An even longer time ago, in a galaxy just as far away...
Nicole slowly climbs down and out of her cockpit onto the deck of the hangar bay while she takes a long and deep breath before she slowly removes her helmet. She takes a look around the hanger at the other craft and pilots she slowly takes in the damage to the fighters and how shaken a number of the pilots look after the Imperial counterattack. Nicole walks over to Nalans X-Wing while Nalan opens her cockpit and starts to climb down the ladder. As Nalan is climbing down the ladder, she slips backwards and off the ladder into Nicole's arms, who had lunged forward to be able to catch Nalan as she fell. Nalans arms would wrap around Nicole partly for support and partly for comfort because she is still reeling from the battle.
"Hey it's ok...I've got you."
"They...they came out of nowhere..."
"They did this time, but we survived because we had each other and we will survive and triumph again."
Nalan remains silent being happy just to let her tension and stress fade away while Nicole holds her until Nicole's communicator beeps, causing Nicole to shift her grip of Nalan slightly while she taps it to answer.
"Go for Falcon 1."
"Falcon 1, you are requested in the briefing room ASAP; make your way there now."
"Solid copy, on my way."
Nicole slowly places Nalan down on the deck of the hanger, the two of them almost a sea of calm in the busy and frantic hanger with deck crews running about the place with the medical and repair kit.
"You heard the call Nalan; I'm needed. Why don't you head over to Kiera, get out of your flight suit and meet me back in our squadron room."
Nalan nods slightly while she moves over towards Kiera who is still getting out of her X-Wing before Nicole hurries off to the briefing room. Entering the briefing room; Nicole takes note of the senior command officers of the battle group, including the commanders of both squadrons, Admiral Daesha Kairn and Fiona gathered around the holotable which has a projected image of the Fulcrum agents symbol.
Nicole moves down towards the holotable, offering a salute to those assembled while she does so.
"I was requested?"
"Ahh Commander, good you have arrived. We were informed by your strike groups commander that you managed to ID the attacking TIEs at the end before you jumped to hyperspace, can you please confirm what you saw."
"Of course Admiral, I saw a single TIE fighter with a longer body and wings to the back along with it having its wing arched like how they are a bomber which fits the description and images we have seen of the TIE Advanced. And the TIE fighters escorting it carried the markings of the Black Eight Squadron."
The assembled officers nod at this information before the Fulcrum agent speaks through the holo image with their scrambled voice.
"I can confirm that the Devastator was operating in the area, so it does make sense for it to have been Vader and the black eight."
The Admiral nods with a glance over her shoulder to the holo image.
"Thanks for the info, and that is our time up with you. May the force be with you."
"And with you, Admiral."
The fulcrum image quickly vanishes from above the table while the Admiral turns back to Nicole to continue getting a full mission report from her. While the questions for Nicole keep coming, Fiona lightly rubs her chin while she thinks about what the news of Vader being in the area means. Daesha Kairn moves over to Fiona while she lets the other officers carry on without her for a moment.
"What is it, General?
"I don't know Daesha; I am sensing something in the Force and the last time I sensed a feeling like this was 18 years ago..."
Deasha nods slightly at Fiona's words while she runs a hand lightly down one of her lekku.
"If anything like that is to happen again, we are ready for it this time."
"Yeah...but my only concern is if it is to happen again what or who we will lose this time around."
The two old friends fall silent while they continue to listen to Nicole answering the questions for the debriefing. Almost an hour later, Nicole manages to get away from the questioning so that she can head back to her squadron room to get out of her flight suit. When she gets to her squadrons ready/locker room, everyone but Nalan has been and gone, who has nodded off in the corner of the room in one of the chairs.
Nicole slowly gets out of her flight suit and into her regular duty clothes before she lightly shakes Nalan awake.
"Hey, time to get something to eat and then it's time for you to get some proper sleep."
Nalan nods slightly while she lets out a small yawn.
"That sounds like a good plan."
The two of them fall in side by side while they move to the mess hall to grab a quick bite to eat, offering a small nod and smile to the people they pass or returning a salute when one is given. Without the rush of the scramble order, the halls are quiet in part, especially with it approaching night on the ship. Though there are still a few people, they pass with them either coming off shift or just going on for the night work. Along with a couple people who are on downtime and a couple of the children on the ships who are family of the crew onboard the vessel or those that have been evacuated from occupied planets.
They enter the mess hall a grab small meal from the server droid before they take a seat at one of the tables to the rear of the room.
"How you holding up then Nal?"
Nal finishes chewing and swallows the food she had just taken a bite of as Nicole asks her the question.
"I'm doing better, was just a bit shaken after the suddenness of that attack..."
"And that is ok, pilots who have seen a lot more combat than you would still be shaken. I was taken by surprise by the suddenness of it as well."
Nal nods at Nicole's words.
"Thank you for saying so.
Nicole grins as she leans across the table to lightly run her hand over Nal's head.
"Not a problem, I am here for you no matter what. Especially as it was brought to my attention, that to many, I have adopted you in all but name. I always made sure to look after you to the best of my ability, but it was only when I took a step back and looked at it that I saw what they meant."
Nal looks up at Nicole while she thinks about it as well.
"Hmm...I do kinda see what you mean, especially when you look at us and then another family on the ship."
"Aye, never really thought about putting a label on it like that...but as I said all that time ago, you are family."
"Thank you, I know I don't really say it but having you here means a lot to me."
"Don't worry about it at all, it's my pleasure to be here for you, and I wouldn't be me if I weren't. Though I was also told that you have ended up carrying the weight of being my right arm and carrying my name with you, I hope I haven't done anything to cause you undue stress or worry."
"No you haven't, I take pride in the fact that I get to carry your name with me."
Nicole smiles at Nal while the two of them continue to eat and chat before they head to their quarters to get some rest before their next duty shift.
Cecilia sits in the briefing room next to her squadron, along with the other five squadrons that make up the full complement of the Malachor. Her black officer uniform, signifying her veteran/ace status within the Imperial Starfighter Corps, sticks out amongst the sea of grey uniforms with only one or two others in the Malachors SFC detachment wearing it. In front of the pilots stood an Imperial Intelligence Officer wearing their white uniform along with the SFC detachment commander.
"As I was saying, the bait over Rhen Var was taken by the Rebel forces operating in the area from the MacAlpine. Lord Vader and the Black 8 Squadron was able to inflict damage on the Rebel squadrons, but as they were already pulling out at the time the majority managed to get away, but they should be more cautious now. This was the first large scale attack on an Imperial Space station and naval assets, and with it being ambushed, it should deter them from trying it again."
Cecilia frowns slightly at this before she speaks up.
"One thing, Lt. Ignoring the fact that we had to use actual ships, crew and advanced strike craft to draw the terrorists in. Yes we have won a small victory in showing them that they can't attack an Imperial base without us responding, at the same time the damage they inflicted, they took out the Star Destroyer, destroyed the transports and crippled the base...at the loss of a couple squadrons, in the long run that does not seem that bad. And even if they don't try another large attack all they will do is continue with hit and run tactics with strike craft that we struggle to intercept or pursue."
"Ahh Squadron Commander, that is true that it less than an ideal outcome than we hoped for as they sent more strike craft than expected. But even so, we believe it was beneficial for a number of reasons that you will be informed of when you need to be. If there are not any more questions, then we are done here."
With that dismissal, the pilots start filing out of the briefing room and start to go about their own business as the Malchor is currently stood down in dock for some leave while it resupplies. Cecilia nods to Alexis as she catches up to her, the two of them walking along the hall with any crew they pass avoiding eye contact and giving them plenty of space.
"Everything ok boss?"
"I'm not sure Alexis, I have a strange feeling...had it ever since Alderaan, something is coming, and I don't know what or when it feels close but also far away..."
"I've always trusted your instincts and feelings before, not going to stop trusting them now."
They stop outside Cecilia's quarters.
"Thanks, but it could be nothing and I'm just overreacting."
"Hasn't been before, see you later boss."
With a quick salute Alexis keeps walking towards her own quarters while Cecilia turns and enters hers, making sure the door locks behind her.
"Hey Ardana thats me back."
At her name, Ardana steps out from her small room which connects to the main area of the quarters.
"Mistress, welcome back. How can I be of service?"
"I'm just going to relax for the rest of the day, been a while since I have had a chance. So you can have the rest of the day to yourself, but if you are going to go out let me know, you carry my mark but..."
"But I am still a Twi'lek."
"Yeah...I would hope my mark is enough protection for you."
"It is ok, Mistress, thank you for your concern."
With that and a small nod, Ardanna steps back into her room and resumes what she was working on before while Cecilia moves over to her couch and opens her uniform slightly while she just lets her self relax.