The story below was inspired from an actual session of Assault on Galactus Prime. The story orginally appeared here, along with some additional early design information:
The End of an Empire
by Tom Decker, Designer
Edited by David Spangler, the Soul of Gaming
On my native planet of Caseus we have a saying: "He’s entering the Krakla’s lair." To understand this, you have to know the Krakla, which is best described as a many-tentacled, armored land squid that lives in the deep caves of the Tamarind Mountains. They are almost impossible to kill and very deadly. To enter a Krakla’s lair is tantamount to suicide, so the saying implies that a person is doing something very crazy. Even fatally crazy.
I was about to enter the Krakla’s lair.
But my Krakla was even more deadly, a giant Ion Supercannon on the Imperial throne world of Galactus Prime, a weapon whose fire power was so deadly that no offense against this world could succeed. If the rebellion was to be victorious, we had to conquer Galactus Prime. For that to happen, the Supercannon had to be destroyed.
I had always dreamed of fighting the empire. Inspired by the stories of the legendary abilities of starpilots from other worlds, I tried to hone my flying abilities, but I was never sure I could qualify. But near the end of the war, when only the throne world remained of the old Empire, the call finally came. Either I was good enough or they were desperate enough-or simply wanted Supercannon fodder-but I was drafted to join in for the final assault on Galactus Prime.
This particular Krakla had only one weakness: an unshielded control panel at its base. If any of us could hit it with a lucky shot, the whole weapon would self-destruct. So the attack plan was simple: survive enemy fire long enough on the approach to be able to launch that lucky shot at the control panel. The briefing for this attack took less time than making out my last will and testament. It was the surviving part that was complicated. As far as I could see, not many of us would make it.
We attacked in waves of four fighters each. My wingmates included Gina and Logan, fellow Caseusians like me, and a clone from Bhaalik, a model C if my guess is correct. I could see from the shocked expressions on their faces that they were as unnerved by the suicidal nature of this attack as I was.
We were the first wave in, and it was clear that we were intended to draw fire and open a way for more experienced pilots who would most certainly be following us. Our descent from orbit was uneventful-why should the Imperials waste ammo until they knew what we were going to do? As we dropped deeper into the atmosphere, our shields glowing with the heat as friction built up, I could see our target in the distance. It was far away, but it already loomed monstrously on the horizon like some mighty Titan from the old folktales. It was my Krakla, waiting for me, taunting me, it’s very size and power and impregnability proclaiming my lunacy in even thinking I could damage it. What would it look like when we got closer-if we got closer?
And like a Krakla, as soon as our intent became clear, its tentacles reached out to crush us, though in this case they were bolts of searing plasma fire and explosive rounds from the many ground defenses. My thoughts were jarred by an explosion nearby. The Bhaalik pilot had been hit! I had only a quick glimpse out of the corner of my eye of the fireball that had once been a sleek star fighter and a living companion, and then I was speeding past, trying to dodge the tentacles of fire that were reaching out for me. A cold fist seized my gut and my hands trembled, but I knew I needed to stay focused if I was going to get anywhere.
There was one safe spot, a canyon up ahead that was out of the fire lanes of the ground defenses, but there was only room in it for one ship to hover and wait for reinforcements. If more than one of us made it past the next tower and its cluster of force cannons and laser projectors, we would bypass the tunnel and go straight for the control panel of the Supercannon.
But before I could even consider this thought, Gina disintegrated as plasma wrapped her ship in killing fire, and then Logan was brought down immediately after. Suddenly, I was all alone! I veered towards the canyon and luckily made it. Hovering there, I caught my break and waited for the next attack wave to reach me. I knew my only chance was to join them.
It seemed like hours that I hovered there although the records show it was only 17 minutes. But another group finally made it. There were two of them, both piloting ships that were far superior to mine. As they passed by the tunnel, I throttled out to join them in formation. They introduced themselves as Rage from the planet Kybolt and Aria from Magius. They had already lost two pilots in their group and were happy to have me along now.
We moved steadily toward our target looming ever nearer now, but the enemy fire became even more intense. There was no time for thought, just for instinct, and I was glad now for all the hours and days I’d spent practicing my skills weaving among the jagged peaks of the Thousand Fingers and darting in and out between the giant trees of Skyscraper Forest. But even the best instincts and the best AI-augmented fighter eventually cannot outrun every plasma thrust, and my instincts and fighter were far from the best. Just as we looked to be past the final tower, a blast came out of nowhere, and I had no time to react. I knew this was the end. The Krakla had won, as it almost always does.
But then I saw some kind of shield blast out from Aria’s fighter and halt the shot just before it hit me. I saw Rage, who had much better speed and maneuverability, pass over the final row of defenses, and I moved to follow, breathing once again. Aria was now bringing up the rear. I thought she had made it, but a bright explosion behind me told a different story. Another infernal blast had come out of nowhere and she had been unable to defend in time. She went down, so close to our target.
Ahead of me, Rage locked on to the control panel and let go his shot. A miss! He accelerated back into orbit. It was now all up to me. All my training for this one moment in time. I focused on the target and had one split second to fire. It looked like I glanced it off the top as I rocketed back towards the safety of space. But as I peered back from my ascent back into orbit, I could see the Cannon starting to collapse, streamers and sparks of light spreading out from its base. With a thunderous boom, the entire thing exploded into tiny pieces. I had done it! The Ion Supercannon was destroyed, and soon our invasion would commence and Galactus Prime would follow.
I had survived the Krakla’s lair! But in the aftermath, I could not forget Gina and Logan and Aria from Magius and even the Bhaalik clone, identity-less though he might be. We had all braved the tentacles of fire, and we were all heroes this day.
The story below was inspired from an actual session of Assault on Galactus Prime.
Wait... a Deck Building Game by Tom Decker?
This is perfect!