Sunday, 24 January 2016

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. 

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