Preface by: Bulldog and Loth-cat
...16 BBY ~ Dion was born...
Dion Ninx was born to Moru and Janu-Din Ninx and grew up in the once small settlement of Aq Vetina, now a city built by the Empire, on a planet in the Mandalore sector so insignificant that it didn’t have an official name. They had tan skin, black hair and brown eyes. They would grow up and attend school, where they always felt different because of their undiscovered force-sensitivity, which gave them the ability to connect with animals and the feelings of all living creatures. During the Clone Wars, the Confederacy of Independent Systems carried out an attack on Aq Vetina. The civilians were slaughtered by the droid forces of the Separatists. During the attack, a number of Mandalorian warriors of Death Watch intervened, fighting back against the battle droids. The survivors of the attack, Dion's parents among them, were left with distrust and hatred for all droids in general, resulting in the mistreatment and killing of droids becoming a common practice. However, Dion and their brother Palob, who was born 4 years after them, were taught by their mother that droids are not all evil. Dion was very much like their mother, they were kind and they loved animals, specially Loth-cats, which they had two as pets.
In 2 BBY Dion’s father joined the Imperials as soon as they began recruiting from the local populace. Those that didn’t join or show outright fealty were subjected to beatings or other harassment. The local population began to chafe at the slowly tightening yoke of Imperial rule. Dion always thought their father joined the Empire to protect his family, but as time went on and minor transgressions turned into blatant atrocities, their father remained steadfast in his support of the Imperials, until he was assigned offworld and left his family behind. The truth was that he didn't care about the Empire, he just wanted to leave his insignificant planet and see the rest of the galaxy. Without any source of income, the family relied on scavenging and repairing machinery. From this, Dion learned that you didn’t waste anything. They quickly learned how to repair machinery and droids of all kinds. They were taught by their mother to fix and repurpose anything until it physically was incapable of staying together any longer. Food and resources were rationed, and the native population began to starve slowly.
In 2 ABY, an 18 year old Dion Ninx finds the C-series astromech droid C4-5PR "Casper" in disrepair and brings him home and repairs him, beginning their friendship. Around this time they also found a Mandalorian vest, without the chest armor, but with two remaining pauldrons, one bearing a Mythosaur sigil, two pieces of thigh armor and a Stormtrooper boot armor in perfect state, which they painted blue.
Now… 4 ABY
One day, Dion heard a sonic boom while they were in their makeshift workshop trying to repair a thresher droid. They dropped their tools and ran out to see the commotion. It was a rebel squadron attacking the main Imperial garrison and destroying a statue of Emperor Palpatine. There were small fighter craft Dion had never seen flitting about the skies of their planet. They were mesmerized as they watched the lethal dance of TIE Fighters and Rebel Starfighters.
Just then, one of the rebel ships took a critical hit from a TIE and spiraled toward the ground. Dion couldn’t tear their eyes away from the scene, and was utterly amazed as the pilot of the ship somehow managed to pull out of their death spiral with meters to spare and skidded their ship to a halt in a nearby ravine.
Throwing caution to the wind, they sprinted toward the crash site. They knew it wouldn’t be long until the local Imperial outpost would scramble a squad of Stormtroopers to investigate. As they reached the crevice the ship had fallen into, they saw the pilot attempting to pull herself out of the stricken craft. She was having difficulty using her right leg, and would surely be run down and caught if left to her own devices. Dion rushed forward, but stopped and threw their hands up as she leveled her blaster in their direction. Once she identified that Dion wasn’t a trooper, she lowered her pistol and allowed them to help carry her off.
The local squad was not far behind, having discovered the crashed ship moments after the two of them had crested a ridge and took refuge in a deep cave system that the Imperials hadn’t been too keen to investigate thoroughly previously and likely didn’t have accurate maps of the various tunnels and chambers. After a day of searching and a few close calls, the patrol returned to their outpost empty handed.
”Who are you? What are you doing here?” Dion asked after they found a good hiding place within the vast caverns.
”My name is Galé Andromeda, I'm with the Rebellion, and haven’t you heard?” the wounded pilot replied. “The Emperor died when we destroyed the 2nd Death Star earlier today!”
These things didn't mean much to Dion, having never really heard much of the Emperor himself or the Rebellion, but they nodded happily anyway.
Galé thanked Dion profusely. "Our encounter wasn't an accident, but the will of the Force" she said.
"The… Force?" Dion said. For a moment, Dion felt they knew about it all along but didn't know the name for it. "But… what can it do?" They asked.
Galé replied with a smile. "If you have hope, anything.”
Dion could only think about one thing. "I want to learn how to fly so I can get off this kriffing rock and get revenge for my people". They knew their people would still suffer as imperial rule tightened and they opted for the only available, and feasible, option. She agreed to teach them the basics as best she could in the cave where they took refuge if they promised to care for her, which Dion eagerly agreed to. They sprinted home, dodging Imperial patrols and retrieved what meager rations and supplies their mother and brother could afford to spare. They left a note to their family explaining what happened, telling them they will return. As they prepared to return, Dion detoured into their repair shop and grabbed their tools, some scrap metal on a whim, the Mandalorian vest and armor and Casper. As they emerged, they heard lots of shouting. Poking their head out, they saw an angry crowd of their neighbors walking toward the local garrison. They were waving flags with the Mythosaur sigil on them. The rebellion had begun. Without warning, the troopers opened fire on the crowd, killing many and wounding more. Those that were wounded were put down with a point blank shot.
Shaken, they once again dodged patrols and returned to the cave and held up their end of the bargain, Galé had scrawled out a mock Y-Wing cockpit with chalk on the cavern floor and walls during Dion’s absence. She gave Dion a crash-course in flying 101. Unfortunately, Dion’s mechanical abilities did not transfer to medical abilities, and later that evening Galé had succumbed to an unknown injury deep inside her body that neither of them had seen.
They buried her in a cairn of stones where she rested, they kept her flight helmet and set to work on fixing the Y-Wing. Despite never seeing such a ship in their life before, their intuition with machines helped them identify most of the issues and they thankfully had all of the tools with them, as the sounds of blaster fire from their homestead and the surrounding areas carried on throughout their work.
Hoping the repairs were successful, Dion put the Mandalorian vest on top of their traditional Aq Vetina red robes, Casper attached himself into the droid socket of the Y-Wing, Dion climbed into the cockpit and, with the flight helmet on, tried to mimic what they’d been taught. After three tries, they got the startup sequence correct, and after another two they were airborne.
As they left the atmosphere, the havoc being wrought upon the surface of their homeworld was more evident, and Dion became increasingly angry. They were about to turn the ship around and try to figure out how to strafe Imperials when the ship sensors pinged an alert. A patrol of TIE fighters was closing quickly on their position. They panicked briefly, but were calm enough to use the system menu to look for a way to leave.
As luck would have it, the rebel pilot’s astromech had calculated their hyperspace course before its demise. Dion took one last look at their smoldering homeworld and vowed they would return once they were a better pilot and pay the Imperials back in spades, and went into hyperspace.
To Be Part of Something Bigger
Galé Andromeda's former Y-Wing, Hyperspace
The ship was still in bad shape, given it required a proper full restoration after it's violent crash. Sparks came out of the ship's monitors, it was barely holding together.
"Bwap bwah", said Casper.
"I know, I'm trying to do something about it!" Dion replied. "Plus, I don't see you doing much back there!".
"Wa, BWAAW!" Casper exclaimed nervously.
"You're right, wherever we were heading, we're arriving".
The ship was dropping out of hyperspace. "Here we go!" said Dion, scared, but hopeful.
As soon as they dropped, they were met by an amazing battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. "Blast! that was close" Dion exclaimed after they almost crashed into a TIE Fighter. "This can't be right, we just got out of a fight. Where are we?"
"That right there is the planet of Sissubo, and you're late. Where is the rest of your squadron?" said a raspy voice in Dion's helmet- the voice of a veteran.
"How do… can they hear me?" Dion asked, confused.
"Yes, I can hear you", the voice answered in an annoyed tone. "This is Rampant One speaking. Are you Orange Five?"
Dion cleared their throat "My name is Dion Ninx, this ship belonged to rebel pilot Galé Andromeda who, despite my efforts, died… along with her whole squad, sir.”
After a moment of silence, in the middle of the raging battle, Rampant One cursed. "Dank Farrik… the idea was, if Endor succeeded, we were to eliminate imperial resistance and liberate smaller worlds. We have done that before. This was the rendezvous point. Of course the Empire panicked…"
"That's a first," a squadron member interrupted.
"...and launched a whole fleet here," Rampant One continued. "We have a Star Destroyer, two light cruisers and we just lost an A-Wing. We really needed that squadron! Rampant Four can't do much damage in that B-Wing before getting destroyed."
"Ion bombs are useless", Rampant Four chimed in sadly.
"Well, what about Ion Torpedoes?" Dion asked. "I used to scrap those shield generators, one good ion shot and they're done for."
"Two, Three, do your X-Wings have those?" Rampant One asked, to which Rampant Two and Three responded almost immediately. "Yes sir, on it.”
As Dion predicted, the shields on the light cruisers went down in a heartbeat.
"Alright bombers, do your job," Rampant One ordered.
As Rampant Four and Dion rushed to each light cruiser, a TIE Interceptor started shooting at the back of Dion's already frail Y-Wing. "Nononono, I can't-" Dion couldn't finish because the shooting stopped. The ion turret of the Y-Wing was activated by Casper and immobilized the Interceptor before it was destroyed by Rampant Two.
"Mine! you got a good droid right there, buddy!" Rampant Two cheered.
Dion laughed nervously while Casper made happy noises.
"Orange Five, you seem to be pretty beat up. Sending a present your way," said Rampant One while his U-Wing shot a repair droid at Dion's ship. All the auxiliaries replenished themselves and the hull recovered some integrity. "Now blow that cruiser to hell!".
Dion identified the proton bombs on the computer and dropped them all on the light cruiser, blasting it to pieces.
Rampant Four did the same."Yeah, it's down!" he cheered.
Now the big Star Destroyer was defenseless, but far from vulnerable. The squadron was arguing which subsystem to attack first, while Dion thought to themselves "these five ships can't bring that monstrosity down.”
Suddenly, all hope returned. A rebel Star Cruiser, two frigates, and a corvette came out of hyperspace all at once. Even though Dion had never seen these ships in their life, the euphoria they felt was uncomparable. They had a chance; a chance to be a part of something bigger, a chance to make a change for the better for so many worlds like theirs. They had hope, and with that, they could do anything.
After Rampant Two and Three destroyed the shield generators, and Rampant Four the power system, Rampant One said to Dion "alright kid, finish it!"
Dion unloaded the rotary cannon and beam cannon on the imperial flagship and saw it burn, just like they wished they could burn the whole Empire down one day.
"Aw man, I wish Shara was here to see this" said Rampant Three.
"Well, I heard she had a better view," Rampant One replied. "Now let's go to the hangar. Orange Five here has a lot to explain. Follow my lead, kid."
"This is Rampant One requesting clearance to enter the hangar for my squadron and Orange Five',” One said to the comms control of the cruiser.
"This is MC-75 Introductor, please squadron leader, transmit clearance code," a female voice responded.
"Transmitting," One answered, and after a while, all ships got into the hangar.
We Are All The Same
MC-75 Introductor, Rebel Training Cruiser; Hangar Bay
The Y-Wing drew everyone's eyes as it was the only ship that didn't belong to the arriving squadron. Plus, its deplorable state made it stand out. Dion got out of the cockpit and looked at Casper and asked "you need help, buddy?"
Casper replied with a loud "BWAH" and used his rocket booster to get out of the ship. He followed Dion around the hangar as they went to meet the rebel squadron they just met.
Rampant Two and Three both get out of their X-Wings at the same time. "That's gotta be the most loyal droid I've ever seen," Rampant Two said.
“He is the best," Dion replied.
"You know, you can always exchange it for a better R2 unit. More refined technology, more trustworthy... this little fella saved me countless times!" Three said, pointing at his R2 unit.
"Exchange it?" Dion exclaimed. "I can't just replace Casper! I found him, he found me!"
Both Rampant Two and Three looked at eachother confused, not understanding Dion's passion. Clearly, to them a droid is nothing but an expendable tool.
They couldn't reply because of the screams of Rampant Four, yelling at a mechanic next to his B-Wing. "It needs total repairs AGAIN?! It's just its third mission, how is that possible? I already fixed it twice and-"
"Quit your whining!" Rampant One interrupted while getting out of his ship, revealing to be an older Sullustan. "My ears hurt!".
Dion looked scared at the first sight of the squadron leader, so much that they started walking backwards and tripped into a tube.
"Hey, hey, kid, calm down, I'm the guy who saved you a minute ago, remember?".
"You look… different," Dion replied, scared and confused.
"Well, you look different to me too, no big deal," the leader answered. "Have you never seen a Sullustan before?".
"What's that?" Dion asked.
The pilots looked at each other, until Three said "Wait, you've never seen a Sullustan before?"
"I bet they've never even seen an alien,” said Two.
"It's the first time you’ve left your planet, right?" Four asked, to which Dion simply nodded.
The old Sullustan, understanding the situation, bent towards Dion and said in a calming tone "Your planet was controlled by the Empire, right?" Dion nodded again, this time more calmly. "Mine too," the Sullustan continued. "To them, we weren't people, we were just laborers, and to the other worlds... they gave them the idea that any ‘nonhuman’ was inferior- that humans were meant to rule and the rest, well, were meant to serve. See, I know you kid. You just had it with the Empire being so unfair to your people, left your planet and joined the fight, quite literally," he laughed, and continued. "Despite what the Empire wants everyone to believe... we, you and I, are the same, no matter how we look. And we are many, and strong, and we're gonna end the Empire for good. For my world, for yours, for everyone." He extended his hand to Dion, and they took it, lifting them up off the floor.
"Wait, are you crying?" asked Two at Three, who was wiping tears from his eyes. "What? No! Some cosmic dust from the ships got into my eyes," he answered.
"Well," Four said, "welcome to the Rebellion I guess."
"Not quite," a female voice interrupted the unofficial ceremony. It was a deck officer followed by three fleet troopers.
"Right now you are a stowaway in this vessel since you are not part of the Rebel Alliance and you came here in a stolen starfighter," said the deck officer to Dion.
"Stolen?! I risked my life for-" before they could continue, the squadron leader interfered.
"Officer, with all due respect, this kid was vital to our victory against that imperial fleet. If it wasn't for them, you would have just found our corpses out in the cold of space."
After a moment of hesitation, the officer said "whatever may have happened, we have protocols to follow now, and the captain would like to speak to them. Now take them and the droid for analysis," she ordered the fleet troopers.
Dion put themselves before Casper as soon as one of the soldiers walked to him and shouted "you'll have to kill me first!"
"Stand down," said the soldier pointing his blaster at them.
"Whoa, easy, easy" said Rampant One trying to calm the situation.
Two remembered what Dion said about Casper and talked to the officer. "Ma'am please, do what you have to do, but please, please, don't touch that droid." It was the first time any of his teammates heard him speak like that. Even the officer was surprised.
"Fine," she reluctantly replied. "Take them both- don't dismantle the droid".
"That's all you get, kid," Rampant One said to Dion, almost apologizing, while the soldiers took them away.
"Let's hope you don't get the cell!" Rampant Three yelled while Dion and Casper were taken down a hallway.
They got the cell.
There Is More to It Than Luck
MC-75 Introductor, Rebel Training Cruiser; Holding cells
Casper was desperately calling for Dion, who was in a cell in front of him.
"Don't worry buddy, I'll get us out of here, I promise," Dion said to him, although they had no clue how to do it. "Unbelievable", they said to themselves. "I wanted to join the Rebellion and now they end up locking me up."
"Bwah," Casper responded in a sad tone.
Suddenly, they heard steps coming towards the cells. It was an officer followed by two rebel troopers. One of them came close to Casper's cell and said "huh, all this fuss for this piece of junk?" before he was electrocuted by Casper's electro-shock prod. "AGH!" the trooper shouted in pain, raising his blaster towards the droid, saying "you little-".
"Stand down trooper" ordered the officer.
"Yes Captain," the shocked trooper reluctantly replied. He walked towards Dion's cell and opened it.
The Captain entered first and said "your droid is a feisty one."
"He knows right from wrong, which apparently you do not,” Dion responded sarcastically.
"Funny you should say that" the Captain said, "because we always know when something is wrong. For example,” he continued while walking around Dion, "your name doesn't appear in any record. The city you say you come from has no relation to any named planet and the ship you came in, a ship you said you found, belonged to a pilot who was lost in combat. Now tell me, does that sound right to you?"
"You can check the tab on the ship, I'm not lying," Dion said looking down, feeling intimidated.
"Unfortunately", the Captain responded, "that was one of the many systems that were damaged in battle. As for you droid, C4-5PR-"
"His name is Casper", Dion interrupted. The troopers giggled as they thought their love for the droid was childish.
"Well, as for your droid Casper," the Captain continued, "we can't find out anything else, except he is heavily modified, without a full dismantling. Fortunately for you a member of Rampant Squadron specifically requested for us not to perform that dismantling." The Captain sat right in front of Dion, and looking at them said "we know absolutely nothing about you, yet somehow you've earned the trust of a whole squadron and here you are sitting on my ship. Now tell me, how do I know you are not an Imperial?".
"Are you kidding?" Dion asked. "I hate the empire as much as you people, that's why I left my home, why I helped that pilot until I couldn't," Dion paused as they were getting emotional. Then continued, "plus, the Emperor is dead, what's left to fear?"
"But the war isn't over," the Captain pointed out. "If anything, this is the most critical moment for us. We can't allow ourselves to fall for a trap." After a pause, the Captain said "your name".
"What?" Dion asked in confusion.
The Captain pressed on."Your name doesn't appear in any record, but your family name does. Tell me, what's your relation with Janu-Din Ninx?".
Dion became pale, that name brought all the anger and suffering they and their family had gone through, but all they could think was that the same rebellion they wanted to join was going to kill them for being their father's child.
Their silence wasn't unnoticed. "No? doesn't ring any bells?" The Captain continued "decorated pilot, one of the rare few who got to fly the-"
"He's my father" Dion interrupted him. "He … was my father".
"That's what I thought," the Captain said and made a sign with his hand for the troopers to leave as he left himself.
"You should read that again," Dion said loudly, with anger, but not screaming. The Captain and the troopers turned to Dion again. "You seem to know him well", they continued. "More than I do for sure. In your records, does it say when he joined the Empire? Or to put it better, when he abandoned his family? No? I was fourteen years old! My brother was ten, and he told him that he was going to come back and he believed him!. He still waits for him!" Dion was crying. "The things my family have had to do to survive, because of the Empire, because of him. Now I’ve left my family, I don't know if they are okay, now I'm just as much scum as he is. I wanted to join you so I can put an end to all this pain, all this suffering. So if you're gonna kill me- do it, but make sure he dies too. But if you don't, I'll kill him myself!"
The Captain was silent. The troopers were looking at him expecting any reaction at all. The whole corridor remained quiet until one of the troopers asked the Captain "sir?".
The Captain, without changing the expression on his face said: "free them both, escort them back to the hangar"
Casper made a loud noise of happiness and when the troopers opened the cell doors they both rushed to hug each other.
"Alright, let's get going" said the same trooper who pointed his blaster towards Casper, and, as he was reaching towards them, Casper threatened him with his buzz saw. "WOAH, okay, okay" the trooper said while jumping back in fear.
Dion laughed and said "Sorry, too soon?".
Back in the hangar, Dion was surprised to see that Rampant Squadron was still waiting for news on them, and when they saw them both cheered as Rampant Three exclaimed: "You're not dead!". They all came to Dion and Casper and hugged them as part of the squad.
"Well? What now?" Rampant Four asked.
“Well, if I want to fly like you guys, I need proper training, and since this is a training cruiser, I can do it right here!" Dion replied.
"Yeah, you need training all right," said Rampant One between laughs. "You are talented, kid, but practice is everything. Plus, you'll need to fix that," he said pointing at the Y-Wing they arrived on.
"Yeah, I feel bad for Orange Squadron, they all died trying to liberate my planet," Dion said.
"Oh, but they are not all dead," Four assured. "That was just a branch of Orange Squadron. The whole team was recently stationed in the Mid Rim territories, turning loyalists against the Empire for the New Republic!"
"The New Republic?, I thought you were the Rebel Alliance," Dion said confused.
Rampant One laughed and put his hand on Dion's shoulder. "Times are changing, kid," he said. "After the war ends, who do you think will stay in charge? Hopefully the old leaders are all dead, so that leaves us! A rebellion can't be in charge of the galaxy, because soon there will be nothing to rebel against. And we are the 'Alliance to Restore the Republic' after all, so that's exactly what we are doing, and with luck, we avoid the mistakes the prior Republic did."
"Luck?" asked Dion, skeptical.
"You don't believe in luck?" One asked. "It was luck that brought you here to help us, it was luck these uptight officers didn't kill you, hell, you’re lucky to be in a training cruiser when the one thing you need is training!"
"And a change of clothes," Rampant Two added. "Those robes don't look so comfortable, I like the vest though".
"Look, I just don't think luck is the only thing that matters," Dion said. "These… man, it feels like days, but this experience made me realize, maybe there is something more to all of it. Not everything can be random, not everything can be luck."
"Well, luck, fate, the Force, whatever you wanna call it, everyone has that one thing that keeps the galaxy going. If that works for you, fine by me!" said One in a joyful tone. "Well, me and the boys are late as it is and I need to make a huge report on what happened, so have fun trying to be a pilot!"
All the squadron members said their goodbyes to both Dion and Casper, and before Rampant One got in his U-Wing, he said "hey kid!". Dion turned around, and One said "may the Force be with you." Dion smiled and One left with the rest of his squadron.
You Are a Renegade
Dion took Rampant Two's advice and got new clothes, and was often seen wearing long sleeves underneath the Mandalorian vest, loose pants, the repurposed stormtrooper boot armor on one foot, a custom Mandalorian inspired knee plate on the other leg and the thigh armors. They would also just use the Mandalorian vest with a maroon shirt under it, black trousers and a red scarf. They discovered they were also comfortable with more feminine clothes, although they were very shy to try them in public. The other recruits didn't make them feel comfortable, often asking where they were from, what are they, and if they were a Mandalorian, to which they always responded "I'm not one of them but I know about them, and I wear this armor with pride for the strength of their people.''
They also mocked their relationship with Casper. Once, the recruits told them that they treated the droid like a loth-cat, which they replied with "I love loth-cats.'' This earned them the nickname "Loth-cat" which they didn't take as a negative thing. Besides, he made a loth-cat sticker bump and put it on Casper, so people know it was their droid. They did the same with Galé's flight helmet, putting two loth-cat emblems on it and wrote in aurebesh "No forgiveness, nor forgetness". As for other flight helmets they owned and used in practice, they had a standard Y-Wing helmet with orange stripes, an homage to Phoenix Squadron, one of the Rebel Alliance's earliest fighter groups, which they used for both Y-Wing and A-Wing flight practices, and a standard B-Wing helmet. They also wore a New Republic Starfighter Corps helmet, flight jacket and gloves. The training was ‘on the fly’ in the ever growing debris field of Sissubo, although they were never informed why or how the debris field was formed, and the training was guided by none other than the Captain of the MC-75 Introductor.
One day, Dion ran across fellow recruit Keo Venzee, a Mirialan who already had keen piloting abilities given that they were a professional starship racer before joining the New Republic. Something stopped them both in the middle of the cruiser's hallway, a mutual feeling, a connection, something telling they had something in common. They both looked at each other, like they saw someone they haven't seen in a long time. They approached each other without saying a word until Keo said "I feel you, you have a strong connection with-'' they stopped talking, afraid they were telling too much.
"The Force" said Dion instinctively, remembering the conversation they’d had with Galé before her passing. "I've heard about it but I don't know what it is. I feel something inside of me, I've always had, but now it is… stronger, is… scary. Can you help me?" Dion asked almost with sorrow.
"Now calm down", Keo interrupted them, holding their hands "We need to talk somewhere else".
Then, MC-75 Introductor; Keo's room
"I was taught to feel the ways of the Force, as it was a tradition in Mirial, my homeworld," Keo explained.
"So… what can you do?" Dion asked.
"Sometimes I can see things happening, before they happen, it's like… a ‘hunch’, but more than that, and you?" Keo asked.
"I don't know. I've always felt like I could understand animals better than the average person, and they could understand me", Dion answered.
"That is amazing," Keo replied. "I know you're afraid, I knew there was a reason for me to be here, but you have to understand, we have to hide our abilities. It's not safe out there yet, not for people like us," Keo said, much to Dion's confusion.
"What do you mean?" Dion said. "The Empire will be gone soon, maybe with your abilities this will end sooner".
"They will fear me, they are afraid of us," Keo answered. "They were taught to fear us, even if you are New Republic you've heard the stories from Coruscant, about the Jedi, told to terrify children. And even when the war ends, what do we do? Ban all of us together only for someone else to kill us all at the same time? We fight now, for what is right, the right way, and that's it. After that, with the New Republic, we can be free, people like you and me, everyone can be free, but I can't risk my freedom now, I need to be a part of this."
They’d never heard of any of the things Keo had just referenced, but opted not to let on that they were clueless. After a long pause, thinking about it, Dion said "You're right. But think about it, think how I met you, think about all those like us struggling with this… feeling. They need to know they are not alone, I needed to know that. We have the right to know who we are, what we are, and stand proud of it. Because the Force IS with us, and we can't be the only ones."
Keo valued Dion's optimism, and even got some of it themselves. "You're a dreamer, you know that Loth-cat"?
Dion smiled, kind of ashamed. "Oh blast, you've heard that too?"
"I think it is the most wizard nickname ever," Keo replied. "You know what? we should be proud of who we are, at first the two of us, then everyone like us".
An R2 unit in the room activated and Keo reached and grabbed their KSE-H44 flight helmet. "This is my flight helmet," Keo said, "and this is my astromech, I prefer flying A-Wings but it's nice to have one. I painted them both myself using the same colors. This will be our colors. When you get your own helmets, paint them this way. You are a renegade, Loth-cat, you are meant for great things, I know it."
"How?" asked Dion in tears.
"A hunch," Keo said smiling.
Both hugged, and Dion said "thank you," to which Keo responded "you won't be alone ever again."
The next day, MC-75 Introductor; Hangar Bay
Because of Keo's advanced skills on flying starfighters, they were quickly assigned to Vanguard Squadron, under the command of General Hera Syndulla. Dion accompanied Keo to the hangar and both said their goodbyes when the Acclamator-class assault ship Lodestar, Syndulla's flagship and current residence of Vanguard, dropped out of hyperspace and docked with the cruiser. As soon as Keo left aboard the Clone Wars era ship, Dion got a U-Wing pilot helmet with the same colors of Keo's helmet and droid; yellow, white, purple, and black.
In the following months of training, Dion proved themselves to know how to fly every New Republic starfighter, and also became a really good support pilot, standing out for their prowess in the U-Wing. In that time they also fixed Galé's Y-Wing, after a long hard work. They also kept the Naboo Starfighter Toy hanging flair of her cockpit. One day, the squadron Convoy's Courage landed in the hangar of the Introductor for repairs. Dion was inspired by their paint job colors because it reminded them of Keo's flight helmet, so they painted Galé's Y-Wing using the colors of Convoy's Courage. By that time, the tales of how Vanguard Squadron saved the New Republic's Starhawk Project were heard by all the fleet. Their popularity grew so much, that a replica of Keo Venzee's KSE-H44 A-Wing pilot helmet and an A-Wing flight suit and gloves with the same colors became available for pilots. Of course, Dion got all of those items.
It had been exactly three months and three weeks after the Battle of Endor, after Dion left their home and joined the New Republic. The MC-75 Introductor needed a routine mechanical check, so they set course to Baterron. Once inside the planet's atmosphere, the cruiser dry docked right next to another New Republic vessel, one that was pretty damaged. When the cruiser landed, and the hangar was open for the non-essential crew and pilots, Dion, who was next to another pilot, took a look at the neighboring ship. They asked the other pilot, "what kind of ship is that?"
"That is an MC-80B, brand new flagship for the fleet, really unique. In fact I don't know if there is another one out there," the other pilot replied.
"It looks pretty awful to be brand new," Dion pointed out.
"The model is new,'' the pilot answered, "but I bet this one saw some good action. From what I've heard, that one must be the Vigilant, the home of Renegade Wing."
Dion stood up immediately when they heard that last part. "Who?" they asked.
"Renegade Wing," the pilot repeated, confused. "Y'know, it has a bunch of squadrons who work independently but act as a unit nonetheless."
The name reminded them of what Keo told them the night they met, "You are a renegade, Loth-cat". Their words were like an echo in Dion's mind. Suddenly, they knew what they had to do, and they ran in direction to the other flagship, much to the other pilot's surprise.
Inside the ship's hangar, it seemed like everyone was doing something and no one had time for a small pilot wandering clueless in the hangar.
"Excuse me!" Dion shouted to anyone there, but no one responded, no one but an R5 series astromech droid. "Oh, hello there, how are you?". The droid was surprised someone actually asked them how they were. "Bleep bleep bleep!" the droid answered in a very happy tone. "Nice to meet you too", Dion responded. "If it's possible, can you tell me where the crew of this vessel meet, off duty gathering and such?" Dion asked, to which the droid happily replied "bleep bleep bleep".
"The Simmons’ Shock Deck, got it, thanks a lot, buddy!" said Dion while they ran to where the droid told them to go, and the droid moved from left to right in happiness.
Dion knew they got to the deck when they saw a sign with the initials S.S.D. Inside, the first thing that caught their attention was an IG-series droid who was serving as a bartender, and the second thing, the person who they were serving; a human male with short brown graying hair with male pattern baldness, brown eyes, light tan skin color, average height, bulkier around the midsection than most, and bearded. He was the only person in the room.
"Another bourbon, Iggy," told the man to the droid. "That is the stuff" Iggy replied and poured another glass of alcoholic beverage.
He was not the Renegade pilot he expected, but something was telling them they were right where they needed to be. "Excuse me", Dion said to the man.
“Buzz off, rook. I’m drinking,” the man said without turning around to face them.
Dion straightened up their back an said "my name is Dion Ninx, from the cruiser Introductor, and I would like to be part of Renegade Wing and serve with you, sir."
The man stood up, although it took a while since he was dizzy, and slowly came close to Dion, almost in an intimidating way. When he was close enough, he said "okay, come with me."
Dion wasn't expecting that change of attitude, but he followed him anyway.
"The name is Clark, but everyone calls me Bulldog, so whatever makes you more comfortable," said the pilot while they both walked through the corridors of the massive flagship. He continued "I am Buccaneer 12, Buccaneer Squadron, obviously. Our speciality is bombers but we can vary if we have to. You didn't hear this from me, but we could really use some new recruits, although of course the requirements to be a Buccaneer are pretty high. You gotta be the best, you know what I'm sayin'?"
Dion said "Yes I do, sir."
"Oh quit that ‘sir’ garbage with me. Here's the office". They entered an office, it had two seats and one desk in between. "Now normally this interview would be done by some other superior but, like I assume you saw, everyone is doing something around here. Except for me so… um, okay," Bulldog said and took out a datapad out of a drawer in the desk. "Let's see your records," said Bulldog while Dion saw him looking at his datapad. "Wow," Bulldog said. "You are a really good support pilot. We don't have many pilots willing to fly a U-Wing."
"Well, I think I always do what other people would prefer not to," Dion responded.
"Interesting," Bulldog said as he continued to look at the datapad. "Well with this record you can get into any squadron! Well not 'any' squadron like Rogue, but, anything up to Buccaneer."
"Alright I'll take it," Dion answered rapidly.
"Really?" asked Bulldog. "Sounds like you had it planned out. Why Buccaneer? By the way this question is part of the interview".
"Not really," Dion answered. "It’s just… I met a bomber pilot once, and she taught me everything I needed to know at that moment, and she was a really good teacher. I try to excel at everything but, I think the best way to honor her is by joining a squadron of bombers, of course if you need me on other ship I'll do it, specially a U-Wing, and I have my own project; a Y-Wing I've been working on and it's eager to see action".
"Excellent!" said Bulldog. "Okay, we need to fill a formal application form, my superiors will look for it and we would be good to go! okay, name?"
"Any call sign? any nicknames?"
"Ugh, dank farrik", Dion said to themselves. "Loth-cat"
Bulldog chuckled and said "that's adorable."
"Yeah, I know."
"No no, I think it's great!" Bulldog said, to Dion's comfort. "Speciality? Well you already told me your preference, so next question! Side arm?"
"I don't have any," Dion responded.
"Oh, it's okay, we'll give you one. Favorite drink?"
"Is that important?"
"It’s the most important question," Bulldog answered with a serious face.
"Umm, blue milk I guess?"
"Pfff, you're a Jedi or somethin'? Alright, age?"
"Twenty years old."
"And a human male, the rest we can-"
Before he could finish, Dion interrupted him saying "can you… leave that out? the ‘male’ thing?"
"Oh, Karabast," was the first thing Bulldog said. "Sure, no problem! There is room for everyone in the New Republic. Oh! Almost forgot, which Buccaneer billet do you want?"
"Which ones are already in use?" Dion asked.
"So, we have open 3,4,6,8,9 and 10," Bulldog answered.
"3 sounds good," Dion decided.
"Cool, I'll talk to the command!" Bulldog said while standing up and going through the door, but he stopped and said, "look, I don't know how long it'll take for this to get approved, but you're good in my book. Just hang tight, enjoy yourself, see the planet, whatever makes you happy."
"Okay, thank you so much!" Dion responded with a broad smile. They felt validated for the first time since they met Keo, but in a different way, the kind of validation you should get from a father.
This feeling lasted long, even when they were outside looking at the view from this planet they never sat foot on. Casper showed up annoyed he was left behind so abruptly. "There you are", Dion said to him. "Have you ever seen something like this?". Casper was confused since he only has seen what Dion has seen, but he understood they were emotional, so, as Dion sat down, still looking to the horizon, Casper leaned on to his human, and spent quite some time there.
The next day, MC-75 Introductor; Dion's room
At the first light of the next day, the door of Dion's room was opened. Dion woke up abruptly, trying to see who was the person standing in front of them. As their view got clearer they saw the Captain, as always escorted by two troopers. "Grab all your belongings, you've been reassigned," he simply said.
After grabbing the few clothes, gear and helmets they owned, Dion and Casper got no other word from the Captain, much less from the troopers, about where they were reassigned to until they were on the hangar and saw a familiar face waiting for them.
It was Bulldog. Dion looked at the Captain, expecting a warm goodbye, even though they had no reason to do so, and simply said, "Godspeed, pilot."
Dion replied with a slight smile on their face, "thank you Captain".
As they came next to Bulldog, he said between laughs "Welcome officially! Lieutenant Colonel 'Jalb_k' told me he was working on the bridge announcement already".
"So, I'm Buccaneer 3?" Dion asked in disbelief.
"Affirmative, welcome aboard, Flight Officer," said Bulldog as he saluted them.
Dion responded to the salute and said "I'm honored to serve with you."
They both started walking towards the Vigilant, followed by Casper, as always.