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Test Flight At Osk-7
With Thrawn defeated and the Galaxy seemingly at peace, the Azzameen siblings meet their old friend Olin Garn – now a test pilot for the New Republic. Is the war finally over?
Captain (retired) Ace Azzameen: pilot of Otana, co-owner of Twin Suns Transport Services (human male)
Colonel Olin Garn: New Republic test pilot (human male)
Aeron Azzameen: co-owner of Twin Suns Transport Services (human female)
MK-09 ‘Emkay’: co-pilot of Otana (droid, male programming)
“What do you think Olin?”
“She handles like a Kessel firefly on stims.”
The factory fresh A-9 hurtled past the cockpit of the Otana, to the whoops and cheers of the Azzameen siblings watching their friend’s flight. “I can tell!” Aeron replied.
The recently captured interceptor spun on her axis and plunged into a steep dive.
“If he doesn’t take more care he’s going to smash into those asteroids,” came the cantankerous commentary of Emkay, the venerable old MK-09 droid who’d served on the Otana since before the Battle of Hoth, now 8 long years ago.
“Emkay!” protested Ace, chuckling, “Olin knows what he’s doing.”
“He’s just sorry he’s too big to get in the A-9s cockpit himself, aren’t you Emkay?”
“My chassis is perfectly formed.”
The two craft, the bulky YT-2000 and the agile A-9, danced their dance, the freighter’s young consort put through her paces as the New Republic tested their latest piece of purloined Imperial hardware.
It had taken a lot of effort for the old friends to meet up. The Otana had come to the Osk-7 test base on a freight run two days ago: something which didn’t require the personal attention of two of Twin Suns’ three co-owners. But Ace and Aeron had hardly seen Olin in the last 2 years: his service in the Republic fleet had kept him somewhat busy. And now the Thrawn crisis was passed, and Imperial forces seemed to be in retreat all over the Galaxy it was the perfect moment for friends, family and veterans of the Alliance to reunite.
“3-to-1 it can’t make 125 MGLT,” Ace laughed over the comm system.
“Want to bet, Azzameen?” Olin replied. Within seconds he’d gone to full thrust. “You’ll never see me again in that old bucket.”
The Azzameen siblings watched as the A-9 surged ahead and vanished into the distance.
“Right, he’s done it now,” said Aeron with a pout. “Emkay, divert power from shields and weapons to engines.”
“Hey Aeron, what are you doing?”
“What do you think Ace? We’re going to catch him!”
Ace rolled his eyes. “Alright. Come on Emkay, do as she says.”
“I have already,” the droid replied, “Your sister is right. We cannot let him win.”
Ace sighed as he pushed the Otana to maximum throttle and pulled power from the lasers and channelled it into the engines. “I’d like to keep some shields with all those asteroids down there. Never know if there will be a micro-meteor.”
“When did you get so boring?!” Aeron replied. “Come on little brother!”
The Osk-7 asteroid base, an abandoned mining facility converted for starfighter operations, slipped into the distance as the two craft careened around the training course, the plain of asteroid fields 200 klicks beneath the course whizzed past. They pinged along the relay buoys in a blur and soon the Otana was gaining on Olin’s A-9 as they circled back and Osk-7 could be made out again in the distance.
“At least you’re being honest about chasing him for once…” Ace laughed.
“Oi!” she snapped, thumping her brother’s arm.
“Hey!” he said, as the freighter lurched to port from the impact.
“If you two are quite finished we have two new contacts,” Emkay growled.
“Alright Emkay we’re just fooling around.”
“What is it Emkay?” Ace asked.
“I suggest we get closer to inspect.”
“Olin we’ve got a couple of contacts, freighters by the looks of it. Was there a supply run scheduled today?” Aeron asked.
“No,” he squawked back over the comm. “They are never scheduled for test flight days.”
Ace reached for the comm. “Osk-7 command, this is Otana. You have two freighters closing in, do we need to be concerned?”
“Otana, move to intercept immediately. The test flight is scrubbed. We have two Mobquet freighters on CBDR, no answer to challenge ID request, no transponders.”
“CBDR? Collision course…” said Aeron.
“Copy that Osk-7. Emkay, I have a feeling we’re going to need those lasers.”
“I know the feeling,” the droid replied.
“It’s no use, we’re too far out…” Aeron whispered.
They were still 60 klicks away when the first Mobquet plunged into the asteroid, exploding in a blinding flash of light that subsided to reveal the control facility had been completely annihilated, and the mighty asteroid itself splintering into red-hot shards. “By the stars…”
“We don’t have time to mourn now; see that second Mobquet?”
“She’s right. Six new contacts, scrambling from the freighter, Imperial fighters,” Emkay supplied.
“Excuse me over there, this new bird flies like an angel but she does not have a hyperdrive. If we’re going to bug out I’m going to need a lift…” Olin said over the comm.
“Who said anything about bugging out?” The pugnacious droid snapped.
Aeron frowned at the scan display. “Those new contacts are fast. We don’t have time to dock. Olin, we’re going to have to engage.”
“Yeah; Aeron, get down to the gun. Emkay and I’ll handle things up here.”
He moved his hands over the controls, muscle memory kicking-in, as he put the shields to double-front, increased the lasers back up to maximum and began cycling for the closest target. He squinted to try and get a visual, and as they closed he could make out the ball-cockpit of a TIE starfighter but it looked strange, and with an unfamiliar wing configuration.
“Do you recognise those Olin?”
“No, looks like some kind of new interceptor. I guess this A-9 isn’t the only bit of new Imperial hardware we have to worry about.”
“Okay everyone, here they come,” Ace replied.
“Just like old times!” Emkay roared with delight.
The YT-2000 opened up with a slew of blaster fire that split up the TIE formation and it arced around in pursuit as the A-9 came out from under its shadow and let loose with the powerful blaster slung beneath its cockpit. A streak of green fire caught one of the new TIEs on the wing and it span out of control. Ace just caught sight of the rectangular-shaped solar arrays, unlike the triangles of the more familiar TIE Interceptor.
“Ace, there’s no pilot. I think these are droid-piloted.”
“You’re lucky you’ve got me,” Emkay quipped.
“Ha, just focus on your work Emkay.”
“Right you are,” he said.
“Ace we’ve got incoming!” Aeron bellowed from the lower gun turret. Three of the TIE Droids had spun around with dazzling speed and bursts of laser fire streaked across the freighter’s upper shields. The rapid craft buzzed past to starboard and Ace switched to concussion missiles. They darted left to right, up and down, swirling around with impossible agility.
“Can’t… get… a… lock.”
“Hold on Ace I can help bracket him,” Olin replied, swerving in from above to obliterate the jittery target.
“Great shot Olin!”
As one, the TIE Droids recalibrated their attack and regrouped. The four survivors ignored the Otana and closed in on the A-9, forcing Olin further and further away from the Azzameen ship.
“Hang on Olin, we’re trying to close. They’re so fast… can you break free?”
“Negative, negative,” Olin replied, “They’ve got me dead to rights!”
“Ace, they’re getting dangerously close to the debris,” Aeron said.
“Take power out of the shields and pump it back into the engines. Take the lasers offline as well.”
“What?!” Aeron replied.
“Trust me.” Ace moved his hands over the controls, and smiled as the ship leapt forward with a surge of new energy, towards the fuzzball dogfight up front, amid the embers of the destroyed asteroid base. “Emkay, rapid target cycle, we’re going to launch all of our missiles, even with only partial locks. We need to give them something to think about… and get them close.”
“You’re the boss.”
Ace squeezed the secondary trigger four times, and four missile launches registered. The orange projectiles streaked forwards towards their half-locked targets, close, but not close enough to hit…
“Time to test these new remote triggers…” Ace turned to the comm: “Hold on Olin, it’s going to get bumpy.”
“Alright Emkay, wait for the warhead to get within one klick, then trigger manual detonation.”
“That’s awfully close. I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“Just do it Emkay, then bring the lasers back on-line.”
As one the four concussion missiles detonated prematurely, creating a cascading explosion that sent a shockwave through the dogfight, incinerating two of the TIE Droids outright and singing the others.
“Olin? Olin? Are you there? Are you alright?” Aeron cried through her headset.
“Emkay, lasers!” Ace bellowed.
The Otana swept through the aftermath of the explosion and the debris, laser cannons howling as the venerable YT-2000 swept the last two Imps from the board. “We got them!” Emkay said triumphant.
“Yes but what about Olin…” Ace checked again: the screen was completely clear. “Nothing for it but to eyeball.”
“Or photoreceptors,” Emkay boasted.
“If you spot him first you can have an oil bath.”
Aeron climbed out of the lower gun turret position and raced to the cockpit. “What did you do Ace?!”
“No choice: it was four on one. Help us look.”
“There!” Emkay declared. “I’ll be calling in that oil bath.”
“Olin, are you okay?” Aeron cried over the line.
The comm was nothing but static, and the Otana slowed down to a crawl as she approached. The A-9 was powerless, hanging in space, all systems disabled – or destroyed – by the missiles’ explosive force. “Can you see the cockpit?”
“Emkay – lights.”
The Otana shone intense white external lights over the scene, as the ghostly A-9 turned on its axis through inertia. “There!” Aeron cried. “He’s there!”
Olin was waving frantically up at the Azzameens, and they could see he’d donned his protective gear. “Ace, open the top hatch,” Aeron said, running out of the room, “I’ll cycle the airlock. We’d better get him out of there before he freezes to death.”
Ace put the Otana in a synchronised spin so the two craft were lined up, and signalled the plan by blink code, flashing the lights in sequence until Olin nodded and gave a big thumbs up. “Okay, I think we’re ready,” Aeron called from above.
“Alright, here goes.” Ace signalled “P-R-O-C-E-E-D” and Olin’s cockpit hatch exploded with a muffled charge and he glided out towards the light freighter. “Steady, steady…” Ace muttered.
There was an audible clank as the airlock door shut and then the hiss of air. “Ace, I have him!”
Aeron threw herself at Olin and embraced the man she’d known since her teenage years. “Whoa, hold on,” the pilot replied. He took off his mask and helmet, threw it down, and kissed her.
“I figure it’s about time?”
She stood back, overwhelmed, and then she kissed him back.
“Hey Aeron, get up here!” Ace cried.
The two recovered themselves and Aeron and Olin rushed to the cockpit, through which they could see the Mobquet freighter bearing towards them, and a missile lock alarm sounding.
“I forgot about him…” Aeron said, distracted.
“It looks like someone’s made some modifications to that freighter,” Olin said, “They aren’t usually armed with warheads.”
The alarm intensified and the flash of a missile shot towards them.
Ace locked lasers on to the warhead and with a single, perfect shot incinerated the incoming projectile at 5 klicks.
“You know Ace, if you ever want to rejoin the Starfighter Corps…” Olin said.
“We’d better pick up your A-9,” Emkay intoned.
“Yes please. But you’d better make it quick. That Mobquet’s looking angry.”
Ace swung the Otana around sharply and then let her glide into touch with the A-9, locking on with the docking clamps and then swinging back to the Mobquet.
“I think it’s time we expressed our displeasure,” Emkay said.
“I couldn’t agree more.” Ace switched to secondary firing and lined up his shot. “No target lock; if somebody’s given her warheads she might have countermeasures too. Dumb-fire.”
The Otana’s last six missiles slid out of the launcher one by one, streaking towards their target, which began to turn on its axis in a desperate evasive manoeuvre. Two of the dumb warheads hurtled above their target, but the remainder struck true, impacting along the side of the enemy ship and rupturing its hull. A mighty conflagration engulfed the Mobquet and secondary explosions rippled out of her.
“That’s for Osk-7,” Olin said grimly.
“We’d better get out of here,” Aeron said, holding Olin’s hand.
“Emkay, punch these coordinates into your nav computer. That’ll take us to my home base; we need to report what’s happened,” Olin said.
Emkay completed the calculations, gave the word to Ace, and with a whirl and the mechanical clattering of the hyperdrive, the Otana crossed into lightspeed and the whirling blue vortex of hyperspace.
The story of the Azzameens will continue in ‘Payback On Purdooine’.
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