Major Phoenix Berkana - Delta One
General John T Clark - Delta Two
General Anahorn Dempsey - Delta Four
Major Shado Fenn - Delta Six
Lieutenant Donir - Delta Seven
Commander Tygraclaw - Delta Eight
Colonel Impulse - Delta Nine
Sub Lieutenant Alyum - Delta Ten
Major Mauser - Delta Eleven
A small group of alphabet fighters hanging in space next to an old MC-80. Woody had the lead of the fighter formation in an X-Wing.
Darkness, I always knew these X-Wings were damn slow, but I never knew they were that bad compared to my good old Defender.' Woody thought. 'How did the rebels defeat us with those?' His thoughts were interrupted by some loud beeps coming from the R3 in his back. "Shut up, R3. I already told you to just give me a sign on the HUD when were all ready to jump. If you disturb my thoughts only one more time with your noise, I'll make sure you'll end up cleaning the Challenge's toilets for the rest of your existence!"
The beeping ended suddenly and a small sign in the HUD showed that the other fighters were ready for the jump.
"Woody to all fighters, you know the time plan, coordinates and all other details of our little mission. Jump on my mark." While reaching out to activate the hyper drive of his own fighter, Woody said "mark!"
As Woody deactivated the hyper drive, whirling colors of hyperspace turned into the blackness of the normal space again, the stars in the background, and at a short distance the triangular shape of an ISD, together with its support vessels. Wood knew it was the Hammer.
Next to him, half the squadron of alphabet fighters had fallen out of hyperspace, in perfect formation with him. Woody knew that Pel would be in another X-Wing, leading the same attack on the Warrior a few light years away.
"Gentlemen, continue as planned. You know your tasks. Good luck!"
Lieutenant Abril sat with his back to the viewport as he studied his console, engineering had been reporting some strange readings and power fluctuations in the weapons systems earlier this evening and he was determined to get to the bottom of it.
"Ensign Spalding, can you request a level three diagnostic of the targeting scanners be run as soon as possible please." A pasty faced young man sitting at the adjacent console regarded him with a sour face before acknowledging.
Kids these days, Abril thought, they just don't know which buttons to press. The Hammer had shrunk considerably since the glory days of the Sovereign and pasty faced young Ensigns such as Spalding were no longer the exception.
Heaving a heavy sigh Abril turned back to his console, these fluctuations we're not going to solve themselves.
"Form up in your attack groups and prep for your runs," matching actions with words Woody flicked the switch on his console deploying the distinctive set of attack foils that gave the X-Wing their names. Staggered off to both sides the remaining 5 fighters of his flight did likewise, forming up in pairs.
Off in the distance Woody picked out the remainder of his attack group, 2 squadrons of Y-Wings and a squadron each of A-Wings and hyperspace equipped Headhunters. A motley group they may be but they had the element of surprise on their side.
His plan called for A-Wings to use their speed to draw off the attackers whilst the Y-Wings gave the Hammer a firm dose of torpedo volleys, whilst the X-Wing group and Headhunters would pick off any fights attempting to come after the Y-Wings.
With the Hammer's central computer already instructed to record "damage" from the unarmed torpedoes no real damage would actually occur, but that would not save Miles from a severe case of embarrassment.
"All groups report your status to your group leaders and prepare for your attack runs, they should be picking us up on sensors any time soon. Remember they currently only have 4 squadrons operational, so we match them in numbers."
"Sithspit," Miles swore as he groggily made his way from his slumber, that alarm was much louder than it used to be, but it was far too early to be his alarm. Something was decidedly wrong.
Rolling onto his side he smacked the comm switch on the table next to his bunk, "bridge, report in, give me a status update and shut off that damn klaxon."
"Sir!" came the shrill tones of Lieutenant Abril "sensors have picked up incoming fighters, we have 54 potential hostiles on attack vectors."
Miles rubbed his eyes, dusting away the last vestiges of sleep. "Raise shields and get the squadrons to their launch positions, have Task meet me on the bridge, I'm on my way." Reaching for his uniform he shrugged on his jacket and pulled on his boots before heading for the door. The corridor outside was already a riot of activity with troopers and crewmen heading for their respective action stations.
Striding through the midst, Miles hastily made his way to the bridge, the door opening with the customary speed of Imperial designs. The crew pits were full as he moved out onto the elevated walkway that dominated the room.
"Report, someone tell me what we're looking at."
"Sir, we have 24 wishbones incoming on a heading of 34 mark 12, range 32 klicks and closing. A dozen A-Wings are pacing them with another 18 fighters closing on the Hammer from 34 mark 17."
"Understood. Task, have your squadrons launch. Have Alpha take out the Y-Wings with Delta covering them. Send Beta and Epsilon out after the second fighter group."
"You guys just head in after the wishbones LeRoy and we'll keep the slims off your backs long enough for you to do the job."
"You're all heart Phoenix," quipped Commander LeRoy, commander of Alpha Squadron. "We'd better get to our ships; Task will want us launched as soon as possible."
"Fly safe and we'll see you back on the Hammer." Phoenix said as he turned and headed off towards his fighter. The Hammers cavernous launch bay was a hive of activity ever since the klaxons had gone off. Ships we're being moved to their launch positions and tech's were busy rolling away their maintenance gear to prep the hangar for combat. Up above them the launch racks were full of TIE's of all sorts being prepped for launch and pilots making their way to their respective fighters.
Phoenix climbed the ladder to the upper port gantry where Deltas fighters were all prepped and hanging from their launch racks ready to go. A quartet each of TIE Advanced, TIE Defenders and TIE Phantoms made for a menacing combination, the latter being a relatively late addition to the Empires fleet but proving to be a handful for the Rebels in most encounters.
The sounds of booted footsteps on metal alerted him as to the arrival of a few late comers, turning he spotted Commander Shadowclaw and Major Fenn making their way onto the gantry.
"Nice of you gentlemen to join us," he said jovially.
"Wouldn't miss this sir, I always like giving those rebel scum a black eye," growled Fenn as he made his way towards an Advanced model hanging from the launch rack.
"I'm sure Shado, I'm sure. To your fighters, we launch in 2 minutes."
Dropping into his fighter from the overhead entry port, Phoenix meshed himself into the netting that secured TIE pilots to their combat couches and slipped several switches on the panel in front of him, instantly being rewarded by a high-pitched whine as the craft's twin ion engines sprang to life.
"Alright folks, call them in, Delta-One in the green."
He listened as the members of the squadron checked in one after the other.
"Two green and ready to ride."
"Delta 4 ready to fly."
"Delta 6 powered up and itching for some payback."
"Seven here, nothing's gone wrong yet."
"Delta Eight all systems go."
"Nine ready to fly."
"Ten weapons hot."
"Eleven, reporting in."
"All right folks, once launched form up in groups and come around to heading 34 mark 12."
The quartet of Defenders were off to starboard, with Two Flight's Advanced off to port as Delta streaked in towards the oncoming fighters. Although they we're numerically disadvantaged up against 36 enemy craft the fact that 24 of them we're Y-wings counted heavily in their favour.
"Two, close up a bit, you're lagging."
"Yessir," came the instant reply.
Phoenix glanced down at his sensor display to check the closing range to the incoming A-Wings, 4 klicks. Already Alpha with their Missile Boats, trailing several kicks behind Delta would be prepping for target locks at long range. Not that it mattered, those wishbones we're simply not going to out maneuverer the barrage of missiles about to head their way.
In the distance, he could just about make out flashes of green light, skittish in the distance as Beta and Epsilon fell upon the second group of incoming.
2 klicks. "Alright Deltas, break by flights and engage. Two take down and starboard, Three up and port, One flight follow me we're punching through the middle."
Pushing power to his forwards shields, Phoenix matched actions to his words and brought up his targeting scanners and linked all five canons to fire together. A TIE Phantom featured 5 laser canons, something that drivers of these craft loved to brag about.
He quickly dropped his targeting brackets over the closest A-Wing and was rewarded as the brackets turned green to signify a decent targeting lock. "Amateurs," he growled as he depressed the trigger, sending waves of verdant green energy slicing out towards the oncoming A-Wings.
The return fire arrived almost instant, causing the fighter to buck slightly.
"Break by pairs and engage!"
Phoenix hauled the fighter around in pursuit of the A-Wing, with Clark close on his wing.
"Two, I'm going to aim high, let's see if he'll dance into your line of fire."
Phoenix let loose with a series of shots, just above the A-Wing, which caused it to flinch, downwards and into the path of Clark's fire.
Laser fire stitched the rear of the A-Wing, scoring several direct hits.
Lights flickered on the A-Wing and it went dark, disappearing off the targeting sensors.
"Boss, I'm getting some odd readings, I hit that slim multiple times but it's still here and my targeting computer won't let me fire on it again."
"Weird, but he's out of the fight Two, leave him be and let's move on to the others."
With that the two Delta's wheeled around and headed into the thick of the A-wing melee.
"Alpha Two, can you get a missile lock on that Son of a Hutt?"
"Negative lead, my targeting scanners are refusing to lock"
LeRoy cursed, this was not good. All eight of his Missile Boats has reported in with similar stories, that none of their craft could get a targeting lock on the enemy.
"Lead, I can paint him with lasers, but that's about it!"
"Alright Alphas, engage with lasers only. Flight three, keep your Defenders in the mix, we're going to have to do this the old-fashioned way."
A rather nervous-looking Ensign stopped in front of Miles and saluted, "sir, we're getting reports from all squads that missile systems are offline."
"What do you mean offline Ensign?"
"Just that sir, all commands are reporting in that missile systems are offline and cannot fire. Lasers appear to be the only weapon systems operational."
Miles shook his head; this day was just going from bad to worse.
Abril, still at his station in the crew pit looked up and caught his Commodore's attention.
"Sir, earlier this evening we we're picking up power fluctuations and odd readings from the Hammers weapons systems. It's possible that this was a sign of someone tampering with our equipment and if so, perhaps it was not confined simply to the Hammer itself."
"Yes, sir," Abril nodded, "but educated speculation none the less, sir."
Major Task looked down on from the crew pit above, "Tt would explain a number of things, sir, including why our weapons systems are having problems locking on to the enemy."
"Solutions, people, I want solutions."
"We could purge the main computer and restore from backups, it takes several hours but we could run from the auxiliary computer core whilst we restore backups to the main core." Miles nodded, "do it Lieutenant, how long do you need to prepare?"
"I can begin the procedure in five minutes sir."
"Make it so."
The shield indicator rapidly declined as shot after shot sapped power from his shields. Donir put his TIE Advanced into a sweeping spiral in an attempt to get the A-Wing off his tail, however it hung in there, lasers sniping away at his shields.
"Seven to all Deltas, need some cover here!"
A warning light lit up on his HUD, missile lock!
"Sithspit," he swore, pulling back on the throttle and depressing the yoke he sent his fighter into a dive, losing speed rapidly. The A-Wing behind him, not quite ready for such a move pulled up sharply, it's speed carrying it forward into his targeting brackets.
Donir let loose a hail of verdant green fire, but despite several hits the A-Wing looped upwards and out of sight.
Cursing to himself, he goosed the throttle back up to full power and came about looking for his quarry.
"These guys are good, I've scored several hits and not even a scratch."
"Eight, I hear you Seven, I don't know what gives but I'm just not getting through their shields."
"Someone's got a missile lock of me"
Donir rolled out to port but the missile came on.
The fighter bucked wildly as the missile detonated, but then nothing.
"Eight, I'm still here!"
Static answered his message.
"Eight? Delta, does anyone read me?"
Donir looked around in shock as the cockpit lights dimmed, the high-pitched sound of the twin ion engines dying away.
'What the hell,' he thought as all controls and lights died away, leaving him floating in pitch black darkness.
Almost immediately the HUD lit up with a TIE Corps logo.
"Greetings pilot, today you have been taking part in a secret and unscheduled attack drill pitting the Hammer against a variety of simulated Republic forces being led by High Admiral Elwood. All weapons used today have been simulated strikes, no pilots we're harmed during the course of this exercise."
Donir looked stunned, a simulation. Well that does explain a few things he thought to himself.
"Adequate simulated damage has been recorded against your craft to render you destroyed for the remainder of the exercise. Your controls will remain locked out and comm access restricted until the conclusion of the exercise."
"Great, so I'm just going to hang here?"
"Have a nice day."
With that the recording ended leaving Donir hanging in darkness.
Mile flinched as the bridge lights flickered.
"That was just the backup generators kicking in sir," announced a Ensign down in the crewpit. "Shields are holding at present, and we'll be ready to swap to the backup computer core in 1 minute."
"Excellent. Major Task, what's the status of your wing?"
Major Task snapped to attention, "we're getting some funny readings out there, I'm still reading a full complement of fighters, but many of them are registering on sensors as offline or disabled."
"About 40% losses, however the enemy appears to be faring worse. Most of the Y-wings and Headhunters are out of the fight, but the A-Wings and X-Wings are putting up a hell of a fight."
"Disabled? Not destroyed?"
"Yes sir, it appears they're offline, much like our own."
Miles shook his head, "Something odd is going on. Lieutenant Abril, begin swapping operations to the backup core. I want full weapons and targeting sensors operational."
Woody led his X-Wing flight in a shallow dive towards the Hammer, "lock torpedoes on their main sensor domes and prepare to fire on my mark."
Beta and Epsilon had put up firm resistance, taking out most of the Headhunters on the mission yet they had given as good as they had taken with the two flights Missile Boats in those squadrons being all but whipped out.
Miles was going to be in for a shock when the debriefing came around, he grinned.
The 5 remaining X-Wings all buked slightly as they let loose a volley for 10 torpedoes, simulated as they may be they'd still put on one heck of a lightshow when they impacted the Hammers shields.
A hiss in his headset alerted him to the arrival of company.
"Epsilon One, let's see how good you are Drake," Woody muttered, as he glanced at his sensors, letting a grin play across his face.
"Sir, we're just about done with the swap to backups," announced Abril.
Miles stood with his hands clasped behind his back as he stared out of the main viewports.
"Excellent, prepare for a sensor sweep and reset all targeting scanners."
Down in the crewpit, that pasty faced Ensign reached for his commlink.
Woody heard the pop on his headset, "a little busy here, report?"
"Sir, Hammer will be moving to backup computer systems, they will be bypassing all of our simulation aids."
Woody hissed in frustration as he weaved his fighter in and out of the lines of fire from the pursuing TIE Advanced. This was not quite what he'd had in mind.
"Very well. Standby."
Pulling back on his control stick and chopping the throttle right back to zero he allowed the pursuing TIE to overshoot slightly, before sending volleys of ardent laser energy into it's shields. That should buy a little time.
Woody quickly keyed in several commands to his starfighters computer and adjusted his comm channel to the Hammers main communication bands.
"This is High Admiral Elwood, identification code Elwood-Sigma-Niner-Bravo, Miles do you copy?"
Silence reigned on the bridge of the Hammer, with all eyes and confused faces directed towards Miles.
"What the blazes," roared Miles, "Elwood, is that you?"
"Indeed it is, you've been on the end of a training exercise, which I'm bringing to an early end. Please have your fighter bays stand ready to accept all the enemy combatants, we will debrief immediately after I'm on board."
"You could have let me know sir, we wouldn't have made all those efforts to reset our main computer if I had known."
Miles wore a mask of frustration as he paced back and forth at the front of the briefing room. Elwood and Task both sat facing him behind the rectangular briefing table.
"We could have Miles, but we decided for operational reasons to keep this secret and I believe those ends we're justified as he had a true fight against your squadrons. I must say they did rather well."
Task beamed with pride as he looked up at Miles.
"With your permission sir?"
Miles waved him away. "Proceed."
"The enemy forces took 60% losses, virtually all the Y-Wings and Headhunters along with half the A-Wings. We on the other hand took only 40% losses, all our Missiles Boats we're destroyed, although I put that down to their missile systems being locked out by the simulation. Otherwise it was a good performance."
"Indeed Miles, you have nothing to worry about. I'll be including this in my next TCCOM report."
Miles stopped his pacing, "simulation or not, my pilots did well. Maybe next time we can go up against the Warrior?"
Woody smiled. "But of course..."