Rebel Squadrons

PSG Newsletter February 15, 2009

By FA Tyrell "Spokes" Borran
Unit: Patriot Starfighter Group
Fleet NL, Feb 15, 2009
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PSG Newsletter February 15, 2009

To avoid some confusion, here is the opening narrative for the PSG TIE Fighter TOD. Keep in mind that activity for this first part is Narrative-only. Have fun with it!


Tour Notes:

This is not the Long Awaited Grey Tour 6. However, this is the beginning, and first submission of the PSG TIE Tour that Spokes and I are going to run. Responses should be in character, and include your POV as to the decision, circumstances and actions taken to arrive at the bridge on the Calamari Cruiser Odin.

This tour will be a lot more fun for all (and the story will be far longer, I might add) with the more fiction that we get from our pilots. The two tours (X-Wing and TIE) will run concurrently, and will be along different timelines, which will, in turn be along a different timeline/reality from the rest of the RS. Therefore, most ranks, offices and RS history do not apply, and probably shouldn’t be referenced. For the sake of the reality of the story, please choose carefully among any of these “facts” that you wish to reference.

As opposed to the way fiction is handled in the overall RS Tour, I always try to ratify The Player’s fiction and participation by incorporating your fiction into the main storyline. The length is not important, but keeping with the “reality” of the story and the premises of the Rebel Squadrons and the Star Wars Universe is extremely vital to how well the story ends up. The story, taken as a whole, is my priority because I believe that is what draws the most and best activity from the participants.

The main idea that I’m shooting for is that not everyone is Luke Skywalker, and not everyone is God’s gift to marksmanship, women and song. We’re all human, and very often it’s the imperfections that make for the best drama. …and drama, fictional anyway, is exactly what we’re after here.

I will be writing for my additional characters, which I always have, in case the Players have not kept the tour moving in the direction I need it to go, and may be used by any Player at any time, but please keep them In Character.

In this tour all submissions from PSG Command will include the Official Reports – the reports that will become part of the story – the next part of the fictional story and will include a mission more times than not. If the submission does not include a mission, then the Player can write their POV keeping current with the story. The Player may introduce fiction that is consequential/personal to their Character, but it should also be germane to the tour storyline. If fiction wanders too far away from what were doing, or is too outside the lines, then it may be disregarded (not Official) after discussion with the Player.

I am also going to be using this, along with the PSG X-Wing Tour, as a little bit of an experiment. I want to try out an idea that I want to use for Grey’s T6 (which will be entirely run in the TIE game).


As I always must do, I find it fair to give fair warning that the missions at the beginning of the tour may be slow and dull, they will not remain that way. If this Tour flows in the direction I hope, then I also have to warn you I have the base storyline and missions complete, but I will be rewriting much of the fiction as we go. Be prepared for a wild ride.

PSG TA.00 Mission Narrative

Setting: Rebel Squadrons Command, The Office of Admiral Castor Efrata-Landis
Time: One year ago

Upon the completion of Grey's Tour of Duty 3 (Star Hammer), General Greedo handed command of the Odin over to the then Commander Castor Efrata-Landis, and was, himself, reassigned to command Rogue Squadron. But Greedo was never entirely comfortable with all of the transfers, and Castor eventually lost touch with his former commander when the rodian seemingly disappeared shortly afterward. The rumors ranged from “obsession" to "defection" and from "insanity" to "undercover".

Castor, on the other hand, found himself increasingly involved in High Command processes, having become the commanding officer of the Rebel Squadrons Academy, as well as the instructing officer of its sub-section, the X-Wing UnderGrad. In training the Cadets, Castor became increasingly aware of his inability to remain in the command position of Grey Squadron - a fact that saddened and frustrated all of the Grey pilots. He was forced by circumstances to relinquish control of Grey Squadron so as to be able to give more of his attention to the Cadets, which he did confidently, after which Castor developed the X-Wing UnderGrad host squadron, Grey Alpha.

Grey’s members were, one by one, eventually assigned extended medical leave for a much needed time of rest and recuperation, or transferred to their own leadership positions throughout the Rebel Squadrons. Subsequently, lacking sufficient personnel, Grey was officially classified as "on standby", although everyone knew that it meant that Grey was "down". Indefinitely. But that also left the Greys free to pursue their own command tracks. …which they all did. …and quite successfully so. …every one down to the last sentient being.

With his own successful command of Grey, his group of ever changing Cadets, the new secondary (but no less important for the fact) Grey Alpha Squadron - which took Grey's place on the Odin, and was staffed by X-Wing Honor Grads - Castor eventually found himself as Advisor to the High Command of the Rebel Squadrons, along with a number of other important positions within the organization. …the R.S. being a remote unit not entirely under the direct and immediate command of Admiral Ackbar. His various offices carried an enormous weight of responsibility, but also the additional burden of being sometimes buried in bureaucracy and politics. However, Castor, working best under pressure, found its challenge invigorating, and carried out his duties with zeal. He felt that he had more successes than failures.

In spite of seeing the continued healthy growth of the Rebel Squadrons, though, Castor began to slowly become aware of an unrest, deep within himself. For a long time he couldn't quite figure out what it was. He itched. His office chair chafed at him, and he finally became so distract by the... hunger... the need... ...the want of something that he really wasn't even sure what. He only knew that there was something that needed doing. And he wasn't sure how or why he knew. Only that there was something...

There were days that he didn't feel the push at all. But on rare occasions he would be driven nearly to distraction by the urgency. It was almost like some force outside of him was trying to tell him something. If he could only hear what that force was saying…

One day, nearly beside himself with a feeling of panic, of impending doom... as if death waited just behind him, which moved to remain behind him every time he turned to see it, and about which there would be nothing he could do when it chose to take him. He stood in his office shaking. Sweating. His breathing rate was so high that it seemed the air would hardly fill his lungs before it was being forced out again, only to be sucked back in as if he hadn't just already inhaled the last four times. His heart beat within his chest as if it wanted to pound a pathway out through his ribs. He could hear the rush of blood like the growl of a TIE in his ears.

"ENOUGH OF THIS!!" He yelled to no one he could see. The panic slowly went away, and Castor sat, nearly collapsing, on the floor we he had stood. He braced his elbows on his legs and held his head. He rubbed and rubbed his tired and aching eyes. "Gods, man!" He spoke out loud to himself, his shaking voice showing him the depth of his distress more obviously than the shaking of his hands. "You gotta figure this out, dude. I can't keep going through this." He shook his head slowly, as if completely exhausted. His uniform was drenched and sticking to his back and arms. The drips of sweat from his chin were beginning to pool on the floor. It took him longer to acquire his equanimity of soul. Far longer than it ever had before.

An outside force. He thought. Force. ...trying to tell me something. Castor made up his mind to try a little experiment. He sat straight, and assumed a position that would facilitate a relaxed meditation. He stayed that way until he fully regained his calm. He closed himself slowly to the physical world and opened himself to the Force. He could feel the Force as a constant gentle wind. …the currents and eddies. …the shifts of direction, and slight pressure. His eyes remained shut, and he did not use his access to the Force to sense his surroundings, as was one of his strongest talents. He stood slowly, maintaining his contact with the Force. He turned and took a slow step. He relaxed even more and was totally immersed in the Force. It moved around him. …in him. …over and through him. …completely obliterating his sense of the physical world. He watched the whirls of the Force as if they were a river of colors, and he was caught in their currents.

When the Force finally dimmed and returned to him his sense of sight, he found himself sitting at his own desk. His data screen was on and showing an archival likeness of a painting that was once made of Grey Squadron; a picture created by one of the more artistic members. It hung in the Rebel Squadrons Bar and Grill, and it depicted Grey Squadron in formation as they flew into one of their more well known battles.

Grey! Castor recognized the picture immediately. The hanging of it in the Bar and Grill had been cause for a nearly all night party, away from which few attendees had walked unsupported by an occasional wall or two. …or floor.

But as he looked closer at the rendition, a small thing in the foreground caught his eye. He looked even closer, and then gave his screen instructions to zoom in on the discrepancy. The closest wingman ship in the lead flight held the number twenty.

Castor scowled. Twenty!? Not even with the numbers we retired did we ever have a twenty. He checked the location of the file of the likeness, it was the reproduction of the original that resided in Castor's own data area. Someone tampered with... No. That's not it. He used a second screen to check the file as it sat in that area. The likeness came up as the original did with the number three on the X-Wing in that position. Then that means that the change was made on this screen, and hasn't yet been saved. Consequently, that means that I must have made the change while I was in touch with the Force. This is what it's been trying to tell me.

He looked again at the modified version, and noticed that the third group back, farther away from the lead flight, were TIE Interceptors. He looked even closer at the rest of the picture.

And that's not the Odin! It's... older. Alot older. But Grey never, ever, had TIEs, so this can't be the past. It's certainly not the present, so it must be the future. Twenty pilots, and flying TIEs, in addition to X-wings. But what... who...? He thought for a while, trying to muddle through his confusion. Me. That's who. He eventually thought with a degree of finality and rightness. I'm supposed to reactivate Grey. And we'll be flying a variety of craft, including TIEs. And we'll be the only squadron on board, so we'll be able to rotate shifts and still have a full squadron that's fresh and ready to go. And I'm supposed to accomplish it. But why? What purpose demands this? He hadn't quite figured out that part yet. But if the Force was calling to him so strongly now, then it was a call he knew that demanded his own personal attention. …a call that it would not let him ignore.

So, with a certainty that came with his conclusions, even though his ultimate goal still remained a mystery, Castor began his plans for the rebuilding of Grey Squadron. He organized and planned with a passion that he'd not entirely had since Grey was at its former peak, the Force helping to motivate him as nothing else could have. He decided what he'd need, and he'd gotten a huge jump on who and what he wanted to be aboard. His organizing left little detail unthought upon. He realized his weaknesses and did extensive research to find all of the people who could accomplish those particular parts of the project.

When he was ready, he met with High Command and announced his intentions to reform Grey. The discussion didn't take much time, and the plan presented was unanimously accepted, even though many held reservations concerning the fact that Castor would be required to vacate all of the positions he currently held within the Rebel Squadrons. This would leave many gaps in a number of areas that High Command would have to scrabble quickly to fill.

Castor felt that security was a large concern during the initial stages of the Grey reformation. The safety of his new command, until his pilots could function effectively as a combat unit, was at severe risk because, due largely to their prior successes, Castor and the former Grey had made a number of enemies throughout the remains of the slowly dying Empire. Unfortunately, he'd made enemies of some associates in the Rebel Squadrons, as well. But that was normal; nobody liked everyone, and everyone disliked someone for one reason or another. And the more exposure one got for ones actions, whether for good or bad, the more enemies one made of those within and without of an organization - ANY organization - for good or bad reasons, and usually fomented by spies from other organizations. It was all politics, anyway, all of which left a very bad taste in Castor's mouth.

But those enemies, from both within and without, had struck at the Rebel Squadrons before, and sometimes Castor in particular, from time to time albeit unsuccessfully so far largely due to the Rebel Squadron Commandoes and the finest flight combat fleets in the Republic. It was suspected, however, that if any accurate information was leaked about Grey's reactivation, it would likely bring some of those remaining enemies down on the new squadron in force in an attempt to catch them unprepared.

And unprepared they would certainly be.

Castor had gone through a very long list of personnel, and found that most of the 'old' Greys were no longer available, dead, or simply that they'd retired and not flown combat in a very long time. So Grey would have to be manned by a nearly entire new group of pilots who probably would not have had the advantage of having flown combat along side any of the rest. The Empire might be in its death throes throughout the most of the galaxy, but, in this remote arm, its hold was firmly rooted. It was the Rebel Squadrons' assigned duty to see that the Empire's forces in this sector did not become powerful enough to begin to reestablish itself. If Grey Squadron was suspected to exist as a cohesive unit, then it would immediately become the target of espionage and betrayal. If Castor could only train them well enough, and quick enough, to work together and take advantage of the help that they could be to each other, then they just might live through being discovered.

But it would take a certain amount of time. An amount that was severly limited.

He was reminded of something his master of the tunnels taught him. The old blind man had said; "It's better to be a live jackal than a dead lion. It's better still to be a live lion - and usually easier." Since Castor knew that, as opposed to Grey finding trouble, trouble would sooner, rather than later, find its way to Grey, it would be best to make all efforts to prepare for the Worst Case Scenario as quickly as possible. He would have to be aggressive in his tactics to bring Grey on line. As aggressive as his new Greys could take.

And he suspected that many of them would wash, for one reason or another. Or simply, and very unfortunately, die in training or in their early missions. Accidents always happened regardless of the preparations. And Castor would have to take responsibility for those.


Time: Ten months ago

The road to rebuilding Grey was a long one, and the first step on that road was to classify the entire operation. High Command had reluctantly agreed that information details would only be released on a “need to know” basis. Even those holding ultra-secret level security clearances would be given the barest minimum of details, and even then only if they absolutely needed it to complete their assigned tasks. The politicians, particularly, would be excluded from the information loop. A code name for the operation – Thorn – was decided upon. Castor had suggested it. As much as Grey had been “a thorn in the Empire’s side” he felt this would be ironically appropriate. Throughout Grey’s activation the squadron and all associated craft would be temporarily renamed, their transponders recoded, and very few outside of High Command would actually know the full truth of the matter.

The next step would be the acquisition of a mothership. A rotational Grey would be the only squadron on board, so that cut down on additional support personnel and space required. Very much so. On the other hand, this would be a squadron that would be a very versatile combat squadron, so it would need plenty of starfighter training and storage capacity. If they could, in fact, actually acquire the starfighters. That had been another of High Command’s concerns; arming Grey. Particularly the squadron that was almost as renowned for its volume of starfighter debris. …or rather…the volume of debris from its own starfighters.

Castor expected Grey would also end up very deep in the middle of what ever the Force was steering them towards – whether voluntarily or not – which would require a large expansion of the space that was needed for starfighter repair and medical operations.

Gods know, gotta have the repair capacity – the way Grey goes through starfighters... And bacta tank facilities! Can’t forget that. Gotta have that. Pilots, incidental personnel. Say... a full hundred available tanks. Gigaliters of bacta purification and storage. The whole MedOps section should be tripled in its capacity for “parts” – replacement cloning and harvest storage. The gods know, I’ve needed plenty of that, myself! Castor thought to himself as he reviewed his notes.

He decided to work backwards to figure the space requirements for essential personnel only. The mothership would have to have the inside entirely modified to take advantage of every bit of space possible. It would need plenty of armament and shield strength, along with as much speed as it could muster – which meant that bigger would be better, and then the areas that could really use more space, like the commandoes, starfighter repair, and MedOps would be able to have it. The commandoes and starfighter repair both would require large open areas. That, in turn, would make the ship lighter, so the engines wouldn’t have to work so hard, and make more power available for other systems, like weapons and shielding. He called up an inventory screen and entered his personal access security code.

Just how much room do we actually need? Castor started making more notes. Life support, starfighter support, systems support, crew support, engineering, communications, security, gunnery, bridge, logistics, tactical, medical, secondary star craft, and THEIR support... Oh, the commandoes and a real good sized and functional “playroom”, with the reconstruction droids they’re going to want, and THEIR support. …and then a mothership powerful enough to carry and protect it all... Even with all the reductions in the size personnel by replacing everyone possible with specialty droids. This isn’t going to be easy. …or quick.

“Aha!” Castor exclaimed and tapped the data pad screen once with the tip of his finger just as the door to his office opened. He smudged the spot away created by his finger with this cuff of his jacket because he knew that his K-2PO droid would fuss at him for it.

“May I be of assistance, sir?” A slightly metallic female voice asked. Castor’s droid team trundled through the entry. Apparently DroidOps had finished with the modifications to his pair of military protocol and R9-D2 navigational droids. He had requested a number of changes made to the structural, deductive logic, and processing capabilities of each.

“Ah, Katie! Yes, please! Come in!” Castor motioned for them to enter even though they were already well into the room. Droids were neither male nor female, or could emulate either at any given moment, but Castor always found it easier to be patient with prissy protocol droids if they projected female qualities. Some people had jokingly accused him of being sexist, but having it project a female personality made it less likely that he would arbitrarily shut it off when it inevitably aggravated him.

Maybe he was a sexist at heart.

But even though droids weren’t actually living beings, they acted an awful lot like it, and he felt they deserved as much courtesy and respect as he could afford. It came at no personal cost to him, and the courtesies seem to elicit a positive reaction in the droids. This made Castor the brunt of many crude jokes made by his peers, but he persisted in his opinions and let the jokers continue in theirs.

The polished gunmetal-grey colored K2 unit took about a dozen short little sidesteps to move around Castor’s desk to where it could see the screen as Castor told her, “I need to requisition this ship, here.” He tapped the data screen. “It’ll also need a lot of internal work done to make it useful for what I have in mind.”

“The ship you’ve indicated is quite old, sir, and is listed as having been used primarily as a commando training area for quite a number of years.” The droid pointed out.

“I know. That just makes it less valuable, easier to gut, and the RSCD can easily find another old hulk to train on.” Castor countered. “And it’s the right one.”

“Ah. I see, Admiral.” Katie acquiesced with a slight show of confusion evident.

The grey and black R9 droid rolled over to the nearest computer port, one of its many small compartments popped open and a computer probe connector flipped down. It plugged itself in, and the contacts rotated. Castor punched in the commands on his console to allow the R9 access to his notes and see which ship he was referring to so it could follow the conversation and present its own input.

“I’ve made a bunch of notes concerning the mods it’ll need – access file CEL27253-THORN. We’ll have to get someone to redesign the inside, and a team to do all the construc. If you and Arnie would take care of that for me, please?”

“R9 and I would be most happy to see to it, Admiral.” The droid replied enthusiastically, and the R9 droid trilled its agreement.

Why do they make these protocol droids so damned cheerful? Castor thought to himself. Although, I guess I’d rather have a droid that’s consistently in a good mood than in a bad one. Or worse, one that’s unpredictable! Ah, well! But aloud he said, “Oh! I’m going to have to requisition initial supplies, weapons, et cetera, for getting underway to an undetermined location for an indefinite length of time. Conditions, unknown. Enemy, unknown. Potential alert status, severe.”

“Admiral, the odds of my requisitioning the proper amount of anything on your list is... so slight as to leave any real possibility,” Katie said.

Ha! That’s one modification tested and approved! Castor chuckled. I’ll have to commend the droidtechs for that one. “That’s okay. I just need the forms to start getting pushed through. We can add the details later. Considering the project, I don’t believe we’ll be refused much at all. Unless I start getting a little crazy with it... But, hey! Been there, done that. Ya know?”

“Of course, Admiral,” Katie said. Then she turned to Arnie, and said sotto voce so that only the other droid could hear, “Maybe I should go back to have them update my programming so that I might understand the Admiral more easily. After all, I am fluent in over four point eight three seven million languages. And his seems to be a variant of basic that I might be unfamiliar with.”

The R9 unit whistled and bleeped.

“I already have! What could you possibly mean by that?” Katie turned quickly to face Castor obliquely, then quickly turned back to Arnie, and tilted her head to the side.
Castor just grinned while watching the data scroll on his screen.


With the help of his droid team, Castor was able to requisition the old decommissioned Calamari Cruiser. They pushed the work order through for the Design and Modification Operations teams, along with the requisitions for the modifications themselves. The next day it took a only few hours with the D&M Ops people to effectively relay exactly what he had in mind. The initial layout that his R9 unit gave them made that part of the procedure go more smoothly than he had originally anticipated. Since so many modifications would be involved, the team decided to bring in a larger interior construction droid, or three, which would recycle nearly all of the craft's interior, rebuilding it to the specifications that had been approved. After that would come the tough part; finding and interviewing the personnel to man it.

Castor went to High Command again, and gave them a list of personnel requirements and job descriptions that he'd need to fill to effectively staff the Saguaro, as they had code-named the new mothership. Katie had neatly developed a list of the minimum required number of personnel, based on the expected number of Grey pilots, and normal crew shift rotation. Castor added an extra twenty percent to Katie's total, just because reality was never as good as expectations, in his experience, and sent this information off to the design team in case the modifications might need to be adjusted to accommodate this number of personnel. As it happened, the design did need to be adjusted, but in the end they ended up with more starfighter repair and storage space, which suited Castor just fine. If the new kids came anything close to the previous Grey's recorded stats, they'd need it!

The bacta situation, though, troubled Castor some. The Republic had gone through some troubled times recently with bacta being directly involved and the main concern. Clean bacta had been in extremely short supply, and full inventory quota had not been reached quite yet. So Castor's requisition of bacta, along with the areas directly concerned with the storage and use of the bacta had been significantly reduced. This time and extra space had been allocated to the commando playroom.

But, undaunted in his personal mission, Castor, along with his droids worked up a list of the kind of pilots he wanted for the new Grey Squadron. Eventually, he went back to High Command with a list of qualifications and specific names. Those named on the list, Castor felt were being underestimated and not being allowed to perform to their full ability for one reason or another. Very few of those were on any assignment that couldn't be undertaken quickly by someone else already associated with that particular duty.

While feeling that Castor's project might be a little too ambitious, High Command didn't put up much argument, knowing that if there was ANY one who could pull off something of this magnitude, it would be the Grey (in every sense of the word) Leader; Admiral Castor Efrata-Landis. Discrete inquiries to all named, qualified, and possibly interested, people were sent out in short order. Castor received many responses which had been rerouted to a secure data drop off and holding area which, in turn, would not be able to be traced to himself. He reviewed all responses and had Katie send out a general batch invitation to private interview.

Castor had Katie and Arnie run through the long list of Thorn applicants, in hopes of finding exceptional aptitudes or anomalies. In their first run through, the two droids compiled four lists of names. The first was who Castor had requested specifically, but the second was very short, personnel who were included in the prior Grey Roster. This list was only three names long. Ace Farlander, Corran Horn Jr, and Speedy. While Castor had kept in close touch with Horn, he had lost contact with Farlander when Grey had been deactivated. And he'd thought that he'd heard that Speedy had retired from the military at one point.

The third list, however, included anomalies - those who seemed to have no special skills reported by their commanders, but much apparent potential evidenced by their test scores in their particular fields, and who might possibly come from dysfunctional units. This might seem a bit odd, at first, but the logic couldn't be faulted. Sometimes the people who don't fit in most are the ones that have so many capabilities that they're completely misunderstood, or disliked for the entirely wrong reasons. Or they might have personal quirks that weren't compatible with the commanders they currently served under. Prime example, Castor thought. The one pilot that carries around the stuffed bear.

A brief historical check verified whether any of the bunch might be classified as "Possible Security Issues". None were. That fact alone raised some serious "stay alert" alarms inside Castor's head. He would have to interview each applicant. Personally. Hopefully, he'd be able to sense discrepancies, but failing that... Well, Castor didn't really want to think about the possibility of a spy getting into Grey farther than; if it happens, maybe the spy can be turned. Or maybe used against his employer. They were too far out on the edge of the galaxy to be of any real notice of, or use to, most of the major information webs that wove their way through the major part of known space. Although Castor didn't assume, he felt it likely that any spies would certainly be of the local variety, concerned with local issues.

I've definitely got my work cut out for me.


Four months ago…

In a very short twenty weeks the Saguaro was ready and tested. In that time, Castor had given the final approval on about 93% of the specific people who would become his crew. The new personnel had already trained their replacements at their current duty stations, and were only awaiting their transfer orders. Commander Garant, along with all of her Shock Troop personnel who had been stationed previously with Castor on the Odin, had volunteered for duty on the Saguaro as soon as she had been approached. No questions asked, and no refusals from Castor or upper command accepted. Shock belonged to Castor, and if Castor had a ship, then Shock would be on it. Garant had gone straight to the commando representative sitting on High Command and walked the transfer orders through herself.

Castor was a little surprised at first, but very pleased at learning of the Shock situation. He was quite familiar with Garant, the Shock Troop and their methods, and he trusted them implicitly. And they trusted him just as well, apparently. If they considered themselves his, then he would support their claims to “first dibs” at serving as his commando unit.

At this point, it was just a matter of bringing everything in, training his pilots and crew to work as a team, and getting underway. Castor made the final scheduling arrangements, finalized the approval for the remaining crew, and, with the skeleton crew he had already available, took the [very] modified Cruiser to a small but remote asteroid cluster to await the arrival of all the remaining deliveries.

As they sat in the small field of large space rocks, Castor toured the ship with all of his top officers that were available. Since Castor tended to be a fairly quick study, he learned the procedures of his crew in a short time. The crew was quite happy to show him just what their jobs entailed, and he made notes concerning their expected capacities and limits, as well as those of his cruiser.

Now came the waiting part of the game. Until they were ready to go active, all they could do was drill and get used to the layout of the Saguaro. Those already aboard would be the ones to train the rest to come in Processes and Procedures. Castor felt that those “P&Ps” would likely be in place quickly. While he didn’t interfere with exactly how his personnel did their jobs, he did demand that they know them, and know them inside and out in both combat, underway, and station keeping modes. And know them quickly.

Although having a short learning curve as a qualification requirement for duty aboard the Saguaro, this capacity also lead to the tendency of many of the crew being somewhat Prima Donna-ish, they knew their jobs expertly, and, in every case, could fill two or more key positions with extremely short change-over time. They’d earned their attitudes, and as long as those attitudes didn’t interfere with the functionality of the Saguaro’s crew, then Castor would allow them their due. An added benefit of his personnel being good enough to be able to do so many jobs is that it allowed them to function more smoothly when their jobs intertwined. It also allowed for key positions to continue to be filled in the event of an emergency.

Of course, it also meant that the newbies on board, were likely subject to light harassment by the personnel in their sections who had been on board longer. But that served two functions, as well. First, to reinforce the chain on command. And secondly to promote and reinforce an advancement duly earned when someone was raised to certain positions over their peers.

Grey’s newly modified mothership, code named Saguaro, had been christened Aragorn after its first successful test run. Aragorn had been the name of a strong and trusted winged black steed which had carried a mythical warrior into battle. The warrior in black armor had struck fear into the hearts of his enemies for centuries, according to the legend. Even though it was more popular with adolescents, as it had been distributed in a format that usually involved violent and mildly sexually suggestive graphics, it was excellent literature in its original form. Castor felt Aragorn just as appropriate as the ship’s code name Saguaro – a very large plant, bearing many long thorns, native to the deserts of many arid worlds.

High Command permanently assigned Operation Thorn two craft, an Escort Shuttle designated Bramble, and an Assault Transport designated Brier. The two craft would be acting as supply and personnel transport until Grey was activated, and then would be retained by the Aragorn for the duration of its run. A temporarily assigned Escort Carrier known, for the initial setup period as Thistle, and its own support Shuttle, Thistledown, would also be lending their aid, as well.

Shock Troop was already aboard and had rearranged their playroom area so that they could simulate a number of situations requiring their intervention. With their hangar sized gym, and the construction droids which had their own storage ports at the far forward end of the area and could recycle the contents of the entire gym in a few hours, Shock could make a mockup of just about any scenario they might encounter. Using gravity generators, the type that starfighter combat simulators used, Shock could even simulate operations requiring space walks, or even reverse up and down in separate sections of the gym, the latter situation being a normal part of their calisthenics program. Due to the constructional supports and insulation that completely encased the playroom, they could be as destructive as they wished to be. Up to a limit, which Garant made sure had been factored into the specs the construction droids worked with.

Castor had been invited to be present at one of Shock’s exercise sessions, but watching them swinging through their maze of bars and hanging in different directions had started to make him nauseous as he tried, and failed, to anticipate which way their forward movement would carry them. He was far more than duly impressed by Shock’s physical and tactical prowess.


Operation Thorn seemed to be progressing smoothly, which was fine. Security was tight, and, in some places, too tight. Which was also just fine, as it was intentionally part of Castor's plan, as well as being approved by High Command. Security applies to Important Things. Extreme Security applies to Extremely Important Things. Where spies were involved, a "lack" of information about something drew just as much notice as an information link. Spy employers tended to be incredibly paranoid when they found "black holes" in the data flow. And there was a certain amount of security breaches, at very specific levels, that Castor felt would be useful in designating the course Grey would ultimately follow. Extreme levels of security never held up once people got involved. And people had to be involved. If approached by spies for any information at all, almost all of Castor's personnel were fairly guaranteed to have very little to tell, even if they had any worthwhile knowledge of Thorn. …even if they had any kind of a notion to answer questions about the project in the first place.

What they did have, or the lack of specific information, rather, should raise plenty "investigate this" flags. Once those "investigators" began to move, spy networks, or at least some of the spies themselves, would be traceable. But at that point, Castor, Grey, and the rest of the Aragorn's crew would likely end up in an extremely deadly race, as well. A race to see which would happen first; the activation or destruction of Grey Squadron.

Once Grey was activated, though, little short of an all out full scale attack, one considered a "fleet killer", would be cause for much concern. Which wasn't to say that Castor was overconfident; he worried, but he also just knew how far he'd taken the squadron named Grey in the past. His only real concern was that the former Grey had already existed before he was given command of it. Who really knew where he could take this new one that he was building from the ground up?

After we smoke out a spy or two, and allow them enough rope to hang themselves with, I guess we'll find out just how far I can push Grey. When the dust settles, we'll see what we've got left. I just hope that things happen at a pace we can keep up with. Once this ball gets rolling, if it gets ahead of us, we could all very easily end up dead.

A memory of Neo floating in the Bacta tank after the Sabaac Mission came unbidden. From there Castor was buffeted with the memories of all the personnel they'd lost during that same mission. Ultimately the gamble had been successful, and had won them a significant advantage during that Tour. But the cost had been high. Very high. Very close to being too durned high. That Castor himself had only narrowly escaped death in that mission was completely overshadowed when compared to the number of personnel which had been sacrificed. He rubbed his eye; the one with which had belonged to someone else before it became his. Though the replacement procedure had been a total success, at times the eye itched when he remembered the circumstances in which he had acquired it. So did a number of other body parts he'd gotten to replace the originals which had been destroyed over the years. The surgeons aboard the Odin had been more confident that those destroyed pieces could be replaced successfully with living parts that matched than they were of being able to maintain any mechanical or cyborg implants under the circumstances that Grey normally found themselves in.

Castor knew that the itch was all in his mind. But that didn't make it any less uncomfortable. And it didn't make the memories go away.

"Is there something I might do for you, Admiral?" The metallic female voice startled Castor from his reverie, and he glanced quickly at the droid without answering, stood suddenly from his office chair, and left.

"Oh dear! Is it something I said?" Katie turned to R9. "Where might the Admiral be going?" The R9 droid whistled his answer.

"Don't be flippant, R9. Of course I know you can't read minds. Track the Admiral, and find out where he's gone."

Arnie flipped out a computer terminal port from one of his many compartments, and connected to the Aragorn's computer. The connector twirled as it searched through the security camera system. It only took a few seconds for him to locate the Admiral.


Castor made his way to the Aragorn's Bar and Grill. He sat at a table which had been vacated for him, and thought about the friends he'd lost on his way to this point. He raised his glass in memory of the Grey's that had fallen, and toasted them silently. No one in the bar disturbed him as he sat looking out one of the very few view ports that the Bar and Grill had claim to. A fresh drink appeared at the table followed very shortly by the furry double cone-headed gotal that served as the Bar and Grill's tender, sitting in the chair at Castor's left.

While the empathic ability of gotals helped them to be successful bounty hunters and mercenaries, Tesserak's constitution was a tad too delicate for that kind of stress. He preferred a gentler existence. Tending bar on an Alliance star cruiser suited him just fine. Yes there would be occasional danger, and he would be killed if the ship went down, but when he'd interviewed for the job, he'd immediately known the confidence of the interviewer. Tesserak couldn't imagine which starship could inspire such confidence, but he'd accepted the job, thinking it might be one of the Republic's flagships. He'd been given the chance to decline when he'd found out it was going to be Grey Squadron's mother ship. But the opportunity to serve on another of his old friend's commands was one that Tesserak couldn't resist.

"Tess. Thank you." Castor smiled at the gotal.

"Admiral." Tesserak answered in his deep gravelly voice. "You are very welcome, as always. If I may intrude, Admiral, you seem to be in another time. A time that maybe more at unease with you than the present one."

"Memories sometimes catch me unawares, old friend. The ones I don't want to keep seem to linger on and on, while the ones I wish for the most I can never regain." Castor's thoughts had run farther into the past than Grey as he'd stared into the drink the bartender had brought. Farther than Kessel. They'd gone back until they'd run up against the wall that they always did - the "gone" times. The times before he completed his training in the tunnels of that great rock. The lost times when he'd known who he was and where he'd come from.

"Ah," said the gotal. "Tis much the same as the age old problem that states; the sky is always bluer over the next being's world. That which we have is not good enough. That which we can not have is what we desire. A terrible never ending circle of thought perpetuated by the clever creators of extremely successful advertising."

Castor blinked a few times as if he'd just noticed that the land speeder of his mental processes wasn't just on the wrong path, but not even in the right solar system. He looked up at the gotal and smiled.

"What?" Castor's eyebrows pushed togther, wrinkling his forehead.

"Oh, you are back, now. It is so nice to see you again, Admiral." Tesserak held out his hand in the human gesture of greeting. Imitating the human smile was a bit difficult, but Tesserak managed with some success.

"Uh... I'm going to have to check the records. I don't remember seeing you listed as Fleet Counselor on our roster." Castor chuckled.

"Every Barkeep is a Counselor! And every Patron has a Problem with which Needs Dealing. Some cope alone, while others need a little help. You need little help when you need any at all, but the currents of your problems run deeper than most. Someday you may find that the memories you seek might be better off buried where ever they currently lie. Or not. Now, let us discuss socially sanctioned brain washing by marketing professionals, who are all inherently megalomanical and have delusions of advertising grandeur."

Castor chuckled.

"You do realize, don't you," Tesserak said beginning their bout of mental sparring, "that all advertisers are, by their very nature, evil. They wish us to buy their products, and thereby go about creating a need, usually based on inducing the attitude that one's self image is in fact incorrect and should be brought into line with all of the beings who really are, according to the advertisers, important, blissfully happy, and well adjusted simply because they DO use the afore mentioned products, within their potential market in order to rob us of our hard earned credits, hence increasing the quality of their own lives. Their wealth is in direct proportion to their success at making other beings believe they are inferior. My apologies to you, by the way, if you have any friends who are in the commercial marketing field, but they are, nonetheless, evil; vying only with lawyers, politicians, and peddlers of mind distorting substances for the dubiously honored title of 'lowliest of the low'."

They both laughed, and after they finished with that topic, the conversation revolved around others of which "if Hell had the right Public Relations Department, people would be dying to get in" was only one, for the next hour and a half.


PSG News:

There you have it. At long last, the beginning of our new ITOD. Like I said earlier, participation for this step is to draft up who you are, why you’ve “volunteered” and how you make your way to the Odin and settle in. Use your current character or start a new one. The goal here is to have as much fun as possible! Narratives are due March 1, 2009.

Former Members of the PBF, as well as any Member of the RS is welcome to join us for what promises to be a very eventful ITOD. Just contact us and we will get you placed in a Squadron!!!


As always, if you have any ideas that you think would improve the PSG, feel free to send them along. If you believe a Pilot has been overlooked and deserves recognition by an award or promotion, let me know. My door is open, but I cannot guarantee your safety should you choose to enter….

Vice Admiral Tyrell "Spokes" Borran

Admiral Castor Efrata-Landis

BGN Gavin Starseeker


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