An even longer time ago, in a galaxy just as far away...
Nicole glances up from her food when the alert siren starts to blare, she quickly leaps to her feet with Kiera and Nalan right behind her as they sprint to their squadrons ready room. The entire ship has sprung to life, with crew and pilots moving to their stations.
"Attention all flight personnel, report to your commands immediately. All flight personnel report to your commanders immediately. We have been redirected to the Abrion sector; pilots will be briefed by squadron leaders while in route. Squadron leaders report to your strike group commanders," the voice says over the shipwide intercom.
They all but slide into the squadron room, the rest of the squadron grabbing their gear or just arriving as well. Nicole grabs her chest rig and other flight gear out of the locker before she turns and hurries to the briefing room, pulling her chest rig on while she moves. The squadron leaders enter the room, all of them in varying states of readiness while the intelligence officer and strike group commander starts the briefing.
"Right people listen up, just got a new priority mission from High Command. We are being dispatched to engage the Malachor and its force. This in support of Admiral Raddus and his fleet, who are heading for Scarif," Commander Cen Baize says.
LT Lorn Randon steps forward to take over the briefing, "We have reason to believe that there are plans on Scarif, that hold details about the Imperial weapon that destroyed Jedha city. Admiral Raddus is going to secure the plans, but the Malachor force is only a short hyperspace jump away from Scarif. So we need to keep the Malachor locked in battle," he says.
Baize looks around while Randon gives the intel briefing before he starts to go over the plan, "Ok then, our intel points it to only being the Malachor and one other battle squadron on-site. But we are going to keep the fleet at range to not give them the chance to use their turbolaser batteries to full effect. Our orders are to take out the interdictor; otherwise, we will not be able to make our escape once we are done. You are going to have to go fast to get past the turrets, recommend you stick close to the hulls of the ISD's," he says, "Once it is gone, do what damage you can against the Malachor and it's escorts. If there are no questions, get to your squadrons."
Nicole stands up and makes her way to the hanger and where her squadron is gathered together while the deck crew ready their craft. Nalan throws Nicole's helmet to her that she catches and holds at her side while the squadron gathers around her.
"What's the situation then, boss?" Aeyo Ricol, Blue flight leader, asks.
"The situation is not great, the battle group is being sent to engage the Malachor force. The plan is to keep it locked in place while High command launches an attack on the planet of Scarif, where they believe there are plans for the new Imperial weapon, the one that blew up Jedha city," Nicole says.
A number of the pilots murmur slightly at the bit of info before Nicole continues.
"Our strike group is going after the interdictor so we can get out of there when the time comes, once we have taken it out we turn our guns onto the Malachor. Our approach is going to be risky, so stay close and tight with your flight, we are going in fast and right against the hull of the ISD to slip past the guns. Now, get to your fighters people, and today the Rebellion makes it stand as an alliance, may the force be with you all," Nicole says.
Nicole smiles slightly while her squadron moves and starts climbing into their X-Wings, while they are doing that she rests her hand on Nalan's shoulder.
"Nal, make sure you stick close to me during this battle. This is going to be highly dangerous, and I doubt all of us are going to make it home...I want us to, but I have a bad feeling," Nicole says.
Nalan nods slightly, "I know what you mean, I have had an odd feeling all day, almost like my body was waiting for the alarm...I will stick as close to you as I can," Nalan says.
Nicole smiles before pulling Nalan into a quick but tight hug.
"Ok then, report to your ship then and lets rock," Nicole says.
Nalan returns the smile before she turns and clambers up into her X-Wing while Nicole climbs up into hers, putting her helmet on once she is in the cockpit. While she is going through her pre-flight checks, she pats the leg of her flight suit, feeling her lightsaber in the pocket before nodding slightly and finishing the pre-flight checks.
With everything ready for launch, the pilots prepare themself for takeoff when the MacAlpine drops out of hyperspace.
It is not long before the ships exit hyperspace, and the strike crafts quickly start taking off and forming up around their carriers. The Imperial fleet seems to have been caught on the back foot at the sudden arrival of the Rebels, giving them time to launch and move into formation before the first TIE's have been launched.
The three carrier sections form-up line abreast with an escort section in front of them.
MacAlpine Strike Group 5 forms up off the port bow of the MacAlpine, with the A-Wing squadron in front, followed by the two X-Wing's with the 2 Y-Wing and B-Wing squadron in the rear.
The moment the strike groups were formed up, they began the charge toward the Imperial fleet, which had started launching its TIE's. Each Venator held 2 strike groups back to defend the fleet, the Strike groups linked up with the escort section to which moved to support the fighters in their attack.
Able squadron raced ahead in their A-Wings to engage the incoming squadron of TIE fighters while the rest of the group stuck close to the Hammerhead, using it as a shield to get into position to engage afterburners. While strike group 5 is racing forwards, the TIE's from the Malachor engage strike group 2 on the left flank of the MacAlpine groups, with the interceptors if Shadow squadron blasting a hole through the A-Wings.
"All Falcon craft, stand by for boost on my mark, shields double front. Make sure you stay tight, this is going to be close," Nicole says while she locks her X-Wings S-foils together.
The Hammerhead breaks to port opening up the way ahead for the strike group, its shields taking a beating from the Imperial ships starting to bear down on them.
"Now, kick it!" Nicole shouts before she engages her afterburners.
Falcon squadron takes the lead position of the group while the race towards the Imperial ships, stay as close to them as they can. The group manages to clear the Imperial front line with minimal losses due to the speed and suddenness of their attack path. Before they can clear the Victory-2 in their way, the commander of the force is already manoeuvring their ships to try and block them.
"We have a raider moving to intercept us!" Nicole calls out of the groups comms while she weaves between the turrets on the bottom of the Victory-2.
"Hurricane will take it, our afterburners are burning out," Hurricane leader says before the B-Wings suddenly go into full attack mode and engage the raider.
Falcon squadron slips under the bottom of the raider, dodging the fire of the other raider and Arquitens that were defending the interdictor.
Nicole jinks her X-Wing, rolling it over her left wing to dodge incoming turbolaser fire but one of the X-Wings behind her was not so lucky and explodes.
"Damn it! Falcon, with me, we are taking out that Arquitens. Bombers, stay on target, and you will have your opening!" Nicole says, banking to begin the attack run on the Arquitens.
Falcon squadron follows Nicole towards the Arquitens with the flights spreading out to not give its turrets an easy shot. Nicole and Nalan fly straight for the Arquitens when they start getting closer the ship's guns start focusing their fire but due to the range and size of the X-Wings they were struggling to find a targeting solution. Nicole kills her throttle when they pass the nose of the cruiser, dropping them right on top of the hull and under the shields. With a small grin, she throws her throttle all the way back up to dodge the point defence fire before she fires her lasers and proton torpedo straight into the bridge with Nalan's shots right behind hers. The two of them break off from the exploding and listing cruiser while starting to reform with the rest of the squadron.
"Cruiser is down, bombers you are clear!" Nicole says over the comms.
"Copy that Falcon leader, this is Paladin leader, we are beginning our attack run," Paladin leader says.
The Y-Wings begin their attack run on the interdictor, two of them getting shot down by its turrets before the first flights can fire their ion weapons to disable it. Once the ion torpedoes hit and take out the ships shields, the next flights of bombers race in and fire their proton torpedoes before breaking off and letting the next wave move in.
"Hits confirmed, the interdictor is going down!" Paladin leader calls out.
"Good work people, now let's do some damage," Crimson leader says.
With that, the strike group about turns and starts to fly back into the thick of the raging battle.
Nicole closes her eyes for a moment before she banks her fighter to the right slightly and away from the rest of the group, "Falcon, with me. We have a new mission," she says.
Falcon squadron follow her, curious to what the new mission is for a moment before a squadron of interceptors appears from around the back of a raider, with the distinctive markings of Shadow squadron.
The two squadrons quickly break apart into small dogfights with Nicole and Cecilia locking on each over in the melee. Cecilia uses the additional manoeuvrability of her interceptor to get onto Nicole six.
The similar skill levels that had kept Nicole alive when she defected now might be the death of her due to being unable to break away from the faster craft. Knowing this she took the one option open to her, break out of the dogfight and gain more room to manoeuvre her X-Wing, so she breaks away towards the planet of Tieos that they had been fighting over.
However, Cecilia gets a lucky shot on Nicole's X-Wing blowing out stabilizer.
"Damn it! R2 see what you can do back there, going to try and land it on the planet," Nicole says to her astrometric droid.
Nicole manages to evade most of the rest of Cecilia's shots and the ones that do land are caught by the deflector shields.
Nicole fights with the flight controls all the way down to the surface of the planet before she crash lands it atop a small plateau, kicking up a cloud of dust. She emergency release her canopy before she clambers out of the cockpit, dropping her helmet at her feet and wiping the blood away from the cut on her forehead.
Cecilia sets her interceptor down on the plateau across from Nicole before she extends the ladder and climbs out of the ship, removing her helmet and leaving it in the cockpit. Once she is on the ground, she looks at Nicole taking her in.
"So it has come to this," Cecilia says while she unclips the cover of her blaster pistol.
"It seems that it has," Nicole says while she draws her lightsaber and ignites it.
Cecilia sighs softly before drawing a small cortosis-weave vibroblade that she carries with her, "You know I never wanted any of this," she says.
Nicole doesn't say anything when she lunges at Cecilia, their blades interlocking for a moment before Cecilia kicks Nicole back. The two of them exchange a flurry of blows with Cecilia on the defensive due to her smaller blade, despite this, it is Cecilia that has the advantage of not being injured already. Cecilia kicks out, stomping on Nicole's knee that is looking weak from the crash, with a cry of pain Nicole's leg gives out, and she collapses to the ground and drops her lightsaber.
Cecilia picks up Nicole's lightsaber before she ignites it and stands over Nicole.
"Let this be the last time we fight..." Cecilia says as she readies the lightsaber to swing.
Nicole looks up at Cecilia, a look of hatred meeting Cecilia's sorrowful gaze, "Just do it," Cecilia says.
With that, Cecilia swings, the lightsaber bites deep and throws up a burst of dust before she turns it off and pockets it. Not looking back, Cecilia quickly climbs into her interceptor and flies off while three X-Wings and a U-Wing draw closer to the crash site.