Mauler's Tale

God! I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, where it not that I have bad dreams.

- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

"Alliance Cruiser, this is TIE Interceptor Alpha One, I hereby surrender myself and my craft. Do not fire!"

The words still rang in his mind as his ship was tractored inside the giant slug-like Mon Calamari Cruiser, mere moments after his wingmen had been prevented from killing him, destroyed by the rebel X-wings.

Jeoffrey "Mauler" Weigle activated his aft screen, a lump rising in his throat as he saw more of his comrades being sent to their fiery deaths, victims of a trap sprung upon them as they intercepted what seemed to be a blockade runner smuggling goods for the Rebel Alliance. "Well," he grimly thought, "at least we weren't completely wrong."

When he had seen the Rebel Cruiser flicker out of hyperspace on top of him, he knew that there was no hope, and that this was the time that he should act, lest it be too late. He did what he knew had to be done, and defected.

Mauler glanced back at his monitor, wincing at the sight of countless torpedoes homing on his former home, the Imperial Nebulon B Frigate Impetuous. "Remember," Jeoffrey reminded himself, seeking reassurance, "those were the ones that destroyed Alderaan, that murdered your family, that paid no heed to your life and those of your comrades."

"Aye, and now I have betrayed my comrades."

With a clang, his Interceptor was lowered on the deck, though the tractor beam still kept it's grip upon it, as TIEs did not have any landing gear. Reluctantly, Mauler removed any thoughts of the ongoing battle from his mind and disconnected his suit from the craft's life support unit. Punching in the release sequence, the fighter's topside hatch swung open and he climbed out of the Interceptor's ball cockpit and stood on top of it. Around him stretched the Cruiser's cavernous flight deck, an impression accentuated by the rounded and irregular walls and ceiling characteristic of Mon Calamari architecture. After being cooped up inside a frigate for a year, Mauler could not help but be awed by it's size.

Precariously, Jeoffrey slid down towards a ladder that had been propped against the Interceptor's canopy. As he reached the deck, a voice rang out and said: "Imperial pilot, drop your sidearm immediately".

Without turning towards the voice, Mauler drew his blaster and let it fall at his feet.

"All right, turn around, slowly," continued the voice in a somewhat softer tone.

Jeoffrey obeyed and saw what appeared to be a rating flanked by four armed guards, their blaster rifles all aimed directly at him. "I - I wish to join the Rebel Alliance," Mauler said hesitantly after several uncomfortable seconds staring at the Rebel rating.

"Yeah, I heard," replied the rating, not without a touch of sarcasm in his voice, "you can take off that helmet now."

As Mauler removed and dropped the bulky TIE pilot's helmet, the man motioned two of the guards to approach him. "You're going to be taken to the brig while we check out your 'defection'. I'd get comfortable if I were you, It'll take a while."

Not knowing what to say, Jeoffrey merely nodded and walked off in the direction indicated by his escorts. For several minutes he walked along the Cruiser's meandering corridors, paying no heed to the wry glances cast at him by the passing crew members, though he could not help but be disturbed by the disproportionate number of aliens on board. "If I live through this, I'll definitely have to get used to seeing these... things."

Occasionally, muffled thumps reverberated throughout the ship, no doubt created by torpedoes hitting the Cruiser's hull. "Well, at least they didn't down without a fight," Jeoffrey thought grimly.

Finally, his escort led him into the ship's brig, which seemed smaller than he had expected. At the guards' urging, Mauler walked into a cell, it's door sliding shut and locking as he examined what was likely to be his home for the foreseeable future.

As he sat down on the cell's small cot, he heard cheers coming through even the cell's thick door, and knew that the Rebels had been victorious.

With thoughts of his comrades being reduced to vapor in the Impetuous' fiery death assailing his mind, Jeoffrey lowered his face in his hands, and wept.

"We're going to land in a few moments, so you should strap in," recommended the Tyderian shuttle pilot to Mauler as they approached the Liberty's flight deck. "Sometimes control doesn't get it right, and I have to do some last minute acrobatics," he added with a wicked smile.

Jeoffrey silently nodded and fastened the shuttle's passenger seat's straps. It had been nearly a year and a half since he had seen one of the large Mon Calamari Cruisers, and still felt awed by the sight. Yet, he could not help but remember that it had been one of those ships that had killed his companions.

Though he had spent nearly a year in flight school and a few months aboard the Strike Cruiser Corel's Freedom, few had been those among the Rebels that he could really count as his friends, so isolated from the others had he been. He knew, without a doubt, that very few actually trusted him, and many had requested to be taken off his wing. This was certainly accentuated by Mauler's demeanor, which still showed traces of imperial conditioning.

Jeoffrey had had to milk every bit of the pity the Rebel Alliance had for Alderaanians in order to obtain this transfer, and hoped he had made the right choice.

In the Imperial Navy, pilots assigned to Star Destroyers tended to be colder and to care less about their actions, obeying blindly the Emperor's orders, while those assigned to smaller, less glorious ships tended to be more relaxed and forgiving... Mauler hoped the Alliance worked in the opposite manner. At least the cold words and hateful glances he had received aboard the Corel's Freedom seemed to indicate that this was a definite possibility.

After an uneventful landing, Mauler was escorted to the office of his new Commanding Officer: Captain Chris "Electro" Schock, Leader of the Corsairs, the Liberty's interceptor squadron.

Doing a quick once-over of his uniform, making sure it was spotless, Jeoffrey stepped up to the office door and signaled his arrival by pressing a button.

"Come in," a voice called out.

Without hesitation, Mauler entered and, seeing a Captain leaning on a desk and facing him, snapped to attention, declaring: "Flight Officer Jeoffrey Weigle reporting for duty, Sir!".

"Good," Electro replied, a slight smile playing on his face, "I've been expecting you." Suddenly, Electro stood up straight and walked up to Mauler, extending his hand, "Welcome aboard the Liberty, Mauler."

Still coming to grip with the Alliance's apparent disregard for proper protocol, Jeoffrey hesitantly took his CO's hand and shook it. "Than - thank you sir."

Suddenly, a small four-legged furry creature, which he had taken to be some sort of embalmed trophy, stretched and slowly moved towards Electro. Alarmed, Mauler took a step backward and exclaimed: "What in the Empire is that!?"

Just as soon as the words left his mouth, Jeoffrey looked back at his CO, his face ashen, fear clearly showing in his eyes. "I'm - I'm sorry sir, I didn't mean to-"

"Relax Mauler," Electro said, despite the annoyance he could sense from Kerbe, "you're not in the Imperial Navy anymore."

"Huh, yes sir," Mauler replied, after having regained his composure. "Sorry, it's hard to shake that kind of thing, I once saw a man executed for doing something similar."

"I see..." Electro declared, frowning. "Anyway, to answer your rather pressing question, this is Kerbe, my life partner. I suggest you apologize, she was a little offended and hasn't exactly taken a liking to you," he added, a smile replacing the frown.

"The feeling's mutual, I can assure you," he thought but only murmured, "Ah... I'm sorry.," not believing that he was actually apologizing to a pet.

"All right, now on to business. Take a seat," Captain Schock ordered as he stepped behind his desk and indicated a chair opposite his own. "I assume you've already read all the relevant briefing material on the squadron?"

"Yes sir, I've also studied the Liberty's latest operations, and have reviewed the personnel files on the other Corsairs."

"Fine!" Electro commented, grinning, "you're saving me a lot of work. As for me, I've reviewed your record quite carefully, and I find your request to transfer here rather interesting."

"Now what does that mean?" reflected Mauler, then quickly put the thought aside.

"Yes sir."

"You've shown some rather good scores during your A-wing training, and I think you'll fit right in. Incidentally, we've already received a replacement A-wing for you, so you'll be able to fly in around 24 hours, time enough for the techs to do a complete check-up of the fighter. If I were you I'd use the time to get acquainted with your fellow pilots and tour the ship."

"Understood sir," Mauler replied obediently.

"Well, that's about it, I've got a meeting with the command staff in 15 minutes, and I have to get ready," Electro gathered several data pads that were stacked neatly at the side of his desk and looked back up at Mauler. "Oh yes, there was one more thing I wanted to ask you."

"Yes?"

"I noticed that you scored better in an X-wing than an A-wing, which seems to make sense, given your record as a TIE Interceptor pilot. Why did you insist on piloting an A-wing?"

Mauler silently stared at his CO for a few moments, then took a deep breath and said: "Respectfully sir, I just think I'll get less blood on my hands this way."

"I beg you pardon?" Electro asked, genuinely puzzled.

"Well, in an X-wing you sometimes have to fly attack missions to take out capital ships, and I know from personal experience that most crew members on board a cap ship, be it Imperial or not, don't deserve this fate... I don't want to be responsible for that many deaths."

"I see," Electro reflected, a bit of concern in his tone, "well, as long as it doesn't prevent you from flying to your fullest, your reasoning is sound enough. But, if you ever have to take out a capital ship, in your A-wing or not, I expect you to do it without hesitation, do I make myself clear?"

"Completely sir."

"Good. Dismissed."

As Mauler left the office and the door irised closed, Electro glanced down at the furry quadruped at his feet and said: "Oh relax Kerbe, you're going to have to live with that guy for a while, so you'd better get used to him."

After finding his quarters, which seemed more like suites to him after his stay on the Corel's Freedom, Jeoffrey wandered around the Liberty, trying futilely to visit every part of the kilometers-long ship, until he made his way to the Lounge, weary after having walked for nearly 2 hours.

As he had learned before, the Lounge had another name, but it sounded almost as disgusting as the species that had named it, so he preferred "the Lounge" anyway. He made is way around the darkened room towards the curving bar and sat on an empty stool.

Before he could order anything from the waiter droid, a voice called out from behind him: "Hey, Mauler, why don't you join us?" Jeoffrey swiveled on his bar stool to see a group sitting around a table looking expectantly at him. One of them was motioning him to join them. From what he could tell, each of them seemed to sport a Corsair Squadron emblem on their uniforms.

Jeoffrey stood up and walked up to the table. The man who had called out to him motioned him to take a seat and extended his hand to him. "Hi, I'm Rafael Costa Guerra, call sign Hyl," said the man in an easygoing manner, "I heard that you'd come aboard, but wasn't sure until now. Glad to meet you."

Mauler shook his hand and the others', saying: "Hello, huh, nice to meet you too," this kind of welcome hadn't been expected, and made him decidedly uncomfortable, "nice lounge you got here, you know if you've got any Alderaanian brandy?"

Laughing, Hyl presented the others as Parody, Porky and Rooster and added: "Sure, but I wouldn't try to get some if you're going on duty anytime soon, Mixer is a stickler for that kind of thing."

But Jeoffrey paid no attention to Hyl, and instead focused it on the rating that had walked in the Lounge, and was now moving towards him. A dry lump in his throat, Mauler stood up and faced the man, still unable to believe the horrible mistake he had made.

"By the Empire..."

"So," the rating said, sarcasm filling his voice, "looks like you've finally made your way back... I'm surprised your still with us."

"You're - you're the guy that arrested me when I -"

Cutting him off before he could complete his sentence, the rating said: "When you 'defected'? Yup, the one and only. I'm Lieutenant Kevin Koernig, the Liberty's security officer."

Instantly, Mauler's training took over and he snapped to attention. "Sir!"

"Why the hell isn't he wearing his uniform?" Mauler thought.

"Cut that 'sir' thing, I don't like that crap."

"Kevin," Hyl interrupted in a puzzled voice, "what's going on here?"

"Well, you probably weren't with us yet, but we picked up Mr. Weigle here in his squint a couple of years back."

"That's right, I defected," Jeoffrey told Hyl, looking down.

"How in the empire did I manage to stick myself in the very cruiser that picked me up?" he thought, "and that guy sure ain't gonna make it easy."

"Oh," replied Hyl, "so what? He's not the only one you know, my parents defected when I was younger, and I was with them, so I defected too."

"I know that," Kevin said, smiling at his friend, "but why don't we let him talk about all those Rebel kills he got?"

Mauler examined those around him, noticing the faltering smiles from the other Corsairs, and the hard stares coming from nearby tables. "Yes, I got a few kills, but I'm not proud of them. In fact I gave them up, my record now shows that I haven't got any at all."

"But you still killed rebel pilots, didn't you?" Kevin pressed on.

Lowering his gaze, Jeoffrey nodded, "Yes, but I was only doing my job... just like we're all doing now. If I could bring those pilots back I would, but there's nothing I can do about that now. The only thing I can say is that I'm as loyal to our cause as any of us."

"Perhaps," warned the security officer, "but until you can prove it I'm gonna be watching you. You better be clean."

Mauler merely nodded, unable to speak. With a final suspicious glance, Lt. Koernig walked off and out of the Lounge.

"Mauler," Hyl said, his voice a bit less confident, "you can still join us."

"Thanks, but I'd rather be alone right now." Mauler nodded goodbye to the Corsairs and made his way back to the bar.

"Good," he thought as he looked down at his timepiece, "still got 20 hours until I get on duty."

Sitting down on a bar stool, Jeoffrey ordered some Alderaanian Brandy, which the waiter droid, apparently named Mixer, reluctantly served.

Trying to forget what had just transpired, Mauler filled a shooter to the brim and drank.

As time passed he drank to the Rebel Alliance.

He drank to the Liberty.

He drank to Corsair squadron.

He drank.