Sunday, 24 January 2016

4. Raid on Polis Massa

The rebels that sheltered in the Polis Massa asteroid field felt safe in the knowledge that the Empire was unable to find their base among the potential millions of rocks floating there. In secret, they had taken the Alliance’s X-Wing craft and had modified it to be sleeker, faster and more agile. They felt confident this model, which they had named the T-70, would easily outperform the Empire’s TIEs.
They were, however, unaware that since their victory over the Empire’s prototype stealth fighter in the Castell system, Sienar Systems had worked tirelessly to develop their stealth drives, and the latest version of the TIE Phantom was already in operation around the Polis Massa field. It was the efforts of a young pilot codenamed ‘Whisper’ that revealed the location of the base. In a bold move that saw many of the Empire’s most skilled pilots being sent on a daring raid against the rebels, a force of TIE Bombers, Punishers and Defenders managed to slip into the asteroid field using the asteroids themselves as protection from the rebel scanners.
While several Punisher squadrons lead the raids on the manufacturing centres of the Polis Massa base, Captain Jonus took a pair of Onyx Squadron pilots to destroy the prototype T-70s…
“Captain, three targets located. One is a Z-95. I think the other two are our primary targets.”
Jones checked his scanners. “Roger that, Onyx One. concentrate your efforts on those X-Wings. The Headhunter is mine.”
“Copy that.” The Onyx Squadron pilots chorused. They banked right ahead of Jonus, narrowly avoiding being struck by an asteroid. Jonus barrel-rolled underneath it. While he was unhappy he wasn’t participating in the bombing runs, he was glad to be given a challenge. The Bomber was slower than the standard TIE, but offered more protection and better ordinance capabilities. For a pilot like Jonus, all it meant was he had to be quicker than normal.
The X-Wings dodged and wove through the asteroid field, making a direct hit nearly impossible. They raked the Defenders with blaster fire, lighting up the shields before disappearing behind asteroids.
Onyx One banked left sharply then rolled effortlessly around an asteroid. “Got him in my sights!” A lance of energy from the Defender’s heavy laser cannon crossed the void and struck the first X-Wing in the rear. It’s shields died as the pilot fought to keep control of the ship. Jonus watched as Onyx Two fired wildly at the ship. He was about to admonish Onyx Two when he saw that the wild firing had been a distraction. The X-Wing had barrel-rolled to avoid the shot only to smash into an asteroid and explode.
“Good job, Onyx. Take down the remaining X-Wing!” Onyx Squadron took off after the craft as Jonus homed in on the Headhunter. The craft was almost too fast for him as it zipped between asteroids and down into the crevasses of a planet-sized rock. Jonus gripped the controls and followed it down.
The Headhunter was leading Jonus on a wild goose chase and he knew it. He was prepared for the smaller ship to bank down a narrow corridor, only to leave his bomber impacting a mesa of rock, rendering it to shards of glittering metal. He held his nerve and managed to get a target lock. Jonus prepared his ion torpedo and loosed the shot. The torpedo struck as the Z-95 was rounding a corner to escape. Powerless to turn, the ship struck the cliff and burst into a shower of sparks. Jonus pulled out of the canyon and rejoined the hunt for the X-Wing. 
The X-Wing pilot was relentless in his escape from the Defenders. Every time they lined up a clear shot, he would disappear behind another asteroid. Eventually, Onyx Squadron banked apart and attempted to pin the ship in a crossfire. As Onyx One rounded yet another asteroid, the X-Wing was on him, firing a barrage of proton torpedoes. The Defenders shields flickered and died before Onyx One was ripped apart by the remaining torpedoes. Onyx One’s sacrifice was the opening Onyx Two had been looking for. Appearing on the X-Wing’s rear, he opened up with the heavy laser cannon. The shot struck the X-Wings starboard stabiliser and sent the ship careening into an asteroid, destroying it.
“Captain, this is Onyx Two. X-Wings have been destroyed, repeat; target’s destroyed.”

“Good work, Onyx. Rejoin me and we’ll finish the clean-up with the rest of the taskforce.”

3. The One-Hundred and-Eighty-Worst

“Okay Saber, keep it tight…” 
“Roger, Saber Leader.”
“Roger, Saber Leader.”

Fel banked around the asteroid and adjusted his targeting computer. There had been sightings of smugglers in this sector, and Saber Squadron was going to put an end to them once and for all,
“If you mess this up, I’ll have you all personally assigned to Felucia, piloting TIEs as distractions for the beasts that rule the skies…” Fel’s threat was neither veiled nor unclear. Since taking command of Saber Squadron from Commander Derricote, he had been less than impressed with the pilots under his command. Each one of them was supposed to be the best of the best in their wing. The privilege of flying in Saber Squadron came from being ruthless in combat as well as being able to fly an interceptor practically blindfolded. He had pushed them and each time he did, they came up short. 
Suddenly, his computer registered threats.
“Three bogies at two-ten!” He hit the boosters and his Interceptor danced around another asteroid. The Peragus II mining station was situated in orbit around the volcanic world of Peragus. Many standard years before, an accident with a blaster rifle had caused a cataclysmic explosion on the planet, sending continent-sized chunks of rock into the system surrounding Peragus. The planet was a leading fuel producer thanks to the mineral deposits in the crust that could be refined to starship fuel. Now, safety was paramount; the asteroid field that surrounded the planet meant it was almost impossible to fly safely without predicted drift charts, and blaster weapons were forbidden anywhere near the asteroids. Fel knew that if he or any of his squadron let a shot go wide, they would all be dead.
The smugglers approached in a dive, intending to catch the Imperials off guard. 
“Stele, break left, go for the escorts! Yage, with me, aim for the freighter! Keep that blaster fire tight!” 
The Interceptor to Fel’s left, that of Maarek Stele, rolled away in a spiral below the baron and Yage. Fel pulled back on the controls, lifting the Interceptor to meet the smugglers head on. Yage followed suit before asking,
“Sir, are we playing Brink with a YT-2400?”
“The biggest principle of Brink, Yage, is knowing when to move…” The ships sped ever closer, and Fel’s nerve held. 
Yale’s however, didn’t. The rookie rolled right, away from the speeding freighter, right into an asteroid. The sky lit up as the Interceptor detonated the minerals contained in the crust and the rock exploded, sending burning chunks of rock into the surrounding asteroids, detonating them in a chain reaction. 
“Pause!” Fel screamed. The explosions froze in mid-detonation. “End simulation.” The backdrop of space and glittering explosions shimmered away to nothing and Fel opened the cockpit of the simulator. 
Yage was sat red-faced, while Stele’s head was cradled in his hands. 
“Well done, Yage.” Fel said. “You’ve just cost the Empire billions in credits for fuel and cemented the 181st’s reputation as the ‘180-worst’. Are you proud?” 
Yage avoided the commanders piercing stare. 
“We’ve got a lot of work to do…” Fel called to the assembled pilots who had been watching the simulation on projection screens. He stepped out of the simulator and marched towards his office.
“Oh. and Yage?”
“Yes, sir?” Yage was already trembling. 
“Report to reassignment, collect your gear from your bunk, and get the hell out of my squadron until you can fly…” Fel’s office door closed behind him.

“Y… Yes sir…” Yage said, timidly. 

Zone Out Winter Kit

So, this is going to be my first blog post about a championship in my one of my FLGS, namely Zone Out in Doncaster.

My list was;

x2 Onyx Squadron Pilots (32) with Heavy Laser Cannon (7) 39 x 2 = 78 points
Captain Jonus = 22 points

Game 1 - James B running Rear Admiral Chiraneau and Whisper.
"So, first game of my first tournament! And it's against Imperials! This should be easy right?"
So, right off the bat, lets go for the Decimator (wrong move!) Within three rounds, Chiraneau is spinning towards the (metaphorical) bottom of deep space, taking Emperor Palpatine with him! 58 easy points in the bag for me! Now for Jonus and my remaining Defender to chase down Whisper! Easy, right? Wrong again. After losing Jonus and crippling Whisper, the Defender and Whisper continued to dance around the asteroids until, pop! Side arc, range 1 from Whisper! 5 attack vs. 3 defence... Goodbye Defender!

Game 2 - Ritchie running Cutlass squadron pilot, Omicron group pilot, 2 Academy pilots and Howlrunner.
"So, after a near-win in the first round, I can claw this back..."
Okay, so no Decimator and no Phantom. This game should be a change. After popping off Howlrunner and an Academy pilot or two, it should be simple enough to take out the shuttle and the Punisher. It turns out that the Defenders aren't agile enough to follow even the Lambda and outmanoeuvre the Punisher.

Game 3 - Matt running Vader, Stele and Whisper.
"Yay, more Imperials! And another Phantom!" 
This was by far the weakest of all the games of the day. Playing chicken with two TIE Advanced and a Phantom didn't go as well as I thought it might. Two pilots at PS3 and one at PS6 it turns out is no match for three pilots with PS11, PS9 and PS9 respectively. So yes, the TIE/x1 duo managed to cripple the Defenders after Whisper was (finally, albeit in a different game) spread across space in a shower of sparks and guts. MVP of this game goes to the phenomenally stupid Captain Jonus, who, thanks to awful ship placement and manoeuvring on my part, decided to fly off the edge of the board.

Game 4 - Danny running Howlrunner, 4 Academy pilots and Vader.
"Even more Imperials. Still, it's better than being beaten by Rebels."
So, last round and I'm clearly last in this tournament. Lets see what I can take down this time! Howl runner succumbed to the Defenders, as did several of the Academy pilots. It was, however, not to be a victory for me, as Vader once again proved why he is the strongest of the Imperial pilots by destroying Jonus and a Defender.
MVP here goes to Academy pilot #9 for finishing off the last Defender. 

So, overall thoughts of the tournament...
The turnout was sparse but everyone seemed really cool. Out of eight players; five were Imperial, two Rebel, one Scum. Imperial lists seemed to be fairly widespread - including a good mix of large and small ships, swarms and elites, and a spread of ships. Palpatine proved popular, popping up in 40% of the Imperial lists, as did Vader and Whisper. Imperials also proved to be the weaker of the factions, as 5 of the 6 players from #8 to #3 were Imperials, the last one being Scum. The two Rebel lists were almost identical; 4 B-Wings on both sides. One list included a Z-95 Headhunter, the other included a Dagger squadron pilot and various upgrades to round out the list. Both of the Rebel players made the top 2, cementing the reputation of the B-Wing as an excellent ship. It's hardly surprising either;

5 Shields, 3 Hull, 3/4 Attack dice, 1/2 Agility dice, as well as Systems, Cannons, two Torpedoes and Titles and Modifications. Can Imperials have one of these?

Zone Out, for anyone local to Doncaster/South Yorkshire, is a great little venue. Situated in Doncaster town centre, it's got a lot of great stock, it's fairly cozy and while it can get a little cold, once the heaters kick in and the food starts cooking, it does warm up. Ash, the owner, is pretty cool too, giving each of us two alternate art Gunner cards, featuring the Imperial gunner, as well as the standard array of prizes for the actual prize places. 
Even though I lost all 4 games of the day, it wasn't a complete waste. Having paid the entry for the winner, he was gracious enough to give me his alternate art Darth Vader pilot card!

So, Store Championships are in about 2 weeks, so, let's hope that with a new list and some luck, I might come higher than last place!

Friday, 8 January 2016

2. A Phantom's Flight

“Phantom, this is Rear Admiral Chiraneau, do you copy?”
“Copy, Admiral, this is ‘Echo.’ Beginning test of the advanced cloaking device.”
The TIE Phantom shimmered for a second and then disappeared against the darkness of deep space.
“Begin scan.” Chiraneau ordered. The Decimator’s crew set to work trying to find the cloaked ship.
“Long and short range scans complete. No sign of the Phantom.” The first officer called. 
“‘Echo’, test is successful. Decloak and approach for phase two.” 
“Copy that.” Echo decloaked the Phantom so close to the Decimator’s bridge she was able to wave to the crew. 
“Now now, Echo, please behave.” Chiraneau mockingly admonished. “That’s half a million credits of prototype you’ve got hold of.” 
“Sorry, sir. I couldn’t resist.” Echo replied, “But I’ve been here the whole time. Shows just how good the cloak is.”
“Indeed.” Retorted Chiraneau. “Commence weapons test.” The Decimator launched several satellites, each as big as a Phantom’s cockpit, out into space. 
“Commencing test.”
The Phantom took off at speed, it’s blasters lighting up as it began destroying the targets. Within seconds, the satellites were debris. “These blasters are amazing!” 
Chiraneau smiled. This weapon would revolutionise the fight against the Rebellion, making it nearly impossible for them to defend against such a small craft.
Warning lights and sirens broke Chiraneau’s reverie,
“Sir, incoming ships! Dropping out of hyperspace!” The first officer was racing to his post.
Out of the darkness, three Rebel starfighters appeared and moved into attack formation. 
“Raise deflectors! Bring us about! Charge main weapons!” Chiraneau barked. He grabbed the closest console and held on as the Decimator swung to port to engage the fighters head on. “Echo, get clear, I repeat; get clear. We can handle these Rebels.”
“Sorry Admiral, but I’m not running.” The Phantom arched around to flank the fighters. “I’ve wanted a real target for this baby since I was given the flight.” The ship shimmered and went into cloaking mode.
“Three ships, sir. One A-Wing, one B-Wing, one X-Wing.” The first officer was checking the readouts from the tactical screens. 
“B-Wing is mine.” Echo chimed in.
“Follow that A-Wing.” Chiraneau roared.
The Decimator pitched violently as it swept round to catch the agile craft.

Echo gripped the controls of the Phantom tightly. She had heard a lot about the Rebel B-Wings and was eager to add one to her total number of ships destroyed back on CC-24. She pounded the console and slipped out of cloaking mode right behind the fighter. She wasted no time in hammering more keys, then opening both barrels of the blasters on the lumbering ship. The shields flickered as blaster fire stitched it’s way across the wing, forcing the pilot to bank sharply to avoid more damage. The lights in Echo’s cockpit dimmed as the ship reentered its cloaking mode. “At least the ACD is set up properly.” She said to herself. She looped around the B-Wing, ready to take it down when warning lights flashed - someone has a target lock on her. The X-Wing had followed her path and found her rear while she had been focussed on the B-Wing.
The X-Wing pilot waited for his moment, then unleashed his barrage of flechette torpedoes. The torpedoes struck Echo’s Phantom, slashing through the power cables, rendering the prototype weapon useless. The Phantom dropped its cloak and was sent spinning towards Castell. Echo cursed the Rebels and activated her life support systems. 

The A-Wing had been in a prime position to clean up the remains of the Phantom when the Decimator caught up with it. Chiraneau pushed the main gunner from his console before taking his place. He carefully guided the main turret around,
“Increase speed!” He called. The decimator lurched forward slightly, its gravity system compensating slowly for Chiraneau’s chosen modifications. When the targeting computer had found the A-Wing, Chiraneau fired a full burst from the turret. The A-Wing’s shields flared, died, and the ship burst into a shower of light as the reactor ignited, destroying it. The bridge went up in a cheer as Chiraneau sat back in the chair. It had been may years since he had been a gunner, but his talent for hitting the target in just the right place had never left him.
Suddenly, the Decimator bucked. The lights on the bridge flickered and died as the engines powered down. “Report!” Chiraneau was up on his feet, finding his own console and looking for a reason they had stopped.
“Ion torpedoes sir. The B-Wing caught us off guard. We’ve been disabled.”
“Blast!” He slammed his fist into the console display, shattering it. “How long until we’re back online?”
“Several minutes, sir.” The first officer looked as though the admiral would strike him, “I’m— I’m sorry, sir.”

Chiraneau looked from the viewport as the remaining Rebel ships made the jump to hyperspace.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

1. Introductions to the 181st

The doors of the turbolift opened and Baron Soontir Fel stepped into the 181st Fighter Wing's pilot lounge. Resplendent in his finest Imperial uniform, the baron expected a greeting from the commander of the 181st, Evir Derricote. Instead, what he saw made his blood boil. Several members of the 181st lay in a syntheholic stupor brought on by excessive juma juice consumption. A group of pilots were gathered around the main conference table taking bets on a pair of rodents fighting in a makeshift ring around the holoemitter. On the sofa furthest from the turbolift sat a large, grossly overweight mass of a man, with two semi naked Twi'Lek girls draped over him. One was pouring fine wine into the mans mouth while the other fed him delicacies brought from all over the empire. Fel marched to the man and stared down at him, his golden brown eyes burning with rage,
"Are you Derricote?" He snarled through clenched teeth.
"Whatever it is, I didn't do it." The amorphous mass didn't look up. He swallowed his mouthful and met Fel's wrathful gaze "Unless I was meant to. Then I did it." He laughed and motioned for the girls to carry on serving him. 
Fel swept the cane he was holding in a backhanded arch, smashing the wine bottle into glittering fragments. Derricote stood uneasily to his feet with a roar, his face red and mere inches from Fel’s own. In the commotion, the sleeping pilots awoke with a start and the group gathered at the rodent deathmatch went quiet. All eyes were on the lithe, fresh-cut figure, stood before the mountainous form of the commander.
“I’ll see you shot into space for that attack, you little runt!” Derricote growled. Fel’s expression never shifted from the look of disgust he wore.
“I’m Soontir Fel, commander. Or should I say, former commander.”
“Who?” Derricote asked, before the handle of Fel’s cane found it’s way into his solar plexus, knocking the air from his lungs and collapsing the overweight man to the floor, coughing and spluttering. Fel turned to the Twi’Leks on the sofa,
“Go, now.” His tone was calm but authoritative. The girls dressed and left without a sound. 
“I’m your new wing commander.” He turned to the group “And I’ve never seen a sorrier sight in my entire life!” He kicked over the closest table and sent glassware shattering across the floor.
“You’re not fit to be a Hutt’s waste cleaners, let alone Interceptor pilots!” The group cowered from the roar.
“You!” Fel pointed his cane to the closest pilot, a slender, tan-skinned lad of no more than 20 standard years, “When was your last proficiency test?” The man looked to his compatriots and back at Fel,
“Well?!” Fel roared, stepping towards him.
“T-t-two cycles ago, sir…” He man stuttered out.
“Too long. You need proficiencies every cycle to maintain an Interceptor!” He stepped towards there group. All but one member took a step back from his advance, his dark eyes never leaving those of the baron’s.
“You, what’s your name?” Fel questioned. 
“Stele.” His voice was hoarse and thickly accented. “Maarek Stele.”
“I admire you, Stele,” Fel’s fist connected squarely with his jaw, knocking the pilot to the floor “But don’t ever face up to me again, understood?” Stele pushed himself up on his elbows, massaging his jaw “Sir, yes sir.” 

Fel turned to the rest of the assembled pilots. “I will be administering more of those if you fail in your retraining. Now, sober up, straighten your uniforms, and be ready to start in 30 minutes. Oh, and someone pick Derricote up and get him out of here. Then clean up all this mess.”