“On your right, Green Five !”, said a voice on the comlink channels.
I turned my head to my right and glimpsed a squadron of twenty starfighters breaking their formation as they entered a melee with an enemy squadron. Hundreds of blast shots surrounded the ships as they flew around each other like a great hive of angry bees, determined to deal the fatal blow to the other.
I wanted to turn my ship around and dive into the fight as well. I knew that if I did, my squadron would follow me no matter what. I knew it but I also knew that I had a mission to accomplish.
I forced myself to turn my attention to the battle unfolding in front of me, trying to cut myself from what I could hear from the comlink on my radio.
“I can’t shake him, someone… please…”, said a man, in a panicked and terrified voice.
“We’re taking heavy losses ! We need to fall back and regroup!”, urged a third voice.
“Behind you Gale ! Watch out !”, warned a woman as three starfighters passed by followed by an enemy squadron.
“I’M HIT ! I’m going down !!”
An explosion blinded me for a few seconds. It was close to my ship and sent my whole body shaking. I turned my gaze to the source of the blast. An Imperial starfighter had blown up less than ten meters from me. I could see the pilot, drifting off into space, probably dead already.
The rest of the Imperial squadron was scattering, pursued by enemy ships. They were twenty at first, they couldn’t be more than twelve now.
I switched my radio to contact the rest of my squadron.
“Silver Three to Silver Leader! We can’t let the other squadrons be torn apart like that ! I’m going to go and help them !”
“No Daylar! You know what is our mission and what is at stake! The other squadrons must clear the way for us to get through, they are doing their job so we can do ours and you know it!”, answered Elyn of Suliri in a sharp tone.
I should’ve expected that answer. Of course, I knew what was at stake. Elyn had explained some of it to us before we took off. This cruiser was vital for the security of the Empire. General Rhaynis of Anoda was trapped inside with other members of the Imperial High Command. If they were to be killed or held prisoners, the consequences could be severe.
Despite it all, I couldn’t turn a blind eye to what was happening around me. The Imperials were pushing forward in several places on the battlefield and it was apparent that we would be winning. We had deployed more men and resources, our battleships were more powerful and better equipped and we had the element of surprise as well. But the enemy was fighting fiercely and wherever I turned my eye, I could see Imperial starships afire or destroyed as clearly as I could hear them dying on their last comlink transmissions.
I was a soldier of the Empire. I had a duty to do and duty requires sacrifices sometimes. I hoped this was the case, for I knew only too well that the price of our victory would be high.
“SHIT! Vegarel Transport Barge at twenty degree to starboard! They’re trying to cut us off!”, warned Silver One on the radio.
One glance on my right confirmed what Tuk was saying. A huge ship was speeding to block our way, possibly ramming into the Dark Star at the same occasion. Its numerous turrets turned towards us and opened fire.
“Take evasive actions now! We need to take those turrets out or we won’t be able to pass!”, ordered Silver Leader.
She didn’t need to tell me twice. I put my whole weight on my helm and back flipped my ship to avoid the blast shots. Zigzagging between them, I started to move my ship towards the Barge. We were too far to take them on but they were getting closer each second. And the closer they were getting, the more difficult their blast shots were to avoid.
“This is Gold Leader, we are coming to your assistance!”, said Asher of Elinzer, “We are starting our bombing run on the Barge engines!”
“Copy that Gold Leader”, replied Elyn of Suliri, “Silver Squadron, boost up your forward shields and fly as low as you can, we have to draw their fire to give time to the Gold Squadron’s bombing run.”
Activating my shields, I plunged right towards the Barge, avoiding its fire with a series of barrel rolls and stunts. Just like training really.
I glanced at my left and glimpsed Rosae’s ship following me. I smiled at her.
“Race you to their bridge, lovely Rosae?”, I taunted her, grinning.
“I wondered when you’d say that!”, she answered, laughing.
Rosae did not wait for my reply and boosted her engines towards the Transport Barge, easily avoiding the blast shots that were targeting her. Grinning, I accelerated and began to catch up with her. Blast shots were raining on us from everywhere but none came close.
I imagined what was happening in that Barge at this very moment, the total stupefaction of the gunners watching two minuscule starfighters rushing towards them and their total inability to even hit our shields.
I finally reached Rosae’s side and turned my head to her. She was focused on the movements of her ship, her red hair let loose in a cascade over her right shoulder. She was indeed beautiful, I thought. Never seemed to actually notice it before today.
A shot towards me brought me back to reality. It came close, too close even… My shield had taken some damage and burn marks had stained the perfect paint of my ship. Damnit, Nasser is never going to leave me alone with that one.
“What in the Beyond are you doing, you two?!!”, yelled Elyn of Suliri on the radio, “Come back at once! On your own, you won’t stand a chance!”
“Trust us, Silver One.”, answered Rosae in a calm voice, “We know what we’re doing… Sort of…”
And then we were on them. As sudden as lightning, we passed right above the Transport Barge and opened fire on any visible turrets. Slaloming between the turrets, I noticed a huge heavy turret that was targeting Rosae. Carefully aiming at its energy cells, I fired with all my guns on my new target.
The turret exploded in an gigantic fire that sent metallic parts flying in every direction as well as body parts of what I guessed were the poor idiots who were manning the tower.
I never saw the shot coming. A blast hit my starboard wing on the rear and sent me in a harsh lurch forward. Fire was spreading on my wing and I was losing speed rapidly.
That’s when I saw them on my radar. Two Vegarel starfighters had taken me for target and were catching up with me, firing heavily on my engines and wings. Malar’s sake! Just what I needed.
Well if they wanted a fight, that’s what they were going to get!
I turned my ship into a back flip towards them and fired upside down at the first one at range. Hit in the engine, the pilot lost control of his ship that came crashing on the Barge, leaving a deep hole into the hull. Men and furniture came flying out of the ship, blocking the view of the other enemy starfighter and the Barge turrets.
Perfect, I thought. Time for a little payback. I rushed towards the nearest tower to attract its fire. The turret could not resist in the temptation of shooting me down, as I had planned. Struggling to follow me, the turret was firing blindly, hoping to hit me by accident.
I turned around the turret like an annoying fly until I came in the direction of the other enemy starfighter who had lost sight of me. With a small grin, I flew under the tower and looked with a deep satisfaction the enemy starfighter being shot down by the turret’s blasts and blown into oblivion.
By then, the Silver and Gold Squadron were joining us and heavy fire and bombs were raining down on the Barge. I tracked down Rosae’s ship rushing towards the Barge’s bridge and followed her. The damage to my ship were not as bad as I had first thought, but it was still a near thing. That’s what you get for being cocky, I thought.
Rosae sent a missile directly into the bridge of the Barge that crashed on the shields of the ship. I followed her lead and sent another one right after on the same spot. The weakened shield gave in and the missile came through the windows of the bridge to blow up the entire room. The explosion would probably be spectacular inside the ship but on the outside, I barely saw a single flame.
“Silver Two, Silver Three. We are breaking off the attack now! We need to catch up with the Dark Star and the Constellation”, ordered Elyn of Suliri.
I did not have time to wonder why we were breaking off a successful attack for I saw the reason almost instantly. Behind the Barge, a huge Imperial Cruiser was rushing towards it, going at ramming speed for their engines and docking bay. Poor fuckers, I thought.
Turning my ship around and joining back with my crew, I caught a glimpse of the Cruiser ramming the Barge, cutting it in halves as if it was nothing more than paper.
Rosae came to my side again, smiling at me.
“Nice one, Daylar. Although your ship seemed to have seen better days”, she mocked gently.
“A man needs his battle scars, a ship does too”, I answered.
“One day, you’ll have to show me your battle scars”, she said, with a wink.
For the very first time in my life, I think I blushed… and did not know what to answer.