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The Ranger Chronicles

The Ranger Chronicles

This is it; the one you all have been waiting for.....The Ranger Chronicles! Follow the adventures of Ranger Squadron as its pilots struggle to end the Emperor's tyranny. Based on real-life events in the FGN, you will feel their sorrow, their despair, their hopes, their excitement, their courage, their angst....their victories.


Dedicated to Brad "Hammer" Smith, for showing me the way.


Prologue

Note: The characters below are purely fictional. Any resemblance between them and real-life people are completely, totally, purely, and utterly coincidental. Honest.

Prologue

Jeff could have dozed off. He could have sneaked out for a cup of coffee. He could have stayed in bed. He could have done a lot of things that he probably hadn’t even thought of.

Of course, the soldiers guarding the briefing room’s exit prevented that. It was also impossible to escape without half the pilots noticing. Besides, it was rude to leave while someone was talking to you, no matter how urgent the situation was, and no matter how irritating that person was. Period.

"…could have beaten the crap out of Janich," Tenstar was saying. "But no-o-o-o, ol’ Iron Sights had to report the whole darned thing to Merlin, and look at how that turned out. Heck, all I did was bet on the potential winner, that’s all. And what did I get? Taking over the janitor’s job and sweep the corridors. In an Escort Carrier, too. Now, if you ask me, I don’t think I deserved all that injustice. I mean—"

"Hey," Jeff interrupted after counting from one to ten. "All I did was cheer, and I got into the same mess too, remember? I’m not complaining."

"Sure I remember," Tenstar retorted sarcastically. "I also remembered how you tore my pillow to shreds after you got that ‘debriefing’ from Takemoto. I also remember how you broke that broom into two when some guy from Nova teased you. I also—"

"Gary. I said I didn’t complain." His face was beginning to redden.

"What’s the difference? You still beat me up, right?"

Fortunately, before the debate could get any further, there was a call for silence. Jeff looked around the vast chamber full of Alliance pilots, each seating on benches. Down below at the podium was a small human and a huge, gray Wookiee. The two were complete opposites of each other; one smarter, one stronger, etc. They were Jeff’s bosses.

As the chamber quieted, Captain Darren Takemoto, callsign Breathless spoke again. " ’Evening, gentlebeings. First, let me thank you all for attending this briefing in such short notice. The Alliance needs you more than ever, I’m afraid."

Merlin stepped forward. Adjusting the amplifier to meet his height, he spoke. It wasn’t in Basic, but everyone understood. [With the Alliance scattered after the defeat at Hoth, the Empire has become even more determined than usual to destroy us all. It is time we fight back, and fight back hard.]

Right on cue, the holoprojector lit up, displaying a small star system. Four red squares, each representing a planet, were orbiting a larger square, representing a star.

[The Liberty’s target is the Dortrax system. While none of the planets are habitable, the largest one, Dortrax, is very rich in hfredium. The Empire has built a mining colony there, which is guarded quite adequately.]

This time, red triangles appeared, orbiting a planet. "Dortrax’s former defenses once consisted of two Imperial Star Destroyers, two Escort Frigates, two Strike Cruisers, and a Golan III platform," Breathless said. "However, in the light of the rebellion in Xesdes, an Impstar has been called away, greatly reducing the threat factor.

"Our target"—a red circle appeared—"is the hfredium processing plant, which is located in orbit. Transports would bring the minerals to the plant, the plant processes the stuff, and voila; the stuff is ready for delivery. While the capital ships take on the enemy ships, B-wing Legend will take out the plant. With this destroyed, we will put a huge dent in the Empire’s supply of resources."

Takemoto took a deep breath, then continued. It appeared to Jeff that this was the part none of the pilots would like. He was right. "However, the plant is placed strategically behind the Golan, and if the Bs make the run, they will surely be destroyed. Which is why the platform must be taken out first."

Jeff stole a glance at a particularly quiet figure several seats away on the same row. Iron Sights’ face was expressionless, though he was sweating, despite the air-conditioning.. He definitely wasn’t going to like this.

[Ranger Squadron is given the task to take out the platform,] Merlin said, matter-of-factly.

Murmurs, gasps and whispers of shock and surprise were heard. Jeff saw Breathless’ face tighten, disappearing just as fast as it came. Still, it was enough for even Tenstar to catch it. "You’d think that he was forced to do the stuff," he said.

"Looks like it," Jeff agreed. "Ol’ Mer never really did like Sights, anyway. Especially after the Peyrab revolution."

But Merlin was still talking. [The armament Ranger Squadron will be heavy. Each craft will carry six of the new Arakyd XZ-4000 heavy rockets. In theory, six should be enough to bring down the shields, and another six more should destroy the platform altogether.]

"Sir!" a pilot stood up. "But the Y-wings are worse than the B-wings. No matter what weapons you give them, they’ll be cut to ribbons when they get in range."

"Your concerns have been noted, Commander Coelho," Breathless said. "However, Admiral Merlin feels that the Rangers are up to the job, given their reputation."

Jeff groaned. When is it that people would find out that reputation doesn’t kill a TIE, never mind a Golan III? Just because we took out a Vicstar doesn’t mean that we could pop a Golan. And that was luck, too.

Iron Sights didn’t say anything. It was like he accepted his fate. But us? What about us?!

[The Deputy and Diamond Squadron will fly cover,] Merlin went on, apparently unconcerned. [The Y-wings will have plenty of protection, I assure you all.]

If the protection doesn’t kill us all, that is, Jeff though angrily. Glancing around, he saw that just about everyone in the chamber had the same thoughts, including Breathless.

* * *

It was time.

Helmet tucked in beneath his armpit, Jeff walked towards his Y-wing, as the techs lowered his R2 unit into its socket. Taking a deep breath, he did some last-minute review on the mission data the simulator packages had supplied. Looks like I’m ready, he thought. Finally, he climbed into the Y’s cockpit.

As the panel closed above him, Jeff brought the Y-wing to life, and did a last-minute status check. The technicians were good all right. Strapping himself, he turned around to face his purple-striped companion. "Still sore, huh?"

The R2 trilled a reply. Reading the translation, Jeff sighed. "C’mon, Cosmos. I told you, I didn’t eject you out of there on purpose. Why would I want to do that?"

A very long list of reasons came up. "Okay, sure, you got valid reasons. I still tractored you back to the Dray just before you got hit by that solar panel, remember? Now shut up and do a last-minute check on the Y."

A beep.

"I know I did. I just want a droid’s impression, that’s all." Keying in the comm, Jeff said, "Flight Four; report."

"Ranger Fourteen reporting."

"Ranger Fifteen here, boss."

"Ranger Sixteen present, sir."

Good. "Ranger One, this is Derringer. We’re ready and waiting."

"Roger, Der," Iron Sights said. "Reentry into realspace in thirty seconds. Stand by."

"Gotcha."

Now here comes the hard part: waiting.

A pilot couldn’t help but to think while waiting. What if there was an ambush? What if the missiles get jammed? What if the Dray miscalculated, and crashed into the sun? What if Cosmos decided to sing one of those bloody tunes he made up, one that would make anyone lose concentration? What if all this happened in a go?

What if you’re still daydreaming when the time comes—

Cosmos squealed a warning, waking the pilot up. Jeff glanced at the chronometer. Five seconds.

Four.

Three.

Two.

One.

Zero.

Jeff’s vision blurred for a fraction of a second, but it was the signal. Immediately, the huge hangar doors opened. "Diamond, Ranger," Breathless said. "We are go for launch!"

Instantly, thirty-two ships burst out of the huge carrier. "Ranger Team," Iron Sights said. "Looks like the Imps’re still stunned to see our holy presence here. Let’s do it!"

"Flight Four," Jeff said. "You know the drill; get to your positions."

"All fighters," Lieutenant Commander Dan’s voice came into the comm. "TIEs are launching. Nova, Glory; head to oh-nine-mark-seven fast."

"Squints on your tail, Seven."

"Where? I can’t see ‘em!"

"Drop now!"

"Oh s—" Static.

"Pull up, guys!"

"Gotcha!"

"I need help here!"

"Hang—" Static.

"Argh! Losing propulsion power. Somebody get these squints offa me!"

"Roll and dive!"

Static.

Pilots were dying already. Jeff shook off the thoughts. A lot more were going to die if they didn’t get this over with.

On the scanners, the frigates and Strike Cruisers were out to meet the Liberty Battle Group. The CRS Salvation was at full speed, ready to meet the Star Destroyer, which had stayed back. TIEs and snubfighters were already reaching for each other’s throats.

At ten o’ clock, a Diamond X flew, matching the Y-wings’ speed. Jeff figured that the X-wing pilot was a bit irritated at this slowness.

So what?

Dead ahead, was the immense shape of the Golan III platform. It was already firing at the Strike Cruiser Deputy, which in turn fired back. Breathless, flying as Diamond Leader, went to full throttle. "Flights Two and Three," he shouted. "TIEs inbound. Take ‘em! The rest of you distract that Golan!" A pause. "Godspeed, Rangers. See ya back at the ranch."

Now we’re alone. Jeff shuddered as he switched to warheads and armed two. To date, the rocket was the most powerful weapon the Rangers had ever carried, surpassing even the might of the thermal detonators. It was a wonder how SpecForce managed to steal so many. Fifty, in fact.

Up ahead, Jeff could see the Golan attempting to shoot down the X-wings at the same time take out the Strike Cruiser, which was quite damaged, though nothing beyond the shields. Six klicks. Ooookay. For a target that size, the Y-wings needed just four klicks to get a shooting solution. Unfortunately, the platform had the same range, too. "Cosmos, do a sweep. I don’t want some wise guy pop up at our six."

Cosmos berated him.

"I’m sure Tim did a job at it. But I want a droid’s perspective." Five klicks.

Cosmos hissed, but complied. The results popped up in the translation. Five point five klicks. Almost there. Let’s see…a flight o’ eyeballs going after Diamond…a squadron of squints breaking off an attack run on the Rangers…huh? Five point three. Those TIEs almost got at us! But why did they—

"Rangers," Iron Sights called. "Fire!"

It happened too quickly. Even as Sights gave the order, hails of supercharged laser blasts and missiles rained down on the Rangers. Ranger Two was yelling an alarmed cry when he was violently cut off in a hiss of static. Explosions lit meters away. The death toll rose.

Yelling obscenities, Jeff pulled up, followed by the rest of Four Flight. We were lucky, Jeff thought. A coupla hits, but that’s that. Of course, this was not the same for the rest. Cosmos brought up a firing report. Seven rockets managed to be launched, all of them slamming onto the Golan’s shields. But the damage could have been more.

"Derringer; roll to port!"

Reflexively, Jeff complied, rolling to his left just as a quad blast swept past him. An explosion later, he was clear. "Thanks, Tenstar," Jeff said as he brought the Golan back into his sights. "Four Flight; we got a job to do."

A new voice came in. "Ranger Lead; what in blazes was that?!"

Static. Then—"Came out o’ nowhere, Breathless. Two squads and a bomber squad—hang on—" Static. Jeff slammed his fist on the transparisteel window. Cosmos brought up a casualty report. Eleven dead. Eleven Rangers dead.

"Derringer," a new voice called. "We’re comin’ in."

"Fast, Firebird," Ranger Sixteen added. "We’re—" Static.

"Thirteen," Fifteen said. "There’s no way for Nova Squadron to get here in time, and the Diamonds’re busy. You have to make the run, boss. We’ll cover you."

"Against—what, thirty-six TIEs? Forget it; we’re doing this together."

"Klak’s right, Der," Tenstar said tightly. "All we gotta do is launch the rockets into the swarm. The explosions’re probably big enough to take out a lot. You gotta go fast; the Golan’s shields could come up again at any minute."

Even Cosmos beeped an agreement. Jeff gritted his teeth, but they were right. At full throttle, he was off. Cosmos took the initiative to transfer laser power to the engines, since they won’t be of any use. Five klicks.

Cosmos beeped a warning; instead of maneuvering, Jeff had all shields to aft.. The bomber shuddered under the fire, but the shields held.

Five point five.

-----

Gary was on the dupe. Quite delighted in the explosions and the kills he made, his mood changed as this TIE bomber continued to evade his ion shots and acquire a torpedo lock. Gary could launch missiles and ensure a direct hit, but he had no missiles—

Holy—

The dupe released a torp, which slammed hard into Derringer’s Y-wing. The Y rocked, but held.

Not for long until I take care of this bugger. Gary smiled as he transferred shield power to engines. Watch this, momma!

-----

Cosmos again took the initiative to transfer ion cannon power to shields. That dupe was good, evading Tenstar’s shots and acquiring a shooting solution on him. C’mon, Gar—do something.

He did. By ramming into the bomber.

Jeff stared open-mouthed at the rear screens. Stupid, stupid!

But he did the job.

Cosmos trilled the affirm, and without waiting for a solid lock, Jeff launched every single one of his rockets. Pulling back, he hoped that all those deaths were not for naught.

-----

Falling prey to Takemoto’s reverse throttle hop, the eyeball didn’t stand a chance. Pulling up, the WC called for a status display from his R5. Light casualties to Diamond, but Deputy was pulling back. Just as well. The cruiser didn’t stand a chance against a Golan III—

Diamond Two saw it first, and yelled in surprise. Takemoto could see the huge, bright explosions ripping apart the platform’s hull. Debris flew everywhere. In a matter of minutes, the Golan was nothing but a hulk of blackened debris in space. They did it. They actually did it! His R5 unit reported B-wing Legend shooting out of the Salvation, heading straight to their target.

But as Takemoto brought his X-wing around, he wondered. We’ve won the battle. But how come I feel that we’ve lost?

The Ranger Chronicles have been created and written by Derringer. Special thanks to my former mentor, Hammer, and the Ranger Team for "just bein' there".

If you wish to be informed when the new chapters come out, simply e-mail me. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

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