Star Wars: The Long Road Home

Prologue

Fighter Country

Resistance command ship Raddus

90 minutes into D'Qar-Crait hyperspace jump

Lieutenant Tallissan "Tallie" Lintra hated starship travel.

Make no mistake, the young pilot enjoyed being able to stretch out in her bunk in junior officer's quarters in Fighter Country and let the knot in her back unwind after a long jump to D'Qar and a massive furball shortly after arrival. The ability to take a much overdue shower certainly had its appeal, too. But as a snubfighter jockey, Tallie was distinctly uncomfortable when not able to control her path through space, especially on a large capital ship like an MC-85. Sure, most other fighter pilots joked about similar feelings, especially lately as the sheer scope of the First Order's massive fleet of capital ships became clear, but right now, Tallie couldn't shake the feeling that she was trapped.

Tallie let out a sigh and rolled out of her bunk. Might as well go make sure that Blue's getting taken care of...

-.-.-

Tallie walked into the ready room and nodded politely to several other pilots sitting nearby. Most of them were transport pilots from the evac from D'Qar, but Tallie had nothing but respect for them. It took a special kind of courage to fly an unarmed, barely shielded tub through hostile fire and come aboard the Raddus with vital supplies and personnel. Passing through the ready room and into the fighter wing's operations center, Tallie took in the latest data from the capital ship's databanks regarding their destination.

Crait

Population: 0

Major facilities: Abandoned Rebel outpost/ mineral mine

Habitability: Minimal

ETA: 0:17:22

Tallie shrugged and continued to the locker rooms and began to don her flight gear. Roni and Tubbs were already suiting up down the aisle and nodded their greetings. As she changed into her flight suit, Tallie imagined how the Rebel Alliance pilots had probably felt during their long fight against the Empire under similar circumstances: Tired, worn down, unable to properly grieve their latest losses in combat, yet still gearing up to go fight the good fight again. She paused for a moment and ran her fingertips across and old-fashioned 2-D image she had tacked to her locker door. It was of her and her father, back home on Pippip 3. Tallie was only 12, but her father had enough faith in her and her flying skills to let her go fly solo in his old RZ-1 A-Wing he had converted to a crop duster. Tallie's flight had started out rough, but her father's advice over the comms had calmed her down and gotten her back in control.

"Don't fight the flow, Tallie. Listen to the ship. She speaks to you... follow her guidance."

Tallie smiled and pulled her beloved synthsilk scarf from the locker and tucked it into place around her neck. "Thanks, Dad."

-.-.-

Tallie grabbed a ration bar from the ready room table as she walked out of the locker rooms. Roni was already out in the hangar, but Tubbs was waiting for her. Concern lined his face. "Boss, you doing okay?"

"Yeah, Tubbs. I'm all good. You?"

Tubbs looked down at his helmet in his hands, fixated on the names of his children stenciled on the visor cover. "I knew when I joined the Resistance, there was a better than even chance of me dying out there in the Black, but..." He gestured to the nearly empty hangar deck beyond the ready room doors. "This really puts it in perspective. We've lost a lot of good pilots, Tallie. Better than me, even."

Tallie took in the empty spots in the hangar bay and fought back her own worries and grief. Time enough for that later. "Tubbs, simply being good isn't enough for us. We're outnumbered, outgunned, and, by all rights, we should be outmatched. We need to be lucky, too." She reached up to her collar and rubbed her scarf between her fingers briefly.

Tubbs nodded somberly and ran his fingers across the names on his helmet. "Yeah... or have the Force on our side."

Tallie snorted. "The Force doesn't choose sides, Tubbs. It's just like water. It doesn't care what you use it for or who controls it... It just is." She tucked the ration bar in her pocket and eyed the display one last time:

ETA: 0:04:31.9

"C'mon, old man. We're gonna be busy here in a few minutes." Tallie tucked her helmet under her arm and jogged out into the hangar towards her fighter. "Can't kill TIEs in here!"

-.-.-

Tallie closed the canopy of her RZ-2 A-Wing and checked the seal before she started the fighter's powerful engines. As she did so, she felt more than heard or saw the Raddus revert to realspace. She reached over and fired up the ship's reactors and felt the thrum of power through her compact fighter. Then, all hell started to break loose in the hangar as the battle stations alarms began to sound throughout the ship. Tallie toggled her comms. "What's going on?"

Pri-Fly called back, clearly panicked by the news they relayed: "The First Order tracked us through hyperspace somehow."

Tallie paused in her powerup sequence for a moment as the news sunk in. Impossible. Nothing can be tracked in realtime through hyperspace.

"ATTENTION ALL FIGHTERS! SCRAMBLE, SCRAMBLE, SCRAMBLE!"

Snapped out her daze by the fighter pilot's age-old call to action, Tallie rushed to finish her launch preparations and was about to lift off when a dark shape appeared in the launch tunnel and promptly fired two missiles into the crowded hangar bay before ducking out of the launch tunnel as quickly as it had appeared. "No... Not like this." She closed her eyes and waited for the end to come. A moment later, the hangar deck was filled with fire and shrapnel as Tubb's fighter took a direct hit from one of the missiles. Behind her, Roni's A-Wing also disintegrated into scrap and fire. Yet, somehow, she had been spared from immediate death, a gift she had no intention of wasting. Tallie watched her status displays light up with mostly green indicators and decided to risk launching anyways. She lifted off, tucked up the gear, and looked over her shoulder briefly at the hangar deck. Black One, Poe Dameron's beloved X-Wing, was a flaming ruin, and secondary explosions were already beginning to set in around the hangar as fuel and munitions cooked off. Tallie knew that the longer she stayed in the hangar, the more likely she would be caught up in the growing firestorm, and even her trusty A-Wing would be hard pressed to protect her under these conditions. Yet, the space outside the hangar was just as dangerous, if not more so. Then, a memory of a recent report about events leading up to the attack on Starkiller Base came to mind... and Tallie jumped into hyperspace striaght out of the hangar, dragging much of the burning wreckage of the Resistance's fighter wing out into space with her.

-.-.-

1 light hour away

Tallie's fighter reverted to realspace an eyeblink after having made her near-suicidal blind microjump from the Raddus's hangar deck, still sheathed in tendrils of trapped atmosphere and fire from her sudden and abrupt departure from the capital ship. The sudden acceleration to lightspeed and equally sudden reversion back to realspace left her dizzy and disoriented for a few vital seconds, but she quickly checked her sensor scopes to see what had happened to the rest of the Resistance fleet. What she saw was utterly terrifying.

The massive Supremacy loomed over the entirety of the Resistance fleet, its immense 60 kilometer wingspan making it larger than even the largest space station Tallie had ever seen. Following it were more than 30 Imperial and Resurgent-class Star Destroyers, far outclassing even the largest fleet that the New Republic could have fielded on the timeframe needed to combat such a threat, and absolute overkill for finishing off the Resistance fleet. Tallie didn't even have to do the math of how many starfighters were available to that massive force. Whatever the number was, it was far too many to take on, even with all of the scattered remains of the Resistance starfighter force behind her.

Toggling the recon sensor package in her A-Wing to passive mode, Tallie recorded all she could of the fleet that the First Order had brought to bear against the Resistance, then plotted a jump to a random point in deep space and disappeared into hyperspace once again.

-.-.-