Chapter 1: Pilot
The fiery orange inferno of what used to be Starkiller Base was a magnificent sight to see. Following close behind the Millenium Falcon, Jaycob Flesio a.k.a. Blue Leader, an experienced A-Wing and B-Wing pilot born and raised on the outer rim world of Nar Shaddaa, initiated the hyperspace sequence. Launching into the bright blue abyss, he took a glance down at his singular small NavComputer screen. With the twist of a knob, the screen's images switched from a Targeting Computer to an up-to-date roster of his squadron of A-Wings. Shaking his head, Jaycob closed his eyes in both sadness and disappointment in himself, after realizing only 5 of his 12 interceptors were still standing. He transferred the casualties to a file card which he would reveal later, during the debrief, if there was one.
"General Organa isn't gonna like this."
he thought and spoke aloud. Without realizing his comms were still on, it came as a surprise that his squadmate, Jessika Pava, replied.
"Isn't gonna like what Jay? Lighten up a bit. We just destroyed Starkiller! I'm sure that'll count for something right?"
She stated enthusiastically. Jaycob had took into account destroying the base as a way to "cushion" the bad news he was inevitably bringing, however it didn't go over so well in his head. On another note, Jessika had always been Jaycob's friend, ever since he joined the Resistance. She always brought this upbeat, ecstatic tone to his life that he so desperately needed. She was the polar opposite of him, personality-wise. This was beneficial to their relationship since they kept each other in check, and balanced each other out.
"Leia said everybody comes home...and I couldn't accomplish that. Once again, I put my personal hatred towards the FO before my responsibility as a leader. She wouldn't like this."
He replied waving around the casualties card. When Jaycob first joined the Resistance, there were 20 A-Wings in total. Poe Dameron, commander of the fleet, hand-picked Jaycob to lead the A-Wing corps due to his prior experience back on Nar Shaddaa. Sure Jaycob's flown earlier models of the A-Wing while competing in races and what not, he was good with it. But he's never been placed in a leadership position before; briefing his team, making detailed plans, making sure their morale was high, and most importantly, dealing with loss were all things he didn't deal with, until now. Every pilot he doesn't bring home is another friend or family member that won't ever be seen again. That thought alone placed enormous pressure on his shoulders.
"Jay, don't worry about that now. Be IN the moment. Stop making yourself feel like it's your fault. You'll never grow as a leader that way."
Taking a deep breath and slipping the card into his flight suit pocket, Jaycob responded,
"You're right Jess. I'm sorry."
The lightspeed journey was long and restless. Finally seeing the green lush forests of D'Qar was a sight for sore eyes. Initiating the landing sequence, Jaycob couldn't think of anything other than his deceased comrades, and sleep. As he touched down, he opened the cockpit and took off his helmet. He sat idly in his seat, letting the sun rays engulf his face, enjoying the warmth. Jaycob's mind flooded with the fond memories he'd shared with those squadmates that were killed. These memories overwhelmed his emotions so violently that he couldn't help but shed a tear. He knew some of them had family waiting for their return, one that would never come. And even worse, some had children.
Tears trickled down like the waterfalls of Naboo, as he cried silently. One part of him wanted to be left alone and part of him didn't.
"Hey. Are you alright?"
A familiar voice said. Thinking it was Jessika again, he didn't bother to look up.
"I don't know if I can take much more of this. I feel like I...I don't have what it takes to lead this squad anymore."
"You know at time likes this, my father back on the farm on Pippip 3 would tell me one thing. Remember the good times you've had with those people, but don't dwell on it. What's done is done."
That was strange. Jaycob knew for a fact Jessika didn't grow up on a farm, and certainly not from Pippip 3. Out of curiosity, he opened his eyes. Standing beside him was the new girl, Tallissan Lintra. She rested her arms on his A-Wing's left laser cannon, looking at him with caring eyes. Her, along with many other newbies, were assigned to Jaycob's squad mere moments before the Starkiller attack. He was embarrassed that the first face-to-face encounter they would have started with him crying. Quickly, he tried to wipe away his eyes with his gloved hands. The fabric poked his eye, causing him to let out out a small wince of pain. She saw this, and giggled.
"You don't have to act tough around me. I already know you're one of the best pilots here."
"Really? Who'd you hear that from?"
"Nobody. That's just what I think."
Jaycob smiled at the compliment. He was familiar of her and her aid missions helping out with Cobalt and Crimson Squadron, and the mission to eliminate pirates in the Cassander system, but he's never talked to her or seen her in person before. Looking at her now, he was astonished at how beautiful she actually was. He was mesmerized in a trance of admiration towards her in a way that couldn't be described. Her warm smile, her dirty-blonde hair(tied up in some sort of bun), her beautiful facial features, and her petite body all seemed...angelic. In just a matter of seconds, Jaycob already formed a strong affectionate attraction towards her.
"I think you're a fine leader. We got the mission done and that's all that matters. Now come on, we have a debrief in the meeting hall."
The debrief was drawn out and boring, listening to the other pilots discuss their experience wasn't all that entertaining. Jaycob sat next to Tallie in the, now almost empty, circle of chairs with a hologram table in the center. He was on the verge of dozing off when he felt a poke in his side. It was from Tallie, reminding him that his report was up next. General Organa spoke first,
"Blue Leader, do you have the casualty report?"
Giving a short glance down at the ground and onto his flight suit, he pulled out the card, stood up and walked to her. Handing it to General Organa, Jaycob was unable to look her in the eyes. His inability to keep his promise ate him alive. Keeping his head down and his arms crossed, he waited for the general to insert the card. Once she did, she let out a loud, drawn out sigh.
She simply stated. Looking up at the holograms of 5 A-Wings and 7 X's, Jaycob also let out a deep sigh. The room was dead silent. He cleared his throat and said,
"Blue 2, Blue 3, Blue 4, Blue 9, Blue 10, Blue 11, and Blue 12 were all killed in action. It was my fault they were destroyed. When Commander Dameron was making his attack run into the Thermal Oscillator, I commanded my squad to cover from outside the trench and engage any turbolasers in his path. I didn't send anyone to cover us from the TIE's...without cover, we were picked off one by one."
Yet another hole in one of Jaycob's many flawed tactics. Looking through the hologram he could see Jessika, her eyes also down, looking the most hurt out of every other pilot in the room. Jaycob wanted to say he was sorry, but he maintained his composure.
"Our fleet is spread thin as it is. The bombers from Crimson and Cobalt will be returning shortly from the Atterra system. Tallie and Jessika, I want you to brief them on what happened while they were gone. Everybody needs to be on the same page. Jaycob, I need to speak with you privately."
General Organa concluded. As the debrief was dismissed, Jaycob watched as the two girls and the rest of the pilots exited the building, leaving him alone. Whatever the general was about to say to him would not be good, Jaycob braced for the worst.
"You're wreckless Jaycob, much like Poe. No wonder you two are such good friends. But, I know what it feels like to lose family. You cannot keep using your brother as an excuse to avoid responsibility. We're part of something much bigger than you and I, you have people that are counting on you to bring them home. I know it's a lot to take in but you need to get that through your head."
Jaycob looked away at the mention of his brother. Jaysen was on Jakku, aiding in the recovery of the last piece of the map. A map which would lead to the legend that is, Luke Skywalker. Jessika was obsessed with the myth and would never let Jaycob hear the end of it. Babbling on and on about laser swords and lifting rocks and destroying the Death Star, he was slightly sick of hearing it. Jaysen was killed along with Lor San Tekka and the rest of the villagers at the hands of the First Order and Jaycob vowed that he would kill every last one of them until his brother was avenged. Amidst his fury, he would create over-complicated plans that put his entire squad at risk. Thus, killing 15 Resistance pilots in total.
"Walk with me."
She commanded. They walked and talked in the direction of the bomber bay. General Organa and Jaycob spoke about their past, their adventures, and their achievements. Jaycob was astonished at the level of maturity and responsibility the general had when she was his age, taking note. Eventually, they stopped at the empty bomber landing pads, where Jessika and Tallie awaited the fleet's return. The landing area was meant to store the Resistance's fleet of MG-100 StarFortress SF-17's, which were coming back from a relief mission to the twin planets of Atterra. General Organa dismissed Jaycob, now concentrating on the bombers coming into orbit.
Uninterested, Jaycob turned around and decided to head back to the barracks to catch up on some much-needed R&R. His personal quarters were small and he was roommates with Poe Dameron. Opening the door, Jaycob wasn't surprised to see that he was still working on stitching his jacket back together from when the previous user tried to fight Kylo Ren one-on-one. Changing out of his flight suit, Jaycob asked,
"How's that jacket coming along?"
"It's y'know, getting there. But what I wanna talk about is that debrief. What did Leia tell you afterwards?"
"Nothing really, she brought up my brother as an excuse on why I'm making all of these terrible decisions. But that's not true, my brother isn't the problem."
Poe stopped sewing and looked up with a sarcastic face.
"Are you sure? Before I told you your brother passed away, you were an ace pilot and a good tactician. That's the reason I chose you to be Blue Leader. Now, you're just an ace pilot."
"Thanks for that."
Jaycob replied letting out a snicker. Once in his normal clothes, he fell onto his bunk face-first, and let out a deep sigh of relief. Even though it wasn't comfortable, the bunk was still something he could sleep on. Almost drifting off, Poe cut into his trance and asked,
"So what do you think of the new girl?"
Obviously referring to Tallie. Jaycob turned his head to face Poe, but stared off into a wall. He was trying to find the right words to describe her.
Jaycob replied stupidly.
Poe said chuckling.
"Uh, at flying of course. She's a great pilot, she almost beat my kill count."
Jaycob tried to recover.
"Yeah alright buddy. Just be careful, you know how relationships go in the Resistance."
"Careful? What do you mean careful? Relationships? I just met the girl!"
Jaycob could feel his face starting to heat up as he realized how naive he sounded.
"Oh shut up. She's hot, I'll give you that."
Poe was right, but Jaycob wouldn't let him know it.
"Can we talk about something more relevant please? Like those B-Wings? How are they coming along?"
Jaycob eagerly tried to change the subject. The revived B-Wing program was currently underway in the Resistance workshop. A few had been assembled with all the necessary upgrades, but the goal was for an entire squad. The original plan was to have Jaycob take the helm as commander of White Squadron: a squad of purely B-Wings to be used as "destroyer-killers". In other words, they would be able to take down the capital starships of any fleet. Jaycob would have to give up his commanding seat as Blue Leader and elect one of his teammates to take over the A-Wing regiment. Blue 2 was his first choice, but he was killed in battle, leaving the job still up for grabs.
"Actually, I think we'll have a functioning squad up by tomorrow morning."
Poe replied, still attempting to sew the jacket together.
"Good to hear."
Jaycob stated. With that, he shut his eyelids one last time to get some sleep.
Chapter 2: Peace
Jaycob couldn't get any real sleep. Images of his teammates getting blown out of the sky were being repeated over and over. In the middle of the night, he decided to go to his "spot". He stood up from his bunk and tip-toed to door, trying to not wake up Poe. The barracks were quiet and there was a slight breeze coming from outside through the wide opening, accustomed to each building. Security soldiers were scattered around, scanning the distance for any sign of threat. There was no curfew, so when the soldiers saw him, they saluted and went back to their business.
Jaycob's "spot" was in between the forest treeline and the back of the barracks. Jaycob went there anytime he was feeling stressed out or anxious about an upcoming mission. The sound of crickets and the native wildlife relaxed him in some way. Originally, Jessika had suggested the idea of a "spot" to release all the weight from his shoulders.
However, he was surprised to see another person sitting there...Tallie, reading something on a datapad. It was as if everywhere he went, he saw her. Even in his dreams that night he saw her, flying in an A-Wing with a blue and white color scheme. Which was peculiar because the A-Wings of the fleet were normally red and white. Except his. Jaycob's A-Wing interceptor had been painted blue and white corresponding to the fact that he was Blue Leader. Suddenly, it dawned on him. His dream had her flying in his A-Wing. Losing his train of thought, he decided to just talk to her.
"Weird seeing you here."
Jaycob made his presence known.
"Oh, hey commander, what're you doing up so late?"
Tallie replied. Jaycob took a seat next to her, both of their backs against the barracks' wall.
"I couldn't sleep."
"Sorry to hear that."
"How about you?"
The awkward small talk could go on and on, but Jaycob didn't want that. What he really wanted was to get to know her better, possibly make her a friend. A Friend. Maybe it's the insomnia, but he sure as hell didn't want that either. He decided to continue.
"You know, you could talk to me if you wanted. Looking past the ranks and all that."
Tallie stopped reading and let out a small smile.
"That's good to know. Thanks."
She kept the conversation short. Taking this as a sign that she didn't want to be bothered, Jaycob stood back up and prepared to walk back to his quarters. But as he turned the other way Tallie asked,
"Where ya goin'?"
This took Jaycob by surprise, a pleasent one. He turned back around and said,
"I don't know. It seemed like I was intruding you."
"Nonsense. I actually enjoy your company. Here, come back."
She patted the spot where Jaycob was originally sitting. He gleefully took the invitation and sat right back down. She turned off her datapad and looked into his eyes,
"So hotshot, where ya from?”
This was the start of a conversation that would go on for hours and hours. Jaycob and Tallie discussed their past, both good and bad. Even though he'd only met her the day before, he'd felt as if he's known her for years. They would talk while watching the stars fade and reappear, until the stars died out for good and sunrise was almost visible. He had learned so much about her, from how she knew how to fly an A-Wing, to the origins of her synthsilk scarf; and she had learned so much about him, like his brother and his homeworld of Nar Shaddaa.
Some time in Jaycob's ramblings, he hadn't noticed that she fell asleep, laying her head on his shoulder. But once he did, he shut up.
"Be IN the moment."
He whispered to himself. Laying his head on top of her's, he closed his eyes.
Eventually, their peace was broken up by the intruding sunlight and the loud intercom,
"Commander Flesio is requested in Hangar 3."
The workshop. Tallie adjusted her head to become more comfortable, now resting on his chest. But it didn't last long, as an X-Wing flew overhead, surprising them with it's loud engines. She shot up, realized what she'd been doing, and quickly apologized,
She was still getting used to using his real name. Jaycob could tell she was embarrassed, the red in her cheeks being brighter than usual. And with it, cuter than usual.
"For what? Let's go check out the new additions."
He replied, trying to make her less uncomfortable. The pair walked side-by-side to the workshop, trying to not draw too much attention to themselves. Upon reaching the garage, they saw Jessika already waiting by the big blast doors.
"Hey, you two."
She said slyly, giving Jaycob a smirk.
"Hey Jess, what's going on here?"
Tallie cut in.
"You're joking right? The new B-Wings are fin-oh wait. I forgot, you weren't here for this. Basically, we got new ships."
This was the moment Jaycob had been waiting for ever since the project was revived. The big, bulky metal doors opened, revealing a (not so shiny) new A/SF-02 B-Wing starfighter. With the S-foils still closed and landing gear out, it looked like a piece of art. The new additions that came equipped were upgraded deflector shields, faster laser cannons, more proton torpedo capacity, and a stronger ion cannon. All complete with an all-white color scheme except for the black coloring on the barrels of the weaponry and tinted windows on the gyroscopic cockpit. Also, the red firebird insignia blazed on each side of the main wing, designating the Resistance.
"This thing is a monster."
Jaycob exclaimed. It seemed like the entire base came out to see the new starfighter, as a small crowd started to form. Soldiers and pilots alike "ooh'd" and "ahh'd" as they admired the fine “sculpture”. Poe Dameron along with the flight engineers responsible for creating such a craft stood in front of it proudly.
"It's been a long time coming..."
"...we've been constructing these starfighters in hope of giving the Resistance an upper hand against the First Order. So we may bring a swift end to the tyranny of the shadow-dwellers of the Empire. We are the spark, that will light the fire, that will burn the First Order to the ground."
He said triumphantly, causing a wave of applause from the crowd.
"As originally planned, Commader Flesio will be taking lead of this squadron."
He gestured towards Jaycob.
"He is one hell of a pilot and I can think of nobody better to lead this new squadron into battle, than him."
More applause echoed. Jaycob being put on the spot, saluted his friend and smiled. The crowd behind him gave him pats on the back, along with a mixture of, "Congrats" or "Good luck", all of which he took in. Jaycob needed all the luck he could get to ensure White Squad would not be a repeat of Blue.
As the rest of the 14 starfighters rolled out onto their respective landing platforms, Jaycob, Tallie, Poe, and Jessika all gathered at the same meeting room where the debrief had been held the day before. The celebration was short-lived as plans of a new First Order starship came into General Organa's hands. She began,
"Looks like the First Order have a new toy, a fleet killer."
"So what? We've destroyed Resurgents before, how hard can this be?"
Jessika chimed in,
"I agree with Commander Dameron. Whatever it is, we have the means to destroy it. We've just unveiled a new ship that will shift the tide of the war."
Poe smiled at her, silently thanking her for the support.
General Organa replied,
"I'm not sure even the B-Wings can prepare us for this."
Turning on the holoprojector, a massive ship hovered over the table, rotating slowly.
"This is a Mandator IV-class Siege Dreadnought. I have an engineering team working on finding weak points on the ship, but so far that armor is impenetrable. We might be able to sneak in a couple of light craft to do something but, without those surface cannons destroyed, the fleet stands no chance."
Looks of shock and dismay filled all of their faces. Poe studied the hologram closely.
"I might have a idea so crazy it'll work. But first, Jaycob, I need to know who your replacement at Blue Leader will be. The squad will be a vital part to my plan."
Looking at Jaycob intently, Poe awaited an answer. Jaycob wasn't ready to make his choice yet, and being put on the spot didn't help the fact that he had no clue. Thinking back to what Tallie said the night before about her experience with A-Wings, she was the only person on his mind.
He said simply. Jaycob didn't think of another candidate suited well enough for the difficult task of leading the fast and agile glass-cannons known as the A-Wing. However, looking past Tallie, he could see Jessika, obviously bothered by his decision. She avoided eye contact with him, even though he could tell she saw him in her peripherals. Poe confirmed it saying,
"Congratulations Lintra, you've been promoted to Lieutenant."
He made the announcement quick, leaving the celebratory expressions lifeless. With that, Jessika turned and walked out of the room with her head down and arms crossed, like Jaycob had been during the debrief. Leaving Tallie to discuss with Poe, Jaycob followed behind her, walking at a faster pace to make sure he would catch up. He called out to her, out of range from the meeting behind them,
"Jess! Wait, what's wrong?"
She kept walking at a brisk pace, headed for her living quarters. Still avoiding eye contact she replied,
"How long have I known you Jaycob?"
The use of his real name instead of the nickname "Jay" gave him a clue about how she felt.
"I'm not sure Jess, years...we've been friends since I joined the Resistance."
"Exactly, and how long have you known Tallie?"
He hesitated, trying not to bring up the memory of the night before.
"...Not long. She only joined my squad yesterday."
Jessika stopped in front of her living quarters' door and turned to face him.
"Which is why I don't understand why you chose to promote her instead of me."
Jaycob's suspicions had been confirmed. She was jealous of Tallie. Truthfully, he respected both of them as pilots and leader-worthy women. But, Jaycob thought of choosing Tallie because of her prior experience with that type of ship, and he told her that.
"Jess, I chose her because she already knows how to fly A-Wings!"
"Ok, so am I not capable of learning how to fly one?"
"No-I mean you are, it's just I thought you preferred your ship. X-Wings suit you."
Jaycob stated, desperately trying to defuse the situation.
"I don't understand why you're getting so riled up about this. You didn't tell me you were interested in being Blue Leader."
"I shouldn't have to! I didn’t know you had to sleep with your commanding officer to get a promotion.”
”What the hell are you talking about? I never slept with her.”
Technically, that was a lie. But Jaycob hadn’t slept with Tallie in that context. Jessika immediately regretted what she had said. Taking a deep breath, she spoke in a lower voice,
"I've known you longer than Tallie has. It just seems unfair that you'd choose her over me. That's all."
"Ok, well I'll go tell Poe to ch-"
"No, don't bother him. It's already done Jaycob, leave it at that."
She turned his back to him and opened the door. He didn't bother trying to stop her as he watched it shut, cutting him off from trying to speak more. Defeated, he turned back around, in which he saw Tallie exiting the meeting room with a worried look on her face. He approached her and asked,
"So what's going on?"
"He is going to engage the Dreadnought."
That sentence was so difficult to comprehend that Jaycob had to stop in his tracks.
"You mean WE are going to engage the Dreadnought."
He said, gesturing towards the parked starfighters of the fleet.
"No, he's going alone. Apparently they've tracked us back to D'Qar and are on their way. He's going up there to take out the ship's surface cannons so we could escape."
As if it was an echo, those same words were shouted through the intercom. The announcement of the immediate evacuation of the base and its equipment shocked the entire crew and sent them into a panic to pack up what they could. Pilots, soldiers, engineers, and even the sanitation crew scrambled to prepare the U-55 Orbital Loadlifters for the flight up to the Raddus. Jessika had already come out of her quarters, unplugging her X-Wing from it's charge and fuel station, while Tallie and Jaycob scurried back to their quarters to change back into their flight suits. While there, Jaycob took his pack of Pazaak cards and shoved them into his pocket. The two pilots exited at the same time, observing the scrambling rebels run back and forth. Without thinking, he pulled Tallie by her hand and led her to his blue and white A-Wing.
"Tallie, this is yours now. Take care of her, she's a good ship."
He said half-jokingly and half-panicked.
"Th-thanks Jaycob, I-I don't know what to say."
She replied, flooded with mixed emotions.
"You don't have to say anything."
Jaycob grabbed her waist with his off-hand, and pulled her into a kiss. He thought that if they had a good chance of dying, he didn't want to do it alone. At first, Tallie started to pull away, not a fan of the sudden act of affection. But as Jaycob progressed, she started to enjoy the warm feeling she got when their lips mended. It lasted for a good several seconds, but with both of their eyes closed, time started to slow. It seemed that whenever Jaycob pulled in a little more, she did the same. While the rebels were rushing around to load cargo into the transports, Jaycob and Tallie stood in front of it all with their lips interlocked, without a care. Not wanting to enjoy it too much, Jaycob was the one to release her. It was time to go.
Tallie hopped in her "new" A-Wing and prepped her engines. Jaycob watched anxiously as she ascended a couple feet off the ground. She looked down at him from the cockpit and winked. Then, she sped off behind Poe into orbit, leading a small pack of red and white A-Wings behind her. Watching the little trace of his former ship disappear into space, he took off in the other direction, towards his new ship and his new squad. An engineer placed a step ladder for Jaycob as he approached the B-Wing. Using it to get into his cockpit, he jumped into the seat and fired up the engines. Watching the flight engineer begin to remove the ladder, he shook his head and said,
"Just leave it. Get to a transport."
Closing himself in the cockpit, he put on his old A-Wing helmet, only to realize a newer version of the B-Wing helmet laid on the yoke. The primary difference in the helmet being that there was no roof on top of it, most likely to accommodate for species that had a head that could not be contained, like a Twi'lek. Also, the visor covered the entire face of the wearer instead of just the eyes. Liking the look, he tossed away the old and placed on the new, while simultaneously turning on his comms, NavComputer, and retracting the landing gear. Testing the helmet microphone, he said,
"This is White Leader reporting in. Skip the roll call boys, I'll brief you on our way up."
Chapter 3: Return
The battle had begun and Poe's plan was in full swing. He flew elusive as ever, evading both cannons and TIE's while simultaneously taking them out. The transports formed one long, single-file line all the way up to the Raddus, Jaycob observing each one as he regrouped with the fleet, closely followed by the MG-100 StarFortress Bombers and the rest of White Squad. Prior to the evacuation, the bombers returned from their aid mission and made a quick pit-stop to ground level to exchange their care package clips to magnocharges for a deadlier payload. As soon as Poe took out all of the surface cannons posing a threat to the bombers' safety, the main force would move in. The plan was simple enough, White Squad would destroy 4 various weak points spread along the Dreadnought so the bombers would have a clear engagement path to the ship's thermal oscillator. Without the surface cannons or the weak points destroyed, the 8 Bombers would be taken out before they reach the target zone. Though they were equipped with 2 rear-ball gun turrets and point-defense firepower, they were limited in both range and accuracy. It was up to Blue and Black Squad to provide air cover from the TIE's and cover the bombers' flanks. Unfortunately, White Squad was not given this luxury, and would have to rely on agility and quickness to complete their attack run in time for the final "drop". Jaycob repeated the plan to his squad,
"Whites, we've been tasked with taking out four weak points along the hull of the Dreadnought. We take these out, the bombers can blow the thing back to hell where it came from. We won't be given an escort party so we'll be targets for the TIE's. All we have to do is stay in formation and call them out, angle your deflector shields accordingly. Once we reach the fleet, wait for the signal."
"What's the signal?"
Replied White 2, Jaycob's Chiss wingman, Jon'Kil. Being the only pilot in White Squad to be issued an X-Wing, he would be used as the "bait". His task would be to outflank any TIE's that interfered with the attack run, and make sure the formation held together.
"You'll hear it."
Jaycob reassured him.
The fleet was positioned above the Raddus, standing by for Poe's all-clear. Tallie and the rest of Blue and Black stayed in the idle position, the bomber squads of Cobalt and Crimson lining up behind them. The stage was set, now all they had to do was wait. Jaycob pulled his ship up next to Tallie's and looked at her, returning the wink she gave earlier. But for a split second, Jaycob became nervous. He wasn't confident about this mission like he normally was about others. Now that he was emotionally attached to Tallie, he wanted nothing more than to destroy every fighter that threatened her or her A-Wing. He desperately wanted to see her survive. But he knew there was a more important task at hand.
Poe's voice came over the comms,
"Tallie, start your approach."
And just like that, the slow-moving bombers thrust forward. It was about to get ugly. The surface cannons were dust and the path was clear. Tallie spoke again,
"Bombers, keep that formation tight. Fighters, protect the bombers, don't get drawn into dogfights. Let me hear you say 'copy that', Starck."
She said to Blue 2, Stomeroni Starck, her new wingman. He had a reputation for breaking formation and eliminating targets that were either fleeing from the battle, or weren't of importance. Nonetheless, he proved his usefulness at Starkiller, so he was kept around.
"No fun, copy that."
He said. Tallie replied with a chuckle and relayed,
"Jaycob, you're clear to make your run."
"Good copy. Whites, on me."
Jaycob accelerated forward, deploying his S-Foils, transforming the ship's profile from a blade to a lowercase "T" figure.
"Please be careful."
Tallie's voice came in quieter than before. She was communicating with him through her private channel.
"Don't worry, I'll be back before you know it."
"I'm counting on it."
He switched his computer screen from the White Squad roster to the Targeting Computer and took a 360 degree turn downwards, avoiding the wave of TIE's charging straight at them. His squad followed closely behind, keeping the formation tight. After avoiding the oncoming traffic, he maneuvered back to face the Dreadnought, lining up his cross-hairs with the first target. The first weak point was at the belly of the ship, the Dreadnought's primary cannon.
"There it is, clear as day."
Leading the pack, Jaycob took the first shots, his R-9X heavy cannons firing a barrage of red laser directly at the target. They did nothing however, as the cannon was shielded. Switching the weapons toggle, the proton torpedoes were next to leave. Three blue orbs of smoky energy connected with the shields causing it to shutter, but not deteriorate. It was too late to try the ion cannon, as he had to move before he collided with the Dreadnought itself. He called out to his squad-mates, letting them know about his findings,
"That shield isn't budging. Hit it with your ion cannon first, then once the shields are down, hit it with torpedoes."
He turned out of the way to let his squad take their shots. Various colors of green, red, and blue were expelled from the rest of the B-Wings as a mixture of laser cannons, proton torpedoes, and ion shots caused the shield and the weapon to explode into a red-orange inferno.
"Wooo, these pack a punch!"
White 3 called out.
"Yeah, I can get used to these."
White 8 called back.
No casualties yet. Jon'Kil didn't bother taking his shots and looped around to flank the first handful of TIE's that were gaining on their rear. He managed to take down three of the eight before he had to pull back and give himself space to avoid the explosions and debris.
The next targets were a pair of unopened hangars, presumably housing another squad of TIE's preparing to launch. Taking a wide outward turn from under the capital vessel to it's starboard side, Jaycob lined his sights with the reinforced blast door. He sent a pair of torpedoes at both of them chased closely by the red streaks of cannon fire. The blast doors took a beating, but they weren't destroyed. He had to rely on his squad to finish off the job. They did, causing all TIE pilots and crew in the hangar to vanish in a wave of flames and get jettisoned into the vacuum of space. White 9, the caboose of the line was first to report in,
"I still have the five from earlier on my six-"
"I got 'em!"
Jon'Kil snapped back. It was almost too simple. The TIE's weren't even in formation, just in a single line, making them all the more easier to destroy. The squad completed their second attack run successfully and still without casualties. Just as five went down, more TIE's emerged from the Dreadnought's port side.
Jaycob cursed, realizing they were coming from their next target. The hangar doors were already opened and 3 squads of TIE's flooded out toward the bombers. They just made their job a whole lot harder.
"Black Leader and Blue Leader be advised, you're about to receive a whole lot more company!"
"Thanks for the heads-up, we can take them."
"Just regroup with us when you can, we're on our final approach."
Tallie's voice followed.
Already too late to attack the third target, Jaycob commanded his squad to move on to target four, the oscillator shields. Jaycob had to wrap around the back of the ship, crawl up behind the bridge and attack from above. And that's exactly what he did. Keeping the tight formation, White Squad skimmed the neck of the bridge and shot up parallel to it's spine. Once far enough, Jaycob flipped around to reveal a bird's eye view of the Dreadnought. He launched forward starting off his assault with four proton torpedoes, sending green shots of ion right after, and finishing with another barrage of laser cannon before having to pull away. The shields shivered and miniature holes started to form, like paper being burned from the center-out. White Squad repeated the process and collapsed the shield in a matter of seconds. Their mission was complete and all without problems.
"That's how we do it Whites! Regroup at the Fortresses and mop up those fighters."
"Yeaaah! Great work White Squad, bombers en route."
The celebratory hooting and hollering could be heard from Jaycob's comms, sending a smile across his face he didn't bother hiding. Everything had gone according to plan. Most of the targets he was assigned were taken care of, leaving the Dreadnought crippled.
Fortunately, the First Order resistance was minimal during the White Run, but the fight was far from over. Bombers were getting swarmed left and right and it was getting difficult for Blue and Black Squadron to defend them. Among the chaos, Blue 4, Black 3, Black 9, and Black 10 were destroyed, leaving Jaycob wondering if Jessika was still alive. Luckily, he was relieved to find out that she was when her voice came through his helmet.
”Hailstorm, watch out!”
Even through the treacherous fighting, Crimson Squad vanished and Cobalt was down to a single bomber after Jaycob witnessed a TIE collide into the bomb bay of Crimson Hailstorm and send it's payload into two of it's companions, causing a domino effect of destroyed StarFortresses. Cobalt Hammer was the only one remaining. The bomber was still too far out to "drop" it's payload and was under heavy fire. The escorts were making quick work of the TIE's, but it wasn't enough to prevent the bomber's cockpit to get hit, killing it's pilot, Finch Dallow. However, the bomber still pushed on. Jaycob reported to Poe,
"Black Leader, that bomber's done. It's a dead-stick flying."
"Yeah I know. But they're over the target zone."
"Is there anyone left?"
Poe tried to reach Cobalt Hammer's gunner, Paige Tico,
"Cobalt bombardier, why aren't your bay doors open? Paige, come in! Drop the payload! Now!"
Seconds went by without a response. Seconds turned to minutes, and Jaycob wondered if they'd make it. Realizing that Paige was having a difficult time trying to even open the bay doors, he formed up another one of his infamous impromptu plans.
"White Squad, follow my lead. Line your ships against the hull of Hammer, S-Foils closed."
The plan would be to create a makeshift layer and protect the bomber using the B-Wings as it's sacrificial shields. Jaycob maneuvered his fighter to protect the upper half of the payload clip's left flank and half of the engines. The rest of his squad followed suit, lining up their ships against different areas, completely surrounding the martyr. White Squadron had to decrease speed to match with Cobalt Hammer, making them vulnerable. Even with their improved deflector shields, the B-Wings took massive damage. Now, the TIE fighters focused all their fire among the members of White Squad and within seconds, White 3, White 7, and White 9 were killed.
”I’m taking hits from all directions!”
”Shields at 20 percent!”
”I lost pressure in the cockpit!”
”I’ve got a hull breach!”
The squad's roster only decreased from there. Pretty soon they were down to 5, including the X-Wing Jon'Kil flew. Their success was growing dimmer and dimmer with each fleeting second. But, Jaycob kept his fighter stationery, taking random hits from all angles. An enemy shot eventually connected with his canopy, denting it at the bottom, crushing his right leg in between the floor and his flight computer, and causing Jaycob to let out an excruciating scream of pain into his comms. A partially deaf Jessika responded worriedly,
"Jaycob get out of there. Get back to the Raddus, please!"
"I'm not leaving!"
Jaycob screamed back, clearly annoyed.
Time started to slow. He began to wonder if this was the last time he'd ever hear Jess's voice again, or if she would ever forgive him about not choosing her to be Blue Leader. He wondered if the Resistance would vanish, leaving the First Order unrestrained to reign tyranny across the galaxy, just like the Empire. Cannons overheated, torpedo tubes empty, and leg numb, Jaycob closed his eyes, letting whatever was going to happen next, just happen.
It was Tallie. Her voice rang through Jaycob's ears and echoed. Jaycob shot back up from his slumber to see hundreds of tiny black orbs shoot out from Cobalt Hammer's bomb bay doors. Paige had done it. Line by line the magno-charges connected with the oscillator, sending a deadly chain reaction to the bridge, killing everyone on board. Jaycob, leg still limp, turned his starfighter in the other direction, toward the Raddus and accelerated to the first open hangar.
"Paige? Paige are you still there?"
Poe asked into the comms channel. But everyone already knew the answer.
Tallie replied dismally. Jaycob took in the heartbreaking news while extending his landing gear. He dropped the B-Wing, letting the capital vessel's artificial gravity do the rest.
"May the force be with you, Hammer."
Jaycob took off his helmet, and opened his canopy to see the medical staff rush towards him. He was dragged out of the cockpit and placed on a stretcher, slowly drifting in and out of consciousness on the way to the medical bay. Tallie and Jessika both ran up to opposite sides of him and asked several overlapping questions. They all sounded like distant whispers as his vision started to blur. The last thing he did was grab both of their hands, and give them a gentle squeeze.
Beep. Beep. Beep. The sound of the heart monitor. That was the first thing Jaycob heard as he woke up. His eyes flickering to life, he scanned his surroundings. He was in the medical bay of the Raddus. The room was small, white, and scattered on the floor were crates of supplies from the base on D'Qar. The nightstand next to him had only one thing on it, Tallie's synthsilk scarf. A possession that she kept so dear to her, a gift from her late father given to her when she was a little girl. Jaycob was surprised she had left it with him. Reaching over for it, a sharp pain came from his right leg. He glanced down to see that it was wrapped in a cast with tubes of bacta weaving in and out of it.
"I'll never hear the end of this one."
He murmured as he slumped back into the bed.
Chapter 4: Loss
To the right of Jaycob's bed was the main entrance, and he could hear voices coming from the other side of the door. Though he couldn't quite figure out who it was, he could tell that it was masculine.
"Sir, he is still recovering. We strongly advise for you to let him rest."
"He's fine! Move over, lemme see him!"
Suddenly, the door burst open to reveal Poe, pushing past one of the doctors.
"Hey buddy, how ya feelin'?"
"Could be better."
Jaycob replied, glancing at his leg.
"Well you're not flying anywhere anytime soon."
Poe teased. Jaycob only rolled his eyes in response.
"Even with one leg I can still beat your ass!"
He joked. Poe laughed hysterically at that one, causing Jaycob to do the same. But looking past the laughter, there was only one burning question still in his mind that he needed to ask.
This time, it was Poe's turn to roll his eyes.
"You really care about her don't you? How long have you known this girl again?"
"Jeez, you barely know her. This is gonna end up like another-"
"We do not speak of that! Besides, Tallie's...different."
“Hey hey, I'm not here to rain on your parade, I'm just saying, you said that the last girl was 'different', and the one before that, and the one before that, aaaand-"
"Just answer the question."
"Don't worry, she's fine. She's on the bridge with the rest of the pilots at the debrief."
Jaycob sighed in relief and continued,
"Also doing fine, she really needs to talk to you though."
"And I really need to talk to her as well."
Jaycob was glad to hear such good news. He cared for the girls both equally, just one more intimately than the other. He valued Jessika's friendship, being like family, she was with him since the very beginning. But on the other hand, he wasn't sure if love was the correct word to describe how he felt about Tallie. He had this indescribable feeling whenever he was around her, something he's never felt before. But at the same time, he found it absolutely ludicrous that he's only known her for a little over 24 hours and already had thoughts of spending the rest of his life with her. Yet, intimate relationships in the Resistance was a recipe for disaster. The lone exception being two Black Squad pilots: Temmin "Snap" and Kare Wexley, ending in a marriage back on D'Qar, long before Jaycob joined. The situation was simply too dangerous, not knowing whether your significant other will come back alive or not, it kept pilots on edge and it interfered with their work. But Jaycob didn't care.
"So what now?"
"Not quite sure yet. Probably find another base and hide there 'til the FO give up their chase. Which reminds me, I need to get to that debrief. Don't worry, I'll tell the girls you're fine."
Poe exited, once again leaving Jaycob alone. Although, upon further inspection, he realized that he technically wasn't the only one in the room. There was a single Medical 2-1B Surgical Droid, and judging by it's weathered down appearance, it was probably first used during the Clone Wars. He called out to it,
"How may I help you, sir?"
It replied in a monotone quiet voice, full of static. Jaycob, desperate for entertainment, asked,
"You got any holopads around here?"
The droid scanned the room and marched to a table across from Jaycob's feet. It opened the single drawer attached to it and revealed: a holopad, a few identification cylinders, and spare energy packs. Fishing out the holopad, the droid handed it to Jaycob.
"My pleasure, sir."
Jaycob decided to use his recovery time to read the news, study flight maneuvers, and play a couple games of Pazaak. His recovery time would be short due to the miracles of bacta, but not short enough. After a mere 15 minutes, he had already lost interest. He waited anxiously for another visitor to burst through the door, whether it'd be Tallie, Jess, Poe, or even his wingman, Jon'Kil.
"Droid, how long until I can walk again?"
"Well sir, with the current amount of bacta you're absorbing, plus the fact that it is an isolated injury, it will be about one hour before you'll be walking again. It is recommended you take at least 2 before engaging in combat."
Jaycob took it as one hour until he could fly again.
"Alright, can you patch me into the hangar crew?"
The droid took the holopad, pushing a series of different buttons, and patched him in.
"This is Jax."
Another familiar voice, Jax the head mechanic. In charge of overseeing all repair and upgrade operations both on the Raddus and back on D'Qar.
"Hey Jax, it's Jaycob."
"Ahh, commander! How're you doing?"
"I'm alright. Listen, I need a fix-up on my B-Wing. The cockpit took a nasty hit during the evacuation. Any chance you could have a team take a look at that? I need it up-and-running just in case we need to head back out."
"No worries Commander, I'll get right on it."
They both hung up and Jaycob tossed the device onto the sidetable. Eventually, the boredom caught up to him, and he fell asleep once again.
When he awoke, the first thing he saw was the deep black of space through the window on his left. The fleet had come out of hyperspace and he could see the medical frigate, the Anodyne coming out of the lane. Turning to the right, he was delighted to see none other than Tallie, snuggled up next to him. Breathing softly on his neck, she brought back memories of the night on the former base. She sensed his movement and asked,
"Did I wake you? I tried to be as quiet as I could."
Jaycob replied, wrapping his right arm around her,
"...I was hoping you'd come by."
"Well, here I am."
She kissed him on the cheek.
"I gotta ask you something..."
"...That night on D'Qar, did you know that you were in my 'spot'?"
He made sure to put emphasis on the word "spot" to make sure she knew what he was talking about. Tallie shot a confused look towards him, then a face of remembrance.
She said sarcastically. Jaycob laughed,
"You know, the spot where you were sitting. That's where I tend to go to clear my head."
"Alright I must confess..."
she sat up,
"...Remember after Starkiller, at the debrief, Leia told me and Jess to get the bombers on the same page?"
"Yeah I remember."
"Well, I asked her about you. I guess she knows you pretty well, because she pointed me in the direction of that 'spot'. I went there later on in the night, and just happened to be there when you came along."
Jaycob was surprised that Jessika, out of all people, was the one to bring them together. He immediately felt bad about arguing with her back on D'Qar, and yelling at her for wanting him to fall back during the evacuation. He wished he had treated her better, being the only true friend, other than Poe, he's really ever had. Tallie cut in,
"But, I'm glad she did."
She positioned herself over him, his lap in between her thighs, looking directly at him. Looking back up at her, Jaycob said,
"You are the most beautiful girl, I have ever laid my eyes on."
This time, Tallie initiated the kiss while Jaycob lay motionless. He kissed her back just as intently as before, making sure to savor every second, propping himself on his elbows to provide some support. Tallie undid her bun, letting her long hair flow down her shoulders and onto his face. There wasn't much Jaycob could do since he was already as comfortable as he could be. Periodically the two would stop kissing each other to get some air back into their lungs, but would continue right afterward. Slowly, Tallie started to take off her flight suit, letting the sleeves fall to her sides, revealing the white tank top underneath. Jaycob pulled her in closer, kissing her neck and progressing downward, Tallie replying with rapid and excited breaths. In that moment, being with her, he was the happiest man alive. In between kisses, Jaycob whispered,
"I love you."
Tallie pulled away and looked him in the eyes, taken aback by his remark. But she smiled and responded with,
"I...I love you too."
With just those 4 words, she imprinted her seat in Jaycob's heart, next to his brother, forever becoming an unforgettable part of his life. He continued kissing her, profusely, not wanting it to end. But, he forced himself to.
"Wait wait wait, what if somebody walks in?"
Tallie gave him a sly half-smile.
"I made sure to lock the door when I came in."
Jaycob shook his head in astonishment.
"Are you sure you want to do this now?"
"I don't know commander, are you?"
The couple was eventually broken up as Tallie's communicator rang. Tallie tried to escape from Jaycob's embrace, but he clung to her, begging,
"Just let it ring."
"I can't...you know I can't."
She finally managed to wiggle from his grasp and take out the device. But, Jaycob took the device and held it above his head, causing her to push her body against his, in an attempt to retrieve it. The trap had worked. Jaycob tossed the communicator on the sidetable and tackled her on her back, causing her to giggle. Their lips interlocked yet again and Tallie wrapped her legs around his back, tightening her grasp even closer than before. They wrestled playfully and kissed, exchanging laughs as Jaycob tickled her soft stomach. She extended her hand to reach for the communicator, but Jaycob reached out and filled it with his hand.
"Why are you in such a rush?"
"It could be serious. You know it's protocol to answer it as soon as you can."
"But you're busy."
He responded selfishly. She stopped struggling for the communicator and laughed.
"As much as I'd love to just stay and make love to you, it could be important."
"More important than me?"
"Nothing is more important than you."
A warm feeling rushed through Jaycob as he smiled, his cheeks turning red. He planted one final kiss on her lips and released her.
"That's all I needed to hear. Turn it up to full volume."
Tallie obliged, grabbing the communicator hesitantly, trying to figure out if it was another trick.
"You swear you're done?"
"All pilots report to the hangar. The First Order followed us, they've tracked us through lightspeed. All pilots report to the hangar and all personnel get to your stations."
It was Poe.
"Tracked us through lightspeed?"
Tallie repeated, taking herself off of Jaycob. She started putting her flight suit back on, but stopped when she saw that Jaycob did the same.
"Wait, are you sure you're able to go back out there?"
He hadn't felt anything as he strapped back on his boots, nor when he was intermingled with her. He took these as signs that he was ready.
He replied, flashing a sheepish smile towards her. She smirked, planting one last kiss on his forehead.
"You know when we get back I'm marrying you right?"
"Oh, I'm counting on it hotshot. I'll even get the papers."
She agreed, alluding to the dual military documents a couple would have to sign in order to be legally married in the Resistance. Jaycob smiled at the thought, him being part of another pilot couple, like the Wexley's. The couple walked at a brisk pace towards the hangar, hand-in-hand. On the way, several soldiers and officers saluted them, knowing that coming back from the battle alive was unlikely. Even though the First Order were without a Dreadnought, a large fleet still backed them up, this time with a much bigger ship. The supreme leader's flagship, Supremacy, made it's first appearance, shocking Resistance forces.
"That thing's bigger than the Dreadnought!"
"How'd they find us?"
"We should be in the escape pods."
These were all things Jaycob and Tallie heard as they proceeded through the maze of corridors, said by passing bystanders. Turning a corner, they ran into Poe, literally. The combined force of the couple almost knocked him off of his feet. Poe had stepped on Jaycob's foot, causing a wince of pain.
"Jaycob, what are you doing?"
Poe asked, looking concerned at Jaycob's leg.
"What do you mean? I'm headed out there."
"Not with that leg you're not. Lintra, you can go."
Jaycob watched Tallie slip out of sight, and disappear into the hangar. He wanted nothing more than to chase her down and make sure she was safe.
"My leg is fine, Poe. I can still fly."
"No, I saw the way you winced when we collided. That leg will hinder your piloting skills, you'll be shot down in a heartbeat. You're staying here."
Jaycob took this as an insult, shocked that his friend would say such a thing.
"If I get shot down, so be it. Besides, you said it yourself, you can't think of anyone better to lead White Squad into battle."
"White Squad? There's nothing left! That trick you pulled to protect the bombers, although brave, was foolish."
They were yelling now,
"If I didn't do it, the whole mission would be busted! The bombers were getting torn up out there!"
"We had the TIE's covered!"
"Whose plan was it to destroy the Dreadnought in the first place?"
Jaycob asked hypothetically, and answered,
"It was yours! So don't go blaming me for the loss of White Squad, when the entire bombing fleet would be here right now if you hadn't come up with such an ill-advised plan!"
Jaycob brushed by him and made his way toward the hangar. Poe followed still barking orders,
"As your superior officer, I command you stay here!"
"You were demoted, remember?"
Jaycob's fast walk turned into a light, limp-filled jog. Poe, persistent as ever, followed. However this time, barking orders at his droid to rev up his X-Wing's engines.
"Don't blame me if Tallie comes back and you're not here."
Poe said, overtaking Jaycob.
The thought of Tallie being alone actually scared him. So much so, that he stopped right outside of the doorway to go over his options. There were only two of them: stay here and wait for Tallie, or go with her now and risk being shot down. If he went with the latter, she'd come back to nobody. But what if Tallie was the one to not come back? He didn't know if he could take another loved one's death again.
He shook his head and made up his mind, he was going out there. Both BB-8 and Poe entered the hangar before he did, already half-way to their X-Wing when Jaycob barely got past the doorway. He hadn't made it more than 5 steps in before Jax the mechanic yells,
“Incoming! Scatter the fighters! Get out!"
A shadow-like figure zoomed past the hangar garage, shooting two triangle-shaped torpedoes inside, destroying the closest X-Wings and A-Wings of Black and Blue squadron. The hangar turned into a vacuum, sending the fire further in, disintegrating rows and rows of starfighters. Jaycob could do nothing but watch helplessly as the fire inched closer to the familiar blue and white A-Wing.
He screamed. But it was too late. He was swept off his feet and shot backwards, through the door in which he came. The sheer force of the blast's shockwave caused his helmet's visor to break into hundreds of tiny little pieces, sending shards of glass into his eyes, mouth, and nose. The back of his head was the first to collide with the wall behind him, followed by the rest of his body. Poe, being further ahead, was also launched back, sandwiching Jaycob against the wall, breaking his ribs. Poe fell forward into someone's arms and got taken away. The glass in Jaycob's eyes prevented him from opening them fully, but he could see the remains of the ships and their pilots through the red of his blood tears. The only thing he could think of was Tallie. Her starfighter lay upside down, completely destroyed. It was set ablaze, turning the blue and white paint into black ash. Jaycob slumped forward, falling onto his stomach, and with all of his might, he tried to crawl to her, only to be blocked off by emergency blast doors.
The last thing he saw was a pair of gloved hands dragging him away from the hangar.
He couldn't hear or see anything anymore, except for the ringing in his ears and the blood in his eyes. The seemingly new White Squadron had perished. The entire Resistance navy had perished. And most importantly, Tallie had perished. Jaycob hoped desperately that it was a dream; he'd wake up, still on his hospital bed, and find her laying next to him, perfectly placed in his arms. The only difference is, he’d never let go.
Chapter 5: Recovery
Jaycob shot up out of bed. He was back in the same hospital bed, in the same room. He found it odd that he could see clearly even though his vision should be impaired, due to shards of glass getting blown into his pupils. Also, the room was darker than before. No lights were on and the medical droid was powered off. The same voice of Poe behind the door echoed again as it slid open. But behind it, lay nothing except one long corridor leading to another door. The path was dimly lit by the sparked flares that came standard for all pilot suits.
Seeing no other choice, Jaycob got out of bed and followed the trail. As he walked forward, the flares that he passed went out; leaving everything behind him black. Upon reaching the door, faint screaming could be heard coming from the other side. Jaycob's attempt at opening the door was deemed a failure, as he discovered that the control panel had been destroyed. Jaycob pressed his ear against the barrier to to try and match the voice with anyone he knew.
"Help! Someone help us! We need a medic!"
The voice sounded familiar, but it was so quiet that he still didn't know who was saying it. All he could figure out was that it was feminine. Whether it was Tallie, Jessika, or even General Organa, remained a mystery. Judging by the urgency in their tone, whoever was on the other side was in immediate danger. In response, Jaycob looked around furiously to find something to possibly pry it open. Again, his attempts rendered unsuccessful, forcing him to resort to just pounding on it with his fists and legs.
"Hey! Can you hear me?"
He cried out.
But the door wouldn't budge, and Jaycob was starting to get tired from trying to forcefully open it. Jaycob slumped to the ground, back against the unbreakable entrance, and buried his face in his hands. He couldn't describe where he was or what was happening, but it felt...artificial. This was truly his greatest fear: not being able to help someone in need. There was only one way to go, and the path was blocked. His eyes began to feel heavy, signaling that he felt extremely tired. He closed his eyes again, hoping it would all just fade away.
Beep. Beep. Beep. The same heart monitor. Jaycob opened his eyes to the same scenario, except this time, far more bright. It was only a nightmare. The lights were on and the medical droid was roaming around the room tending to other patients. This time, the medical bay was filled with injured, both engineers and pilots alike. The medical droid, noticing Jaycob woke up, approached him.
"Hello again, sir."
Again? Jaycob was struck with confusion. He was sure that the hangar explosion was just part of his imagination, just like the unbreakable door marked with flares. Before he could process what was going on, the door to his right opened and in walked Jessika. The first thing she did was grab Jaycob's hand.
"I am...so sorry Jay."
"Sorry for what?"
A still-confused Jaycob questioned. Jessika looked just as puzzled as he did.
"Are you alright?"
"Uhh...I'm pretty sure I am."
Jessika's face still kept the same expression. A weird sensation came from Jaycob's eyes, bothering him to the point where he had to rub it. She tried to stop him, but it was too late. As soon as Jaycob's hand touched his eyelid, a fierce burning pain engulfed his pupils. It felt as if someone had kicked sand into them, which only got worse every time he blinked.
He whispered. Then, it dawned on him. The hangar wasn't a nightmare. It had actually been destroyed along with the fleet. Along with Tallie. A flood of emotions swirled around in Jaycob's head: sorrow, hatred, and confusion being some of them. He didn't want to believe it was true. He wanted to believe that he just poked his eye and that it wasn't still tender from having recent glass-removal surgery. He clawed at every little piece of hope he had left in Tallie still being alive. Finding it hard to breathe he said,
"Jess...please tell me...where's Tallie?"
He felt himself starting to choke up.
She let go of his hand and reached for something in her back pocket, struggling to hold back tears.
"Once the hangar was stabilized, I went in there to assess the damage."
"I managed to find this."
She pulled out a half-burnt, ripped piece of off-white fabric and handed it to him. At first, Jaycob was perplexed about what it could be. But seeing a tear trail from Jessika's eye made it clear. It was Tallie's synthsilk scarf, or what was left of it. Somehow it had been spared from the carnage. Jaycob grabbed it slowly, still taking everything in. He could sense his own tears taking form.
He whimpered. Jessika lost it, bawling into her hands. Jaycob took one final look at the fabric before he did the same. The night on D'Qar flashbacked into his mind; the trees, the stars, and Tallie's head on his shoulder. Being one of the few memories he's had with her, Jaycob cherished every second. He remembered the first time they had met face-to-face, when she comforted him after losing most of Blue squad in the invasion of Starkiller. He remembered first laying eyes on her and knowing immediately, he was in love. He remembered kissing her for the first time in front of his old A-Wing, and realizing just how hard she kissed him back. He remembered flying right next to her, moments before the Dreadnought attack run and winking at her, knowing that he was about to fly into likely destruction. He remembered how she had grabbed his hand as he was being carried away to the medical bay, and him just being happy knowing she made it back safe and sound. He remembered waking up in his hospital bed, with her soft breathing caressing his neck when she visited him, snuggling up close to keep herself warm.
Then he remembered, that it hadn't even been two days.
Jessika slouched into a stool next to his bed, still sniffling, wiping her eyes with her gloves. Trembling, she said,
"I know you loved her Jaycob..."
Sobbing, he replied,
"Loved her? I thought that I was going to marry her."
He pulled the scarf closer and covered his eyes with it. The smell of Tallie, mixed with smoke, still lingered, bringing back more nostalgia. The scarf absorbed most of his tears, but not all. Streaks of water dripped onto his chest, mixing with the dried blood from earlier, changing the drops from clear to translucent light-pink. They didn't make it far down Jaycob's flight suit before they were caught in the fabric and seeped through.
"Once this was over..."
Jaycob struggled to keep his train of thought,
"...I was going to make her mine, like the Wexley's..."
Jaycob's voice faltered. He couldn't believe she was truly gone. What made things worse was that the blue and white A-Wing, flipped upside down, was the last thing he would ever see of her.
"I would have liked to see you two together."
Jessika said, trying to comfort him. However, it only made Jaycob feel more melancholy than before. He would have liked to see them together too. Being the last remnant of Tallie he had left, he folded the fabric scrap and placed it into his flight suit chest pocket, right over his heart.
The eye surgery went well and Jaycob was clear to leave, even though he still had a broken rib from when Poe sandwiched him against a wall. Jessika suggested they go to the common area to clear their minds, but Jaycob refused, opting to go to the hangar's wreckage instead. A small memorial had been set up at the entrance, with a hand-written list of all the lives lost during the attack. Around the top of the list read:
"Head Engineer - Jax Anthrop"
It was in alphabetical order based on last names. The lengthy list was large enough to stretch through two pages, Tallie being towards the end.
"Blue Leader - Cpt. Tallissan Lintra"
Finding her name on the list gave Jaycob a feeling of emptiness inside. He moved forward into the actual hangar, Jessika following close behind. A clean-up had already begun for the ships and their pilots. White sheets had been placed over those who weren't entirely disintegrated by the explosion. Upon the debris, he saw what he thought was his B-Wing cockpit, charred to the touch. He thought of how foolish it was that he was assigned another squad, yet it was destroyed faster than his last. It didn't matter now; the squads of White, Black, and Blue had been turned into nothing but scrap metal.
After a few minutes of contemplation, Jaycob exited through the same door that he had been forcefully thrown into several hours before, passing the memorial once again. Seeing the dried blood trail next to it, presumably from himself, Jaycob tried to recall what exactly happened. He asked Jessika,
"Jess, where were you when the hangar was attacked?"
She took a moment to gather her thoughts,
"Umm...after the debrief, I stuck around for a while on the bridge, talking to Leia. I guess I took too long."
"So, you weren't the one that dragged me away?"
She looked downwards.
"Once I was about a few steps away from that door..."
she pointed at the doorway,
"...I saw you get thrown against the wall. The blast knocked me off my feet, but only left a couple bruises. I got back up and tried to bring you away from the hangar, but you kept resisting. You were like, crawling towards it...towards her."
Jaycob remembered. Being temporarily blinded, all he tried to do was get to Tallie. If he were to die, he wanted to do so right next to her. Jessika looked back up at him and repeated the same phrase she gave earlier,
"I'm so...sorry. I can't bel-"
Jaycob interrupted her with a heartfelt hug. She stopped talking, and hugged him back, letting a few more tears land on his shoulder. Jaycob only felt grateful to have such a loyal friend who would risk her life to save his. Letting go, Jaycob spoke first,
"I should be the one apologizing. I'm sorry for arguing with you on D'Qar and during the evacuation. I should consider myself lucky, knowing that I have such an amazing friend like you."
They both forced weary smiles onto their faces. With Tallie gone, she was the only trace of true happiness he had left. Jessika was like a sister to him. He promised himself right then and there, that he wouldn't let anything happen to her.
"Thanks Jay, I feel the same way."
Afterwards, the two ended up going to the secondary bridge. There was an emergency meeting called about the new shift in leadership after General Organa, along with many other Resistance leaders perished as the main bridge of the Raddus had been destroyed; all at the hands of Kylo Ren. Jessika and Jaycob sat next to each other in the back row, awaiting the announcement. Looking past their previous argument, Jaycob thought Poe would become the new acting general since he was one of the only high-ranking and well-trusted members of the Resistance left. However, he was mistaken.
"General Organa, Admiral Ackbar, our leadership, it's all gone."
said Commander Larma D'Acy.
"There were no survivors on the bridge."
It was a tough pill to swallow. The non-combatant crew members, both veteran and new alike, were dead. This only added fuel to Jaycob's never-ending fire of hatred toward Kylo Ren, that sparked the moment he heard news of Jakku. Kylo had killed his brother, his lover, and his squad all within the span of a few days. He took everything Jaycob had ever loved away, leaving him with nothing but a thirst for blood. D'Acy continued,
"If she were here, Leia would say, 'Save your sorrow for after the fight.' To that end, she left clear instructions as to who should take her place in case something like this ever happened. Someone she's always trusted, and who has her full confidence."
Everyone could have sworn Poe was going to be chosen, so it came as a surprise that Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo was the one to step into the spotlight.
"Thank you commander."
She dismissed D'Acy.
"Look around you. Four hundred of us. We are the last of the Resistance, but we're not alone. In every corner of the galaxy, the downtrodden and oppressed know our symbol and have put their hope in it."
Four hundred? That's all that were left? Jaycob couldn't believe it. He didn't even listen to the rest of her monologue, seeing it as just another empty pep talk. Poe stood up and approached the new General when she was finished, leaving Jaycob and Jessika at their seats.
"Why wasn't Poe chosen?"
Jessika asked, flabbergasted.
"I guess Leia and Holdo have some history. Still though, Poe was like the son she wished she had."
The two got up and exited the bridge. There wasn't much the pilots could do without their starfighters, so they were confined to wandering around the vessel aimlessly, helping where they could.
Tallie still floated around in Jaycob's head every now and then, bringing him sadness for frequent periods of time. Especially when Jessika had asked innocently what his plans were post-war.
"I haven't really thought about it, I guess. All I know is Tallie would be part of it."
She replied gloomily. Trying to avoid more sorrow, Jaycob asked,
"How about you? Did you have plans after all this?”
As he gestured toward the, almost fully cleaned, hangar. It wasn't a surprise that they ended up there again, since most of the help was needed in cleaning the debris. They were sitting on an empty storage container, taking a break from their labor. A smile flashed across Jessika's face as if she were waiting for him to ask.
"Mmm...well I would like to have the freedom to do whatever, or go wherever, I want. But, definitely not back to Dandoran."
She replied, causing Jaycob to remember her ugly past.
"I don't know. I guess like you, I never really had a chance to think about it. But one thing's for sure."
"Yeah? What's that?"
"I'd like to get my damn X-Wing back."
She laughed at herself, managing to bring the slightest amusement to Jaycob's face.
"Well, whatever it is we do, we'll have each other's backs, right?"
"Always Jaycob, always."
Chapter 6: Mutiny
For a while, the two just sat there, observing the hangar getting restored to it's former glory. Until, Poe showed up.
"Uhhh, hey you two."
He said awkwardly.
Jessika replied happily, while Jaycob stay silent, ignoring his presence. It was Poe's plan to re-deploy after the evacuation, and it was his fault the fleet was destroyed. If he hadn't suggested intercepting the Destroyers, the shields to the hangar wouldn't have been lowered. Thus, the black cloak of Kylo Ren’s fighter wouldn't have been able to penetrate through and send in it's payload. The fleet wouldn't have been destroyed, and Tallie wouldn't have been killed.
Poe must have seen Jaycob tense up because he walked in front of him, forcing himself into Jaycob's line of sight. Jaycob looked up at him, clenching both his fists and his jaw.
"I'm...sorry about Lintra, Jaycob. I know, you think it's my fault."
Jaycob replied sternly. Poe looked away, scratching behind his neck. Looking back he said,
"No, it is. But-"
Jaycob shot up from his seat on the crate, triggering Jessika to do the same out of worry. He could feel his face burn with fury.
"But what? There's always a 'but' whenever you confess to screwing up, so what is it this time?"
Poe, feeling threatened, said,
"Hey, calm the hell down."
He poked Jaycob hard in the chest.
"She signed up for this, dammit, we all did. Death is part of war, do you not understand that? First your brother and now this-"
All of Jaycob's built-up anger and hatred was released as he replied with a right hook to Poe's left cheek. The hit forced Poe to stumble backward into another cargo crate, causing it to topple over.
"I loved her!"
Jaycob screamed, oblivious to the small crowd of Resistance soldiers surrounding them. Before he could plant another hit, Jessika inserted herself between them.
"Jay, knock it off!"
She yelled, pushing Jaycob away. Walking over to Poe, she said,
"It's not his fault."
She picked up his face, cupping it in her hands. Poe glared at Jaycob as she thumbed away some blood forming on his lower lip. Seeing this Jaycob said,
"Pfft. Of course you'd think that."
He sat back down and continued,
"How long has this been going on?"
He pointed his finger back and forth between them. Before either of them could respond he said,
"Must be nice, having someone to come back to when it's all said and done. You know Jess, I've known you for a long time, and I didn't know this was a thing 'til now. And of course, it's Poe that doesn't lose a single blasted thing."
He smiled to himself, letting out whispered laughs.
"Poe, you wouldn't know the first thing about losing someone."
Jaycob murmured, knowing that the statement was false. Poe pulled Jessika's hand away from his face and straightened his posture.
"Really? You don't think I haven't dealt with what you're going through? I've lost more squad members than I can count, and with Leia gone, it's like I've lost my mother again. Every single day, I carry the consequences of my actions on my shoulders. I can barely sleep at night, the thought of not seeing any of them ever again haunts me. You're brother was a good friend of mine, and I'm probably tied for who feels worse about his death, second to you. But over the years, I've learned to deal with it...something you need to learn as well."
Listening to him, Jaycob couldn't stop the tears forming in the corners of his eyes. He released the stare he held on Poe and looked downward, as a tear fell to the hangar floor.
"She died...right in front of me."
He quivered, throwing his gloves on the ground. Jaycob buried his face in his bare hands, the familiar struggle to breathe returning once again.
"At that exact spot."
He whimpered, pointing to where Tallie's A-Wing used to be parked. Poe walked over and placed a hand on Jaycob's shoulder. Soon after, Jessika did the same on the other side. Jaycob took another deep breath, attempting to regain his emotions.
"I'm sorry, Poe. I shouldn't have hit you."
Licking the inside of his lip he replied,
"It's fine. Again, I'm sorry about Tallie. I would've liked to see you two together."
Jaycob smirked at the statement.
"Yeah. Jess said the exact same thing."
Poe and Jessika looked at each other, exchanging smiles. Looking back Poe said,
"Protect her, Jaycob. You hear me? I need you to promi-"
Jaycob cut him off, knowing what he was asking,
"I promise. She's like my sister, I wouldn't let anything happen to her."
Jessika insisted eagerly. Both Poe and Jaycob cringed at the comment.
"Sure Jess, you're my sky-sister."
The atmosphere was tense around the entire ship. Not just because of Jaycob and Poe's brief fight, but because of the mistrust the soldiers had between one another. The sudden change of command certainly contributed to this, half the crew staying faithful to Leia's successor, and the other half staying loyal to Poe. Truthfully, Jaycob was still on the fence about his stance on the matter. He was not thrilled about Holdo's secrecy, almost making him think she was some sort of spy. But on the other hand, he was not akin to the idea of having Poe's wreckless attitude be at the forefront of the Resistance's plans. Jessika had obviously taken Poe's side, convincing Jaycob to do the same.
"I don't know, Jess."
"Oh, come on Jay. You know Holdo can't be trusted. She's keeping us in the dark. She says she has a plan, but hasn't told us anything."
"Yeah, but she's more qualified to lead the Resistance."
"Lead it to the ground! She could be a spy!"
Jessika stood up from the bench they were sitting on, trying to sound more emphatic. But Jaycob, knowing her for such a long time, saw right through it.
"Jess, you just want me to take your boyfriend's side."
She started to blush, trying to find the right words,
"Wha-No I'm not! I just think...it'd be...ben-...beneficial if-"
"Mmhm, beneficial huh?"
He let out a chuckle before he began again,
"Why are you so hung up on this? It's like you guys are planning a mutiny or something."
Jessika stopped talking and looked around cautiously, as if to see if anyone overheard their conversation. Seeing nobody is sight, she sat back down and whispered,
The news left Jaycob speechless. He hoped Jessika was only kidding, a mutiny would split the Resistance apart and surely lead to its destruction. But the fire in Jessika's eyes told him a different story. She looked determined and genuine, a look he hasn't seen from her ever. Usually she was the one to be buoyant and easy-going. But this time, all of that was gone. She was actually fighting for something now, not for the better good of her, but for the entire Resistance. Jaycob respected that.
"You realize what you're doing is totally against New Republic methods of war?"
"Well, we don't have the New Republic anymore now, do we?"
"Jess, Hosnian Prime was no joke. The whole system was destroyed, billions of lives were lost."
"Listen Jay, I'm done trying to convince you. If you're not with me, you're against me."
The sudden turn in the conversation's tone made Jaycob uneasy. He wondered if Jessika had the strength to follow through with what she said. Even though he could easily overpower her physically, her mental strength seemed unbreakable. And that almost scared Jaycob. Almost. Thinking back to the promise he made, both to himself and to Poe, to protect her, he gave in.
"Ok, you need to calm down. What's your plan?"
She gave Jaycob a devilish smile and handed him a Glie-44 blaster pistol replying,
"Follow me. Make sure that's on stun."
She led the way to the secondary hangar, where the leftover U-55 Loadlifters of Ninka, Anodyne, and Vigil were housed. On the way, she gave Jaycob a brief explanation of the situation. The transports were getting refueled from the Raddus' supply, prepping to abandon ship.
"This is Holdo's plan? This is absolute suicide! These transports aren't equipp-"
"I know, Jay. That's what I've been trying to tell you. There is definitely something going on with her."
On the other side of the hangar, Poe was discussing with the operations controller, Kaydel Connix. Once they spotted Jaycob and Jessika, they approached.
"Well Jaycob, what'll it be?"
Poe asked, causing all three pairs of eyes to look at him. Jaycob didn't take long to respond saying,
"I...I guess I'm with you."
Looks of easement vibrated from all of their faces.
"Good, I need you more than ever. Kaydel, make sure the bridge is cleared of officers and prep the cruiser for lightspeed."
She nodded her head quickly and responded,
"Got it. See you there."
Poe turned back and said,
"Jaycob follow me, we haven't got much time."
"Time for what?"
"The arrest of Vice Admiral Holdo."
"On what grounds?"
Poe led Jaycob and Jessika to a group of other conspirators, consisting of only two other pilots: C'ai Threnalli and Nodin Chavdri. They were huddled on the east side of the hangar, speaking behind the U-55 transports.
"What do we got boss?"
Nodin asked Poe, waving a greeting to the newcomers.
"We got two more. Were you or C'ai successful in recruiting others?"
C'ai cut in.
"Son of a..."
Poe inhaled then exhaled.
"We're it then?”
Jaycob questioned, worriedly.
”Not quite. I’ve got friends all over this ship. They should be on their way."
"So, what? We're just going to shoot anybody trying to use the transports?"
"No, are you nuts? I'm going to tell the plan to Holdo, and if she denies it, then we'll shoot her."
"Don't know if that's much better."
"Just follow my lead."
Jaycob followed the small group to another side of the hangar, where Holdo was overseeing the final preparation of the transports. Poe confronted her first.
"Not you again."
She said, rolling her eyes and crossing her arms.
"I'm trying to be reasonable now."
"And how's that working out for you?"
"If you'd let me finish, it'd probably turn out well."
Holdo looked at him, suspiciously. Then took a deep breath and said,
"I don't know why I do this. You have 30 seconds."
"Ok, I've sent Finn, the former stormtrooper, and Rose, a bomber technician, on a mission to disable the hyperspace tracker on Snoke's cruiser. But in order to do that, they had to pick up a master codebreaker that would be able to sneak them onto the ship itself unnoticed. The codebreaker was on Cantonica, and was retrieved just a moment ago. They're on the ship now and are approaching the tracker, they just need a little more time before they can disable it."
Poe said, fumbling over some words in order to fit the explanation in the alotted time. It might've seemed well-said in Poe's head, but it came out as jibberish for those around him.
Holdo struck a confused look on her face and replied,
"A stormtrooper and a who-now, are doing what?"
"They are trying to save us. This is our best chance for escape. You have to give Finn and Rose all the time that you can."
"You have bet the survival of the Resistance on bad odds and put us all at risk? There's no time now. We have to get clear of the cruiser, load the transports."
Poe shook his head, knowing that he had failed at trying to convince her. It was time to go to more extreme measures.
"Yeah, I was afraid you'd say that."
Poe, Nodin, C'ai, Jessika, Jaycob, and 2 other pilots all raised their blasters in unison. Two more soldiers behind the Vice Admiral raised theirs as well, totally surrounding Holdo and the group of officers that accompanied her. Poe began again,
"Vice Admiral Holdo, I am relieving you of your command for the survival of this ship, its crew, and the Resistance."
Holdo shot a glare at Poe and replied,
"I hope you understand what you're doing."
"Yeah, me too. I'm going to the bridge. If they move, stun them."
Poe announced as he strode past the officers. Jaycob checked his blaster to make sure it was on stun. It wasn't. Quickly, he flicked the selector to the appropriate setting and trained the sights on the group. The action didn't go unnoticed, as Jessika shot him a disappointed look.
"Sorry, I'm still kind of new to this."
He defended himself.
"I expected more from you, Jaycob."
It was General Caluan Ematt, another one of the officers on the wrong side of the barrel.
"I didn't want it to come to this. But Holdo's given us no choice. For all we know, she could be the death of all of us."
"Don't be stupid Commander. I've worked with Leia for longer than you've been alive."
Holdo chimed in. The statement made Jaycob even more nervous than he already was. What was he doing? What would his brother think? He felt unbalanced inside, now having second thoughts about following through with the plan.
But before he could reconsider, the lights in the hangar started turning off, one-by-one, eventually sending the entire floor into darkness. The only visible light were by the parking markers on the ground and the glow of the transport computers. For a brief moment, Jaycob, along with the others taking part in the mutiny, were distracted, trying to figure out what was going on. But it was just enough time for Holdo to take action.
Before anyone could figure out what had happened, Holdo kicked an oxygen tube from its ground socket and sent cold smoke into the pilots' faces. Two of her officers tried to overtake the two soldiers behind them, giving Holdo enough time to unholster her blaster. She stunned C'ai first, then took aim at Nodin. Jaycob was too disoriented to fire back accurately, so he shot a couple of stuns into the smoke and retreated back behind a transport.
Once he had regained his vision, he realized he had dropped his blaster amongst the chaos, leaving him defenseless. The discharge of blasters went on for only 30 more seconds with some inaudible yelling sprinkled here and there.
But soon enough the smoke began to dissipate, revealing the mess they had created. The battle was over. Along the floor, the stunned bodies of C'ai, Nodin, General Ematt, one officer, and one other pilot were sprawled about.
Jaycob yelled, as he identified that the knocked-out pilot was actually Jessika. He shot up from cover and sprinted to where she lay. But before he could reach her, Holdo stepped in front of him, pointing her blaster directly at his face.
Chapter 7: Endless
Has Jaycob ever been shot before? No. Has he ever participated in a mutiny before? No again. Had he put himself in a bad predicament? Definitely. The vice admiral was holding a blaster directly at his face, and he didn't think she cared if it was on stun or not.
"I should've had you on my radar a lot earlier. You're basically another Dameron."
"I don't know if I should take that as a compliment or not."
"You shouldn't. I will give you this though, you lasted longer than he did."
Jaycob flashed a stern look onto his face.
"What do you mean?"
As if it were planned Poe, unconscious, was rolled out on a gurney and positioned at the bottom of a transport's ramp. Jessika was then hoisted up onto a stretcher of her own, and placed right next to him. Jaycob crept up to both of them and examined sadly. While they fought, Jaycob ran away. He wondered if it were better to just get stunned along with them. And with the situation he was in, it seemed like that was exactly what was about to happen. But surprisingly, Holdo lowered her weapon.
"This little mishap of yours, just made us lose one of our transport pilots. Can you fly one?"
Jaycob took a glance at the U-55s and gave a shrug.
"I'm pretty sure I can. But, I was just part of this mutiny. How can you trust me?"
"Because if this Resistance is going to live, I need everybody on the same side. I'm trusting that you know this is bigger than just the two of us."
Jaycob recalled the same words uttered by Leia on D'Qar. They were right. He couldn't let his emotions get in the way of his responsibility, not again.
"Yes ma'am. I'll fly. But on one condition."
"You're really in no position to make demands Commander."
Ignoring this, Jaycob looked back over at Jessika.
"She flies with me."
Jaycob would be lying if he said he wasn't surprised that his request was accepted. Jessika's limp body was carried onto Jaycob's U-55 transport along with some large cargo crates probably housing computers, weapons, and medical supplies. Any pilot that survived the hangar attack and the mutiny was tasked with flying the slow, unshielded slugs of a ship. The officers and army personnel would be riding along with the cargo in the hold tending to the wounded and who-knows-what. The pilots were the heart of the operation, or at least that's what Holdo said.
The pilots were all called before the Vice Admiral in the hangar, forming a small huddle. Looking around, Jaycob could see that not all of the pilots were actual pilots, meaning they weren't part of the starfighter corps. For example, Pamich Goode. She wasn't a pilot, she was a dispatcher, yet she was tasked with flying the transport that Poe would be riding in. But, seeing the recent losses the Resistance endured, they needed all the help they could get.
"Pilots, you are the heart of this operation. You have been tasked with transporting the remainder of the Raddus' forces to the planet Crait, an uncharted base from the days of the Rebellion."
All those that were in the huddle stayed in silence.
"The transports have been cloaked, thanks to experimental power bafflers built in. It should minimize energy output and keep you undetected until you reach the surface. Once you're there, get in touch with our Outer Rim allies. This cruiser is going to proceed in an attempt draw them off your trail. It was an honor to serve with each and every one of you."
Holdo then looked directly at Jaycob.
"I trust that your morality will come through for those around you. You will reach the surface."
Now, Jaycob wasn't only stunned, but a little annoyed. Why didn't she just tell everyone the plan in the first place? All of this friendly fire and mutiny could've been prevented. But Jaycob kept his mouth shut. He knew Holdo was going to be the one to keep the cruiser on course, she was going to sacrifice her freedom for the Resistance. Jaycob gave nothing but admiration toward her, she had earned his utmost respect.
"May the Force be with all of you. Dismissed."
The huddle dispersed, and the pilots raced to their respective transports. Jaycob was given the transport number fourteen, meaning he would be in the middle of the pack while heading down. There were thirty transports in total, each holding a varied amount of cargo and personnel. Jaycob's consisted of Jessika, 4 army members, 3 officers, and 10 crates of supplies.
He headed up the ramp and gave short greetings to his passengers, arriving at Jessika, still asleep on the gurney. He grabbed her hand and gave her a small smile, even though she couldn't see it. She wouldn't be flying again, but at least she'd be where she belonged; out in space with her teammates by her side. He let go and walked into the cockpit.
It housed two seats, side-to-side meant for another person to be co-pilot, but with the small amount of fly-worthy members, he wasn't given one. All thirty transports shared one frequency for their communications, meaning some thirty-plus pilots could all speak at the same time. But, the radio chatter was kept minimal, nobody wanting to speak. Everyone was scared, especially Jaycob.
He took a seat on the furthest-right seat and powered on the ship. Flicking the necessary levers and pressing the necessary buttons, the engine whirred to life, emitting a faint hum that vibrated the entire ship. Before ascending off the ground, Jaycob reached into his flight suit and pulled out Tallie's scarf remnant. He clasped it in between his hands and closed his eyes. He wished she were here with him, being his co-pilot for the mission. It was extremely hard to find the strength to push on, but somehow he did it. She was his inspiration.
"Tallie, this is it."
"If I die right now I wouldn’t mind, because I'd get to see you and my brother again. But I have people counting on me, and I know that if you were here, you'd want me to give everything to keep them safe."
Although he was talking to no-one, he knew that somewhere, somehow she was listening. He couldn't describe the feeling. She was there with him, though not physically, but spiritually.
"If I survive this, I'm taking the first flight to Pippip 3, just to see where you grew up. I'll visit that farm, and take a look at that cropduster A-Wing you're so fond of."
Jaycob laughed a little, remembering her stories.
"I love you, Tallie. I'll see you on the other side Blue Leader."
"Transports, you have the green light."
Holdo's voice came in loud through the intercom and communication headsets. Transport 1 and 2 ascended off the ground and turned their nose toward the hangar doors. This was going to take a while. It would take at least 30 minutes before his transport would even be commanded to depart. To fill in that time, Jaycob rummaged through the cockpit's personal cargo hold. It only contained cobwebs, flares, and one lonesome helmet. He pulled out the helmet only to realize that it was absolutely clean. The helmet hadn't been customized in any way, with the only color differing from the white and black being the red of the Resistance insignia on the left of it's forehead. It was the average X-Wing bucket that every new pilot was issued, the visor still spotless.
Jaycob's curiosity got the better of him, as he placed it onto his own head. It was a perfect fit. He decided that with a few modifications and a new paint job, the helmet would become a fit replacement. With 1 and 2 out in the vastness of open space, 3 and 4 were prepping their departure.
"Ugh. Let's get this rolling guys, come on."
Jaycob complained onto the channel.
"I'm with you Commander, but it's better to be safe than sorry. The techs are just making sure these power bafflers from Rose are up to the task."
A familiar voice replied.
"Jon'Kil is that you? I thought you were a dead man!"
Jaycob was genuinely surprised that the pilot survived. They had no other contact after the evacuation of D'Qar.
"I'm supposed to be. I'll show off these scars once we're on the surface."
"Heheh, ok badass. Glad you're still with us."
"But I knew the Ticos. Or at least my brother did. They're a bright duo those two."
"Yeah, they were. But Paige died in her bomber and Rose isn't here."
"That's a damn shame. I remember they gave Jaysen and I these wrist gauntlets, miniature-computer tech."
Jaycob glanced down at his left forearm where the device was still held. He hadn't even had the time to fiddle around with it, being occupied with; saving the fleet, almost getting blown up, etc. But since he was just waiting for his turn in the transport line, he could finally do so. The device was a bit bulky, having a separate flap that covered the screen. On the other side of the flap were three extremely small bacta shots and a lockpick. The screen itself had 3 buttons, a knob, and a speaker. It had the ability of short-range communications and calculating smaller hyperspace jumps. It was really an ingenious invention, now with only one left in existence.
"That's cool. I'll take a look when we're done. I'm up next."
Transports 5 and 6 started their "cloaking sequence" and exited the hangar. The lack of fire from the Supremacy meant the bafflers must have worked. Everything was going according to plan and it seemed that the transports would reach planetside without interference.
By the time it was Jaycob's turn, his new helmet now had one personal touch added to it. The initials, TL, etched next to the rebel insignia in blue ink.
"Transports 13 and 14, you're clear to depart."
Holdo's voice finally reported. It was time. Jaycob turned in his chair and activated the power baffler. The device beeped and whirred to life.
"Time to go dark."
Jaycob murmured. The shuttle gracefully exited the hangar right behind thirteen. The transports kept a loose formation, just one long line toward the planet. It was a race for who could reach safety first. Doubt filled Jaycob's mind, which then caused tension. He could feel his hands were sweating beneath his gloves, gripping the steering controls too hard. Although he trusted Rose, the device seemed sketchy. The several seconds of passing through the hangar gate seemed endless. Jaycob's mind flooded with the fear of the possibility of getting spotted, shot at, or destroyed. But once he passed through the gate, there was no turning back.
"Nice of you to join the party fourteen. Watch your power output reading and make sure the power baffler does its job."
A pilot from Transport 1 called in.
"Solid copy One."
Jaycob replied. The bright surface of the planet was almost blinding. It was covered in a layer of bright white with small streaks and spots of red scattered around, signifying that it was most likely a snow planet. It was hard to believe that out of the vast assortment of planets the First Order had in their database, this just happened to be one that wasn't. Jaycob wasn't fond of relocating to a planet where the weather was a bigger problem than the enemy, but in the situation they were in, he'd take what he could get. Transports 15 through 30 slipped into the formation without Jaycob even noticing. Which was a good thing, it meant the power bafflers worked.
"Looks good. All transports are away."
Transport 30 announced.
"Well would you look at that? These slugs might be able to-"
A dark green laser bolt ripped through the hull of Transport 27 before the pilot could finish his sentence. The explosion blast shook Jaycob's transport, stirring a commotion in the cargo hold.
"Is anyone injured?"
Jaycob called back.
"No, but someone woke up."
Standing in the cockpit doorway was Jessika, still looking pale and disoriented, but smiling.
"Oh my God, Jess!"
Jaycob sprang up from his seat to embrace her in a gigantic hug. But as they were hugging, the transport slowly started to rotate clockwise. The two pilots separated and quickly pulled back on the controls before it could cause anything catastrophic. Once the ship was back upright, Jaycob realized that Jessika was finally where he had thought of her being all along. In the co-pilot's seat flying for her family, the Resistance.
"Once we get to the surface, you need to tell me every-"
Transport 11 and 19 explode in a bloom of fire.
"-Everything I missed."
"Sure thing Skysis, but I'm warning you now-"
Transport 6, 12, and 24 go down.
"-It isn't pretty."
"I don't care, you've got a lot of explaining to do. How's Poe?"
Transport 2 is lost.
"He's fine. His transport launched not too long before mine. Look, he's number 10."
Jaycob pointed to the roster of shuttles displayed on a screen. This was just like them. The pair trying to make light of a desperate situation; laughing and cracking sarcastic jokes instead of screaming and crying for their lives. They both found it easier to fly that way.
"I like the new bucket."
She said, pointing to the makeshift decal with her eyes.
"Yeah, it fits good. But it's meant for X-Wing pilots, gross right?"
Jessika laughed and punched Jaycob in the shoulder.
"Oh man! Just wait 'til I tell Poe that."
Jaycob suddenly regretted it, dreading the thought of starting more conflict with his friend, even if it was just a joke.
"Wait wait, don't you dare. I was only kidding!"
Chapter 8: Reb
"Wait wait shut up!"
Jessika yelled back at the screaming worried passengers. She was trying to hear someone speaking over the comms. Another nameless transport pilot was trying to communicate back to the Raddus.
"Admiral, we're taking fire! Do we turn around?"
Holdo replied with,
"No, you're too far out. Full speed to planetfall! FULL SPEED!"
The pilot would never hear the response as he was obliterated right after his transmission. No matter what little evasive maneuvers the pilots could pull off, they were no match for the super-destroyer’s turbolasers. It must've been like shooting fish in a barrel for the FO gunners. The radio chatter coming through Jaycob’s newly-claimed helmet started to dissolve as more and more transports were taken down.
"We're almost...there! Just hold on!"
Jaycob exclaimed as he dodged another turbolaser shot.
"If something doesn't happen soon, Crait is staying abandoned."
"Hold on a second, look!"
One of the officers pointed at the Raddus. The massive hulk of a cruiser began to accelerate, preparing the jump to lightspeed.
"What the hell is she doing? Running away?"
Jessika asked. Jaycob was about to explain why this wasn't the case, but then realized that she was still unconscious when Holdo proved her loyalty. But what Leia's successor did next sealed the deal. The remnants of the transports were spared as the turbolasers now concentrated on the Raddus. It was the First Order's last ditch effort to protect themselves, but it was too late. With the push of a lever, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo sent the Mon-Calamari cruiser, Raddus, into lightspeed, ramming the Supremacy and splitting it into uneven halves. The First Order Navy was reduced to nothing but stardust, let alone five Star Destroyers.
Jaycob and Jessika were left dumbfounded, their jaws both dropped. That was it. The U-55s were left undeterred on the final stretch to planetfall. After the chaos that resulted, only five transports remained.
The Resistance regrouped inside one of the salt mine facilities. Jaycob didn't expect that an abandoned rebel outpost would be settled on top of a massive salt deposit. When he first set foot onto the mineral floor, he took in a deep breath and scanned his surroundings. All that was left were a few driller vehicles and containers filled to the brim with the red ore. All of those who were knocked out from the small mutiny were fully awake and aware, as other Resistance members had to fill them in on what they missed. Jaycob found amusement in seeing the looks of confusion and guilt on their faces, as they realized they were wrong about Holdo. Just like Jaycob had been.
On the other hand, as soon as Jessika stepped out of the transport, she searched for Poe. She didn't have to look too far as his ship was docked right next to theirs. He was sitting on one of the unloaded cargo crates with a blank look on his face, staring at a wall that wasn't there. But as soon as he laid eyes on her, he broke out of it. He shot out of his seat with a wide smile on his face.
He laughed and met her halfway to embrace her in a gigantic bear hug. He spun her around a time or two and set her down, his hands on her shoulders.
"I thought you were gone! As soon as I woke up, I couldn't find you and I-"
"Hey hey, I'm here. I'm fine. Thanks to Jay, we made it out alright."
Jaycob was across the way, helping unload what limited cargo they had left. Poe called out to him,
"Thanks Jaycob, you kept your promise."
He set down the last crate from his transport and turned his head.
"We're not outta this yet. The FO is marching to our doorstep and we're at a dead end."
Poe let go of Jessika and nodded in agreement. He looked around for some form of leadership, but seeing as both Leia and Holdo were deceased, there were none.
"Wait, so who's the commanding officer?"
He asked. Jaycob scratched the back of his neck and looked around.
"I-uh, I think that's you."
The leftover soldiers and pilots all gathered around, encasing the new leader in a circle. Poe glanced at each one of them, thinking of something to say that would lift their spirits. But, he was having trouble. The odds were not in their favor, the First Order still held military supremacy over them in both number and firepower. All the small band of rebels could do now is wait.
"I'm not gonna sugar-coat this..."
"...our chances are slim. But they are there. If we can get a signal to our allies in the Outer Rim, we might be able to fight another day. But if not, this will be the end of the Resistance. As soon as that door gets breached, the Resistance's downfall begins. How much time it takes for it to happen however, that's on us. Forget our differences, we're all fighters now. The first thing on the agenda is to unload our cargo, make due with any leftover ordnance, and set up our defenses. Now, let's get to it."
Mumbles of encouragement came from few, and everyone rushed to their tasks. Jaycob finished unloading his transport and headed over to the base's armory. Brushing off cobwebs and salt ore, Jaycob was able to find several hidden compartments that stored small arms and grenades. He called for attention to his location, and tried to get every Resistance member a weapon of some sort. The selection varied from smaller blaster pistols like the DH-17, and bigger rifles like the A280.
Handing the weapons off one-by-one, Jaycob took notice at a datapad on a table across from him. The device was covered in dirt and dust, had a long hairline crack across the screen, and was out of power. Jaycob followed a power cord from one of the computers brought from the Raddus, and inserted it into the tablet. The device whirred faintly and lit on. On the screen, were multiple folders containing all the information regarding the abandoned rebel base. But before Jaycob had a chance to investigate any further, a yell from a Resistance soldier alerted him of danger.
An Xi-class light shuttle with a pair of TIE fighter escorts were approaching towards the massive mine door. Any Resistance member that was close to the door started to fall back signaling for it the be shut. Jessika manned the control room and activated the closing procedure. However, the gate needed 30 seconds to shut completely, and judging by the distance and speed the First Order ships were approaching, it seemed like it would be too late.
"Go go! Move! Get that shield door down!"
Poe commanded. The TIEs fired a barrage of green into the hangar, sending soldiers flying into the air. Jaycob was hit in the back by a solid chunk of salt that exploded from a nearby mineral container. The hit barely made him stumble, but it made him unaware of the shuttle hitting the rocky floor, and sliding into the mine, leaving its top fin scraped off. Jaycob rolled out of the way in the knick of time to avoid being hit by one of the side wings. However, others were not so lucky. The entire area was disoriented, with recovering Resistance struggling to get back up on their feet. Some lay face down dead, their blood blending in with the color of the salt. Others sprung up to their feet clutching their weapon in hand, and firing at the shuttle cockpit, hoping to get a lucky shot on the pilots.
Jaycob was one of the lucky few who regained their strength quickly, and fired a flurry of blaster fire into the shuttle's cockpit. He pressed as much force onto the trigger as he could, letting his rage consume him. He was determined to kill whoever was piloting the shuttle; for Leia, for Holdo, for Jax, and for everyone he saw disappear in front of his eyes at the hands of the First Order. For Tallie.
"No! Wait, don't shoot! It's us!"
A recognizable voice yelled in response to the blaster fire.
"Hold your fire! Hold your fire!"
Poe ordered, and the blue and red light show was over. Jaycob aimed his sights on the pair of hands that shot up in surrender, but lowered his guard as soon as the faces of Rose Tico and Finn came into view.
"Finn? Rose? You're not dead! Where's my droid?"
The spherical orange and white astromech rolled out of the mangled wreckage beeping enthusiastically.
Poe celebrated, giving his companion an artificial belly scratch. The small morale boost the reunion gave the group was brief, as Rose asked,
"Is this all that's left?"
Jaycob nodded and replied,
"Yeah, this is it. The plan was going well, until they started firing on us. Our transports dropped like flies."
Rose and Finn disembarked from the shuttle and approached him.
"We tried to shut it down, but we were betrayed. We were about to be executed, but then everything just...exploded."
"We had to escape the starship on this stolen shuttle. When we saw the thing split in half, we realized what happened."
"...welcome to the party. We're stuck here until our allies can come through."
"Allies? What allies?"
Rose and Finn stated in unison. They glanced at each other.
"Is Rey here?"
Jaycob shrugged as he didn't know the answer, then let Poe take his place in the conversation.
"I still have the tracker, but it hasn't done anything yet."
Poe held up a cloaked binary beacon that he removed from his wrist. Finn responded with a gloomy expression. Rose took notice and changed the subject.
"So what's the plan?"
Jaycob waved them over and said,
"Over here, we gotta get you armed."
The pair obliged and followed him to the armory while the rest of the Resistance went to work on other duties. While Jaycob and Finn foraged for any leftover blasters, Rose picked up the datapad connected to the computer and turned it on. She accessed the files and tapped around.
"Guys I think I found something!"
Finn and Jaycob hurried over.
"According to this manifest, this base is equipped with a planetary shield. They won't be able to hit us from above!"
"Yes, you're a genius!"
Poe must've overheard, as he burst into the room.
"Rose? What do ya got?"
"Rotting munitions, rusted artillery, and some half-gutted skim speeders."
Poe shook his head and looked towards the gate.
"Let's just pray that big ass door holds long enough for us to get help."
The ground began to shake, as if a small earthquake had erupted. The surface shook so violently that the salt crystals from the storage containers began to fall out and dust from the ceiling rained down. The indigenous species of crystal foxes, also known as Vulptices, started to panic, prancing to and fro trying to seek shelter from what was thought of as just a tremor.
A look through the base's main gate periscope discovered something much more devious than such. A gigantic cylindrical tube inside a trapezoid housing was being hoisted by three tug-ships of some kind. Six AT-M6 walkers accompanied by a smaller AT-walker battalion flanked both sides of the weapon. And above it all, was Kylo Ren's shuttle.
"A battering ram cannon. Miniaturized Death Star tech, it'll crack that door open like an egg."
Finn stated grimly.
"Is there not another exit out of this facility?"
Rose questioned. BB-8 and a dirty-gold protocol droid, approached into the spotlight.
"BB-8 has analyzed the mine's schematics. This is the only way in or out."
"We need to buy time for our allies, and it seems like the only way to do that is to take out that cannon."
Jaycob announced. Jessika, having been quiet for most of the briefing, nodded her head in agreement and turned to Rose.
"Speeders. You said we had speeders right? We'll use those to take out the cannon!"
Rose shot a worried glance back at the pilot.
"They’re not exactly top-of-the-line. Most of them are missing components that are needed to even start."
"Well, they're worth a shot. What are they anyway? T-47's?"
"Oh boy I wish. They're not airspeeders, they're skimspeeders. V-4X-D ski speeders to be exact. Here, take a look."
Rose handed the datapad to Jessika. Upon seeing the vehicles, her shoulders dropped.
"These are pieces of trash. But it totally beats just waiting here. Where are they stored?"
"On the upper-levels, they get deployed through this sling-shot mechanism."
Jessika could hardly stand still. Jaycob could tell that she just wanted to get in and start flying. The upper-levels were accessed by a single elevator lift that ascended to the base's hidden hangar. Jessika marched onto the lift with her right fist held high.
"I need twelve pilots to be part of the speeder squad. Who's in?"
Jaycob was surprised that Jessika took charge right away. That same gleam of determination and fearlessness he saw on the Raddus before the mutiny, was back. But it also worried him, since that whole plot turned out to be a disaster. But seeing as the Resistance was all out of options, this seemed like the only way. Jaycob stepped forward and jumped onto the lift, to the left of Jessika.
"I always got your back Sky-sis."
Jaycob joked. She grinned as her best friend took the invitation as quick as he did. It comforted her knowing that he truly was family. But her grin turned into a smile as Poe also stepped forward and climbed aboard the lift. He flanked her other side, standing triumphantly on her right, with her hand in his.
"We've both got your back."
Jaycob rolled his eyes at Poe's statement, seeing it as just a piggy-back off of his comment. He moved his head behind Jessika's and whispered to him,
"Really? Couldn't think of anything more original? She is your girl after all-"
Jessika planted her left elbow into Jaycob's stomach, causing Poe to lose his stern expression with a snicker. Jaycob was taken aback by the sudden playful strike and clenched his abdomen. He bit his lip turned around.
Jessika questioned. Soon, more and more pilots came out from the crowd, stepping onto the platform and standing behind her, both physically and figuratively. All thirteen speeder spots were filled as the pilots were sent upwards toward the hangar. Some of them included: Nodin Chavdri, Finn, Pamich Goode, Nien Nunb, C'ai Threnalli, and Rose. Those who weren't chosen remained on ground level and made their way to the turrets and trenches, gearing up for the ground assault.
"So, what's our callsign?"
Jessika looked upwards as if trying to remember something. But once the lift reached the hangar floor, the name clicked right into place.
Chapter 9: Endgame
The trenches were flooded with the remains of the Resistance. Armed to the teeth with blaster rifles and grenades, a normal infantry invasion would've been an easy victory. But the opposing side was equipped with walkers, a fleet of TIE fighters, and Kylo Ren. Calling the Resistance outnumbered would be an understatement.
"Ground forces, incoming."
General Caluan Ematt reported to Reb squadron. Jessika switched on her speeder's communications and replied,
"Copy that. On our way."
There were two slingshot deployers built into the base's gigantic door. With only thirteen speeders field-ready, one deployer was attached to six while the other with seven. Jessika and Poe were at the head of the two lines followed by Jaycob and Rose. Finn and Nodin Chavdri trailed behind the group as they were bringing up the rear. The line leaders deployed in unison, leaving a 3 second delay before Jaycob and Rose's launch. The slingshot mechanism needed a small amount of time to reset itself before it could send out another speeder.
Jaycob felt the slight thump under his engine housing as his speeder got locked onto the tram. Then, he suddenly burst forward at high-speed out of his launch gate. He began the slow float-like descent to ground level, giving him a bird's eye view of the entire pure white battlefield. The Resistance was scattered about the trenches outside of the main entrance, making use of the five V-232 and six V-120 artillery emplacements. But miles away, Jaycob could also spot the First Order's invasion team beginning their slow march toward them. Before hitting the ground, the vehicle had to deploy a "mono-ski" that would enable it to glide along the mineral surface without much friction. Something Finn had a little trouble with at first.
"Hey engage your monoski, it's the green toggle."
Rose called out. Jaycob looked behind him to see Finn's speeder finally gliding straight.
"There you go Finn, now you're really moving. Let's get into formation."
Jessika commanded. At her request, all thirteen pilots positioned themselves next to each other to form a horizontal line of speeders, blazing a trail of red dust behind them.
"Alright, listen up. I don't like these rust-buckets and I don't like our odds-"
Poe cut himself off as a chunk of his lower armor plating snapped off, revealing his left boot sticking through it.
"What the hell? Just keep tight and don't get drawn in too close until they roll that cannon out front."
The long stretch of land between the speeders and the walkers would take a while before each side could get into firing range. So, the pilots of Reb squadron took that time to say their silent final prayers.
Rose, the mechanic from the Otomok system, who lost her sister earlier that day, caressed her half of a two-part necklace, which when come together with the other piece, would create the symbol of her world. The other half vanished with Paige. The pendant was wrapped around her speeder's speedometer, dangling to and fro as she skimmed the ground.
Finn, the First Order defector, former stormtrooper who had nothing to fight for. Until he met Rey. He thought back to the time he helped Poe escape the Finalizer, which eventually led to his adventure on Jakku and his reunion with the rebel war hero, Han Solo. Fast forward to waking up on the Raddus, shouting her name as he awoke, only to find out she's gone off to find Luke Skywalker. Finn just desperately wanted to see her again, as soon as possible. He looked to the sky as if trying to find the Millennium Falcon swooping in to save the day, but to no avail. She was nowhere to be found.
Poe, the rebel bred from birth. After seeing his "second" mother disappear, he struggled to find any source of happiness in the Resistance. He had enormous weight on his shoulders, having the need to take charge of the Resistance head-on. Fortunately, Jessika had been there for him when he needed the support. She had been his small smidge of hope when everything seemed to explode around him. All he did now was look over to his right, to meet Jessika's eyes one more time.
Jessika, the pilot with a disturbed past. All she ever wanted to do was be free and break out of the metaphorical chains holding her back from doing what she loved. And what she loved to do was fly. On the outside, she created a mask to hide her emotions from others. When on the inside she would never let go. The only times she wouldn't have to worry about pretending, was when she flew. But since she couldn't fly forever, the ground felt like torture. However, Poe and Jaycob made it bearable, and she loved them for it. She looked over to her left, to see Poe already looking, and giving her that smile that always drove her crazy.
Jaycob, the hotshot. He had been through a storm of emotions from the beginning. It seemed like whenever he would find something that made him happy, life would just take it away from him without warning. He didn't even have time to properly mourn for his brother as he was still in charge of a starfighter squadron. But then, Tallie came along. At a time where love would be at the bottom of the agenda, Jaycob still somehow found it with her. Finally being able to open up to someone, other than Jessika, felt amazing. It was as if Tallie took the weight off of his shoulders and carried it herself without hesitation. In some ways, her selflessness and caring attitude for Jaycob, resembled that of his brother's. He clenched Tallie's scarf piece, and weaved the fabric between his fingers to simulate the act of holding her hand.
"Ground forces, open fire!"
Jessika ordered. Shortly after, the artillery emplacements opened up their blanket of fire aimed toward the walkers. The entire first barrage missed the targets and either hit the ground in front of them or hit a spot that was too heavily fortified. The cannons simply didn't have the range to land any effective hits before the walkers could. However, the behemoths stood their ground, marching onward, instead signaling to the fleet of TIE fighters hovering above them to handle the speeders.
"Fighters! We need to break off!"
"Solid copy, engage evasive maneuvers."
Jaycob pulled back on the sticks, slowing his speed to perform more elusive cuts. But his teammates sped and slowed in all directions, crossing his line of sight and shooting the red crystals into his face. It came as a surprise at first, since he thought the windshield would protect him. But when he tried to tap the glass of the window, there was nothing there.
He cursed as he zig-zagged the battlefield. Slowly but surely, the Resistance speeders were picked off by the FO Navy. Nonetheless, the speeders had to stay out in the open. The cannon was their primary focus and it wasn't rolled out yet. After the initial air wave, the TIE's started to engage the trenches and artillery emplacements, which stood no chance against their starfighters' superior weaponry. Within seconds the artillery was decimated, leaving the soldiers with nothing but small arms to take out the fast-moving FO.
"We got a man down!"
"I got one on my tail!"
"Can't do much from down here! You'll have to lose them."
"Rose you got three right behind you!"
"I can't shake them!"
"Mayday mayday, my speeder's about to explode."
The speeder comms channel was flooding with stressed pilots and screams, pleas for help, and final farewells. Once again, the Resistance's chances were down to slim and none. And slim was about to leave the building. That is, if it weren't for the Millenium Falcon coming to the rescue. With a single shot, the turrets of the sluggish freighter took down three TIE fighters that were honing in on Rose.
Finn was celebrating in the comms. His prayer was answered. Rey was back. The Falcon took down another TIE and drew a trail of two. The pursuers were quickly taken care of, and sent plummeting into the salt. With precision flying skills, the Falcon skimmed the ground to avoid any enemy lock-on attempts while destroying TIE's at the same time. Thanks to this, the speeders were gaining ground relatively undeterred, the only obstacles being debris from exploding fighters hitting the ground. Jaycob could only picture Kylo's irritation, as the entire fleet was sent after the piece of junk. Whoever was flying knew what they were doing, as the freighter peeled off from the battle to draw away the air superiority.
"She drew them off! All of them!"
"Just in time! I have eyes on the cannon."
Rose called in.
"It's heavily-armored, our only shot is right down the throat."
Finn chimed in. The cannon began the warming up process, revealing the core through the barrel.
"We might be able to actually-"
A pilot was killed by the blaster fire from the walkers. They almost forgot, the walkers had firepower of their own. Now the Resistance was going to pay for it. Every single walker, big and small, opened a flurry of fire onto Reb squadron. Six speeders were reduced to ash in the matter of an instant.
"They're picking us all off, we're not gonna make it."
Poe firmly stated.
"I'm making my final approach, target in sight, guns are hot."
Finn countered. Jaycob was observant of the heavy losses they were taking, but he vowed to protect Jessika at all costs. Whatever her decision was, it was his too.
"Jess, what's the call? We need an answer quick!"
A moment of hesitation set in before she answered.
"It's already too late, it's about to fire. Fall back to the cave, our mission is over."
"B-but I'm almost there! I can take the shot!"
"Alright, you take the shot and destroy it. Then what? You get blown to smithereens and the FO ground assault turns into a bloodbath in the mine. You're just going to delay the inevitable, come back and we'll see this thing through together!"
Jessika rebutted. All craft began to turn around and begin their long skim of shame, all except Finn.
"Finn, it's too late don't do this!"
Rose tried to make him come back. Finn stayed silent. It seemed like he was dead set on destroying the cannon, until Rose pulled out the wild card.
"If you die, how would Rey feel? After all you've been through together, what if she didn't come back to you? The news we'd have to tell would break her."
Jaycob was shocked that she would say such a thing. But she was right, it would break her. After all, the news of Tallie's death broke him. A long period of silence followed the end of the message. But sure enough, Finn's lonesome speeder shifted around and high-tailed it backwards. A sigh of relief escaped Jaycob's mouth as he wouldn't have to witness another friend's death.
"Welcome home Finn."
The cannon fired.
The remaining pilots of Reb squad ditched the speeders outside and rushed into the cave. Tired, irritated, and defeated, they all gloomily walked to armory. The battered ground forces were already inside, gearing up for the end.
"Any word from our allies?"
"Our distress call has been received at multiple points, but no response."
Kaydel answered. The last stragglers of the Republic looked at one another with defeated looks on their faces.
"So that's it. The galaxy's hope is lost."
Poe confirmed, not taking notice of the silhouette of a cloaked person emerging through the armory's doorway. Jessika was the first to see him, letting out a small gasp. Jaycob followed her gaze to the figure as it walked into the light, revealing a shiny, prosthetic hand.
It was Luke Skywalker. The Jedi Master. The late general's brother. The myth. Even at the sight of the legend, Poe kept a stern face.
The hero pulled off his hood and took a seat on a cargo crate, facing the commander.
"I'm sorry I'm late."
Jessika was basically shaking with excitement at the sight of him. She absolutely admired the man and it showed.
"I'm sure your sister would just be happy you're even here, at the end."
"I came to face Kylo Ren. He's become more powerful than I could ever imagine."
Jaycob winced at the name, the same hatred from before coming back.
"But I need to face him alone."
Luke continued. Jaycob despised the idea. If Kylo was going to die it would be at his hands, not Luke's.
"He's done terrible things to us. We all want a piece of him. We can kill him together."
Luke shifted his glance from one pilot to the next and smirked.
"How ironic. 'Killing' and 'Together' are polar opposites, one is meant to describe the production of life, while the other is the means to destroy it. But it's simply too dangerous for you. For any of you for that matter."
Jessika elbowed Jaycob in the ribs and whispered to him,
"This is not the time for this Jay."
"She's right Jaycob, Luke's our best shot at ending this. If that means by himself, so be it. Master Skywalker, what would you need from us?"
"I just need all of you to leave here. As soon as possible."
"W-what do you mean exactly? Out of this armory? Out of this base? What?"
"Off of this planet. You must leave this planet and begin the rebuilding process. Find those supposed allies that aren't coming."
Luke ordered, with Poe nodding in understanding. Jessika, still in awe, asked,
"How did you know about our allies-"
"There's no time Jess, we gotta move."
Poe cut her off. He began barking orders to the rest of the team, splitting the group up into squads to either pack up what belongings they could or find an alternate exit. On the other hand, Luke began his slow journey through the hole in which the cannon blew open. He was marching into certain death. The Resistance troopers only got to take a short second look at the long lost legend before he was showered with laser.
A never-ending barrage of firepower turned the Jedi to dust, evoking a gigantic red smoke cloud to rise into the air and cover the wall hole. Like many of his companions, Jaycob was stupefied at what he saw when it dissipated. Luke was standing exactly where he was before, unscathed. Wiping his shoulder off confidently, the Jedi glared into the lonesome shuttle hovering over the field.
To make matters worse, the shuttle descended to the surface and landed on top of a crushed speeder. The boarding ramp lowered, revealing the child behind the mask. Kylo stomped forward, fuming, leaving his red footprints on the virgin salt.
"Did you come back to say you forgive me? To save my soul?"
The supreme leader asked mockingly.
"...I came to finish this."
Kylo unholstered his crossguard lightsaber with a flurry, shrugging off his cloak. Luke simply returned the gesture with the flick of his hand.
"It's time. It's time! He's stalling for our escape! 3PO how we looking?"
"We still have no sign of an alternate exit, but we have stumbled across something rather unusual."
"Well what is it?"
"The vulptices seemed to have disappeared."
The crystal foxes. They were gone. Everyone was too occupied with completing their duties, they took no notice at the absence of the indigenous species. There was no way they left where they came in, through the barricade.
"Yeah, where'd the crystal critters go?"
Finn asked. The chiming of the animal rung in the distance, leading down another tunnel system.
"There's your answer."
Rose exclaimed. The party took off toward the sound, in hopes of trying to save themselves. Jaycob wasn't a fan of it. Running, when they were so close to fighting Kylo Ren face to face. He was unfulfilled. He either wanted to see Luke finish Kylo with his own eyes, or finish Kylo himself with his own hands. But nonetheless, he had a decision to make. It was either one or all, and Jaycob's already taken to many "one" choices. He wasn’t going to cost more of his friends lives. Jaycob sprinted to the front of the pack, ignoring the numbness in his leg and the the stinging in his eyes.
He called. The echoes becoming more and more frequent, Jaycob knew the vulptices were close. Soon enough, the tail of one of the creatures shrunk into a gap between a dead end wall of boulders.
"No, no, no, no!"
Jessika blared. She peeked through the gap to see if she could fit but to no avail. The vulptices led them to nothing.
"Welp, the end has come. Let's set up a defensive position covering the only path. There's no going back now."
After the sentence had escaped her mouth, the ground began to tremble. The boulders started to crack and then, levitate? Each boulder, both big and small, were raised into the air letting sunlight enlighten the freedom fighters. It was her. Rey. The rumor. She was standing outside with her right arm extended and eyes closed. In perfect concentration, she was using the Force. Everyone was astonished, except for Finn. He ran to her and picked her up in a giant bear hug. The Falcon was perched on a hill above them, with Chewie in the cockpit.
"How in the h-"
"Told you so."
Jessika interrupted Jaycob, giving him a shove forward.
Poe broke up the moment. Rey and Finn released each other and led the survivors to the boarding ramp. Being the first to arrive and the last to board, the two finally got to spend some long-awaited time together. What they did in that time, Jaycob didn't know nor care. He just wanted off the planet.
The next thing he knew, they were out of the atmosphere of Crait and in a hyperspace lane. Rey and Chewie were in the cockpit, plugging in the coordinates to some new planet.
"Hey, I don't think we've gotten to meet, I'm Jaycob."
The hotshot introduced. Rey turned around a gave him a warm smile.
"It seems like I haven't gotten to meet most of the people on board."
"Well, you saved our lives. The least we could do is tell you our names."
Rey studied his face for a few seconds then asked,
"Are you a pilot, Jaycob?"
"Why yes I am."
"Good. Take my seat while I go make some new friends could you?"
Being able to fly the Falcon was one of the highest honors a pilot could get.
"Are you kidding me? The ship that made the Kessel Run in fourteen parsecs? Of course!"
Rey snickered as she left the cockpit.
She called back. Jaycob gazed over the controls in admiration. Chewie patted him on the head and hummed a few undecipherable sounds.
"If only Jaysen or Tallie could see me now."
Jaycob punched a few buttons to bring back up the coordinates.
Chewie nodded in reply. Jaycob shrugged his shoulders.
"Guess history repeats itself."
Chapter 10: Epilogue
Several Months Later...
"Jaycob, you reading me?"
Poe asked over comms.
"Loud and clear."
"Alright, now I know this means a lot to you. But when you get back, there’s plenty of work to be done."
"Copy, I won’t take long."
Jaycob terminated the transmission and disengaged his hyperspace engines. Fortunately, Jaycob was granted a new RZ-2 A-Wing for his "personal trip". The destination was Pippip 3, to fulfill his promise to Tallie. As he entered the atmosphere he punched in Lintra Farm into his NavComputer “planet points-of-interest”. He followed the coordinates until he arrived at a small farm consisting of a small-ish two-story house, a barn, and a large field that lay barren with colorful flowers and crops. It made sense that the farm was in such bad condition, Tallie told him that she had left her father to tend to it when she joined the Resistance. Sadly, her father died while she was away and the farm was left unoccupied.
Jaycob landed his interceptor and hopped onto the dirt. The air smelled of flowers and rain, droplets occasionally landing on Jaycob's head. He approached the house first, inspecting how his late-wife spent her childhood. The front door was cracked open and inside was the kitchen floor littered with leaves. Pots and pans lay rusting on their racks and the various electronic appliances were eroded. Jaycob tread carefully through the Lintra household until he reached a door with a paper sign taped to it saying, Tallie's Room, Knock first! Jaycob laughed at the sight of this and ran his fingers from the sign to the door knob, twisting ever so slightly.
The first thing that stuck out from the room, was a tall Resistance propaganda poster plastered to her wall, a nameless pilot looking up into the skies while X-Wings flew overhead. Next to it, was a walk-in closet that housed a variety of pants and shirts and shoes, all of which have collected a great amount of dust over time. On her bed lay a notebook with a pen holstered in the spiral. Jaycob investigated this too and flipped through some of the pages, revealing miscellaneous sketches and notes. But what really stood out to him was a surprisingly-detailed drawing of an A-Wing, flying through what looked like some type of field, and into the sunset. It looked like paradise. It also reminded him to take a look at the converted crop-dusting A-Wing that Tallie frequently practiced with. So, he stepped out of the house and toward the barn, keeping the notebook with him.
Opening the main gates, inside the barn was a beat-up RZ-1 A-Wing tucked underneath a tarp sheet. Jaycob pulled off the cover and patted the former-interceptor's hull. Everything about the starfighter was the same, except that the laser cannons were stripped from the body. The A-Wing, like many of Tallie's other belongings, was covered in grime and dust. But inside the cockpit, Jaycob spotted something ever so valuable to him. A physical picture of Tallie in her Resistance recruitment fatigues, smiling back at him. The backside of the photo was marked with handwriting, assumed to be her fathers, which read, 31 ABY/My little comet. Jaycob smiled affectionately at both the note and the picture. This was definitely going with him. Unstrapping his wrist-mounted computer, he slid the picture on the cover flap so he would see it every time he opened the device.
The last stop was the field. Seemingly the most beautiful part of the tour, Jaycob looked forward to this the most. Walking past the plant life, Jaycob took off his gloves and ran his bare hands through the crops and flowers, a practice that Tallie did often when she was smaller.
"I always liked running through the fields and chasing our animals around. My father would sometimes get worried when he couldn't find me, since some of the crops were taller than me..."
Jaycob remembered what she told him on D'Qar,
"...I miss home, a lot. Hopefully, after we're done dealing with the First Order, I'll be able to visit."
She looked up at Jaycob from his shoulder, smiling thoughtfully.
"That sounds really nice, actually."
Jaycob had complimented. Tallie closed her eyes, as exhaustion began to take it's toll.
"Yeah...m-maybe I could...take you...with m-..."
She drifted off, leaning against him, not able to finish her thought. But Jaycob already knew what she wanted. And he wanted it too.
"I'd love to."
Jaycob said, snapping back to reality. He was left staring at Tallie's father's makeshift grave, in the center of the field. Even though he's never seen the man, he admired him, for raising such a beautiful daughter. Jaycob held Tallie's scarf piece in his hand, and kneeled next to where the old man lay. Being his father-in-law and everything, Jaycob felt the need to say something...anything.
"Mr. Lintra, I'm sorry. I couldn't protect her. I know it must've been hard to let her go, thinking you'd be able to see her again in no time. Then realizing that you'd never get to see her face again. I felt the exact same way when she died. After all of this, I was going to propose to her, but I never got the chance. I loved her, dearly, and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. If you see her up there, tell Tallie I miss her...so goddamn much. I will avenge her, sir, I swear my life on it. Kylo will pay for what he's done, and I'll see to that."
Jaycob teared throughout his speech, but he didn't weep. He got what he came for. It was time to leave.
"General, this is Jaycob. I'm returning to base."
He reported through his wrist computer.
"Good to hear buddy. Are you ok?"
Poe replied back, sensing the shakiness in Jaycob's voice. Jaycob nodded even though Poe couldn't see him and simply replied,
"Yeah, I'll be home soon."
As Jaycob exited the planet's atmosphere, he wrapped the scarf piece around his control yoke. Some might think it's crazy, the whole "love at first sight" thing, but to Jaycob it really wasn't. Especially in times like these, where friends and family were getting killed left and right before you could even have the chance to say goodbye. What made Tallie different, in his eyes, was that right when their eyes met for the first time, Jaycob didn't want to look away. There was some sort of connection the pilots had together from that point onward, and he couldn't deny it. Whether their connection was forged by the Force or not, he didn't know. Tallie made him act in ways he never had before, making him see the bigger picture. That they were fighting for something way bigger than they originally thought. They both knew the risks of starting a relationship at the time, but they did it anyways. Sadly, they just never took much thought at the consequences. Jaycob had lost his other half when Kylo attacked that hangar, and he'd never be the same person he was ever again. But, no matter how short they'd been together, he was proud to call Tallie his. He just wished they had more time. More time to explore a relationship that never got to see it's full potential. This is what Poe had warned him about since the beginning, Jaycob was just too blind to see it.
"Relationships and the Resistance don't mix."
He remembered Poe say. Jaycob wished he could've proved Poe wrong, but he was so right. It's devastating to both partners and gets in the way of their work. But, that's what they signed up for, right?
Jaycob will return in Episode IX