My Month with the Gods
Tycho, Gavin and Narawa were already in the TIE simulator room when I arrived the next morning. "Good morning, Sandy," Narawa greeted me as he offered me a cup of caf.
I was still rather nervous about flying with the Rogues so it was a welcome substitute for the breakfast I had skipped. "Um... Smells good. Thank you," I answered as I gratefully sipped the strong brew.
I turned as Captain Corran Horn entered the room. I was still trying to figure this one out. He was easily the shortest of the group with dark hair and green eyes. My first impression of him was that of the stereotypical Corellian fighter pilot -- annoyingly cocky and self-assured. There were times, however, when he was just the opposite -- quiet, calm and almost serene.
Maybe there was more to the lightsaber that hung from his belt than just a family heirloom. He had been strangely non-committal when I had asked about it the previous afternoon. I would have thought that since he was wearing it in public he would be willing to talk about it. Instead, he had just shrugged, saying it had been his grandfather's and then changed the subject.
He walked over to us and looked me straight in the eyes, "Nervous?" he asked.
I winced, "Is it that obvious?"
Tycho chuckled, "Not really. Corran is just showing off."
My expression was as puzzled as my voice as I looked between the amused pilots, "Showing off?" "He's rather good at... reading people," Tycho replied cryptically. "Don't worry, you'll do fine. Wedge would not have agreed to bring you into the squadron, even temporarily, if he didn't think you were more than capable. He knows we would have consigned him to an eternity on capital ship duty if you didn't measure up."
"Ugh! That could be considered cruel and unusual punishment," I laughed.
Corran joined my laughter, "You know, Tych, I think I'm going to like her."
Hobbie entered the room in time to hear this comment. "Uh oh. We're in trouble," he moaned.
Lt Inyri Forge, who had come in with him, raised an eyebrow, "How so?"
"Any time Wes and Corran agree, something bad always happens -- usually to me," he responded pitifully.
I laughed as my team began to climb into their assigned simulators. I nodded towards Hobbie and asked Narawa, "Is he always this masochistic?"
"Actually, he's being rather optimistic today," he smiled as he handed me a datapad. "By the way, Tycho is right. I've seen your sim scores. You'll do great."
This additional bit of reassurance was enough to finally set me at ease as I settled into my simulator and brought up the systems and displays. I slipped into the familiar routine and found I was beginning to feel perfectly at ease. "OK, Reds, count it off."
"Red Two. Right behind ya, Boss," Gavin answered.
"Red Three. Two lit and in the green," that was Tycho.
"Red Four. Let's go kick some Rogue butts," came Corran's typical Corellian reply.
"Red Five. Everything seems good to go. For now." I had to smile at Hobbie's "optimism".
"Red Six. Ready whenever you are." Inyri's voice.
Narawa's voice came through over the comm, "Control to Red Squadron. This will be a simple 6 on 6. X-wings vs squints. Sneak attack."
"Control, Red Leader. Are the others ready for us?"
I could hear the amusement in his voice as he answered, "If they were ready, they?d pick you off as you launched. I do have a message from the other sim room that you can begin whenever you are ready, if that is what you are asking."
"Smartass," I said under my breath as I shook my head. How does Wedge put up with this and not lose his sanity? I asked myself. But then again, he had never really impressed me as being especially sane.
Narawa chuckled. "I heard that."
"Remind me again why I'm here," I asked of no one in particular.
Tycho cleared his throat to get our attention, "Lead, Three. This is usually where you chastise us about keeping comm silence."
I decided I could play this game, too, and answered him in my most sickeningly sweet voice, "Yes, dear." After the laughter died, it was time to get down to business, "OK, Reds. Let's go to work. Launch by pairs and form up."
We spotted the Rogues at a distance and as they came closer we split up into respective pairs. It didn?t take long for the cocky fighter pilot that hides in my cockpit to take over. I chose the wing pair in the middle and gave chase, Gavin tucked in neatly behind me.
The battle quickly shaped up on my monitors: Tycho and Corran were on Wedge and Marnie like mynocks while Myn and Oorl were giving Hobbie and Inyri fits. I smiled as I realized that meant the pair in front of me were Wes and Mikuls.
Mikuls, one of the newest and least experienced Rogues, exploded in a spectacular fireball as soon as Gavin got an opening. I opened my comm frequency to transmit to Wes, "Nice view, Major. Your best yet."
He chuckled and waggled his wings, "You like it? I have a few even better, if you want to see them." The undertones in his voice were unmistakable.
Wedge?s voice cut through our conversation, "Cut the chatter you two."
I wondered if Wedge still had the same buttons. I decided to try to push them a little. "Three, did I hear correctly? Did the enemy leader just give me an order?" Tycho chuckled softly in reply.
I grinned to myself as I noticed Marnie?s indicator flicker out. Wedge quickly made for me and Gavin, hoping form up with Wes. Tycho and Corran were hot on Wedge?s tail, not giving an inch.
I could hear Wedge?s growl over the comm as he tried to lock onto my ship, red lights flashing close on either side. I was able to keep out of his path but Gavin was not so lucky. I gritted my teeth in determination. He was not going to get me that easily.
There is a seldom used, rather tricky, maneuver that only a very few of the very best test pilots know about and it only works outside a planet?s gravity well. It had been a while since I tried it but I thought, What the hey.
I quickly killed forward thrust and used the maneuvering jets to flip my fighter nose over tail. In effect, I was flying backwards, being carried along my original trajectory by momentum alone. I lined up Wedge in my sights but he was able to dodge at the last second, flying by close enough that I could read the serial numbers on his laser cannons. I swore under my breath.
Corran echoed it immediately as he swerved to miss me. "Sithspit! Where did you come from?" he exclaimed.
I turned and formed up on Tycho?s other side as I glanced at my displays to see that Hobbie and Inyri were both out of the picture. I was pleased to see that they had managed to "kill" Myn and damage Orryl?s ship first, though.
Corran saw it, too, and quickly veered off. "Four here, you two keep Wes and Wedge busy. I?ll handle Orryl."
I resumed my banter with Wes, hoping to get to Wedge a little more. Wes was replying suitably when Corran?s TIE winked out. I switched to the private frequency with Tycho.
"Three, Four?s out. We got incoming. Five o?clock low." Tycho clicked his comm in acknowledgment and I switched back to open in time to reply to Wes.
I was still smirking when I again flip/flopped to target Orryl, destroying his already damaged ship. I quickly reversed to form back up with Tycho but Wes and Wedge had managed to maneuver him into a head to head ? a death sentence for most TIE pilots.
I was impressed with how well Tycho handled the situation, proving why he had graduated top of his class at the Imperial Academy. He was able to delay them long enough for me to get into position for a kill shot on Wes.
Wes? voice filled my ears. "I?m starting not to like you," he said.
Wedge managed to quickly finish off Tycho but not before losing his shields completely. I grinned to myself as I realized we were the only two left and we were on fairly even footing since the X-wings? main advantage was its shields.
Wedge?s voice purred as he spoke, "You willing to call it quits or are you going to make me kill you?"
"Ha!" I laughed. "The only way you?re gonna get me is if I give up."
"Maybe ten years ago. But not anymore," he replied with that infuriating Corellian cockiness. And he backed it up, too. My monitors turned red and then black almost immediately as he destroyed me.
I swore again and hit my controls in frustration.
I could hear various voices as my sim opened and I climbed out of it. Gavin was complaining about lack of shields on the TIEs and Hobbie was agreeing with him. Corran reminded both of them not to get complacent; just because an X-wing comes equipped with shields and an astromech doesn?t always mean they?ll work.
Tycho was smirking when I joined him at Narawa?s control monitor. "Nice flying but a little piece of advice: don?t ever taunt Wedge while he?s in the cockpit," he told me with a wink.
Continued in Part Seven