I tap the triggers on my laser cannons; I have done it a thousand times before. Someone in a flannel jacket paints a target on them. We don’t know why, we don’t need to know, fuck it we don’t want to know. Someone paints a target on them and we shoot the hell out of them. Centre the crosshairs, tap the triggers, and boom.
There’s something up with this ship though, a junkyard Corellian freighter. Could be a smuggler or resistance fighter, but someone painted the circles on this guy and here I am trying to obliterate him. Only my targeting computer has blipped out or something. I centre my cross-hairs and fire the lasers again. And nothing.
The freighter is either out of control or the pilot is a genius. Whichever it is I am ready, here at last, ready to roll, fingers on the triggers. I graduated top at flight academy, with a sharp shooter merit in weapons free training, and I have a three digit kill score that a battle cruiser would die for. I am ESF and I am Tie ‘til I die.
The gravity readings from the planet are normal, just another hunk of rock covered in sand, desert planet number who knows what. Only I know there was a battle here, and the Empire had their asses handed to them; that much is clear from the Super Star Destroyer smashed halfway into the rippling dunes.
It was sombre on the briefing deck, a generation weighed down with the burden of their war. This planet isn’t just a junkyard; it’s littered with the corpses of their brothers and friends. We know what it means to them, a burning hot reminder of where they went wrong. But this is my battle, and that won’t be my legacy.
The freighter dips and bobs closer to the surface, diving into the wreckage at the last minute. It’s a suicidal move in a ship that size, but the pilot seems to know what he’s doing. I dip in after him, and pew, pew, pew! I see green flashing on their hull, but then he weaves left, and right, and up, jinking away from me.
We’re flying in tandem, targeting should be locked, but something is scrambling our weapons systems, possibly the residual EM fields from the wreckage. My eyes flick across the consoles, taking in the readings, cross-referencing them, making adjustments, recalibrating my triggers. One second later: pew, pew, pew!
Green on the hull again and the freighter tears sharply upward, breaking my targeting lock. This is a game, the best I have had since I earned my red stripes. It crosses my mind again; precious assets, boxed and ready to go, but rusting. That anxiety is for my bunk, not here. We are ESF, ready to go, they will feel the burn.
I can see the wreckage stretching out ahead of me in the glare. My fighter is screaming through the yawning, ripped hull of the Destroyer. I recognise the ship, the Ravager, a burial monument for countless officers and troops, their grey flannel and snow white armour intertwined with the rusted metallic skeleton in the sand.
The freighter pulls up from the wreck and dips out of sight. A squall of sand and metal fragments dashes my screens. The fighter’s wing panels break their impact and I shoot into clear sky. I catch a glimpse of flashing metal, just a fraction of a second, but I am back on the freighter, plunging down into another broken hull.
Sand is whipping through the junkyard, straining the decaying structures, showering debris on every surface. I steer hard to avoid a broken girder as I gain on the freighter. I see an X-Wing lying almost intact on its side. I never understood how the Rebels pulled it off; neither do the commanders who send us on these missions.
My comm unit is chattering. The fugitive on that freighter is first priority for the sortie. Destroy at all costs. ESF have the mission. Six more fighters are heading planetward, arrival imminent. I see clear sky ahead, and that freighter will have a hyperdrive. I spin the fighter in a corkscrew roll as the Corellian quad lasers fire.
Time is running out, I have to complete the kill mission. Their gunner is firing in a scatter pattern, deliberately haphazard, impossible to predict, but I am screwing my fighter around the blast radius. I have less than a minute before he clears the surface and spools up. We are behind the curve here, I have to push it.
I take my fighter out of the corkscrew, push ahead on full power, flying straight at the freighter. I am so close I can see the gunner silhouetted in the windows of the turret, wheeling around wildly to track my position. You’re too late fucker: pew, pew, pew! There’s a blast, and a shower of debris, and he’s done.
Only he’s not, as the damn freighter is still wheeling up into the blue sky, and I am looping wildly towards the wreckage. I’m going down. I check the instruments. I am going down. I pull everything back, thrusters and weapons, and the fighter clears the edge of the shipwreck ahead, spinning up and over, and down.
And there it fucking is, desert planet number who knows what, every colour of sand you never wanted to know existed, scattered with hunks of scrap metal. It haunts the old Empire, and it meant everything to the New Republic. It is a cautionary tale for rookie pilots. It is hubris, blindness, folly, and death.
So this will be my legacy, just another wreck for Jakku, an Elite Special Forces Tie Fighter. My left wing panel is missing and the engine is trailing thick black smoke. I am heading breakneck into the sand. I toggle the switch to power down the lasers and start to laugh. Tie ‘til I die. Tie till I die! Boom.
Next: The Crash