Keth awakens to find himself laying on a med-recliner in an empty infirmary. Finding his clothes and gear nearby, he staggers out into the hallway and soon realizes he must be on a New Republic starship. A young red-haired officer spots Keth in the corridor and tells him that he's late before hustling him over to a hanger, handing him a datachip with hyperspace coordinates, and pushing him into an old utility shuttle. A confused Keth follows his instructions and pilots the shuttle out of the hanger bay and into hyperspace.
Meanwhile, in hyperspace, the new members of Mynock Squadron converse about why they joined the New Republic. Kero says she joined because it was the honourable thing to do and expresses cautious hope that Starfighter Command will be a place where females have equal opportunities to advance as males do. Stavros is surprised that anyone would express concern about equality in the New Republic and mildly teases Kero about whether she would like to be called "Sir" or "Ma'm". Tazo-Rhi says she joined because she didn't want a life of research and study like many Cereans; she wanted a life of adventure and service.
The group also discusses what their plan should be for retrieving the New Republic spy operating under the alias of Kors Tanzent. Waric suggests potentially posing as pirates and "capturing" Tanzent as a hostage; other ideas include sneaking aboard the NIF freighter and disabling its engines before it even leaves the city of Drushar. Torga suggests she should be given leadership during any ground operations, but Kero quickly rebuffs her. The final plan agreed upon is that, should an intercept be necessary, Gamma Leader (Stavros & Kero) and Gamma 3 (Waric) will focus on taking down any uglies escorting the freighter, while Gamma 2 (Torgo and Tazo-Rhi) will try to disable it.
When the Y-Wings drop back into realspace near Nishr, a surprise is waiting for them: due to the vagaries of hyperspace, Keth has actually arrived first! The others are initially suspicious of the shuttle, but fortunately Stavros recognizes Keth's voice. Waric tells Keth to hang back from any battle that may soon start, but no one fills Keth in on what the mission is. On a private channel, Tazo-Rhi says she is uncertain if Keth should be entrusted with any responsibility during this mission given his recent instability, but Kero disagrees.
While Gamma 2 and Gamma 3 fly to the incredibly dense asteroid belt that lays near Nishr to take cover and await further orders, Gamma Leader and Keth's shuttle enter Nishr airspace. During the flyover of Nishr settlements, the pilots confirm the briefing notes that most of the planet's technology is barely at an Industrial level of development, though signs of the influence of Imperial technology from the forces garrisoned on the planet could occasionally be seen. The pilots soon set down outside of Drushar on a haphazardly arranged landing field.
A local named Jorrusk tries to wheedle some local currency ("kolkaks") from them, but Stavros uses this as an opportunity to see if the man knows anything about the freighter the NIF could be using. Having seen some uglies during their initial flyover, Stavros and a recently-arrived Waric decide to casually walk around the field to see if they can spot their target. The duo do notice a droid-operated cargo loader that is now empty and leaving the field. Waric hops aboard and downloads its operating manifest and then, in a bid to distract everyone so that his companions can investigate unhindered, starts attacking and yelling at the droid.
It all goes for naught, however, as a trio of TYE-Uglies and a YT-series freighter lift off and start heading for orbit. The members of Mynock Squadron on the ground immediately head for their vessels to give pursuit while calling in for reinforcements from the asteroid base. Blasters blazing, Waric corkscrews his vessel at top speed towards one of the uglies and destroys it just instants before a devastating collision would have taken place. Now piloting the utility shuttle, Stavros talks the pilot of one of the two remaining uglies to flee the scene, while, despite the plan, Torga and Tazo-Rhi line up a careful shot with a photon torpedo to destroy the third. Its escorts gone, the freighter stops climbing for orbit and instead dives steeply to the east, in the direction of what sensors show is a massive sandstorm. Repeated hits from laser and ion cannons knock out the freighter's shields and cause it to trail thick streams of smoke, but the battered vessel skims the ground at treetop level.
Can the new pilots of Mynock Squadron disable the fleeing freighter without destroying it before every trace of it is swallowed up by the incoming sandstorm?
Director's Commentary (May 6, 2016)
Keth's strange arrival in the adventure was of course the best way I could get his player into the game after last session's absence saw the character out of action with a concussion. The funny thing was that the other characters never filled Keth in on what the mission was, so he had to wing it the whole time.
It fills my heart with joy to sit back and watch as the PCs make battle plans in-character. When there's excellent role-playing arising out of the initial premise I've laid down, it feels very rewarding to be a director. And it was fun to see them discuss the very options (and imagine how they would play out), and come up with a plan that was tactically sound. It also fit well with the premise that the PCs are a combination of fighter pilot/ground commandos.
The TYE-Uglies as mish-mash junker space fighters comes from several of the X-Wing Rogue Squadron novels, and fit in nicely here for the PCs' first real taste of space combat. In other words, their foes couldn't be flying anything worse that could still shoot back! And even though the Y-Wings are almost obsolete in the New Republic Starfighter Command, they still are a huge step above TYE-Uglies. (And one thing I learned from this campaign: proton torpedoes pack a punch!)