in orbit.