Title: Rogue Knight
Author: Ash's Boomstick
Spoilers: Some small ones for 1-4 of BTVS and the SW original Trilogy
NOTICE: THIS STORY MAY BE DISTRIBUTED FREE OF CHARGE BUT MUST NOT BE SOLD OR EXCHANGED FOR FINANCIAL RETURN IN ANY FORM.
The full disclaimer will be located at the end of this story. However, be it known that I own nothing and expect to get nothing because the rights are owned by others. Only certain characters and technologies are mine and these are the creation of the author who is solely responsible for them as such. Neither Studio is responsible for the content of this story.
THIS STATEMENT MUST ACCOMPANY THE STORY 'Rogue Knight' IF DISTRIBUTED. THIS STORY IS FREE OF CHARGE AND MAY NOT BE SOLD OR EXCHANGED FOR FINANCIAL RETURN IN ANY FORM. THIS DEDICATION MUST ACCOMPANY ANY DISTRUBUTION OF THIS STORY.
Ok this fic is different to a lot of my usual work as anyone who has read my crossovers will have noticed, Rogue Knight is my attempt at a character piece over plot development as opposed to the plot driven work of the last few fics.
This is also my first attempt at a full BTVS Cross with another story as opposed to one shots or short stories in almost a decade, some people may like it and some people won't at all but I would appreciate any and all positive and negative reviews as long as they give me some good reasons behind those negative reviews as I am trying different things here than I ever have before.
Finally the first chapter and a few pieces in later chapters are an amalgamation of the film trilogy, information from the EU books, the Games, the Novelisation of Return of the Jedi and some small bits from RP books. I'm aware that some die hard Star Wars fans and more than a few of the ICS/tech types will complain about one thing or another.
This is the idea behind fanfiction, it doesn't follow canon and ripples can happen to change things in a story esp the further into it you go. I can't please everyone and I won't try but I enjoyed writing this and I will continue to as long as it stays being fun.
Thank you and Enjoy
He spent much of his time these days staring out of one of the main viewports of what had once been the ship's major recreation deck, since it's transformation into a warship from its original design of cruise liner Home One had few places that were not completely covered by massive slabs of armour that had been welded onto the ships framework. Even more so since she had been rebuilt as the command ship for the Mon Calamari Defence Fleet, now she was more than capable of taking on any Imperial ship short of a Super Star Destroyer.
Sitting back the young pilot stared at the void of the unnamed solar system, all across the ship deckhands, command crew, pilots, droids, techs and gunners were running tests on every piece of equipment and machinery that would be necessary in the upcoming battle. As such he was alone in small atrium that one of the few areas left as a recreation space for the crew, he had dimmed the lights to total darkness as he had entered the room and sat down.
The window was buzzed by a close flying A-Wing starfighter waggling its wings at whoever was inside the room. The CAP patrol was down to the bare minimum allowing most of the pilots to be completely rested and their fighters fully operational for the battle. He watched as another group of warships dropped from hyperspace pulling into formation close by the Headquarters Frigate; at least one was recognisable from the long neck and modifications it's its weapons. The Redemption was one of the most infamous ships in the fleet. The pilot grimaced as he remembered the training scenario involving the modified Nebulon- B frigate. His 'wasteful' use of torpedoes to hit the TIE Bombers from beyond their own range had lead to one of the quickest if messiest solutions to the problem, something that had only been tried a few times before and one of those by the man who he owed his skills to.
"Thought I'd find you in here kid." A voice came from behind
Speak of the devil.
"Hey Wedge." Xander replied without turning.
"What you looking at."
"Nothing, just thinking."
"Mind If I join you?" the Corellian asked.
"No pull up a chair."
"How you dealing with this?'
"Just fine, going up against a massive planetary sized battlestation that may or may not have its shields down thanks to a half cooked up plan with crap intel and a suicidal back up plan." Xander snarked, "What could be simpler?"
"You didn't have to come along. We detached enough fighter wings to outposts just in case this all goes to hell."
'I know the rest of Hoth wing was sent underground to Ord Mantell, but I figured fuck it this'll be the biggest battle I'm ever likely to see who am I to let that go."
"Well you've been assigned to one of the wings off of Home One, you'll be flying Wes Janson's wing."
"Wes, he's with Rogue Squadron though… I'm not a Rogue."
"For today kid you are, you'll be under my care until the battles over one way or another. The Squadron is now designated as Red Squadron for the battle."
"Admiral Ackbar recommended it, I said yes. I also requested a few new names into the squadron from other wings, including you."
Xander was shocked, he knew Wedge as well as anyone else did but he'd been flying Z-95s and snoopscoots off of Home One for the last year with Wampa Sqn and the rest of Hoth Wing, his final deployment to one of the attack squadrons on the Mon Cal Cruiser a few months ago had been a boost to his ego and his career. Even knowing the other Rogues (including working on a few pranks with Wes Janson) he hadn't expected to be moved into one of the most capable squadrons in the entire Alliance. "I… Thank you Commander I won't let you down."
"I never thought you would Flight Officer, report to the briefing room and get your mind into the battle Xander. The entire squadron's on point for the insertion into Endor's orbit. Wes and Hobbie are waiting for you there."
"Dismissed Mr Harris."
Saluting the young Commander Xander turned and walked away, the lights coming up as he left the room through the rear exit. Slapping a control next to the door the heavy blast shutter underneath the plasteel window moved up and over the clear surface locking down and sealing the small crack within the warship's armour. Wedge watched the younger man walk out of the room, he was too young for all of this but then again he wasn't much older when they had attacked the first Death Star.
"Bridge to Commander Antilles" Reaching into the small pocket on his arm Wedge flicked on the secure comlink and linked to the bridge. "Bridge to Commander Antilles."
"This is Antilles."
The familiar gravelly voice of Admiral Ackbar came over the comlink, the Mon Calamari officer was one of those leading the assault. Wedge grinned to himself, out of the senior officers leading the attack on the Death Star, at twenty three he himself was the youngest staff officers but arguably one of the most experienced compared to some of the fleet's senior staff. Shaking himself he listened to his orders.
Acknowledging the orders Wedge walked out of the atrium shutting off the lights and sealing the vacuum tight hatch behind him, he only hoped he was ready to lead this attack otherwise it would be the end of not only his life by those of his squadron.
"Time to go." He said to himself.
Red Squadron Maintenance Section
"I'm telling you guys the best ships to go into the core of that thing are the X-wings."
"Come on the A-wing is faster and more agile"
"And likely have you go face first into a conduit if you so much as nudge it too far one way or the other, the B is too big anyway and the less said about those clone wars pieces of crap the better."
"And here's me thinking you started in Y-Wings Lt. Janson." An amused voice came from behind the squadron joker.
"Ahh crap." Wes muttered, "Officer on the Deck."
"As you were people." General Madine approached the assembled men of Home One's premier squadron, rapidly the other nine squadrons of the Mon Cal Cruiser's fighter compliment assembled in the large area designated as the pilot briefing area. "In approximately fifteen minutes this section of the rebel fleet will be leaving this system, in a synchronised jump this fleet plus a number of other task forces and battlegroups will drop out of hyperspace. Our target is the forest moon of Endor and the battle station currently under construction, as you will have been briefed General Calrissian will be leading the assault wings against and possible small scale defences that the Death star can throw up at us. Commander Antilles will be leading the defence and attack wings dedicated to the defence of our capital ships and escorts. After any defences are cleared Red Squadron will be committed to the attack on the Death Star's main reactor system assisted by Gold wing…"
The General's briefing was interrupted by a single pilot stumbling into the room and crashing onto the seat next to Wes Janson, an embarrassed Xander Harris murmured an apology for his tardiness only to be dismissed with barely a nod in his direction. Turning back to the holoscreen the General continued his briefing; Xander absorbed the information as the general dealt it out to the assembled pilots. The briefing continued on but in the back of his mind the young officer began to wonder about the intelligence that the Rebels were working on. Something was very, very wrong.
"Sir." Xander stood up.
"With all respect to our Bothan allies sir, there's something wrong here." Xander started, "This is the most powerful weapon in the entire galaxy and all that's defending it is a shield built by the lowest bidder, MAYBE a few hundred fighters if they have any on board and a few thousand guns on the surface."
"Your point Mr Harris."
"I know I wasn't even in this part of the galaxy when the original was built but the Imperials must know that the Alliance population at large know the Death Star exists, why not put a garrison fleet with it? Leaving it totally defenceless is bad tactics Sir, there would be no problem disengaging a line of battle or a squadron from the other side of the galaxy and we'd never know about it. Palpatine would be an idiot to think that we wouldn't find out about this one being built, we're going to see something else when we get there but I really don't know what."
"Are you Force sensitive son?"
"Negative Sir, I've just learnt not to take anything at face value it might just turn around and bite you."
"Frankly Flight Officer I won't disagree with you about this, something smells off about this however several teams of our best strategists have gone over the plans, they believe the chances of it being defended by anything serious is unlikely with so many ships hunting the rim and outer core for our fleets, a number of diversions have further diluted their strength. Now anything else?"
"All right people this is it, good luck out there. May the Force be with you all." Madine said.
As the squadrons dispersed Xander headed for his X-wing, he really did think that something was off about this mission. Whatever was waiting for them would be a problem for him, his squadron and the fleet at large and there was nothing that a single pilot officer could do to change the minds of the top brass even if he could tell them why he felt the way he did. Turning to his fighter he began his visual scan of every part of his fighter, engrossed in the ship he barely noticed his wingman pop up behind him before slapping him on he shoulder.
"Nice work Xander." Wes said "Make this an even worse mission than before."
"Next time I'll tape you to your fuselage and you can watch from there." Grizz Frix slapped him across the head, "You know that anyone who heard that chubba will be thinking about it until we get there."
"Hey guys, the Empire has over twenty thousand star destroyers in the fleet and they don't think that a few might be at Endor, hell even a few dozen dreadnaughts and lancers could make this a very bad day for us. All they have to do is keep us right where we are for a few hours and WHAM star destroyer sandwich on both sides… I just... have a bad feeling about this."
"Don't worry kid, what's the worst that could happen?"
"Wes I'm going to pretend you didn't say that and you are gonna forget you said that, unless you want to experience firsthand what it feels like to be a proton torpedo." A matt black and silver astromech unit trundled up behind Janson, "Saying that could get us in a whole lot of trouble Wes. Scythe."
The small droid extended his arc welder and hit Janson with a painful spark, the other pilot yelped in pain spinning on the droid. Scythe was already retreating the way he came, Janson swore at the astromech then turned back to the grinning junior pilot.
Frix laughed at the wounded look on Wes' face, "My friend you were asking for that."
Wes scowled at the two, "You're teaching that damn thing too much, if I find my R5 unit getting tetchy I'm coming after you."
"You said that when Luke's R2 decided to have some fun."
"Yeah but he's a Jedi Knight, you're a newbie pilot. So you're an easier target."
"Don't count on that Wes, I know your secrets and unless you want Hobbie to know who…"
"Alright, Damn it." Janson smirked, "He still can't find that smell you know."
"We noticed." Frix shook his head before looking over at one of the technicians, "Guys, looks like it's our turn."
Both looked up at the impatient ground crewmember, the three men shook hands with the others as they began to separate Frix wishing both good luck before heading to his X-Wing, Xander couldn't shake the feeling that he wouldn't see the other man again.
"Good luck out there kid." Brought him back to present, "Stick with us and we'll get through."
"You too old man, two bottles of Whyrens says I get at least five more than you."
"You're on kid."
"All pilots to their fighters, we are at Condition One. All Pilots to their fighters."
Across the entire hanger bay hundreds of technical crew swarmed around the fighters awaiting launch, fuel tubes were removed from the fuselages while a last few torpedoes were loaded. Xander simply watched from his perch on a crate at the hundred plus pilots heading for their fighters, almost every type of fighter the fleet had could be counted within the ranks of those assembled here. Some were old and decrepit while others were practically brand new and hand build, his own fighter had belonged to a pilot killed in action before Hoth.
He watched as humans and aliens waved to each other or broke off conversations as they headed to their ships, a few couples held each other knowing that they may not come out of it intact or even alive. One pilot kissed his crew chief and then one of the mechanics passionately, as neither seemed to have a problem with this he chalked it up to another of those cultures he didn't recognise but wondered about.
The area around the newly renamed Red Squadron's planes was as busy as the rest, several pilots were talking about the mission while others at in their seats and pondered, chiefly among them Hobbie Klivian. However Wedge was nowhere to be seen and with only a few minutes to launch Xander was pensive, he watched as first a group of A-Wings and B-Wings launched, a third squadron of mixed Y-Wings and Headhunters slipped into their place for their own launch.
"One thing we can guarantee here is some of us won't be coming back, the rest will be very, very lucky."
Xander looked behind him to a strangely sullen looking Wes Janson. The usual carefree joking façade had dropped for the first time since Xander had known him. He knew that the other man was a very good pilot and first class ground trooper but was underestimated because of his personality. Wes sat down next to his younger squadmate and followed the figures still darting around, neither spoke for a minute or so as they watched another two squadrons launch.
"What do you think the odds that we'll get out of this one alive Wes?"
"Alive and whole or alive but missing parts?"
"I haven't a clue to be honest. Rogue Squadron has a half dozen of the best pilots in the Alliance and possibly two of the best in the galaxy. Wedge survived the first one and everything since, not many can touch him as a pilot and even fewer have survived taking him on. He's no Jedi but he's one of our best although don't tell him I said that or he'll think that I mean it. Surviving is what the Rogues are best at, although considering the losses we've taken since Derra and Hoth I'm surprised there's any of us left."
Xander allowed a slight smile, "I'm your wing for this Wes, I… I've never flown in something like this before."
"Xan, none of us have, I'm twenty four years old and fought since before Yavin and the biggest fight I've been in was four years ago with the Yellow Aces, Mon Cal Cruisers and Star Destroyers and all the fighters in between, first time we even used the T-65s in combat. Scared the shit out of the Imps flying that day, but flying Y-Wings against Tie Fighters isn't that much fun, against the Bombers we held our own. Took three times as many of them down as they took us in that fight, but this, this is three quarters of the fleet and more than half the fighters against whatever they have at Endor. Frankly I think we're screwed."
"You think so huh?"
"After what you said I'd probably guarantee it."
"The bet's still on Janson, five more than you." Xander replied smiling, the other man just laughed.
"Your good kid but not THAT good, if you get five more than me then something is very wrong with the galaxy."
"Yeah your sense of humour proves it."
The two were interrupted by the appearance of their commander. Wedge could be seen speaking to one of the A-Wing pilots still awaiting lift off instructions. Both looked at each other and without a word strode up to the Corellian several of the other rogues in their wake.
"Please tell me we're not changing from X-Wings to those doorstops." Xander said.
"Not a chance." Wedge shook his head, "The Rogues use X-wings, I just needed to ask Tycho about something."
"Ahh, isn't he…"
"Yeah came across a while back with Hobbie and the rest of the Rand Ecliptic, his squadron is understrength and has requested a link up with Red and Gold Wings. Means we'll have some fast attack back up for both wings, I just hope we don't need it." Wedge sighed, "We're last squadron out of the bay so we've got a few minutes before launch, alright everyone here?"
Eleven pilots moved from their places around the X-Wings chatting or checking their fighters into a rough semicircle around their Commander, four other Pilots from another Squadron dropped to the other side. "I've been sent over orders from Home One, Red and Gold Squadrons will be dispatched into the conduits on the Death Star to hit their primary reactor and power regulator towers. The Falcon will head in first with the rest of us following on her tail, given the complexity of the internal structure I'm not going to order anyone in. Both Wings have been expanded to include several pilots from Halcyon Squadron. Captain Celchu's unit will be flying A-Wings under Green Squadron as a quick strike force backing up both Red and Gold."
"I'm not going to lie to anyone here, more than a few of us share Flight Officer Harris' fears about the fact that this smells too much like a trap. If it is we'll have a very short timeframe to take out the reactor, with this in mind I'm not going to order the entire Squadron into the structure. I will however take volunteers for the strike; General Calrissian and I will be first into the shaft when we make the attack."
"I'll go." Tycho nodded, "My A-Wings are small and fast, should be able to take the curves."
"I'll take the rear point Sir." A man replied from the rear, Wedge held in a grimace as he struggled to remember the pilot's name. More than a few pilots had been in and out of Rogue Squadron since Hoth. This one must have been new to the Squadron for this one battle.
"Can't go without me Boss." Janson spoke up, Xander next to him also nodding his ascent
"Alright that's seven, we can't risk any more than that in the first wave. Dismissed people and may the Force be with you." Wedge ordered, "Janson, Harris a word please."
"Oh Great." Xander murmured, "Keep your eyes open, your mouth shut and never volunteer. Why exactly did I just do that?"
"Because you're an idiot?" Wes asked as they approached Wedge.
"Alright I didn't want to say anything in front of the rest of the Squadron but I don't want either of you going into the shaft on the first run."
"What?" Wes exclaimed, "Boss Rogues are the best pilots in the Alliance, you asked for volunteers."
"I know and I appreciate that, but the two of you are to grab Hobbie, Keir, hell any pilots you can nearby you for a second run."
"Boss man you helped kill the first one…"
"I was forced to bail out before we got to the target, Biggs and Luke got that bastard the first time. We were the last trio that could hit the exhaust port then and there, if my flight misses the target then someone else will need to go in. I'm taking some of the best in with me but I'm leaving some of the best out in case we get jumped."
"I don't like this Wedge." The youngest pilot said, "I really don't."
"Neither do I but it's a risk I have to take." Wedge told them before turning at a shout, he nodded back to the ground co-ordinator. "It's time."
"Watch your back Wedge." Wes spoke up, "You better come out the other side of this."
"You two watch each other." Wedge said, "Remember if the worst comes to the worst you're the last hope I have."
"No pressure then Boss." Xander replied.
"None at all." The Corellian smirked, "May the force be with you both."
With that farewell the three pilots separated and headed for the X-Wings, the rest of the squadron were already in place awaiting launch instruction a few of them were muttering a few last prayers or pinning lucky charms to their displays. Stepping up to his own ship he ran his fingers along the fuselage, the lines of fighters and a handful of other craft were painted in black underneath the canopy. In two years he'd taken down the equivalent of a few squadrons of fighters of different types, a few Corvettes, Gunships and a part Dreadnaught were shared with other pilots across the wing but not bad for a newbie.
His first ace coming on the heels of the Battle of Hoth flying alongside Wedge where the two had flown almost as one, the unconscious use of the skills he'd gained allowing him to out fly several of the more capable pilots off of Death Squadron's ISDs. Climbing up the ladder Xander settled into his flight seat before locking his hoses into place while the canopy above him lowered gently before sealing against the atmosphere outside.
"Red Squadron report in." Came the distorted voice of the squadron's commander
"Red Three Standing By"
"Red Eleven Standing By"
"Red Seven Standing By"
"Red Five Standing By" Xander completed the roll call and listened as Red Leader informed the ship's bridge that his people were in place for launch. Sweat was already coating his hands underneath his flight gloves, no matter the number of times he launched from any ship he still found those first few seconds to be all but impossible to stand. Being brought up on a world where he wouldn't have been able to get hold of a crop duster to fighting in one of the most advanced and powerful fighters in the known galaxy still made it difficult for him to truly understand what was going on in his life. Pushing down the fear he concentrated on the launching procedures awaiting his own turn before launching into space.
"Never gets old." He murmured to himself as he slipped through the magcon field.
Hyperspace to Xander was much like zipping across interstates at high speed, not much to see and you're moving too fast to really know what you just saw. Most of the time it gave him a slight headache even through the slightly yellow tint of his helmet's visor, it didn't really matter so much as frustrated him. It was virtually impossible to see other ships while in hyperspace, even with hundreds of fighters in close proximity to each other his journey was a lonely one once they had jumped.
Wedge had surprised him with the transfer from Wampa Squadron to Rogue Squadron even with their long standing friendship. Hoth Wing had been rebuilt with the surviving members of those that survived the assault and evacuation. His almost instinctive knowledge of the T-65s had had him put directly under Wedge's command when the three Squadrons that made up the wing had reformed after the escape. Even after two years however he still found it daunting to be flying amongst the best the Alliance had, a commission to Rogue Squadron should make his career but again he found himself wondering if it was because the Corellian was unsure of his abilities even after the incident.
His console began to beep as the last minute of hyperspace travel wound down, settling himself into position he grasped the throttle control and pulled it down slowly bringing his X-Wing out of hyperspace, all around him dozens of other fighters from the perfectly aligned rebel fleet entered realspace in tight formation. While the Sullust fleet had only had a very few ships they had taken point as dozens of other task forces and sub fleets dropped from hyperspace in their own formations, hundreds more fighters appeared throughout space leading the assembled rebel forces.
Xander grinned at the massive fleet formation of everything from fifty year old gunships and cruisers to the most modern Mon Calamari Cruisers and stolen Imperial warships appeared, hundreds of warships and fighters were spread out in battle lines unopposed heading right for the massive moon sized space station. Every Alliance ship that could be spared and assembled in time had been sent for this great battle from all across the galaxy, what had been left behind would be enough to restart the Rebellion if they lost today, the danger was that most of the worlds that supported them would be target practice for the vast Imperial fleets out there is this went wrong.
As he watched even more fighters launched, those with no hyperdrive or too short a range had been assembled on the decks of the fleet's larger capital ships. The few hundred snubfighters were more than doubled in number by the older or lighter craft, with luck they wouldn't be needed but then again Xander was never one to turn down help especially those with heavy weapons.
"All wings report in." Came the voice of General Calrissian
"Red Leader Standing by"
"Green Leader Standing by"
"Grey Leader Standing by"
"Lock S-Foils in attack position." Commander Antilles ordered
Xander flipped the switches above his head and took a quick look out of the sides of his cockpit making sure his fighter's weapons were extended and active. Satisfied he turned back and accelerated to attack speed, around him the X and B Wing squadrons of Red Wing were opening their own foils. Almost seven hundred fighters from the most advanced A-wing to the oldest clone wars vintage Z-95s were assembled ahead of the massive war fleet, most heading straight for the open target of the unfinished superweapon.
It was too damned easy.
"There's something wrong here." Xander murmured to himself, "This isn't right."
Looking at the undefended station he had an unsettling feeling in his stomach, peering at the moon sized space station his eyes widened as he saw a large piece of drifting debris probably from the construction of the space station vaporise itself on the obviously active shield.
"Oh shit." He keyed in the channel to the rest of his squadron only half a second before the harsh order from Calrissian informed them all of what Xander himself had seen.
"Break off the attack the shield is still up."
"I get no reading are you sure?" Wedge questioned
"Pull up, all craft PULL UP."
The Earth-born pilot yanked his flight stick to the side barely missing Wes Janson as the older pilot did the same. All around him pilots from Red and Gold Wings were scattering trying to miss the energy shield. The vast majority passed by the shield unharmed although three of the supporting X-wings clipped the shield blowing apart into flames as they tumbled across the surface.
"Sithspit." Wedge said over the comms, "Imperial ships incoming."
Millions of miles from the Rebel fleet the scattered rebel fighters could see the dark pointed shapes of Imperial Star Destroyers, dozens of the massive warships were arrayed around a single immense command ship. Every rebel living knew of that ship and by extension a good percentage of the other vessels with it, the Executor and Vader's Death Squadron, which probably meant that the 501st were on the ground just waiting for the infiltration team.
"Red Wing break formation we've got fighters coming in, individual command is returned to squadron leads. Red Squadron accelerate to full speed, we need to keep fire away from the command ships." Wedge ordered, "Good luck everyone."
Not needing any acknowledgement from his people Wedge shifted power into his engines and boosted ahead of the small group around him, Red Squadron hit their own engines to full speed bursting away from the rest of the wing around them. Xander's eyes narrowed as he saw hundreds upon hundreds of Imperial TIE fighters heading right for them outnumbering and outgunning the Rebel fighters by at least three to one and looking at the numbers a lot more were probably waiting in the back just in case. Slamming engine power into his shields Xander dual linked his cannons and targeted the first wave of TIEs an odd calm coming over him, the same calm that he had felt every time he had been in combat since that first battle just after Derra Four.
After a year of flying with Hoth Wing his skills as a pilot had grown and improved and while not as good as his sponsor the young Californian's accuracy was still up there with the best. Three TIEs met their fate at his Taim and Baks as the red hued laser fire shattered their 'wings' sending one careening into another while the other was holed through the cockpit vaporising the pilot. The fourth member of the flight shattered under fire from Wes' dual shot, another flight banked out of the way from the two Rogues forcing the Rebel pilots to move out of the way of a duet of interceptors trying to get a bead on them.
All throughout the first wave dozens of Alliance pilots fired into the cluster of TIEs, a massive wave of red laser fire, blue ion cannon and yellow concussion missiles hammered into the Imperial formations. The groups of Imperial fighters were impossible to miss at this range meaning a guaranteed hit and probable kill for the first few seconds of the battle, dozens if not hundreds of TIEs simple ceased to exist in moments before the two hordes of fighters collided.
Flipping his selector to single shot Xander sprayed the area with dozens of fast firing cannon fire, another two TIEs one of which was one of the upgraded Interceptors with a red paint job went down as their engines exploded in unison. Already an Ace several times over five in only a very few seconds of combat would have made him one again; however with the pure numbers of fighters in the area he soon lost count of the kill.
Re-engaging the enemy he managed to find Wes Janson and brought himself up on his leader's wing, flipping his X-Wing almost vertical compared to his fellow pilot Xander's fire sliced through a Tie Interceptor sending its parts careening into space. A quick flash of flame ending the life of the Imperial pilot, but with every Rebel pilot lost the numbers against them increase and right now he and Wes had knocked out ten between them beating the four to one odds although that meant almost nothing in this fight.
"All fighters, we've been ordered to close with the Star Destroyers." Wes ordered "Five this is Six, pull back onto my wing at Nine-Three. Eleven and Twelve bring up the rear."
"With you Six." Xander replied
"Eleven on station." Hobbie's voice was distorted worse than usual, *he must have taken a hit to his comm system.*
"Twelve on tail end." Frix acknowledged
"Lock Proton Torpedoes on the communications ship, Five and Six will take the Port side of the bridge you two starboard side."
"On it." Hobbie said.
The four X-wings burst forward through a second wave of Ties already heading in to reinforce the shattered first wave, while impressive in pure numbers the Imperial fighters were inferior in almost every way to the snubfighters used by the Alliance. Hundreds of the enemy were already in ruins while far fewer of the advanced Rebel ships had been destroyed. However given the fact that the Imperials already heavily outnumbered the Rebels by several to one meant that the TIEs could lose a half dozen fighters for each Rebel and win handily, what was worse is that the majority were the more manoeuvrable Fighters and Interceptor models in service
One way to combat this was to individually take down their command ships, using smaller craft, without hyperdrives or the ability to stay in combat as long as their foes the Imperials would have to land and refuel and rearm. Every Star Destroyer taken down would be one less for the fighters to return to and one less for the bigger ships to face, considering the numbers that were already against them the Rebels needed every bit of help they could get.
Their choice of target was a larger than normal command ship version of the Imperial Star Destroyer, its heavy modification were evident to the fighters as they pulled into an attack run alongside several other squadrons and other craft that had had the same idea. Due to the huge number of communications and sensor systems the shields of the vessel were less powerful and as a result more vulnerable to the rebel starfighters, two full squadrons began pelting the vessel with laser blasts and torpedoes or missiles.
Xander and Wes pulled around to one side of the Star Destroyer's bridge while their cohorts angled their own course to the other side. The already fluctuating shields were blown through by eight Proton Torpedoes opening up a hole for the closest ship to fire upon. Two Corvettes and a smaller gunship opened up on the partially exposed superstructure blowing through the nebulously reforming shields, metal vaporised as the turbolasers concentrated on the bridge tower. Unable to navigate or control its movement for a few seconds the oversized capital ship was unable to move out of the way of another jinking capital ship, a Nebulon B frigate its spine partially severed, fires ripping through its superstructure turned its body flat on to the Imperial ship.
Drifting powerless in space the frigate collided with the already damaged ship's command tower, sympathetic detonations rippled down through the ship it's heavy armour plating holding the expanding fireballs within their meters thick walls. All through the ship portholes, hatches and damaged plating erupted sending pyres of flame into space, snuffing out as the oxygen was shut off or simply used up. Bodies, furniture, supplies, even small vehicles went spinning into space burnt and shrivelled from the tens of thousands of degree heat.
Some intrepid or desperate technician saved the ship from destruction as its power systems shut down completely, collision bulkheads and emergency hatches slamming down cutting off the lower decks as well as the forward part of the ship from the now rapidly diminishing fireball. Lights went off and thrusters went silent turning the ship from a floating fortress into a derelict ship, useless against the throngs of fighters and warships surrounding it.
"Red Five to Home One, Imperial Comms ship is down." Xander transmitted, "Repeat Comms ship is down."
"Home One to Red Five, we read you. Shield is still up."
"Red Flight Three returning to Home One for resupply and refuelling."
"Negative Flight Three." The Mon Cal technician spoke up, "Home One is unable to retrieve fighters at this time."
"Understood." Wes grimaced, if the Headquarters Frigate was unable to retrieve her fighters then the ship was either badly damaged or in too much danger to risk opening a hole in the shields to let the X-Wings through. Either way his small force was on its own.
It took less than ten seconds for the four of them to find a nice new juicy target, a full two bomber squadrons were heading for the Liberty intent on removing the powerful cruiser from the battle line. A quick signal sent Red Flight Three diving through the ranks of the lumbering twin hulled craft, six of the TIE Bombers evaporated under their fire causing the survivors of the wing pairs to scatter. Another barrage hit the Imperial formation from the opposite side as a trio of Z-95s leading a quartet of R-41s vaporised another nine.
"This is Red Six to Howling Banthas, nice for you to join the party."
"Bantha Lead to Red Six, where do you need us Janson?"
"Good to see you Tatch, Chasers to the Flanks, Hunters to the Stern and keep pace at point seven speed. Targets of opportunity are to be taken; these bombers have got to go."
"We're on it Six."
The combined force under Janson's control hammered at the remaining bombers, even the ageing Republican era fighters were more than capable of destroying the slower and less agile Imperials. Unfortunately three concussion missiles rippled from the Bombers before they exploded, all targeted on the Mon Calamari Cruiser's bridge. Unable to chase down the accelerating explosives in the few second they had the pilots could only watch as they exploded on the shields of the Rebel ship a bare heartbeat before the entire vessel exploded into a cloud of dust.
"What the fuck." Xander shouted. "That's impossible."
"Red Flight, Bantha flight." Frix called across the radio, "That wasn't the missiles. Flight One says that the Sithspawned Death Star is operational."
"Kriff!" Shouted one of the Banthas.
"All fighters this is Gold One, head into the Imperial ranks and blast anything that pops its head up. We've got to give the strike team more time, if you get a shot at anything take it otherwise stay alive."
"Red Six to Red One."
"Red One, go."
"Wedge we're on the other side of the fleet to the rest of the squadron, we've picked up a few stragglers. Orders?"
"Follow Gold leader's orders Wes, we've lost three of the Squadron and Gold wing is down to less than half their fighters. Stay with your flight and remember my orders."
"Affirmative Red Lead, good luck Wedge."
Diverting his force through their own lines the rag-tag squad picked up another two X-Wings from a shattered squadron putting them into formation with the Z-95s and burnt their way into a battle between a trio of Corellian Corvettes, four Alderaanian Gunships, two Keldonian Battlecruisers, Six Corellian Battleships and a carrier version of an Imperial Star Destroyer plus it's close in escorts. The debris of dozens of fighters from both sides littered the area from the continuously launching TIE Squadrons and the Rebel fighters protecting the warships from the parasite craft, a small number of support ships belonging to the Imperial warship were broken along with another half dozen small Rebel craft, suffice to say the Rebel flotilla were barely staying in the fight as two of the Battleships and a Gunship began spewing atmosphere from rents in their hulls.
Their arrival was heralded by thirteen of the Rebel fighters loosing a pair of torpedoes each into the Destroyer's shielding. Twenty six warheads concentrated into one area of the ship's shields almost overwhelmed the massively powerful warship. The rapidly dropping power reserves were poured into the damaged energy fields as more fire came from the warships hammering the area around the original impact. Unable to launch another attacked without using up the last of their precious warheads Red Flight and its escorts banked away and into the throng of Rebel fighters verses their TIE equivalents.
Slowly the Imperial ship was pushed out of its position within the battle line, forced into movement by the encroaching rebel ships the two smaller escorting ships being peeled away by the attacking warships one of them falling out of line completely as its engines were blasted by a fusillade of ion cannon fire. A last few remaining squadrons launched from the hangers of the two remaining Imperial vessels, trying desperately to stop the destruction of their mother ship their numbers cut into ribbons by the laser cannons of the gunships and the rebel fighter wings already shattering the formations around them. Slowly but surely the area was being swept of imperial ships but at a cost.
The first of the Corvettes broke apart under the bombardment from the Carrier, its thin shields and light armour no match for the heavy turbolasers of its enemy. Two gunships followed it into oblivion soon after, a duet of frigates took their place hammering the ship with their own cannons, the second and last of the star destroyer's escorts succumbing to the massed turbolaser fire of the Rebel flotilla. Soon afterwards another Corvette took the brunt of the attack disappearing in its own minute conflagration quickly followed by a third gunship, a Battleship and a handful of fighters attempting an attack run, the Ad-Hoc squadron led by Wes and Xander did their best to cover the frigates and remaining warships by hitting weapons turrets on the imperial heavy or picking off any powerful TIE variants that they came across
"This is Red Five to any bomber flights we require assistance against carrier craft, follow this IFF beacon for instructions." Xander radioed out, the TIE Bomber in front of him exploding as its ordnance pod erupted.
"Red Five this if B-Wing Yellow Flight Two, we are incoming on your location ETA twenty five seconds."
"Affirmative Yellow Flight Two, enemy Star Destroyer is damaged on dorsal starboard. Torpedo strike and Turbolaser barrage has weakened enemy defences. Imperial fighter coverage is neutralised." Xander replied jinking his fighter around and destroying another TIE Interceptor, Frix burning down a fighter trying to escape from the conflagration. To his flank Wes and Hobbie both opened up on another flight of TIE Fighters trying to bracket the Starchaser group, "Be advised that anti fighter defences have not been silenced, missile and laser cannon blisters are still active."
"Affirmative Red Five, Yellow Flight Two is incoming."
"Acknowledged." Xander flicked his comms to the squadron's channel, "Red Six this is Five; we have Dump Truck flight incoming."
"About time." Wes Janson turned his fighter up on a port s-foil allowing Xander to hammer two TIE Fighters attempting a run on the X-wing while the Taanabian Ace shattered a bomber that had ended up in his sights. "Red Flight keep the TIES off of the Dump Trucks.
A quartet of the Rebel's powerful anti-shipping fighters burst onto the scene heading for the large Imperial vessel, locking onto the damaged portion of the vessel each of the ungainly looking craft opened up with Lasers, Ion cannons and blasters hammering into the capital ships looking for an opening. Knowing that even damaged shields would be sufficient protection against their weapons the B-Wings synchronised their weapons and launched a barrage of Proton Torpedoes, more powerful than the X-wing launched weapons these Torpedoes were able to puncture the shields allowing a second salvo to fly through into the ship's hull.
Armour vaporised or melted only to slowly solidify in the airless wastes of space opening up holes within the ship's defences, Turbolasers and Capital scale Ion Cannons rippled across the damaged hull desperately trying to cripple the ship before the shield could be reset and raised. A further salvo or torpedoes came in from the Starchasers and Headhunters that had finally managed to orient themselves into the battle, the group looked in bad shape as they passed Xander's view.
One of the 95s had lost most of its wing and part of its fuselage to what must have been a direct hit or at least close range detonation of a torpedo, two of the 41s likewise were missing parts of their hulls from direct hits. The pilots must have been good or very lucky to still be flying after taking that kind of abuse especially against the far more agile and capable TIE craft, a quick head count also came up one short. One of the Headhunters was either elsewhere or destroyed in the fight against the hordes of fighters that they had fought through, undeterred the ageing craft launched a salvo of their own mixed missile, torps and anything else they could fire.
From his position directly above the Imperial warship he could see hundreds of pods as they started to evacuate the carrier, what few fighters could launch blasted out of the hangers trying to get away from the burning ship. Several of the TIEs were blown out of space as they launched while the pods were mostly left alone with a few being destroyed through laser fire from both fighters and warships as they intersected the firing arcs. It took a bare minute before the rest of the carrier began breaking apart it's reactor cracking apart and exploding immolating the remainder of the ship and a far few pods and fighters from both sides around it.
"Yellow Flight Two to all fighters, target cleared out see you on the other side."
"Red Six to Flight Two, we owe you guys an ale."
"We'll collect when we can, good luck Red Six. Flight Two out."
The four B-wings completely intact and armed pulled away escorted by a few A-Wings to their next target and loaded for Wookiee, the Earth-born looked at them and shook his head once again this battle was giving him more and more memories he would never forget. Turning back to his scanner he could see the area around the battle zone was clear of all Imperial craft with them either destroyed or on the run. Full and partial squadrons were reforming as they in turn peeled away into the conflagration.
"This is six, all fighters form up we've got another target. Tector class closing on the Free Will." Wes informed the group mentioning another winger Mon Cal Cruiser on the periphery of the battle they could barely see from their position, three ISDs and a wing of fighters were ganging up on the cruiser and its few remaining escorts. "I need a torp count."
Seconds passed as the slightly larger group tolled its weapons and unfortunately as they thought the numbers were all but minimal, all four of flight three still held a pair each while the rest had one or two with several with empty tubes. They wouldn't be much use against the Star Destroyers in such paltry numbers but they would be more than capable of taking down the smaller craft harassing the Cruiser's guns, while they were reforming one of the destroyers turned, its entire flank on fire as the MC80 finally blew through its shields tagging a small number of fighters with it.
"Well that makes it easier." Xander said sarcastically, "Red Six this is five, we're not going to make a dent in those things."
"I know Five but we've got to try."
"Good, just making sure we're on the same track Boss."
Five X-wings, two Headhunters, and two Starchasers remained of their small group all slamming their engines into full heading for the heavy ships between them and their brethren on the Free Will. Around them another half dozen flights of X-Wings, Y-Wings, other miscellaneous fighters and almost a full B-Wing Squadron were following them in launching a massive volley of missiles and torpedoes as they headed in, the B-Wings pumping out what must have been most of their magazines in mere moments heading half for each of the remaining ISDs. The rest that were too low or out of projectiles peeled off for the darting fighters some hitting the TIEs while others were blown apart by the enemy for their trouble, the equivalent of one Rebel Wing were plunging into a fight with more than five times their own number.
"All flights break formation, stay with your mates and watch your backs. Let's show these eyeballs just what alliance starfighter corps is made of." Wes Janson order across the all squadrons channel throwing his X-Wing into the fray his cannons blazing in sequence as his wingmates followed him in their own weapons hammering into the enemy ranks. All around missiles, laser fire, blasters and Ion cannons lanced into the myriad of Imperial fighters awaiting them, their ranks breaking as the Rebels pushed through while their own weapons sliced through shields and armour both, annihilating fighters and their pilots most without the chance to eject from their doomed fighters.
All around them turbolaser cannons threw out flak trying to hit the speeding fighters, most evaded or shrugged off the limited energy that hit them with others unfortunately falling to the unfocused fire. One ISD was listing as it fired. it's hanger bay and lower ramparts crippled from the concentrated fire from the B-Wings, here and there another torpedo would get through and destroy a turbolaser turret or a point defence weapon none were intercepted before they hit the armour meaning that the ship's shields were down in that area.
"Free Will this is Red Five, ventral shields on threat vessel to your fore starboard are down. Repeat they are null shielding in lower quarter." Xander called over the radio as he dodged another burst of fire from a TIE fighter coming from his starboard side."
"We read you Red Five, ISD is rotating we can't get a good shot at their reactor." The Channel wavered as the Mon Calamari ship took another salvo of fire into her shields, even a vessel as powerful and well defended as one of their ships could only take so much damage as the flickering lights across her entire surface pointed out. Only the earlier intervention of her escorts and then the massed fighter attack had allowed her to survive thus far, with the last of the escorts having already been destroyed meant that the cruiser was alone against the two monstrosities.
"Red Six this is Five, Boss I don't think we've got much of a choice, we have a chance to restock before…"
"I read you Five, I agree. All members Red Flight Four lock remaining torpedoes on that Impstar's main reactor."
"Wait Boss, I've got a better idea." Xander replied, "Follow me in."
"You sure about this Xan?" Hobbie called from the rear as the four ships banked into a run up, the cavernous main hanger bay of the Imperial Ships sat before them. Even from this distance the four of them could see the devastation of the internal structure as fighters had tumbled from their berths breaking on the floor as they impacted. Cranes and gantries have been torn from the walls and ceiling thrown across the bay into fuel tanks, missile stocks and trapping more than a few Imperial technicians in the room.
"I'm sure, the Impstar is more than one hundred and fifty thousand engineering screw ups and one of them is right... here." He locked his torpedoes onto the rear bulkhead of the hanger before having Scythe transmit the location to the other three fighters, "Dual torps locked and firing."
Two blue tinted energy balls launched from the lower fuselage into the ship's innards impacting on the thin armour making up the structure of the hanger blowing a hole through them exposing several of the secondary reactors attached to the main power trunk. A split second later six more Proton Torpedoes entered the hole detonating within the assembly ripping it apart and destroying the primary and secondary control systems for the reactors, the X-Wings dropped out of the hull right into a cloud of TIES coming in from another side of the battle, several of them concentrated on the four ships as they broke away.
"Not a Kriffing chance." Frix growled as his turned his ship up on its starboard wings interposing the largest area possible between himself and the others, more than half of the laser fire collided with the X-wing vaporising the majority of the craft along with its pilot barely leaving enough to come apart as it continued to move. What little fire that was still on target bounced from the shielded Rebel craft.
"Son of a Bitch." Xander exclaimed as the three of them were rocked by the close range explosion of their flight mate, the four of them had already made it this far through the battle, something sooner or later had had to go wrong and he had been expecting to be the first out in the black before any of the others. He checked his scanner, no sign of an ejection seat or a beacon. "Boss…"
"I read you Five." Wes all but snarled, "Weapons free, Hobbie we've got your back."
A double click from the Ralltiir born pilot was all that was needed as the three X-wings accelerated away from the rapidly closing mix of fighters and interceptors, pushing their engines to the maximum they all but kept the distance between the two groups. Burning around the derelict remains of another capital ship the three Rebels spun their fighters in place and reversed their course blasting out of the shadow of the wasted warship and hammered into the Imperial group, for each of them experience simply allowed them to hold themselves in formation as the other craft scattered away from the Red Squadron pilots.
Only two of the fragile ships were hit by the assault but that was all that mattered as more fighters from around the area jumped the slower fighters while the interceptors were hit from range by a group of A-Wings, Xander was chagrined to see that of the fighters that had come in with them that less than twenty still lived. None of the Z-95s or R-41s could be seen and the B-Wings were down to a trio of the nine they had started with, at this rate they would take a hell of a lot of the Imperial ships down but at the loss of the entire fleet's fighter detachment.
"Wes, Xander, time to…."
"The shield is down! Commence attack on the Death Star's main reactor!" The fleet channel erupted interrupting Hobbie.
*Holy Shit* Xander thought, *They got through."
"Red Six to Red Lead." The squadron channel lit up.
"This is Lead, go."
"Flight Three is a go boss." Wes informed Wedge, "Down one pilot, we're black on torps."
"Understood, get a resupply." Wedge ordered, "Keep smart up there Six, if we don't come through this you're next in."
"Good luck Boss." Xander put in.
"To us all Five, Lead out."
Pulling his ship's nose up Xander hit a slide bringing him nose to eyeball with a TIE Interceptor, as he passed by the TIE he could see the other pilot through the twin windshields of their craft jump with a start. Xander mirrored what must have been the look on the other man's face and slammed his flight stick to the side pumping his rudder pedals furiously attempting to pass by the other fighter without crashing into him. The TIE likewise moved tilting up on a wing allowing the S-foils of the Rebel fighter to pass by on either side of his own radiator panels missing each other by less than half a meter.
"Fuck." Xander shouted trying to regain some control of his madly spinning craft, "Kriffing Imperial prick."
Punching the throttle forward the fighter lazily came under control of its pilot allowing him to regain his awareness of the battle, the melee was thick enough that no-one had been able to take advantage of his momentary aberration. Pulling out of his spin Xander threw power back into his shields at the momentary loss of speed in his fusion engines, scanning the area all he could see were the flaming ruins of yet more fighters from both sides as well as the rapidly failing defences of the Imperial Carrier. Even the TIE Fighter that he had almost clipped was vacating the area before he found the wrong end of a laser cannon.
His attention was brought up by a squadron channel contact from one of the command ships of the fleet, "Red Flight Three this is Home One, all ships have been ordered to concentrate fire on enemy command ship. Red Flight is to head for the third quadrant, sector C-9."
"Roger that Home One." Xander replied over the same channel, "Wes?"
"Got it Five. Flight Three, follow me in and break through to Holding Sector 4-2."
"Using Home One as cover Wes?" Xander asked
"Biggest ship in the fleet, she'll be the perfect jump off point." Wes acknowledged, "Besides we need a torpedo resupply."
The three remaining X-Wings burst away from the now crippled Star destroyer throwing themselves through the densely clustered rebel ships and out past the command ships into the battle around the Super Star Destroyer. The firepower being concentrated on the battle wagon was phenomenal; a dozen MC 80s were throwing everything they had into the upper shields while frigates and corvettes strafed the flanking shields trying to find their way through the energy fields.
Return fire from the Executor increased somewhat as the Rebel fleet closed, heavy and medium turbolaser cannons hammered the shields of a full squadron of Mon Cal cruisers as they closed. A handful of corvettes and skyhoppers ceased to exist as they took damage enough to break their shields and vaporise entire sections of the craft, a modified cruiser carrier began drifting as two heavy bolts passed through the wide open space of its hanger bay and blew the back out of the vessel destroy the handful of fighters parked on its deck and killing those crew willing to brave the danger to repair them.
More than fifty alliance fighters were chasing TIEs away from the cruisers while others were throwing torpedo after torpedo into the Star Destroyer from close range, two small gunships packed with explosives were thrown into the fight their automated weapons firing to the last as the power of dozens of Proton Torpedoes erupted across the invisible fields of energy. Less than a second later a pair of A-Wings were seen passing by the command tower their own firepower shattering the second of the tower's sensor domes, a combination of the two attacks caused a momentary failure on the shields around the command bridge.
"That's what we're waiting for." Home One shouted over the Comms channel, "All fighters hit their defence cannons, Green Wing take out their bridge."
The crippling of the ship's upper defences was somewhat nullified as the point defences increased substantially, the larger turbolasers rippling into the closest ships forcing them off from attack runs until the shields could be restored. For several seconds nothing got through until one fighter flight broke through the closely clustered laser cannon counts, a quick turn into an attack run turned into a massacre as first one then the second of the fighters fell to the guns. Unable to break off the third, an X-wing with Corellian markings blew apart from a direct hit to its fuel tank.
"Shit." Xander grunted to himself as another laser bolt grazed his already depleting shields, many more like that and he'd be forced to break off before his hull took the brunt of the damage. "Red Five to Home One, we're not making a dent down here."
"I can see that Red Five." Ackbar's voice sounded strained, "All flights Red pull out and regroup..."
"Sithspit look at that." He was interrupted by one of the pilots, unable to identify the voice Xander watched as the sole surviving A-Wing that remained of the brave assault wing closed but even with its missiles it couldn't make a dent in the tower's armour. Unfortunately for the imperial ship it wouldn't be that easy. Out of control the A-wing spun past the defences directly into the single weakest point in the Super Star Destroyer's armour, the bridge exploded as the Rebel fighter crashed through its transparisteel windows erupting in a fireball.
Cries and Cheers echoes throughout the surrounding ships as the superfortress slipped out of control inside the Death Star's gravity well plummeting down into the partially completed battlestation, the resulting explosion engulfed the miles long ship in a plume of flame. Rocking the entire station on its axis sending thousands of personnel to the floor and many more to their deaths, across the fleet the Rebels cheered as yet another critical blow hit the Imperial forces. The loss of their flagship, the communications cruisers and now the majority of the Death Star's assistance threw the tempo of the entire battle over to the Rebel's side.
The three pilots of Red Flight Three pulled up towards Home One heading for the hanger bay, Xander watched as a ground crew crowded around an older fighter, the cloakshape was in a bad way with entire section blown off by laser fire and more than a little shrapnel damage. The rear fin was gone and he could see the attached shield generators had exploded from some kind of overload.
Silently he continued to observe the crew as several pulled the pilot from the cockpit, he could just make out a patch on her arm. The Battledogs were the only full cloakshape squadron in the alliance and while he knew several pilots off of the cruiser-carrier the 'Dogs were aboard he didn't know the young woman.
As she was pulled out he could see the damage done, a good part of her right side was gone where a heavy laser blast had sliced through vapourising her arm, leg and most of her lower ribs to her hip. Blood was spattered over her head and upper body where the visor to her helmet had shattered, incredibly it seemed she was still breathing but even so he was sure that not even Thyferra pure would be able to save the pilot.
Slumping back he rubbed his eyes as the X-Wing was dropped into place next to the others, the fighters that had been resupplied were moving off allowing the Reds and their escorts into place. With a final look back he watched the mangled pilot whisked off out of the bay and to what he assumed would be an operating room, the Cloakshape was pushed out of the way by a couple of technicians and droids before being left to itself.
His own landing took all of ninety seconds as technicians slid new torpedo magazines into the launchers while pumping as much fuel into the tanks as possible. Popping the canopy Xander was handed a cold drink which he downed in one while watching the ground crews hastily resupplying a dozen different fighters most not even from the ship itself, three Y-wings and a heavily modified fighter Xander couldn't even begin to identify headed out even as the ground crew scrambled to another
"How bad chief?"
"Not too bad, your rear armour can take another hit maybe two and the left flank of the fuselage is burnt like crazy but the armour's intact. She's spaceworthy." The chief slapped the side of the fighter, "We've been getting entire squadrons worth of ships landing like this, luckily we've usually got ten squadrons on this thing or we'd be out of supplies by now. The Liberty's Squadrons are being diverted here."
"Anything from the rest of the Reds?"
"Wedge and his wing are still around I couldn't tell you and where though, wing two's been through already but lost at least one of their boys." The chief signalled the ground crew as the fuel tanks signalled a full load. "Clear skies Xander."
"Shoot straight Chief." Xander nodded as the canopy dropped down. "Wes I'm tanked up."
"Same here, Hobbie?"
"Four lit and in the green."
"Red Flight Three to Control, we're ready for launch." Wes spoke over the comms as he watched the rest of the fighters that had landed with them undergo the same resupply, two of the most damaged all but shut down as they landed forcing the pilots to evacuate their birds and get involved with the ground crews.
"Permission granted Red Flight Three." The odd warble of a Mon Cal crewman came back, "Bantha Flight you are also a go."
The three Red squadron pilots hit vacuum seconds before the rest of the craft did, the Z-95s staying behind them while the R-41s took the flanks, depleted as they were the unit were below full squadron size as most of the fighters in combat with two of their loose assembly of fighters forced to stand down as they landed. Most of the lighter and older fighters were long since pulled from the fight or destroyed with a very few of the Clone War era craft still flying. The majority of the combat was on the shoulders of the massed numbers of X and Y-wings with a rapidly dwindling number of A-wings darting around being picked off in ones or twos every so often or simply unable to fly anymore due to battle damage.
Fortunately for the Alliance most of the B-Wing Squadrons were intact as their heavy armour and shielding protected a lot of them from TIE scale cannons while their weapons immolated most of their attackers, a few of the heavy bombers had been destroyed here and their but not before causing incredible damage to the Imperial warships. Oddly enough a slight lull had appeared in the fighter heavy conflict with craft from both sides streaming into available ships to resupply, the smaller number of Rebel craft meant that they would almost to a craft be out of their ships before the TIES could pour out in numbers.
Xander watched as two of the midsized cargo ships each with shattered hull plating turned in space and headed for a single target, one of the more modern Imperial II class Star Destroyers was throwing waves of energy at anything it could focussing several of its heaviest weapons on the incoming threats. One vessel, its bridge section gone and back aflame simply rammed into the upper hull bursting the remaining shielding on the Star Destroyer allowing its fellow ship, crammed full of explosive ordnance to blast the imperial ship into pieces.
A few moments later he saw dozens of resupplied and hastily repaired Alliance fighters redeploy from the Mon Cal Cruisers and handfuls from smaller ships, almost as an answer to an unspoken challenge TIE wings dropped from their own perches aboard Imperial ships en masse. Without asking for quarter the two sides simply fired into their enemies causing a smaller scale version of the first collision between their forces, with that the battle was resumed.
"Red Flight Three, pull around to Sector three-zero-zero." Wes ordered, "Bantha flight Sector Nine-zero-zero, rest of you follow us in from Six- Zero-Zero. Anyone else around join the party?"
The almost random hodgepodge unit expanded as a few Y-Wings, another pair of X-Wings and a single stolen Starwing Assault Gunboat dropped onto their tails its IFF flashing the bright green of an Alliance fighter while the upright fin was emblazoned with the Rebel Starbird, it dropped behind the rest waggling its wings in greeting. Shaking his head at the sight of the imperial vessel sitting in situ with the Rebel craft Xander turned his attention to the fight, with the Squadron now oversized they had a chance to cause some incredible damage as they stayed together and they found their first target moments later.
The Squadron separated out into a globe bringing their forward weapons to bear at the same points from the port and starboard flanks, lasers ripped into a squadron of TIE fighters that seemed to be losing their focus on the battle making them easy prey for the experienced Rebels. Red energy bolts severed pylons and detonated engine blocks throwing the crippled fighters out into space, crossing paths the Alliance fighters burst out from their attack run latching onto Imperials and blasting them from the skies, wing pairs broke away from their squadron mates bracketing ships from two side forcing them into manoeuvres that allowed one or the other to blow them apart
"Red Five going, cover me Six."
"On your rear."
Xander turned his fighter on its lower port s-foil sending the X-Wing spiralling 'down' into the path of three TIE Interceptors hammering one as he passed sending it careening out of control it's pilot dead from a laser bolt through its cockpit and out through the bottom. A second TIE simply breaking apart from Wes Janson's own fusillade of bolts following him in, the third ship all but panicking slammed his throttle to full and emptied his energy cells into the engines pulling away from the twin Incom built fighters and out of the melee into deep space heading for the ships still out on the perimeter.
The Imperial fleet for some reason just seemed to fall apart at the seams and while still outnumbering and outgunning the Rebel Armada by more than twice, Imperial ships begin to break formation and charge away from the battle, singularly or in pairs more than half of the surviving ships tried to blow through the furball the close range combat of the battle had become. Entire wings of TIEs tried to escape most falling to the surviving fighters and close range defences of the Rebel warships, fast gunboats, A-wings, X-Wings and a handful of Gunships chased the retreating imperials firing lasers, ion cannons, missile or torpedoes into the throng of fighters. Xander and Wes launched torpedoes into their rears annihilating a bomber and an Advanced type before breaking off and hammering closer TIEs with laser fire, the ambush had become little more than a turkey shoot as every pilot became an ace time and again.
Three 'missile ships' albeit refitted freighters armed with copious magazines of warheads sent proximity fused capital scale weapons into fighter hordes exploding in their midst and annihilating entire squadrons as they ran, a few brave souls in shielded advanced types sacrificing themselves to save dozens of others. A few were shot down by the rare few TIE Defenders in the group before they themselves launched into hyperspace as the gravity wells of the surrounding interdictors finally shut down as a precursor to a full retreat.
Rebel cruisers hastily reformed into squads, what guns they could bring to bear poured fire into the sparsely protected rears of the Imperial Star Destroyers, more than one of the huge ships shuddering to a stop or going out of control as accurate massed fire disabled systems or crippled their engines. Escort vessels came apart under fire as Rebel starfighters still armed with torpedoes threw what they had left into shields and bare hulls, ravaging armour and blowing apart gun turrets. Several escaped into hyperspace or outran the still manoeuvring rebel fleet in realspace while others turned lengthways to the Alliance cruisers absorbing fire into their flanks, allowing more of the Imperial ships to escape.
"Grav wells are down." An unknown voice came through the all squadrons channel, "Imperial fleet is breaking up."
"Oh hell no." Xander watched as another heavy destroyer variant tried to escape the encroaching Rebel forces, "Red Six, this is five."
"I see him five." Wes smile could be heard. "We have torpedoes and nothing to hit, shall we?"
"Roger Six, Red Flight Three, Bantha Flight, all local fighters concentrate missile and torpedo barrage on the engines of that Star Destroyer." Xander locked the co-ordinates on and dispersed them to the rest of the group. "Two torps each should do it."
Fifteen fighters launched a wave of brightly lit projectiles towards the enemy ship focussed in one area, while it would take dozens of capital scale proton torpedoes to destroy an Imperial Star Destroyer the fighter scale weapons used by the Rebel fighters were nothing to sneer at. With the shields of so many ships weakened during the hours long battle the faster Concussion Missiles detonated against the energy fields defending the engines, the entire salvo exploding against it momentarily depleting them.
A split second later the slower but far more powerful Proton Torpedoes ravaged the rear quarter of the Star Destroyer, disabling the massive ion engines and causing a backlash throughout the entire power grid. The hyperdrive similarly shut down stranding the crippled vessel between the encroaching rebel warships and the escaping imperial fleet, unable to fight back the ship was forced to drift and watch helplessly as fighters and warships both were cut out of the sky. Red Flight Three buzzed the command tower as they continued after escaping TIE Fighters and Interceptors with a few lucky shot destroying the rapidly accelerating enemy craft.
"Wes, the Death Star." Xander looked up at the Battle Station as a solitary X-Wing spun out of the shaft. Tycho had already informed them that only two ships were still in the bowels of the monstrosity. "Wedge made it."
"What about the Falcon?"
"I can't see her."
The small group of fighters were drifting silently between Rebel Cruisers, the Imperial fighters already routed from the area around the Death Star, transports and shuttles could be seen steaming from the station but on a course away from the massed Rebel forces. Too far for the starfighters to reach before they could hyper away back to the empire, with Wedge's exit from the shaft the order had been given to the fleet to get away from the blast radius that was sure to follow and if it was anything like the original the blast would be impressive.
"All alliance ships this is Home One, evacuate the area I repeat evacuate the area. The Death Star's about to blow."
"You head him Red Flight, Bantha Flight, the rest of you. Move it."
The entire fleet moved as any ship that could pushed their engines to the red line accelerating beyond safe measure out into space, flames could be seen bursting across the inner surfaces of the station immolating the structure collapsing parts of the station into itself. Finally a plume of flame exploded from the upper surface spitting out a scorched but intact Millennium Falcon as only seconds later the entire Battlestation detonated as the structure collapsed in on itself feeding the fires of its destruction with its own mass. A bright flare and the Death Star, the greatest and most terrifying weapon the Empire had ever created was gone.
"WE DID IT." Someone shouted over the squadron frequency, "We kriffing did it."
"Belt up." Wes replied, "There's still plenty of Imps to blast around here, we're rendezvousing with the rest of Red and Gold Wings before we head for the nearest fight. Keep sharp people there's going to be a lot of pissed off and scared pilots out here."
A good hour passed before the further reinforced rag-tag group finally made it back to Home One, most out of torpedoes and on less than a fifth of a tank of fuel, the X-Wings and their entourage were forced to land on the Mon Cal Cruiser. Already aboard were the remnants of Red and Gold Wings, a scant seven fighters out of twenty plus their four and the mish mash of picked up craft. Xander had barely touched down before the ground crews were ripping off damaged armour plates and welding new ones in place, empty torpedo magazines were stripped out and new ones put in place. Fuel and oxygen tanks were rapidly being refuelled to get them out in the fight quickly, but even with the crews working in overdrive it would still take them ten more minutes to get them back in the air.
"Lead this is Five." Xander looked out his cockpit window at a burnt and battered X-Wing at the other end of the hanger, Wedge's head turned as he looked out across the bay. The older man looked as weary as he felt, but right now there were still fighters and crippled Imperial warships that were in system putting up a fight.
"Lead, go ahead."
"What's that make you Wedge, two Death Stars and still breathing?"
"Just about." Wedge sighed over the channel, "Just about."
Xander sat back in his seat and rubbed his exhausted and dry feeling eyes, the battle had been one of the worst that any of them had seen in a while if ever and the memories of Yavin and the first Death Star must have been running through the mind of the Rogue Squadron Commander just as the Corellian knew those same memories would be running through his protégé's.
Alliance Cruiser Dauntless
Mon Calamari MC80a Class Cruiser
Alliance Rendezvous Point
Six Weeks Later
"Ok I'm here. What's up?"
"The rest of Hoth Wing just got back to Home One a few hours ago, they landed and brought along a few things that have been sequestered to the Rogues, Tycho just finished shuttling it all across." Wes Janson nodded to Xander as he walked into the squadron's rest room.
The remains of Rogue Squadron had been through the ringer a second time at the battle against the Ssi-Ruuk at Bakura further depleting the Rogue's roster reducing them to a bare six from twelve. Most of those that had been tapped to fill their ranks for the battle had been killed exhaustion and damage to their craft mostly responsible for the losses. However with the reinforcement of the task force by a second battle group the Rogues had been officially removed from duty for R&R for a minimum of two weeks, the survivors of the fighter squadrons had been seconded to the Dauntless and the ship jumped back to Endor with the crews of the surviving gunships and corvette as well as the pilots.
A week in and he had been informed the other two squadrons of Hoth Wing were on their way back to their normal base of operations to reinforce the depleted ranks on board, he had been expecting that sooner or later he would end up back with the Wampas even after his actions at Endor and Bakura. Dozens of squadrons were being recalled from hidden outposts or deep space bases where they'd been sequestered just in case the attack had gone to hell, they would have been the core of the Rebellion as it rebuilt.
"Oh." Xander frowned, "So I'm being transferred back?"
"Like hell, we just broke you in." Wes smirked, "Besides I've still got much to teach you young one. They brought this thing back with them from the sectors near Derra Four." Xander's eyes widened at the news, that sector had found him alone in a standard flight suit and helmet, half his memory gone picked up by the Alliance after the fleet had been massacred there. The less said about what happened next the better especially in within earshot of a certain line officer and hero of the alliance, the fact he had been able to take a veteran military officer and experienced smuggler down with a single punch had slightly embarrassed the Corellian not to mention the slight grudge the wookiee had after being kicked in the happy sack as he tried to manhandle Xander.
"Yup, not far from where we picked you up and where you decked Captain Solo of course."
"Don't remind me." Xander approached the probe, "So what's it doing here?"
"Not a clue, apparently Princess Leia had it sent here for someone to have a look over." Wes smirked even wider, "Don't know him though, a Lieutenant Harris apparently, but that's too odd a name to have more than one person on board."
"Wes shut up."
"Yes Sir, Lt, Sir."
"Wes you're still the senior Lt."
"I know." The eternally childish officer shot back, "So what is it exactly?"
Xander tapped in his command code into the probe's systems unlocking the encryption and playing a few minutes of recorded information onto a terminal set up on its upper surface. Xander's humour withered and died as he watched the footage in its entirety twice over before stopping. He slouched back into his chair unblinking and in shock at what he had seen, Wes waved his hand in front of the younger man's face trying to get some form of response from the pilot before looking at the screen himself. Hobbie and one or two others of the Squadron in the room looked at them both before walking over and trying to get a response from the young pilot.
Wes shrugged and slapped the dark haired pilot across the back of the head bringing him out of his stupor before getting an elbow in his stomach as Xander took a cheap shot at the senior pilot before shaking his head.
"You looked like you'd won the Galactic Lottery, or found out Palpatine was your grandfather…." Wes said, "Please tell me I'm wrong about that."
"Wes..." Hobbie started
Xander interrupted "I think it's a portent."
"A what?" Hobbie asked
"It's time for me to go home." he said still in shock.
"Going home?" Hobbie frowned "I didn't think you even knew where home was."
"I didn't, I don't but if someone found this thing and knew who to send it to then they know I need to go there."
"And you can tell that from a bunch of squiggles?" Janson looked at the screen from several different angles trying to decipher it.
"Wes, that's one of my homeworld's main languages."
"Looks like gibberish to me."
"All things considered Wes, I'll take that as a compliment. Last time I had 48 hours before the wormhole closed, I thought it was permanently."
"This thing was picked up six hours ago. The time stamp is an hour before that, so that's what 41 hours to get you home?"
"Yep." Xander blinked, "Yeah it is, about ten thousand light years from here give or take."
"We need to talk to Wedge and Luke, they'll have to give you leave of absence or accept your resignation." Hobbie said, "Kriff that's all we need another Rogue down."
"I'm sorry guys, the Alliance has been great to me even when it didn't have to be but this may be the only chance that I ever have to get back home. That's if it even ends up at the same place." Xander signed, "Then again it's just as easy to stay here, the Empire's still running around and even with the Emperor and Vader dead the fleet needs every pilot we can get, Endor, Bespin, Bakura, even getting the other wings back in from the outer rim we can't afford to lose anyone right now."
"It's not as bad as that kid." Tycho Celchu responded as he approached them, "More than sixty worlds have declared for the Alliance in the last few weeks, we're getting volunteers from all over, Kriff we've just received a full two wings of fighters aboard Home One from non aligned rebel factions."
"It's not just that Captain." Xander sighed, "Think about it, how can I run home knowing the rest of the squadrons I've been without here are still fighting and dying? Wedge hasn't been back to Corellia in years, Wes and Tycho would be executed if they set foot on their worlds and..."
"And people like me, Leia and Winter don't have a home to go back to." Tycho nodded, "Kid, there's those times in life where no matter what you need to light a booster under yourself and find a way back home. Right now most of the pilots in the alliance are trying to find their way back to their home worlds even if we have to fight to get them back, every planet we get back from the empire is somewhere else people can settle or find their loved ones. Some people can't others have left because their homes have come over to our side.
"Exactly, people are leaving in droves we need any experienced squadrons intact for as long as we can. We've got new pilots and squadrons but none of them know how we work, you guys have helped me since I got here and now you expect me to walk away?"
"Xander... look, right now most of us know we can go home at some point even at the point of a blaster in some cases, others have people they can hold onto while here. Some will never have the chance to go home but I doubt any of them would deny you the chance to go back to wherever it is you came from, if this thing goes there that is." He looked at Tycho, "Tycho won't be going home ever again and he knows that, this wormhole if it works means you will get there in the end. None of us want you to go but sometimes it happens, the Rogues lost people to the empire, to smugglers, pirates, even their own desires but we've never believed any of them were traitors or cowards and you won't be either."
"We're not telling you to go but if this wormhole doesn't open up again then you won't be able to go back, but if it does open up again you can always look us up. Odds on we'll still be fighting the Imperials even then." Wes shrugged, "Plus it means I don't have to pay up the Whyren's I owe you."
"Knew there was another reason." Xander rubbed his tired eyes, seemed he couldn't get a break even on leave. "Guys I get it but this war will keep going, I can't do this."
The three other rogues looked at each other, they knew any normal attempt to send him home wouldn't work with him in this state no matter how much they knew he had held back in regards to his homeworld. They knew the Imperials, Alliance and most if not all of the powers of the local galaxy had no idea where Xander's world was but he wasn't able to tell them either. Problem was that if they let the high command know they'd want to study it and use it somehow to build an alliance safe world, something that more than two dozen sectors had with none having been found by the empire.
Even the fact that they were standing on the edge of the precipice with the Alliance close to victory or defeat depending on the outcome of the next few years meant nothing in the short run, worlds were needed for the Rebels to build up and protect their people but the knowledge of this wormhole in their hands while useful for the alliance would stop Xander's chance of getting home. Something that Leia must have known, so why she sent the probe to Lt Harris alone was something they didn't know but possibly realised the lost pilot had the best chance of finding it and getting home.
"Look Xander we find the wormhole and you can drop a beacon next to it, if the thing opens up again we'll get a signal to you and you can let us know." Wes replied seriously, "We'll call it a long term surveillance of a prospective Alliance world. You still work for Intelligence or Starfighter Command but on a long term deployment. We've got thousands of agents on worlds undercover and have been for years, this won't be any different in the end."
Xander sighed again. He wanted to go home probably more than anything these days. Even with Wedge's skills and knowledge he'd not been an experienced pilot or soldier like the rest of the Rebels he'd met, that he was even allowed to join the Alliance just after Derra Four was more to the fact that Wedge spoke up for him and that they were short on pilots after several years of crippling fighter losses throughout the Rebel forces. He'd half way cracked up under the strain of constant warfare colliding with his recovering memory until he was forced out of his cockpit for psychological checks, whatever had merged his mind with Wedge's hadn't helped him adapt with his new surroundings.
His time there with the pilots of one squadron then another plus the crews of whatever cruiser he had ended up on had helped him, the loss of the Far Hope had paradoxically been one of the things to bring him back around. He'd lost half of his squadron and most of the crew of that ship to an imperial ambush, the survivors being folded into another ship's compliment as per standard procedure meaning he had to learn how a new squadron worked. the Wampas had found out about his own time at Hoth and had welcomed him into their ranks pushing him to the limit as he found them to be far better than most of his original squadron.
Finding out that they were part of the same three squadron wing of fighters as Rogue Squadron had given him the chance to spend some much needed time with Antilles, for several evenings they'd talked over what had happened fully. Something that they hadn't had the chance to do since his arrival, the knowledge each had gained from the other was explained and checked by then other. In the end they realised that while they knew each other well they couldn't say they were the other person in any way, Xander had agreed that Wedge's skills had kept him alive while the memory of Xander's friends on Earth had helped him recover some of what he had lost by losing his family.
"I guys you guys do know just how much I want to go back." Xander looked up, "If and this is a very big IF we can figure out how to persuade High Command to let me return home then I'll go, but if we can't then I stay here with the Rogues and keep flying."
Wes smirked as he jumped to his feet "Well if you're going back you're going to need a few things to help out."
"Huh?" Xander blinked.
"Just go talk to Wedge." Wes piped up, "We'll make sure you're prepared to go home."
"Something tells me I'm not going to like this."
"Just go." Wes ushered him out of the hanger.
Unsure but willing to trust the three Rogues Xander walked out of the hanger bay and into the ship proper, like most CAGs Commander Wedge Antilles had his offices relatively close by his pilots and his fighter. Aboard a ship the size of the Dauntless this was still a few minutes foot journey from Rogue Squadron's fighter berths to the senior officers' wing, although it took time Lt Harris found himself facing the partially open door to his CO's office. Knocking hard on the heavy armourplast door he poked his head in the gap.
"Boss, you in?"
"In the back Xander"
Pushing open the door Xander walked into the mostly Spartan room, the 'furniture' like most temporary offices or quarters were made up of what could be found, the ancient Y-wing ejection seats and ammo box coffee table had been added to with a desk fashioned from the wreckage of a TIE interceptor that had rammed the ship at Endor as it chased after an X-wing sending its parts across the hanger bay with one shard nearly decapitating Wedge's predecessor as CAG. Apparently the insane duo of Wes and Hobbie had decided that the incoming CAG would enjoy a brand new desk courtesy of the Empire, Wedge had not been amused.
"Hey Wedge, how's the hand?"
"Fine although I won't be putting my hand into a piece of Imperial machinery again if I can ever help it." the Corellian grinned as he flexed his hand. "That knock at Bakura sure as Sith didn't help."
"Aww and we worked so hard on your presents too."
"Bacta flavoured Candy is not a present Harris, hell it should be against the law somewhere between attempted poisoning and crimes against civilisation." Wedge smirked, "So what I can do for you?
"Wedge, I need to hand in my resignation from Starfighter command." Xander said bluntly.
"That's not funny Xander." the cheerfulness of the older man's tone had gone, "Not right now."
"No it's not." Xander shot back in the same tone. "Another one's opened."
Wedge's eyes shot up from the caf dispenser back to Xander's face, the other man was barely as old as he was when he fought his first missions with the Rebellion before Yavin back as a Y-Wing pilot but given the fact that both of them had fought and survived at Endor not to mention a number of stranger missions that they had been through he trusted Xander as much as any man he flew with. The Earth native's face was like stone as his Commander's eyes scanned his own, the Corellian knew that his friend wasn't lying and that he would need to make his own way home.
"A few hours ago, the Princess sent me the scans brought in from the Wampas." Xander said, "I told the guys that it was a wormhole I thought was gone for good."
Wedge nodded, "Good idea you know you might not end up back near Earth let alone with your friends."
"I know but it's a risk I have to take Wedge, you remember what happened there maybe they don't need me but maybe just maybe they do."
"About forty hours by now hence my resignation and a request to use something to get me through the portal."
"I won't accept the resignation but I can have you transferred."
"Page's commandoes owe the Rogues a favour."
"I'm not a Rogue Wedge."
"You flew with us at Endor and Bakura Xander, you're a Rogue."
Xander's head dropped slightly abashed, he knew he had friends and allies amongst the squadrons aboard Home One and now the Dauntless but nothing to the extent of being adopted into one of those said squadrons let alone one as infamous as the Rogues. Granted he had a link to Wedge and had flown with them more than once but then so had others and none were considered Rogue Squadron material, most had stayed within Hoth Wing knowing they were good but not good enough but maybe could be. Others had left and gone to other squadrons with the same knowledge, one sour feeling pilot had joined the Empire and ratted out an old and still half functional base in retaliation for not being chosen, last they heard he had been on one of the ships identified at Endor.
"Who else knows about this?"
"Wes and Hobbie were with me when I came back off patrol with Grey Squadron. They showed me a signal that had been sent."
"What did it say?"
"All live Wrestlemania 16 this weekend on ESPN."
"And you got the idea that you can go home through that?"
"It had been a signal picked up and translated into a holo, the language was English and only two people in this galaxy can understand the written version and I'm pretty sure neither of us sent the signal." Xander shook his head, "And I'm not sure that a ground forces deployment is right."
"How do you mean?"
"Tycho thinks I could be detached as an intel bod looking over a prospective sanctuary planet for the Alliance, deploy me as a long term recon pilot with suitable supplies for a couple of years." Xander shrugged, "It's as good an idea as any."
"You told them you weren't going didn't you?"
"Pretty much." Xander knew the other man as well as Wedge knew him. Both had a part of them that wanted nothing more than their family back and to go home, the difference was Wedge had no family to speak of anymore and a home that was more dangerous to him than a combat drop near Coruscant. Xander on the other hand likely had living friends and family and the chance to go back, deep down Wedge wondered if he had the chance to get his parents and sister back on Corellia and live with them would he take it even at the risk of betraying the alliance. He was only human after all.
"You've got a better chance that most of us Xander, I'm authorising your transfer to Intelligence. Cracken'll get the info after you leave, he wanted a Rogue in his people shame the one he's got has already departed on a Mission. Wedge smirked before sobering. "Alright I'll inform Starfighter command as to your transfer and immediate LOA, and then we'll see about getting you a transport back home. You realise however that your T-65 will have to stay with the fleet, we can't afford to let a capable starfighter just disappear especially one with the modifications the Rogues have."
"Hobbie or Wes?" Wedge slumped back into his chair.
"Both, they told me to let you know what was going on and that they'd find something to get me home."
"We need to find them, knowing those two they'll do their best to grab you a frigate to take back."
Rogue Squadron Hanger Bay
"You have got to be kidding me."
"It's a spaceship isn't it?"
"The Falcon looks in better condition."
"Well the Falcon is fifty years newer than this thing. This my friend is one of the last of its kind: the YT-1000, Hell on Wheels."
"I hope you just made that up Wes." Xander replied.
"Nope, she was ready for the scrapheap when we grabbed her. The crew chief almost begged us to take her off his hands."
The freighter was an obvious Corellian design much like Solo's Falcon; a YT class if one substantially older than the already decades old 1300. She looked old and decrepit as any ship in the fleet but given the substantial refits most have undergone he knew that the look of something belied what it was capable of, but even so the freighter looked like it had been on the wrong end of one too many smuggler runs- in an asteroid field.
"And you expect me to be able to fly that thing home?"
"Only because the Chief is an idiot."
"This thing is a lot nastier than it seems, not as tricked out as the Falcon or the Outrider but with the exception of the sublights and the hyperdrive the entire thing is in great condition."
"In other words I can't go anywhere but be great at it?"
"That's the spirit."
"Wes you're an idiot."
"Thank you glad you noticed."
Looking the ship over from the outside he could see why the other Rogues thought that the ship was a good decision if they couldn't get much else, most armed vessels like a Skipray would have been too problematic to keep in working order without access to a carrier vessel like a cruiser. The YT series were fast, powerful and easily modified by a competent tech and his own experience plus a few choice memories from his possession meant that he knew how to rebuild and repair small ships like this one.
Going around the vessel he looked at the external hull carefully, it seemed airtight and sturdy enough with a few dents and pings here and there, a few laser scores from TIE fighter cannons, rest on the far edges of the hull plating close to the landing gear but nothing particularly problematic from first glace. The rest of the ship was in fair condition, the top laser cannons had been upgraded using some very familiar Taim and Bak Cannons someone in the QM stores must have found with a second pair underslung in a turret on the cockpit. Small hatches proved that more than a few other weapons had been added to the vessel and hidden from public viewing.
Unfortunately the rear of the ship wasn't so well put together. Some hotrodding engineer had modified the main engines and blown out entire sections. Odds on the damage had backed up and trashed a few other systems as well as the crippled hyperdrive they knew of, sighing he finished his inspection and looked over at the smugly grinning rogues.
"I've got a day and a half to get to the portal and back home, so can we get this thing working?"
"That's the spirit."
"Wes you're an idiot."
"Thank you glad you noticed."
"I've got two days to get to the portal and back home, can we get this thing working."
"Hell yes we've got access to six of the biggest ships in the fleet and their escorts…" Wes looked out of the magcon field only to see one of the massive Mon Cal cruisers accelerate and jump into hyperspace, "Five ships and their escorts, we can fix this thing without a problem."
"I hope your right Wes." Xander sighed as he entered the main hatch, seconds later a shout was heard from the very back of the vessel, "WES WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!"
The perpetually youthful and immature Rogue smirked again as the shout rang across the hanger bay, sometimes it was good to be him the man thought as he headed into the ship with Tycho following. Wedge and Hobbie could only shrug at each other at the antics between the youngest and youngest seeming squadron members, Unfortunately Wedge realised this is going to be a very, very long day.
Modifications to ships such as the YT series were simple, quick and very easy if you knew what you were doing and the smuggler who had abandoned his 'Wheels' had known what he needed. Of course that also depended on just how much the Alliance Special Operations Division had done to this ship, he could end up blowing out the nav system if someone had screwed up somewhere Unfortunately the add-ons while years out of date now cut into the carrying capacity of the vessel and with less than two days to go they had no recourse to strip the excess out.
However that fact meant little to Xander as he looked across the rest of the limited cargo bay, boxes and containers of all kinds sat packed to the bulkheads.
Some were branded with the Rebel Alliance Starbird, some stamped with the Imperial Cog shaped symbol while still more were from non aligned worlds. While he was able to identify the contents of a few of the containers some of them he had never seen before while others he was pretty sure came under Alliance rules under 'Do not use at all EVER.'. Pulling open one of the boxes he recognised the typical power packs compatible with his DL-6H blaster, pulling one out he checked it over before slipping it into his sidearm to test it.
"Well you're a pilot which means two things will need to be remembered, One: You are never alone with your squadron and Two you're a rogue so trouble will find you no matter what you do so with that in mind and the possibility you won't get help or reinforcement from the Alliance… we thought a little borrowing from the QM ship was in order plus a little 'creative requisitioning'"
Xander pulled out the new pack before replacing it with the original tossing it back into the box, the weapon might have been a powerful and modern design but its non specialised construction just made it easier to get parts and power packs for it. "How much have you put in here? WHAT have you put in here?"
"Just a few odds and ends, blaster pistols, Stormie rifles, Tibanna gas, power packs, fusion generator, mines, grenades, a handful of detonators, blast packs, bacta patches, first aid kids, comm units, rations, vibroblades…"
"Ok let me ask it again, what HAVEN'T you stolen?"
"Couldn't get a lightsaber or any Proton Torpedoes well... not more than half this thing can take and a pair of Concussion missiles for the emergency launchers... oh and nothing above a heavy repeating blaster either. Bastard wouldn't turn his back so we could nab that E-Web."
"I'm not a Jedi Wes." Xander said, "Besides what the hell are you expecting me to do, invade my home planet?"
"Wes you need help." Xander shot at him, "I mean real help."
"You're not the first to say that, but I'm as sane as the next man." Wes just looked at Hobbie. "Well almost anyway."
The dour looking man interrupted Wes's tirade before the joked could really let loose, "The biggest problem we've got is while we could easily get hold of a few hundred thousand credits or bonds to tide you over but I'm willing to bet neither Alliance nor Imperial script is in use on your world?"
"Nope, there are about two hundred types of money but then we use precious metals and gems and a dozen other ways of changing money from hand to hand."
"He's gonna need an R2 unit." Wes replied as Hobbie wrote something down on a strip of flimsy,
"That's true." Wedge mused running his chin with his hand, "We'll strip out Xander's R2 unit from his X-Wing, the fighter will be wiped and refit after you leave so it shouldn't be a problem assigning a new astromech to it."
"Guys, this is a bit much. I'm going home not invading a planet."
"This is Rogue Squadron Xan." Wes grinned, "We can invade a planet with half a dozen snubfighters and a crate of blasters if we want, although why anyone would want to I have no idea. This is just to make sure that you aren't screwed when you get home, anyway if any other power finds your planet then at least you can help fight them off a little."
"Wes your digging a hole here." Wedge told the other man.
"Alright we have a little over forty hours before we're down one Rogue, lets at least get this junk pile moving." Wedge replied dismissing the assembled Rogues before turning away himself, "Half a dozen snubfighters my backside."
Rogue Squadron Quarters
Lt Janson and Lt Harris' Quarters
"I heard you're quitting the alliance."
"Yeah." Xander looked up at the voice's owner. "The same thing that brought me here over two years ago is back, I've resigned my commission with the fighter corps and been transferred to Intelligence for a while."
"And then sent on secondment to another planet, I know." Luke leant against the door, "You're a good pilot Xander we'd hate to lose you especially now we've got the Empire on the run."
"I hate to leave the Rogues but I need to go home, I left a lot of people behind that have no idea where I am or what I'm doing." Xander shrugged before rubbing his face, "Hell even after two years I still don't remember how I got here or why I was in an alliance flight suit, all I know is that portal is the best chance I have of finding out why and how. Wait a second, how did you know..."
Luke pulled a heavy nerf-hide satchel from around his should and dropped it on the bed next to Xander's duffle bag, opening it the younger man noticed a substantial amount of precious metals, jewels and a few small credit chits just in case. Looking up Luke shrugged and sat down. "Hobbie asked me to pick up a requisition from Home One and drop it off if I had the chance."
"What is this?"
"Apparently everything in your pay account plus an advance on three years of salary at a Lt's rank and two of a Captain's." Luke replied, "All turned into gold, platinum and rare stones that you told Hobbie about. Oh and apparently they still had some of the currency from your wallet but they didn't have time to copy them, they returned that as well."
"Wait a second, a Lt and Captain's salaries?"
"Don't ask me, Wedge signed off on it." Luke held his hands up in supplication, "And to be honest I think there's more than that in there."
Shaking his head Xander packed the small pouch into his bag before offering the Jedi a caf, accepting the Tatooine native sat down on Janson's bed as he watched Xander sorted through more of his belongings, spare jumpsuits and clothing went in one bin for recycling or cleaning before going back to the Quartermaster store. Datapads, tools and issued electronics went in another for the same reason. His own personal clothing already packed away in one case with a duffel bag half full of other effects. He stopped slightly before taking a deep breath and opened up the top draw of his desk. While technically a junior pilot even with the Rogues he had been in more combat than some people a decade older than he was, the mementoes in the draw proved that above all.
A half dozen decorations for valour and courage were arranged as they were on his dress uniform, the Alliance Medal of Honour, the Alderaanian Cross, Talons of Hoth and the Endor Hero's Medal amongst others sat in their boxes at the bottom of the draw. A small scrap of cloth had each of his unit badges sewn into it, from Grey Squadron to the Wampas to the Rogues, twenty one months and three units later and here he stood preparing to return home right in the middle of a war. A war that should be over already but wouldn't be now or any other point in his lifetime, somehow he knew that the war might change its name or have a new enemy but it would never end.
Finally a small box held his ident tags, Lt's pins and a host of other odds and ends that he had been allowed to keep as he handed back most of his issued kit. Overall not much to account for two years in the Starfighter Corps, silently he picked up the final box in the draw and looked at it. A single round coin sized medal lay in a small indentation of velvet. It had been handed to him by Wedge silently a few weeks ago. It was a simple metal version of the Rogue Squadron badge with his name and call sign on it, as a tradition since Luke and Wedge had formed the Squadron each member of the squadron that fought a battle with the squadron had been made full members of the Squadron no matter how long they had been fighting with them.
Lost pilots had likewise been honoured with the Medals, they like the remains that could be found had been fired into the nearest star during a ceremony. A few had been sent to family members if they had served with the alliance while one or two stayed with friends that requested them if possible, Wes currently held Grizz Frix's which he would fly five missions with before sending into the sun of Frix's homeworld.
While keeping their call signs and ranks each of the pilots that had found themselves with one of the Red Squadron flights had simply had Red- prefixed to their original numbers, then simply entered into the annals of the Rogue's history as fully fledged members of the elite squadron. Last that Xander had heard, other squadrons and wings had learned of the Rogue's attempts to honour their lost and had begun doing much the same for pilots that had joined theirs during the battle, a fair and decent honour which he hoped would allow for more pilots to be remembered the way they should be.
"Who gave you that call sign?"
"Wedge, told me it was lucky."
Luke chucked slightly under his breath, "Yes I suppose it is. Three numbers could be considered lucky in those squadrons. Red Five was one of three survivors of the Battle of Yavin when we took down the Death Star."
"Yeah I know, a young Pilot Officer by the name of Luke Skywalker." Xander told him without thinking, looking up he shrugged. It wasn't exactly classified information in the Alliance. "I looked up the number after the battle."
"Relax Xander, Wedge told me about what happened." Luke looked at Xander strangely as the other man stiffened, "Your force signature has always been oddly familiar as well as almost nonexistent and now I know why."
"Comes from being from a different galaxy I guess, fine, I knew what Red Five was because Wedge remembers that battle better than most." Xander threw his hands up before sitting down himself and grabbing a mug of caf, "I remember almost everything he does up until you guys found me at Derra Four. Even the feeling he had pulling out of the Yavin trench run, hell he was relieved when you were offered command of the squadron before him."
"Yeah I knew that anyway, he's a good pilot and a hell of a commander now though." Luke mused, "So you knew everything he did and vice versa?"
"Not everything anymore, I did when I became him for a few hours but after that mostly skills and knowledge not memories as such but sometimes I feel the same things he felt and remember some of what he did and went through but a lot faded over the last year or so. He sees some of the same as I did, felt the same as I did."
"That might explain the blonde." Luke said to himself, "He's not really into blondes because of his sister but he kept mentioning one when we were bunked at Hoth and afterwards."
"Buffy, one of my best friends." Xander looked down at the floor, "One of my heroes too, fought on the front lines of a hidden war when I knew her. Don't know if she's still alive or not."
"Guess you'll have to go home and find out."
"Xander, we've been friends for what eighteen months now?" Luke looked at the other man, only two years separated them but Luke seemed the older and wiser by far. "I know you aren't sure about going home, believe me there's been those times in the last four years where I've just wanted to go home. Yavin made me a hero but I was a boy, scared out of my wits, no-one left in my life and no home, I wanted out and just to go somewhere there was no war, no death and settle down. Now I'm the last hope of an almost dead religious order and a beacon for billions of Rebels across the Galaxy. But you've got the chance to do so, take it and run my friend let yourself find your way home."
"One of my teachers kept on saying 'Do or do not, there is no try.' I got what he said but not sure I ever agreed with that." Luke replied, "But on this occasion he might have been right."
"I'm surprised a Jedi could be that afraid."
"Don't believe everything the myths say, the Jedi could be scared as much as any of us." Luke smirked, "We're just better at hiding it than most."
Leaning back against the wall Luke continued. "I guess sharing the mind of one of the Alliance's best and most experienced pilots explains your skills in the T-65 and your knowledge of Alliance combat doctrine." Luke surmised, "Your one of the best pilots we've got, not to the level of Wedge but definitely better than most."
"Wedge is a born spacer, me I'm an unlucky bastard who ended up with skills that his own abilities don't reach. I'm slightly slower with worse spatial awareness than he does, combined with the fact he's been flying since he was a kid kinda puts him at an advantage."
"You wouldn't be a Rogue if you couldn't make the grade." Luke said, "He asked me to clear through the red tape to allow you to return home Xander, Wedge kept your secrets from everyone including his best friends just as you kept his from everyone."
Luke sat on the edge of a desk, "I've called in a favour from Princess Leia and General Solo, so your ship will be cleared for departure when you're ready to go. Your transfer to Allied Intelligence was turned down but we managed to put you down as an undercover operative to a world outside of known space while still attached to the Rogues. Especially as Rogue Squadron has a history of being tapped by Intel for missions like this."
"Shit, I didn't think of that."
"No problem." Luke smirked "Han said it was the best chance of getting rid of you before you really hurt someone."
"Come on Luke that was years ago." Xander exclaimed, "Besides he's the one that started it, what did he expect a hug and thank you?"
"Not a clue Xan." He watched as the younger man finished packing the two small cases of belongings, even an X-Wings notoriously small cargo compartment would find them rattling around inside it. "Not much to go with is it."
"More than I arrived with Luke." Xander smiled slightly "Well time to go."
"Come on I'll walk you down."
"Don't have anywhere better to be?"
"I'm still Rogue Lead, your part of the Squadron that's all there is to it."
"Smartass." The two of them entered the closest 'lift, "This could all be for nothing you know, I might get there and it's gone or it never appeared."
"Maybe, maybe not." Luke said thinking, he'd never been able to get a hold of Xander's force signature nor any real knowledge of the future the young man had in store for him. Any time he tried with the young man the lines of destiny seems to come around on itself then blank out, much like Wedge he had never been able to tell him anything that he needed to know. "Have faith Xander that's all I can tell you."
"Farmboy upbringing." Luke smiled.
The two pilots walked into the main hanger bay of the Dauntless heading for the ridiculously named freighter, several dozen pilots and ground crew fussed around their vehicles while droids and repair drones pulled fighters into wall niches. Xander could see several of the off-duty Rogues doing a quick inspection of the Corellian built ship, the damaged hull plates had been repaired as had at least the main comm dish and a few of the running lights.
Repairs to the engines were evident by the droids closing up the exposed panels while a quick clean and polish and brought the viewports and external surfaces up nicely, Wedge nodded at the two men as they arrives and nudged Hobbie who nudged Wes and so on down the line until the entire crew stopped work and climbed down from the vessel. Rogues, Grays, Wampas and ground crew all stood in line or groups as he approached. Looking it over from his viewpoint the squadron plus others must have been at it all night and into the day, even the rear where the damaged engine parts had been was stripped out and replaced.
"Guys, I don't know what to say." Xander choked a little.
"You sure about this Xan?" Wes said curiously sombre, "You've been with us a while and you don't even know where this thing's going."
"It's my best chance Wes, if it doesn't work I'll be back here by tomorrow and we'll scrap the transfer request and I'll rejoin the Rogues."
"But who says we'd want ya?" A voice said from behind him.
"Love you too Plourr." he smiled, "I've got people that I left behind and I need to find them if I can, if I can I'll be back but you'll just have to kill the empire of without my genius skills."
"An Ewok would be better at piloting than you." Wes threw in grinning, "Probably smell better too."
"You have a thing about Ewoks don't you Wes?" Wedge replied, "If you want I can see about having you transferred to Endor Garrison Duty."
"Uh no that's fine." Wes prevaricated "Umm I'll be over there."
The Rogues watched their squadron mate turn and walk across to his X-wing, as he approached he noticed an attractive Twi'lek technician and promptly turned towards the hatch she walked out of. Wedge and Hobbie just shook their heads at the young pilot and went back to the conversation,
"Meh, he'll never change." Xander shook his head.
Hobbie explained the repairs and modifications to the freighter making it safe to travel in as well as replacing some of the spare parts or upgrading systems such as the shields and sublight engines repairing them almost to specs. Both sets of cannons had been modified to within an inch of their lives giving them a range and power better than most but at the cost of operational life, if he was to find himself in a fight the Rogues were going to make sure he made it out or at least let his enemies know that they were in a fight.
Xan looked at the pilots around him. He'd been with the squadron a bare six weeks but had known most of them almost since he arrived. These people were friends as much as colleagues, he knew why they'd gone to so much trouble for him and he wasn't going to make a fuss of it. "So that's it then."
"You look after yourself Xander." Plourr said quietly before grabbing him into a hug, the hard bitten warrior turned mechanic rarely showed her emotions but the loss of any friend was difficult for her.
"You too Plourr, you too." His mind started turning again before he whispered into her ear, sadness turned to shock as she pulled away eyes wide.
"I don't know, I honestly don't but please at least think about it." Xander looked at her, "If not for yourself then for them."
"I'll try I promise you."
"Hobbie, Tycho keep the fool out of trouble will ya."
"No promises there Lt, but we'll try." Tycho smirked while Hobbie nodded back solemnly. "Good luck Kid."
Lastly he walked up to Wedge, little needed to be said between mentor and protégé and they simply exchanged a quick embrace. Both knew each other well enough to know what each needed to say without saying it, grasping his hand Xander slid the Rogue Squadron medal into Wedge's and nodded.
"Five missions and then you can send it into Corellia's sun." Xander referenced both the Rogue Squadron medal and Wedge's homeworld, the closest that that the younger man had to a real home in this galaxy.
"Permission to disembark." Xander saluted Wedge.
"Permission granted Rogue Five." Wedge replied mirroring the salute.
Xander walked away from the rogues into his ship without looking back, aboard Scythe was already sitting in a socket specifically designed for an astromech droid. He guessed that whoever had owned this vessel originally either worked alone a lot or simply used a droid for most of the work aboard the ship, passing the R2 unit he dropped the two bags he had into the single bunkroom aboard. A few loads of blankets, sheets, pillows and such lay on the bed while towels and other necessities were in the draws and cupboards. A final pile of clothing suitable for several climates lay on the floor with a single bottle of Whyren's sitting on the top wrapped in a piece of cloth probably stolen from one of the technicians.
He didn't bother looking in the galley or fresher as he already knew that something had been done by someone before he got there, it was odd for him as even at the most he hadn't had so much in the way of personal belongings even before arriving in this galaxy. Turning around he stepped out of the room and headed to the cramped cockpit at the front, unlike some of the larger medium freighters he had been on the cockpit was built for a smaller crew, two maximum if they wanted to spend some time getting VERY close.
Smiling to himself the young man dropped into the surprisingly comfortable and broken in pilot seat before looking out the window at the assembled pilots, control crew, ground technicians and droids. One by one or in groups the pilots saluted one of their own while technicians and others waved at him. Saluting them all back Xander tapped the comms while belting himself into the chair.
"This is the Hell on...scratch that, this is the YT-1000 Freighter Reaper to Dauntless Command."
"This is Command, we read you Xander." Wedge's voice came over the comms causing Xander to look at the other man through the cockpit windows, "Launch channel is clear, good luck kid,"
"Hey guys do me a favour."
"If we can."
"In a few weeks after I'm declared legally KIA and the wake goes ahead..."
"Go on Xander."
"When it does make sure Wes' portrait is on the coffin tube, you'll find the incriminating holo in your messages." Xander smirked, "Let's just say that Wes, Rhyren's and that 3PO droid will never be the same again. Oh and on the death certificate make sure it's something slightly more rousing than, He Came, He Got Shot, The End." He smirked as he heard Wes' yelp of disappointment come over the radio. Bye guys, see you on the other side."
Boosting away from the Mon Cal cruiser the ancient Corellian freighter turned and slowly made a flyby of the massive warship, as he passed by the magnetic containment field of the Dauntless he rolled passed before waggling his wings in a pilot's farewell. With a final glance at his one and forever comrades the Earth bound pilot pushed his sublight engines to full and headed out of the system passed the rest of the fleet and jumped into hyperspace towards a single one dimensional portal thousands of light years away….