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Double Agent

Written by Matt "Krayt" Houseman

Chapter 1 - The Message Home

It had been two weeks since the liberation of Haidoral Prime. As the system began supporting the Rebellion, it moved quickly to form a new government free from Imperial influence. A quickly emptied Imperial HQ had been taken over, partially redecorated and christened the HQ for the planet's Starfighter Command, which was responsible for everything from system defense to the training of new pilots that would join the larger Rebellion.

In a small glass walled conference room, sat a group of ten men. All of them had put in a request to join Starfighter Command and sat waiting to hear the results of their request. A tired looking Captain in a Rebel Alliance dress uniform opened the door.

"Edwyn Kaldan," he called out to the group.

"Here Sir!" One of the men responded quickly. A young man, tall and thin, stood up. His short hair was neatly combed, his face perfectly clean shaven save for a thin mustache.

"Follow me," the officer instructed.

Edwyn followed the officer in silence.

After a short walk, they arrived in a small office.

"Please take a seat," the officer said.

Edwyn quickly complied.

"We have completed our initial security screening. I'd like to follow up on a few questions. "

Edwyn nodded.

"You were formerly an Imperial Pilot?" The officer asked.

"Yes - that is correct. But I was only in training," Edwyn replied quickly.

"You make it sound like you didn't choose to join the Empire as a pilot," the Officer stated, his eyes narrowing.

"I did choose to join yes, but it wasn't for love of the Empire. I grew up on Balmorra, my family were factory workers there. I had hoped to join the Rebellion - but there was just no way to get here. My Mom asked me not to go with the Empire but it was a lifetime of hard labor or join the Empire and learn a skill I could use once my service was up," Edwyn said.

"Why did you not evacuate with the rest of the Imperial Pilots?" the Officer asked as a follow up.

"My friend Talyn and I - we decided that we wouldn't fly for the Imperials if we didn't have to. So we hid as they evacuated. Once the planetary forces came in we surrendered to them, and requested the chance to right the wrongs the Empire has committed," Edwyn replied.

"And what is it you hope to do to right the wrongs?" the Officer asked, a small smirk on his face.

Edwyn was quiet for a moment.

"I want to fly. I want to defend the innocent against attack. I was most of the way through the training course, just two weeks from graduation, I could be up to speed on new starfighters quickly... and frankly, from what I hear you need pilots," Edwyn replied.

"We do need pilots. We need good pilots, and a lot of them. But my orders are to be cautious. The last thing we need is to fill our ranks with Imperial sympathizers and spies," the Officer said seriously.

"I'm going to submit your paperwork for a second security review. If everything you've told me checks out, I'll approve your request," he continued. Then his eyes narrowed.

"If we find out you are lying about anything, I can promise you'll spend the next several years in a detention center while this galaxy works itself out," he promised.

Edwyn nodded and kept his expression blank.

The next four days passed slowly as Edwyn waited for news of his application.

Edwyn was sitting on his bed when his datapad beeped. "Report to Starfighter Command tomorrow morning 0800 sharp." The message read.

The next morning Edwyn arrived at the HQ at precisely 7:58. His Personnel Officer was waiting for him, flanked by two Alliance Security personnel.

Edwyn paused, and scanned them, trying to read their faces, but they were emotionless, much as he was used to among his Imperial counterparts. He took a moment to steady himself, then proceeded into the room.

The Officer smiled and gave him a nod. "Follow me please."

A moment later Edwyn found himself in the same office as before.

"Your background check has completed. We are prepared to welcome you into the Rebel Alliance Starfighter Corps," the Officer said with a smile.

Edwyn smiled back. "I'd be glad to join Sir."

Later that evening, Edwyn sat alone in his room. On his datapad he had his orders to report to Training Command. He flipped the datapad up and flipped through his contacts. Selecting Mom. He typed a quick message. "I did it Mom - I finally made it."

He sent the message... the information passing quickly onto the Holonet - out towards Balmorra. Somewhere out in the vast expanse of the holonet, the message was picked up by an Imperial listening post .

The Imperial Analyst reviewing the feed entered the message into the log and called up his Commander. "Sir Asset 3954 has made it in."

"Very good. Please keep me informed of further communications. This may be a very interesting development." The Commander left the room and went back to his office.

"That's the third one this week. How will this Alliance hold itself together when it discovers they don't know who it can trust?" he thought to himself as he sat down in front of his encrypted holonet communicator. He checked his datapad again, then quickly typed up his daily report.

Admiral Garret,

We are now the handlers of three assets within Starfighter Command. Expect operational information to become available in four to months. Please recommend future assignments for identified assets.

Colonel Quinn

The message was quickly encoded and sent. The Colonel didn't have to wait long for a response.

1. Alliance High Command

2. Renegade Wing

MAKE IT HAPPEN

G

Chapter 2 - Basic Training

A shuttle carrying a dozen sleepy eyed recruits landed in the bright sunlight. The recruits didn't know exactly where they were - the location was intentionally kept secret.

Their training instructor, Jack "Owl" Therax met them as they exited the shuttle. He watched with slight amusement as the gaggle of cadets disembarked.

"FALL IN!" he yelled.

Edwyn and two others with former military training quickly formed a line. The rest, getting the hint quickly followed suit.

"Well at least you all know how to form a line. There's hope for the starfighter corps yet," he said gruffly.

"I am Major Therax. I will be your Training Instructor during your time here at the Starfighter Command Academy. Let me remind you, no personal communications devices are permitted on this installation," he said as he walked slowly in front of the line of cadets.

"We will be starting with ground school, physical fitness, military organization, introductory flight training and then simulators. Once you've completed phase 1 of the training, we'll get you up in the real thing.

"Since you all are well rested from your trip, how about we start with a little run!" he bellowed, startling the cadets awake.

They looked at one another and shrugged, a couple more physically fit ones started out, the rest following after.

The two months were a blur of early morning runs, long days of classroom work, followed up by study sessions late into the evening. Edwyn, having been through many similar topics at the Imperial Starfighter Academy, mastered this portion of the work quickly. He frequently found himself excluded from the rest of the cadets - he suspected that his background as an Imperial pilot made the others uneasy.

Edwyn's favorite classes were the discussions on Starfighter strategy. Many times, these sessions featured the exploits of well-known Rebellion Pilots such as Luke, Stryker, and Wedge. They discussed dogfighting strategy and capital ship assault. He grew a little uncomfortable when they discussed the Imperial Doctrine of massed starfighter being their key to victory - especially when the best Rebellion squadrons had faced multiple Imperial squadrons and walked away victorious. The only place he really struggled was in long distance navigation and astrogation. His time in the Imperial Starfighter Academy had not prepared him for quickly working out hyperspace routes. As his instructors drilled into them, less travelled, and by definition, less documented travel routes were keys to the Rebel Alliance's success.

Then it came time for the simulator. At first, it was just proficiency with the controls and basic maneuvers, but within two weeks the whole squadron was participating in missions. Some of them were standard patrols, simulating the real drudgery being a pilot could be. Others were fast paced combat missions in which the new pilots were regularly trounced by their simulated enemies. They were getting better however, after another month of simulator work it was time to begin their in ship training.

When the day arrived for their first flight, Edwyn was excited to climb into the starfighter. It was just an old Z-95, but he'd never flown a ship with shields - and hadn't been in an actual cockpit for more than four months.

He carefully followed the prescribed pre-flight checks, then rejoined his classmates.

"Alright then," said the Instructor. "Who wants to go out first."

"Why don't we see how our ‘Former Imperial' friend here can handle a real ship?" called out one of Edwyn's classmates.

"Fine then - Cadet Kaldan, you're up," the instructor said.

"Happy to comply," Edwyn said with a quick nod to their instructor.

Edwyn walked over to the ship and climbed in. As the canopy closed, he fired up the engines and initiated the takeoff procedures. He nudged the takeoff thrusters up and they slowly lifted the fighter off the ground. As he'd done many times in the simulator, he nudged the control stick left to orientate himself towards the entrance to the hangar. There was just one small problem; one that he realized far too late.

Though no culprit was positively identified, someone - somewhere had reversed the lateral thruster controls on his ship and set them to a much higher setting than normal. These two factors combined to provide what could have been an impressively fast takeoff maneuver - in this case it simply sent the ship careening into the wall, snapping off one of the autoblasters and part of the left wing. Realizing his controls were not functioning properly, Edwyn set the control stick neutral and reduced thrust. The Z-95 slammed into the hangar floor with a loud clang.

Edwyn sat for a moment as his adrenaline calmed down. From what he could tell the ship was mostly in one piece - and he was not injured. He popped the open the cockpit to the sound of one of his classmate yelling -

"Yep, those Imperials really know how to train their pilots!"

Hiding his embarrassment and anger behind a stoic face, he jumped out of the ship and began looking it over.

His instructor hurried over, fuming.

"What type of stunt are you trying to pull?" he asked through clenched teeth.

"This was not my fault, Sir. The thruster controls were reversed. There was nothing I could do other than land the ship safely on the hangar floor - exactly what I did," Edwyn replied, barely masking his own frustration.

"Fine, you want to blame the technicians? We'll get them in here now," he said, then turned to the rest of the class.

"Your flights are postponed for now. Report to the gym and run till I get there!" he yelled.

The groans in response were much louder than the class had intended.

The next two hours were taken with filling out incident reports and waiting for an initial technical review from the head of the maintenance department.

It was quickly determined that the controls on the ship had indeed been tampered with. An investigative unit was called down, though they spent several hours looking for clues, the culprit had left no trace of his work.

Later that evening, the head of the training center cleared Edwyn of all fault in the incident, and his flight status was reinstated.

The next day his trip out in a Z-95 was much smoother, and the class lived most of the next week in those cockpits.

Chapter 3 - Back to the Simulators

As they neared the end of their training, a special guest was brought in.

Their instructor called the class together for their morning briefing.

"I know you all have enjoyed the time in the fighters, and you've been checked out on the X-Wing. The dogfights have gone well, but today you're up for a real challenge. We've brought in an old friend of mine who is a pilot from the famed Rogue Squadron to fly with you today. Before you get too excited, he's going to be your opponent," the instructor said with a smile.

"Please welcome Commander Durgan, Rogue Seven."

A tall pilot with black hair and a neatly trimmed beard walked into the room and addressed the class.

"I know you all have come a long way in a short amount of time. Before you are given your orders to report to your new squadrons, we want you to know what it's like to fly against some of the best the Empire can throw at you. I've designed six different training courses, you'll be flying them in pairs, or as a full flight. Pay attention and use what you've learned, and you might just make it through victorious."

Commander Durgan looked at their instructor. "I hope you've taught them well."

"I taught you pretty well didn't I?" Major Therax replied.

"I suppose you did a decent enough job," Krayt replied.

"Let's hit the simulators," he said to the assembled trainees with a mischievous smile.

***

The four X-Wings dropped out of hyperspace. The pilots quickly moved into their standard diamond formation and checked in.

"This is One to Alpha flight - everyone good?" came a deep voice over the comm system.

"Yes", "Yep", "Yes Sir," came the chorus of replies as Edwyn and his flight mates responded.

"Bring your shields online, and lock x foils into attack position," called out One.

The four pilots did as ordered; their shield generators kicking on with a slight hum, and the ships taking their classic "X" shape.

"Looks like we've got an asteroid cluster Sir," called out two as she looked at her sensor logs. "And there's something big in there."

"Hey!" called out Three, That's an Imperial Star Destroyer... but sensors aren't reading any signs of power."

"Alright, let's go take a look. Three and Four, break off to low and to the right of the ship and keep up active sensors. We don't know what we're up against," replied One.

The two pairs of ships began to separate, each heading towards the remains of a starship whose very appearance struck fear in the hearts of most pilots.

Edwyn eyed the ship with mixed emotions as he flew closer. He appreciated the strength it possessed - and realized he might soon find himself on the receiving end of it.

"I'm still not seeing anything on sensors," called out Two.

"Keep looking. I'm sure there's something here," replied One.

As the four ships closed with the starship, they continued in silence. Each waiting for the telltale blip on a sensor reading, or the shrill warning from their droids - but they continued on to the low hum of their engines.

The pilots did in fact have an encounter in front of them. Underneath the bridge structure of the Star Destroyer, a single fighter sat attached to the ship. Off in the distance, and with low power sensor readings he tracked the incoming flight. He waited patiently for the ships to close in before he made his move.

"Two - stay close to me," called out One. He pushed the nose of his fighter down, heading towards the hull of the massive starship.

With a sigh slightly audible on the comms, Two complied.

***

Their target watched the two starfighters skimming over the surface of the ship.

"Alright Volt; give me full power as quickly as you can!" he called out to his droid.

The pilot flipped his weapons systems over to torpedoes and released the clamps holding him to the starship. A half second later his systems powered up to full. He nudged the nose a little to the left and fired, two blue missiles launched from the front of his fighter.

Inside One's cockpit, the warning came suddenly. The rookie pilot was just beginning to pull up after skimming across a good portion of the ship's hull when the alarm went off. Two alarms went off at the same time. The first warned of the new ship on sensors - the second - torpedoes on the move.

Instinctively One pulled his ship nose up - hoping to avoid the incoming missiles.

"Look Ou….." his voice rang out - then silenced as the torpedo exploded near his ship, knocking him out of the fight.

Two had a similar amount of warning, but she juked down to avoid the torpedoes. As they exploded, the force sent her ship slamming into the hull of the Star Destroyer. Her shields buckled and one of her wings was torn off. She pulled the ship back away from the ship in time to meet an incoming hail of laser bolts from their target. The first two hits finished off her shields - the third struck directly in her power plant. Immediately the ship went dark. With her X-Wing still moving its last direction, Two caught a glimpse of their target as the black starfighter roared past her stricken fighter.

"R3 - can you do anything?" she asked in a quiet voice.

A series of mournful beeps came in reply, and the young pilot reached for her emergency beacon.

Pushing power into engines, the black starfighter raced towards the nose of the ship, hoping to catch the other two pilots unaware.

"Two down, two to go," he thought.

"One! What you doing?!?" called out Three. "You better not be playing a prank on us!"

"One come in, this is Three... Status?" he called out again, a little more concern in his voice.

"Why don't we go see what's going on up there?" called out Edwyn to his element leader.

"Ahh.. yes... good idea," called back Three.

***

The two X-Wings pushed up their throttle and headed towards the back of the massive starship. Their eyes even more focused on their sensor reading.

As they neared the end of the ship, their droids beeped at the same time.

"Looks like another X-Wing - coming in hot!" Edwyn yelled.

"Let's go get him!" yelled Three in response.

Three cut his throttle and pulled the ship into a tight turn

"I'm not sure that's a good idea. Let's head to the top of the ship…" called Edwyn in response.

Seeing that Three was going to ignore his advice, he pulled his ship into a tight turn and followed the lead ship.

Their target flipped his shields over to double front, knowing how deadly head to head passes can be.

"Give me more engine power, Volt!"

The droid beeped in response.

As the fighters closed, Three attempted to keep the target in his sights. His opponent however juked high and low, not seeking to engage, but to simply survive the head on pass.

Three opened fire, a bolt or two touched the edge of his target's shields - but none truly caught their mark. A second later they were past each other. Three cut his engines again to pull into a turn - but he wasn't ready for their targets maneuver.

With full engine power available, the Rogue pilot pulled his ship into a seemingly impossible turn, pushing out the exhaust through special side ports, he pulled the nose of the ship around and began lining up a shot.

Targeting the lead starfighter, he squeezed off a single quad burst. The four bolts would have been stopped by the shields, but Three in preparation for the head to head had pushed all his shields to the front. Two of the bolts caught engines, two of them slammed into the power plant, knocking three out of the match.

Finishing the maneuver, the Rogue pulled his ship back to the original direction, and evened out his shields, ready for the final bout.

Edwyn looked over his sensors again, realizing he was alone.

"Here goes nothing." He quickly pulled his starfighter around catching the enemy in his sights and opened fire on the departing ship. He rained laser bolts in his path - many of them missing, but a few crackling against the shields.

Inside the Rogue's cockpit, a low shield alarm beeped.

"Not going to happen." he thought to himself, as he pulled his starfighter up towards the back of the Star Destroyer, breaking line of sight and giving his shields a moment to recharge.

Edwyn followed, pushing extra power into shields - trading speed for survivability.

The Rogue pilot weighed his options. Making a quick decision, he kept the engines hot and headed towards the shield generators on the destroyer. He looped over the top of the bridge before Edwyn made it to the back of the Star Destroyer.

As Edwyn came around to the back of the ship, his sensors still showed no sign of his quarry.

"Where is he?" he called out to his droid - who sat silent in response.

A moment later, the target was there. Coming down beneath the bridge superstructure the Rogue pilot opened fire. Edwyn pulled his ship back and forth, trying desperately to evade, but his quarry was an ace pilot, and the starfighter and extension of his body. With deadly accuracy the Rogue pilot anticipated the jukes and dives, every second whittling down the shields, and using superior speed to close.

Ten seconds later the two ships were separated by a few hundred feet - try as he could Edwyn could not shake the more experienced pilot.

Another alarm blared inside his cockpit

"Can you turn that off?!? I know he's there! And I know the shields are failing!" he yelled to his droid`, dumping the last of his blaster power into shields.

His droid beeped in response, and the alarms went silent.

Edwyn continued to evade - the Rogue continued to close. Then it happened, Edwyn juked down, and the Rogue pulled up. As the distance between them continued to increase Edwyn thought "Now to get behind him."

What Edwyn didn't know is that the Rogue had pushed his shield power into his engines. With a quick pull on his throttle, he maneuvered the X-Wing into another quick maneuver, lining up a shot as he spun around. He fired that last full power shot he had available, and connected, taking out two of the engines on Edwyn's ship.

Though Edwyn continued to evade, the combination of damage to his ship, and the skill of his quarry was too much to overcome. Ten seconds later his simulator screen went dark, indicating his ship had been destroyed.

The canopy to his simulator opened up to the groans from the rest of his training squadron.

"You were doing great!" yelled Three, who had come to stand right next to his simulator.

Three was a young and brash pilot from a backwater system. He had grown up flying old Z-95 headhunters in a system overrun by mynocks. The daily practice of driving off the creatures had honed his skills enough to qualify for Starfighter training, but it remained to be seen if he could learn to survive against real opponents.

Edwyn nodded in response, his face hiding the disappointment he felt.

"Quiet down people!" Called out a loud voice.

"Flight One, head to the Ready Room for debriefing - Flight Two, you're up."

Edwyn quickly scampered out of the simulator.

"You really think I did well?" He asked Three as they exited the simulator room together.

"Absolutely!" Three grinned in response.

The two pilots walked down the hall to the ready room, waiting for their next turn in the simulators.

***

Later that evening, Commander Durgan and Major Therax got together in the Major's office. After discussing the old days for a few moments, then catching up on the past year - they sat down to business and talked through the day. They made notes for the Personnel officers on both ships and mission profiles the pilots would be best at. A note was added to two pilots requesting their assignment to Renegade Wing.

With that, the Rogue checked the time. "I need to get back to the fleet - things are coming to a head quickly."

The Instructor smiled at his old friend. "Thanks for taking the time to come out and give these pilots a once over. Good luck Commander, and may the force be with you."

With a quick salute to his old friend he turned to go "It always is..." Krayt thought as he left.

Chapter 4 - Endor

Two days later word finally reached the Starfighter Academy. It had started with the Commander of the base, trickled down to the instructors, and soon the entire installation had heard. There had been another Death Star.

"Had" - was the key word here.

It had been assaulted by a fleet from the Rebel Alliance - and it had been destroyed. The numbers coming in were unbelievable. Some were saying twenty, some were saying fifty Imperial Star destroyers had been destroyed. The Death Star, the Emperor, Vader - all of them reportedly killed in this far off system. The news shook the very foundations of the galaxy.

Shortly after the news began to spread, long range communications systems went out. It was a few days later when a Rebel Alliance, now New Republic, courier arrived with the more specific accounts of the battle. It had been true, the Emperor had been destroyed along with many of his top leaders.

The losses on the Rebel Alliance side were staggering as well. There was a long list of ships that had been lost in the battle - the list of names of those who had given their lives was longer still. There was also a list of Rebel Alliance fighter squadrons that had been dissolved and were no longer accepting new recruits.

Also included were news reports from systems across the galaxy that had pledged to join together and form the New Republic. Hundreds of systems, both big and small had declared their independence from the Empire they hated. They had revolted - driving the Imperial ships and personnel from their systems.

While the news was cause for celebration for most, Edwyn had a difficult time with it. He had always been told that the Emperor was invincible. That there was no way that the Empire could lose - but lost they had - there was no other way to describe the destruction of a Death Star, the death of the Emperor, and many of the senior leadership of the Empire.

What does this mean for his role? He was here to feed information about the Rebel Alliance - but with the Empire faltering who would he report it to? Was it even worth it to continue the charade? His communication system relied on the Holonet - could he even function in his intended role?

Could he find himself a new home, and a new life - free from feeling the weight of the Empire upon his shoulders?

For now, he resolved to carry on as he had, and look for opportunities to serve as he intended; but for all the trials he had been through, doubt about whether this was right continued to gnaw at him.

Over the next two weeks, little changed in the remote Starfighter Training Command; then one morning he woke up and noted the logos everywhere had changed; no longer the Rebel Alliance, now the New Republic. Personnel Officers scrambled to determine where pilots would be sent now; and new pilots arrived daily to begin their training. Freighters from far off worlds were brought into function as temporary housing for all these new people - then another squadron of training fighters found their way to the installation. Edwyn could tell that this was now becoming a major training hub for the New Republic - if only he knew where he was.

Four days before his training ended, he was summoned to the Commander's office.

"Please, take a seat Cadet," the gentleman said as he poured himself a drink.

"I wanted to let you know that you'll be graduating second in your class, quite an achievement. If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought you'd spent a lot of time in a cockpit somewhere in your life."

"Thank you, Sir," Edwyn said cautiously.

"I have a proposition for you. I have your orders here, they would take you out to adventure unknown, perhaps a glorious death, perhaps a life of boredom. They are yours, if you want them. I want you to know you have choices, I need good pilots here too. Pilots who can teach and train others the skills you've mastered in a short period of time. Now, it's not going to be a fancy life - recruits can be a handful - and sometimes training them can be like herding Loth Cats. I'm offering you an immediate promotion to Lieutenant, and placement within New Republic Training Command," he said, then took a sip of his drink.

Edwyn nodded. "When do I have to decide Sir?"

"I need to know tomorrow. If you aren't taking these orders, I need to move someone else into this Renegade Wing slot," the Commander said.

"Renegade Wing? The home of Rogue Squadron?" Edwyn asked.

"Yes, I'm asking you to choose between a boring life here at the academy, or a life rubbing shoulders with some of the best pilots this Alliance.. excuse me.. Republic has to offer. I know it's a big decision, think it over and let me know in the morning," he said as he paused for another drink.

"You are dismissed," the Commander said as he set down his glass and turned to his next file.

Edwyn was in deep thought as he left the Commander's office. Training Commands are all he'd ever known. He could make a life here - he would be safe - he would enjoy what he did. But as he looked up to the sky, he knew where he needed to go.

Three days later Edwyn boarded a shuttle to Renegade Wing. Along with him went Tlatren Pristolaque, the two of them were assigned to Renegade Wing, Corsair Squadron. After a two-day trip they arrived at the Vigilant. If only Edwyn knew then what was waiting for him.

Chapter 5 - New Arrivals

Syntax, the Corsair Squadron Commanding Officer had gone down to the hangar to meet his new recruits. He watched the shuttle land and walked over as the ramp deployed. As two figures, obviously new pilots were walking down, he went over to introduce himself.

"Welcome aboard the Vigilant, and to Corsair Squadron. I am your Commanding Officer, Syntax," he said, introducing himself.

"A DROID!?!" Edwyn exclaimed, his mouth wide open. "MY CO IS A DROID? What type of craziness are you people running…" Edwyn began.

"Whether Human, Alien, or Droid, you will respect the chain of command above you," Syntax replied in a stern voice. "It is unfortunate that I cannot demote you below Flight Cadet for insubordination," Syntax said with his mechanical voice clicking with frustration.

"As it is, one of my first duties is to assign you a callsign. You were an Imperial pilot yes? Learning to pilot a TIE Fighter?" Syntax queried.

Edwyn nodded, unwilling to open his mouth and risk raising the ire of his new Commanding Officer any further.

"Very well, your callsign will be ‘Cyclops'... Enjoy," he said, then turned to the other new pilot.

"How do you pronounce your name?" Syntax queried.

The new pilot, as wide eyed as Edwyn about the new CO, responded.

"I believe that is beyond the capabilities of most crewmen to pronounce. You shall go by T.P.," Syntax said in his mechanical voice.

"These callsigns will serve until you have proven worthy of a permanent one. Here are directions to your quarters. Your first patrols will begin tomorrow. Be ready for your mission briefing at 0800 ship time."

With that Syntax strode off to greet others fortunate enough to be added to his Squadron, leaving the two new pilots bewildered behind him.

Edwyn wasted little time looking around the hangar, he figured he'd be far more used to it than he wanted over the next few months. He spent the next several hours wandering the ship, locating key sections and beginning to build a few relationships with people he might need later on. He located his belongings and pulled out his datapad and typed up another message.

Mom,

I made it through training to my first assignment and have arrived at my duty station. I can't share details, but I'm glad I'm here and can make a difference.

Edwyn

He sent the message off to be reviewed before transmission, as the holonet had been brought back online by the New Republic.

The message was received as before, with the listening post analyst noting the new development.

Colonel Quinn was barely holding back his smile as he informed the Admiral of their success in infiltrating Renegade Wing.

***

Back on the Vigilant and later that evening, Edwyn found his way over to the Corsair barracks. He had expected them to be busy - but there was just a single pilot in there who was already fast asleep.

T.P. showed up a few minutes later with an extra helping of dessert, and the two new pilots set up for the night.

The next morning, Edwyn and T.P. arrived in the ready room ten minutes early. They were dressed in their flight suits and sat down for their first mission briefing as New Republic pilots.

Syntax stepped up to the podium.

"Today's sorties will continue to be escorting freighters bearing humanitarian supplies to worlds stricken by operation Cinder. Wolf, you'll have T.P. as your wingman today. Lock, you will be watching over Cyclops," he began, then turned directly to the two new pilots.

"Today's mission will be a cakewalk - escort a few freighters in friendly territory. We only need enough of a show of force to make few pirates think twice. Stick to your leads, learn your ships, and don't scratch the paint"

Syntax then turned to the rest of the assembled pilots.

"Dismissed"

Edwyn left the ready room and headed towards the hangar, he hoped the datapad he had "accidentally" left wouldn't be noticed while he was out - and he really hoped the recording components wouldn't be noticed.

The mission was as easy as Syntax had predicted, and the four Corsair pilots found themselves back on the ship 8 hours later. Edwyn headed back to the Ready Room and retrieved his datapad, then spent the next couple hours reviewing the recording in an out of the way section of the ship.

One section in particular caught his interest.

"Can you believe this?" a first voice asked.

"What's that?" replied a second.

"New Orders from the new Admiral. He's got us babysitting freighters and running meaningless patrols for the next month," said the first.

"I thought we were trying to push our advantage against the Imperials - not giving them room to breathe," said a third.

"Apparently due to our limited staff of pilots, we're to avoid direct confrontation with Imperials. If we're attacked on a patrol, we hold them just long enough to let the freighters escape, then head to hyperspace. The only way we would stay and fight is if the Imperials were threatening a specific population that's joined the New Republic. Any deviations from these orders must be approved by the Admiral himself," said the first.

"How long do these orders stand?" asked a fourth voice.

"We don't know. They were given as standing orders - so until the Admiral says otherwise, or someone from High Command overrules him," replied the first voice.

"Two months ago we were the Rebel Alliance, being cautious, but striking the Empire everywhere we could. Now we're the New Republic and we're going to fight with a hand tied behind our back," said the third voice.

"It sounds like we're really not going to fight at all," said the second voice.

"One could legitimately question if that's the intention of these orders," said the third voice.

"That's enough for now, they'll be in here soon," said a new voice.

The recording continued on with mission briefings for the other squadrons.

Edwyn summarized the information he heard and loaded it into a small device. It was a combined data storage device and homing beacon he had built from spare parts he had acquired.

"I guess I'll have to figure out how to drop this off on a patrol tomorrow," he thought as he finished up the work.

Once he was done he went back to the Corsair barracks to get some rest.

"Where have you been all afternoon?" asked T.P.

"Oh.. I've been making some tweaks to my sidearm. The handle seemed a little off, so I made some adjustments then went to the range to practice," he lied.

T.P. seemed satisfied with the answer.

"Are you excited for the mission tomorrow?" T.P. asked.

"It sounds like our lives will be boring for a while," Edwyn replied.

"You never can tell," T.P. said with a grin as he went to his bunk.

Was T.P. ever right.

Chapter 6 - Turning Point

The next day's mission briefing could have been a replay - all the way down to including the requirement to not scratch the paint.

As Edwyn did his pre-flight check, he carefully deposited the canister inside his chaff launcher, figuring he could use it to launch the beacon. He set a time delay of 10 hours on the beacon, hoping they'd all be out of system by the time it started.

Once he'd finished his pre-flight checks, he climbed into the ship and prepared for takeoff, then he joined up in formation with Lock, Wolf, and T.P.

The four pilots synchronized their launch into hyperspace, leaving the Vigilantbehind.

They met up with the convoy and joined them as they jumped to their supply drop location.

The freighters were nearing the planet's atmosphere when the trouble started.

Not more than ten kilometers from the outer edges of the planet's atmosphere, an Imperial Strike Cruiser dropped out of hyperspace and immediately launched a flight of Tie Interceptors. A few seconds later, it was followed by a flight of Tie Bombers.

"This isn't looking good!" yelled Wolf over the comms.

"Agreed. Our orders are clear, however. We're to provide cover for the freighters to escape. T.P. - you're with me, we're going after the squints. Wolf, take Cyclops and hit those dupes!" Lock commanded.

After calling the convoy Captain, the four A-Wings broke off and headed towards the incoming fighters.

Lock and T.P. maneuvered into a head on pass with the Tie Interceptors.

"Lock - I can't get a transmission through to the Vigilant - they are jamming communications!" called out T.P., fear in his voice.

"Let's even out the odds a little, switch to missiles, I'll get the lead ship," Lock ordered, his voice steady.

The two A-Wings quickly aimed up their shots, a pair of red streaks later and the number of Tie Interceptors was reduced by two.

"Nice shooting T.P.," called out Lock.

The missiles had the desired impact, as two TIE Interceptors went down, and the other two broke off their head to head pass. Lock selected one and gunned the throttle, trying to get in range for his lasers.

"Lead, pull up," T.P. called out. "I've got a lock on him"

Lock nudged his fighter up and another red streak chased down the other Interceptor, the explosion shearing off a wing - sending it out of the fight and spinning off into space.

"Nice shooting again," said Lock, beginning to look for the next target.

The last TIE Interceptor however, had maneuvered behind the A-Wings, and took this opportunity to strike. Two quad bolts of green laser energy shot out from the ship, the first tore through T.P.'s shields, the second knocked out his engines.

"I'm hit!" yelled T.P.

***

On the other side of the battle, Wolf and Cyclops had sped past Lock and T.P. - headed towards the Tie Bombers.

The lead bomber pilots went head to head with the A-wings, trusting in their offensive weapons and armor against the A-Wing's laser cannons.

Wolf, knowing the power of their weapons, dove down underneath a head to head pass, trying to get behind and scatter the fighters. Cyclops matched his moves, dodging the laser cannons as he went.

Once the two Corsair pilots were successful in getting behind the bombers, they opened fire on the first bomber - it took five hits; but they finally connected to the warhead magazine, detonating those warheads and incinerating the fighter. Up ahead, two bombers began unloading their payload on the freighters, blue streaks of doom heading towards their targets.

"Can you get those?" Wolf called out to Cyclops.

"The torpedoes? sure thing boss," replied Cyclops.

He hit the throttle to full speed, blasting past both Wolf and the Bombers, his eyes focused on the torpedoes.

He opened fire at long range clipping a first - then second - then third and fourth torpedoes. As the explosions went off he pulled back on the throttle - he had cleared the current threat to the convoy.

Behind him, Wolf had taken out a second bomber, sending the remnants spinning off through space.

The two remaining TIE Bombers changed their targets, and one fired a missile off at Cyclops.

He began juking to the left and right, trying to avoid the missile.

"Hit the chaff!" called out Wolf.

Cyclops's hand paused on the chaff button... remembering the cargo he placed there. That hesitation is all it took. The missile slammed into his ship overloading his shield generator. A laser shot from the bomber hit the A-Wings power plant directly, killing all power to his ship, leaving him now floating off into space.

"Lock - we've got problems!" Wolf called out, spotting another wave of fighters launching from the cruiser.

"We do. Go for help - I'll be a distraction as long as I can," Lock ordered.

"Copy that," Wolf said. "Good luck Lock," he followed.

"I'm gonna need it!" Lock replied.

As Wolf's A-Wing disappeared into hyperspace, Lock pushed his throttle to max and headed towards the Strike Cruiser, hoping the fighters would follow him.

He brought the dogfight close to the Strike Cruiser, using the maneuverability of the A-Wing and the cover of the capital ship to stay alive. He had five Tie Interceptors on his tail.

In his disabled Starfighter, Cyclops pulled some cables out and spent a few minutes rewiring his comm system. He managed to get enough power together to get the unit running.

"Hey - T.P. - are you ok?"

"I think so... my engines are shot up - but the rest of the ship is mostly intact," T.P. replied. "How are you?"

"I've managed to get some power to life support and comms - but other than that I'm not going anywhere. Let's hope help gets here soon." Cyclops said, beginning to get a chill as the warmth left his fighter.

***

A short hyperspace journey away; Wolf dropped out near the Vigilant.

"Flight Control, prepare for emergency landing! And get someone from Command to the hangar!" Wolf yelled.

This was no standard landing. Wolf brought the ship in at full speed, only slowing down as he flew into the hangar. An emergency landing tractor beam slowed him down the rest of the way, and as soon as he touched down, he raced over to an alert fighter.

Syntax and Jalb ran into the hangar as Wolf climbed into the new ship.

"Where's the rest of your flight?" came Syntax's mechanical voice.

"We were ambushed by a Strike Cruiser. T.P. and Cyclops were hit - Lock was still fighting when I left. They were jamming communications, otherwise we would have called," Wolf hurriedly said.

Jalb reached for his communicator and called out.

"All Alert pilots to your fighters! Control, load the hyperspace route to the ships. Launch SAR - we have pilots down," he ordered, running to his fighter.

A hangar that had been filled with the normal sounds of maintenance work broke into life. Fighters prepped for such instances were pre-flighted and launched in a matter of seconds - and two minutes after the call, three flights of Renegade Wing's finest leaped into hyperspace.

***

Lock did what felt like his twelfth loop around the strike cruiser. He had stayed ahead of these five interceptors so far - then his world got a lot more dangerous. The turbolasers on the Strike Cruiser began to open fire on the freighters. This made each pass of his much more challenging - a fact he felt even more real after one of the tie fighters behind him was incinerated by a turbolaser bolt.

He realized as he made another pass that his comm system had more static as he passed by a specific antenna on the ship. Realizing this was likely the jammer, he aligned his next pass with that spot and dropped a missile on it. Immediately the long-range communications were restored.

A moment later his world got even more complicated as another flight of interceptors was launched. This new flight cut off his next pass and forced him away from the cover of the ship. He hit the throttle again hoping speed would keep him alive.

The A-wing sped off with five interceptors on his tail. Lock dumped everything he had into engines and managed to keep himself just outside of laser cannon range for the interceptors, leading them away from the planet, and away from the rest of his flight.

"You two hang tight - help is on the way," he called out to T.P. and Cyclops.

"Help better be on the way," he thought as he sped away from the conflict.

Several of the TIE Interceptors headed towards the freighters to help attack the convoy. One however broke from that target and headed towards the stricken A-Wings.

He targeted T.P.'s fighter first. Realizing the incoming danger, T.P. pulled the eject lever just in time - but was closer to the explosion that he wanted to be.

"No!" Cyclops yelled, realizing at once how attached he had already become to the members of Corsair Squadron.

Then he realized with dread that the fighter had turned towards his ship. He reached his hand over to the eject level - and realized he had no power - the most that this would do is open the canopy for him.

He watched as the Imperial Pilot lined up his shot, and closed his eyes, knowing there was little he could do to stay alive in this moment.

Edwyn heard the explosion.

Then he realized it wasn't his.

"Take that, Meatbag!" came Syntax's mechanized voice of the comm system.

Syntax and Wolf, flying in a perfect formation flew through the debris field of the interceptor as Gremlin and Knight peeled off and headed towards Lock.

Jalb, Krayt, Thanatos, and Jasted pushed the fighters hard as they sped towards the freighters. For some reason, the Interceptors had been so focused on their assault on the convoy they missed the memo about the additional fighters in the system. One quick pass destroyed half their number - the Rogues broke off in pairs and began mopping up the remnant.

Mighty called out to his Buccaneer Flight. "Let's see what we can do to this cruiser."

The four Y-Wings locked on their torpedoes and opened fire. As the salvos streaked towards the ship, the weapons systems attempted to target them. A few found their mark, causing a few small explosions, but most of the torpedoes made it through.

"Jalb, I'm not sure there's much more that we can do. We don't have enough torpedoes to punch through the shields," Mighty called out, his flight lining up for another pass.

Mercy 1, the SAR pilot had already scooped up T.P. She docked quickly with Cyclops' fighter and extracted him from the doomed craft.

Loading in the hyperspace coordinates for the command ship she called out. "Mercy is clear. All pilots accounted for."

The strike cruiser had turned away from the convoy and was headed towards its hyperspace exit point.

As Mercy 1 was about to hit her hyperspace jump, the silhouette of a Mon Cal Cruiser came into view. The Vigilant had arrived.

On the bridge of the Vigilant, Captain Terak Quelle called out. "All batteries, open fire on the Strike Cruiser!"

The first four batteries fired, and suddenly went silent.

"What's happening?" the Captain asked his engineering officer.

The engineer flipped through his readout looking for an answer. "It looks like we blew a pair of power conduits on deck twelve."

"What I wouldn't do for a proper space trial," the Captain thought to himself.

"Ok, Ion Cannons, you're up," he ordered.

Out from the Vigilant streamed a line of light blue shots as the Ion Cannons found their mark. They quickly battered through the small amount of remaining shields, then fully disabled the Imperial vessel.

After clearing up the remaining fighters, the flights reformed and headed back to the Vigilant.

Stryker, the Renegade Wing Commanding Officer, was waiting as the pilots began to land. He walked over to Jalb's fighter.

"Mind giving me an invite next time?" he asked Rogue leader with a small smile.

"You were in a meeting Sir... but I'll remember that next time," Jalb replied.

"I was with the Admiral - I expect he'll be here any moment," Stryker said.

As if that was his cue, the door to the hangar opened and Admiral Tolden walked in, followed by Captain Quelle

"Can anyone explain to me what happened here today?" he asked, looking specifically at Stryker and Jalb as he walked towards the gathering of pilots.

"How exactly did your team perform a multi-squadron strike on an Imperial Capital Ship without authorization? I thought I had made it clear any missions outside my standing orders had to go through me and be cleared prior to launch," the Admiral continued, his face growing red as he growled out his words.

Stryker looked at the Admiral.

"I'm not sure how you can call this a strike mission on an Imperial Capital ship. Starfighter Command requires SAR missions into hot zones to be escorted - with the size of the escort determined by the officer ordering the SAR launch. You can find those reqs on page 49 of the recently published Wing Commander's handbook," Stryker said, keeping his face neutral.

"Besides," he continued, his face taking a more serious expression. "If we had planned this as a strike mission, we would have left with enough ordinance to finish the job, and the Vigilant would have just been here to pick up the pieces."

The Admiral turned to the Captain of the Vigilant.

"And you, why did you bring the Vigilant here?"

"Well Sir," he began "We received a distress call from a convoy you ordered us to protect. I was unable to get any of the Fighter Squadron CO's on the comms. I figured since escorting convoys is such an important mission, I ought to just bring the Vigilant to make sure it was done right," the Captain said, keeping his face straight.

The Admiral looked back and forth between the Stryker and Captain Quelle, then quickly stormed out of the hangar, fuming.

Captain Quelle looked over to Jalb. "Good shooting today."

Jalb smiled back. "Glad to have you on the assist." He then looked out the window where the disabled Strike Cruiser sat.

"So what are we going to do with her?" he mused.

Later that evening…

A homing beacon on a small device attached to the Cyclop's fighter began transmitting. Syntax, who happened to be in the hangar picked up the frequency.

After a quick examination, he extracted the item - wondering what it was; and what it was doing aboard the Vigilant. He resolved to investigate immediately.

Chapter 7 - Squeaky Clean

Later that evening, things had changed quickly around the Vigilant. While many standard patrols had come in, the possession of the Imperial Strike Cruiser necessitated increased patrols in the local area. Already a crew of engineers and security personnel had been shuttled to the ship. The Imperials on board had surrendered quickly, knowing that their ship could be shot out from under them at any point. The Renegade Wing Support Squadron and their U-Wings had been called back from their humanitarian missions to assist. Once they had been secured, the Imperial Prisoners were being loaded on the remaining freighters. The SAR pilots spent another hour rescuing the Imperial Pilots that had been shot down. Of the eighteen pilots, seven had been killed outright, the other eleven were rescued and taken to the medical bay.

The Intelligence officers on the Vigilant were eager to get access to communication logs and other data stored on the ship's computer. They had quickly gained access to the systems and were busy downloading information and adding it to what they already knew about the Imperial forces operating in this sector.

This was a golden opportunity for the Vigilant Task Force and Renegade Wing, and everyone was doing their part to get as much value out of it as they could.

In general, the Renegade Wing pilots were in a good mood - their rescue mission had been effective, and no loss of life on their side. The only bad news from the day was T.P.'s status. A piece of shrapnel from the fighter explosion had pierced his leg - it'd only been a minute between the explosion and the pickup by SAR, but that time was enough to do a lot of damage. He was already in a bacta tank and on his way to a critical care facility, and it was uncertain if he would ever fly again. Still though, he was alive, and that had to count for something.

Edwyn however, was in a somber mood. He realized how close he had come to dying. Five seconds... or a missed shot by his droid CO, and the wing would be having a funeral right now. He knew the fates of Imperial pilots who had been shot down. ‘Forgotten' seems to be the right word. The fact that several of them had been saved by the New Republic SAR team and were being treated for their injuries ate at Edwyn, knowing it was far better treatment than they would have received from any Imperial Officer. As he pondered, he knew that the Empire would never have sent someone in to rescue them. The pilots would have been left to die. The Empire would have just resupplied the Tie Fighters and sent a new load of recruits.

These... Rebels... he'd always been taught that they were dangerous, and reckless, a threat to the order created by the Emperor - but they cared about people in a way no Imperial he'd ever met did.

They saved his life.

Could he do it? Could he continue to serve an Empire that would have taken his life without a second thought? And instead, could he betray those who had befriended him? Had saved his life, and the lives of countless others?

The doubts that had started with the destruction of the Death Star and death of the Emperor came upon him again with full force.

He spent the next hour agonizing over this decision. Finally, he knew what he had to do.

Ten minutes later Syntax called out. "I know you're there, just go ahead and knock."

Edwyn had been pacing outside his office for the past five minutes.

He sighed and knocked.

"Enter," came Syntax's mechanical voice. "You may sit,"he said motioning to a chair.

Edwyn froze, not sure if he actually wanted to sit.

"What is it you wish to discuss?" He queried.

"Well, first - and I never thought I'd say this to a droid - thank you," Edwyn stammered. "You saved my life today."

"Your analysis of the situation you were in is correct. You are lucky I am a skilled pilot and marksman," Syntax replied. "Is there anything else?"

"Yes Sir," Edwyn said, then quickly moved to the seat.

"I'm turning myself in," Edwyn said quietly.

"What for?" Syntax said.

"I was sent here by Imperial Intelligence, to provide them information on the activities of Renegade Wing," Edwyn said, his voice shaking in the process.

"I see," replied Syntax.

"I've been working with Imperial Intelligence for years, they recruited me when I was young, twelve I think. After training, I worked at the Starfighter Academy looking for those who might join the Rebel Alliance and making sure their intentions were known to the right people," Edwyn said, his voice stronger.

"And have you provided intelligence on Renegade Wing activities to the Empire?" Syntax asked.

"I.. uhh.. I was going to. Today. But when my fighter was hit, I'm sure the message was destroyed... or I hope it was at least," Edwyn replied.

"So you were sent to spy on Renegade Wing. An activity you have not yet successfully completed. Which rule would you like to turn yourself in for breaking?" Syntax asked.

"I.. guess the only rule I've broken was lying on my application…" Edwyn replied after thinking it over.

"I see," Syntax said.

"You are hereby ordered to not speak of this to anyone. No fellow pilots. No officers in another Squadron, not to the Wing Commander, nor the Captain of this ship. Do you understand?" Syntax asked directly.

"I do," Edwyn replied, slightly surprised. "So that's just it? Nothing else?"

"Oh I didn't say that," Syntax replied, his eyes brightening a bit.

Edwyn left his Commander's office wondering what it was the droid had in mind.

After Edwyn had left, Syntax pulled out the combination storage device and beacon.

"An encoded data storage device, combined with a beacon - and built from spare parts he scrounged up." he thought.

Syntax stood up and headed to the Command Lounge. It was time to figure out what they were going to do.

Chapter 8 - A Thickening Plot

Aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer Hope's End

Admiral Garret paced back and forth in his office. As he walked he fumed, he muttered

"A Strike Cruiser - full of fighters - lost.. it was an easy mission - take out a convoy of humanitarian aid," He thought.

"What an incompetent officer, to let his ship be captured in such a manner. He should have used it to ram the cruiser! His fighter should have carried the day! If I ever get my hands on him…" His thoughts were interrupted by a call from his XO.

"Sir, the others are here, it's time for the war council," he said quickly, knowing his Commander's state of mind.

"Very well, I'll be there in a moment," the Admiral said, gathering his thoughts.

After a moment he straightened his uniform and headed to the war room.

As an Admiral in charge of six Star Destroyers, he had persuaded several other captains to join him - now he had a dozen ISD's at his command. Securing supply lines was difficult, and the pipelines of replacement troops and fighters had been cut off.

To be sure, he had bullied his way into this position - two ISD Captains that had refused to join him had been destroyed along the way; but his force now represented the strongest fleet in this sector - and that was an advantage he intended to push.

He strode into the war room every inch an Imperial Admiral, heir to the Emperor before him, supremely powerful, and answering to no one. Or - at least that's what he thought of himself.

He surveyed the Captains in the room in front of him.

"Thank you all for gathering today. We have important matters to discuss," he began as he sat in the most prominent seat.

"Renegade Wing continues to be a thorn in our side. They have even today destroyed a Strike Cruiser. They are the last thing remaining between us and total control of this sector," he continued.

"What is it you are proposing?" one of the Captains asked.

"I happen to know that my Intelligence Agents have succeeded in planting two agents within Renegade Wing. I'm expecting an information drop any day now. This information will aid us in planning a trap in which we will utterly destroy Renegade Wing," he said, holding his fist in the air and squeezing it as he finished.

"With all due respect ‘Admiral', without a steady supply of TIE Fighter replacements, I'm not about to send my limited supply up against Rogue Squadron. What if they catch my ship unescorted - we could lose one of the few remaining destroyers in this sector," said Captain Tolnar.

Several other Captains nodded in agreement.

Another Captain spoke up.

"I will aid you Admiral. I know that your intelligence network is first rate, and your strategic ability was known across the Empire," said Captain Pallen.

"I will help you as well," Captain Tol Barand said. "But - if your plan fails, it will become clear to me that you are not fit to lead this fleet," he finished with his eyes focused on the Admiral's face.

Admiral Garret just smiled back at the newest Captain in his ranks. "Thank you for your support. Soon, we shall be victorious, this upstart rebellion will be crushed, and we will install a new Emperor to rule the galaxy!"

***

Back in the Vigilant's Starfighter Officer's lounge…

Syntax walked in as the rest of the Command Staff was sitting down to discuss the day's events.

"Ahh, the bucket of bolts is here. Can we get you something to drink?" Jalb joked.

A few others chuckled, while the droid remained silent, turned, and locked the door.

"Uhh.. he was only joking Syntax," Mighty said with a concerned look on his face.

Syntax turned back. "We have a problem."

Syntax then took a few minutes to explain the situation with Flight Officer Kaldan, his true history, and his intentions.

"By a plain reading of various High Command documents, I see no alternative to turning him over to the Intel department for questioning. Even though he's only been here a short time, I've seen enough of his skills to know he would be an asset to the Wing. We must determine our course of action," Syntax finished.

"What if we re-classify him? He did lie on his admission forms, yes, but really he's just been in the process of defecting over the past months," Krayt suggested. "Endor was a big deal for us - imagine someone whose whole identity was tied to being a member of Imperial Intelligence - an organization that doesn't exist anymore, at least in the manner it did."

"We could even take it step further, use his connection to Imperial Intelligence to set out a trap. We know there's an "admiral" around here with a small fleet of destroyers... what if we were able to pull them into a compromised position?" Krayt continued.

"I know we're good and all, but even my trigger finger might get tired with twelve ships full of TIE Fighters to practice on," Jalb said with a smile.

"Not to mention the Vigilant," Mighty added. "There's no way she could take on a dozen ISD's at a time - even if we could clear out the fighters. I don't know about you all but I'm just starting to think of her as home.

"Well - what if we called in backup?" Krayt mused.

"Who would come as backup?" Syntax asked.

"What if we reached out to the Sovereignty? With the pooled resources we'd be more than a match for a few destroyers. Maybe not a dozen... but two or three easily." Jalb added.

"I'll get some coffee going," Dobber said, standing up. "It sounds like it's going to be a long night."

A long night it was, but by morning, they had pulled a plan together.

Chapter 9 - The Right Bait

A few quick holocalls later and Captain Quelle had blessed the plan and called in a few favors to get a face to face meeting with Vice Admiral Arithen Vodani, Commander of the 2nd Republic Fleet.

The Vice Admiral arrived later that day and met Rear Admiral Tolden in his office.

"Admiral, I'm very pleased with the progress you've made in your command so far. I know that you are new to the Republic Navy, but I figured you'd find the challenges of Command more daunting than it seems. Your task force has accomplished significant gains in a short period of time. I must convey the congratulations of High Command and ask that you hand out suitable commendations on those who led this mission," he began.

"Now tell me, what is this urgent mission that your team has cooked up?" She finished.

"Umm..well Ma'am, I don't think I could do it justice. As you've said we have some very capable officers here, I think they should share it with you," replied Admiral Tolden. "And I'll get to work on those commendations; I completely agree."

"I believe they are ready for us now, if you'll just follow me." Admiral Tolden stood up and headed out the door, hoping to avoid further conversation with his commander.

The Vice Admiral nodded and stood up.

The two walked in silence to the Fleet Command conference room, where Captain Quelle, Colonel Stryker, and the rest of the Renegade Wing Command structure were waiting. The Captains of the Regis, Honor Bound, and Black Hawk had joined in remotely.

Admiral Tolden scanned the room. His normal seat had been taken by Admiral Vodani, and the only remaining seat was next to Syntax. He chose not to sit, and instead stood next to the Vice Admiral for the briefing.

After an hour of presentation, discussions of strategy, alternate plans, best case and worst-case scenarios, the plan was approved. With a quick signature, Vice Admiral Vodani set in motion the Renegade Wing plan, with a few minor modifications.

***

Later that morning, Syntax called Cyclops into his office.

"You are still under orders to not discuss this matter with anyone. You are to conduct your normal patrol today. As you near waypoint Zeta, you are to drop this coded cylinder. You are not to discuss the dropping of the cylinder, nor will your flight comment on it. Parts have been supplied to your quarters; in two days you will make another drop with the information I provide you." Syntax paused for a moment, ensuring that his words were being understood.

"If you carry out these orders successfully, I have it on a Rear Admiral's signature that you will face no further repercussions from your application to Starfighter Command or any related activities that have taken place till now."

Cyclops nodded in agreement, then left, slightly puzzled at this turn of events.

***

At the Imperial Listening Post…

Captain Barand's shuttle landed. It had been a simple matter for his agents to identify the location of this listening post. His files outlined the narratives of those who worked here - but there was only one man he had to control.

A guard stopped him with a blaster aimed at him as he walked to the entrance. "I'm sorry Sir, this is a restricted area. You must leave, immediately."

"I am here at the request of Admiral Garret. There has already been a breach in security here, and it is my job to ensure that it does not happen again. You will bring me to Colonel Quinn immediately, or I will return to my ship and report to the Admiral. I see the most likely response involves being ordered to reduce this place to a pile of ash to prevent any further leaks," he said, his eyes staring straight at the troopers with no faltering in his voice.

"I would hate to have to do that to such loyal servants of the Empire," he finished.

"I... I see your point Sir. Please, follow me to Colonel Quinn," the guard said, opening the door then escorting him through the small building.

Captain Barand didn't bother knocking on the Colonel's door.

"Colonel James Quinn, Imperial Intelligence. Agent Number 437925," he began.

"How did... who are.. What are you doing here? This is a restricted zone!" Colonel Quinn blubbered.

"I am here to inform you that any and all Intelligence you receive will flow through me, and you will only pass to Admiral Garret what is approved for him to receive," Captain Barand said.

"Why would I do that? Admiral Garret has been good to us - protected us. Provides the resources we need to continue operating," Colonel Quinn said, a worried look on his face.

"Admiral Garret is a fool. He thinks only of crushing the Rebellion; when he should be thinking of survival. In six months his supplies will run out, his ships will go silent, and then you will die, alone, here, of starvation," Captain Barand said coldly.

"I will not betray the Admiral," Colonel Quinn said quietly.

"I knew we would reach this impasse. That is why I took the liberty of inviting your parents, your wife, your son, and your daughter to join me on my ship. They will be well taken care of as long as our agreement holds," Captain Barand said as he showed a holo image of the family in a small detention cell.

Colonel Quinn closed his eyes for a moment. "It will be as you have said."

"One more thing. This man," Barand said, pointing a finger at the guard. "You will have this man shot. He broke protocol by allowing me in here. His death will serve as a reminder to all the need to follow the rules." Captain Barand looked at Colonel Quinn expectantly.

Colonel Quinn sighed and pulled a blaster from his desk. A quick shot and the guard fell to the ground.

"Very good Colonel," Captain Barand said as he left the room. "No one points a blaster at me and lives," he thought to himself.

***

Over the next three days, the listening post receive a communication each day:

The first day... "RW Integrating captured Interdiction technology on Strike Cruiser. Grave threat to Imperial Operations"

The second day... "Embedded Agent compromised, it's a trap."

The third day... "RW Moving Strike Cruiser to Ballor IV system. Work to commence in two days."

Two of the messages found their way to Admiral Garret, who began planning a strike of his own.

Over the next twenty-four hours, Admiral Garret cajoled, commanded, demanded, and threatened the remaining ship captains into participating in his operation. It was to be his master stroke - and with it they would achieve much in the name of the Empire.

Admiral Garret had laid out two key objectives for his operation.

"First, we must recapture the Strike Cruiser and the stolen interdiction technology. It would be a great boon for our fleet. Second, the Vigilant must be destroyed! Without their command ship the survivors of Renegade Wing will be unable to counter us in this Sector."

"We should send some ships on a mission for a distraction - divide their forces, pull them out of place. We know that they respond to our attacks across this Sector," Tol Barand suggested. "Perhaps three ships?"

Admiral Garret considered the idea.

"In addition, perhaps we should keep three ships in reserve. We have established this planet as a base of operations - perhaps we leave some extra supplies, unnecessary troops here with three Destroyers to protect them," Captain Barand continued. "It would be unwise to leave our base of operations undefended."

Admiral Garret nodded.

"Six Destroyers, and their fighters against a single Mon Cal cruiser. It should be an easy victory," he said with a smile.

"Yes, I'm sure it will be a glorious victory." Captain Barand nodded with a big smile, the rest of the assembled Captains joining in.

Captain Barand had already ensured those ships on reserve, and on the feint were allied with him. Those Captains would be grateful to his leadership in keeping them safe from the Admiral's mad ambitions - and maybe - just maybe - Renegade Wing would do him the favor of killing him in battle. That would make the next step much easier.

Chapter 10 - Into the Fray

Three Imperial Star Destroyers dropped out of hyperspace near the Revat system. They each launched a squadron of fighters who moved in to start an attack on the planet. About five minutes later a squadron of X-wings responded, their familiar black and gold paint scheme was noted by the head of this force.

"Captain Barand - Rogue Squadron is accounted for - they are at Revat," he called out over the FleetCom system.

"Very good - keep them busy for about ten minutes, then withdraw your fighters and head back to base," Captain Barand ordered.

"Admiral, the feint attack has begun. Rogue Squadron is in the field," Captain Barand reported up.

"Very good, everything is going according to plan," the Admiral sent back.

Six Imperial Star Destroyers dropped out of hyperspace and surveyed Ballor IV. After a short sweep, they identified the location of the capture Strike Cruiser, and more importantly, the Vigilant.

"Sir, it appears that the rebels have cleared the middle of an asteroid field and are using it as a defense. The Vigilant is on the other side of the field. Sensors are detecting three freighters, and a number of smaller shuttles around the cruiser," his Sensor Officer reported.

"Very Good. Have the forward batteries begin to clear a path to the strike cruiser. The Hope's End will stay in the middle of the pack. Iron Hammer and Emperor's Will, you have the honor of leading our assault. Move in and capture that cruiser, we will provide fire support," Admiral Garret ordered.

"Admiral, my ship has encountered power fluctuations in engineering - my Chief Engineer has strongly advised me to not fire turbolasers until he has time to correct the issue. I will not be able to move into the asteroid field safely," Captain Barand reported.

"I expect you to keep your ship available for operations at all times. These issues should have been corrected before we launched this operation! You may stay out of the asteroid field - watch our rear flank. I will remember your failure today Captain," Admiral Garret said loudly on the comm system, anger in his voice.

"And I will remember yours…" Captain Tol Barand thought to himself.

As the Imperial Star Destroyers moved into the asteroid field, they launched their first waves of fighters. In and around the cruiser there was a flurry of activity as the smaller shuttles, and then the larger freighters began fleeing towards the Vigilant. As they went, the Tie Fighters raced after them, weaving in between asteroids, but getting clipped by one here and there. Their numbers were noticeably thinned by the time they reached the Strike Cruiser and came to the cleared area that the shuttles used to escape. As they came to the clear zone, they raced forward hoping to catch shuttles before they could reach the safety of the capital ship.

At the edge of the asteroid field, they reformed into their formation, but were immediately set upon by Corsair and Spectre squadrons. Syntax led his squadron in a quick pass coming on the side of the mass of fighters, their broad wings making excellent targets.

Spectre, a Renegade Wing reserve squadron that had been activated for this operation showed that their skills had not dulled much sitting behind a desk, as they struck as well. The two sides would have been evenly matched - but the losses the TIEs incurred in the asteroid field gave the New Republic forces an advantage they pressed.

Renegade Flight, with Stryker and Jedi, was in the thick of the battle as well. Their well-honed skills dropping tie fighters left and right as the pair flew through the thick of the dogfight.

Aboard the Strike Cruiser, the Rogue pilots waited for their signal in silence. They dared not send any signals; they all knew what they were waiting for. As the shadow of an Imperial Star Destroyer crept over the hull, they readied themselves. Though he was a veteran of many battles, this was Lock's first as a part of Rogue. Being new to the squadron made him feel especially nervous for some reason.

At soon as the ship was directly over them, they fired up their engines and moved out.

Aboard the Iron Hammer

"Captain, we have tractor beams locked onto the Strike Cruiser. The Emperor's Will has snagged the freighters," called out the Executive Officer.

"Very good, prepare to launch the assault shuttles and take command of the ships. Expect heavy resistance," the Captain ordered.

"Shuttle launching... wait... what's that on sensors? Did we just launch fighters?" The XO asked.

If on cue, eight Rogue Squadron X-Wings appeared over the nose of the capital ship. They had slipped under the shields and were skimming the hull towards the bridge.

"Rogue Squadron isn't supposed to be here!" the Captain yelled. "Get the Admiral on Comm!"

The X-Wings flew right over the bridge, which seconds later was rocked by a series of explosions.

"Sir, our shields are out!" another officer called out.

"No shields in an asteroid field? Get us out of here!" The Captain ordered.

***

Rogue Leader called out to his squadron. "Good shooting Rogues. Let's see if we can get a second."

The Rogue pilots increased speed and headed towards the Emperor's Will, targeting the shield generators again they launched their salvos of torpedoes. "So far so good" Lock thought as his torpedoes found their mark again. The explosions destroyed those generators as well, leaving both destroyers vulnerable to the asteroids around them.

"So this is their plan then? Use the asteroid field as a weapon, to destroy our ships. That will not happen!" Admiral Garret said out loud - but to no one in particular.

"All ships, launch the reserve wave of fighters!" Admiral Garret yelled on the comms. "Keep them close to protect your shield generators!"

Rogue leader called out again. "Ok, let's get clear."

A short distance behind the Vigilant, a U-Wing launched and activated a Nav Beacon for Rogue Squadron.

As their R2 units planned out the micro jump needed to get the Rogues out of the asteroid field, Buccaneer Squadron used that Nav Beacon as their signal to jump in.

Buccaneer Squadron, led by Mighty and Dobber jumped in heading towards the asteroid field, a moment later the Rogue Squadron jumped out of the asteroid field, avoiding both the turbolasers and the newly launched TIE Fighters.

As soon as they were clear, Jalb called out on the comms "Specops, You're clear!"

Lt. Katarn, head of Renegade Wing's small special forces team, was standing on the bridge with Captain Quelle.

Captain Quelle looked at the Lieutenant. "I hope your people set this up right. A lot hinges on it."

Katarn looked back with a grin. "We're really good at blowing things up."

Over the comms he yelled "FIRE IN THE HOLE!" and pushed a detonator button on the interface in front of him.

Charges carefully placed within the power core of the Strike Cruiser turned the ship into a very large bomb... a few extra racks of munitions placed in the hangar helped even more.

Seconds later the strike cruiser exploded, setting off secondary explosions across the Iron Hammer - which in turn exploded as well. The surrounding asteroids that were not vaporized were turned into shrapnel. Whole squadrons of TIE Fighters were destroyed by the rapidly moving chunks of hot rock. The shields on the remaining four Imperial Star Destroyers buckled under the assault, and two of the ships sustained significant damage as larger asteroids crashed into them. The Emperor's Will, being closest to the explosion sustained less damage from the asteroids, but lost all power. Burning hunks of the Iron Hammer were embedded into its hull - but showing the resiliency of the massive capital ship it's power was quickly restored.

As good as the outcome of the explosion was, it wasn't all good news. The explosion cleared most of the asteroids that were providing cover to the Vigilant.

As Admiral Garret took note of the current landscape, he issued his orders. "All ships, ahead full. Destroy the Vigilant!"

The five destroyers began moving again towards the Vigilant. With no asteroids in their way, they quickly moved into range.

Captain Quelle yelled "Increase power to shields! And where's my backup?"

"Fifteen seconds out!" his sensor operator yelled out.

"All batteries open fire!" Captain Quelle ordered.

Fifteen seconds later, ships started dropping out of hyperspace. First there was the Sovereignty, the flagship of the 2nd Republic Fleet, along with it's pair of escort frigates. On the other flank, the three Nebulon-B Frigates assigned to the Vigilant task force jumped in.

Aboard his ship, Captain Barand now saw the full picture of the trap had been laid. He also saw the devastation Rogue had wrought by slipping under the shields. "That's not going to happen to me," he thought. "Helm, set a course back to our base. This battle is a lost cause." Then he marched into his office to think over his next steps.

"Aye Sir,'' his helmsman said as he set in the course.

His ship headed into hyperspace leaving the remaining destroyers to fend for themselves.

The Emperor's Will was Buccaneer's first target. Loaded up with heavy rockets, the B-Wings of Buccaneer launched a salvo. Devoid of shields, and a fighter escort it was easy pickings for the pilots of Buccaneer. As their rockets hit, huge gaps were torn in the armor - as the B-Wings pulled out the Vigilant again targeted the ship, it's turbolasers penetrating deep into the hull. As the bolts found their mark, critical systems continue to go down. As the ship's systems went down, escape pods launched and headed towards Hope's End.

The Sovereignty opened up on its target's engines. The powerful blasts quickly disabled those systems. A call was made for the ship to surrender... as it continued firing at the Vigilant, the only target in it's range, Admiral Vodani gave the order to target the bridge. The first few turbolaser blasts were absorbed by the thick armor - but as the firing continued more turbolasers found the same mark. The structure of the bridge began melting away under the onslaught. All control systems were immediately destroyed, leaving the ship floating uncontrolled through space.

On the other flank, the target of the Regis, Honor Bound, and Black Hawk was in a similar situation - here they had again targeted the engines, and as the lost movement control the Captain ordered all hands to abandon ship. As escape pods streamed towards the Hope's End, the self-destruct went off, leaving the wreckage of another Star Destroyer in its place.

As fighters began streaming out of the Sovereignty, Admiral Garret realized how dire his situation was. Three Star Destroyers down - a fourth close - Captain Barand had fled. His was the last ship with full power - but without shields he wouldn't last long against the forces arrayed against him.

"Helm, get us out of here. The day is lost," Admiral Garret ordered sitting down wearily in his seat.

Without waiting for the escape pods to land, the ship leaped into hyperspace.

***

The dogfight near the Vigilant winded down. SAR was already out picking up pilots. Losses were light on the Renegade Wing side. Three A-Wings had been destroyed, but the pilots ejected safely. The pilots of Spectre Squadron had fought well, but about half had noticeable damage. After their assault on the Star Destroyers, Rogue Squadron had joined in the dogfight and tipped the odds even further in the New Republic's favor; the departure of the Imperial command ships pulled the fight out of the remaining TIE Fighter pilots.

The TIE Fighters were instructed to land in the open hangar bay of the Black Hawk where the pilots were promptly taken into custody.

As he watched the operations, Captain Pierce Dey of the Black Hawk eyed the eighteen TIE Fighters that had been captured, a glint in his eye as he thought about the possibilities they represented.

The Vigilant's shields had held up to the Imperial assault. Had the strikes on the other ISD's not been successful, things would have gone poorly, but in this instance Captain Quelle had a reason to smile. After checking with engineering and ordering repairs, he headed down to the hangar.

Renegade Wing pilots began to land a few minutes later, their cockpits opened to the largest celebration there had been since the events at Endor. They knew a significant blow had been struck that day - the only question now was - how would their enemies respond?

Chapter 11 - The Aftermath

At Admiral's Garret's "home base", the Hope's End limped into orbit. The shields were still down, the hull had been blackened and scarred by flying asteroids. It's fighter compliment was emptied. The other six ships sat in orbit, awaiting the return of the strike force.

Admiral Garret summoned his remaining Captains to a war council. They arrived a short time later. The Admiral stood up, furious at the sight of Captain Barand.

"You left us to die! I ordered you to watch our flank - we lost four ships thanks to your treachery!" he charged.

"My treachery?" Captain Barand asked coolly. "You were in charge of this mission. You assured us that if we combined our forces we would have an easy victory. In truth we were outsmarted, out maneuvered, and outgunned. You led us into a trap, and you are no longer fit for command," Captain Barand finished and silence came over the room.

"I see it now," Admiral Garret said quietly. "You mean to replace me. You forget who is in charge here. You forget where their loyalties lie." As he finished his statement he pulled a blaster out and pointed it at Captain Barand.

Captain Barand smiled a smug little smile. "The new Empire has no place for failed leaders such as you."

The Captains around him each retrieved their blasters. At first, they pointed them at Captain Barand, giving the Admiral a surge of exaltation. Then their target changed.

Captain Barand stood and walked to the Admiral. "This would have been much easier had he been killed in combat," he thought as he walked.

"Admiral Garret. I hereby relieve you of your command," he said.

The blaster he had been holding faltered in his hands as he looked around the room. Captain Barand easily took it from his hands, then fired a single shot into the Admiral's head.

Guards stationed outside rushed into the room.

"The Admiral was distraught at his failure and has taken his own life. Remove him from this place," Captain Barand said scornfully to the guards.

The Captains in the room nodded in agreement, and the body was removed.

"Now then, we need to make some real plans. A storm is coming, this is but the first blow from the Republic. If we are to survive, we need ships, we need resources, we need fuel, we need men, and we need safe harbor. Establishing these things is our highest priority. Let's get to work."

"Yes Admiral," the Captains responded.

"No.. not Admiral. Not yet. Call me Commodore," Barand said.

The Captains nodded in agreement, and Commodore Tol Barand set to work, forging for himself another rung on the ladder of power.

***

Back on the Vigilant, the mood was jubilant. They had pulled off an operation that was even more successful than they had hoped. They received another congratulatory visit from the Rear Admiral, but it was cut short as the Sovereignty needed to get back to its sector. The celebration lasted too late into the evening, and the standard workload of the wing was a little slow starting the next morning.

The next day Syntax called Cyclops again into his office.

"I have news for you," Syntax said. "First off, I must congratulate you on your performance in the recent operation. Sensors have confirmed four targets destroyed in the melee, and the technicians have agreed that for once you did not scratch the paint."

"Second," he continued, "The issues with the errors in your application have been dealt with. You have been permanently assigned to Renegade Wing as Corsair 3."

"Finally, I've discussed with the other Commanders and they agree, while Cyclops fits an Eyeball pilot it's not as fitting for an A-Wing Pilot. We've agreed that Talon is an appropriate callsign for you."

"Do you have any questions?" Syntax queried.

"No Sir, Thank You again," Talon replied.

Talon left his CO's office, finally feeling like he belonged.

***

Later that week, in Admiral Tolden's private quarters, a secretly implanted recording device captured the following audio.

"I understand the losses were more than you wanted."

[unintelligible voice]

"I know, they are a hard bunch to control. I know you wanted the ship, but they went over my head."

[unintelligible voice]

"I understand. I will do better."

[unintelligible voice]

"I agree, it cannot happen again.