[Tython Squadron] Castaway Run-On

Jedi Praxeum, Kiast, 38 ABY
Jon stood before a group of faces both familiar and unfamiliar, all of them looking at him expectantly. He tossed Bokk’s map up and down in one hand as he walked up to the impromptu “stage” that had been erected in the Praxeum hanger - a group of uneven crates and containers (and a deactivated gonk droid turned on its side, go figure). It would suffice.

Jon hopped atop of it, and turned to face the assembled members of Tython Squadron, dramatically swishing his cape for good effect. Time to put on a show he thought to himself.
“I’ll keep this brief,” he said, casting his voice. “I’m hoping you all read the briefing, but if not, here’s the rundown.” Jon began fiddling with the map, shifting the panels and plates along its spherical surface the way he’d been shown. Right on cue, the room exploded into bright blue light, as a miniature version of the entire Kiast system came into existence.

“Here’s how this works: this map is going to lead us to a very nice new ship hidden somewhere in the system, something from Kiast myth. The Light Of Ki’asma.” Most of the assembled faces lit up in recognition, Odan-Urr had been on Kiast long enough for its members to have at least heard one or two stories about the legendary ship.

“Unfortunately, we are not the only ones looking. Because hey, what’s the fun of a treasure hunt without rival hunters, right?” That didn’t even get a chuckle. Tough crowd. Jon sighed.

“I’m guessing you’ve all heard of the Sea Raven raiders? Well, they had this map before us. And they want it back. So, expect this hunt to be a running dogfight in space if they catch up to us.”
“Wait,” someone called out. Jon recognized them as Agate, one of his new recruits to the Squadron. “If they already had the map, shouldn’t they already know where the ship is?”

“When are treasure hunts ever that simple?” Jon asked sarcastically. Instead, he pointed to the holographic replica of Kaerls, the ice moon orbiting Kiast. The moon grew until it took up most of the room, and a single point was highlighted on the moon’s surface. “No, see, whoever made this map wanted us to earn their precious ship. So, instead it’s a scavenger hunt. We go to this location first, where we’ll supposedly undergo some kind of ‘trial’, and then the next location on the map will be shown. Rinse, repeat, until the mapmaker is satisfied. While pirates are chasing us.”

“And how many of these ‘trials’ are there going to be?” Junazee called out.

“We’ll find out, won’t we? But hey, look at it this way: this ship was supposed to have been crewed by all the greatest heroes Kiast has ever seen!” Jon said, spreading his arms out. He hopped down from off his “stage” and walked into the middle of the Squadron. “They say only the greatest and finest the system has ever seen have ever set foot on board. That it’s their ‘guiding light through the darkness.”

Carefully, Jon looked at his assembled Battleteam. Jedi and Force Disciples, real warriors of Odan-Urr. He wasn’t like that, and he knew it. But damned if he would let it hinder him.

“Can you really tell me whatever half-crazed Vatali what forged this thing could have had anyone in mind better than Tython Squadron? Because, I gotta be honest… I can’t think of a single name better suited.” With that, Jon turned and walked towards the Carnival.

“To your ships, Tython Squadron! Let’s go write our names in the history books!”

Jedi Praxeum Hangar bay
Kiast
38 ABY

As the new Tython squadron leader spoke to the assembled pilots from atop a makeshift platform Talis couldn’t help but peer around. His self imposed exile had kept him away for a good stretch of time and there were some new faces in the squadron. A few he knew of from within Odan urr and a few he didn’t know, even in name. Talis only recognized one other member of the aces among the group other than himself, the other Miralukan force wielder, Junazee. Chrome and Korroth had gone rogue and just vanished without even a goodbye. He had heard Ranarr Kul had defected to Plagueis. Ethan Martes had recently left the squadron so he was not there either. That would put a strain on Talis, as he would miss his wingman Ulwan watching his six. Arcia was also not there which didn’t surprise him Talis tossed a glance over his shoulder at the hangar filled with various personal spacecrafts and starfighters.

Sitting closest to the hangar bay doors was his modified Scyk fighter. Completely painted black except for the stylized callsign painted next to the cockpit. WARPATH in bold aurebesh stuck out from the contrasting matte black paint of the small fighter. Talis had never seen the color or writing due to his vision being so impaired by his Miralukan lineage, he could only trust that the shipyard complied with his order and made the requested aesthetic changes to his ship. The squadrons RZ-2 A-Wings sat across from the personal ships, docked to the upper walkway spanning along the top of the hangar and parked along the floor underneath them as well. Talis hated those starfighters. They performed well but the cockpit felt awkward and unfamiliar to him so he had chosen before arriving that he would pilot what he knew best.

Talis returned his attention to the large man speaking. He was holding a weird orb in his hand moved some tiles on it surface. The group reacted with a quieted gasp as something happened. Talis leaned over and nudged one of the newer members, a human female with long curly hair. Handing from her hip was a lightsaber and the marauder could feel the force exuding from her.

“Nijalah, right?” The younger female nodded and looked at him with an incredulous distrustful attitude, “what’s going on?”

“Are you blind?” The younger force disciple asked sarcastically.

“Technically no.” Talis lifted his helmet to show her his ceremonial eye wrapping. The look she shot him was more distrustful than the first.

“You’re a pilot?” Nilajah asked skeptically.

Talis smiled back at the woman, “An ace actually,” the man replied as he replaced his mandalorian helmet over his face, “I can see physical objects and track them, I can not, however,” Talis paused as he looked down at the shorter woman, “see holograms or images on a flat surface.”

“It’s a hologram of a map,” a familiar voice drifted in from behind the pair.

Talis turned to see Maximus standing a few paces behind him. His gaze was still on the images before him but his aura gave off the distinct color of fascination. Talis turned to his droid, R2- B9, and waved him forward. The droid rolled forward smoothly despite looking like he had been dragged from a recent wreckage. Panels on his torso and head were missing and others were of mismatched color schemes.

“Bee-nine can you save and analyze the map?” The little droid beeped back at its owner irritatingly and scanned the map before turning and abruptly heading towards Talis’ ship.

Talis turned back to the assembled squadron as Junazee’s voice erupted from the other side of the gathering.

“And how many of these ‘trials’ are there going to be?” Junazee aura flashed in excitement.

“We’ll find out, won’t we? But hey, look at it this way: this ship was supposed to have been crewed by all the greatest heroes Kiast has ever seen!” The new leader replied in earnest. Then he did something that surprised Talis. He nimbly hopped down from the junk pile and pranced into the center of the congregation of his pilots. The bravado is not what impressed him. It was the large man’s agility. “They say only the greatest and finest the system has ever seen have ever set foot on board. That it’s their ‘guiding light through the darkness.”

Intently, the heavier set human gazed upon Tython squadron and a wave of confidence rolled over his aura.

“Can you really tell me whatever half-crazed Vatali what forged this thing could have had anyone in mind better than Tython Squadron? Because, I gotta be honest… I can’t think of a single name better suited.” With that, the unkempt, messy, giant of a man turned towards his ship before yelling back over his shoulder.

“To your ships, Tython Squadron! Let’s go write our names in the history books!”

Talis bee-lined it for his scyk fighter. Bee-nine was already loaded and ready to go as Talis clambered into the open canopy. The ship was already halfway thru start up procedures thanks to Bee-nine and was the first to lift off the ground and turned to face the hangar bays exit.

“This is Talis DeMorte, callsign Warpath, requesting clearance to launch and take up a holding pattern until the rest of tython are in the air.”

“Warpath, this is tower you are go for launch and to take up a holding pattern, fly safe and see you when you come home.”

With that Talis advanced the throttle and pulled the yoke back and rose up out of the hangar bay exit into the sky above the Praxeum.

Aryn “Jade” Erinos had heard the entire speech from the current leader of Tython Squadron, as her personal fighter — a Clone Wars era ETA-2 Actis-class Interceptor, more commonly known as the ‘Jedi Interceptor’ — had been docked nearby for routine maintenance after her modifications to the thrusters. The redhead herself, despite having a workable maintenance bay and hangar at her brother-in-law’s home, preferred to occasionally visit the one on Kiast to have interaction with other mechanics and pilots.

Though she would have once jumped at the chance to make a name for herself, to become a legend…

The priorities of the Mandalorian had changed since her marriage to Rowena, then finding out that the experimental procedure had been a success. There was life growing within her body, a son; the two of them were well aware that, due to the genetic splicing done to ensure a child of both of them, there was no chance for it to be a daughter without possible complications. Celevon, Rowena’s twin brother, had been the one to donate the male part of the genetic material.

“Go love,” her wife urged, mercurial eyes soft with understanding. “Mandalorians are very similar to Echani. We cannot let the call to battle go unheeded,” the half-Echani murmured, wiping the grease off of her hands.

Jade turned, the conflict clear within her. “I hate these hormones,” she grumbled, picking up her helmet. “Thirteen, prep the Aurelia once you’ve finished your diagnostic… and connect my helm to the ship’s comm system.” The astromech, BB-13, within the modified droid slot whistled an affirmative, followed by a quick question. “No, keep the power to the thrusters and cannons. Divert it from the ion blast cannon if you have to.”

When she turned back, it was to see an amused smile and her wife shaking her head. “I don’t know how you understand that droid. Anyway… be safe, mesh’la*. Both of you.”

Their foreheads were rested together.

“How about a kiss for good luck?” Jade asked after a moment of silence, bringing a grin to Rowena’s lips.

“Why would I do that? If you want a kiss, make it home,” the half-Echani retorted playfully, giving the redhead a light peck on her pouting lips. “Your motivation to come home is for a real kiss.”

It took a few minutes before Rowena departed, headed toward a shuttle to take her back to their home on Solyiat. The Mandalorian had climbed into her cockpit after a last-minute check of her emergency provisions and spare parts. The hood slid shut, controlled by BB-13, moments after Aryn pulled her helm on, cold blues observing the hangar through the gold-tinted lense of her visor.

A voice filled the helm, courtesy of the internal comlink system. “This is Praxeum Tower. Your droid contacted us, fighter Aurelia.”

Wildcat requesting clearance to launch and take holding pattern Delta until Tython Squadron is in the air.”

“Granted Wildcat. Until next time.”

“Until next time,” Jade agreed, the vessel lifting from the duracrete in a single graceful motion as her gloved fingers flashed across the different flight sequences. “Thirteen, scan frequencies until you’ve got the comm channel Tython Squad is using.”

The droid beeped an affirmative, hesitated for a moment, then asked a question which brought a chuckle from the woman.

“No, we’re not going to buzz the Tower again. They get grumpy when we do that, Thirteen.”

The astromech gave an almost disappointed, long beep.


  • Mesh’a — Mando’a for ‘beautiful’

Kasula and Ysera listened to Jon’s well-rehearsed speech from the comfort of a makeshift lounge across from the Damsels’ Distress’ extended loading ramp. Seated comfortably behind the assemblage, neither of them made an inclination to join with the other members arranged close to the podium. After all, their involvement in Tython Squadron was one of necessity—or, at least their contribution for Kaltani’s assistance in granting them safe passage through the treacherous nebula. It wasn’t often that the monarch would lend a hand to someone formerly affiliated with an organization as unsavory as the Black Sun—yet, the ‘formerly’ part of that was due, in part, to the Vatali Navy’s role in saving the Daegellas’ VCX-100 from termination at the hands of those would-be ‘former’ employers.

However, if their somber attitude towards hearing another “briefing” was at all present, it vanished at the mention of the Light of Ki’asma. While grounded following their noble ‘rescue,’ the twins had heard rumours about the storied vessel. Moreover, the fact that the Sea Raven raiders had a head start meant that this treasure hunt was going to be a tight race. If the Daegellas were going to lose one, it wasn’t going to be the race as legendary as being the first to find the Light of Ki’asma.

With all the haste of a dozen pit-droids, the Damsels’ Distress ran through its pre-flight checks and lift-off clearance as if taking the chance to race Han Solo, himself. Stood at the nose of the Damsels’ domed cockpit, a lone crewman waved amber glow rods as if building up the anticipation on a pod racing track.

Warpath to Damsels’,” the vessel’s comlink buzzed. Standing out of her chair to reach the overhead instruments, Ysera flipped a small switch before collapsing back into the familiar nerf hide upholstery. Adjusting their headset comlinks in unison, both addressed the Miraluka simultaneously.

Damsels’ recieving loud and clear, Mynock.” Silence permeated the channel for a few seconds following that—time enough for the Twi’leks to trade smirks at having chosen the same response for their eyeless companion.

“Real amusing, Damsels’,” Talis drew a breath, “I can see, you know. I can perceive objects and sh—”

“Yeah, but you’re blind,” Kasula interjected before the Miraluka could finish yet another explanation on his Force-given sight… blah, blah, blah.

“So… Mynock.” Ysera finished, half-choking on a giggle. “It works, so we’re sticking with it. Don’t like it, you’ll have to catch us.”

Before the Miraluka could utter another protest, the glow rods shifted hues to blue, signaling an end to the wait behind the starting line. Warpath lifted off before the Damsels’ Distress, as each of the personalized starcraft began leaving the hangar in an organized fashion, beginning with those closest to the entrance. Forming up over Warpath’s wing, the Miraluka might have been able to make out some of the designs over peeling layers of paint if he concentrated hard enough, featuring the heraldry of anything from BlasTech to the Incom Corporation.

“See you all on Kaerls. May the best Twi’lek win.”

Agate was at the corner of the room, while suddenly the leader of Tython Squadron called his members. Agate shocked a bit and everything was like falling apart. She was checking her journal, she thought maybe she could find new creatures along the journey. She also checked her map to point the locations. She imagined maybe she could meet a creature that big and vicious or small and cute. She believed that there many interesting creatures on Kiast. But she realized that her main goal was to find The Light Of Ki’asma, legendary ship of Kiast myth.

“What’s so special about this ship?” she thought.

“Maybe it made of gold or it has important history? I think I lost my mind. I need to check it back.”

As a new member of Tython Squadron, Agate had a lot of questions in her mind. She was a bit nervous but also exited of her new adventure. She rushed to the team. She met her new leader and found new faces. She noticed a few of them. Talis who was vocal and liked to ask questions and Celevon who liked to hang out with the clan members. Celevon often showed his new artworks and he had unique artistic ability. It was nice to hang out with him. She remembered that he also helped her to fight the Rakghouls on Taris. It was a memorable experience.

Jon Silvon, as the leader of Thyton Squadron stood still, he observed his members and then started to introduce the mission. Agate paid attention to him and her new quest began.

Jon watched as the streaking stars suddenly halted, and the frozen waste that was Kaerls thrust itself into view. His eyes immediately snapped to his sensors, and a weight lifted off his shoulders when he saw no sign of the Raiders in the vicinity.

Yet, he thought.

“Alright Squad,” he said into his communcitor, “Welcome to step one on the scavenger hunt. Keep your eyes on the sensors, and be on the lookout for any signs of the Sea Raven Raiders, copy?”

“You really think the Mandalorians who live here would tolerate pirates?” Talis asked over the comm, skepticism in his voice.

“As target practice maybe,” Junazee snarked.

“Hey,” Jon replied, “I never these pirates were smart, but they want this ship badly enough and they’ll take stupid risks.”

“Is that good for us,” Nijalah asked, “Or bad?”

Jon didn’t have an answer to that. He had Artemis send out a message to the mining colonies below all the same, informing them of the Squadron’s intentions - decidedly not mentioning the map or the Light. He’d keep his cards close to his chest for the time being.

The mismatched fleet of ships and fighters entered orbit, heading for the coordinates specified by the map - a darkened valley in the middle of a remote part of the moon, currently bathed in shadows. Due to the moon’s slow rotation, this side of it hadn’t seen sunlight for months, and wouldn’t for a while yet.

If this thing is the real deal, we’re about to know it. He lowered the Carnival, signaling Agate, Ysera and Kasulla to follow him.

“Alright, here’s the plan - the four of us will disembark and see if we can find anything. Everyone else, patrol the perimeter in your ships. You spot any uninvited guests, you turn ‘em back or turn ‘em to ash, but signal us immediately, got it?”

With that, he landed the Carnival on the snowy ground, and walked out into the biting cold. The others followed suit, and soon the four of them were standing at the mouth of a valley that descended into pitch black darkness, while their allies flew circles overhead.

“Alright,” he shouted over the howling winds, “Let’s do this.”

Agate looked out of the window and she could only see the planet surface that so pale and windy. The ship interior was also quite dark. The circumstances were spooky enough for Agate.

While Jon busy with his communicated to his teammates, Agate sensed through the force of her surroundings. She didn’t noticed any of the Raiders that Jon mentioned.

The door opened and four of them walked out, the temperature was so cold. She could only hear the sound of wind and night creatures.

Agate looked at Kasulla and whispered, “Are you ready for this?”

Kasulla nodded. She didn’t want to distract the mission.

And suddenly Jon shouted, called his team to follow him. His voice broke the silence.

“Well, I didn’t see that coming,” thought Agate.

Agate wondered maybe his call might attract the enemies. But there was no time to complain. Agate followed Jon into the darkness.

Waiting was always the hardest part. It wasn’t the inactivity in of itself, it was simply halting, watching, and knowing that someone was coming to kill them. Although Silvon had largely voiced his orders as a precaution, Ka Tarvitz had been on enough such missions to know that they would inevitably end in violence. Unless you showed up with a Star Destroyer at your back, you could always guarantee that one pirate would be stupid or arrogant enough to pick a fight. He just wished that they would hurry up.

Easing back in his restraints, Tarvitz idly tapped one gloved hand against an area of bare metal among the Spitfire’s combat display. He was still getting used to the extended screens following its latest upgrade, with visual adjustments now featuring the status of its microthruster array and flare launcher. The N-1 was as fast as ever, but at least in terms of visual targeting, the additional information was a notable distraction.

Like the rest of Tython Squadron, Tarvitz had fallen into a perimeter formation, moving in a slow orbit about the local area. Most of them had remained silent since that time, save for the occasional sensor ghost or minor update. In the minutes since Silvon’s team had landed there had been little activity to truly remark upon.

Behind the fighter’s cockpit, Ratchet let out a string of bleeps. Tarvitz smirked slightly and shook his head.

“You can try if you want, but I don’t think any of them would join in. Besides, how could you tell if someone’s cheating or not?”

A low whistle answered him, and he laughed at the bluntness of the answer.

“I never should have let Essik teach you sabacc.”

Tarvitz was about to ask if the R3 droid planned on playing for credits or not, when Tarvitz’s display flicked red. He frowned, tapping the read-out and adjusting the fighter’s sensor ranges. It had only been a momentary contact, but it was enough for Tarvitz to stop and pay attention. He reached out with the Force, using it to guide him as he re-adjusted the display, before picking out the two objects once more.

Spitfire to all ships,” Tarvitz said, quickly recognising the design and engine signatures, “it looks like we have a pair of squints shadowing us. They’re hiding at 6-5, moving on low power.”

Neither of the TIE Interceptors were moving with the increased energy output or weight which would suggest a hyperdrive generator. Both were flying low now, trying to keep whatever cover they could find between themselves and the Odanite squadron.

“I’ll contact the commander,” one of the voices Tarvitz was less familiar with answered, “he’ll want to…”

The communication rapidly distorted, the syllables of the following words twisted beyond recognition. He quickly tried the others, only to be met with similar distortions. Jamming, low level but effective for at least a few minutes. In that same moment, the display lit up with multiple hostile signals closing on their position.

“See what you can do to break through that,” Tarvitz said to Ratchet, activating his fighter’s weapons and turning toward the incoming craft. “In the meantime, lets make some pirates very sorry about their life choices.”

Rachet beeped an affirmation as Tarvitz brought the Spitfire around and pushed the throttle to full. The hunt was on as the Jensaarai’s craft hurtled forward.

But something was amiss. As he closed in on the two signatures he could make out laser fire arcing back and forth between the two vessels. Tarvitz glowered at the target display. Two squints. If he’d been able to push the throttle higher through sheer force of will, Ka would have.

As he got close enough to get visual contact with the two vessels it became clear that, although the pursuer was indeed some variant of TIE, the other vessel was nothing of the sort. “Forged engine signatures,” the Jensaarai muttered. “What kind of a maniac would impersonate a TIE?”

Ratchet’s answer wasn’t flattering, but it got Tarvitz to crack a smile.

“Yes, well, I suppose we’ll see for ourselves soon enough.”

The lead craft, a black Aggressor nearly twice the size of a TIE was darting around erratically, an anti-pursuit blaster attempting to ward off the garishly painted interceptor on its tail.

“Well, at least I know one of them is hostile.” Tarvitz squeezed the trigger on his control stick and a pair of lasers cut through the air between the two other fighters.

The TIE pulled its nose up and opened fire on the Spitfire as Tarvitz effortlessly spun out of the way as the TIE overshot it. Tarvitz looped up and around for another pass, and through the transparisteel cockpit bubble he could see the Aggressor and the TIE doing likewise. The TIE pilot, however, seemed to lose his nerve in the face of two opponents and started to veer off skyward. Unfortunately for him, the Aggressor’s main weapons were more accurate and powerful than the anti-pursuit blaster, and the black vessel’s cannonfire blasted one of the TIE’s wings clean off the side of the ship.

As the flaming husk of the interceptor spiraled down to Kaels’ surface, Ratchet started to chitter excitedly. “Comms are back up? Get me the—”

“Since when do Vatali security forces fly antique snubfighters?” a voice called out over the now-clear channel. “Listen, whoever you are, you do not want to start with me right now.”

“Apologies, miss, but who exactly are you?”

“Just an innocent girl hunting for scrap. Oh, look, I found some down on the surface. Dibs. Now piss off.”

The second the four of them crossed the threshold, they were consumed by a deafening silence. One moment, they were surrounded by the loud sound of the rushing winds and the distant screech of Tython Squadron’s fighters up above, but as soon as they walked into the darkness it was like a switch had been flipped, and all other sounds just died away.

“Spooky,” Jon said, and immediately regretted it as the sound seemed to echo endlessly around him. And that’s not helping my nerves much.

“Stick close,” he said to his compatriots. “We don’t need anybody getting lost in here.”

The four of them walked… and walked… and kept walking. There didn’t seem to be any end to the darkness.

“Do you even know what we’re looking for?” Kasulla asked.

“I assumed we’d know it when we found it, but… Agate, do you sense anything?”

The lone Jedi of their group was staring upwards. She said nothing.

“…Agate?” Kasulla asked, poking the younger woman in the shoulder. “You still in there?”

“Something’s happening up above…” she said quietly. She sounded… distant, like her mind wasn’t really on the here and now. “It feels like a fight broke out…”

Jon snapped to attention. “A fight? With Tython Squadron? They’re being attacked?”

Agate was still for a moment, and at first Jon wasn’t sure she heard him, but she nodded soon after.

“What’s the plan, then?” Ysera asked tersely. “Do we keep looking, or go back them up?”

Jon’s mind spun as he tried to come up with an answer to that. He didn’t doubt the Squadron’s ability to handle themselves but… but why hadn’t they signaled him like they’d been ordered too?

Jon took out his comm. “Silvon to Lycanae do you read me?” Nothing but static was the reply. “Silvon to Nijalah?” Nothing. “Silvon to Talis? Anybody? Dammit, someone respond!” Jon wasn’t standing anymore, instead running back the way they came.

Krayth spit and ashes! he thought furiously. This place is jamming us! Has been the whole time! He rushed through the darkness, Agate, Kasulla, and Ysera rushing after him. But no matter how far or how fast they ran… the exit never appeared. The darkness was unbroken.

“Shouldn’t we have reached the exit by now?” one of them asked.

“Maybe we took a wrong turn?”

“Where? We haven’t turned once!”

Jon slowed to a stop. Oh hell. Realization dawned on him.

“We can’t leave,” he said finally.

What?” Kasulla demanded. “What the krayth are you talking about Silvon? What do you mean we can’t leave?”

Jon sighed, turned around, and pushed past the furious twi’lek. “We have to finish the trial. We can’t get out until we do.”

“So we’re just supposed to leave our friends up there to fight a pirate fleet alone?”

“…Not alone,” Agate said. “Someone else just arrived.”

“A friendly?” Jon asked tersely.

Agate smiled. “A friend, Jon.”

Jon took a moment to let that settle. Why must all Jedi be so damnably vague? He took a deep breath, and stood to his full height.

“Ok,” he declared. “Then we let them finish the fight. And we finish the trial.”

By the time Tarvitz was able to register the surprising answer, the other pilot had already closed communications. Banking around, he turned in pursuit of the Aggressor as it dropped toward the surface beneath them.

Spitfire to anyone down there, you’re about to have company,” he said, flipping to any open channel those on the ground might have been using. “She didn’t shoot at us, but I wouldn’t exactly class her as friendly.”

Static answered Tarvitz’s broadcast. Ratchet gave a low hooting moan, and several other rapidly approaching shapes quickly emerged on the fighter’s display.

“Would have been nice for her to mention she’d kicked over a fire wasp nest on the way here,” Tarvitz grunted, abandoning his pursuit in favour of the oncoming ships. “To everyone else in Tython Squadron, I’m assuming you can see that?”

“We’re not blind, Spitfire,” the icon of an Actis-class Interceptor flashed, signifying the member speaking at that moment. “That’s thirteen fighters, mostly TIE variants, with four IRDs backing them up.”

“Warpath here, they’re definitely custom jobs,” another voice chipped in. “Several are burning hot, and they’re moving faster than typical TIE builds.”

Tarvitz silently absorbed the information as the enemy squadron came into view. TIEs were easy to come by, and most pirates quickly kitted them out with anything which might improve their survival, but the presence of IRDs was certainly a surprise. CSA fighters underwent limited production runs, and even outdated variants were difficult to liberate from most decommissioning yards.

“Pick your targets and stick to the plan,” Tarvitz said, already zeroing in on the lead ship, a bizarrely modified quad-winged TIE fighter. “Turn them back or turn them to ash, and keep the landing area clear.”

“As if we’d do anything else,” the Actis’ pilot answered. “Oya!”

The fighters approached them in a swarm, keeping in a tight staggered formation and firing in a singular mass. The members of Tython Squadron scattered as they approached, breaking apart as they swept around the incoming ships. Tarvitz knew the formation well. It was a battering ram, crude but effective, and intended to break an enemy force so they could be divided up and overcome. It might have worked, were it used on anyone else.

As several of the TIEs attempted to pick off the seemingly isolated Warpath as he swept around them, one died in a burst of flame. Another plunged into an maddening dive as a rapid burst of cannon-fire sheared off one wing.

Diverting power into the N-1’s engines, Tarvitz was shunted back into his seat by the abrupt acceleration. The fighter hurtled forward through the swarm, bypassing an Interceptor closing on his position, and focused on the IRDs. His thumb stabbed out twice, sending two missiles toward the ships. The fighters swerved just as the missiles broke apart, discharging swarms of skittering buzz droids onto each IRD.

One fighter blinked out of existence as the buzz droids clustered about its missile payload, their drills prematurely activating the warheads. The other wobbled violently as the pilot attempted to shake the droids clear from the ship. Tarvitz didn’t wait to see the outcome of the struggle, and instead hurtled past them, firing in momentary bursts toward any other target seeking to protect them.

Ratchet bleeped several times, his domed head turning back to regard the pursuing ships.

“Only that many?” Tarvitz laughed, jinking the fighter to throw off their pursuer’s aim. “I’m almost insulted.”

The trick now would be to stay alive and keep them busy while pursuing him, leaving the others free reign to wipe out the remaining pirates. From there it would be a case of holding the area until more pirates showed up, or the squadron members on the surface withdrew from their hunt. He wondered which would be first.

  • Oya - Literally: Let’s hunt! Colloquially adapted as a positive and triumphant cheer with potential meanings including “Stay alive!”, “Go you!”, and simply “Cheers!”