If there was one problem with the BTL A-4/Y-Wing, it was age. In the early days of the Rebellion, back when aces like Jon Vander, Horatio Salm, and Kyr Birnakari flew them into battle, the old bomber could stand toe-to-toe with the might of the Imperial fleet and come out without a scratch. Even when their previous Commander was cutting his teeth at the Battle of Endor, the wishbone-shaped starfighter could still hold its own, though the sleek and dagger-tipped TIE Interceptor would rip it apart nine times out of ten in a straight up fight.
Now, in Brinn Yelah’s age of Bolo Squadron, the Y-Wing was the starfighter you called when the B-Wing or X-Wing wasn’t available. And its pilots knew it. Most of the New Republic used the old slug as a training fighter anymore, if they used it at all. The few frontline squadrons that still used it took either a level of insanity, or sub-par discipline. Both of which General Tovolo Pellius worked to mitigate under strict training and an open-door policy of leadership. It was an approach Brinn had come to admire in her time as his wingman.
When he’d been killed in action, Bolo Squadron became hers. To include its legacy, its quirks, and all of its burdens. She wasn’t Pellius, she never would be. It took the majority of her mental prowess outside of flying and tactics just to remember Krull’s Life Day, let alone all ten of his clutch!
So when the entirety of Bolo Squadron got their tails, asses, and other various posterior joints handed to them in a training exercise barely an hour ago, she could read the self-doubt and self-anger among her pilots as they trickled into the cargo bay-turned speak-easy one and two at a time.
“They look like all their childhood pets were just beaten…” Krull murmured quietly, scaly lips hovering over his frothy tankard.
Brinn’s frown deepened at the observation, because she knew he was right. In this last simulated run, they’d been ambushed by an enemy squadron of TIE Interceptors in a maelstrom of high winds and no visibility. By all accounts, the Y-Wing’s shields and sensors should have won them the day with the right tactics. Instead, they’d been massacred.
A fact that sat in Brinn’s stomach like a spiky stone as she downed a long pour of maintainer-brewed spiced rum. “Do we even know who flew against us in that sim?”
Krull shook his head, “Best I could find is that is was a group of transiting pilots on their way to another assignment. Just stopped over here on Taibius to refuel and chow down.”
That didn’t do Bolo Lead any favors to help her feel better. She stifled a groan of anguish and rested a hand on the R2 unit next to her. In turn, Rattler gave a sad hoot at seeing her so defeated.
“No, it’s not your fault. You did right by me. We just got outflown, outgunned, and utterly stomped. And by a bunch of tourists, no less…” Brinn reassured the droid, as much as she was trying to talk herself up.
“At least Rowan got one…” Krull added, pointing a talon at the quartet of flyers at a nearby table. Among them, the youngest Bolo sat back with his arms crossed, staring into his glass like it should levitate to his lips.
One for twelve isn’t a good record, even for a bomber squadron…she thought. Which she knew was the wrong answer. “It was a great shot, even if it was blind. Certainly made the TIEs think twice anyway.”
“We’ll have to re-run that mission again, you know.” Krull pointed out, draining his mug in one long gulp. “Once all the pride heals.”
Bolo Lead nodded, taking another tumbler of rum off a passing server droid and draining its top third. “Agreed. I just wish there was a way to help them think of how hard they fought, instead of how hard they died.”
“Well, what would Pellius do right now?” Her lover asked half-rhetorically. They both knew what he’d do. It was just a matter of getting her to think of it, and say the words.
“He always had a chant or a song to pull us up by the ass. That man should’ve been an artist.” Brinn admitted, draining the rest of the glass without a second thought. “We haven’t done one since we lost him.”
“Which means all the young-bloods don’t know a key part of Bolo tradition and need to be educated.” Krull nodded safely, tapping his own R5 astromech, which in turn popped open a top panel to reveal a speaker.
Brinn shot him an incredulous look, before looking over the room and all the down-turned looks at filled tankards and snifters. “You think it’ll work? I’ve..hells, pre-mission briefs are stressful enough. I’m not him…”
“I know, I’ve heard you sing in the shower,” Krull countered with an almost human slyness to his serpentine smile. “But I’ve got your back, ky’lianna. Every time.”
The squadron leader felt her cheeks light up slight at that. A feeling that was amplified a moment later with the end of her tumbler. “Rattler, give me a countdown.”
Shooting it’s understanding, the astromech began a rhythmic, bass-powered countdown beat, which the other R2s and R5 droids picked up on and mimicked. This garnered some confused looks from the younger Bolos, but the veterans of the unit went still in curiosity.
Not a second later, the ringing ‘clang’ of metal on metal joined in as Krull banged the bottom of his mug on the table. An excited murmur built among the seasoned pilots as they filled in their juniors what was about to happen.
She could feel that same energy, inspiring and frightening all at once, building in her sternum. This one’s for you, Tovolo… we’ll do you proud!
Not allowing herself to think anymore about things like hesitation or restraint, Brinn stood suddenly from her seat and vaulted herself onto the bar’s countertop, much to the shock of the server droid. Now committed, her voice began to carry the words of one of Bolo Squadron’s oldest decrees.
It took only the first measure for the senior flyers to recognize it and stand, singing along with her in various successes of pitch and tune. Chief among them was Krull, who’s deep, savage register added that primal edge to the warrior’s ode.
Brinn had forgotten about the dropout before the chorus’ build-up, so hearing her own voice singing out alone startled her for a brief moment. But that uncertainty was washed away by sheer exhilaration. This wasn’t just something she didn’t know she needed. They needed this, and it was her role now to support her wingmen.
Unconsciously, her fist raised to the sky to challenge any who flew their stars. Empathetically, it was joined by her pilots, now smiling and howling along with her. Even the junior flyers who had never heard the words understood the sentiment and the feeling of focus.
To cap off the first verse of Bolo Squadron’s anthem, she took up a small glass and downed its contents in one gulp. To her relief, it was simply filtered water, but the action was mirrored by her squadmates enthusiastically.
The energy surging through the squadron was infectious now, bringing Brinn to crush her fist to her chest in dominance of their destiny. The other Y-Wing pilots eagerly joined her, slamming fists into tabletops and their own breasts, or stomping their flight boots on the deckplates. When the background dropped away again to let her voice ring out clear and true, it was joined in echo by a unit now unifying in self-confidence once again.
The chorus washed over them all this time, a measure of renewed determination and aggressive pride. Wingmen clapped their drinks together, astormechs pipped and hooted their excitement, even the typically-dull server droid was bouncing along with her words now.
For a strong beat, only the ravenous roar of their combined energies filled the room. On a whim, Bolo LEad held up her hands to quiet them, drawing their attention to her with eager anticipation. Above all things Brinn had built up within her chest and her words in this moment, now was the time to drive home her pride in them. She would elevate them as Pellius and Krull did for her, she would make them feel like they could fly right now to glory and victory.
Whatever hesitation or reserve Brinn had left was now melted away, thanks to equal parts adrenaline and intoxicated rush. All of that energy, all that pride in her pilots and how they sang with her now, belted forward in a raw power that she’d never harmonized before. The understanding was dawning on her now, just how powerful a moment like this was. Not just for them, but for her own release. Did you sing like this when no one was listening, Tolovo?
A tidal wave of howling, cheering, and confidant roars filled the room and the surrounding corridors with the harmonies of proud pilots once again. Brinn couldn’t keep the smile from her own lips, even if she felt as red as her home sun. Watching her pilots, her friends and family, remember what it was like to be themselves again, filled her with a pride she’d not known before. Looking up through the ceiling to the infinite galaxy, she nodded to Pellius and raised her glass one last time to him.
Unbeknownst to Brinn and the rapturous Bolos, they were no longer alone in the drinking establishment. Somewhere after the second chorus, a quartet of different pilots had picked up on the rambunctiousness and hunted down its source. Much to their surprise, the four aces found the very squadron they had just eviscerated in a simulated mission earlier in the day. Granted, the lead ace at the head of the quartet had planned to meet with Bolo Squadron tomorrow to go over the mission before they left.
“Wow, talk about a set of pipes!” the fourth pilot admired, nodding his head. The raucous level of warrior’s cheer was enough that his compliment could only be heard among the smaller group, but it was all he needed.
“Seriously! Must be nice to fly for a boss that can carry both a squadron and a tune.” jeered the third ace, smiling broadly in his assertion.
“It’s good to see them in high spirits. I was worried we went too hard on them in the sims.” Added the second man, tallest of the bunch. “You were ruthless in taking her down, Wedge.”
Nodding his understanding, General Antilles looked back to Tycho. “Had to be done. Now they know a bit more of what they’re gonna face when they ship out with us.”
Colonel Celchu returned the nod, “Agreed. They’re rough, but they’ve got the intrinsic talent the campaign needs.”
Leaning into the conversation, Major Wes Janson couldn’t help himself. “Don’t you worry, boss. I’ll get them flying with proper insanity. Maybe they can trade us some of those wicked songs!”
“Last time I heard you try to carry a tune, you had half a bar try to jump you!” Major Hobbie Kilvian jabbed.
“And the other half wanted an encore!” Wes countered, giving Wedge a gentle elbow tap. “Besides, no way Wedge would allow us to be second at anything! I bet the boss has a great soprano!”
“Wes, I will not be pitting the reputation of Rogue Squadron or any of its members on a karaoke battle.”
It’s been a long time since a song has hit me like this one does. It’s got a power to it, a drive I can thrive on, and it just fit in my mind with the tales of Bolo Squadron, even if they haven’t had many of those exploits written down yet. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea in music, but it makes me feel like I could fly without wings.
I hope you all enjoy.