The army, if one could call the rag-tag group of civilians an army, was as ready as they could be. While they knew what they were doing they lacked experience and this troubled her. She didn't like the idea of sending them off to battle. Liked the idea of having them face seasoned soldiers from the Clone Wars even less. Silently she reminded herself that her concerns were nothing in comparison to what had to be weighing on Bail's mind. At least her troops were men and woman familiar with the hardships of war. Most grew up in regions torn apart from the separatists; later the empire. Their commanders were handmaidens who spent their entire lives preparing for this sort of attack. Bail's own troops consisted mostly of upper class civilians from the core worlds. Few if any, ever trained with a laser weapon, never mind handled one until now.
With all the poise and calm she could muster, Padmé relayed their plan of attack. The mission on their end was simple-it had be, in order to work. Their goal was to liberate the rebels now trapped in enemy territory. It would be easier said than done.
Their faces were stoic, determined even, but their eyes told another story. Padmé buried the awkward feeling of guilt that crept into her thoughts as she briefed them on their mission. She knew that most of the fighters, if not all, were here because the war had become personal for them. Hardly a good reason to go rushing off to the frontlines to be killed. But Padmé knew that asking these men and women to back down would do nothing more than insult their pride and encourage their determination. She also knew what to expect and despite their bravado and courage, they didn't.
Despite their lack of military training everyone responded to her orders without hesitation. Swiftly they moved to their ships and prepared for their departure as though this were just another day of training. Padmé couldn't help but feel proud of their progress, it seemed like only yesterday they were fighting amongst themselves and arguing with their superiors. It also made her think of Bail and his troops. She hoped both would find success in their missions. Clearing her thoughts the former senator slipped on her helmet and departed for her own X-wing.
With most rebel factions it was virtually unheard of for a leader to fight on the frontlines. Padmé however, was a firm follower of the concept that a good commander never asks their troops to perform a duty they wouldn't do themselves. It was for this reason that she always joined her colleagues on the frontlines. It was a lesson well learnt from observing Bail with his troops.
Deep down a part of Padmé also wanted to prove both to herself and to others that Skywalker wasn't the only brave warrior to have earned the respect of his men. Padmé had nothing to worry about; like her Alderaani counterpart Bail Organa, she was both respect and feared. It was with good reason.
Padmé wasn't nearly as skilled a pilot as those who flew with her forcing the former queen to depend on the captain's instructions to find her place. Technically she was their superior but when it came to experience in battle the pilots by far outranked her, so Padmé followed their orders without question. The enemy as predicted, outnumbered them ten to one. The imperials were well prepared. But then, so were they.
"On my order orange squadron open fire."
The order caught Padmé's attention, forcing her thoughts to clear. All around imperial ships began to release their squadrons. Time wasn't on their side and the sight of so many TIE fighters set the former queen on edge. Padmé didn't know what would happen with the prisoners if they failed their mission; she didn't allow herself to dwell on it either.
The imperial troops fell for attack, believing that the rebels who were severely outnumbered were trying to breech the main star destroyer to gain access to the prisoners within. Padmé could only hope that their enemy wouldn't discover that their ships were nothing more than decoys. The real rescue mission was occurring within the confines of the ship itself. The thought brought a smirk to Padmé's lips. It wasn't too long ago when Lady Vader was performing the very role Padmé now played. Only then it was done out of duty, not loyalty.
We've come far haven't we? Padmé wryly thought as she altered the coordinates of her ship navigational system. Now she was in control.
Imperial ships swiftly opened fire, immediately forcing the X-wings on the defense. More orders were given and soon a select few of her compatriots began to return fire. They had to convince their prey that this was nothing more than the standard rescue mission. She could only hope that the true liberators were able to perform their mission without any complications as well.
"All fighters, open fire! I repeat open fire!"
Padmé didn't need to be told twice. Setting her targets on the star destroyers hyper drives she proceeded to fire off some rounds while dodging approaching enemy fighters. It was a tricky game, one she was determined to win before the battle was over.
"Ship shields down 35%"
The calm voice of the computer's AI caused Padmé to curse in frustration. In her need to get in more shots on the destroyer Padmé had let the enemy get in a few of their own on her. It was a mistake she would not make again in the future. Dropping her thruster levels she pulled back sharply causing the ship to come to a sudden but complete stop. Caught off guard her prey flew past and suddenly Padmé had the upper hand. A classic and amateur attack, one that surprisingly was still effective.
Emptying her guns on the TIE fighters now ahead Padmé proceeded to take them down with no satisfaction. The fighter ships exploded sending shrapnel and debris to fly right into her path. Relying entirely on instincts Padmé performed simple, but accurate evasion techniques. Her escape from danger was from over.
Soon more fighters were entering her radar; forcing Padmé on the defensive. Though her goal was to make it to the destroyers hull it was growing increasingly difficult to do so without placing her compatriots inside at further risk. As though sensing her predicament Padmé received further orders from the CAG. With a sharp turn she dodged more imperial fighters before sending a fake message meant for the imperials to find. It had been her task to appear as though she were attempting to breech the hull, but with the signal -which was the false message- sent it was no longer necessary to remain.
In theory their contacts had collected their imprisoned colleagues and were now boarding them on TIE ships. Their job was by far the more complicated one and Padmé couldn't deny the respect she held for those who risked their lives on a daily basis by posing as imperials. If the plan succeeded the imperial commanders would unwittingly send out the rebel contacts ordering them to prevent the rebels from succeeding in breeching the hull. Of course they would succeed before proceeding to track down the rebel fleet who would then be retreating. Once out of range their contacts would scuttle the ship and destroy the evidence.
The comms suddenly filled with static, another cue. Quickly Padmé prepared her retreat just as she caught sight of two ships leaving the star destroyers. Behind them came several more. Two of these ships held their colleagues, but which ones were they? Nevertheless it was their duty to protect their contact's ships without appearing to do so. As such Padmé began to attack all of the ships but was mindful not to aim accurately. Soon she was instructing the other X-wings to do the same.
"Fire your guns, but don't aim to kill or disable! You're goal now is to retreat and get out in one piece!"
While the rebels were forced to make their retreat the imperials weren't so easily convinced and soon the former senator was outmanned and outnumbered. Going up against such odds reminded her of a man she once knew and now despised. Knowing Vader would have loved the odds gave her a new sense of determination. Clenching her jaw, she cleared her thoughts before swiftly dodging another series of shots. The hair on the back of her neck bristled as Padmé found herself barely escaping two exploding X-wings. As much as she wanted to mourn the loss of her colleagues Amidala knew now was not the time, they were still far from safety. Suddenly her ship shook violently causing the young woman to jolt forward from the force of the hit. Cursing softly under her breath Padmé tried to get her bearings she didn't need to look at her flashing controls to know that her ship had suffered severe damage.
"Shields down 50%"
The soothing voice did little to calm her fears, or dissuade her from what she already knew to be true. Instincts promptly took control allowing Padmé to react without a second thought. Her ship took a sharp dive, before veering sharply out of the line of fire. Soon she was rejoining the remaining X-wings who were dodging the line of fire and making their way to the safer territories.
The mission was a success, but it came at a price. Over half of their finest pilots had been lost in the mission in their effort to rescue a handful of prisoners. As Padmé landed her damaged her ship at the rebel base on Delaya, she couldn't help but wonder if it really was worth it. But as she watched the tearful reunion of family and friends Padmé knew that her doubts had been misplaced. Such moments of joy were far and few between now and who was she to deny these people of their hope? It was then that she realized it was for these moments that they truly fought for and if necessary it would be for these moments that they would die.