Despite its closeness to Arcona’s home system, Andrelious rarely visited the Maw. He had even waited until there was only an hour to go before his enemy’s ETA before setting off, choosing to spend as much time as he could pre-mission with his own wife and daughters. The Warlord had been tight lipped about certain aspects of the mission that was being asked of him, suspecting that Kooki wouldn’t approve if she knew that innocent children were considered a target.
It’s alright for Nortorshin. That albino bastard doesn’t have any children, the ex-Imperial thought as he waited patiently for the Shuttle and its escort to arrive.
“Doto One to Nu One. No sign of anything yet. My men are becoming a little irritated,” a voice crackled over Sharpshoot’s comm.
“We’ll be busy soon enough. You sure you’ll be able to handle these Defenders, Hogan?” Mimosa-Inahj questioned.
“Sir, I’ve been around them my entire life. My father was killed flying one. I know they can be beaten,” the Doto squadron commander answered.
“Just be ready. I’ll try and keep the Adept busy. He’d make short work of you and your men, if the intel reports are accurate.” Andrelious stated, hiding the fact that he was nervous about the upcoming conflict. Whilst he was among Arcona’s best, his opponent was an Elder. He had seen enough of the piloting exploits of some of Taldryan’s Elders to know that was not good news. It troubled him also that Sight had removed the name and former affiliation of the target. Was this a trap? It was certainly possible that one of the Sith’s enemies had arranged for the mission.
The ex-Rollmaster’s musings were disturbed by a beeping sound from his targeting computer. 13 new ships had been spotted. 12 TIE Defenders and a Shuttle. The targets had arrived.
“Enemies inbound. 12 TIE Defenders. One Vader-class Shuttle. Our objective is here.” Andrelious announced, forgetting that his comrades were unaware that Vader-class was the nickname used by Imperial pilots to refer to a Svelte-class Shuttle.
“This is Andrelious Mimosa-Inahj of Clan Arcona. You are hereby ordered to power down your vessels. Shuttle, I will be coming aboard to personally search your ship. I believe that you have something that Arcona is looking for,” the Inquisitor stated, knowing he was wasting his time.
“And this is Quekin Yubtan, formerly of Clan Naga Sadow. You have exactly thirty seconds to remove yourself and your allies from our flight path. Anyone left after that will be destroyed,” a hostile voice hissed.
In his cockpit, Andrelious gulped. He had heard a lot about Yubtan. He was perhaps Naga Sadow’s best pilot, though he had been at odds with the leadership there for some time. Now, he had clearly had enough and struck out on his own.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Yubtan. Your wife and children are on that shuttle. Let me speak to you as one father to another. Would you really want to see them destroyed? Allow me on board the shuttle. No harm will come to any organic. Assuming I meet no resistance, of course,” the Warlord responded, already shunting more power to his TIE Advanced’s deflector shields.
“Consider my clemency revoked, Arconan. All wings, engage!” the former Sadowan yelled. The TIE Defenders immediately moved from the defensive pattern they had been maintaining around the shuttle, forming into six pairs.
A split second later, Doto Squadron had also arranged themselves into attack formations, forming three groups of four ships. Andrelious positioned himself in the centre of their formation.
As the two sets of starfighters became close enough to each other, they began to exchange laser fire. Bolts of green and orange plasma zipped through space, the majority missing or being evaded. The neat formations that had been adopted only seconds before became forgotten as the dogfight commenced.
Andrelious quickly ascertained which Defender belonged to Yubtan, noticing that the tips of its wings were painted crimson. He considered firing a pair of missiles at the Dark Adept, but decided against it, knowing that his opponent would evade such an attack with ease.
Meanwhile, one of the E-Wings of Doto Squadron flew close enough to the shuttle to perform a quick scan. The starfighter’s targeting computer confirmed that there were four lifeforms on board. The pilot shared the information with his comrades, before turning back towards the continuing furball. Moments later, the shuttle turned around, too.
“Watch out for the Shuttle, Doto! It’s joining in!” Demetrius Hogan warned as the Svelte-class ship began firing its own lasers at the nearest E-Wing.
“Keep on the Defenders! The Shuttle must be kept alive!” Andrelious warned, not caring about the fact he was going against his mission profile. The Warlord’s paternal instincts were winning over his military training, and even against his better judgement; Mimosa-Inahj was hoping that Yubtan’s family would not prove dangerous, although he suspected that any children capable of walking would already be going through training with their father.
An E-Wing collided with a TIE Defender a little distance away from Andrelious, who had watched the Defender pilot fool its target into performing the move. Neither fighter nor their pilots had survived the collision, but it taught the ex-Rollmaster something important: Yubtan’s squadron were more than prepared to die for their leader.
Yubtan continued to match anything and everything that his opponent tried. He constantly changed his speed and direction, whilst managing to perform attacks on Andrelious’ E-Wing allies. His own followers continued to attempt to ram their enemies, giving little regards to their own safety. Hogan and his pilots, however, weren’t about to be caught out by the same trick twice.
Andrelious grimaced as he saw an E-Wing burst into flames as he flew past. He sensed that its pilot had bailed out in time, but that was little consolation to the fact that the TIEs now had a numerical advantage. That advantage was doubled seconds later as another Arconan ship was destroyed, but Hogan quickly took revenge, eliminating the TIE that had shot down the first E-Wing.
“Good shot, Doto One!” Andrelious encouraged, whilst keeping his own sights on the TIE Defender piloted by the enemy Elder. Yubtan continued to expertly alter his trajectory, never flying in one direction for more than a split-second. Though he did occasionally fire on an E-Wing, the Adept seemed happy enough to allow his wingmen to take the kills, and focus entirely on trying to get the better of the Soulfire Captain.
Andrelious decided to switch tactics. He disengaged from his chase on Yubtan, selecting another target instead and quickly firing a salvo of lasers. His new target had not anticipated such a move, allowing Mimosa-Inahj to score a hit, which he followed up with several more bursts of laser fire. The TIE Defender jinked about in an attempt to avoid the Sith’s pinpoint attacks, but found itself penned in as a pair of E-Wings provided the Arconan with assistance. Soon, the tri-winged fighter’s shields had collapsed under heavy fire, and its pilot bailed out, leaving the stricken starfighter to spin helplessly away into space.
Yubtan had made the most of Andrelious giving up the chase, and was bearing down on Hogan’s E-Wing. Selecting his warhead launcher, he fired a pair of advanced concussion missiles as soon as his targeting computer indicated that he had a solid lock on the Doto Commander’s craft.
Demetrius Hogan’s R7 unit beeped a frantic warning as it detected the inbound missiles.
“I see them, R7!” Hogan yelled, wrestling with his flightstick. He used every trick from every textbook as he tried to evade the incoming warheads, whilst switching the majority of his shield power to the rear deflector screen. The two orange blurs continued to speed rapidly towards the E-Wing, matching its every move almost perfectly. Realising that his attempts to escape the attack had failed, Hogan closed his eyes and reached for the lever of his ejector seat. He heard a loud explosion, but did not feel an impact. Quickly, the Doto Commander opened his eyes and peered at his sensor readouts. He smiled as he saw the red blob that represented Sharpshoot. Andrelious had managed to destroy the missiles with his laser cannons just moments before they had made contact with Hogan’s E-Wing.
“I’ll have an Ebla Beer for that if we survive, Hogan.” Andrelious radioed, not breaking his concentration even as he spoke to his colleague. The Warlord had drawn a bead on another enemy Defender, and had fired a duo of his own missiles, whilst peppering the area around the opposing TIE with laser fire. This time, however, the Defender pilot got the better of the ex-Imperial and escaped from the lock that the TIE Advanced had acquired with no more than some minor shield damage. The warheads twisted and turned a little in the air, but were unable to match the TIE Defender’s superior speed and manoeuvrability.
“This is Doto Seven…they’re all over me…I’m-“ a female voice cried out, crackling into a nothingness that indicated that she had probably perished with her starfighter. Seconds later another two E-Wings were down as the Defenders began to show just why they had been so feared by those unfortunate enough to cross paths with a squadron of them.
“Keep at it, Doto. Watch their patterns. Then you’ll know when to hit them.” Andrelious instructed as he yanked his flight stick back to avoid colliding with the Shuttle, that was in the midst of the battle and causing the Arconan squadron almost as much grief as its remaining escorts.
“We’ll keep on picking them off, Mimosa-Inahj. Take what’s left of your allies and go. I will not warn you again.” Yubtan stately coldly, making sure that the message was heard by Andrelious and his charges.
“Hogan. If you go down to three members or less, we’ll have to perform a code Magenta on the Shuttle. Do you read me?” Andrelious asked.
“Code Magenta? But sir! Even if you do that too, that may not be enough!” Hogan protested.
“Fine. FOUR or less. A Svelte-class won’t survive THAT many impacts!” the Warlord snapped.
“Acknowledged. I really don’t think this mission is worth it. Can I suggest we just perform a code White?” Hogan asked, still shocked at the fact his mission commander had ordered a code Magenta. That particular code meant one thing: they were to perform a kamikaze mission on their primary target, in this case the shuttle. The code had never been invoked before, but the Doto commander had to admit that the situation was the closest he’d seen to justifying it.
“A code White is not an option I’m prepared to entertain. Now keep at it. If we all fly as well as I know we can, we won’t even to have to go pink!” the Warlord replied, dumb-firing a missile at a Defender that flew too close to his cockpit. The large explosion shook Sharpshoot a little, but the enemy starfighter appeared to remain intact, though a bright flashing on its fuselage told Andrelious that his warhead had overloaded and destroyed his target’s deflector shields. With a grin, the TIE Advanced pilot turned and fired several bursts of laser cannon fire at the damaged Defender, not giving it a moment to recover. Again, support fire from a nearby E-Wing made sure that Mimosa-Inahj’s target was defeated.
Adrenaline pumped through the ex-Rollmaster’s body as the battle went on. Soon, another E-Wing fell to a missile, and Hogan and Andrelious combined to fool two enemy TIEs into colliding with each other, utilising a manoeuvre that the Warlord had designed himself, but had never had the chance to use before.
“Six of them, and the shuttle. Six of us if we count you, sir.” Hogan observed as he selected another target.
“Just keep on it, Hogan. Remember that they’ve got an Adept out there. One lapse of concentration and you’re toast!” Andrelious warned, noticing that Yubtan was in the midst of a furball with two of his wingmen and a pair of E-Wings. Spinning Sharpshoot around, the Warlord dumped a little shield power into his engines to allow himself to reach the outnumbered Arconan pilots a second or two more quickly. As he reached the battling starfighters, he targeted a Defender and fired a pair of missiles, not giving them more than a few moments to calculate a lock. That proved an error as an E-Wing, desperately trying to escape the firepower of the enemy Elder, flew directly into the path of the missiles. Andrelious was forced to watch as his warheads tore his ally’s ship apart, and could feel it in the Force as the pilot’s life was extinguished at his own hand.
“Is that old Imperial instinct kicking in? Forgetting that it’s the Rebel craft on your side?” Yubtan taunted.
Anger began to cloud Andrelious’ vision a little as the comments from the Adept added to his extreme frustration at what had happened. He concentrated on his hatred. His hatred for Yubtan, and the mission that was being asked of him. Feeling his power in the dark side increasing, he closed his eyes for a few seconds, envisioning the battle unfolding in his mind. Allowing his instincts to take over, he gripped the flight stick tightly and spun his TIE Advanced rapidly, firing another pair of missiles. He opened his eyes to the welcome sight of a Defender spiralling away to its death. Targeting another enemy, the Soulfire Captain felt a chill down his spine. Yubtan was behind him. The Warlord frantically pulled his flightstick about, causing Sharpshoot to jolt around, but his opponent was able to predict and match every move perfectly, his superior grasp of the Force telling him everything that Andrelious was doing even before he did it.
“Doto. Magenta on the Shuttle. NOW!” Mimosa-Inahj ordered, his options rapidly running out.
“You heard him, Doto. Code Magenta on our primary target!” Hogan ordered, not daring to argue with the stricken Warlord.
The E-Wings quickly disengaged from their targets, and, after dumping all power to their engines, flew rapidly towards their target. The nearest E-Wing collided with the Shuttle’s fuselage, its pilot ejecting to safety just moments before impact. The next Arconan starfighter was also successful, ramming the Svelte-class ship near its engine bank. The third, however, was intercepted by a pair of TIE Defenders, who effortlessly despatched their enemy before it could reach the Shuttle.
The unorthodox tactic was enough to distract Yubtan from his relentless chasing of Andrelious. The ex-Sadowan turned his Defender in the direction of his family’s Shuttle, and targeted Hogan’s E-Wing, the Doto Commander having decided to perform his Code Magenta last of all. With no hesitation, Yubtan fired a pair of missiles at Hogan, who had already fully committed to his kamikaze attack. The Arconan pilot, having lined his E-Wing up perfectly, ejected just in time as the warheads sped in. His abandoned starfighter collided with the Shuttle, the missiles hitting its wreckage moments later.
“You’re outgunned and outclassed, Mimosa-Inahj. It’s time for you to leave. You’ve lost.” Yubtan hissed, his tone victorious.
Seconds later, something powerful hit Yubtan’s Defender. Andrelious had timed a pair of missiles with expert precision, firing them at the exact moment that the Adept had fired his at Hogan. To avoid his enemy’s countermeasures detecting the warheads, he had dumb-fired, relying on thirty years of piloting savvy rather than his targeting computer. Fortunately for the Warlord, his calculations had been correct and now Yubtan found himself with little choice other than to eject from his burning starfighter.
The battle was far from over, however. Several TIE Defenders remained and there were no longer any E-Wings to assist Andrelious. He noticed that the Defender pilots were a little more ill-disciplined than before, even flying slightly erratically. Boosting power to his shields, the Warlord targeted the nearest enemy, letting fly with several rounds of laser cannon fire. He had expected the opposing pilot to easily evade the fairly casually aimed shots, and was shocked when a number of them made contact.
Hmm. Battle Meditation. Mimosa-Inahj mused. He finished off his target without too much fuss, and moved onto another, firing a pair of missiles, this time allowing his computer to form a lock. With his last missiles expended, he’d have to rely solely on his lasers for the last few Defenders.
“Remaining pilots. Your ruse is discovered. Without your leader, I will pick you off one by one. If you leave now, I will not give chase. My concern is the contents of the Shuttle you are protecting,” the Warlord warned, broadcasting on the frequency that Yubtan had been using.
Andrelious smiled as three of the remaining enemies hypered away, leaving only a pair to face off against the Arconan. They quickly formed into a single element, one flying slightly behind and to the left of the other. Mimosa-Inahj could sense the pilots’ determination – these two were far more skilled than those that had elected to flee. Even without Yubtan’s influence, the ex-Imperial would have his work cut out. The Shuttle turned, too, apparently eager to add its own support fire into the mix, despite the damage it had suffered from being rammed.
The Soulfire Captain targeted the nearer of the two Defenders, and immediately began a series of evasive manoeuvres, the Force guiding his hand’s movements as it grasped Sharpshoot’s control yoke.
As the TIE Advanced passed its enemies, it spun rapidly towards the one it had targeted. The Defender responded by beginning its own set of jinks, barrel rolls and weaves, making it incredibly hard for Mimosa-Inahj to draw a bead on it. Nonetheless, the ex-Imperial continued to trouble his target, making up for the fact his starfighter was slightly less nimble with sheer piloting ability. The second Defender tried to match Andrelious’ movements, but found them unorthodox in nature and abandoned the pursuit, instead circling nearby in the hope that the Arconan would make some sort of mistake.
Meanwhile, the Shuttle had begun rescuing ejected pilots with its tractor beam. Andrelious noticed this in the corner of his eye, and disengaged from the TIE Defenders. With expert precision, he fired at the Shuttle’s tractor beam projector with a single laser burst, knowing he couldn’t afford to let Yubtan be rescued. As the Shuttle approached the spaceborne Elder, the fired laser made contact with the tractor beam’s power conduit. With the shields down, a single blast was enough to render the fairly low powered device inoperative, denying the Adept the chance to be brought on board easily.
Andrelious could sense Yubtan’s fury even as he re-ignited his chase of the TIE Defenders. He manoeuvred around carefully, eventually causing both of his enemies to approach him at opposite angles. As they drew closer, he slowed his ship down greatly.
“Seven, I think he’s having engine trouble. Can you see those flames?” one of the pilots asked of his colleague.
“I see, it, Nine. Let’s press it home and take him out,” the second TIE pilot replied, also seeing fire from Sharpshoot’s engine exhausts.
The TIE Defenders reached laser range, and both pilots squeezed the trigger on their flight sticks, each wearing a murderous grin as the green bolts of plasma made their way towards their enemy. With a grin on his own face, the Warlord pushed his throttle lever forward, releasing the grip he had held over his enemies’ minds at the same time. By the time the two pilots realised what Andrelious had done, it was too late and their laser bursts slammed into one another’s starfighter.
As the two Defenders exploded, Andrelious was already flying towards the Shuttle.
“Shuttle. Stop your engines and allow me on board. I mean no harm to any organics,” the ex-Imperial ordered, expecting at least a little resistance. However, the Svelte-class ship obeyed wordlessly. Mimosa-Inahj expertly steered his starfighter towards his target’s docking port, lining up his own entry hatch with perfect precision.
With a resounding clunk, the two ships docked, Andrelious wasting no time in opening both his and the Shuttle’s hatch. Moments later, the Warlord had boarded the Shuttle. He immediately marched to the rear of the ship, finding a woman dressed entirely in black, and three children ranging in age from four to twelve.
The woman immediately stood up, drawing a lightsaber from her belt. Andrelious had not been informed as to whether Yubtan’s wife was Force sensitive. Now, however, it was clear that both she and her children were, and that she was more than prepared to protect the youngsters.
“Stand down, Mrs. Yubtan. I already stated I mean you and your children no harm. Hand over your husband’s droid and I will be on my way,” Andrelious declared, activating his own crimson bladed weapon.
“We worked very hard to get that information. Quekin and I risked our lives. I’m not about to let some insolent Arconan take it from us now!” the female Dark Jedi hissed, lunging aggressively at Andrelious. The Warlord raised his blade to parry the attack, finding it difficult to handle his opponent’s agility.
Counter-attacking, Andrelious pushed at his opponent with the Force, but found her own telekinetic strength a match for his own, allowing her to easily stop his attempts at knocking her over.
The eldest child, who had been watching intently, pulled out a training lightsaber, and charged in towards his mother’s opponent.
“Quekin Jr! That saber won’t do any good right now! Stay out of this!” the woman ordered. The twelve year old slumped down into a chair, but kept his weapon ready.
Using the distraction, Andrelious leapt into the air, slashing downwards in the direction of his enemy. Mrs Yubtan successfully blocked the attack, but was unable to prevent the Arconan from landing an aggressive kick into her stomach. Stumbling back, the female struggled to keep her balance, but managed to prevent the ex-Rollmaster from removing her head by blocking his swinging slash with her amethyst blade.
“Last chance. Stand down or I will leave your children without their mother. OR their father. Your husband may be a Dark Adept, but I doubt he could resist the laser cannons of this shuttle.” Andrelious warned.
The female responded simply by spitting in the direction of her opponent.
“Female Dark Jedi. You’re all the same. No manners,” Mimosa-Inahj stated, moving his free hand towards his enemy. Closing his eyes for a few moments, the Arconan called on the Force to fling his adversary high in the air, throwing her through the ship’s main passageway and into the cockpit. The woman crashed into the pilot’s seat, crushing the droid that was steering the vessel. Andrelious gave her no chance to recover and leapt on top of her, saber drawn.
Warned by the Force as to what her opponent was going to do, the female Yubtan rolled to one side, causing Andrelious’ weapon to cut into the Shuttle’s control panel. Sparks flew and alarms sounded as the Jedi weapon destroyed intricate circuits, disabling control over the ship’s key systems in an instant.
“Stuck here. A pity. I’ll hope that you don’t get caught in one of the black holes.” Andrelious stated with sarcastic sympathy.
With its control panel wrecked, the shuttle began to accelerate and fly around wildly. The movement was jerky enough that it knocked both Andrelious and his female opponent to the floor. She was the first to get up, leaping to her feet and attempting to remove the Arconan’s right arm with a slash that was more desperate than well-aimed. Mimosa-Inahj parried the attack with ease, and again hurled his opponent along the ship with the Force, this time throwing her into the wall. As she fell, the wall collapsed, revealing a small droid in a secret cargo hold.
“Seems as I have found your droid. I’ll take it and go,” the Warlord declared, guiding the droid through the hatch and into his TIE. As the woman started to recover, Andrelious followed the droid, quickly closing the hatch behind him and undocking.
Entering hyperspace seconds later, Andrelious extracted a datapad from somewhere under his ship. It was time to inform the Contract Bureau of his news.
His mission was complete.