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Topic:  Gurlanin: Top Gun Tier 3
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  Gurlanin: Top Gun Tier 3
October 23, 2013 1:53:15 PM    View the profile of Gurlanin 
Strill “Nest” Lounge, ISD II “Paragon”.

The new Squadron Commanding Officer of the 58th “Strill” Squadron sat in his new office, aboard the new Second Fleet flagship. Everything was new: the desk, the computer terminals, the chairs, even down to the bean bags and computerized pool tables that, even now, Strill’s pilots were enjoying just beyond the Mandalorian’s office door. The only things in the room that were not new, were the numerous posters (depicting a range of things, from advanced starfigher manoeuvres, to the Mandalorian resol’nare) that the office’s new occupant had put up on the walls, and the small, damp, borderline mouldy, and slightly torn pet bed, which lay in the corner farthest from the door. Upon this bed, was an equally damp and mouldy strill, who was curled up in a tight ball, apparently asleep. Chief Petty Officer Grent “Gurlanin” Notimo knew, however, that the Strill would wake up at a moment’s notice to defend its master.

Also ready to defend its master, was the newly activated HK-47 type combat droid, currently standing by the door, rifle in hand. The original programming was for this droid to be an assassin first, and bodyguard second. Grent, and the late Tinker, had changed the primary programming to make the droid a bodyguard first instead. With the recent betrayal of Tinker, Grent trusted no-one anymore, and had thoroughly checked the HK’s programming after the initial activation to make sure there were no hidden surprises. There weren’t. Either way, Grent wasn’t taking any chances until this Corellian mess was sorted out, and whilst he had been assured by the resident Vast Empire Naval Intelligence liaison that rest of his squadron were all vetted, Grent knew there was something they weren’t telling him. He had had dealings with VENI before, and knew all about their secrets. Currently, Grent was using his elevated status to access his squadron’s personnel files, when he came across a discovery:

“I knew it! I knew there was something they weren’t telling me,” he exclaimed.
“Query: Are you referring to the VENI meatbags, master?” asked HK.
“Yes. They told me that everyone had been vetted, but they didn’t mention Joamer’s bloodstripes.”
“Observation: Perhaps they had not been informed, master. After all, meatbags do have a tendency to make mistakes. You, of course master, are no mere meatbag and so are not as liable to make those mistakes.”
“You’re too kind, H, but this is something that VENI wouldn’t have missed by accident. There’s nothing about it on record, but he was wearing them proudly before Absit, so it might have been wiped. But by whom?”
“Helpful query: Perhaps the inferior droid and I could investigate for you?”
“Hey,” said Grent, pointing his finger at the other droid, “What have I told you about calling him that? Just because you’re jealous that the crew like him more than you …”
“On the contrary, master: I enjoy watching meatbags scramble to get out of my way. I am, however, at a loss as to why you have made my assassination protocols secondary.”
“Because I can’t have you taking out members of the crew willy-nilly, which is exactly what you would do, isn’t it?”
“Serious answer: Of course not, master. I would only assassinate targets that you specified.”
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. “I want to hear no more talk about assignations, H. The commander wouldn’t be very happy to hear that you were aboard his ship with those protocols engaged.” Grent then turned his attention to the door, “Enter.” One of the new simulator technicians entered, a male rodian, and smartly came to attention. Grent couldn’t help but smile, “Relax, Crewman. What is it?”
The rodian dropped his stance, his antennae twitching slightly, “The, ah, the simulators you requested are ready, Chief.”
“Thank you. Can you ask for Edge and Lady to come see me, please? Dismissed.”
The rodian nodded curtly, before coming to attention and leaving the office, shutting the door behind him.

Grent leant back in his chair and let thoughts run through his head. He wondered why the fact that Joamer’s bloodstripes didn’t show up on record. Perhaps it had been VENI that had wiped it from the system in the first place. Was there more to the former SCO than met the eye? The Mandalorian’s train of thought was interrupted by another knock at the door.

Edge, followed closely by Lady, walked in and sat themselves down in the chairs. Grent had found that being lax with certain rules did improve the level of comradeship within the squadron. He wanted to be seen as an approachable leader, and not rule with complete discipline. It might work in some squadrons, but Strill were … different. Edge was the first to speak, “You wanted to see us, boss?” That was something else new: being called boss. Grent still wasn’t sure if he preferred it to ‘Top’.
“Yes, I did, Edge,” replied Grent, “I thought you, Lady, and I could do with a bit of a break from all this. So I booked us into the simulators.”
“Can’t we just get in our own cockpits?” complained Lady. She wasn’t all that fond of the simulators, and Grent didn’t blame her.
“Unless your cockpit happens to be inside a TIE Defender …”
“Boss …” gasped Edge, “How did you manage to wrangle that?”
The young squadron commander just smiled, and stroked his SCO lapel badge.
“Jammy, boss. Very jammy…”
Simulator room, ISD II “Paragon”

It was only a short walk to the simulators, from the new ‘Nest’ aboard the Paragon. Oh yes, Strill had made short work of finding the best room to replace their old lounge. The fact that they had sliced the floor plan, found the most spacious room within close proximity to the hangar and mess (2#: Priorities, people. Priorities.), and then calculated the quickest route from the hangar they were scheduled to land in, was of little consequence.

The Paragon had received several new simulators. Interceptors, Hunters, Bombers, even a shuttle or two … there was a wide range. The ones that Grent was most interested in, however, were the four that sat side-by-side on the far wall, enough for an entire flight. They didn’t look like much to Edge and Lady, from the outside, but as they climbed in, once they had made their way over, and the simulation had booted up, Grent could tell they were pleased from the chatter on the inter-helmet comm:

“Oh yes! You weren’t kidding about the Defenders. Yes yes yes yes yes yes!” exclaimed Edge, as Grent climbed on top of the simulator to gain access to the access hatch.
“Are you happy, Edge? I can’t really tell …” replied Grent.
“Boss, I could kiss you,” said Lady, the controlled breathing evident.
“Coming from you, Lady, that’s high praise. However, I think it would ruin the camaraderie of the flight, don’t you?”
“Didn’t stop you and Starlight …” jibbed Edge.
“Hey, we are strictly just good friends,” said Grent defensively, but glad that his flight members couldn’t see just how red his cheeks were getting.
“Who occasionally hold hands …” joked Lady.
“… and cuddle …” added Edge, bouncing off Lady.
“… and kiss …”
“… and have late night rendezvous!”
“If you two don’t shut it, I’ll arrange a rendezvous with my fist and your faces,” said Grent, starting to get annoyed at this conversation.
“I think we touched a nerve, Lady.”
“I believe we did, Edge.”
“It’s not too late for me to turn these things off, you know.”
#2: That shut them up.
#1: It has been a while since our last rendezvous though …
Oh, shut up you two, thought Grent, speaking to the voices in his head.

Grent settled into the cockpit, and started running his pre-flight checks. The controls weren’t that much different from those of an Interceptor or a Hunter, but the Mandalorian knew that there was a large difference in the responsiveness of the craft. In truth, he was nervous. What he hadn’t told Edge and Lady was that he was attempting to be a certified ‘Top Gun’ pilot, and that he needed to show an ability to lead any number of pilots up to a flight in a conventional tail chase, whilst piloting a TIE Defender at a superior level. Conventional wasn’t something that Strill did particularly well, but it needed to be done to pass the test. Sure, Edge and Lady would have willingly helped, but it was better that they just enjoyed themselves for now. Any added pressure, and they could mess up. The young squadron commander trusted them to do their jobs exceptionally well, sure: but pilots flew best when the relaxed. Grent couldn’t afford any mess ups. It was months before the next set of Top Gun quals, at which point Grent would have to do this all over again.

The simulation that all the pilots doing the Top Gun qualification had to do was a daring canyon run. At some point along the path, they were going to be ambushed, but it was randomised, even in the programming. They could potentially keep flying for hours before any enemy fighters showed up. Even then, no-one knew what was going to turn up. All Grent knew, was that it wasn’t going to be any less than four, or any more than eight. He also knew that there were going to be a mixture of enemy fighters within that number. It was going to be tough.

Strill’s Commanding Officer had already clocked up quite a number of hours in a real TIE Defender, but Edge and Lady weren’t certified to fly a real one, so this was a complete first for them. Grent admired the design of the Defender, how easy it was to learn to fly, and understood how it inspired fear in enemy pilots: it was the most agile craft he had ever had the pleasure of piloting, as it effortlessly responded to the slightest touch of the control column. It also had better armour plating and shielding than its predecessors, allowing for the craft to take slightly more punishment before being reduced to space dust. The major downside of the craft, was an annoying blind spot to the aft of the fighter. It took a skilled pilot to get into that spot, but it also meant that the flight was not going to be in Grent’s direct view.

After all three pilots had finished the last of their pre-flight checks, and Grent had given the go ahead to the simulator technicians that were operating the three Defenders, the screen turned from black, to a view of a canyon, the Defenders already in mid-flight. A short countdown appeared, giving time to allow the pilots to take control, and then it was all systems go.

“Alright, you two, stick close to me. Tight formation,” said Grent, as he pushed forward slowly on the stick, angling his craft down.
“Wow!” called out Edge, as his fighter suddenly dipped forwards sharply.
“Careful, Edge,” cautioned Grent, “These fighters are incredible responsive. Slight movements only, unless you’re in combat.”
“You say that like you expect some, boss,” said Lady, settling in behind her CO’s fighter. Grent could just make out her starboard wing, if he looked behind him.
“You know something we don’t?” asked Edge, now having regained control of his craft. He pulled in tight next to Lady behind Grent. There was not much room between them, but they had practiced this formation many times, and Grent trusted his two pilots.
“Always,” replied Grent, “Now follow me, and stick to my six. Mission conditions from here on in.”

Grent dove down into the canyon, Lady and Edge keeping close. They settled into the middle of the large gap that scarred the face of whatever planet or moon they were meant to be on. It didn’t matter where they were, not to Grent. What did matter, was that they got the job done, preferably with no casualties of their own. In this particular canyon, it was going to be difficult: jagged rocks stuck out from numerous locations. The advanced on board systems did a lot to assist with alerting the three Strill pilots of any potential collisions. Nothing broke the trio’s stride, however. If there was a looming rock, then the pilot, or pilots, in the danger zone would perform evasive manoeuvres, whilst the rest of the flight would hold their course and speed. Any curves or bends in the canyon, and the flight would alert course as one, becoming a singular vertical line.

Grent spent the first ten minutes, or so, of the mission guiding his pilots through the craft they were flying, explaining any differences in the HUD or sensor readouts. Suddenly, Lady attracted the flight’s attention to the short-range sensor:

“I’m picking up four bandits coming at us from our six, and another two up the canyon.”
Grent checked it for himself. Only six. They could take six without too much hassle. “Roger that, Iron Two. Wait for them to get within spitting distance, and then we’ll force them into the rocks.”
“Roger wilco, Lead.”
“What are you thinking, boss?” asked Edge, as the firing solution computer started counting down the seconds until the enemy fighters were in range. There was too much interference from the canyon itself to accurately determine what fighters they were up against.
“Five Two. You two go forward, I’ll go back,” replied Grent.

Strill had a vast number of ‘plans’, all numbered to save time in combat. Plan ‘Five Two’ was a daring manoeuvre that a flight would perform when being pursued, attacked head on, or both, and there was no way out, such as in a canyon. The flight would hold a close formation, and at the last possible moment they would perform a sudden climb and split, one group going after those who had attacked from behind, and the other group going after those that had attacked head on. Assuming that any had survived the inevitable collision, that is.

Grent started counting down, “8. 7. 6.” Both sets of enemy fighters now appeared:  two X-wings dead on, and three A-wings and one B-wing from behind. “Remember that these are more agile than Hunters,” continued Grent, as he made the final adjustments to his craft, “3. 2. 1. Now!”

The three virtual TIE Defenders rose in unison. There was a flash behind them, but none of the Strill pilots look back, concentrating on their manoeuvre. They counted the timings in their heads, then pulled back on the yoke, using the rudder pedals to twist the nimble craft. As they pulled up, Grent had to yank upwards once more, to avoid a jutting outcrop of rock that threatened to end his flight prematurely. The sweat was starting to form on his brow, as he levelled his craft, and let out the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding. The Defender’s blind spot meant that he couldn’t see how well Lady and Edge had done, but the sensor report showed that they were in hot pursuit of their targets. Strangely, however, there only seemed to be three bandits being pursued, minus the two X-wings that Grent was gaining on. The Mandalorian slowly realised that that must have been the flash: one of the bandit fighters must have collided with the canyon wall as its pilot tried to avoid its squad mates.

The two X-wings were coming back into view now, staying in close formation just like the Strill flight had done up until the ‘five two’. The X-wings was a less manoeuvrable craft that most TIEs, and they were coming close to the canyon sides. Grent remembered, however, that when he had flown along this way before, he had been forced to avoid a rather large, and seemingly unstable, rock formation. If he could dislodge it was a well timed missile … Grent slowly increased his speed, and hugged the canyon wall tightly, tilting his craft so that the wall seemed more like the floor. He skimmed rocks, flying dangerously close to outcroppings that had death written all over them. But the angle of the shot had to be perfect; otherwise it would simply be a wasted missile. He had already targeted the rocks from the computer’s database – it recorded every piece of terrain that it flew over. Usually, he would have just let the missile go, but the armament he was carrying weren’t the top line ‘smart’ missiles. He had to have a clear line of sight before firing.

Then, all of a sudden, there it was: large, looming, and with a Vast Empire missile soaring towards its base. BOOM! The explosion rocked the canyon, but the rock formation didn’t look as though it was going to tumble. Grent cursed, as the X-wings carried on flying, restarting his pursuit. Suddenly, the large rocks crumbled in front of the New Republicans, giving them no chance to alter course. Grent laughed, as the blips disappeared from his sensor readout, and banked sharply, increasing speed in an attempt to catch up with the rest of his flight, once again having to avoid the treacherous terrain. He was not needed, however, as the simulation abruptly ended, and started showing the results of the exercise, signifying that all the bandits had been defeated.
Strill “Nest” Lounge, ISD II “Paragon”

“That was amazing!”
“I know! It was so agile, and so …”
“Yes! No resistance from the yoke at all.”
“I loved the tech. The sooner we get that on the Hunters, the better.”

Lady and Edge hadn’t shut up about the Defender simulation the entire way back. It was with great relief that, when they arrived back at the Nest, Grent left his two flight members excitedly chatting to each other, and shut himself in his office, collapsing into his chair. The Mandalorian was exhausted. He glanced at the HK droid, still standing guard, before closing his eyes.

“Don’t let anyone in unless they’re from the board, H. I need some sleep,” mumbled Grent.
“Query: Did the exam go well, master?”
“I don’t know. They said they would tell me once they had finished grading.”
“Statement: I see-…”
“However, if they have not passed me, I will consider letting you ‘educate’ them. I’m not waiting however many months to do that again.”
“Pleased statement: Ah yes, it is at times like this when I remember why I like you.”
“Let me sleep, H…”

WC: 3,100

AAR: Set soon after the squadrons have transferred over to the Paragon, Grent finishes his Top Gun quals using Lady and Edge as his wingmen. However, as they are not Defender qualified, they use the simulators instead.

OOC: Yes, I did listen to 'Danger Zone' by Kenny Loggins whilst writing the combat sequence. No, I do not regret it.
SCO | CPO Gurlanin | Iron One | S:58 "Strill" | W:101 "Blade" | ISD II "Paragon" | TF: Aurek | 2nd Fleet | SC | VEN | VE

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  RE: Gurlanin: Top Gun Tier 3
October 23, 2013 5:14:46 PM    View the profile of TosthAaaiser 
Nice work, Gur. I enjoyed the incorporation of the HK-47 unit.

The story fills the requirements of the certification, with demonstrating proficiency of the craft's operation.

I'm not too familiar with the fighter itself, but after a quick glance at the wiki page, it seems to be very adaptable. Had I been writing this, I might have put more emphasis on its versatility for any number of missions.

But, you did fulfill the requirements and have obtained a pass on this.

I don't have the authority to promote you for the completion of this cert, so I'll contact someone who can.
JC |MCPO Tosth “Fishhead” Aaaiser |ISD Paragon | TF:A | 2Flt |FC |VEN | VE
TO | MCPO "Fishhead" | PLF Cappadocious | VENA | VEN | VE

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  RE: Gurlanin: Top Gun Tier 3
October 23, 2013 5:31:11 PM    View the profile of Gurlanin 
I'll be sure to put that knowledge to use in any further missions or posts involving the Defender.

Thank you, Fishhead. Thank you for not making me have to re-write everything XD
SCO | CPO Gurlanin | Iron One | S:58 "Strill" | W:101 "Blade" | ISD II "Paragon" | TF: Aurek | 2nd Fleet | SC | VEN | VE

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