Jabberwock

[Lambda Class T-4a Alliance Shuttle Home Bound]

"Lieutenant Stone, estimated time to reversion please?"

"Another forty-five minutes Captain, we should be at the Liberty at 1400 hours." The tired copilot reclined back in his seat, and closed his eyes for a second. "Why are we always tortured with these runs to and from the Outer Rim?"

"Tortured?" Captain DeWitt shifted his eyes from the blue wormhole the shuttle was sliding through to Stone. "I happen to like these long runs, Lieutenant. I find it a lot safer then hauling cargo in enemy territory."

Stone leaned forward and swiveled towards Dewitt, snickering. He was dissatisfied with his current position in the Alliance, and everyone who had worked with him knew it. His sour disposition towards his superiors had hindered any chance of him being transferred to an infiltration fighter squadron that he had dreamed of since his childhood. Stone's attitude had hurt his chances eight months ago when Starfighter Command felt he was to immature to handle the responsibilities as a pilot and thus it was decided that his services would be used to aid more experienced veteran transport pilots. "I haven't seen any Imperial activity since I was recruited to the Alliance," he pointed his finger to the passenger hold, "...and I don't consider shuttling around one passenger cargo. What are we nothing but cab drivers, serving the Alliance's most respected VIP nobodies?"

Stone's voice began to sound intolerable to DeWitt's ears, insulting him a bit. "Lieutenant Stone, who are you to say that our passenger is a nobody? That passenger, or should I say pilot," DeWitt stood up and towered over his copilot, looking down on him, "has seen more enemy action then you will probably ever see in your entire career. I've reviewed the paper work that was given to me on him and was quite impressed." DeWitt's short temper had been sparked and there was no stopping his rave in defense of the young rebel. "He has survived more strike missions then I have seen in years from a pilot, and I think he deserves this current detail he's been assigned." His large hands grabbed Stone's uniform and DeWitt lifted him to his feet. Stone stared down at his boots as his superior officer glared at him from an inch away, the vein in his forehead throbbing. "I would rather ferry around one experienced veteran then transport twenty new rookies that will most likely not see the day after their first run in with hostile crafts."

"I think I can understand where you're coming from, sir." The young Lieutenant's voice was cracking under the pressure of DeWitt, his answer sounding insincere.

"You think?!" He released his grip on Stone. "I don't think you understand at all Lieutenant. You have a severe attitude problem son. You know that? And I have gotten quite sick of listening to your whining for the last five months about how you deserve this and that."

"I'm sorry Captain, but I..."

"But nothing Lieutenant! You have potential, but you need to stop letting your mega ego take control of your emotions. It's ruining your career."

"So I have been told, sir."

"Stone," DeWitt scratched the stubble on his chin, "I want you to go back there and get acquainted with our passenger. He may be a good influence on you. It's been almost 3 hours since I checked on him anyway, and I would suspect he is getting bored of listening to REBL 95."

"I don't think that would be a good idea, sir." Stone watched as DeWitt's face grimaced even more. "He seemed...um...a little odd, when we picked him up... quiet. I don't think he is a big conversationalist, sir."

"Who are you to pass judgment on someone you don't know?" DeWitt turned his body from Stone, trying to recover from his fit. "You are going to talk with him and maybe you'll learn something, like respect. Understand me Lieutenant?"

Stone let out a sigh of disapproval. "Yes sir."

"Good." DeWitt grabbed his data pad from his left shirt pocket and handed it to Stone. "This was the info given to me by our superiors on our friend. It doesn't give much information, but it might give you some idea what kind of person he is and not what you think."

Stone punched in the access code given to him by Captain DeWitt, bringing up a file.

Accessing: Please Wait....

1st Lieutenant Nick "Jasted" Finelli
Service: 3.2 standard years.
Statis: Reassignment (Classified)
Origin: Mantooine - Atrivis Outer Rim
Age: 20
Biographical:
- Dark brown hair
- Brown eyes
- 1.80 meters
- 75 kilos
Background: Classified

Closing Personal....

Accessing Alliance Assignments....

Assigned to Gray Squadron as Gray 5(Tool), Advanced Intercept and Recon.
- Evac of Arconis Sector: Success. (Access Code needed for additional information)
- SAR for Commo Officer 2nd Lieutenant John "Scarface" Poole: Success. (Additional information unavailable)
- Arconis Strike: Success, Gray/Blue Squadrons retake control of Sector. (Access Code needed for additional information.)

Assigned to Research and Development Program - SAW Project: (Classified)
- SYW Project: (Classified)

Closing Alliance Assignments....

Additional information unavailable....

Stone scratched the back of his neck as he tried to remember rumors months ago about an Imperial invasion of an Outer Rim Sector. Could this have been that same invasion? "Lots of holes in his file, Captain."

DeWitt had calmed down a bit, and was becoming more at ease. "Yes, I was only given the information needed so we didn't pick up someone else by accident." He grinned. "I'm sorry for letting my anger get to me Stone, you know how I get sometimes."

Stone nodded. "I understand sir, I've seen you loose your temper more then once."

"If you still feel against talking with Lieutenant Finelli, I will not hold it against you."

"As much as I was, Captain," he handed the data pad back to DeWitt, "I am some what interested in what his story is." He turned towards the cockpit exit. "I'll be back soon, hopefully being a little wiser, Sir."


[Lambda Class T-4a Alliance Shuttle Home Bound Passenger Seating]

The lighting had been dimmed for the pleasure of the sole passenger who was starring lifelessly at the shuttle deck. One of his duffel bags lay between his legs as he sat there with his elbows braced on his knees and his hands cupped over his face. The whispering of music could be heard over the PA, but no one was really listening to it. Lieutenant Stone stood in the corridor that entered the seating area, watching Nick from a distance without being noticed. They were both fighting for the same cause, but for an unknown reason Stone was afraid to confront and talk with Finelli. It may of been his attire that Stone felt uncomfortable with; dressed all in black from head to toe, a leather jacket that came down to his thighs. Stone could make out the outline of a blaster pistol stowed away under Finelli's left armpit. He breathed in deeply and stepped forward from out of the corridor and made his presence known. "Lieutenant Finelli?"

The young pilot looked up from his meditation. "Yes," Finelli responded with his typical uninterested voice when confronted by someone he didn't know.

Stone gave a quick salute and exhaled. "2nd Lieutenant Jonathan Stone, I help navigate the Home Bound.

"Considering that there are only three aboard this ship, and I have already met the Captain, you being the copilot was my only guess." He smiled at Stone and readjusted himself in his seat. "What brings you back here with the luggage?"

"I figured you could use some company." Stone looked around and studied the vast rows of seats that were vacant. "It gets lonely when you are the only passenger."

"I've learned to live with being alone, Stone." Finelli glanced to his right and out the view port. "Been alone for most of my life, didn't really start interacting with anyone until joining the Alliance."

"Sorry to hear that Lieutenant."

"Don't have to be so formal Stone. You can call me by my call sign like most do."

"Jasted?"

Finelli looked back at Stone, his face confused.

"That is your call sign, isn't it?"

Thinking for a second, Finelli then recalled why Stone had called him Jasted. "Yep, that will do fine."

Stone had quickly noticed Finelli's expression and took a shot to start some conversation. "Isn't that what most of your squadron mates call you?"

"New squad mates." He closed his eyes and ran his fingers through his hair. "Jasted is a new name I picked, over my old one."

"May I ask what it used to be?"

"I wasn't proud of that old name, and would rather not say."

"Understandable, Jasted. You don't mind me calling you that, do you?" Stone stepped closer then sat down opposite Finelli.

"It will take some time getting used to, but no, I don't mind."

"If you weren't proud of that old name, why did you choose it?" It was hard for Stone to drop something when his curiosity had been triggered.

"It stuck with me from a previous job I had before enlisting; it was kind of a downer now that I think about it."

"Previous job huh? What may have that been, if you don't mind me asking?"

"I was a copilot on a freighter, much like yourself."

Stone smiled, very pleased to hear those words leave Finelli's mouth.

"Got the job along with a good friend of mine right after we decided to," he paused for a second, "…well, decided to change our career goals."

"Your friend join the Alliance like you did?"

"Jason?" Finelli chuckled to himself. "He wasn't interested in the war unfortunately."

"It's not of interest to everyone." Stone quickly responded, "He still working on the freighter?"

"Aren't we full of questions today, Lieutenant Stone?"

"I'm sorry if I'm intruding."

"No apologies needed, I haven't talked to someone who wasn't a friend like this since the induction of new rookies to the Gray Berets." The lights flickered from a power flux. Finelli's upper face became cover by an unknown shadow, the whites in his eyes disappearing completely from site. "The last time I heard of Jason, and the rest of the crew of the War Hawk, was about six months ago while I was stationed on the Wave Runner II..."


[(6 months prior) Corellian Gunship War Hawk -- Outer Rim, Kirdo III Outskirts]

"There it is, scan the planet and find a nice place to settle down Ridget," Captain Ralt ordered to his first mate, a pale looking Twi'lek, who was quickly filling his boss' orders out. John Ralt grabbed the ships com and began relaying commands to the three Z-95s escorting his freighter. "Wested, take your team and secure the rim of the planet. Anything enters the system I want them neutralized." The Gunship shook violently as another one of it's engines began to give way.

"We're losing engine three Captain!"

"Shut it down now before it blows and takes out the rest!"

Jason Wested watched from his Z-95 as the ship veered towards the planet Kirdo while struggling to hold together. "Ralt, the Hawk looks pretty beat up from out here. I don't think she is going to hold when entering Kirdo's atmosphere."

"She'll hold together boy, just make sure those Jabberwocks don't jump us while we are making repairs." Ralt flashed back for a second, thinking of how it may have been a mistake when he and his crew had "borrowed" some weapons from the space pirates known as the Jabberwocks. They were pure scum, preying on the weak and showing no mercy to anyone who stood in their way. They allied themselves with no one, and had become a thorn in the sides of Imperials and Rebels alike by striking convoys going through the Outer Rim colonies. Ralt's plan began when the Jabberwocks hired his company to smuggle weapons to the Core world faction of their ring. They paid Ralt in advance, which they later found out to be a move they would regret. Instead of delivering the goods, the War Hawk deviated from it's course and tried to make a run for friendly territory. Unfortunately the J-wocks were able to stalk down the Hawk before they were able to escape, and unleashed their anger in a swarm of R-41 and Y-wing fighters. The gunship held off the onslaught and was able to jump into hyperspace and loose it's aggressors, but was heavily damaged in the process. The hyper drive motivator had shorted in the jump, bringing the War Hawk to its current position.

The gunship rumbled in displeasure once more as it dove into the red planet of Kirdo III. The Hawk disappeared from Wested's vision, since he had begun concentrating on his current assignment. "Repellor 2 and 3, you know what our jobs are?"

"Jason, what kind of question is that?" The voice of a young woman came over the comm. "Don't you remember? We were in the lounge together when we got the distress signal from Ralt."

Wested smiled, "How could I forget. What a rude interruption that was, huh Josie?" Wested was very found of Josie, and thought of her as more than a companion. After leaving his home world of Mantooine with Finelli, he figured he would never be really happy again until he crossed paths with her in his current job. She was there for him when his best friend left to join the galactic war, which he though was a waste of valuable skill and time. He also learned from her, unlike others he knew, that he had feeling deep down inside his seemingly careless exterior. His mind refocused quickly. "You know what you're supposed to be doing Weezer?"

"To make sure the Hawk doesn't get nuked while it's being repaired. Relatively simple, wouldn't you say?" Weezer was Ralt's nephew, a sarcastic rat if ever there was. He would never take anything seriously unless his life was endangered. His true flying skills were hidden behind his immaturity.

"We are out of a job if the Hawk goes up in flames, I don't think it would look good on a resume." Jason could hear a laugh from Weezer over the comm.

John Ralt's voice interrupted his nephew's cackle. ".... Wested...we've brought the Hawk down safelyoin a huge dune." There was a moment of silence. "Unfortunately it's in the middle of a nasty sandstorm and visibility is nil."

"Good landing spot, Ralt."

"I don't pay you to critique me, Wested! Just do your job and we won't have to worry about time."

"You got it." Jason knew that if it wasn't for Ralt expanding his business and having a need for a fighter escort, he would most likely be stuck on the War Hawk at that very second, fixing her up while sand blew into his face.


[Corellian Gunship War Hawk -- Kirdo III]

Six Gamorreans gathered in front of Ridget, snorting and pushing each other, trying to gain a little more space for their massive bodies. Ralt tapped his first mate on the shoulder, "I'll handle them, and you prep the R5s." Ridget nodded and made his way towards a gaggle of droids. "Listen up!" Ralt yelled to get the Gamorreans' attention. "Something is out there in that sand storm. I don't know what but the Hawk is picking them up on her sensors. They are not huge life forms but there are about 15 different signals in all directions around us." His brown eyes slowly panned across each Gamorrean. "For precautions against whatever is out there, I'm leaving you with three E-webs, and I want them mounted on the upper, outer hull. Do not fire unless Ridget gives the order."

The R5 units had finished downloading from the gunships' computers and began to file into the turbo lift to begin work on the hull.

"Captain."

Ralt pointed the six Gamorreans towards the E-webs racked on the wall, then turned his attention towards his radioman. "What is it, Marshall?" The Gamorreans waddled their way to the turbo lift, grabbing the huge blasters and tripods.

"Wested's on the comm. He asked for you." Marshall slid his chair over as Ralt responded to Repellor 1 on an outdated communications array.

"Wested, what's going on?"

"Not sure yet, Ralt, something jumped into the system about 30 klicks out, but disappeared from my scopes. I was going to send Weezer to check out the north side of the planet, but Josie wanted the job." Jason tried to make sure that Josie was never put in danger but her wild and free adventurous ways were hard to control.

Josie jumped in. "You don't think I can handle any trouble that comes my way, Jas?"

Her sweet voice triggered off another smile from Jason. "I just want you to be careful. That's all."

"Could it have been a glitch in your scopes?" Ralt tried regaining Wested's attention to the current situation.

"Not likely. The other Repels picked it up also." Wested felt his stomach twist. "I don't feel comfortable about this one Ralt. We should have never gotten involved with the J-wocks."

"Don't get soft on me now Jason, I need you alert and ready to fight."

"I'm alert, but you know as I know, Knightmare won't stop looking for us until we are all dead and they have what's theirs." All of the pirates admired the mighty leader of the Jabberwocks, Knightmare. They would kill for him and die for him. He rarely made mistakes, but when he did, he made sure to fix them, one way or another.

"Once we are able to jump back to base, we will keep low. The weapons we brought in could bring great wealth to the company and we can all take a long rest."

"What good is wealth when you aren't around to use it?"

Weezer entered the conversation briefly. "Can we get a raise if we make it out of this alive?"

"Why don't I send you packing back home to your mother when we get back?" Ralt grinned evilly at the thought of sending his only nephew back to his sister.

"Don't do me any favors, Uncle John."

"Weezer. You..." Ralt was interrupted by a blast from one of the E-webs. "We might have problems here as well. Wested, keep me updated."

"Will do."

"Marshall, page me immediately if any of the Repellors com in; I'm having a look outside." He walked away as Marshall nodded his head in agreement. Then, Ralt grabbed an oxygen mask before entering the turbo lift and he wrapped it around his head. The platform hissed upwards with Ralt looking up while he was levitated. Light flashed into his face as the blast shield spiraled open, allowing him access to the Hawk's hull. The lift stopped, and Ralt was immediately hit by the sandstorm. He squinted his eyes and cupped his right hand over them to redirect the blowing wind. He walked towards Ridget, who was standing close to a pair of Gamorreans and their E-web.

"Out there in the storm - you can just make them out, Captain."

Ralt peered through the storm. "I don't see anything."

"I can see them. They are slowly moving this way...very slowly. We fired off a round in front of a few of them and they backed up a bit." One of the Gamorreans snorted in pleasure as Ridget informed Ralt of the situations.

"How many are there?"

"They are all around, loosely scattered. I'm not sure what they are."

"Anything gets to close to the Hawk, you roast it." Ralt looked at the R5s working on the engines. "How much more time do we have before we are able to get off this rock?"

"Motivator will be operational in 20 minutes, however it will take some time to get engines three, four, and six able. They will need to be replaced when we return home."

"Let's hope we have 20 minutes; the Repellors might have some trouble...."


[Z-95 Headhunter "Repellor 2"]

Josie's scanners showed nothing except the blips of her two wingmen's fightercraft. "North side looks clear guys. Going to make another sweep across and then I'm heading back."

"Copy that, lady."

"Don't call me lady. You know I hate that, Jason Adam Wested." She began to loop her Z-95 towards the direction she had just come from when her attention was grabbed by a large group of dim stars that appeared to be moving. "That's odd."

"What is?"

"Never mind, it's nothing. I'm just not...." The fighter's missile warning screamed causing Josie's heart to skip a beat. "Something just got a lock on me!"

"Josie, dump laser and shield energy to engines and get back here!" Wested throttled his fighter towards Repellor 2's position. "Ralt! Get a move on down there. We got company!"

Marshall shot up from his seat as the com array came alive. He instinctively paged Captain Ralt who was still in the storm.

Repellor 2 juked back and forth trying to break the constant pulse that echoed in her ears. Josie glanced back at the stars she had looked at moments ago. They had grown in size, and had now taken the shape of seven distinct fighters. "I see them, they are right behind me!

"Decoy beam.... hold on Josie. We are ten clicks from you. Weezer - get ready to engage."

"Way ahead of you." Weezer tightened his grip on the flight stick and began gritting his teeth.

"I can't shake this lock!" The alarm went to a solid yell as a warhead was launched from one of the R-41s.

"Move Josie!" Wested watched as the missile closed on her fighter.

She pulled back on the flight stick, trying to out maneuver the incoming projectile but was caught in the aft. The weak shields of the Z-95 gave way immediately. A flash of light gleamed for a second in Josie's eyes as fear prevented her from saying good-bye to Jason. Then her world went black.

Repellor 2 shattered in pieces; no screams could be heard from its comm. "NO!!!!! Not her!" Wested looked at his scanners for any sign of life ejecting from the wreck. He found none. "Ralt you fool! They took her!" Now the incoming fighters locked onto Repellor 1 trying to give him the same fate.

A recognizable voice came over the comm. Its anger directed was at Ralt, who had just rushed back to Marshall's side. "Where are you, you snake in the grass?"

"Dammit! Knightmare, why did you have to kill her?" Marshall had informed Ralt that Repellor 2 had been splashed.

"You know exactly why, you back stabbing worm. And after we scratch off these two sandfleas, we are going to finish you next."

"You'll never get your goods back if you destroy my ship."

"I can live with that Ralt. Prepare to die." Knightmare switched to a private channel to give orders to his men. "Bogie, Oddball, follow me. We are going to search that planet for Ralt's ship and disintegrate it. The rest of you kill those two pests."

"As you wish KM." Bogie was Knightmare's second in command and one of the deadliest pilots in the galaxy. He usually led the Jabberwocks in space combat when Knightmare was taking care of other business.

"Wested? You OK over there man?" Weezer watched 3 fighters break off from the main force and towards Kirdo. He got no response from Repellor 1.

Jason wiped a tear from his cheek as he tried to concentrate on the incoming enemies. Two missiles were launched towards his Headhunter, but he did not deviate from his forward motion. He waited until they were in his laser's range, and he squeezed off a few shots, destroying the warheads. Weezer danced his fighter behind Repellor 1, putting Wested at point, who had also intercepted a pair of missles heading toward Repellor 3. The two Z-95s sped through R-41s formation, but the Jabberwock pilots quickly redirected in the opposite direction to dogfight. "Uncle John, you got three incoming fighters. I suggest you get going!" Weezer knew they were in trouble, and with Wested out of it mentally, he would need to take charge.

"We are way ahead of you kid. Hold your own for now." The R5 units returned to the inside of the Hawk, not having enough time to repair all the injured parts. "Ridget, can the Hawk jump?"

"Yes…but for how long, I do not know." The War Hawk sprung to life as her crew fired her engines.

"Anything in this sector that we can safely jump to?"

"Checking now Captain." The Hawk's nav computers began crunching.

Wested had lost his mind; his emotions had taken over any thoughts of rational thinking. He had been emptying shield energy from his ELS to gain enough speed to out maneuver his targets. His fighter's lasers flared as he weaved behind his first chosen target, whose decoy beam had unreplenished. The Jabberwock could not out run the Z-95 on his six, and his fighter was lanced by the crimson bolts. The shields gave way and the hull collapsed, breaking to pieces.

"One for Wested!" Weezer blurted out as he dodged his fighter to the left, avoiding enemy fire behind him.

Foam covered Jason's mouth as he looped his fighter around, once again out racing a J-Wock that had closed on his tail. He looked to his right as he saw Weezer being pursued by a pair of Star Chasers. He rolled the Headhunter to the right to cover his wing. His fighter quickly caught up to the pursuers, his cannon accuracy was near perfect as he damaged one of the R-41s, who had pulled off his target.

Weezer's shield's sizzled as enemy bolts collided against his rear. "It's getting a little hot over here." His fighter's shields weakened to 50% as a flash of light reflected against his glass canopy. Wested had killed the other fighter following him. "I don't say this much Wested, but thanks." Silence still filled the comm., as the odds had now evened up.

"Captain! You won't believe this."

"This better be good news."

"For once, it is! A short jump through Atrivis and we can..."

Ralt finished his first mate's sentence. "...Be bailed out of trouble by the Wave Runner. I wouldn't want that ship jumper Finelli to have the pleasure of saving our hides."

"What other choice do we have? If anyone sneezes, the Hawk might fall apart."

"Aye, we will never make it home." Ralt let out a sigh. "Set a course for the Strike Cruiser." He eyed Marshall. "Try to get through to her crew and explain our situation."

"Yes, Sir!"

The War Hawk roared off it's designated landing area, causing a giant whirlwind of red sand around it, just as a triad of fighters cut through the clouds above. "Three incoming fighters, Captain, moving in fast."

"I want all working gun turrets manned! Marshall, see if you can get the Repellor's to cover us."

Repellor 1 and 3 had quickly downed the last two fighters. Weezer could only wonder what could possible be going through the head of Jason. He, as well as the others on the Hawk, never would have thought the day to come when Wested would not have been capable of being there for Josie.

"Repellor 1...Repellor 1 we need some cover! Three incoming Chasers and we only have a trio of working gun batteries to hold them off."

"Hawk, this is Repellor 3...we are on our way."

Wested had already dived his fighter into the planet ahead of Weezer. The Z-95 began to rumble as it careened through the atmosphere. The gun ship was picked up on his sensors, along with the three R-41s. His fighter's nav computer was given a quick download from the Hawk; the hyper jump coordinates to where the Wave Runner II was stationed. "Sorry old friend," he whispered to himself. "Another time, another life we will meet." The gunship was now in his sights. The gun turrets were hard at work, trying to hit the ace pilots flying the Chasers, who were still in formation and preparing one lethal run. Wested's Z-95 soared by the Hawk and towards the three unsuspecting Jabberwocks.

Oddball noticed the Headhunter closing in. "KM, what is that lunatic doing?"

Bogie switched targets. "He's mine." Before he could fire up his lasers, Repellor 1 thundered through the formation, causing them to break. The War Hawkwas given some time to run as it left the planet of Kirdo III.

Weezer's fighter went by the Hawk, and prepared its entrance into Kirdo to help his wing. "I'm almost there Jason!"

"No." Wested's voiced boomed over the comm. "Jump out with the Hawk. I'll hold them myself."

"Are you insane?"

"Turn your fighter around and jump out with the Hawk, I will not ask you again."

"Weezer, follow us out." Ralt did not want to see his nephew fight against the cream of the crop of the Jabberwocks. On the outside he was a cold man to his only nephew, but on the inside he really did care for him.

"But…"

"Please."

"...Alright.... Sir." Weezer agreed to the almost pleading request made by his uncle as he turned his Z-95 around and followed the gunship.

"Jason... " Ralt paused for a moment. "Thank you for all you have done for me in the past years.... and I am sorry for your loss. She is everyone's loss. Good luck my friend." He bowed his head in grief. He had grown attached to Jason over the past five years and considered him as the son he had never had.

Wested's weakened voice returned Ralt's message. "Good-bye Captain.... May the force be with you... always." With that Repellor 1 disappeared from the scanners of the War Hawk.

Ridget stared lifelessly at the Hawk's count down to the jump. "Three...two...one…mark." The gunship leapt into hyperspace, quickly followed by the lone Repellor. The crew of the ship was in silence; their companions they had known for years were gone forever.


[R-41 Star Chaser - Exiting Kirdo III]

"Oddball, were you able to get a trace on the jump?"

"I sure did boss, I'll send you the coordinates now."

Bogie looked at the plotted course. "Two minute jump, we should be able to catch them. I wonder what they are up to?"

"You can ask them right before they become space debris." KM cracked his fists and smiled. "After you, Bogie."

The trio of R-41's followed the trail of the two ships that had just left the system.


[Modified Strike Cruiser Wave Runner II: Atrivis Sector, Outer Rim]

"That's right Gray 4, get ready to engage possible hostile craft that may be following Corellian gunship War Hawk."

"Wave Runner Command, is it smart bringing hostile targets," Andrew "Darius" Bartha snickered through the radio as he said targets, "this close to the Strike?"

"We've been informed that there aren't more then three of them. Nothing more then pirates, they will most likely run off."

"You hear that boys?" Darius looked to his right and left in his A-wing starfighter. A fighter screen of five other A-wings had formed around him, making him the "point" of the arrowhead. "Looks like our company might run away before we can play.

"We wouldn't want that…would we?" Flight Officer Matt "Ketch" Everhardt joked.

The War Hawk reverted back to realspace along with Repellor 3. "Wave Runner II to gunship, we are checking youf IFFs."

Usually Ralt would give some kind of rude, insulting comment about the checking of his ship's Identify- Friend or Foe transponders. He had delivered goods to the Wave Runner more then once, and he waited for the day he would be completely trusted by it's crew. "We copy, Wave Runner II."

"Your IFFs are positive. Welcome Captain Ralt. It's been awhile."

"So it has..." Three more fighters entered the system.

Weezer looked behind his right shoulder as he heard his missile warning lock go off once again. "These guys don't give up," he muttered.

"Second Lieutenant Andrew Bartha to three unknown R-41s. These craft are under Alliance protection. Firing on them would be like firing on us. Unless you are looking for fight, I suggest you turn your vessel's around."

Knightmare grimaced at the sight of the six A-wings closing in on their position. "Well, rebel, as much as I would love to face down you and your playmates, we will have to take a rain check." The three fighters veered off their present course and made a 180-degree turn. "Ralt, we will be seeing you again. You can count on that." With that, Knightmare and his men jumped into hyperspace.

"I guess he wasn't in the mood to dance today. Alright boys, lets escort the War Hawk back to the Wave Runner in style." Darius pulled his fighter ahead of the gunship while the rest of his wings covered each of its sides. The War Hawk was safe, for the moment.

[(Present) Lamda Class T-4a Alliance Shuttle Home Bound]

"I was standing there with my arms folded, waiting for the crew of the War Hawk to enter the hanger. Usually I would find out before hand when they were coming to visit, but this time was unexpected. Ralt lead his crew out of the transport that brought them from the Hawk to the Runner and from the look on his face, I figured something was wrong."

Stone was silent; he had kept his mouth closed for most of the story.

"When I didn't see Jason step out from the crew and give me a hardy handshake, with Josie clinging to his arm, I knew right there they were lost. My best friend Jason was dead."

"I'm sorry."

"No reason for you to be sorry."

"Still, I'm sorry for your loss."

The intership-com came alive with DeWitt's voice. "Lieutenant Stone, I need you up front. We will be at the Liberty in a few minutes."

Stone stood up from his seat and extended his hand. "Nice meeting you, Lieutenant Finelli. Good luck with your new assignment."

Finelli took his hand and gave it a shake. "Thank you Lieutenant Stone. Maybe I'll see you on the Liberty."

"It's possible." He smiled at Finelli and threw him a quick salute. He pivoted on his right heel and made his way back to the cockpit where DeWitt awaited.

Going to have to get used to that name, Finelli thought as he trailed Stone with his eyes as the other exited. He looked out the view port as the shuttle sped through hyperspace towards its meeting with the Liberty. Talking about the death of the best friend he had ever had in his life left a bad taste in his mouth. For the last half a year he had tried to forget about the subject by leaving them hidden deep in the darkest parts of his soul, but they would occasionally escape leaving him distant from others. Finelli was jolted forward as the Home Bound reverted back to real space. In the distance he could see the giant monstrosity of a ship, the Mon Calamari Cruiser Liberty. Hundreds of lights glowed out of the cruiser as it slowly moved across the star speckled backdrop.

"T-4a Shuttle Home Bound requesting landing clearance." Captain DeWitt turned his head to his copilot who seemed to be distracted. "You alright over there?"

"Yes, Sir. Just thinking of how these Outer Rim runs aren't as bad as they seem."

DeWitt coughed sarcastically at the young Lieutenant as two A-wing fighters shot out of the main hanger of the Liberty, and made their way to rendezvous with the shuttle.

"Home Bound permission granted to dock in hanger A. We hope you enjoy your stay on the Liberty, Captain." The two fighters from Corsair Squadron formed up around the shuttle, giving her close protection.

"Thank you Liberty, we'll see you onboard." The shuttle closed in on the Liberty's main hanger, its foils beginning to close as it prepared for the landing sequence. The Liberty's tractor beam grabbed hold of the transport and eased it inside. The two Corsairs broke off from their escort duty and re-circled around the Liberty to dock in their assigned landing bay. The landing gears of the shuttle retracted, DeWitt closely watching traffic control as they directed him where to settle the ship down. The Home Bound touched the deck of the hanger, and for the first time in countless hours, shut down. DeWitt leaned back in his seat and sighed in relief. "Mission accomplished Stone?"

Lieutenant Stone looked from the corner of his left eye at his superior officer and gave him sincere nod. "Mission accomplished." They stood up together and left the confines of the cockpit.

Finelli had grabbed his duffel bag between his two feet and stood up. He was stiff from sitting for such a long time. Welcome home, he thought as DeWitt and Stone entered the seating area.

"Can we help you, Lieutenant?"

"No thanks, Captain, you've done more then enough for me. Thanks for the ride." He popped open the storage door above where his seat was and slid out some more of his belongings.

"It was my..." DeWitt paused for a second. "...Our pleasure."

The rear of the shuttle hissed open to form a ramp to the Liberty's hanger. The Renegade Wing pilot stepped down form the Home Bound with his belongings in both hands. His eyes had to readjust to lighting of the hanger. It was much brighter then he was used to. The hanger was huge compared to what he was used to on the Wave Runner II. He looked about absorbing his new surroundings. Six black X-wings were positioned in front of him against the wall. Good-bye A-wing, hello X. He dropped his bags to the floor and slowly walked his way to one of the fighters. He ran his hand along the side of the brand new T-65 that had not a scratch on it. He stopped as he came across the logo of the squadron the fighter belonged to.

"Rogue Squadron."

Finelli turned his head to the unknown voice. "So it is." A green eyed man with a black flight suit, only a few years younger then Finelli himself, stood with a data pad in his hand.

"You must be the transfer, Jasted, from Gray. Welcome to the Liberty. I am the Executive Officer of Rogue, Captain Houseman." He extended his hand to the new pilot in his squad.

Finelli gripped Houseman's hand for a firm shake. "Thank you Captain, it's a pleasure to be here."

"I'm going to make this short and sweet Lieutenant," Matthew "Krayt" Houseman pointed his finger to the line of X's. "If you look down to your right, your bird is the fifth one down. An unbroken in T-65 Incom X-wing at your disposal. Did you have an astromech in Gray?"

"No, Sir."

"Not a problem. You will be assigned one," he searched for an astrodroid opening on his data pad, "…astromech R2-Z0, a relatively experienced droid may I add." Krayt noticed the bulge on the right side of Jasted's jacket and gave it a slight pat to show that he knew it was there. "You can drop off any personal weapons you may have at the quartermaster's sometime tonight. And you need to check in with either Doc Banarj, Major Burns, or the 2-1B Cutter within 48 hours - standard physical, nothing to worry about. Finally… your quarter's assignment is room 301. Any questions?"

"No, Sir." Finelli was still digesting the feeling of being on a different ship that would be called home.

"Excellent! Don't wander around the Liberty too much. The Squadron briefing is at 0700 hours. You will be introduced to the rest of Rogue at that time. Good to have you aboard Rogue 5."

Finelli snapped his new X.O. a sloppy salute, and with that he was left alone with his thoughts. Rogue 5, I like the sound of that. He grinned for a second, and then walked off to explore his new surroundings.