Having returned from a conference on immunology, Warrant Officer Kero Andro lands her shuttle in one of the Flourishing's many hangar bays. The information she obtained about the nanoshape virus is not good: researchers have had no luck compiling a shutdown signal for the virus, and only extreme cold seems to keep it from spreading quickly. In a bid to prevent panic and preserve military security, the existence of the virus is being kept highly confidential.
When she lands, Kero is greeted by Private Mikaela Sor, a new member of Mynock Squadron responsible for communications and operational support. Sor tells Kero that with Torga still in hypo-stasis and Stavros having received a medical discharge, Tuvolo has arranged for a new member to be added to Gamma Flight named Max Cindarion. Sor goes on to tell Kero that her fellow members in Gamma have been sent on a Search & Rescue mission to find Max, but they haven't returned. Kero resolves to go after them, but first prepares for the inhospitable climate of Haruun Kal by requisitioning a slughthrower and some valuable crystals to serve as currency.
Meanwhile, after an uncomfortable night's sleep inside the Y-Wings, the other members of Gamma Flight awaken. Keth quickly realizes that jungle nexu are circling the vessels, and one has even jumped up on the fuselage of Waric and Tazo-Rhi's ship. Realizing the threat, Waric tries to spin his turret around rapidly to knock the creature off, but it nimbly avoids the maneuver and starts scratching at the turret canopy. In their vessel, Trill and Max commiserate over being forced to fly such antique starfighters. When she hears about the nexu, Trill orders Keth to lift off and serve as a spotter so that Max can advance on foot towards Waric and Tazo-Rhi's Y-Wing and shoot the nexu that are surrounding it. Max resists the order at first, but eventually complies and opens the canopy of his vessel's cockpit. A nexu hidden under the fuselage claws and scurries its way on the vessel's top surface. Max tries to retreat by climbing up a tree, but falls and lands awkwardly on the ship's port thruster. The nexu advances, but Trill slows it with a blast from the Y-Wing's ion cannon turret. Max executes a perfect somersault, draws his blaster, and kills the creature seconds before it can leap on him.
Kero, having first stopped at a Korrunai village to trade for some portaak amber to insulate electronics from the native spores, arrives at the scene in her shuttle. Seeing several nexu circling the grounded Y-Wings, she draws upon her knowledge of predator carnivore physiology and broadcasts an extremely high-pitched frequency to drive them away. After Waric, Trill, and Max receive first aid, Waric and Keth succeed in repairing the engine on the downed Y-Wing and Gamma Flight is able to escape the dangers posed by Haruun Kal.
When they arrive at the Flourishing a few hours later, the pilots are told they have a short period of free time before a major briefing that will involve the entire Squadron. Kero chats with the newest member of the group, and Max tells her his military specialities include flying, dueling, and infiltration. Kero explains that she was extremely bored at the medical conference, and the two decide to share some blaster target practice. Keth requisitions a new sidearm to replace the one that was damaged on Haruun Kal and then joins them. Warik runs a self-diagnostic on his cybernetic equipment and then writes an after-action report on the failed mission to secure the Guiding Heart. Warik writes that he suspects the unusual manifestations of energy and strange behaviour of Gamma Flight may have been caused by some sort of anomalies in the Force. Later, Kero talks with the director of the Flourishing's medical team and suggests that if the native Haruun Kal spores disrupt electronics, they may be useful in suppressing the nanoshape virus. The medical director seems intrigued by the new line of inquiry and promises to research the idea.
When the members of Gamma Flight enter the briefing room, they see that the members of both Alpha and Beta Flights are there as well. With Mikaela Sor operating the holodisplay, Lt. Tuvolo explains that the sudden withdrawal of Grand Moff Artis Kain's Pentastar Alliance from known space has left the Imperial-held planet of Nishr vulnerable to attack. Mynock Squadron has been tasked by the Provisional Council with liberating the planet, and Tuvolo explains each Flight's role. Alpha is to establish air superiority near the Imperial garrison and Beta is to sneak in and destroy the garrison's shield generators so that regular New Republic infantry can lay siege. Meanwhile, Gamma Flight has been tasked with freeing the four remaining members of Nishr's past elected government to serve as transitional leaders once the Imperial grip on the planet has been broken.
The members of Gamma Flight pay close attention to this part of the briefing, and learn that the four politicians, and many other prisoners, are held in a detention camp about twenty kilometers from Drushar. The camp is operated by DuraSun, a mercenary group hired by the Imperials. A small contingent of TIE-fighters have been assigned to the camp to provide combat air patrol, but the camp is also defended by multiple E-Web blaster towers, an electrified durasteel weave perimeter fence, and armoured landspeeders. However, a member of New Republic Intelligence known to Gamma, Marrass, has infiltrated the camp in the guise of a captured member of a rival Imperial warlord and is able to provide some intelligence through a short-range synthflesh transmitter. Sor will be coordinating the entire operation in orbit in a shuttle, and will land to pick up prisoners once the evac signal is given.
Tuvolo says that the C.O. of each Flight should decide on a tactical plan in consultation with their subordinates, and that a proposal should be brought to him in the morning. The members of Gamma Flight proceed to discuss various options long into the night, including whether they should go in "hot" and fight their way into the camp, or go in "cold" and infiltrate the camp. Warik suggests that a combination may be feasible, with someone on the inside to help Marrass secure the high-value prisoners and the others on the outside to destroy the E-web towers. There is major disagreement on the best way to handle the E-web towers, with Warik initially suggesting that he could sneak up and plant explosives on each one, but Kero stating that the idea is too risky. She suggests, instead, using the group's assigned Y-Wings to destroy the towers with proton torpedos, but Max expresses his view that the turrets might shoot down the aged starfighters, and there is some general concern about what will happen if a stray torpedo hits the prisoner blocks.
Discussion turns to whether someone should infiltrate the camp. Max suggests that the infiltrator could start a riot of prisoners to provide a distraction, but Kero says there is no guarantee they would assist during a battle. Discussion is had as to whether two Gamma members should infiltrate: Max as a prisoner, and Keth as a mercenary. Warik and Kero clash over the idea of someone infiltrating as a prisoner, because Kero doesn't see the value of having one of their few assets trapped inside during an attack, unarmed. Warik replies that they could provide useful intelligence.
After thinking over the various proposals, Kero tells the others that she has made a decision: most of Gamma will remain in their Y-Wings to destroy the TIEs and E-Web towers from the air. Meanwhile, Max will approach the southeast corner of the compound on foot, cut or blast through the fence, and release the prisoners. The plan is for him to carry with him several stealth suits so that he, Marrass, and the prisoners can sneak away while the guards are distracted from the heavy bombardment coming from the Y-Wings. Once the prisoners are a safe distance away from the camp, the shuttle can fly down to extract them.
At first, Kero's decision meets with resistance. Max says it's suicidal to have just one or two people on the ground going up against over a dozen hardened mercenaries. Kero remains firm in her decision, however, and replies that the air support will provide enough of a distraction to keep the guards from heavily defending any particular part of the base. Warik suggests using a concussion-missile launcher from the ground to soften up the E-web towers without the danger of proton torpedoes, and preparing some proximity mines for aerial dispersal at select points inside the camp. Kero agrees.
Having decided on a general approach, the members of Gamma set to work deciding on equipment to requisition and sorting out other important details of the operation.
Director's Commentary (November 13, 2016)
I thought this session had a really nice mix of action and role-playing. The conclusion of the Haruun Kal cliffhanger was exciting and proved a great introduction to Max Cindarion. I was really struck by how clever Kero's player was in suggesting that the native spores on the planet (which suppress electronics) could be the key to stopping the nanovirus--it makes perfect sense, but I hadn't planned any such solution at all!
The latter half of the session featured a lot of strategic planning. This is something I really wanted to see happen since it's one of the things that distinguish a military-themed campaign from the usual "bunch of adventurers stumbling into trouble" sort of campaign. I think it went pretty well, though it did reveal that some players couldn't separate the in-character disagreement from out-of-character disagreement, and that some players didn't have a lot of patience for planning. Still, as we'll see in a couple of sessions, their plan went off like gangbusters . . .