Cliché as all hell. The words burned through the pilot's head as he idly stole a glance at the chronometer that ticked the minutes and hours away in the upper corner of his comm device's home screen. He knew he was early, but then again even before he had signed on with the TIE Corps and begun his military career he had always held a predilection for being punctual.
Zarroc Darkblade took in the view of his surroundings, the source of which was also his self-ridiculing rebuke. As a predominantly Imperial world, most of the beings in this establishment were human although that didn't prevent a modest smattering of other races scattered about the room as well. Most of them were dressed in business attire, and in a hurry to purchase their hot caffeinated beverages before scurrying off to get on with their daily grind. Those that chose to remain and enjoy their drinks within the confines of the establishment seemed to be a mixture of beings who sat in small intimate gatherings to chat amongst themselves, or a few who sat alone and stared into the screens of their datapads. Whether they worked on writing up some task for either work or study, or wrote horrible poetry was anyone's guess. The room its self was filled with loungers situated around small coffee-tables, mostly in clusters segregated sporadically about so that while they would accomodate a small intimate company, the clusters also provided enough space away from the others to afford a modicrum of privacy. All in all, each little cluster contained the kinds of furniture you'd find in your livingroom moreso than what you'd expect to find in some kind of dining establishment. Well, sure as hell not my livingroom. Zarroc smirked. The lighting may have been somewhat dim, but not dim enough to hide the garish swirls of colors on the loungers, tables, and decorating the rediculously shaped bulbs of glass that shrouded the lights hanging from the fixtures around them.
And of course, the logos that proudly proclaimed the name of the establishment that seemed to cover every square centimeter of the walls and every disposable cup grasped in the hands of the patrons; Galaxy-Shmucks. For some ungodly reason this was a popular caf shop on this world, with a monopoly of their chains to be found all over the planet. Zarroc was sure if he stared far enough down the plaza, he could probably spot another without even having to leave through the doorway. Of all the places, what in the hell had possessed him to suggest here for their first meetup? He would just have to chalk it up to a complete lack of creativity when it came to matters of dating. At least it would serve the purpose. The seating arrangements clustered as they were offered each group just enough privacy, but the place was public enough to be a "safe" zone for meeting anyone you didn't actually know in person yet.
Hearing his name snapped the pilot out of his own little reveries and he turned to face a smiling auburn-haired woman in a dark geen slim dress who wore her hair freely past her shoulders. The pilot stood, smoothing the crinkles out of his black uniform before awkwardly offering his hand to shake. "Uh...yeah. You must be Elisa. Have a seat!" He politely waited for her before he sat back down as well. "It's good to finally see you in person."
Elisa gave a sly little smirk and simply stated "So? Are you finally going to spit it out?"
Of course, they had exchanged a number of messages over the holonet before. And Zarroc knew of course what she was referring to. She was a nice girl, and interesting enough. But her keen interest in this subject made him a little nervous. Behind this seemingly nice and innocent young lady was a freak. Her fetish was pilots, and she loved some of the more gruesome sounding tidbits. "Of course. I suppose I agreed if we met, didn't I?"
The girl beamed. "That's right, you did. So spit it out. Tell me about your first kill!"
Zarroc Darkblade boredly tapped away at the details of the Corellian Transport displayed on his HUD; YT-1300 Corellian Freighter. Its transponder identified it as the Nomannic and gave it a civilian designation. As he closed into scanning range, he scrolled through his scanner information. Readings that corresponded with different types of spices scrolled past. The pilot stifled a yawn and pulled back on his flight stick, looping away from the freighter to set his sights on something else.
"Khadgar enters the cave first and taps his staff on the floor, casting Wisp of Ilumination." A voice crackled over the private comm of his flight.
"You'll have to roll a check on that, Guardian Two." Crackled another voice.
"Fine, fine." came Guardian Two's voice. "I got 15."
"Your roll passes." The second voice declared over the comm. "Your wisp forms above your staff, bathing the first chamber of the cave in a soft blue light. You guys see the remains of a fire pit, whose fire has long since gone out. But that doesn't necessarily mean you're alone. I'll take your defense rolls now, gentlemen."
Zarroc gave a burst of his throttle before scaling back. He targeted a transport that ID'ed its self as Seinar T4D, and boredly stared at the readouts. Nothing strangely amiss about it, other than a large amount of humanoids being aboard. But since its manifest listed that it was transporting workers, that certainly wasn't a spectacular thing. He pulled a lazy arc away from the transport and moved on to look at something else. As an afterthought, he keyed his comm. "Guardian One rolls a 12, Guardian Three."
"Nerds." Elisa snorted.
Zarroc held his hands up defensively. "What? Do you have any idea how god awful boring inspection duty is? You just fly around in circles gawking at people who have more important things to do than you." The pilot grinned. "It wasn't like we were expecting anything. We were still trainees. I hadn't even been assigned to Sin Squadron yet. It was some customs station in the ass-end of Bumfuq Nowhere."
"Well it had to have been more interesting than all of that, if it led to your first kill." Elisa declared, folding her arms impatiently.
"I was getting to that." Zarroc shrugged. "I'll spare you the rest of the boring details."
"Epsilon Two will capture, take out Sunnida 2's shields!" Came the crisp, professional voice of the station commander's voice over the comm. The three box-like ships flying in a triad formation resembled nothing more than flying storage containers, and looked just as dull and uninteresting as the rest of the ships that Zarroc's flight had spent the day checking out. But as his Interceptor had closed range with the second ship in the group, his HUD had lit up and their little customs station had suddenly erupted in a flurry of activity and urgent commands.
"You heard him, gentlemen." Zarroc said after keying his comm to the offical tactical channel of their operations. Looping around, he scaled his throttle back and brought the TIE Interceptor's sights over the hull of the boxy looking freighter. The designation 'Illicit Narcotics' flashed in the lower portion of the screen that displayed its stats on his HUD. Setting his lasers to fire in quad bursts, he raked a few shots along the freighter's form. Two more sets of green fire lanced out and converged onto the offending ship from either side of Zarroc as his wingmates joined in. After a few passes, it was stripped of its shields. Ion blasts flared out as Epsilon Two began its approach. Their blue bolts landed, and played little dances of lightning that ran along the edges of Sunnida 2's hull.
Epsilon Two was a blocky transport that was fondly referred to as a "Bus" by both the Stormtroopers that they usually ferried in and by the pilots that flew them. Although Zarroc would have preferred to say that one drove the craft rather than fly it, the way they handled. Whoever was behind the controls of it today was certainly feeling the frustration of that duty, as a few more aggressive ion blasts lanced out than were necessary to wreak their lightning along Sunnida 2 despite the fact that it was already clearly very disabled. Epsilon Two looped around in a slow lazy arc and its pilot finally seemed content to make his boarding approach as the craft vectored in a little more leisurely at the disabled freighter.
Zarroc glanced at another screen on his HUD showing a map readout of the area. Two Lambda-class shuttles had hypered in not too far behind the arrival of Sunnida 2, and they seemed to be hovering a little too close to this small fracas than he was comfortable with. As if in reply to Zarroc's observation, one of the shuttles began to open fire on the Imperial transport as it began to dock with the disabled freighter. He keyed his comm. "Hostiles! Epsilon Two is taking fire!" He inverted his Interceptor and drove a straight course at the offending shuttle. His HUD ID'ed it as Yagmar 1. Quad green bursts lanced out accross the shuttle's nose to splash against its shields, but the threat was enough to drive its pilot to take evasive manuevers. Zarroc sighted in the other shuttle in formation with the first, and fired another couple of bursts that likewise played along its nose.
It too broke off its approach. "Oh, no. One of you will pay for this insolence. And I choose you." Zarroc muttered. He scaled back his throttle to match its speed, and dropped in behind the second shuttle. The less maneuverable ship was child's play to stay behind as it slowly looped and spun, trying to escape the more manueverable Interceptor and shake it like a canine dragging its rear on the carpet to shed a clinging stool. Zarroc held down the trigger and emptied his guns at the dodging craft in front of him. He glanced at his HUD and watched as its shields drained to null before his blasts began scoring the hull. Its engines took the brunt of Zarroc's abuse, and finally when they couldn't take any more the ship blossomed into a ball of fire. Zarroc's Interceptor shook as he closed in on the explosion, and he hauled back on his stick and jammed the throttle all the way forward to avoid any serious damage from the blast.
"So your first kill was a slow lumbering shuttle?" Elisa folded her arms and seemed somewhat disappointed by the revelation.
Zarroc shrugged. "Yeah, not a very impressive first kill. But to be honest, most first kills won't be. You've got to figure, your first assignments as a green pilot are going to be boring and dull affairs. Unless something goes horribly wrong and whoever is in command gets desperate, only the more experienced pilots are going to be thrown into the thick of anything dangerous. This was supposed to be an ordinary patrol. Just scan cargo holds, log in my shift for the day, and then go home."
Elisa frowned as she thought that fact over, and finally nodded. "I suppose that makes sense." She leaned forward, her innocent and curious face suddenly taking on a feral and thirsty look as she grinned. Zarroc eyed her nervously, both marveling and inwardly cringing at how she could suddenly go from sweet and innocent to predatory in zero seconds flat. "So how did it feel? I mean you've never taken a life before, right? How many people were in that shuttle?"
The pilot shrugged. "Could have been just one pilot, though probably two. It's not uncommon for ships like that to have a co-pilot. Could have been a bunch of his buddies in there since it was a shuttle. I never bothered to look at what the scanners read out. And honestly, I guess I really didn't think much of it at the time. All I knew is that they shot at us first. And it's been drilled into us that when you shoot at the Empire, you're going to die. No questions asked. I really didn't have time to think about it really, because there was still his buddy in the other shuttle to think about. While we were distracted going after the one I gunned down, this guy decided to make another pass at our boarding transport. I came at him and long story short, we vaped him too. But the day didn't end there. They had friends, and maybe they were planning to use our station as just one leg of their jump before hypering out on another vector to meet up with them. And when they were delayed, their friends decided to come looking for them and give us a little payback..."
"Guardian Flight, more fighters have entered the area! Move to intercept!" came the orders from the Commander in the customs station control.
Pulling up his readout of the area, Zarroc saw that indeed, two Y-wings had emerged from hyperspace quite a distance out from all of the traffic entering and leaving the space around the station. They were roughly ten clicks out from him and his wingmen. Throttling up, Zarroc swung his Interceptor around to converge on the pair of bomber fighters. They seemed intent on making their way slowly to the station. As the distance between his flight and the invaders shrunk, his targeting reticles lit up green. "Lead has the first. Both of you make sure that second doesn't take advantage of the distraction his partner provides this time." Zarroc said as he keyed his comm.
"Agreed, Guardian One." came the reply from Three. "They won't get us twice with that, today."
As Zarroc veered towards the lead Y-wing and opened up his lasers to splash against its forward shields, he could see his wingmates doing the same to the fighter behind. Both of the bombers broke off and tried to evade, and although they were lumbering the edge they had in their shields let them cling to life as Zarroc shot past. He corkscrewed around, and set his throttle back to gain more maneuverability. Eventually his sights wheeled back around and locked in on his target, and a few more quad-linked bursts finished the job. The other blip on his scopes winked out, telling him that his cohorts had made quick work of the other bomber.
"More bombers have come in, Guardian Flight. Get to them, fast." Came that crisp voice from Command again. Sure enough, four new contacts had appeared on his scopes.
"Huttspit, they're clear on the other side of the system. These two were just a distraction!" Muttered Guardian Two.
"They're going straight for the station, One." Three chimed in. "If they've got torps, we'll never get there in time."
"Not if I can help it." Muttered Zarroc. He cycled through his settings, dumping all the power behind his lasers into his engines. If this could get him there in time, he wasn't sure what he would accomplish once he caught up to them with no juice for his guns to draw from. But he'd burn that bridge once he crossed it. Pitching the throttle to full, he overtook his two wingmates and shot out ahead of them. It seemed to take an eternity, and the group of bombers lumbered ever closer to the station.
"Proton torpedoes detected." Came a call over his comm. Sure enough, Zarroc could see a line of blue flares emerge from the noses of the four bombers just as he was coming into range.
"Piss on it." the pilot muttered as he fed all the power he could back into his lasers. While he still might be just a touch more maneuverable than the Y-wings, he was going to be about as slow. He would just have to deal with that. He stole a glance at his energy levels. The lasers were bone dry, but slowly climbing. They wouldn't do much for putting a dent in the shields of any of the bombers. But, it wouldn't take much to set the torps off. As an afterthought, he also clicked his settings over to single-fire. That would give him more opportunities to pull the trigger before his levels flat-lined back to zero. Targeting the closest warhead to him, Zarroc set his sights on it. He depressed the trigger, and with a sorry sounding weak "splat" a green bolt lanced out and exploded the projectile. Tapping the next torpedo in line, Zarroc winced as his first few hasty shots went wide and missed before his next came in contact with the warhead and rewarded him with another explosion.
Then his Interceptor shook heavily as the Y-wings turned their guns on him. "Son of a..." he pulled away, fully expecting to become floating atoms.
"That's Bantha-fodder." Elisa barked a laugh. "You pilots are always embellishing and trying to brag up your skill."
"What are you talking about?" Zarroc asked, his pride taking a sting from her rebuke.
"You shot two proton torpedoes out of the sky, and I call Bantha-fodder." The woman in front of him shook her head. "That's like taking out your vibro-blade and swatting away blaster bolts. The only kind of people that could do that the Emperor deposed of before either of us were born."
"It can be hard, but we're all trained to do it." Zarroc held up his hands defensively. "It's called warhead interception. There's whole sim exercises we're put through dedicated to it before we even set foot in a real cockpit."
"Call it what you want, but you're full of Bantha-fodder." Elisa scoffed back. "For all I know, your whole story is made-up. And here I thought I was talking to the real deal. You're just embellishing your story to get laid. I'll bet you didn't kill squat in your little story and you really just sat there scanning a bunch of ships until you logged your time, wasting it away playing Dungeons and Krayt Dragons with the rest of your nerds." She stood, and clearly the conversation was over.
Zarroc sighed. "I'm not lying about any of it. I vaped those two shuttles and bagged five Y-wings by the end of that day."
"Yeah, sure you did." she laughed, turing on her heel to leave. As an afterthought, she spun around with a glint in her eye and said "You know, if you would have just told the story true you'd have gotten lucky with me."
Flabbergasted at the sudden turn of events, Zarroc watched in silence as she wove her way past a few other patrons in the caf shop and headed out the door. "Figures." He finally muttered. But he shouldn't have been surprised. Nevermind that there was nothing he'd embellished about in his story. But when it came to his luck with women, he should have seen this coming. Oh well, this chick was kind of weird anyways. Better luck next time.