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"Solo Command": Book 7 in the X-Wing Series


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chapter 1:

 

On board Home One, a lieutenant in naval security returns from leave to find an urgent message from his wife. He just left her, he’s sure, but cannot quite remember what happened on leave. She tells him the Wookiees are dancing in the parlor again.

 

He understands, deletes the message and pulls his blaster.

 

Flight Officer Voort saBinring, aka Piggy, is speaking with Admiral Ackbar about some strange flying maneuvers he noticed in recordings of the 181st taken during the battle for Razor’s Edge when the young officer comes in, is introduced by Ackbar to Piggy and then shoots the Gamorrean in the stomach.

 

Piggy is shocked. Part of his mind urges him to kill the newcomer and he pulls a vibroblade which hits the blaster instead. Ackbar struggles against the attacker himself until Piggy throws the young Twi’lek against a wall.

 

Rogue and Wraith Squadrons meet while Wedge gives them updates.

 

First, Piggy is responding well to bacta treatments. Since the assassin died, no one knows why he tried to assassinate Ackbar. His wife and children are missing.

 

Secondly, the Mon Remonda has one more day of repairs before it can leave to go after Zsinj again. This gives the squadrons one last day of leave. Wedge’s third point is that they be careful as Zsinj had tried to hit them the last time they were on leave on Coruscant.

 

Fourth, a Devaronian named Elassar Targon will be joining the Wraiths as both pilot and medic.

 

Finally, there is some reorganization going on. Wedge is in charge of all four squadrons aboard ship, but he is going back to the Rogues primarily. Lt. Garik “Face” Loran is given a temporary promotion of brevet Captain which will allow him to command the squadron.

 

For now, the Wraiths will continue to fly a mixture of TIEs and X-Wings.

 

Hobbie and Janson meet Wedge on the way to the turbolift and tease him about going on a date. He does not confirm if his date is with Iella or not. He enters the lift, requests the roof, confusing both pilots, then orders them to about face and forward march. They do and he exits the lift, leaving them to ride it to the roof while he takes another lift.

 

Lara, Dia, Myn and Elassar intrude on Face’s quarters and urge him to disguise himself so he can go on leave. They are taking Elassar to the Galactic Museum so he can see the section on Imperial Intelligence, then have a drink, then the women will doubtlessly drag back the battered bodies of the male pilots after they insult a bar full of soldiers.

 

Donos decides that the exhibit is not as one-sided as it could have been. It goes back to Old Republic Intelligence, including attempts against the senate. One holo is of Vyn Narcassan who engineered his own disappearance after he was not able to prevent Senator Palpatine’s rise to power. Donos finds something familiar about this but knows he won’t remember it until he’s thinking of something else.

 

Imperial Intelligence is given just the amount of brutality it should have, with displays on interrogation and torture, including one where the suspect dies. It covers the era of Armand Isard and his successor, daughter Ysanne Isard. Imperial Intelligence died with her and, as far as Donos is concerned, the galaxy is better off.

 

Targon shows them his lucky charm, an Old Republic coin he wears around his neck. His brother gave it to him when he joined the academy. Donos can see Face’s eyes light up as if he just thought of a prank.

 

The display of Narcassan lights up again and Donos is struck by the man’s facial features. He realizes it reminds him of Shalla Nelprin. He makes a note to have her come down here and take a look at the display.

 

Then Lara is approached by a man who is certain she is Edallia Monotheer, one of his students 30-35 years ago. His daughter approaches and explains that her father was once part of Old Republic Intelligence. He was shot on a mission shortly after the Emperor came to power and is sometimes confused. Lara understands. After the two visitors move on, however, she has to endure Face bumping into her several times and misidentifying her as someone else.

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  • Okay so the Wraiths now consist of:

Garik Loran – Wraith One
Lara Notsil - Wraith Two
Myn Donos – Wraith Three
Tyria Sarkin – Wraith Four
Kell Tainer – Wraith Five
Runt Ekwesh – Wraith Six
Dia Passik – Wraith Seven
Voort “Piggy” saBinring – Wraith Eight
Shalla Nelprin – Wraith Nine
Wes Janson – Wraith Ten
Elassar Targan – Wraith Eleven

They had thirteen last book which indicates that Wraith Squadron need not be a consistent number of pilots each time.

 

  • Additonally, the 30-35 years since the old man had taught Edallia Monotheer would put that within five years of or right at the beginning of the Clone Wars. The author may not have meant to indicate that as being a Clone Wars period, but it works out that way.
  • I’m also surprised that altering the focus of the Galactic Museum hasn’t occurred yet. I’m sure the New Republic has other things to prioritize, but much of what we saw of the Museum in the early books appeared to be very pro-Imperial. While not unexpected, I can’t imagine why the Alliance would allow certain exhibits to remain accessible even if the museum as a whole stays open.
  • Why are they saying the guy tried to kill Ackbar? He attacked Piggy first!
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chapter 2:

 

The Mon Remonda arrives in orbit of Levian Two which has just suffered a Raptor raid. The squadrons are asked to provide search-and-rescue support.

 

Aboard the ship, however, General Han Solo receives reports that Imperial ships, including the Super Star Destroyer Iron Fist, are coming out of hyperspace. Solo orders the fighters back and prepares to have his second group of ships come in for backup.

 

Zsinj, however, has more support coming. Solo tells Captain Onoma of the Mon Remonda to prepare to take their ships out of the system. Then a third wave of Imperials exits hyperspace. This gets Solo irritated.

 

Wedge had let Polearm Squadron, led by Captain Todra Mayn, go on ahead of the slower X-Wings and Y-Wings. As he mentally calculates the fighter strength of the Imperial ships, he cannot help but wonder if he will be engaging Soontir Fel in battle today.

 

The Empire’s best pilot, Fel commands the 181st and also happens to be married to Wedge’s sister, Syal, an actress who goes by the stage name Wynssa Starflare. Face had even worked with her once, but Wedge has told no one about this, even to get Face’s memories of a long-lost sister. Wedge doesn’t want to have to be one to shoot Fel down.

 

He leads his ships into firing against the Iron Fist’s stern engines, the B-Wings of Nova Squadron following him.

 

Then he turns his attention to the light cruisers.

 

Solo is told that the Iron Fist has sustained some damage to the stern engines, but no one know how much. About half of the fighters are headed back to the SSD which only causes the Alliance to be outnumbered less than they are.

 

When Zsinj comms him, Solo puts Chewbacca in the chair and lets him rattle on to the warlord who doesn’t understand a word the Wookiee is saying.

 

The squadrons form up to take on their individual targets. By the time the Carrack-class cruiser is left with no maneuvering, the Rogues have destroyed their target and the Iron Fist itself is having trouble.

 

Both Tyria and Janson have taken hits to their ships.

 

Zsinj waits for the Remonda to get close to their guns. Then three more ships arrive to provide the Alliance cruiser some protection. Zsinj orders three of his own ships to put a whole in the defensive line and bring the fighters back to provide a defensive shield for the Fist.

 

Then the Mon Karren sidles up to the Remonda and their combined strength enhances their shields. Since Zsinj has called the fighters back, he can’t do much here.

 

He mourns his slip up that caused the loss.

 

The Alliance fleet makes a jump to lightspeed and then exits long enough to pull the starfighters back into the bays and then jumps again.
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  • Warlord Zsinj is so much less volatile than other Imperial leaders we’ve met. The Empire has been shown to exhibit little mercy toward those who fail and, oftentimes, subordinates are punished for the failure of the superiors. Zsinj is one of those rare breed of Imperial officers who seem to be willing to accept responsibility for his own faults.
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chapter 3:

 

The pilots meet in the pilots’ lounge where Rogue Inyri Forge complains that Zsinj changed tactics on them. The Rogues have been searching for him for ages only to follow false leads or show up after he’s hit someplace and is long gone.

 

This time, he turned back up again in a system he’s already hit and with a larger force than they knew he could muster. Obviously, he’s learned how to predict when they will show up after him.

 

Elassar points to Shalla who is providing intelligence reports and that she is the one who is making General Solo run scared. She takes considerable exception to this and an argument starts.

 

They will have to change tactics, too, and it’s possible to do so by offering Zsinj a target he can’t refuse. Forge reminds them of when General Solo was flying around on Millennium Falcon dropping off messages a few months ago. Since there is a precedent for him doing other things beyond the Zsinj search, they could set a trap with Solo as bait.

 

Solo, who happens to be in the room where no one would notice him, announces he likes it.

 

However, there are two problems. The Millennium Falcon is currently aboard the flagship of Princess Leia’s Rebel Dream and he doesn’t know when he’ll see her again. Secondly, since the Wraiths foiled Zsinj’s primary plan of stealing the SSD Razor’s Kiss, they don’t know what his backup plan is.

 

Still, he likes it. He is taking Mon Remonda out of the fleet for awhile because he, too, is tired of following Zsinj nowhere. Their next port of call is Saffalore where they believe they may find information regarding the experimental research being done on non-humans, such as Piggy.

 

After he leaves, Elassar is embarrassed that he intimated Solo was scared when the man was in the room. He begs Shalla to shoot him, then turns to other members when she doesn’t agree.

 

There’s an idea bandied about that the Rogues might be able to mock a Millennium Falcon the way the Wraiths did not long ago. Before they disperse, Corran Horn appears and everyone laughs. He and Solo are rarely seen in the same place, so there’s a running gag going around that they are the same person.

 

Solo pops into Wedge’s office and lets him know there’s some concern about the Twi’leks under his command. Intelligence thinks that there might be a conspiracy among some Twi’leks who are resentful of the way their world has been dominated by humans.

 

Since a Twi’lek was involved in the assassination attempt on Ackbar, this theory has gotten more momentum. It may even involve other humanoid species, as well. He wants to make sure Wedge is sure about his Twi’lek pilots.

 

Wedge considers Nawara, Tal’dira, Dai and the new Polearm pilot Nuro Tualin, along with the mechanic Koyi Komad, to be above reproach. He also notes Solo seems to be taking to this management job. Solo tells him not to say anything, lest it be noticed and he’ll have to keep it.

 

Dr. Novin Bress and Dr. Edda Gast are escorted into Zsinj’s office. They are in charge of a facility that reported no escapees among their experiments. However, there is evidence to believe that might have happened. He asks if it’s possible for a Gamorrean and an Ewok to have escaped.

 

Gast explains that her uncle was the pioneer in this type of research but had grown attached to his subjects. In a suicide attempt that definitely killed him, he destroyed himself and a number of his most violent test subjects. Two Ewoks were among them, but they were the only two he recorded as having. One could have been undocumented and might have escaped, though there is no way of knowing. There was a particularly intelligent Gamorrean among them and they found Gamorrean blood in the residue but it’s possible he could have planted it.

 

Zsinj surmises that Voort saBinring and Lt. Kettch are possible escapees from their lab. He chastises them for failing him and gives them each a blaster to resolve the issue. Gast shoots Bress.

 

She notes he didn’t specifically tell them to kill themselves. He wants her to get to Saffalore and clear out the lab without anyone knowing about it and bring it up to the Iron Fist. Sooner or later, the Wraiths will come looking for more information regarding their comrade saBinring and then he’ll eliminate them.

 

Melvar reminds him that the Wraiths currently include Gara Petothel. Zsinj tells the general that the last time they had contact with her was on Aldivy which ended with a dead agent and a dead brother.

 

He’ll only extend his protection over her if she gives him a reason.

 

He asks about Blunted Razor – the project to bring the remains of the Razor’s Kiss aboard ship. Melvar reports it’s continuing, though only Zsinj himself knows what he wants with it.
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  • We know Wedge has a history with Nawara Ven and Tal’dira, but these two newcomers, Nuro and Koyi, are strangers to me.
  • I suppose Zsinj could have gotten intelligence that the Wraiths had a Gamorrean flying with them, but we never actually saw where he uncovered that information. And, of course, he probably realizes Piggy is a Binring project because, well, the company name is in Piggy's last name. The only reason he thinks they have an Ewok is because of the enduring practical joke involving a stuffed Ewok doll the Wraiths call Lt. Kettch.
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chapter 4:

 

Wedge begins the briefing while Lara Notsil considers her position. She’d been born Gara Petothel, the child of two Intelligence agents, who was trained to work for the Empire herself and transmitted information about the New Republic to Admiral Trigit.

 

Now, she’s flying beside rebel pilots trying to take down Warlord Zsinj. Eventually, she will have to confess to Commander Antilles.

 

Wedge tells them that the Wraiths will be getting support from Rogue Squadron for this next mission which leads Gavin Darklighter to complain about having to babysit them while they hit something

groundside.

 

Wedge explains that the Wraiths will be investigating the facility that bioengineered Piggy. They suspect that Zsinj has ties to it because he expressed interest in the fictional Lt. Kettch. Since Piggy can’t really be hidden, the Empire must know he exists and suspect where he comes from. They will expect the Wraiths to come calling but won’t know when.

 

Face continues the briefing. This operation will happen in stages. Crewers from the Mon Remonda will divert asteroids from a belt near the planet toward the world itself where they will form a meteor shower around the polar caps. The ships will fly in with them and set up base near the capital of Lurark. The first task will be where the facility actually is.

 

It’s probably the main Binring complex, but they should check for any businesses owned by Zsinj. A check of their planetary network or business offices should suffice. Lara points out that there could be flags triggered by such inquiries.

 

In fact, she finds fault with a number of elements of the plan to the point where some of the pilots laugh and some think she’d be good for intelligence work.

 

When Piggy is pulled from the bacta tank, he finds himself pain free, but surrounded by a technician who tells him to avoid strain on his stomach muscles, a Devaronian he doesn’t know begging him to kill him and several members of his team who have brought several bacta-flavored foods and an instructional manual called “How to Dodge”.

 

The two squadrons fly toward the planet’s polar caps under comm. silence. Myn Donos reminds himself to be careful. His life has changed since Talon Squadron had been wiped out. He lost his command and a great many friends, too. He’d nearly lost his will to live but his friends in Wraith Squadron brought him back to life.

 

He’d killed a number of people in his life as a sniper, others as a pilot. He’d considered transferring to Intelligence to hunt down those responsible for the loss of the Talons. But Admiral Trigit is dead and Gara Petothel, who’d transmitted the data to him, is dead also. There were people who’d trained her and sent her to Trigt and elements of the 181st who’d been part of the ambush. He could hunt those people down, too.

 

But, part of him doesn’t want to. He has a life now. Falynn Sandskimmer had loved him but died before he could work out his feelings for her. Now he is flying with Lara Notsil who has shared a few experiences with him. He can’t mess up her life the way he has others. He should resign and go hunting alone.

 

He can almost hear Ton Phanan lecturing him. Ton Phanan, who’d given up himself, deciding he had no future. Donos decides he does have one. He can choose to live the life that Phanan doesn’t have anymore. Part of that involves talking to Lara Notsil who is suddenly much more important.

 

After they land and camouflage their ships, he goes to Lara and admits he’s been thinking a lot about her. She tries to convince him she is not the right person for him, but he persists. She tells him there are things he doesn’t know about her that would, at best, cause him to leave her forever. She seems so vulnerable that he pulls her to him and kisses her.

 

She pushes him into his ship and tells him to leave her alone. Considering everything, he doesn’t think that went badly.
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  • I don’t recall anything in the last two books that indicated the Wraiths or anyone else knew the name of the Intelligence agent who betrayed the Talons. It’s possible for them to know it, of course. But it’s never been mentioned before.
  • And, it appears that the Wraiths just assume that their having a Gamorrean as a pilot is well known enough for the Empire to know about him, too.
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chapter 5:

 

The Wraiths swipe a landspeeder from a local and then surveill the area around Binring Biomedical in the city, determining the best places to enter it. Face notes Lara looks pale, but she tells him she’s just tired.

 

They all agree on the same entryway, but, where each has reasons, Tyria just says she knows it.

 

She gets a feeling when she passes it. There’s pain in there and awareness. It’s likely to do with her Force sensitivity.

 

When Face determines the entryway, Lara disagrees. He alters it somewhat and gets her approval which is has been a long-time coming.

 

The intrusion team goes in above after Tyria senses another level of security that shouldn’t be at a non-military facility like this. Face knew he had to put her on this team, but this meant that she traded places with Lara who is now planting tracers, giving the intrusion team less proficiency and leaving Lara, who is relatively new herself, to partner with another newcomer, Elassar.

 

On the roof, Elassar notes that part of the roof seems newer than the rest. Upon pulling back a layer, they find pressure points that aren’t elsewhere. There must be added security that the other Wraiths won’t know to look for. Lara risks a quick comm. transmission to warn them.

 

Dr. Gast is told that a comm. signal has been picked up. The holocams show a male and female figure running off. Doubtlessly, they found the extra layer of security. Her intelligence operator, on loan from Zsinj, Captain Netbers, tells her that the intruders have warned their comrades. He orders a squad of stormtroopers to wait for them.

 

Kell finds extra security where he and Shalla are cutting through. He decides to find a non-entry point for them to descend through instead.

 

He is successful in getting each of them by half-dropping through a turbolift shaft and in through the minimal security on the door.

 

Piggy shows them through the floor where he recognizes a great many locations. It appears that the fourth floor has been cut off and an elaborate deception has been staged to make this floor look different. They prepare to find that missing fourth floor.

 

Dr. Gast is told the intruders have gotten past the first level of security. She sends troopers to the roof to get the ones there and then orders comm. jamming as soon as the internal intruders get to the second chamber.

 

Inside the next room, they find a chair. Tyria senses something terrible nearby. Dr. Gast lets her subordinate hit the switch and the Wraiths drop down into a small chamber.

 

Stormtroopers call from above for them to toss up their demolitions. Shalla tosses up her pack which contains only basic supplies. Face asks why she did that as they’ll know pretty quickly it’s not what they wanted and kill them all.

 

Kell tells him they’ll all be dead anyway. They are in a large room with nozzles on the side and a grate on the bottom. Heat begins to spread from the walls inward. It’s an incinerator.

 

On the roof, Lara and Elassar wait. He notes a shooting star is lucky. She thinks it’s just a meteor from the shower they caused. The arrival of stormtroopers settles that matter.

 

Kell tries to use their actual demolitions to blow a hole for them to escape. Flames get closer and they try to help each other avoid getting burned.

 

Above them, the stormtroopers find food and glow rods in Shalla’s pack.

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chapter 6:

 

Netbers congratulates Dr. Gast on the incinerator idea when they hear a loud explosion. It propels Face and Dia forward. He tries to grab her and protect her from the flames and heat, but rams against the hot wall and burns his shoulder, causing him to roll and burn himself elsewhere.

 

He finally jumps through the open hole into the coolness of the other room and then allows himself to scream.

 

Lara tries to shoot off the troopers on the roof. Elassar offers to charge them for her instead. When she calls Rogue Leader for help, she gets only static.

 

The remaining Wraiths jump out of the incinerator in various stages of being burned or on fire. They have to put out the fire on Runt. The pain is severe. Their comms are being jammed. Face orders them to do what they have to do to get out of here.

 

Lara and Elassar get help from Donos in his sniper position. Realizing they have fire coming from both sides, the troopers decide to charge Lara and Elassar.

 

The Wraiths are close to the turbolift doors when a large man approaches and Face recognizes him as Netbers, the combat instructor on the Iron Fist. Netbers doesn’t recognize him but he does recognize Shalla who was posing as someone else presumably killed.

 

She charges Netbers.

 

Janson starts firing at the troopers behind him. In the narrow hallway, the bolts either hit their targets or they bounce back. He doesn’t know why Shalla isn’t firing, but keeps up his own shots until he goes dark.

 

Netbers knew the woman and that she would fire before he had a chance. But her weapon doesn’t work. He raises his blaster, but gets knocked into by a dead stormtroopers. She leaps on him and he uses the opportunity to hit her where she’s burned, knocking her down. He pulls a blaster and is attacked by a large furry creature that slams him against a wall. He wonders where his stormtroopers are as the black-clad commandoes run past him up the stairwell and the furry creature slams him again.

 

Piggy recognizes a woman among the security forces as one of his creators. The Wraiths grab her and tell her to give them the best way out of here that doesn’t involve an ambush by her troopers. She tells them the access tunnels.

 

Shalla is up, Janson is gray and Runt is swaying, having been the one to attack Netbers. Gast leads them to a hidden turbolift. Face warns what will happen if she’s leading them into a trap. She’s not concerned as Zsinj will kill her anyway. It’s in her best interests to help them now.

 

She does, however, tell Face that she always liked his holodramas. He feels better when she admits she liked one of his untalented competitors better.

 

Face doesn’t want Kell to blow the building because there could be other test subjects here. Kell actually wants to boost the signal of Runt’s comlink at the power station. It works and Hobbie picks up their distress call.

 

Lara and Elassar are prepared for the charge until a couple of TIEs show up. The stormtroopers relax slightly until one of the TIEs blows up.

 

Rogue Squadron flies through the forest under cover of trees. Rogue Seven, Ran Kether, reports that the Wraiths want certain areas marked by tracers destroyed. Wedge orders the run as it will help the Wraiths get out of there, ignoring a groan by Gavin who knows they are now in baby-sitting mode.

 

On the roof, Donos, Elassar and Lara are told by Tal’dira to prepare for pickup. In the tunnels, Dia asks Face about the competitor Gast mentioned. Face admits they competed for everything but Face won out because the other kid got homely and couldn’t get any more roles. He was the one Phanan threatened to give all his money to.

 

The tunnel rocks and part of it collapses. Face thinks their ride is here.

 

The Wraiths are smuggled out of the city in a stolen speeder, where they are patched up enough to get them in their ships. Tyria has virtually no burns at all, but really has no explanation for it.

 

They’ll take Gast along in Shalla’s TIE fighter. She promises not to cause any trouble. In exchange for information about Voort saBinring’s past, she wants the New Republic to drop charges against her, set her up with a new life and protect her from Zsinj.

 

Face has her gagged.
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  • Ran Kether is a new member of Rogue Squadron whom we’ve not met before. The chapter also refers to another new Rogue named Scotian. Obviously, the Rogues are filling holes in their squadron.
  • Tyria is obviously better able to use the Force than she thought. It would seem that Luke Skywalker’s skill at assessing Force ability isn’t that great or maybe he just felt Tyria would still have a Force connection but not enough of one to make an actual Jedi.
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chapter 7:

 

After the Wraiths are dunked in bacta, bandaged and a few of them released, Face goes to his quarters to feed the two Storini Glass Prowlers there. Wedge shows up and asks how he’s doing.

 

Face admits that he would have felt terrible a year ago with most of his pilots burned and only four of them now fit to fly. However, he feels good about this. Clearly, this plot was meant to kill them but it didn’t work. It shows the extent of the damage that his team is causing and how determined Zsinj is to get rid of them.

 

Donos meets Lara in the lounge and asks if she’s thought about what he asked her. He just wants to get to know her better; he suspects she doesn’t even know herself. He just wants her to give him a chance. She hesitantly agrees, telling him she will break his heart. He decides they’ll just have to break each other’s.

 

General Melvar dreads bringing Zsinj the news. He explains that the Binring facility was hit, that no Wraiths were killed and that Dr. Gast was captured alive. This enrages Zsinj because the doctor knows entirely too much of their plans.

 

He orders Melvar to tell their man aboard the Mon Remonda to kill Gast and his primary targets. Get some units set up as bait for the rest of Solo’s fleet and proceed with Project Funeral ahead of schedule.

 

Mon Mothma asks for some caf before starting her morning schedule. One of her aids, an Alderaanian named Malan Tugrina, starts for it when another aid, the Gotal Tolokai, offers to show her something of his people. He pulls a vibroblade to attack her but it’s intercepted by Malan.

 

The two males fight while Mon Mothma runs and falls down the stairwell. The Gotal hovers over her with the knife before he’s knocked out by Malan’s fall from above. She calls for an emergency and weeps for the loss of her friends.

 

Galey works aboard the Mon Remonda as a cook, but it doesn’t pay well and he really doesn’t feel respected. So when intelligent men he met on leave offered him money to kill a few people, he took them up on it. He arranges for refreshment carts to be sent to the captain’s conference room and brings one to the pilots’ lounge where he begins offering cups.

 

He beckons one of the Rogue pilots, Tal’dira, around the corner and tells him Wedge Antilles hops on one transparisteel leg. Tal’dira understands and says he hates that. He’ll take care of the matter, but Galey reminds him to wait until he’s in his ship. Then he goes off to see the other Twi’lek.

 

Wedge tells his pilots that Jussafet Four has sent a distress call after being hit by a large number of Raptors. It’s unlikely this is a trap, but it’s possible. Mon Remonda will be going in, with two other ships waiting on the outside of the system. A-Wings will take point, followed by Rogue and Nova squadron. The four fit Wraiths will fly escort for the shuttles.

 

Face impersonates Tal’dira and announces it’s the Wraiths’ time to baby-sit. Everyone laughs but Tal’dira, earning him an odd look from Horn. On the way out, Galey the cook calls for Flight Officer Tualin.

 

In his ship, Tal’dira is enraged that Antilles would be so evil as to hop on one transparisteel leg and knows he has to stop him.

 

As the fighters leave the Mon Remonda, Polearm Two announces mechanical failure and is told to return to the ship. Tyria finds herself asked why she’s out of position. She doesn’t know why but cannot take her sights off of the A-Wing. She realizes there is no mechanical failure at all. Signaling the Mon Remonda, she tells them to put their shields up as the A-Wing is going to attack them.

 

On the bridge, Solo orders the shields up. The lasers hit the transparisteel window, shattering it but pulling the shard out into space.

 

Tal’dira gets Wedge’s ship in his sights when Horn suddenly tells Antilles to break off. Impossibly quick, Rogue Leader moves with Tycho in synch as wingman. Tal’dira’s shot does some damage to the X-Wing but not the kill he’d been going for. This makes it a challenge now.

 

Solo fires his blaster at the closing main door that would trap him and his bridge crew in explosive decompression. Now they have to fight against the wind to get to the door while the A-Wing is still out there.

 

Dr. Gast tells Nawara Ven she wants amnesty from all crimes, known or unknown, a million credits and a new identity safe from Zsinj. Ven tells her she has to disclose all crimes to get amnesty for them and can only get 100, 000 credits so that she doesn’t get rich off of the New Republic while others die. She assures him the information she has could save many more lives, so insists the million credit demand stands.

 

The emergency klaxons go off and she wonders who is about to die next. Ven tells her they can always incarcerate her in a free-trade port where Zsinj could easily get to her. She counters that she’s keeping one thing back in retaliation for that and insists on a human negotiator.

 

That’s when Ven jumps up, throws the bed up, shielding her and waits for the door to open. A human hand holding a blaster comes in. Ven struggles against the big man who fires four shots into wriggling bed. Ven kicks out into the hallway, grabs a blaster from one of the two dead guards and shoots the assassin. He goes back into the room and pulls the bed aside, already knowing what he’ll find.

 

While Tyria tries to get Polearm Two to power down and surrender, Tal’dira tries to keep his sights on Wedge, but Celchu keeps getting in the way.

 

Solo and Captain Onoma struggle against the wind which finally stops them dead short of the door until a furry arm reaches in and pulls both of them through the opening. Chewbacca then pulls each bridge officer in turn out of the bridge and pushes the door shut.

 

In the end, Tyria has to shoot down Polearm Two. Corran Horn reminds Tal’dira that he’s shot someone from behind which is not honorable. This puts Tal’dira in a conflicted mindset that he cannot break from. Eventually, Horn fires. Wedge returns to the ship to trade out X-Wings and leaves Tycho in charge of the remaining fighters.

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  • It’s apparent that we are seeing more of Tyria’s Force sensitivity and her ability to control it somewhat. We’re also seeing more subtle examples of Corran Horn’s sensitivity, too.
  • Sad to see Tal’dira go. It’s always bad when an established character dies, especially in a situation like this where he’s clearly been brainwashed in some way. Apparently, some trigger phrase sets the brainwashed being off and it’s normally some ridiculous statement that the victim correlates with something evil. Hence, Tal’dira not being able to get past Wedge hopping on one transparisteel leg. Since it affected two of Wedge’s four Twi’leks, I’m guessing Solo wasn’t out of line to ask about them earlier.
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chapter 8:

 

The mission to Jussafet Four is a success but they don’t get much thanks from the Imperial world which doubtlessly had hoped they would be assisted by the Empire.

 

The Rogues are headed out after one of the Star Destroyers when Solo calls them back because the Imperial SD Agonizer wants a face-to-face meeting. He cannot go himself and won’t let Wedge because both of them could be assassination targets. The Imps won’t accept Captain Onoma as he’s Mon Calamari, so Wedge decides to send Face Loran.

 

Aboard the Agonizer, Admiral Teren Rogriss greets Face with the opinion that his holoproductions were puerile and badly written. But at least Face rose above them.

 

They have a good laugh, the admiral offers refreshments and they get down to business. He is loyal to the Empire, not to Zsinj. The ideological differences between the Imperial and Rebel forces are not going to go away, but they can help each other bring down a mutual enemy.

 

He gives Face a datacard that will allow them to communicate via HoloNet. They can exchange what they know about Zsinj’s capabilities, his strategies and his plans. It could get both himself and Solo executed for treason, but probably not. The best case scenario is that Zsinj dies and they all go back to hating each other.

 

Face promises to bring the information back to Solo for consideration, then asks if the admiral knows why Baron Fel and the 181st is flying with Zsinj. Rogriss doesn’t know. After flying with the rebels, Fel dropped from sight and then reappeared flying for Zsinj. His motives are unknown. The Admiral just thinks he’s a compulsive traitor. He can tell Face that the real 181st is still flying for the Empire. Fel just put some fighter pilots together, painted their TIEs in the appropriate colors and called them the 181st.

 

Wedge asks General Solo if he’s accepting the offer. Solo says he will as he’s been given broad powers that will remain his until he’s no longer a very important man. He’s also given the pilots permission to make up a mock Millennium Falcon as bait for Zsinj.

 

As to the assassination attempts, Mon Mothma is badly injured after an attempt by one of her Gotal aides. In fact, two more incidents involving Gotals have occurred with one shooting up a barracks before being killed by soldiers and one killing himself.

 

Wedge provides Solo with evidence that Tal’dira shifted all of his shields to the rear which left his bow unprotected. For some reason, he let Horn shoot him down. They don’t know why as most assassins who are suicidal wait until after their murder to kill themselves.

 

The cafeteria worker, Galey, has no known motivation which makes money the likely factor. He was seen speaking with both Twi’leks and so the implication is that this was set up by Zsinj.

 

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to understand that which means that Solo has bad news for Wedge.

 

As the day shift starts, Wedge has the unfortunate responsibility of telling Nawara Ven, Dia Passik and Koyi Komad that they are being taken off of active duty. This is fleet-wide in response to the attacks by Twi’leks recently.

 

Ven is unsurprised, Dia is insulted and Komad strongly resents what she’s given up to work for a cause that apparently doesn’t mean what it says about all species being equal.

 

Privately, Wedge tries to get Ven to think of what Tal’dira meant by calling him a one-leg hopping maniac but Ven hasn’t a clue. Wedge realizes there’s a cause and effect element here. The attempts against Ackbar and Mon Mothma may not have killed the targets but they were successful. The first casualty is Koyi Komad.

 

He wants the Wraiths and Rogues assembled for a speculation and planning session.

 

Wedge enters the lounge and explains he just had to relieve every Twi’lek on the Mon Remonda of duty. He believes Zsinj is behind these assassination attempts and wants them to speculate what this could mean.

 

Eliminating the Provisional Council would hurt as they’d be replaced with people less skilled then their predecessors, but hardly a master stroke. While Twi’leks are important, the world of Ryloth is not a New Republic signatory and neither are the Gotals. They make up a small portion of the Republic’s fleet so their deactivation will not cause military harm.

 

Wedge notes that it does harm the New Republic as a whole, though. After all, humans are already looking at Twi’leks as villains. After this, Twi’leks will feel the same way about humans. It’s likely that the same thing will happen to Gotals. The next assassin may be a member of a species that comprises a huge segment of the Alliance. By the time this is over, it will be aliens versus humans.

 

There could have been anyone behind this plot, but the attacks on Solo, Wedge and Dr. Gast at the same time point straight to Zsinj. It will be difficult to convince the Council of this, though. Both Mon Mothma and Ackbar trusted the people who attacked them as much as Wedge trusted his attacker. Princess Leia is off on some diplomatic mission. General Solo can’t abandon his duties here to go back to Coruscant and convince them.

 

Piggy suggests that the assassins underwent some procedure while away from their duties that caused these incidents. They know Zsinj is involved in some way with experimenting on non-human species, especially those not known for their intelligence. But that’s different from creating loyalty. Piggy himself was experimented on in a lab, but he has no loyalty for Zsinj. Somehow, someway, these beings were tampered with very quickly.

 

They do not have the bodies of the pilots to examine, but they might be able to find something on the Gotal bodies. They cannot rely on Dr. Gast now. Piggy is somewhat relieved at her passing but regrets that they have lost the information she could have given them.

 

The mocked-up Millennium Falcon may look like the real thing to most, but Solo thinks it’s an ugly piece of junk. Wedge points out that they only need to fool Zsinj for enough time to allow the ship, full of explosives, to dive into the side of his SSD. There are escape pods for the crew handling it.

 

In the meantime, Zsinj thinks the ship cobbled together from the remains of the Razor’s Kiss is the ugliest thing he’s ever seen. Melvar tells him that the Second Death may be slow, but she’s packed with enough explosives to do a lot of damage. The crew can evacuate on a shuttle craft but no one’s told them that a capital ship coming close enough to them before they engage the hyperdrive will cause them to detonate, too. No sense leaving people alive to be captured by the rebels.

 

The Second Death is also equipped with a Nightcloak that hides it even from sensors as it does from sight. When it’s working well, that is. There are still some glitches that make it reappear.

 

Janson and Runt regret complaining about how the squadron isn’t shown enough appreciation when Face puts together a pompously elaborate ceremony. After the pain is over, Shalla sits next to Piggy and asks why he is relieved at the death of Dr. Gast.

 

Piggy explains that it reduces the number of decisions he has to make. For example, if he’s the only Gamorrean who was experimented on, he will never be happy among any of his own kind and can never marry. His abilities are not genetic so he could not pass along any of it to his children even if he’d been able to force Gast to do the same thing to a Gamorrean female. Now that she’s dead, he doesn’t have a choice but to be alone.

 

Shalla reminds him that there are things he can pass on to others, even if they are not biological children, such as his commitment and courage. She asks him to dance and he warns her she must like her toes trampled on.

 

In the meantime, Face and Dia watch Donos and Lara on the dance floor. Dia notices that Lara tenses up occasionally. She’s obviously not as keen to be in a relationship as Donos is. Face jokes that she must not have noticed Lara indicate a desire for a kiss.

 

Dia didn’t see such a thing. Face explains that wealthy families who have members in Imperial officer training often practice a form of Coruscant charm signing which involves using body language to communicate certain things. It’s similar to worlds where flowers are intended to symbolize specific emotions.

 

And it suddenly makes Face tense. He tells Dia that he’s often seen Lara walk the way that Coruscant citizens walk when she’s relaxed. He also remembers both her knowledge of commerce and the fact that some old man thought he’d recognized her at the Galactic Museum. She was only on the capital for a short time which shouldn’t have been enough time for her to assimilate so much. He thinks he needs to get a message to New Republic Intelligence.

 

Wedge stops in to see Solo and Chewbacca who are working on the mock Falcon. Solo says he hates this ship, in part, because it reminds him of the Falcon which he left on Rebel Dream because he thought it would keep Leia thinking of him.

 

He confesses that he sometimes wonders, when she’s away from him, when she will realize that he has nothing else to offer her but roguish charm that she will someday grow tired of. He told himself he’d taken this Zsinj assignment because every bombardment of a world reminded him of being a child himself and watching his own home blasted apart. But, now, he thinks he wanted to prove to Leia that he can be a part of her world. After months and months, he thinks he’s just getting more tired and more crazy.

 

Wedge has an idea to take the edge off of them.

 

Lara and Donos walk into the officer’s cafeteria and find Wedge, General Solo and Chewbacca paying sabaac. Neither man is wearing rank insignia. Wedge informs Donos that’s not allowed today and tells him to get the astromechs.

 

The officer’s cafeteria soon becomes an off-duty place to hang out for the rest of the night and day where sabaac is played, droids are raced and Wookiees arm wrestle hapless naval officers. But, by the end of it, General Solo asks Wedge what’s next and approves when his friend tells him it’s time to blow up Zsinj.

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  • Couldn’t Han at least contact the Provisional Council and tell them he doesn’t think it’s a Twi’lek conspiracy? I’m sure going there in person isn’t convenient.
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chapter 9:

 

Wedge tells his pilots that they will be going to Kidriff Five which is controlled by Zsinj. Some recent data received is censored but there are indications of a pro-alliance faction there. Wedge and Chewbacca will being flying a decoy of the Falcon dubbed the Millennium Falsehood to the planet and land near where some rebel activity has been detected. Their only mission is to be seen there and then leave.

 

Once they’ve built up some predictability, they’ll be able to lure Zsinj into a trap. Tycho will accompany the ship away from the planet, but there will be TIEs sent down early to make sure that the landing won’t be more difficult than anticipated. The rest of the Rogues and Wraiths will be station on the moon to provide support if needed. All of the injured pilots have been cleared for duty.

 

On the way out, Face and Lara try to convince Elassar that Runt sneezing during the commander’s briefing during a point where they discussed possible flaws in the plan does not mean that they will experience bad luck.

 

In fact, they try to convince him Runt sneezed deliberately as part of some top-secret experiment. Elassar finally tells them to take it seriously.

 

The Sullustan pilot of the Nebula Queen just knows his stellar career is over if anyone finds out about the Ewoks up his nose. He can’t get them out. He considers crashing the ship to get rid of them, but his captain notices his course change.

 

He shoots her in the side and is surprised to find the blaster was only on a stun setting. It doesn’t matter. She’ll be unconscious when he crashes the ship. But the ship isn’t losing altitude, it’s gaining it.He contacts a fellow Sullustan in the auxiliary bridge who has taken control of the ship and refuses to return it to the main bridge. After trying and failing to dig the Ewoks out of his nose with his fingers, he goes down to the auxiliary bridge with blaster at the ready, only to be shot by his colleague.

 

The other Sullustan asks the human officer with him if his friend is going to be okay. The man hopes they can get behind what is wrong with the stunned pilot and sends a signal out.

 

General Cracken receives it and thinks for a short time before reviewing a holo transmission Wedge Antilles had sent him recently. Antilles and his team had extrapolated that, while recent attacks involved those with hunter or warrior traditions, he believes that newer attacks will involve those with stronger ties to the New Republic and will be more insidious. While Mon Calamari are closely aligned to the Alliance, it is more likely that another attack will involve Sullustans or Bothans and in areas where those species tend to migrate, such as piloting or code-slicing.

 

At first, Cracken had resented the pilots thinking they should dabble in Intelligence. Now, after this most recent incident, he wonders if he shouldn’t try to recruit Antilles instead. Then he starts looking for evidence of an upcoming Bothan code-slicing attempt.

 

Face wakes up to find he didn’t set the alarm. He has the incoming message on his terminal sent to his astromech, Vape, before he has to race off to the briefing.

 

In the hangar bay, Wedge looks at each of his pilots to see signs of any distress. Gavin’s wingman, Tal’dira, is dead but Gavin only looks serious. Corran Horn looks professionally detached, though he must be upset that Tal’dira might have been salvageable. Tyria Sarkin didn’t kill someone she knew and Kell had been there for her, even sending her to Janson who knows what it’s like to kill a fellow pilot. Dia Passik isn’t flying today but is being helpful in other ways. Elassar, on the other hand, is putting hard-baked bakery figures on Runt’s X-Wing as a good luck charm.

 

Janson comes up to him and tells him he’s made a mistake. It takes several wrong guesses before Janson finally reminds him that he will be piloting the Millennium Falsehood with Chewbacca and he can’t speak Wookiee.

 

As it turns out, Janson made sure the other pilots knew about this and they all took bets to see what Wedge would do when he found out. Tyria won by guessing which curse would come out.

 

Wedge asks to see if they can get one of the droids, preferably Squeaky, to come aboard, too.

Kell, Elassar, Janson and Shalla encounter no difficulties landing their TIEs on Kidriff Five. Squeaky asks about combat pay and gets into an argument with Chewbacca.

 

Kell’s team lands outside the city and he orders Elassar and Shalla to stay behind in their gear. When Elassar protests that he needs the most fun, Kell points out to him what the patrons of a bar will think when a TIE fighter pilot pulls off his helmet and there’s a Devaronian underneath it.

 

Wedge lands the Millennium Falsehood, dispatches the two bland Intelligence officers and gets back aboard to find Squeaky suggesting a game and Chewbacca offering to teach him Droid-Crushers.

 

In space, Face has nothing to do so he accesses his messages. One is from his sister. The other is the answer to a New Republic Intelligence inquiry he’d made regarding Lara Notsil and the name Edallia Monotheer which the old man at the Galactic Museum had called Lara.

 

The file on Lara is just as it should be. Her birth on Aldivy, the destruction of her village by Admiral Trigit, her capture and ordeal aboard the Implacable until her rescue.

 

The file on Edallia Monotheer is different. She was born about 50 years ago and caught the eye of Armand Isard who recruited her for Imperial Intelligence for which she executed many missions. She and her husband were executed for treason but the New Republic report suggests she had nothing to do with the Alliance. But Intelligence was known for executing persons for minor offenses by charging them with treason.

 

The two were rumored to have had a child, but there is nothing about that here. What concerns Face is that the husband’s name was Dalls Petothel.

 

As Squeaky and Chewie debate the meaning of the word dawn, Wedge notes a flyover by local security and thinks it’s time to let the authorities flush them out.

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  • In the chapter, Wedge had preferred Squeaky to Emtrey because the latter was more military procurement than translation, but did he not remember Squeaky’s more independent attitude?
  • The Empire is also known for executing family members, too. We’ve seen several situations where whole families are punished for the failures of Imperial servicemen. If Dalls Petothel was Gara’s father, it would be interesting to learn why young Gara survived the consequences of her parents’ so-called treachery.
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chapter 10:

 

Wedge waits until the police skimmer spots him and he takes off, a squadron of TIEs pursue. Kell and his team in their own TIEs follow and they are ordered to break off by Kidriff Primary Control. Kell tries to bluff that they really wanted to rate the pilots here and wouldn’t want to have to go back and tell the admiral that KPC wouldn’t let them.

 

The controller is willing to take that chance.

 

The escape from Kidriff is wrought with danger as Kell reminds his team that the authorities think they have hyperspace-capable ships that are more sluggish than others. There is also a moment where Elassar swings the wrong way and leaves Kell open to attack.

 

In space, the Rogues and the remaining Wraiths head out. Lara is Face’s wingmate and has trouble understanding his maneuvers. Tyria is finding an awareness in battle she’s never had before. Rogue 8, a Rodian named Nu, gets hit and his wingmate, Kether, gets hung-up so Face goes in and tells Nu to pair off with Lara and stay clear.

 

Lara obeys, but starts getting worried.

 

When Wedge orders the squadrons to form up and head for hyperspace, Face tells him that he and Lara will follow behind. Wedge asks for a reason and Face asks for a private channel.

 

Lara knows that there’s only one reason for that. When Face comes back, he asks her if she’s double-checked her nav charts. She says she hasn’t, but that she knows that he knows about her. He admits he knows she’s Gara Petothel.

 

She admits she tried to be Lara but that the universe wouldn’t let her. Face tells her to power down her engines. She’ll be arrested back at base and she complies. It’s only afterwards that Face realizes that he had been switching so much from private to open channels that he’s forgotten to switch back to private when speaking with her.

 

Everyone on the channel heard their conversation.

 

Donos’s mind snaps. He knows that name, the one who posed as a New Republic communication specialist and sent Admiral Trigit the information that destroyed Talon Squadron. His inhuman howl alarms his colleages.

 

He turns back and Face tells him to resume his original course. When Donos does not comply, Tyria tries to call him off. She doesn’t want to have to destroy another squadronmate.

 

Face maneuvers in front of Lara and warns Tyria not to fire. He tells Donos that he is in the line of fire. Donos fires a torpedo and Face orders him to detonate. It explodes right off his port, but Face is alive.

 

Donos seems to find himself and apologizes. He offers to come check the damage but Tycho orders him to stay away from both Wraiths. At this point, Lara doesn’t believe she will survive a surrender. Even with their assurances and the offer of having Nawara Ven defend her, she knows she won’t get to fly with the Wraiths again. She swears to Face she never betrayed the squadron and, after Myn doesn’t answer her calls, she disappears into hyperspace.

 

After landing, Wedge asks Donos why he shouldn’t bring him up on charges of insubordination. Donos explains he wasn’t in his right mind and isn’t sure he ever really is. He offers his resignation. Wedge will consider it.

 

Donos sees anger and confusion in the eyes of his comrades. In Tyria’s, he sees the pain that would have happened had she been required to shoot down another friend.

 

And he hears Wedge turn to Captain Loran and demand to see him in private.

 

Lara jumps to the station in the Halmad system where the Wraiths had pretended to be Hawkbats. She will have to come up with a new identity. She cannot use Lara Notsil or Gara Petothel. She chooses one from her earliest days of training: Kirney Slane who had attended parties and shopped and had a positive attitude about life.

 

Wedge wants to know if Face couldn’t have waited to handle that situation until after they’d gotten back to base. Face argues that he couldn’t take the chance that Lara wasn’t an intelligence agent. Just because she hadn’t betrayed them before doesn’t mean she wouldn’t at a time of Zsinj’s choosing. His gut instinct tells him she wasn’t working for Zsinj, but he couldn’t risk it.

 

Wedge reminds him that a man who can’t trust his gut instinct shouldn’t be commanding.

 

After Face leaves, Donos comes in with a carefully prepared speech about how he still feels he should resign. Wedge doesn’t believe he means it. He thinks Donos is avoiding responsibility, not for firing on another ship or disobeying orders, but for not going to someone about the mental instability that caused those things to happen.

 

They all know he’s had difficulty coming to terms with the destruction of Talon Squadron, but he didn’t talk to anyone about his desire to eliminate those responsible for it until it festered and exploded in space.

 

He doesn’t even know if he really wants her dead. She was the enemy but became something else. Wedge needs to know if Myn can find the answers to that question because, if he loses control again, one of his squadmates may have to come rescue him and it could cost them their life. He tells Donos that he isn’t accepting his resignation yet because Donos prematurely detonated his torpedo before it exploded.

 

For now, he is taken off active duty until he can be confirmed as fit to fly.
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  • Wedge lectured Face about picking the wrong time to handle the issue of Lara’s reliability, but said nothing about the open channel mistake that escalated the situation.
  • And, I’m glad to say that the KPC now ranks high on my list of worlds where established procedure is followed. Long-time readers know that I find it fascinating, especially in the despotic Imperial forces, when someone can be bullied or manipulated into doing something they shouldn’t be doing on the pain of inconveniencing a superior officer. I think this is probably the first time that someone has name-dropped a rank or name in order to get what they want, only to find that procedure is going to be followed anyway. Kudos!
  • Wedge makes some mention of how a plethora of peacetime pilots may someday make mistakes like Donos’s career-enders, but indicates that wartime makes things different. With all due respect, while I don’t hate Donos, I really think Wedge needed to be more severe than, “Hey! I’m not accepting your resignation because you never sought professional help for your emotional problems and almost killed your squadron leader because of it!” Or maybe Wedge just recognizes that he himself should have had Donos’s mental stability looked into earlier?
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chapter 11:

 

Nawara Ven waits until the patient is pulled from the bacta tank. He tells Dr. Gast that she will get amnesty for all of her confessed crimes, half a million credits and a new identity that will be fairly easy since she’s been reported dead. In exchange, she will give them information, including the markers that will allow them to identify those who have been tainted by Zsinj’s brainwashing.

 

Wedge tells his squadrons that Intelligence utilized their suggestions and prevented both a Sullustan and a Bothan from performing acts of terrorism. For now, the order keeping Twi’leks off active duty is not rescinded, but he will allow Dia to fly if she wishes.

 

In the meantime, the squadrons will fly into systems, in some cases using the fake Falcon.

 

Corran Horn protests that there is a good chance that Lara Notsil has returned to Imperial controlled space and could reveal the Millennium Falsehood. Wedge has considered that but doesn’t think she will betray them. Horn persists because he thinks she is a situational comformist. She just adapts to wherever she ends up and will likely become a loyal agent of Zsinj if she returns to his service. Wedge admits that’s a possibility but he’s going to continue as if she weren’t a traitor.

 

They also have data regarding the blood markers that identify those who’ve been brainwashed so everyone on this ship from General Solo down is going to be tested.

 

In the meantime, their next mission will be to hit a training academy for pilots set up in Zsinj-controlled space.

 

Lara Notsil arrives on the Iron Fist and is taken to Warlord Zsinj who asks about her failure to leave on Aldivy. She tells him about the Wraith Squadron pilot who accompanied her and shot the captain and her so-called brother. She had to lay low after that, but her identity was compromised during a mission and she had to leave.

 

He offers her a commission aboard his ship. She agrees and asks to keep the X-Wing and astromech.

 

She feels so alone here, the only one among thousands of crewers and machines of war. She walks along with the astromech Tonin and realizes how she’s going to destroy the Fist. In the meantime, Zsinj tells Melvar to keep an eye on her.

 

Myn goes to Janson who tells him he needs to learn to lighten up and have fun.

 

Wedge helps unload the Falsehood and tries, unsuccessfully, to hide a cargo crate from Janson. Wedge tells him it contains a real Ewok. On their most recent mission, Tycho found a store that sells exotic creatures to wealthy customers. The Ewok's name is Chulku and he's pretty smart, so they might be able to put him in a cockpit and teach him to hit a couple of controls to make it look like they have an actual Ewok flying.

 

Now that Janson knows about it, he is part of the conspiracy.

 

Lara flies in a TIE Interceptor simulation, pretending to be hit to draw off her attacker, but still loses.

 

Then she finds her opponent was Baron Fel. He thinks she'd make a good candidate for his 181st. She is flattered and offers to buy him a drink. He declines and she goes on her way, only to find that the crewman assigned to shadow her is ready to follow her again. She creates a slight distraction in order to grab monitor goggles with an attached microphone that is left unattended.

 

She heads down the corridors, knowing there must be holocams on her, then enters her quarters where she knows there are definitely some there. She very carefully hides the fact that she plugged the monitor goggles into Tonin. Sure enough, the crewman monitoring her quarters tells Melvar she just seems to have trouble sleeping.

 

Under the covers, she puts the monitor on and whispers to Tonin. She tells him she's sorry for getting him into this. She wiped his memory after Aldivy so know one would know what really happened. If anyone else tries to restrain him or wipe his memory, he'll lose it again, but she has a code that will engage his backup memory. She has an idea to wipe out Zsinj, but she'll need his help. Zsinj is cheap so he probably isn't monitoring her quarters while she isn't there. This will give Tonin space to do the work. But, first, she wants to know if it will call her Kirney when they are alone.

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chapter 12:

 

After Lara leaves the next morning, Tonin sets to work grabbing Mouse Droids. By the end of the day, he has three of them along with some components that will allow him to make some modifications.

 

The four fighter squadrons commanded by Wedge Antilles, in conjunction with the efforts of Admiral Rogriss in other areas, hit so many sites in a short period of time that it begins cutting into Warlord Zsinj's efforts.

 

Zsinj laments to Melvar that his enemies are all around him. Both rebels and Imperials are hitting his businesses, his Project Funeral assassins are stopped before they can hit their targets and the Millennium Falcon is fomenting rebellion everywhere. He can only assume that Dr. Gast talked before she died and that the Imperials are working with the rebels.

 

What they need is to keep the Iron Fist, continue to use the Second Death for its original purpose, come up with weapons neither side can deal with and come up with a plan to eliminate the New Republic. This will probably require the Rancor base and the Force-witches. But, they will also have to kill General Solo and his annoying friends.

 

Zsinj checks in on Lara at her station and asks about her health. She admits it was hard to get used to different sleeping patterns. She gives her advice to him based on an Intelligence packet he gave her. She tries not to tell him too much about what she really thinks because it might betray her friends, but she does give him some indicators on how to narrow down which worlds the Alliance might hit, based on her claims that General Solo is desperate to prove he deserves his rank in order to impress Princess Leia. She gives Zsinj a couple of possible attack worlds.

 

Zsinj compares notes with Melvar, not certain of Lt. Petothel's reliability. They decide to divide their forces in two, with half sent to each world she recommended.

 

Donos modifies a broken simulator into a type of repulsor sled. Janson tells him he should try to fly it in a more open place as it would be more fun. Donos has something else to do first.

 

After he leaves, Wedge pops out, scaring Janson. It's time to feed the Ewok. They head to the crate but find he's gone. They go after the pitter-patter noises until they crash into some cleaning fluid. Knowing they can't sneak up on the creature now, Wedge tells Janson to strip, they'll rub Ewok food over their bodies and try to entice him.

 

Janson doesn't think two naked men covered in Ewok food would attract anyone. But they have to get the creature back so each enters a separate door into General Solo's mess kitchen. When Wes gets inside the darkened room, he sees the back of the Ewok's head, grabs him and realizes it's the stuffed toy.

 

The Wraiths are in the room, too, still as statues and not reacting at all. Fearing he's in the middle of a dream, Janson backs out of the room and heads toward the doorway where he should be able to find a flight suit to cover himself. That's when the door opens, Wedge emerges, fully dressed, and orders attention. That's when the lights come on and all the Wraiths are standing behind Janson who is covering himself with the Ewok doll.

 

Wedge explains that there is no real Ewok on the ship. The noises from the crate were Squeaky. This is in retaliation for all the Kettch jokes he had to put up with before. Once the holo of this incident is spread around, there will be no more revenge.

 

Donos appears at the next briefing, asking if he can serve as a gunner aboard the Falsehood. Wedge will consider it. He tells them they are going to the Comkin system and perform another Spot the Falcon mission. They've added some modifications to the decoy including a holocomm system.

 

Melvar approaches Lara and tells her that Baron Fel would like her to fly with him on their next mission. She accepts the offer and hopes that the Mon Remonda will go anywhere except Comkin Five.

 

As the Falsehood puts down on Comkin Five, Squeaky complains that their new camouflage is probably not going to work.

 

Lara and the other pilots are on the Reprisal where she makes some modifications to a datapad and puts it in her fighter, waiting for the jump to hyperspace.

 

When the Falsehood lifts off, Wedge expects the standard TIE pursuit. Then Squeaky excitedly points out that a capital ship has dropped out of hyperspace. The pursuing TIEs hold back. Wedge tells Chewie to drop Package One and Package Two.

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  • Force-witches sound suspiciously like the female inhabitants of Dathomir where Darth Sidious was given baby Maul.
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chapter 13:

 

Lara knows she has to at least make it look like she's doing her best out here or the Imperials will know she's not really on their side. She addresses the Millennium Falcon. Fel addresses General Solo and tells him he can save lives by surrendering.

 

Donos knows there's something personal between Fel and Wedge that probably stems from the time Fel flew with the Rogues. Solo's voice comes back and tells Fel that, for a man who is supposed to be the best Imperial pilot since Darth Vader, he doesn't even come close to Vader – a man Solo himself flew against.

 

In fact, Solo's voice is actually Squeaky, who has spent time recording and playing back various words and phrases.

 

Wedge suggests that Donos just try to disable Lara's ship instead of destroying it. Squeaky advises that they let her keep shooting at them. It's too complicated for him to explain fully before Chewie distracts him.

 

On the Iron Fist, Zsinj quietly wills Solo to bring in the Mon Remonda.

 

On the Falsehood, Squeaky jettisons a modified portion of the freighter that releases debris, among it an A-Wing, piloted by Dorset Konnair, of Polearm Squadron. The Reprisal doesn't notice this and ignores the debris field as it comes toward them, knowing the shields will protect it.

 

Zsinj doesn't understand why Solo isn't using the cruiser support as Petothel said he does on these missions. Melvar guesses the tactics have changed or she was wrong. Zsinj knows the Remonda is out there and he's just not calling it in. When he sees the harmless debris headed toward the Reprisal, however, he realizes the danger and orders the other ship to blast the debris now.

 

It's too late, as the debris carries a bomb that hits the Reprisal, followed by attacks by Wraith Squadron. Wedge tells Squeaky to tag Lara's fighter as a friendly but not to identify her in any other way. On the Remonda, Solo quietly tells Zsinj to bring in the Iron Fist.

 

The Falsehood's shields are hit and Lara has a clean lock but she cannot destroy it, so she maneuvers too quickly and spins out of control, Fel calling after he to see if she's injured.

 

While Zsinj understands that this assault is over with and regrets yet another failure to kill Solo, the New Republic forces gather up for the jump to hyperspace.

 

Lara feigns injury and follows Fel's wake, the data stream from her pad having gone out with every shot she made at Falsehood. The Iron Fist's location is detected by New Republic forces but not before it jumps to hyperspace. General Solo is unhappy that they failed to get Zsinj again, especially since the warlord left without picking up survivors from the Reprisal or even his own pilots.

 

Back on the Remonda, Wedge asks Squeaky why he thought they should let Lara keep shooting at them. Squeaky said he had the idea she was trying to tell them something.

 

Wedge meets with Solo, Onoma, Face, Shalla and Donos. It appears that Lara's hits included data transmission, something that is unreliable and could have been detected. She tells them that she led Zsinj to the Comkin system because she felt that's where'd the New Republic would be. She is hoping to be able to send them Iron Fist's location when she can. She is sending them a data packet with more information.

 

On a personal note, she tells Donos that she originally infiltrated the Wraiths in the hopes of helping her career, but she really doesn't know who she is right now. She only knows that she wants the chance to get Zsinj and expects to die in the attempt. Lara just wants someone out there to remember her with something other than hate.

 

They discuss the transmission and each believes that she is sincere in her statements. The data packet indicates she used parameters that included worlds that traded with Alderaan. They agree to consider those parameters, too, and determine to add Vahaba to the list.

 

When they are dismissed, Solo asks to speak with Face.

 

It's obvious Zsinj is not willing to bring the Iron Fist into any engagement where a gravity well is present that would prevent him from jumping into hyperspace. They are going to have to get an Interdictor Cruiser. To that end, he's sending Face to meet with Admiral Rogriss again.

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  • If Han wants to remember his coming out of nowhere and knocking Vader's TIE out of the Death Star trench as flying against Vader, he is certainly entitled to his opinion. I'm not convinced he literally flew against Vader, though.
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chapter 14:

 

Tonin has appropriated hundreds of mouse droids aboard the Iron Fist to the extent that he can loop images of Lara sleeping while she's actually working so that the holocams can't pick her up. He has the droids doing each other's work in case the ship's computer notices a drop in their activity.

 

Lara comes in and tells himshe had to give herself a slight concussion. He tells her that she can use a holocomm but will have to be careful as it will be detected almost at once. Also, he's found an unmapped area of the ship.

 

He shows her a lab where members of various species are held in cages.

 

Face asks Rogriss for an Interdictor cruiser which the admiral can get but really doesn't want to. For one, he risks it being destroyed, which is likely if it's in rebel hands, but he's also concerned that the rebels will take all the credit for the victory and he will just be a collaborator.

 

Face offers to position two of the Alliance's Star Destroyers by the cruiser at all times. Rogriss asks what he will get in exchange. Face mentions a framed and autographed holo of young Garik "the Face" Loran. The admiral good-naturedly allows he can trade it for one of the superior Tetran Cowall, Face's rival. Face explains that what the admiral would get is a mutually exclusive deal.

 

He just has to decide if what he wants is what's best for the Empire or for himself.

 

Rogriss decides that he will loan the cruiser and arrange a rendezvous point.

 

Lara sends a message to the Wraiths about Project Chubar which is Zsinj's biomedical experimentation division. Since it’s named after a series of children’s holos that starred Face as the voice of the main character, she mentions not to tell him that part.

 

Project Minefield is derived from that and involves the quick brainwashing of subjects by setting in them a strong delusion of a terrible thing happening and a trigger phrase that causes them to do anything to end it. The trigger phrase is flexible enough that it can include the name of any target Zsinj wishes to eliminate.

 

Project Funeral is the placement of those brainwashed agents back into their normal lives until it's time to initiate the trigger. This brain-washing treatment is confined to mammalian species and usually goes away after about a year.

 

That part of the project has been shut down for now. She is going to end the suffering of the poor creatures involved in the experimentation.

 

Tonin doesn't have enough droids in place to affect the hyperdrive, but they do talk about changing the targeting computers so that friendlies are marked enemies and vice versa. They talk about bringing the shields down or possibly causing a self-destruct.

 

Myn Donos's medical examination cannot conclude whether or not the firing on Face was an accidental discharge as Wedge had submitted it. One thinks he's is likely to lose control if confronted with Lara Notsil again; the others don't go that far but do think his stress levels would not make upcoming missions wise.

 

He sends for Donos and asks what he would like to do during the Vahaba mission. Donos would like to fly his ship, but, if that is not possible, he would like to be on the Falsehood because he knows Wedge would prefer to be flying his own starfighter.

 

Wedge wants to know what he would do if he had to fire or kill Lara Notsil. Myn answers that he would prefer not to kill her, but that he would obey orders. He just doesn't know what kind of person he would be afterwards.

 

Since this is the most honest Myn has been about his emotional state, Wedge certifies him fit to fly.

 

As the Mon Remonda heads toward Vahaba, Han Solo keeps an eye on the standard Zsinj force near the planet. When Face and Runt report Iron Fist as one of them, he prepares for battle.

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chapter 15:

 

When thirteen New Republic ships come out of hyperspace, Zsinj orders his fleet to jump because, as a technician explains to Lara, the warlord prefers not to fight on the battlefield chosen by his enemy because they have an advantage.

 

She contacts Tonin to prepare to disable the hyperdrive and is giving the countdown when Zsinj gets the report that they've encounter a gravity well. He sends ships to target the Interdictor and orders the rest of his fleet to join them here.

 

Wedge and his fighters head toward the Super Star Destroyer, noticing that he is not deploying fighters of his own. Wedge realizes that Zsinj is still hoping to jump to hyperspace and doesn't want to take the time to recall the fighters.

 

He leads them on runs over the Iron Fist's stern.

 

Zsinj asks Gara Petothel what Wedge is doing. She tells him but phrases it in such a way that Zsinj's pride is hit and he doesn't listen to her suggestion. When it turns out that she was right, he has to make quick corrections as the individual squadrons make strafing runs on the ship.

 

She wonders if she can do it again. She contacts Tonin and arranges for him to make a course correction for when the ship jumps to hyperspace. It will emerge away from the rest of the fleet at Selaggis where Solo can come get it if he doesn't destroy it here. She then has Tonin delete Selaggis from the star charts.

 

Zsinj is unhappy to find out the Interdictor is the Stellar Web under Admiral Rogriss's group. One of his ships is already afire and he orders them to abandon ship.

However, the Stellar Web has to move to avoid a collision with the other ship which was headed toward it.

 

This allows the Iron Fist to jump to hyperspace before the New Republic can do too much damage to it. Solo asks Rogriss if he would do it again and the other man agrees that the plan had a chance of succeeding.

 

When a holocomm transmission arrives, Solo assumes it's Zsinj calling to gloat.

 

The Iron Fist emerges in an unknown system not on the star charts. He is also given the bad news that their hyperdrive is going down. Then he's told there's an outgoing holocomm message.

 

He orders it brought up and sees the image of Gara Petothel. She transmits to General Solo that the Iron Fist is stuck in the Selaggis system with the rest of the group at the very least minutes away. This is his chance.

 

Zsinj orders her found, detained and interrogated. Once it's determined where they are, he orders them to call in the rest of their fleet, including any mercenary groups, find a place for them to hide in system until the hyperdrive is fixed and prepare to dispatch fighters.

 

Lara stuns her shadow and climbs into an access hatch.

 

Solo isn't sure whether or not to believe Notsil's message until a holocomm message is diverted from Halmad to the Mon Remonda from Zsinj requesting the Hawkbats assistance at Selaggis. They realize that the warlord really is trapped and, since Selaggis is where Zsinj once destroyed a colony in one of his first raids, Solo thinks it's a good place to destroy him.

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chapter 16:

 

Zsinj gets a report that one entire group hadn't left Vahaba and will arrive within minutes. When the Mon Remonda and its task force appear, they find many more ships than planned. Solo knows these are greater numbers, but not impossible to deal with.

 

Lara gets to the lab and frees an Ewok which wants to kill the lab technicians there. She tells it to go to the other cages and free any being that will agree not to attack her if it's let free.

 

The chief engineer reports to Zsinj that mouse droids are sabotaging the hyperdrive systems. The engineers are working on restoring it. Zsinj tells Melvar they could use analyists like Petothel…but loyal ones.

 

Both battle groups launch fighters, but Solo only launches the Y-Wings and the TIEs from one his Star Destroyers, leaving the rest behind the Remonda. Zsinj does not launch the 181st or the experimentals.

 

Captain Mayn spots the Iron Fist on the edge of an asteroid ring.

 

The other fighter squadrons fly out and through the debris field until they reach the Fist and begin attack runs. Donos begins to panic, remembering the situation where he'd lost his droid Shiner and wonders why this place reminds him of where his squadron died.

 

When he yells for the squadron to break off, Wedge is concerned that Donos is having another incident. After two ships are destroyed breaking off, Wedge tells Myn he’d better have a good reason. Donos explains that he had thought he was having flashbacks to his squadron’s destruction, but he realized that he’s been through this situation before in a simulator in which he flew against Zsinj’s original Star Destroyer. The SD had fired upon large asteroids in a debris field which destroyed them along with any starfighters near them. That is what Zsinj is doing now.

 

Wedge orders his ships to stay closer to small asteroids which are harder for the Fist to target. Zsinj orders his own starfighters brought back when he realizes that his trap in the debris field isn’t working.

 

In the lab, Lara has freed members of several species, including a male and female Gamorrean. She asks if any of them know how to pilot a shuttle and is stunned when the Ewok, Kolot, raises his paw. Kolot explains he was tested in simulators and given prosthetics so he could reach the controls. Lara stops him because she already knows this joke.

 

She explains to Kolot that they are very alike: two lies that eventually became truth.

 

Before she can send him off, she notices that the Gamorreans have blood on them belonging to the medics she’d had tied up.

 

Another program within Iron Fist begins sending diagnostic data from all the other ships to the Mon Remonda. Solo tells all of his ships to use that data until they are told otherwise.

 

Zsinj is told that the hyperdrive is functional again, but there are radiation leaks on several decks, including deck 4 which piques Melvar’s interest. Zsinj orders the 181st launched and asks Fel to see if he can get close enough to Antilles to kill him.

 

Antilles notes that the 181st is flying toward an unoccupied moon and has his Rogues and Wraiths form up on him to check it out.

 

Lara gets through the hangar doors much more easily than she’d expected and heads to her X-Wing. Melvar is there with a blaster. He’d known the radiation leak on this deck was falsified and left the hangar door unsecured. He’d gotten a feeling that she would come back for her ship.

 

She could’ve been richly rewarded by Zsinj if she’d stayed loyal to him. Lara acknowledges this but the thought makes her sick. Then the Gamorreans attack Melvar and his man. She orders them to stop and just bind them up.

 

The Ewok has brought his prosthetics and the experiments board the shuttle. She tells Tonin to go with him. The droid warns her that she said the Wraiths would consider her an enemy. She knows but she has to do this. He doesn’t want her to, but reminds her he will help if she needs it.

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chapter 17:

 

There is no reason for the 181st to be strafing the moon. Wedge knows it must be a trap but he cannot risk there still being colony survivors there. All the ships are doing is making ruins into smaller ruins. Janson realizes they’re just waiting for the rest of Rogue and Wraith Squadrons to get here.

 

Zsinj knows they are losing this engagement. He orders the ship sent to the Second Death’s position and all fighters except the 181st to engage the enemy until there’s a chance to flee.

 

Wedge tells Fel they shouldn’t be doing this. He doesn’t want to kill a man who was once a Rogue. Fel doesn't think there’s a reason why they shouldn’t. Wedge considers that, if he knew where his sister was, he would probably have no reason to spare Fel.

 

In the debris field, the Mon Remonda follows the Iron Fist and they open fire on each other. Among the starfighters, Tycho is forced to eject and Wedge flies around, pings Fel’s Interceptor, resulting in the worse crash he’s seen in years. He finds the Interceptor’s position and prepares to land.

 

Corran Horn realizes something is very wrong with one of his targets and tells the others he doesn’t think it’s a living being. Piggy analyzes the flight patterns and explains that one of each wing is a droid pilot in a ship packed with explosives. He comes up with a plan.

 

Mon Remonda finds that Zsinj has mined some of the asteroids, too. Solo orders a flight around the nearest one still exploding and that all the other ships be warned.

 

On the ground, Wedge runs to the crawling pilot, pulls his blaster and asks Fel if he minds answering a few questions. The pilot removes his helmet and acquiesces…only it’s not Baron Fel. The man is actor Tetran Cowall, Face’s rival, whom Zsinj had hired to pretend to be Fel for the last few months.

 

Zsinj had thought that the personal issues between Wedge and Fel would draw Antilles out if he thought Fel was flying with him. So they had Interceptors painted up to match the 181st and used droid pilots for some.

 

And it worked. Three new TIE Raptors head toward the moon. Wedge races to his ship but doesn’t get it up before one of them explodes, destroyed by the former Wraith Two, Lara Notsil. Wedge gets up into space and they both fire on the Raptors, but Lara is hit and her fighter topples over the sands of the moon, broken.

 

As Piggy uses mathematics to help his comrades shoot down the fighters, Zsinj orders his ship to head toward the Second Death and use the NightCloak to exit the system. He will stand by in his personal shuttle. He finds Melvar injured in the hangar and calls for medical care before boarding his own ship.

 

In the debris field, the starfighters encounter a black rectangular anamoly from which shuttles are being launched. Zsinj orders the ship to wait to bring the pilots aboard until it can be determined the best way to exit the system. In fact, the Second Death is cloaked, hiding the Iron Fist, so that when the latter jumps and the former explodes, the debris field will contain enough parts that Solo will think he’s destroyed the Fist. The pilots are being sacrificed for that reason.

 

On the way out, he contacts Solo who, believing that Zsinj is fleeing the broken hull of his ship, offers to let Zsinj kiss his wookiee.

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chapter 18:

 

Nawara Ven gives Dr. Gast her new identity cards and allows her one last chance to donate the money she wanted to the New Republic. She would rather not and demands the sum in Imperial credits. He will accompany her to Coruscant and she can hire a bodyguard there to take her wherever she wants.

 

Wedge meets with his squadrons and tells them that the Polearm and Nova are going back to Coruscant so they can be rebuilt. The packet sent to the Alliance forces by Lara Notsil before her death detailed the experiments Zsinj has been performing. It will be analyzed in the hopes that they will not have to shoot down another comrade again.

 

The carrier duty has been suspended for a time. Rogue Squadron will be going back to planetside duty, with Janson heading with them. Wraith Squadron has done too good of a job and is being decommissioned as a fighter unit so it can be transferred to Intelligence.

 

Face is remaining a captain, the Wraiths have passed their probationary period so Wedge doesn’t have to become a general and Donos is being transferred to Rogue Squadron because he’d rather be a pilot.

 

The thrill of landing on Coruscant is made even better by Ven’s obvious discomfort. In customs, she refuses to tell Ven where she’s going from here, though he bets half-a-million credits he knows where that is. She’s just eager to be away from bad-smelling, foul-tempered Twi’leks.

 

Unfortunately, bringing Imperial credits to Coruscant is illegal and she’s arrested for sedition at customs. Nawara tells her he gave her exactly what she wanted. He also saved her life.

 

She isn’t grateful.

 

Wedge asks Han what he’s going to do with the Falsehood. Han thinks it looks enough like the Falcon that he could donate it to a museum and get people off his back about donating his own ship.

 

They are told there is a communication from Lara Notsil. Wedge admits he didn’t see a seat in her X-Wing when he flew over the crash site but there was no automated ejection notice.

 

Lara is going by the name of Kirney Slane and she wants Myn Donos to know that she’s waiting for him on Corellia with a new co-pilot he will appreciate and a droid he knows well.

 

Wedge and Han talk about how valuable she was but that she transmitted classified information to the Empire during a time of war while serving as a New Republic pilot so that would result in the death sentence, regardless of what she did for them.

 

It’s better to pretend Lara is dead. They have the message forwarded to Myn and all other copies erased. In the meantime, Han tries to convince Wedge how great being a general is.

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The End.

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