Log:A Milk Run Goes Sour
The short story: A boring but noble 'milk run' mission turns out more interesting than expected. The plot thickens, then curdles!
The long story: (This is the first half of the log, as the scene had to pause due to RL)
There are three small transports of 'Feed Them All', stuffed to the gills with humanitarian supplies - crates labelled with contents such as powdered milk, nutrition bars, dehydrated meals, foil blankets, insta-shelters, solar cookers, that sort of thing. They're loaded at some out-of-the-way satellite spaceport on Nar Shaddaa, under the gaze of security goons who look similar to but aren't NSec. When some klutz of a dockhand drives a loader up the ramp and manages to capsize a crate onto the concrete, it splits open and out spills dozens of old Imperial ration bars (but probably still before their use-by date. They're like Twinkies, their use-by dates anticipate the heat death of the universe.) So, finally, the convoy is on its way to Jakku. Because the transports are aged and their hyperdrives aren't exactly state of the art, the plan is to drop out of hyperspace a long way from Jakku (to avoid a miscalculation turning ship and crew into red mist by attempting to hyperdrive /into/ Jakku) and motor the rest of the way. Which is where you lot come in; they're asking for an escort through these pirate-infested regions, naturally have no money to pay for it, and are hoping someone will be so kind as to fly with them to get them to Jakku. And preferably back again.
The convoy's leap into hyperspace is uneventful, and after that eternity of whooshing stars, the hyperdrives are spooling down. Jakku is there on the sensors, some six hours before they will break atmo.
"Six hours!" complained the humble and wise Zhu Yan. "Six hours! It'd be cheaper to buy new hyperdrives than burn that much fuel!" Clearly the 'Corellian' was unhappy with the arrangement. He was sitting in the cockpit of the Redline, a YT-2000 that looked like junk but handled like an X-Wing with the firepower to match. Sneaky. The cockpit was cramped and there wasn't much space for more than two people, and with Reddie the R3 Unit occupying a corner, it was even more 'cozy.'
Speaking of Reddie, the little R3 blatted something at him. It sounded rude. "Look Reddie, it's pro-bono. Goodwill." Reddie blatted something else. "Because we need a cover!" Clearly this argument was going to go on for a while. Assuming no pirates ambushed them.
Hex might have thought he could get away from the base without medical oversight, and maybe he could if he had recovered from a normal wound. But now that his limbs are half metal and wires, the cybernetic surgeon who attached those new limbs to him wasn't letting them off base without her supervision. In case something glitched, he was going to need the extra pack she has attached to her regular med kit. Not that Sesti truly believes anything is going to wrong. If anything, it is probably a case of her tagging along to admire her own work in action, but she won't say that out loud. It may also be the chance to get away from the base for a little bit, and see more of the galaxy that needs protection from the First Order's tight fist. For whatever reason, she's sitting back in the lounge area, rather than trying to squeeze into the cockpit. With the prospect of six more hours, she lounges back, finds a comfortable position (as comfortable as she can) and settles in for a nap.
Six hours of flying? That's alright by Aola Ziveri. Every moment of the ground and in the air was something she enjoyied. Currently piloting her blue-stiped X-Wing, the Twi'lek flight officer was actually enjoying the thought of simply riding backup for another transport. The last time? Even after they'd encountered pirates things had gone pretty well for them. While she wasn't exactly hoping for someone to get hurt, the thrill of another fight was something she couldn't help but look forward to a little.
Tight squeeze? Who doesn't love a tight squeeze? Hex loves a tight squeeze, or he loves Zhu Yan, or possibly Reddie, because there's a Twi'lek crammed into the Redline's cockpit along with everything else. "Just think of it this way," he suggests. "You have six hours to contemplate how moral and virtuous you are, Yan. You'll be a candidate for sainthood by the time we get there. I personally will build you a small shrine and leave offerings daily. It'll say ZHU YAN THE MAN at the top and underneath, Feedin' the Babies, Gettin' the Ladies."
"Keep flattering me like that, Robo Boy, and I'll have to tell Kasia you're trying to get into my pants." Zhu Yan was absolutely and unequivocally a moral and upstanding citizen of the galaxy, or so he told everyone who asked. Reddie gave a dismissive beep. Clearly the little droid thought he was full of sithspit, which was unsurprising, because some jackass had coded her with the stereotypical 'Unimpressed Mother' personality matrix.
Out of boredom, Yan lazily piloted the freighter in a barrel roll around the lead convoy ship. Probably not something one should be doing with a freighter. It wasn't an X-Wing, Yan! At least he'd dialed up the internal compensator to full so no one would be thrown about. "Nah but seriously it's a pro-bono run. I have to prove my legitimacy." Prove what doesn't exist. Suuuuuure.
It's about two hours into the milk run when things turn...interesting. Four bright spots wink into sensors ahead (and not far ahead either), four ships dropping out of hyperspace in tight, dangerously tight, formation. Of the four, one is larger, three smaller, and the three smaller immediately break formation and splay out from their 'mother' ship. The flight computers and droids in Zhu Yan's and the other ships present rattle through their scans and identifications... a Y-4 transport accompanied by, of all things, three X-wings. No sooner have the ships been identified but a voice comes crackling over the hailing frequency. A woman, young, drawling. "I'd be mighty obliged if y'all would drop y'all's fighter escort back into hyperspace so ah can be boardin' the rest of y'all. Ah'll give you five minutes to think it over." The three X-wings are still splaying out, circling around the little convoy.
X-Wings? That was unexpected. There's probably a few of them out there that were left over and there were plenty of models in existance. The challenge to their escortee makes the woman shake her head with a sigh, her weapons charging as she sweeps upwards. She's not going to be surrendering, but she's not going to hold still and wait to get mobbed on all sides. "Well, a 'milk run' wouldn't have been nearly as interesting to reflect on anyway." The Twi'lek sweeps, already intending to line up one of the 'false' fighters. "Everyone get ready."
"Tcha!" Hex scolds Zhu Yan, amused. "I said getting the /ladies/, not getting the half-droid Twi'lek dudes. Your pants are safe, or at least they're safe from everything except Corellian fashion taste." He's in the process of amusing himself to see if he can touch the side of the cockpit from where he's sitting with one of his lekku when suddenly those dots wink into real space, and the transmission comes through. He sits up straight, blinking and calling back toward the lounge, "SESTI! Y'aaaaaallll got some cantankerous space hicks up in here!" The comms are on, but he's keeping her up to date on the situation anyway. How helpful.
When the scans come in and the fighters dissolve into being X-Wings, Karas blinks and grins a little. "OH really." he says to himself as he moves off to the opposite of the convoy. "Copy that Blue 4." he says to Aola. "Open S-Foils in attack position." he says as his x-wing begins to open it's wings. He will not fire unless fired upon. They are on a relief mission and well pirates who want to steal...ehh, can be blasted into space debris. Karas X-wing lines up, but is still keeping spread out enough to not crowd the convoy.
The twi'lek's holler rouses Sesti from her doze, and she swings her feet to the decking, instantly in upright position. Jax has been teaching her on his little freighter, and she swings into action with practiced ease, pulling herself up the ladder into a turret. "Well, that is what we came for, yes?" she asks, pulling on a headset when she gets there and warming up the quad.
"Well we came to get p... not get paid, but this'll do!" Zhu Yan had gone from thoroughly bored to fired up almost immediately. He was alert, flipping switches, enabling shields, powering up weapons, all the sorts of things one would do when you had to stop flying like a bored freighter captain and start flying like Maarek Stele with his pants on fire. "Robo Boy, get your metal rear into the quads. Reddie, angle the deflectors while I charge up the main guns." And just for the record, he cracked open the comm to respond and, in his best airline pilot voice, asked, "Basic, please!"
The hailing voice crackles in again, "Tsk, tsk. Is that an aggressive response? Ah hope not. Ah'd have to reply in kind." Already, two of the X-wings are circling around towards Aola's fighter, and when Karas peels off on the diametrically opposite side the third X-wing seems to hesitate, flying straight and level for a few seconds longer than is absolutely needed before it, too, banks into a tight turn to head towards Karas' ship. The transport, meanwhile, is lumbering torwards the convoy on a head-on course. The young woman's voice on comms chuckles, and she starts to say something else before deliberately or accidentally breaking the connection.
"That's not an aggressive responce," Aola mutters under her breath. "This is." Flicking a switch in the cockpit she diverts power to weapons as she sweeps after one of the X-Wing hostiles. Dog-fighting is her calling and the young pilot is leaping right in. "Red 4, lets deal with these fighters. Freighters, watch yourselves. That craft might have a nasty trick or two up its sleeves."
"You got it, Captain Pants," Hex replies to Zhu Yan, already up and on his way to scurry to a turret. Careful scurrying, lest he incur Sesti's wrath by tearing his new arm off on the way to said turret. Once there, he takes up position and warms up the other quad, complaining, "They make these headsets for such human heads. Y'aaaaaall," he's getting too much enjoyment out of this new Basic contraction, "Have a very limited range of head shapes. I take it you want the transport on the collision course, Yan, but speak up if we're lighting up a different target."
Karas knew what he was doing, and as he saw as the third fighter began to hesitate, he comes in throttling up as he puts power into the engines, "Let's dance." he says as he streaks off towards the X-Wings. "We'll try to keep you covered, but if you find a hole, bug out and we will catch up." he says to the convey. Jakku needed the supplies they were escorting and Karas is going to make sure they get them. "Blitz track all three X-wing, but focus on the bandit we are about to engage." he says to his astromech. Karas is a dogfighter and he is going to make good on keeping the convoy protected.
As Zhu Yan fires up the weapons, Sesti takes a moment to familiarize herself with the controls. She's a direct counterpoint to the talkative twi'lek, silent and waiting for the confirmation on target.
Zhu Yan pulled on the headset, linking him up with his two gunners. Excellent. "Lock yourself in, Reddie," he said to the little R3 droid. Reddie bleeped at him indignantly but complied. "Confirmed, Machine Hand." He was still trying to figure out a solid nickname for Hex. "I'm going to cut across the transport at a low angle. Both of you will have weapon locks."
As if to comply, Yan abruptly shoved the throttle forward, pushing the ship from the standard cruising speed of a YT-series freighter to just barely out-pacing an X-Wing. One hundred and one megalights in space is nothing to sneeze at. The internal compensator wasn't quite ready for it, and he was pressed back into his seat for a moment before inertia normalized. He was barreling towards the transport at breakneck speed, correcting his course minutely to blast past it. Both the top and bottom turrets had a clear line of sight, and assuming those X-Wings didn't get any ideas, they'd have several seconds of concentrated fire.
The two enemy X-wings engaging Aola are good. Very good. They engage from opposite sides, and as the three ships close the first hostile X-wing, approaching Aola from nearly head-on, fires quad laser blasts that sear towards the Twi'lek's craft - while the second hostile spears in from below, aiming for the fragile underbelly of the venerable fighter. Karas' opponent is wily, jinking and jiving and weaving and bobbing, but manages to unleash a lucky shot off. And as Zhu Yan's ship approaches the gunners on the Y-4 open up prematurely, laser bolts arcing lazily and harmlessly across Zhu Yan's ship's bows. Someone, by chance or design, has left their comms hot on the hailing frequency, likely one of the first two X-wing pilots: "It's like shooting fish in a barrel!"
And then everything changes.
From out of nowhere three craft appear as streaks, ships coming right out of hyperspace on this position. The first impacts hostile X-wing #1 at a considerable fraction of lightspeed, reducing both craft into their component atoms in a pretty twinkling of stardust. The remaining two break left and right. They're instantly recognizable as First Order TIEs, their twin ion engines screaming as they bank round. They haven't fired yet, their pilots most likely fighting to figure out what they just dropped out of hyperspace into.
It was then that the distinctive RRRRRRRRRRRR screaming of TIE Fighters punched through the cockpit and into Zhu Yan's eardrums. Shit. "TIEs!" he called out through the comm, breaking off the engagement with the freighter and making a beeline at the X-Wing vs TIE Fighter brawl going on. He rolled the Redline ninety degrees, giving Hex a perfect shot at Aola and friends and Sesti a top bead on Karas and buddies. All they had to do was take it.
"You fly, we'll fry. You pilot, we'll light it. You zoom, we boom," Hex is the chatterbox Sesti isn't. "I guess the quads don't really boom, though? You... fly at... we'll, uh, blatblatblat." Then there's more company, new company! "What the frotz! TIEs?!" he exclaims in surprise, but it's not enough shock to pass up the shot at Aola's assailant that Yan so nicely provides. Blatblatblatblat!
The enemy may be good, but Karas is better, and as the shots from the enemy X-Wing is fired at him, and his shields take the hit. Karas rolls his fighter wing over wing to his right and climbs hard, pulling his fighter from a climb to a loop. He dials his interia compensators to the max, he is able to complete the loop and as he does, he gets an alert that the First Order Ties have come into view. "Wt got First Order Eyeballs inbound. Let's mop up the pirates before taking them on. Karas to Convoy, when you have a clearing get out of here, we will cover you." he says into his comms.
A loud beeping in her ears tells Aola her attempt to avoid being caught in the 'trap' hadn't worked quite so well with her shields instantly missing. Swearing to herself she jams her fingers down on the triggers and her own blaster bolts rake one of the other X-wings, smashing down its shields...just in time for Aola to see her scanners light up with the image of the FO TIE fighters. "Oh come on...!" she mutters.
The zabrak's lips draw back into a smirk as she listens to Hex, giving a barely audible groan as she looks for her target, waiting for the beep, but then the twi'lek's banter turns to an exclamation, and she gives an oath in her own language as she sees the ties come out of hyperspace. At least one of them was gracious to take itself out of the fight with one of the rival x-wings, but another is soon in her sights and she takes her shot on him, the aim square and true.
With Hostile X-wing #1 and TIE #1 now drifting in a comingling of component atoms, X-Wing #2 turns, pursing TIE #2. The two pilots are good, jinking and jiving - then the TIE breaks right and pulls up on full throttle, leaving the X-wing standing for a long moment before the pilot can react. That gives the TIE enough room to twist around in a sickeningly high-G turn, slamming laser-cannon blasts into the shields and then the hull of the X-wing. It shudders under the impact.
Hostile X-wing #3 and TIE #3 start turning in a circle of death, each trying to turn inside the other, but the TIE has an advantage called the tail gunner. Even as the X-wing's pilot's head twists to try to see where the TIE is, the TIE itself spins on its own axis, sending bolts of plasma searing into the X-wing's engines. There's an explosion and then the X-wing is spinning, firing blindly.
And the convoy? Despite their ramshackle appearance, the three light transports delivering humanitarian aid bug out...into hyperspace. A clearance maneuvre takes them clear of the approaching transport and then, in quick sequence, they leap forwards into hyperspace and disappear. So much for Jakku aid.
There was a certain rush, a red mist, as it were, that came through when doing something high risk and high intensity. Often, this is achieved by heightened adrenaline response, the fight or flight response going into overdrive. To say that Zhu Yan was so noble as to not be affected by said red mist is a fallacious statement. He was reaching Anime Protagonist levels of hot-blooded and flying like a frackin' loon.
The YT-2000 bounced around like a kid on a sugar rush as it dodged errant blasts and random chaos to flip around and give both Hex and Sesti a shot at both of the still-functional TIE Fighters. Reddie chirped worriedly. "Clear the TIEs! Sanitize the area! Woohoo!" Yan cried into the comm with all the self-preservation instinct of a lemming. The thrill! The rush! It had gotten to him, and he was loving every minute of it.
"Take it! Take it and eat it, you rash-burned assbaskets! Vatak'ultuka!" Hex trash talks the targets that ended up blown to pieces, in two languages. "New parts still working good, Sesti, couldn't ask for better," he adds, in case she was wondering how her cybernetics patient is holding up over there. "Get them lookin pretty and I'll give you another money shot, Yan," he promises, swiveling the turret about and firing when the target TIE comes into range. It's a solid shot, and it hits, as promised!
(TO BE CONTINUED)