Log:Array Consortium: The Buzzards are Bold
Without much more than fractured local sector and planetary forces to protect them, trade ships are forming caravans for their own protection along the spacelanes; the Consortium has been hired to escort one such caravan along a particularly gnarly section of the Manda Murchat Run. Now christened the Manda Murder Run by some, Consortium pilots will have to work overtime to ensure that their charges are safe from particularly ruthless pirates operating in the area.
Behold, the Manda Merchant Run - hundreds of parsecs of hyperspace routing, from Molavar to Bothawui and Scarif, neary bisecting the entire Abrion Sector. This particular hyperlane has been preyed upon from pirates from the Rim in much greater numbers than surrounding routes; so much so now that trade ships have started to travel in packs in order to give themselves a measure of protection against the buzzards.
One such trade pack is a particularly large group of light freighters sponsored by the Seluvana Trade Combine and nicknamed the Selly Shoal. Twelve different light freighters of varying size and tonnage, the Shoal carries a variety of materials and commercial goods to the various wrlds along the Run. The trip has been soemwhat uneventful in the first few stops, but the farther the Shoal gets from Bothawui proper and Bothan Space in general, the thinner the presence of system security and the higher the chance of predation becomes. Far out among the stars, the Shoal drops into realspace near the edge of the Rishi system, where it four worlds - including the paradise jungle world that serves as its name - stand as the gateway to the so-called Rishi Maze.
Sion and Aola serve as primary fighter escort for this group, including two kill-packs of two Cutlasses and one Kimogila each from Brawler and Bruiser squadrons; hidden amongst the ships of the Shoal is also the Hauling Assets, with Bar'duur at the stick. With Bar'duur in general command, the lot of you snap back into realspace after a long trip made even longer to compensate for the ships with Class Two hyperdrives. Aead, things seem clear.
Even with an upgraded droid socket, flying an E-Wing just doesn't have the same thrill as, say, a TIE Avenger. Still, it does pack heavier firepower, and Sion isn't sorry to have that, as well as an astromech droid socket, now comfortably occupied by Jade (BB-J4D).
She's already checking the sensors as the ships drop from hyperspace. "Scope's clear, so far. But they could just be running silent, same as us, and we just knocked a big ripple into the pond. Stay sharp."
Kae is in the dorsal turret on the VCX Ship, the goofy Sephi wearing comfy things, really that mando stuff she picked up... Being custom fitted and all it's very comfy to her... The temperature controlled body glove does help too... That and the thing can be sealed up in a moment's notice...
Kae is however finding ways to amuse her self, as evident by the turret occasionally spinning first one way and then another, just well seemingly randomly. Those inside the ship might even hear her call out "Fweeeee!" Every now and then, before stopping, and well, the Sephi taking a long pull on one of a few thermos with well some kind of probably fizzy drink inside....
Bar's VCX is very nice inside, and it's class is known to have outstanding shields, otherwise it looks rather plain though, it has two blasters typically linked forward and two quad turrets with two hard points being left empty. The 'Haulin Assets' as it is called flies amongst the civilian ships, blending in, but it has an empty cargo hold, it's here to act as a sheep in wolfs clothing, instead.
"This is the first time I've used her for anything but cargo, so far." He mentions to Kae over their shipwide comm. "How's the turret?" I took those off my last ship before I sold it."
Mandl is content, 'til otherwise directed, to monitor comms and sensors-- whether they'll be improvising in combat is up to Bar! Happily seated at a terminal rather than a gunnery-port, they listen intently...
Back in the E-Wing again! Aola did rather enjoy it even if it was a little heavier than the TIE. It was still fast enough, still close enough to her beloved T-70 she'd lost oh-so-long-ago. With her Array suit plugged into the sensors and Bee-Boop in the droid socket, the Twi'lek pilot was as happy as a drunk hutt to be back in a combat fighter pulling escort duty.
Yes, its a good time for everybody, especially for all those civilians for whom the Consortium's fighter escort may well seem like a fleet. Eight combat and patrol ships for twelve transports? It might /seem/ a bit much, but alas, they haven't nicknamed this the Manda Murder Run for nothing. As the transports begin to file in together, the Hauling Assets at the core of the formation, a bright flash of neon blue light off the port side of one of the outlying freighters causes it to rock and list in space.
<< Help, >> someone calls over the comms web. << This is the Caliari Maiden! We've hit something! We're reading damage all along our port hull! >>
<All ships, slow to minimum speed! We have /mines/ in the area!> Sion calls, bringing her E-Wing to a near halt. <Turrets, be ready to start blasting. From what I'm seeing, this are nasty proton mines. We'll have to fly slow and scan hard...>
She cuts herself off, wincing inwardly. <Which is probably exactly what these goons want. Patching in my sensor data.> She hits the command and waits for somebody with command authority to say what they should do.
Kae blinks a bit, seeing the ship roll and whatnot...<<Ummm I'd call an all slow, might be mines... could maybe have the freighters fly in a tight staggered foormation and fire several weapons ahead and try to sweep up front so we have an alley too...>> She says now earnestly startong to visually scan around for enemies, as well as look for mines to boot...
A mutter of cursing in Zabrak leaves Bar'duurs lips as his attention turns toward the listing vessel, he's about to scan for mines when Sion calls it and he smirks a little bit in approval, to himself. "Droid, scan for mines." He says to the R2 that he keeps on the VCX, because he sucks with computers himself. "I'm going to scan, and feed the information to everyone else, and maybe I should fly ahead, with a fighter or two watching me if my scans draw attention."
Mandl awaits the 'droid's dutiful labor, poised to perhaps spot patterns or life-signs missed in the confusion...
MINES?! Aola actually gives a little curse in her native tongue before she nods. "Bee-boop?" she speaks, glancing down at the screen readout where the BB droid's communication was displayed. "Synch up the data and double check it. Someone's probably waiting for whoever they can cripple out here."
The caravan slows to a stop as directed, with angry cries flicking across the comms web - another ship, an ancient Barloz called Kallie's Fortune, manages to brake too late, managing to take a mine blast to its aft quarter, and though it doesn't explode (by some miracle) its engines die, and it is marooned in space. With mines. And a real danger out there in the form of those who set them.
<< This is Massat Horizon, >> calls out the captain of this whole group, the captain of a well-armed YT-666 that's been serving as the leadership and security core of this group unil the lot of you rolled in. << We're stopped. What now, Consortium command? We're following you on this. >>
Zerna purses her in though as she listens and watches everything going around. That's when she starts tapping on her console before speaking over their comms. "Alright guys. It's obvious this is a speed bottleneck. Essentially and obviously: it's a trap. The mines are meant to slow down or completely stop the ships." A pause as she starts to move her ship a bit more carefully. "An attack is going to happen and from act I can tell....they're going to probably come form the bottom where the mines are thinnest. We need to concentrate our defense there. Unfortunately....we need to probably dive down that way too if we want to take on the enemy face to face...." That's when she smirks a bit. "....smart buggers."
<We still have to get out of this sometime, Lead,> Sion points out. <Mind if I start chewing us a path through the top? It'll give us a place to go when that attack does come...> Her finger on the trigger, eyes on the sensor data, Sion waits for the response.
Bar'duur slows his ship to a crawl, and rotates it with subtle movements to point toward the 'bottom' of the envelope to the weaker part Kae had mentioned. He actives his two light blasters. "Well down is all relative." He says while pointing his ship 'down' in comparison to the caravan. "You ready back there Kaelyn?"
Kae peers at the disabled freighter, squinting a bit,a nd well using the ship's guns and targetting systems to well look at the damaged ships and see where the damage was.... "Erf can't tell from here to tell em what to do to fix it!" She calls out and then oohs << Yeah I'm fine, I'm looking out and stuuuuf, but we better get moving soooon! If anyone has a tractor beam they might could pull the barloz along and lock onto it with maglocks... Ya know, old addage, leave no one behind!>>
Pursing her lips in thought Zerna taps her console than continues on the comms. "You can try to blast through Sion but it's going to be hella more dangerous." A beat. "However....." Her blue eyes look everything over than nods. "The detonation radius isn't so wide so.....it may not be too back." With that she nods. "Alright we need to get these ships out of here. "Sion....focus on a large enough path to get everyone out the top but be careful. First sing of it turning into a shit show, don't risk blowing yourself or anyone else up. Everyone else, focus on the defense for when they come through the thinner area and getting these ships out of here. IF there's a tractor....use it."
<On it, Lead,> Sion replies, switching on the supplementary targeting subroutines. <Jade, calculate trajectory to clear the most mines in the least amount of time from this position.>
An affirmative beep and a sensor plot later, Sion's E-Wing noses up and begins taking out mines. She sticks to low speed, barely enough to give maneuvering way, and fires as soon as she gets a bead with fully-linked lasers. One down... two... three...
Kae blinks and flails her limbs now... "Soo we're gonna use the quaddies to shoot through the various mines? Can someone give me the sensor plot layout of em?" She asks curiously, then ummms... "Mebbe we can use the rapid fire capabilities of these guns to start blasting through em?"
<Yes ma'am.> Comes Bar'duur's voice on the Comm. "Droid, keep an eye out for target advantages." He tells his R2 unit. <Make ready.> he says over the ships comm though he knows Kae and Mandl are already ready. He's got the VCX angled toward the direction of probably attack now, all guns pointed for the thin section. <Well I dont know a lot about mines cant we shoot them as they move through them? Unless they're ging to explode them, but we could shoot them when they come through and try and get them that way.>
Music to her ears and the same thought on her mind, Aola smirks at Sion's idea. She's already moving to do the same. <<Work from the right, I'll work from the left. Keep the other ships back a bit to make sure we don't chain anything back onto our friendlies...and don't blow yourself up either. That'd suck.>>
Mandl methodically, logically starts tracing a path with quad-laser fire. What they're up to, none can yet say, but the mind of a Bith is a curious place indeed...
The traders aren't soldiers, they're just normal folks - so when Sion takes off and begins firing at mines, and Mandl joins in with his own turret fire, they start doing everything they can. One by one, even the damaged ships begin pouring turret fire from their dorsal turrets, lighting up the darkness of space with packets of red and green light from their cannon muzzles; the mines begin to explode in earnest, flashes of bright blue here and there, flares of light sparking everywhere above you like waves of exploding stars. And whatever it is, it's not only unexpected by the folk involved, for as the mines explode, Barduur's droid lets out a whistling beep as the sensors begin to register new contacts - a great many of them, fighters and transports leaping in from elsewhere in the system screaming upward from beneath the minefield with guns prepared to slash at the freighters' largely unprotected bellies. But that's why you have fighters, and turrets, and plan - and your'e going to need them all, as it's not very likely that the mines are going to cook off as the enemy passes. You're not /entirely/ fish in a barrel, but whats coming in't going to be all that easy to turn back.
But at least you've got warning...
Zerna frowns a bit as she seems to be in thought now, her fingers moving over her console. "Well we've got about...." A beat. "Twelve coming in. I say we thin them with massed firepower along with the mines....the mines won't do a ton of damage if they're not too close but it'll help thin them out. After that....we can try to go in close. Trying to dog fight in this if we don't thin them or weaken them won't be the best idea.....so...." She rolls her shoulders. "Red pack and blue pack....we're going to try and do this so we can knock some of them out."
<Copy on carton of bad guys,> Sion calls, still blasting mines. <Should I keep this up?> With Jade's well-qualified help, she's gotten her count up to seven mines destroyed, but it's a good thing this isn't a dogfight yet: Her slow speed would make her an easy target.
Kae waves her arms around, then skitters to the lower turret... "Oookieeee, I'm going to the lower turret!" She calls out and swivels the quad laser in the direction of the oncoming attackers... "Ready when you guys aaarrrrrreeeee!" She calls out cheerfully, flicking the setting to long range engagement and begins lining up her first burst, waiting to cut loose as soon as the enemies are within range.
Bar'duur in the cockpit of the VCX has had the main ship pointed downward all along, of course turrets are turrets so Mandl and Kaelyn have plenty of reign to fire where they wish. Bar's got the two light lasers that he controls from the cockpit pointed toward the thin part of the minevelope. <Might as well take on the immedeate threat.> Responds Bar'duur and starts to shoot as soon as enemies are in-range.
Mandl, more cautious or perhaps running scenarios in that big beautiful brain, also awaits the enemy-- but the bulk of their attention is on the environment: the mines, the movement of friendly ships, and the larger picture...
Aola had been working away at the mines alongside Sion and with the guidance of Bee-Boop, but the Twi'lek's gaze goes in the reported direction of the hostiles and she clicks her tongue. "They're going to be on us quick enough, but they'll probably stay outside the minefield unless they've got a means of getting through it or turning the charges off."
The minefield is strewn with detonations in an instant as the pirates and the Consortium pilots clash; Zerna's kill-packs move in close, pouring their firepower into the mines as their commander orders, their firepower pouring out in a wall of lasers and concussion warheads. Their shots land across the field, targeting those nearest the incoming fighters; on the other side, a wave of explosions tear through the pirates' first wave, and though most are able to keep their footing, two of the Kimogilas and ancient Headhunters are blown apart outright by mine detonations and exploding warheads. Still others take a shredding from the kill-packs' guns, but though their shields are battred they do not take additional damage.
The Consortium's pilots, too, are savaged by the opposition. Blue Pack, the one not led by Zerna's fighter, loses a Scimitar right away to a stray mine, while its lead takes a number of laser hits - the Kimogila does not go down, however, and prepares to open up anoher salvo. One of Zerna's flankers takes a serious hit as well, burning out an engine, but the hardy Soro-Suub patrol fighter does not buckle.
Meanwhile, Kae flails her way to victory and cleans up the third ounded pirate fighter, victory for Zim!
Sion and Aola join the transports in blasting the mines away, and they're making real progress - much more so than likely the pirates had ever planned for a 'catch' to do. But there's still plenty above nad around, and it will take time to chew through a wide enough gap for the transports to get through.
Well Zerna was an ace shot.....when sniping. Flying? Maybe not so much. The orange woman starts to fire but...yeah. At least she didn't do it over comms but she as cursing up a storm in her native tongue as she punches her console. Flying and shooting? Not her bag.
Back on mine-clearing detail, Sion continues to try and drill a pathway out. Twelve mines, total, on her own personal kill-tally now. <I don't know if we'll have a hole big enough to do any good anytime soon,> she comms to the group. <Need me back there with you all?>
Mandl has left their post? Crouched furiously at a backup terminal, they're *tappa-tappa-tappa* with all twelve fingers-- perhaps they deputized a passing crewman with a quick: "Here, occupy this turret..." to the... ehm... janitor, or something.
Bar'duur starts forward, along behind the fighters he doesnt rocket forward into the mines quite like they do, he's a bit more careful about it at first but once it seems he's got a good angle, and with the mines thining out, he starts firing off laser shots at the closest pirate he can, really though he's relying on his turret folk to handle the bulk of it, 'cause quads.
Yes, cos quads. Bar'duur's added firepower gives the pirate formation another thing to dodge - lasers, missiles, exploding mines, all of it rocking the lower half of the envelope. The accuracy of both parties isnt nearly as good this time around, however, and this causes a lot of disarray. Three pirates fighters are buffeted by exploding mines and laser fire, but they aren't quite taken out - Bar'duur's gunners, however, appear happy to take them apart. Consortium numbers are thinned by two as well, unfortunately, as Blue pack loses its other Cutlass, and Zerna's already-damaged wingman spins away in a cloud of smoke and expanding plasma.
The convoy, aided by Sion and Aola's efforts, is busily tearing a hole through the minefield. It looks that, assuming the pirates take more losses, they'll be able to blast their way out in a few more minutes!
Zerna gasps as she sees the other two ships go down. Frowning she turns her attentions back to the ships coming towards them. "Keep blasting that hole! Whoever isn't blasting.....keep these guys off the freighters." Looking around at her console, she continues to tap away. "Someone got anything I don't know about yet." She moves her own ship to try to draw fire from the others...somewhat. Maybe? She was going to make sure these guys get out in one piece come hell or high water.
Sion keeps up the good work, blasting more mines. <I think we might have something usable before too much longer, if we keep up this pace! Just keep 'em off our backs a little longer!>
Bar'duur is still shooting away as well, carefully lining his ship up, he dosnt get into the thick of it, his show is slow and though the VCX is suprisingly agile, staying at a bit of a distance lets him line up shots more easily. He rotates, shifts to the side, moves a bit closer, and it probably gives the turret gunners a good shot as well at narrow range of fire.
Mandl transmits their message to Zerna, begging: 'Assistance pls. Must act swiftly. We'll only have a few minutes of confusion--' et cetera. The details are highlighted, indexed and cross-referenced! The geologist's plan all depends on this! one! moment! Meanwhile the deputized janitor is having, presumably, the time of his life...
Mandl hurriedly, sweatily bangs out the friend-or-foe recognizance code to *all friendly craft--* they've copied the signature emitted by the pirates that delays detonation of the mines! 'Safe passage, free! Go, run!'
The signal spreads like wildire - and though the battle's going on well below them, the caravan pilots begin transmitting the FOF code like madmen and ascending at all available speed. This does not count the two wounded ships, however; Caliari Maiden is must slower thanks to the hole in its hull, and Kallie's Fortune - the old Barloz - is still dead in space. However, the ship in charge of the caravan, Massat Horizon, works with the Maiden to tow the ship between them. Everyone is starting to get away, and the mines are helpless to stop them.
Meanwhile, the remaining pirate pilots trade fire for a few more token moments, then break off to head away from the minefield. Brought down to less than a quarter of their number, the corsairs know what's up.
"Oh for....." Yeah this was said on their channel before she started flipping switches. With that she goes onto a public channel than as she cracks her neck. "Listen up, assholes!!" Yup....she's mad. "Now you can keep this foolishness up or you can go on about your way....." A beat. "But if you do continue.....I will personally board your ships, one by one, and rip you head off before shoving it up your own ass!!!!" Zerna is an angry Togrutan. "And I promise you....I'm going to enjoy it."
Clearing a few stray mines from the tunnel's edges, Sion drops back to a trailing position, just in case those pirates change their -for lack of a better word- minds. <I'll follow you out, convoy. I just need to make sure we're really clear aft!>
Bar'duur stays with the fight until the raiders peel off, down to a quarter, the horned man glares as they fly away. "Too bad I dont have my avenger, I cant help but feel they're down for now, but they'll try to grow back and try this again some day."
Mandl hands the janitor his mop, exchanging places and seating themselves back behind the quadlaser. "You did very well, crewman, Bar'duur will hear of this."
The caravan bursts clear a short time after the pirates flee - in considerable disarray. Perhaps this pushback was unexpected, but these are the times when even the lambs will turn and slay their shepherd when pushed enough. In any case, you have succeeded - and though the Consortium has taken some losses today, the clients have been barely dinged. Well done, everyone. Soon enough, while the caravan limps off to Rishi, Mandl soon extrapolates the signal necessary to enact a detonation cascade throughout the field; within four hours after the departure of the caravan, the minefield is gone, and future traders will be safe.
That is, unless someone else sets up a deathtrap - giving the Manda Merchant Run new provenance to its darker moniker.