Wolfman's Tale - A New Beginning

Prologue

"Reentering realspace in 54321," Michael "Vidster" Videlka's voice crackled over the comm. Vidster was just assigned as the temporary commanding officer of Rogue Squadron during Stryker's absence. In addition to that, Rogue Squadron was finally at full strength again, and this was its first mission flying with almost a full roster. It was a combined mission with Corsair, nothing out of the ordinary - a hit and fade attack on an Imperial convoy in some remote system no one had ever heard about anyway. I watched the starlines return to normal dots in space. I had almost been in Rogue Squadron a year already and these kinds of missions had become something I could just pull out of my repertoire. I checked my instruments. Shields and lasers were at full power. I pushed the lever forwards to lock my S-foils into attack position.

"All Rogues, report in" came Vidster's voice again.

"Rogue Four here, all systems normal."

"Rogue Seven, looking good here."

"Rogue Eight, I'm ready to rock!"

"Rogue Nine, I'm clear."

"This is Rogue Ten, clear."

"Rogue Twelve here, all systems check out okay." Rogue Twelve was the newest member of the bunch; he had transferred from Black Squadron into Corsair and worked his way up into Rogue, as many of us have done, including me. Darklighter was a fine pilot, I hadn't been able to fly with him very much yet, something I'd have to catch up on.

"Rogue Five, mark this date for the kill-board, fellows. All systems"

It struck me like lightning. I put my hand on my chest. I could feel the medallion through my flightsuit. It had belonged to my sister. It was today four years ago that she had died. God, has it already been that long? I can still remember the day I came home and found only a pile of snow 20 feet high where my home town once stood. She didn't deserve to die yet. There was so much more for her still to experience.

I was torn out of my thoughts by the crackle of my comm.

" Rogue Three, do you copy? Jeez, Wolfy, what's wrong with you?" It was Brennan "Rainman" Roth calling for me. We both joined Rogue about at the same time. He was a fine pilot. I mean, of course he's a fine pilot, he's a Rogue. But he was also a good friend.

It took me a while to realize what was going on. There were red blips on my sensors. Tons of 'em. It must have been a trap. My con buzzed again. This time it was Vids.

"Lieutenant, move your hot-ass butt and get over here before you get killed. We're running away from this place, what's gotten into you?"

I was totally confused by now. There were dogfights going on everywhere. I couldn't get the image of my sister out of my head. Yet I turned my X-wing almost 180 and headed towards the running Renegades. I was at least 6k away from the rest of the group.

Suddenly my ship rocked. I checked my sensors. There were at least five TIEs on my tail and there were more coming. Green streaks rocketed past my canopy, then my shields failed. There was no way I was gonna reach the rest in time. I popped the hyperspace lever and prayed as my hull integrity dropped. Finally after a few seconds which seemed to take forever, dots turned to streaks and I was on my way.

***

The flight deck seemed cold and empty with almost all fighters still struggling in the combat area. I was still paralyzed and couldn't hear Silk's voice through the comm. trying to ask me why I was back without the others and what had happened out there. All I did was pop the canopy, take off my helmet and head towards my quarters. I had a lot of thinking to do before the rest of the batch got back if they got back.

Everyone always seemed to complain about the dim-lit Calamarian ships. I must admit, it felt kind of comforting then. I wondered if the Calamarians had psychological problems and that was why they kept the brightness levels low. Once I got to my quarters I entered my access code and the door opened. My eyes fell right on the picture of my sister that was standing to the side of my bed. Pretty much everyone in the Alliance had lost friends or family, but everyone felt the same despair, the same fear, the same hopelessness it all was building up inside me, turning into aggressiveness and anger until I couldn't stand it any longer. I cried out. I cried out so loud, one could probably hear it all across this system, certainly across the Liberty. Everyone walking in the corridors stood still for the ten seconds it lasted.

***

My head was pretty much cleared out by the time the call came for me to head towards Vids' office ASAP. I had taken a hot shower and was lying on my bunk when my intercom beeped. I had been expecting it. I got up and set out for what could have been the end of my alliance career. Whatever would come, I knew what I had to do. Ever since my transfer into Rogue Squadron, things weren't going that well. Something like this was bound to happen. Before then I just pushed everything away and worked to get into Rogue, I wasn't ready for the truth then, I'm not sure if I was ready for the truth now. Everything had happened too fast. But what does a man do after he completes his goals? I grabbed the medallion from my night stand and headed for Vids' office.

The corridors were quieter than usual. They were quiet when I had arrived back, but that had been because everyone was out on the mission. How many had made it back, only that little? I assured myself that they were all just enjoying themselves in the Lounge and everything was back to normal.

I passed Hellcat on the way; he gave me a black look and walked on without saying a word. I don't blame him, I screwed up and endangered their lives. I swung my head back towards the door to Vids' office at the end of the corridor. I paused. I wondered if it would be smarter just to steal a shuttle and never come back to the Liberty ever again then again, they might just court-martial me and that would solve my problems too. I wasn't sure what to do, but something gave me the urge to enter that office and find out, like an invisible hand slapping me on the butt and assuring me it'd be okay.

Vids was sitting behind his desk when I entered. He hadn't even bothered to change his clothes, he was still in his flightsuit and boy, he didn't look like a happy camper. I walked up to the desk and saluted as one must. I wondered how long I'd still be obligated to do that

"As you were," came Vids' response. "Lieutenant," he sounded like he was trying to scare a rancor away, "what happened out there was irresponsible, immature and unacceptable. What in the world was going through your mind out there?"

"With all due respect, sir," he wouldn't understand anyway, "I have some personal problems."

I was right, he didn't understand. If he did, he didn't show it. "You're a Rogue for the Force' sake. You should be able to put aside your personal feelings when flying an expensive starfighter. You're supposed to be a model for the younger pilots."

Maybe I should have left in a shuttle. Maybe I should have quit. "Sir, I don't think I'm able to con"

Vids' tone was a little lower, although still booming with authority. "There's no way I'll let you take that easy path. You may hand in your resignation when Colonel Rambo gets back, but until then I'm giving you a leave of absence." His tone was more fatherly sounding now. "I don't know what's bothering you, but go where you have to go, do what you have to do. I don't want to see you back until Stryker gets back. If you still want to resign then, fine, but don't run away from everything, sooner or later it'll catch up with you and you'll have to face it then. It might come when you least expect it and you're totally unprepared, like today, only you might not be so lucky again."

I didn't know what to say. I was expecting to get court-martialed or something and he didn't even let me go on my own.

"Lieutenant," he added, obviously I wasn't moving, "You're dismissed. And good luck Wolfy."

I left the office and walked back to my quarters. Maybe it was really time for a visit to Celanon again.

Celanon

The native population of Celanon were the Nalroni. The furry creatures had an enormous sense for economy which was also the reason for Celanon's blooming. The Nalroni's profit had catapulted Celanon to the last destination on the Celanon Trade Spur, a trade route that wound through various systems, ending at Celanon. When the time came, and Emperor Palpatine initiated the new order, the Nalroni left the surface and hid underground. They didn't stop trading goods though. It is known, in certain circles, that if something exists, you can get it on Celanon.

I left Celanon City right at the time as the Imperials took control. Already then it had been a huge metropolis with a multi-colored skyline due to the massive holo-advertisements. When the Imperials came they built a huge spaceport in Celanon City and made it a main resupply and staging base.

I trotted away from where I parked my shuttle, still swearing to myself about having to pay 300 credits just to land my craft. Not wanting to be noticed by the Imps isn't cheap. This was definitely not the place I left 3 years ago. It's kind of ironic, don't you think? A man comes back to his home to get even with his past and finds his past missing. Anyway, my primary goal was to ding a transport that would get me to where my home town used to be, and finding someone who could do that didn't seem all too challenging.

The Celanon City Cantina, called the "Triple-C" by most mercs, was more like a playhouse then anything else, and they didn't seem to like newcomers - since pretty much everyone in the cantina threw me a dirty look when I entered. It was a weird feeling. It made me feel like a total stranger in a place that should have felt like home.

I walked over to the bar and ordered a "Celanon Semi-Dry". This was a native unrefined wine, that had the tendency to be a little strong. The bartender looked at me for a moment before he said anything.

"You sure you can handle one of those?" he snapped at me, looking skeptical. I was just about to give him his 'handling' when I suddenly heard a voice from behind me.

"Just get the boy his drink, Carly. If he dies on you, you can sell his corpse. I'm sure you'll get enough out of those white teeth." The barkeeper, apparently named Carly, didn't look happy, but he brought me my drink. I hadn't been able to catch a glimpse of the mysterious so I turned around on my barstool and looked at my guardian. He was a middle aged human male with two or three scars on his face. He was slimly built and about 190cm tall. He had a BlasTech DL-18 hanging from his belt, a blaster mostly used by smugglers and heavily popular around Mos Eisley and therefor named the "Mos Eisley Special" in certain circles.

My thoughts were interrupted as the man spoke up. "Hey kid, you gonna drink that or did I risk my name for a wimp?" Confused, I looked at the bar where my drink was waiting for me. I picked it up and took a sip. Jeez, this stuff was strong. I could feel the blood running into my head, giving it a bright red color. It took a great effort, but I managed not to cough. I glanced back at the mystery man who was obviously getting a kick out of all this because he was laughing so hard he had to hold himself on one of the chairs. He managed to catch himself and sat down. He started to say something, still recovering from his laugh. "Congratulations kid, that was the strongest 憇emi you'll get anywhere along the Spur. If you can survive that, you must have a strong character." I, on the other hand didn't think this was so funny. My throat was still burning from the alcohol in the drink and it was hard to speak. The man solved that problem as he went on. "I'm Phil, and they call me Phil" he said with a grin on his face. "Now, what takes a kid like you to a place like this. I mean, no offence, but you don't look like the type. The only people coming here either wear Imperial uniforms or are coming to do some trading. You don't match either."

"Well, I used to live here, and I thought it might be time for a visit home. This place changed a lot since I left though. I left during the Imperial takeover, that wasn't a nice period to be here in."

"You can say that again!" Phil replied quickly. "I've been transporting goods along 慣he Spur for a while now. I almost went broke then, no one wanted to work with an Imperial controlled world at that time. We had to learn how to keep our clients safe from Imperial boarding parties."

He seemed like a nice guy, I mean hey, he even bought me a drink. "Did you ever hear the name Dat'nika?" I asked him. Dat'nika had been my home town while I was still living with my family. But I didn't want to tell him too much about me yet.

"Dat'nika," he started, playing with his beard indicating he was thinking, "yeah, I think I heard that somewhere. Oh, now I remember. A deserted place. Pretty high, snowy region. Never heard of any population in that area. It's hard to get there though, Imp patrols keep that place pretty secure."

A secure Imp area? Why would the Imperials have any kind of secret intelligence base or something up there? All the time I had lived there, Dat'nika got little visitors from the cities. Maybe that's why the Imps picked that region, they didn't think anybody still existed that knew about it. But what should I have cared anyway? I was on a mission to get even with my past, not with the Imperials. I'm a pilot for Christ sake, not one of Rico's commandos. "How much for a trip up there and back?"

"Into Dat'nika?" he seemed shocked. "That'll cost you a lot my friend. 3000 credits each way."

"6000 credits?!? Are you out of your mind. It's not like we're going off planet or something like that!" I protested.

"Hey, going into Imperial controlled airspace isn't exactly a normal fare either. 6000 or we don't go, and believe me, you won't find anything cheaper."

He was right, I would have been lucky if I found someone who was even willing to fly me out there. "Deal!" I said handing him my hand. He shook it firmly, probably trying to show me that he was strong enough to survive.

"You'll have to get some new clothes though, try and blend in a little, we don't want to look suspicious. When you're set, meet me at docking bay AA-756. We'll leave as soon as you get there." He got up and walked away. I took one last look around the cantina before I too got up and went looking for a new outfit.

Dat'nika, 11 years earlier

"Gabs, wait up!" a little girl cried as she ran out of her house.

"Hurry up Lan, we're gonna miss it." They were on their way to go see the annual Dat'nika air-show. Gabriel had this huge obsession with planes. He had many models at home and never missed any chance seeing any craft land or take off from the nearby spaceport. There wasn't much traffic, but when there was, they were usually the most interesting kinds of ships, as no normal pilot would fly out this far. Most of them just laded in Celanon City, dropped their cargo and left, but every once in a while some weird guy from the village had ordered some weird cargo which of course had to be dropped in Dat'nika, and Gabriel never missed one.

"I'm coming, I'm coming." She grabbed her bike and went racing after Gabriel who already had a head start. They raced through half the village before they got to the spaceport. Gabriel had already jumped off his bike and was standing at the fence looking up at the squadron of fighters just performing one of their famous solar-spins. "Don't ride that fast, I can't"

"Shhh" Gabriel interrupted her. "Just watch." They stood there for at least an hour not saying a word, just watching the pilots perform their dangerous moves.

Suddenly Elana broke the silence. "Gabs, do you ever miss mom?" Their mother had died a few years ago, when both of them were really young.

Gabriel woke up from his trance and looked at his sister, who had tears running from her eyes. He stretched out his arms and gave her a big hug. "Of course I do. Everyday when I wake up thinking everything was just a bad dream and she'll be waiting there when I go downstairs. But then I just think of all the people in my life that still love me, like you, and that makes me feel a lot better." He looked at his sister and wiped a tear off her face. "Hey, let's go get an ice cream. I'll race you there." Elana looked at him with a huge smile on her face. "321.go!" They ran off towards the ice cream stand on the other side of the field.

***

I strolled though the various docking bays of the Celanon Spaceport. They didn't exactly feel inviting. But then again, I guess one shouldn't have expected too much. Phil's ship didn't exactly look luxurious either; in fact, it looked more like it should belong in one of the salvage shops - it didn't look like it ever would see the stars again. But, I remembered hearing someone talk about some old guy who supposedly had said: "You're eyes can deceive you, don't trust them."

Phil had already started up the engines by the time I boarded and had sealed the airlock. The ship didn't look any more promising from the inside. There were crates, empty and full piled up every free inch of space. Phil was calling me from the cockpit.

"Heya, spaceboy, you comin' up here?"

"Yeah, I'll be there in a second." I said, only now realizing that I was going back to Dat'nika. I walked down the corridor into the cockpit. Phil was sitting at the controls slowly lifting the ship up from the platform. A few seconds later we had reached cruise height and the whole view of the city presented it self.

Dat'nika, 9 years earlier

"Tickets please," the red and white clothed attendant asked Gabriel as he approached the entrance to Celanon Tours newest addition to their luxury fleet, the Sa'ara. Gabriel had managed to win a pair of tickets from a bet he'd made with a friend about getting some girl from school. Gabriel and his sister walked down the corridor and up to the upper deck.

"Wow! This is absolutely beautiful," Elana said, " I can't believe we're actually on the maiden voyage of the Sa'ara."

Gabriel didn't respond, but headed straight for on of the viewports. As the ship left off and headed for outer space to cruise once around the neighboring planet and then land again, Gabriel watched green terrain and wondered if he in his life would ever see something that beautiful again.

***

"Hey, you! Get up here". Phil called to me, "we're approaching the Imperial boarder patrol. A red blip appeared on the sensors and at the same time the con beeped.

"This is Imperial patrol ship AA-39, unidentified cargo vessel, please state the purpose of your current course."

"Patrol ship AA-39, this is the Mighty Lion. We're carrying supplies for the research base PT-7." PT-7 was a small geologists staging base about a day's flight from our present location."

"Mighty Lion, please re-plot your course to avoid this area. This is an Imperial development center. We'll transmit you the coordinates of your new course now."

"Ok, AA-39, I copy. Receiving transmission and re-plotting course now."

"Excuse me," I cried out, "I thought you could take me to Dat'nika, not bug out at the first sight of Imperials."

"Cut it out kid," Phil said in a calm voice, "If we try and do anything stupid now, they'll call for backup and blow us out of the sky. Trust me kid, I'll get you there."

The Mighty Lion changed it's course and the Imperial shuttle pulled off. "Now kid, I'll show you how to get places in a world based on corruption." Phil flipped a switch and a small explosion rocked the ship.

"What the hell was that," I cried out.

"Calm down kid, I told you, trust me." Phil pushed the flight stick forward and led the ship into a descent.

A few minutes later we were on the ground somewhere in the tree-covered terrain not far from Dat'nika. We exited the ship and to my surprise there was a ground transport waiting for us. Phil must have noticed my surprise. "It's crazy how many fine people are willing to risk their lives for a little reward, don't you think kid?"

Phil walked over to the transport. "Hey kid, if you're planning on staying here all day, let me know, 'cause I'd go take a nap."

I looked at Phil, then took one last look around me before I walked over to the transport and got in. I actually felt something I hadn't in a long time . . . home.

The Woods of Cal'tek, 3 years earlier

Gabriel was lying on the ground of the Cal'tek woods staring at the stars when Elana approached him.

"Gabs, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure Lan, shoot."

"Will you miss me?"

"Of course I'll miss you Lan, but I won't be gone that long. It's only for a month." Gabriel had just been awarded a job as a liner-pilot for Celanon Tours.

"It's gonna be lonely without you around. I mean, Dad抯 almost never around and stuff."

Gabriel could see tears in Elana's eyes.

"Hey Lan, come here. Give me a hug." Elana crawled over the him and slung her arms around him. "I'll be back. It's not like I'm gone forever. I mean, well see each other again. My trips aren't gonna be longer than a month."

"Everything's gonna change though, Gabs. Why do you have to go?"

"I always dreamt of going to the stars. All I ever wanted to do was fly. Hey, you know what, when I get back, we'll go over to the old port and get an ice-cream, ok?"

Elana smiled at the recollection of one of their favorite ways to spend time.

"Gabs, I want you to take this medallion I carved out of a red rock I found in the forest. It'll take care of you while you're on your trip. You can give it back to me when you get back."

Gabriel looked Elana deep in the eyes while taking the medallion. He eyed it, then gazed back at Elana. He saw a tear run down her left cheek. Gabriel opened up his arms and Elana slung herself around him again. She didn't want to let go. Finally she stood up and started walking back to their house without saying another word. Gabriel took one last look at the dotted sky before getting up himself and running after her.

***

The transport came to a stop at the foot of one of Celanon's highest mountains, the E'gir. It was starting to get late, but the moon was almost at it's full, so seeing wasn't a problem. I was the first to exit the car. I took a few steps forward and stopped. The surroundings seemed familiar, yet I could match no memory with them. I heard talking come from the door and turn around to see that the driver was telling Phil something. I gazed at him with a interested face.

Phil obviously noticed. "He says, this is the spot where your village used to stand, before the Imps cleared everything away."

I wasn't really listening to what Phil was saying, but my eyes caught a glimpse of something that was more than just familiar . . . a few feet behind the transport there was a very odd-looking tree. It had three trunks springing from the center. All three pointed almost symmetrically outwards before they curved to grow towards the sky. I could make out that Phil was whispering something to the driver, but I didn't concentrate on what they were saying.

Dat'nika, 3 years earlier

The village was in shreds. Houses were totally wrecked, cars half buried in the snow, light-posts thrown over Gabriel rushed to what used to be his house. There were rescue troops all over. His house was sealed off by yellow tape, just like all others had been. He didn't care though. He jumped over and rushed into the house, ignoring the troops orders to stop. Just as he was about to enter the door, it swung open and a couple of med-techs pushed out to stretchers, both of them covered with a black cloth. Gabriel was just about to jump one of the meds when another one held his arm. Gabriel looked him in the eyes seeking for something to grab onto. All the med did was shakes his head. He said something too, but all Gabriel noticed was that his lips were moving. Gabriel broke the med抯 grip of his arm and went running off in the opposite direction. He ran for a few minutes, the noise getting lower and lower the further he went. Suddenly he tripped on a rock and fell to his knees. He straightened out his sisters medallion because it was choking him and looked up at the tree in front of him and suddenly for the speck of a moment, his thoughts were off the disaster his home-town suffered. The tree in front of him had an odd shape

***

I laid my hand onto my chest. It was still there. I could feel its contours through my jumpsuit. My gaze turned up towards the stars and my lips moved a good-bye without any sound emerging from my mouth. I looked back at the tree and walked over towards it. I placed my hand on the medallion, removed it from my neck and hung it on one of the stronger branches. I stood there looking at it for at least 20-25 minutes, before I headed back to the transport. When I passed Phil, all I said was "Let's go," and went silently to the seats towards the back of the transport. Phil and the driver exchanged puzzled looks, before they too took their seats and the transport took off. I just sat there staring out at the passing landscape. I couldn't tell if I was better off than I was before we came here, but with every meter we distanced ourselves from the odd-shaped tree, I could feel the weight lifting itself from me. It was time the end this chapter of my life and start a new one.

Epilogue

The flight deck was extremely busy so I wasn't surprised when no one came to greet me. I exited my shuttle and started walking towards my quarters, just longing for a shower. Suddenly I heard Silk call me from behind.

"Heya, Wolfman. Welcome back. Stryker told me he wants to see you as soon as you get in."

I nicked and continued my course. "Wolfman," Silk called again, "where were you anyways?"

I was quite puzzled at that question, but then I remembered I left very discreetly without telling anyone who didn't have to know.

"I had to give something back to an old friend," I said with a slight grin on my face. Then I turned and walked out. Silk stood there puzzled for a moment, obviously I didn't give him the answer he was hoping for.

***

Stryker was sitting at his desk behind a pile of papers as usual when I entered his office. I gave him the formal salute, it felt somewhat different than it had before I left, it actually meant something . Stryker responded in the same tone as always, obviously his reaction was so routine by now that one couldn't ever make out any emotions in it.

"As you were. Lieutenant, I don't know where or what you were up to during your leave, and to be honest, I don't think it's meant for anyone you don't think needs to know. I do have one question for you."

He paused, looked down at his desk, then continued. "Did you find what you were looking for?"

He was right. I didn't feel like sharing my experiences with others quite yet.

"Yes sir, I guess you could say that." I wasn't really into conversations.

Stryker seemed as if he was awaiting more, then he went on. "Is that it?"

I was just about to say something, but he didn't give me any time. "Well, then. What are you waiting for, Lieutenant? Go get fresh. You were gone a while, you have a little catching up to do," he said with a sarcastic grin on his face. I didn't really care. I saluted him, spun 180 on my heel and left his office.

I walked down the hall to my quarters. When I got there, I entered the unlock code and the door slid open. I threw my stuff onto the mat and walked to the viewport. I watched the X-wings patrolling around the Task Force, I was home again.