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Alice Bee, Bob Halula, and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:7:29) in the Rhinnal system: Rhinnal (Rhire).
Commander Dillon Hobbes, Flight Captain Connor Merced, and Major Elayne Passik.

There had been great debate among the ranks about the Rhire attack since Parka Pepper had delivered her information. Major Elayne Passik had mixed feelings about what she was doing. The Empire was her mortal enemy. It was important to hurt to hurt the Empire in every way. An attack on Rhire had its advantages, but their desired targets were two hydroelectric plants...not Imperial garrisons, Star Destroyers, AT-ATs, or any various Imperial-specific target. The flight to Rhinnal had left her time to sit in her thoughts. Innocent people would be affected this time. She couldn't imagine the extent of the damage. There had never been a time where she questioned her allegiance to the Rebellion, however, there were many times where she speculated if some of the things they did followed her moral compass or not. Regardless, now that Rhinnal had appeared in front of her X-Wing, she realized that there was no way out of this. She sighed inside her cockpit. "War is never easy." She commented, looking down at her cybernetic legs.

Her eyes diverted off to a picture she had drawn to cheer herself up when she was feeling down. It depicted a scene of her, Dillon, the home they had selected on New Alderaan, and the family they hoped to have someday. She had even drawn a Lothcat on the picture, in hopes that they might keep one as a pet. Elayne needed to see the picture to remember why she did this...and what exactly she was fighting for. Elayne wasn't the only one dreaming of a better life. All around the galaxy, people felt hope.

Hope for better days.

In the comm within her helmet, she spoke privately to Commander Hobbes. "I guess we won't ever get to see that 'Cradle of the Galaxy' exhibit. What a fucking shame." She had not slept well the previous night. The past came to haunt her occasionally, as it did for many of the other pilots. "We're here."

She changed the channel she was communicating on to broadcast to all Squadrons who had come together today to take out the targets. "Alright everyone. We're looking at the two hydroelectric plants located along the Frieste River. We have no other targets. Get in, blow up the plants, and leave. Cover your friends and let's try to avoid losing anyone today. Our numbers are not what they used to be. Good luck, comrades." She gripped the control of her X-Wing and began descending towards the city of Rhire.

"Copy Corsair Leader," Commander Dillon Hobbes replied over the comm to the wing commander. "Blackguards, form up ... on me," he said, as he angled the flightstick of his RZ-1 A-wing as they moved through the Rhinnal system towards the frigid planet. "Looks like we caught 'em nappin', but once the bombs start falling they're going to be all over us," he instructed his squadron, as his starfighter began to experience buffeting as they descended through the atmosphere. He looked to his left and right and visually nodded at each pilot. The clouds began to dissipate and the city of Rhire came into view with the Frieste River the dominating geographic feature. He had been in favor of this mission, and it had been a point of contention between him and Elayne, but he believed that the citizens of the planets who were actively supporting the Empire had to feel the war if they were ever going to prevail. "First flight on me. Second flight cover the fighters moving against the east plants. Third flight cover the fighters moving against the west plant," he ordered, as he made a visual inspection of the two hydroelectric plants. It would not be long before the Imperial garrison scrambled TIE strikers or the ships in orbit sortied their TIEs. With Blackguard 2, 3, and 4 on his wing he moved into the upper atmosphere where he could cover both groups when Imperial air support arrived. "You're all clear for the moment, Major. Hit your targets and let's get home," he warned her, as even tick on the chronometer brought the Imperials closer.

Connor nudged the flightstick of his RZ-1 down to match his commander's maneuver. As keyed his comms on as his flight followed in a rather tight delta formation around him, the A-wings 9 through 12 showing remarkable poise as the atmosphere rocked against the wedge shaped interceptors. "Blackguard 9 copies. Blackguard 11 and 12, go active with your sensors. Myself and 10 will go dark to hide our numbers."

With a quick flick of a switch on the control panel he brought the Miradyne 4x-Phantom short-range sensor jammers online to mask their numbers to nearby sensor systems. As Blackguard 11 and 12 tucked in neatly behind the X-wings that were heading for the western hydro plant, Connor Merced lead his element further behind and tighter to the deck than the others, the Novaldex J-77 engines humming dutifully in the cold atmosphere.

"Blackguard 1, no enemies spotted. Covering the run on western plant." Connor's eyes stuck to the nearby landing pads to see if he could make out any visual flickers of ion engines as they made their approach.

The Major wasn't entirely hard-headed. She understood the other side of things. Her time as a prisoner of war had changed her. Revenge was something she felt should be dealt across the board. These people simply had to suffer for siding with the Empire. If they wanted to leave, then they could seek comfort as refugees. She anxiously watched Dillon's A-Wing head into the city. "Corsairs, be prepared. Our time to strike will arrive very soon. Group one will go to the eastern target, group two to the western. Make a bomb run, and come back for seconds if that's not enough. Allow the Blackguards to protect you." Perhaps it was being in a relationship with the Blackguard Commander that gave her a false sense of security. Given the things she had been through, she needed to pretend that she was secure...and that if her craft ever was shot down again, Dillon wouldn't let her slip through the cracks; lost, forgotten, and captured.

As soon as the word came in, Elayne perked up. "Ya'll hear that. Get in there! Blow the bastards up! Group one, on me." The X-Wing swiftly navigated down towards the eastern plant. She maneuvered the ship until she was no longer preoccupied. As soon as she was close enough, she unleashed a torrent of proton torpedoes into the plant. Behind her, other members of Corsair were doing the exact same thing. "Ugh. They are unleashing more TIEs." She commented, looking down at her radar. "Recover and come back for the second run. These are easy targets, guys. Hurry, hurry!" They had disturbed the beehive now.

Commander Hobbes watched his scanners as the unpleasant realization he had feared became apparent. "Multiple contacts, multiple directions inbound," he warned all of the pilots over the comms as he broke formation and moved towards the closer group of fighters. "We've got a group at zero-six-zero ... looks to be TIE Strikers from the garrison, closing," he announced, as he called off the targets. "We've got a second group at two-four-zero ... TIE Fighters or Interceptors from the fleet," he warned, as he adjusted his course to intercept the TIE Strikers as they would arrive first. "Concentrate on the TIE Strikers, but don't veer too far away from the bombers," he ordered the pilots, as he began closing the distance on the leading group of TIE Strikers. Gritting his teeth he watched as the icon of a TIE appeared on his targeting computer and once it lit up, began to flash, and the alarm sounded he pulled back on the trigger repeatedly to unleash a torrent of laser blasts at the enemy. As it exploded into a cloud of debris his A-wing flew right through it and he found himself in the midst of enemy fighters. *This* was not going to be easy.

Major Passik was completing another bombing run when one of her wing men exploded beside her. "Shit!" She yelled. Elayne pulled her head out of her targets and looked at all the TIE Strikers which were raining in around them. To her left, another X-Wing exploded. Her normally calm hands started to shake on the controls. The next time she blinked, she wasn't on Rhinnal anymore. It was Atollon. The very same moment when all hell broke loose. Every screen was beeping at Elayne in her head as her engines failed. The next time she blinked, it was Rhire again. The noise in the cockpit was minimal. "Dillon." She spoke, sounding frightened and so much smaller than normal. It was rare that her problems came to haunt her on the battlefield. She had gone through so much therapy since then. "I keep seeing Atollon." She spoke to only him. A TIE fighter happened upon her targeting system. She shot it down. "Shit." She pressed her hand against her forehead. "Have we eliminated the western target yet?" Her heart beat elevated. Elayne felt sick to her stomach.

As the battle intensified from two groups of Imperial fighters closing on them from opposite directions, Dillon began to sweat beneath his helmet. He maneuvered his A-wing against a pair of TIE strikers he was in the midst of, firing off a concussion missile at the lead craft and using his laser cannons on the second. He knew that for each one he destroyed the Imperial factories could manufacture seemingly infinite replacements. When he heard Elayne's plea over the comms, he moved his hand to the comm panel to ensure they were on a private frequency. "Breath. Just breath," he told her, as he attempted to locate her starfighter in the sea of blips on his targeting scanners. "We're almost done. Then back to base," he said to her in, a calm and collected voice, as he broke off from the TIE Strikers and attempted to navigate back towards Elayne's flight of X-wings. "Blackguard Nine, move your group to cover the ships that still have to make their bombing runs. We've *got* to take these power plants down," he ordered Captain Merced, before descending his A-wing down at an element of TIE Fighters attacking the X-wings. Lining one up in his crosshairs he pulled back on the trigger and destroyed the TIE before it could fire on the X-wing.

Due to the squadron vectors, the western group was a few seconds later in getting to their hydro-dam target than their eastern compatriots. The X-wings in front of Blackguard 11 and 12 launched a concentrated barrage of proton torpedoes at the midpoint of the dam with their first volley, seeming to want to ensure that the first salvo would at least count for something if they didn't get a second pass.

As Connor heard the callouts on the comms he was already angling with Blackguard 10 onto an intercept vector with a set of TIE Strikers that were closing quickly on the X-wings. "Blackguard 11, keep your group behind those X-wings and only engage the TIE Strikers that break through our first foray."

The Flight Captain pulled back hard on the stick of the A-wing to gain some altitude and give the TIE Strikers something else to worry about as he was sure his element of starfighters would be a surprise to them when they showed up on the scopes. As the nimble wedge shaped craft climbed into the sky, the compensators and Rq9.Z flight control avionics struggled to compensate for the harsh g-forces and strain on the airframe. Gaining as much height as possible to come down at the Strikers from above, he angled to come in at the Strikers from their high 2 o'clock in an attempt to force them to make a choice. The Imperial pilots would have to decide between between advancing toward the dam or begin evasive maneuvers that would cause the X-wings to have more time on target.

The Striker pilots were complex individuals, Connor Merced quickly realized, as they turned away from the bombers but did so in tactically sound way. They turned into the A-wing's approach vector to force the A-wings further away from their counterparts. The Socorran noted their intelligent strategic move and swung his element around to a lag pursuit position on the TIE Strikers, increasing the throttle because he knew his next maneuver would bleed the much needed speed back away. After being content with this approach speed, despite being in a bad firing position on the Strikers, he initiated a displacement roll to eventually make the pursuit pure. Seeing the lead Striker fill his reticle he lightly depressed on the trigger to let loose paired sets of crimson energy at the nimble TIEs. He was new to these nimble Starfighters, so it took three such salvos until he was rewarded with the right wing coming free from his prey, causing the craft spun down to the frozen tundra below. His wing mate had likewise dispatched a TIE Striker before they swung back around toward the combat area to realize that the other TIEs had placed themselves between Blackguard 9 and 10 and the remainder of the Rebel forces.

"Blackguard 11 and 12, come at these TIE Strikers from the other side, we need to complicate their battle plan." Connor was relieved to see the X-wings making their second run on the dam in the backdrop behind the TIE Strikers, the telltale streaks of their ordinance about half a click out from the concrete face of the dam and closing rapidly. He knew that they'd be engaged by some of the TIE Interceptors shortly after their run was complete, and he was going to have to get back to them quickly or the Major was going to lose a lot of her squadron. "Blackguard 9 to Blackguard Lead, can you spare anybody to disrupt those Interceptors? We're a little bogged down with the Strikers."

Major Passik's head had briefly split wide open. As a woman who was normally very collected on the battlefield, it was troublesome. The cockpit was suddenly far too hot. Her entire body was sweating until she was soaked inside of her suit. In her ear, she began to hear a voice she recognized. It was that of Dillon. He was slamming on the ‘mental reset' button for her. She inhaled and exhaled slowly. It was increasingly more difficult to ignore all the flashing lights in the cockpit of her X-Wing while she forced herself to stop thinking. "Oh shit, okay, okay." She blinked a few times as she was deposited back into reality. It was almost over. Dillon had reminded her of that. "Corsairs, hurry up on that second run." She sounded convincingly confident when she ordered her squadron around. She, herself, was closing in on the dam. There were three other X-Wings creeping up to the target. As they all released their torpedoes, one of the targets was destroyed. Elayne did not celebrate. "Good job." She sighed. "One last one and we can all get out of here. It should be down soon."

She pointed the nose of her ship towards the final power plant. She briefly switched frequencies. "Dillon." The way she said his name was, once again, different. This time, there was gratitude. She said nothing else because there were no other words that could follow it. He was holding her together in this moment. "I'll have that last plant down very soon, then we can all go home and have a damn drink."

Dillon's cockpit was momentarily illuminated by the explosion that rocked one of the two hydroelectric plants they were bombing. "That's one down," he called out over the comm, as he watched the beautiful sight of lights going out all over Rhire. He smiled at the satisfaction of knowing the citizens of Rhire, who publicly and privately were supporting the Empire would feel the war. He believed they would learn that the Emperor was not perfect, not all knowing, and not undefeatable. He could hear the tension in Elayne's voice, which made the destruction of the second plant all the more urgent. However, while he was moving to change comm frequencies his cockpit lit up again, but this time it was from an enemy blast. "I'm hit," he yelled over the comm, as he quickly sent his A-wing into a dive towards the deck. He was losing power, his ship was slowing down, and the maneuverability was becoming slugging. As he turned to look over his shoulder at the damage it looked as if he lost his starboard engine. Suddenly the battle was turning into a life or death affair.

Elayne briefly watched the lights of the city darken. A blow had been dealt to the Imperials on Rhinnal, of that she was certain. The mixed feelings mingled with her anxieties all up until she heard that Dillon was hit over the comm frequency. Her heart shot up to her throat. He was hit. The mission had instantly become even more dangerous than before. There was a second where the Major locked up and was overcome with fear. A second later, she released it. Her mind sharpened. The fear of something happening to Dillon killed the inklings of her problems that were still hanging on. In a strong voice, she spoke to him. "Commander, hang on tight. I'm going to take out this target so we can all go home." To the Corsairs..."A single bombing right ought to do it. Give it everything you've got. We're working on borrowed time, people!"

She wished she could do more for Dillon, but the best route was to finish the task at hand. A handful of X-Wings dove towards the last hydroelectric plant. A sea of torpedoes rained down upon the plant. Elayne could see the growing explosion as it, too, was destroyed. The final lights in the city blinked out as the Rebel's completed their task. "Go back to the base everyone...*immediately*!" She shouted, maneuvering her ship closer to Dillon's to offer him extra support.

Connor and his flight of craft were in a target rich dogfight, trying to use their A-wings' superior speed to open distances and do as many head on passes as possible. The Striker pilots, while being a led well, we're not working as a team to overcome the faster enemies. "Come on Blackguards, buy them the time for this run and let's get out of here."

The remaining X-wings were lining up for their third run on the dam, which was already heavily battered and fires were burning inside the facility. As they let loose their salvo of torpedoes the Interceptors made another set of passes on the attackers, dropping one into the base of the dam structure. Some of the torpedoes found established gaps in the ferrocrete and detonated deeper in, causing significant damage. Large portions of the hydrodam complex began falling apart under its own weight, the power supply it provided to the city ceasing.

Flight Captain Merced got the call for retreat while he was using his crafts exceptional speed to close the distance between himself and the Interceptors that were harassing the X-wings trying to break combat and escape. He knew they'd never make it out with those Interceptors picking at their heels all the way up.

He headed in from the underside of an X-wing trying to gain altitude after the run, two TIE Interceptors in pursuit firing lethal green bolts of energy into the rear shielding of the Incom craft. He led the Interceptors manually, pressing the trigger to fire across their path of chase, the Interceptors both started to go evasive as they saw the energy cross in front of them, but their momentum was the enemy as the second set caught one Interceptor in the ball cockpit and wing at the same time. The TIE exploded spectacularly, buffeting the second Interceptor as it broke away.

He saw another X-wing being harassed by an Interceptor at long range, switching to his Missile system and gaining a lock on the craft. The pilot went into a series of defensive rolls and traded his attack vector for survivability which was just what Connor predicted. He never launched the missile as he completed the goal, the X-wing gained enough safety distance that the TIE would struggle to engage the target again before he escaped.

Connor watched the Corsair X-wings start their escape run and checked his scopes. He had lost Blackguard 10 to the Strikers and the remaining two of his other elements were streaking to break atmosphere following the orders to retreat. The Flight Captain followed the orders too, pacing the pair of X-wings closest to him up toward the skies.

"Blackguard 9 to strike lead, mission accomplished. We are disengaging and making our way to our jump points."

Derek maneuvered his A-wing towards the atmosphere of the planet, but his rate of ascend was dramatically decreased by the loss of his starboard engine. Out of the corner of his viewport he could spot the X-wing of Major Passik with its distinct markings. Aggravated, he switched the comm over to the private channel. "Don't be a fool, Elayne. Get back to the station," he said to her, in an unprofessional tone, ignoring her rank and authority. He did not want the damage to his craft to endanger Elayne or any of the other pilots. Gradually the blue sky and white clouds in front of him began to dissipate, replaced with a brilliant black starfield darted by distant stars. Now that they were in space the TIE Strikers could not follow, but there was still the matter of the spaceborne TIEs and the capital ships. He did not think he was going to make it, but to his surprise a few A-wings joined in with Major Passik's X-wing and began to cover him. "Blackguard 2, 3, 4 ... get back to the station. That's an order," he barked over the comm, but all he received back was static. They managed to keep the TIEs off of his A-wing long enough for him to reach the nebula perimeter. When he entered the swirling red and purple gasses that comprised the Ringali Nebula he felt safe. The mission had been a succession, with considerable damage to the targets, and minimal casualties on the Rebel side. However, he had the full realization that if the blast had gone a meter right or left he likely would be cosmic dust. "I'm buying the first round when we land," he announced over the comm, to which he received cheers back over the comm. "Oh sure. *Now* your comms are working," he said, sarcastically, before smirking and uttering a soft laugh. The war had caused him to develop a taste for gallows humor *and* Corellian whisky.

"Good job, Captain Merced." Elayne said over the comm, noticing that he was doing a great deal to help out the injured X-Wings while Elayne attempted to guard Dillon's A-Wing from further damage. All around her, ships were quickly departing from the war zone erupting in the skies of Rhire. Despite Dillon's warning, Elayne refused to leave. "No, sir. I will not leave you behind." She watched out for TIE Strikers, shooting them down whenever the opportunity presented itself. Her attention was split between Dillon and the battle. It was to everyone's relief that additional A-wings came to aid their Commander as well. With their assistance, Elayne was able to take Dillon home. He didn't have to die on Rhinnal. She was silent all the way back to the station. She needed a moment to process what had been a difficult day in the Rebellion. She wanted a drink, or twenty. *Second round's on me*... Elayne thought.

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