bTIE Fighter: Command Decisions/b
iby Jennifer Quail/i
WARNING! WARNING! If you have not read a href=" "TIE Fighter: Prime Wing/a, please go
back and do that now, or this story will make no sense whatsoever.
DISCLAIMER that has to go on fan fic: Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas, Timothy
Zahn, and Michael Stackpole. I borrowed this universe without permission or knowledge of any of the above.
This story is not for profit and is created solely for my amusement and for distribution on the Internet. Don't
sue. I have no money. All characters not created by above are (c) to me, Jennifer Quail, and please don't
distribute this story or borrow them without my permission. However, I'm very agreeable about loans, so all you
have to do is ask.
SPOILERS: ESB, RotJ, possibly "Mist Encounter" from TAJ (WEG). And yes, I borrowed/altered somewhat
unintentionally TZ's Journal title. Titles aren't protected by copyright. They can't sue.
SETTING: The end of Empire Strikes Back/overlap with Return of the Jedi.
Questions/Comments/Queries/Cries of joy or pain? E-mail tiepilot
"Alpha Two, watch that weather turret! You've got plenty of room below." Commander Mrith'hele'arana, better
known to her wingmates and the rest of the Empire as Thelea, swung the standard TIE she was flying around the
metal struts and vanes beneath the Bespin mining colony, trying to gain a target lock on the escaping YT-1300
freighter that had, for whatever reason, dove beneath the floating city. Her errant wingmate, Lieutenant Rurik
Caelin, muttered something mercifully unintelligible into his link. "What was that, Two? I didn't quite copy."
"Nothing, Lead." Rurik focused on his flying. "Where in blazes did they disappear to?"
"They must have gone down here." Alpha Three, Lieutenant Giriad Quoris, had an annoying habit of answering
rhetorical questions. "They probably are going to circle up over the city."
"That would take too long. They'll never chance-" Thelea broke off as her targeting computer chirped. "Lock
established! There they are!" she snapped as the distinctive saucer shape of the smuggling ship suddenly burst
into view from around a weather pylon. Her red eyes glittered in a rare, satisfied smile.
"Using your target for attack," Rurik responded, switching his own computer.
Thelea pushed as much power as she could to the little fighter's engines. Fervently and futilely she wished the
craft had the speed and maneuverability of an Interceptor. If the blasted techs had worked faster, if they hadn't
been pushed so fast after the Hoth battle . . . she forced the thoughts from her mind. Pointless now to wish for
Interceptors. She might as well wish for the Rebels to turn around and surrender while she was at it. "They're
running for open space. Remember, either disable them or get them close enough to the Exec for a tractor
"Thanks, Commander, I'd forgotten that." Thelea bit back the urge to rebuke Rurik for his sarcasm. She only
hoped no one on the Imperial flagship Executor had heard.
In front of the three TIEs, the YT-1300 accelerated, trying to get out of the gas giant's gravity well and make the
jump into hyperspace before the TIEs could disable the sublight engines. Thelea grinned behind her breathing
mask. They were in for a nasty surprise. She targeted the freighter's rear shields and fired off several blasts.
Rurik and Giriad followed close behind.
"Lead, why haven't they jumped to hyperspace?" It was Giriad's voice.
"I'm supposed to be a mind-reader?" Thelea snapped back. She tried not to think about the fact that she was, by
the strictest definition, a exactly that. Not even Rurik, who was after three years the closest thing to a best
friend she had, knew about her unusual and sporadic forays into the supernatural. In any case, there was nothing
she could do about it now-the ability was too erratic, and had never worked when she wasn't in direct visual
contact with her intended target. Except . . . she tried not to think about the one time when Rurik's life had been
endangered and she had taken control of his will. Never before or since had she managed such a feat. She didn't
like to dwell on that event's significance. Giriad was right, though, at least about one thing: the freighter was at
a point where they should have been able to make a clean getaway to hyperspace. They hadn't. They were still
trying to outrun the TIEs at sublight speed. While the TIE fighters couldn't overtake them (again, silently,
Thelea cursed the ancient fighter and wished for her Interceptor) they could get well within firing range. Even
as she loosed another salvo at the freighter's dramatically weakened real section, she asked its pilot silently
iWhat are you waiting for?i
The sleek, dark silhouette of the Super Star Destroyer Executor was looming ever larger in their view ports. The
freighter must have seen, must have known the TIEs were trying to drive them into tractor beam range. And
still they tried to outmaneuver them rather than outrun them. The Empire had control of the city so there was no
doubling back. Perhaps they'd damaged the ship, disabled the hyperdrive. Thelea frowned. She hated fixed
The freighter made a steep, hooking turn, staying just outside of tractor beam range, and the TIEs followed, the
tiny and more maneuverable fighters cutting the distance even closer. Giriad loosed a barrage of laser fire that
raked the ship's starboard shields and rocked it. The target status numbers on Thelea's computer registered a
huge drop in the ship's systems. "Good shooting, Three."
"Thanks, Lead." No trace of the cocky, arrogant ex-noble who'd joined the wing almost three years ago, she
noted. "They're headed out."
"Do you think you can outrun Exec at sublight?" she wondered under her breath. "What are you doing?"
Edging her speed up a notch at the expense of her lasers, she got into what was for a TIE fighter point-blank
range. A few more bolts and the shields would go, then their engines. Then the Lord Vader would have his
prize, which for his own, ever-mysterious reasons he seemed to want very badly. She took careful aim-
And lost her targeting lock as the YT-1300 accelerated out of firing range and in a flash of pseudomotion
vanished into hyperspace. Thelea stared in numb disbelief at her fighter's blank screen, willing it to be a trick, a
hallucination, anything but what is was. Failure. Black, heavy dread settled deep inside her, and although her
instruments assured her everything was normal, the temperature in the little fighter seemed to drop.
Rurik voiced what all three, in one form or another, were thinking. "Somebody is going to be in serious
irehli/i dung about this." No one even considered arguing the point.
Commander Varkris of the Executor stared bleakly at the turbolaser battery before him, wondering exactly where
he'd gone wrong.
No, he didn't need to wonder. He'd gone wrong when he'd let that alien freak and her accomplices escape alive.
He should be grateful that he was still alive after failing his superiors. Demotion from first officer of a
Victory-class Star Destroyer to one gunnery commander among dozens aboard a Super-class vessel was, in a
sense, mild punishment. It did give him one advantage-one day, a single "misdirected" turbo laser blast and that
would be the end of Thelea and her miscreants. In the heat of battle, the loss of a few TIEs from friendly fire-
He shook off that thought. Too many people would see. At the least, he'd be demoted for incompetence. He'd
had enough of that already. No one would believe he'd killed iher/i accidentally. That damned alien
admiral might be off who-knew-where in the Unknown Regions, but there were others in the fleet, others who'd
made their presence felt in the last three years, who were just as interested in keeping their wing intact. Every
time he tried to arrange for an accident, be it shipboard or in a firefight, something happened to prevent it-the
device failed to go off or his agent disappeared, never to be seen again. Someone was helping Thelea, whether
that was an agent of Admiral Thrawn, or someone deeper inside the Empire, and they did not want her dead.
The fighters were returning to the hangar bay. He sighed. Another lost opportunity. Turning away from the
view ports, he called up a duty roster on his data screen. At the moment, the Executor was not scheduled for
anything major. They rarely were, of course, being as they were under the direct control of Lord Vader. This
bizarre jaunt to a minor world a backwater system was an example of Vader's capricious direction of the fleet,
but no one Varkris knew was going to question the dark lord. Who knew what he'd come up with next? They'd
been chasing this damned freighter-
iFreighter!/i That was what he'd been thinking of. He keyed for a list of the squadrons' assignments, and
then cross-checked it with away missions. iThere!/i Freighter Aris Val bound for the supply dump at
Narven, a somewhat insignificant world whose only claim to importance was as one of the few way stations en
route to the Unknown Regions. The ship was carrying various repair components for the ships based in or near
the Unknown systems. At the moment, the 437th Interceptor squadron was assigned to the escort duty.
Varkris's thin face split in a skeletal grin. Fortunately, his masters hadn't left him icompletely/i at a loss.
Keying in the password/override with which they'd provided him, he altered the as-yet unposted duty roster. The
new escort for the Aris Val would be the 207th Interceptor squadron. The leader of Gamma wing of the 207th
was, of course, Lieutenant Commander Thelea. She'd be well out of his way, and out of reach of the powers in
the Fleet that seemed to have an interest in protecting her. The Aris Val was going to have a long trek in
realspace, thanks to the unusual amount of debris floating around the system from some ancient collision of
worlds. The debris also provided some useful cover for a few "rebel" ships lying in ambush.
"Thelea, you may be out of my hair at last," he sighed. iThat/i was a truly reassuring thought.
Rurik Caelin grimaced, surveying the unappetizing tray before him. "I'm glad to know that the Empire spares no
expense when it comes to our meals."
"Be glad they feed you at all," Thelea said shortly. "Shut up and eat."
"Still mad about losing that freighter?" Rurik was, even after three years, the only person he knew of in the
fleet who dared to backtalk the alien pilot. Giriad was getting braver, but he still didn't like to chance her wrath
if he didn't have to.
"I'm more upset about not being told why we were chasing them in the first place. Alpha Wing of the 112th got
obliterated in that asteroid field. I admit, that was partially their own incompetence. Trying to fly side-by-side
in a canyon. . . ." She said it so nonchalantly that Rurik shivered. "But still, only a fool or a desperate man
would order the fleet into the asteroid field in the first place."
"I wouldn't suggest calling a Lord of the Sith, if that's what he really is, a fool, and I doubt he's desperate,"
Rurik admonished, looking nervously at the ceiling and walls. Who knew where the Dark Lord had his eyes?
"I'm not. I am not, contrary to popular belief, utterly without sense." Idly she twirled her fork on her plate,
ignoring the meat. It was purported to be ralkiri, but one never knew, even in the officer's mess. The thought of
eating with the enlisted personnel was enough to put one's appetite off entirely. "We chased that ship across half
the Outer Rim, and now we're just letting them go. If I ever understand Lord Vader. . . ." Wisely, perhaps, she
didn't finish that thought, at least, not aloud.
"It's not our job to question orders," Giriad said, just a trace of the academy-trained innocent creeping into his
voice. "Especially not on this ship."
"I'm not questioning orders," Thelea sighed for what was probably the hundred millionth time in three years.
Giriad had matured-a little. Sometimes, though, he could still drive her halfway up a bulkhead with his naivete.
"I'm wondering about them." The glowing red eyes drifted to the serving line. "Look out, gentlemen. Here
comes the Boss."
The "Boss," as they called him behind his back, was Commander Lige Aldacci, leader of the 207th Interceptor
Squadron, of which Thelea's Gamma Wing was one-quarter. If Thelea had her choice, they would have been
somewhere else. Even being on a Victory-class was preferable-there they would have been their own unit. Here
they were under Aldacci's direct control. Listening to him give orders always reminded her of her cadet
company commander at the Academy-he felt the need to speak slowly, as if she didn't understand Basic, and
though she was only one grade beneath him in rank, he never acknowledged the fact.
Why would today be any different? "Thelea, Rurik, Giriad." He deposited his tray beside Thelea and across
from Giriad and sat without any further acknowledgment.
"Commander Aldacci," Thelea said on all their behaves. Rurik and Giriad were pretending to be absorbed by
their meal. Thelea eyed the sharp-featured pilot carefully. As usual the gray-green eyes were focused on
anything but his misbegotten wing members. He attacked the ralkiri the way he flew-directly and viciously,
quick sharp stabs of the fork into the meat. He did not make use of the knife.
"Nice handling of that freighter." He said it nonchalantly, but she could feel the smug condescension radiating
from him. A glance at Giriad and Rurik's disgusted expressions told her it didn't take any special skills to sense
"If we'd had our Interceptors, we might have had a better chance," she replied evenly, glittering eyes fixed on the
food in front of her to hide the burning behind them. "I was also rather curious why we were scrambled. We
weren't on alert status. Delta wing was."
"Delta wing was needed to escort Lord Vader's shuttle," Aldacci said in that too-polite tone.
"For which they also needed our only functioning Interceptor?" Rurik muttered sourly, shoving black bangs out
of his eyes. "A little speed might've helped."
"We're Imperial officers," the squadron leader said amiably. "Our standard equipment is more than enough
against whatever the Rebel scum might have. If the officers are good enough."
Giriad was halfway out of his seat before Rurik could shove him back. Thelea shot him a burning glare and
jerked her chin sharply toward his seat. iStay down!i She gritted her teeth. Tact had never been any Core
worlder's strength, at least not in her experience. "I do not think the pilots were at fault. We did what we could,
not having the speed to close on them or ion beams to disable them." Thelea forcibly kept her tone mild.
"Did it occur to you to use a Kral Avror intercept maneuver? I believe they covered that at Carida, in case
"To do a Kral Avror, you need a ship that's faster than the one you're chasing, for starters," Rurik said before
Thelea could even open her mouth. "Not to mention that to properly execute that maneuver, you need to be split
up with at least one ship in front of and above your target for a straight attack on their upper shields. I admit,
that might have driven them closer to the Exec's tractor beams. But if we'd gotten in front of a modified
YT-1300, they would have rolled to evade. Do you know what happens when that ship rolls?" Aldacci didn't
answer. "The fighter that had been in front is now nicely sighted by the belly guns. That strategy works great
when you're chasing a Lambda-class shuttle, but a smuggling ship is a little harder. Sir."
To his credit, Aldacci did not seem embarrassed being corrected by a junior officer. Instead, he calmly speared
one of the thin strips of ralkiri and said, "I'd expect you to be familiar with pirate vessels and smuggler ships,
being from the Rim as you are, Caelin."
Thelea could almost see the anger radiating from Rurik, even as he visibly struggled to keep his temper in check.
"No more than the average Rimworld scum, Commander." His voice was taut and pained.
Aldacci, wisely perhaps, did not rise to the bait. Instead, he said, so offhandedly she almost did not catch the
meaning, "By the way, congratulations on your new assignment."
"Our what?" If Thelea hated anything, it was being out of the loop.
"What new assignment?" Rurik asked, almost in the same breath.
"Oh, hadn't you heard?" Aldacci was positively smirking. "You've been assigned to freighter escort. I'm sure
you'll like it. You get your Interceptors."
Thelea rose abruptly and started for the nearest computer terminal. When she returned, her expression was
visibly more tense. "It's true. We're escorting the freighter Aris Val to the supply dump at Narven."
"Since when?" Giriad demanded. "We weren't scheduled for this kind of duty. Who changed our rotation?"
"The order came down from above." Aldacci had a remarkably smug expression on his womp-rat's features.
"We'll be flying with you as far as Rohdesh III. From there on out it's your show."
"How high above did these orders come from?" Thelea demanded.
His smile narrowed. "High." He pushed his tray back. "We're heading out at 1500. Be in your ships and ready
to fly." Without waiting for their response, he stood up and exited, without taking the tray to the recycler, of
Thelea's teeth were grinding. Rurik stabbed at some of the unidentifiable meat. Giriad grimaced. "Do you
think we can actually handle a week at least in deep space with Aldacci and the rest of his toadies?"
"A better question would be whether they'll survive a week alone with us." Thelea shoved her chair back and
stalked off, scattering several ensigns in her wake.
Thelea waited by the message terminal in her quarters, her flight suit half-on and her helmet resting on the bunk
beside her. She was supposed to report to the Aris Val in less than fifteen minutes, but she couldn't leave yet.
Sometimes they didn't give her a message, but this time things just felt wrong. They had to know something.
The wall-mounted comm unit blipped once, and the screen displayed a printed message. Thelea read it slowly,
then re-read it to make sure she had not been mistaken. Slowly, like a sleepwalker, she keyed for message
deletion and sat back in her chair. The room was dark now without the glow of the comm screen gone, but
Thelea's eyes did not use light the way a human's did, which was just as well. She didn't feel like turning on
any lights, or even moving at all.
The message had indeed been from the Inner Circle. It had been brief and succinct and devastatingly clear.
"Important things are happening," it had read. "You are on your own."