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"Starfighters of Adumar": Book 9 in the X-Wing Series


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chapter 1:


Wedge Antilles takes Qwi Xux out to dinner, planning to break up with her, but she breaks up with him first. They both agree they were good for each other at the time, but neither sees the other in their future.


Wedge takes a leave of absence in order to contemplate the next stage in his life. General Airen Cracken has other plans. The world of Adumar is on the outskirts of the Unknown Regions. It hadn’t had much contact with the Old Republic and no contact with the Empire.


Their main industry is explosives which can be converted very easily into the manufacture of proton torpedoes. Since Wedge has pushed in the past for resources to be allocated for the production of more torpedoes for his starfighters, Adumar’s inclusion in the New Republic would go a long way toward that goal.


However, the Adumari do not respect career politicians, so a mere diplomat isn’t going to be able to do the job. They do hold in high esteem fighter pilots. For that reason, he wants Wedge to choose several pilots and take the Allegiance to Adumar where he will work with a diplomat named Darpen who is already there.


Wedge insists that he needs this leave of absence and someone else needs to go in his place. Cracken appeals to his sense of duty to the New Republic. Wedge wonders what it’s like to push buttons on someone to get them to do what they want. He refuses this assignment; Cracken tells him to pack his dress uniform.


Later, Wedge and his pilots, under the call name Red Squadron, land aboard the Allegiance where they are greeted by Captain Salaban. He introduces them to Hallis Saper, a female documentarian with the head of a 3PO unit she calls Whitecap attached by a bracket onto her shoulder. She wears goggles and explains that the head records everything she looks at through the goggles.


Wedge insists the droid be coded with a shut off command when he orders it. She is not enthusiastic about this, but agrees.


Then he introduces them to his choice of pilots. Tycho Celchu, Wes Janson, and Hobbie Klivian have come along to represent the New Republic’s fighter pilots. Salaban tells them they will settle into quarters first. Intelligence is not providing a liason to brief them first.

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  • The time is 12 years ABY.

  • There’s a cute moment where Hobbie tells Hallis that he’ll get back to her on how to spell his last name and lots of people misspell it. This may be an inside joke to his last name being misspelled in Wraith Squadron as “Klivan” instead of “Klivian”.

  • This is Captain Salaban’s first appearance, but he was indirectly referred to in Solo Command.

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Loved this book.

Jedi Cool, the reviews you post for EU books I might start doing for comics. I'm currently re-reading Dark Empire which, as we all know, is fairly terrible. However, I still feel that the story had great potential and knew what it wanted to do, but was executed poorly.

But that's off topic.

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chapter 2:


Wedge is unhappy with having no more information now than what Cracken gave him. He and his pilots fly their X-Wings while Hallis and her people take a shuttle down. Along the way, the starfighters are confronted by several ships that fire on them. They are forced to take down four of them.


At landing, Tomer Darpen greets them. He and Janson apparently know each other. Darpen explains that the encounter in the air was not planned; it was likely some enthusiastic young people who thought they’d get some prestige by shooting down the legendary Rebel pilots. Wedge doesn’t find this amusing as they’d had to shoot them back.


He is going to give a speech to the crowd first and will then be escorted to their quarters. A ball tonight will be the time and place for political introductions. The perator is an inherited title and he won’t be here, lest he take away some of the glory that belongs to Wedge.


Here on Adumar, active pilots take precedence over other people. Wedge is not prepared for a speech but gives a quick Four-Step address that’s quick and serviceable. He notices there doesn’t seem to be any security in the crowd.


Darpen explains that the crowd themselves provide security and illustrates what would conceivably happen in the unlikely event Wedge were challenged. None of that encourages him. Janson points out that the crowd obviously adores Antilles and will probably be imitating him by evening if he even vomits on himself.


Wedge chastises Tycho for not being able to make Janson more mature, which leads to the story of how Tomer Darpen got the nickname Ejector. Janson explains how Darpen flew with him for a time in the Tierfon Yellow Aces and ended up with a malfunctioned ejector seat that launched him into space, requiring a rescue shuttle.


Darpen is glad to have provided so much entertainment.

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chapter 3:


The pilots are taken to their quarters, which include special balconies to put their fighters on and no cables that allow people to comm. them directly. There are servants waiting for their call to provide anything they need and the room has been swept for listening devices of which there were plenty.


Darpen explains that they will need to get cleaned up for their dinner with the Perator in a couple of hours. If they prefer not to wear dress uniforms, it would be considered an honor to go with local dress. Wedge asks to see some examples first.


Later, he asks Janson how much he trusts Darpen. Janson explains the man always had an angle going in the Aces. When he left, they assumed he’d become a smuggler, but the position of diplomat seems to suit his selling talents well.


They choose the local wear, with Hobbie going for gaudy and Janson going for annoying, keeping a long blastsword that is popular here but that makes walking near him dangerous. Darpen notes that they are not to be announced at the ball, but will have to surrender their weapons. Except, of course, for Janson, because the blastsword is considered part of the outfit.


They are introduced to Pekaelic ke Teldan, the perator of the capital Catann. He welcomes them and presents them with a young woman to serve as guide. Her name is Cheriss ke Hanadi. Tonight should be a night of entertainment and they will save the diplomacy for tomorrow.


Darpen is stunned as it is unusual for him not to have at least one question for the pilots. Wedge has Whitecap turned off and asks Darpen about this. If the perator is the ruling representative of the planet, why is he introduced as just ruling Cartann? Darpen explains that the concept of a single planetary government is new to them and they take more pride in their status of national leaders.


Cheriss does know what Teldan has in mind but she is not allowed to reveal it. She does, however, explain the ball and how to behave among those who are greeting them. When Teldan turns down his visor, he is shutting off his official eyes from the gathering and people are allowed to be more casual.


Darpen wonders how he never knew that before Janson insists they go for food now.

It takes some time, but they manage to get to the food after greeting many pilots. As Wedge eats, he asks Cheriss about the fighters they encountered on the way in. She recites the specifications of the ships when someone bumps into Wedge. The guilty party offers his apologies in a clipped manner Wedge recognizes as clearly Imperial.


He turns to look at the man and they both recognize each other. Turr Phennir was a top-notch pilot in the 181st. Wedge realizes that they’ve both been brought here so the Adumari can test them and choose between them. Phennir understands that, too.


Wedge asks Cheriss if she knew he was here. She explains that he arrived the same time they did and received a similar greeting from their people on the other side of Cartann. Wedge tells Hallis to send the recording of this exchange to the Allegiance while he turns to Tycho. Tycho flew against Phennir at Brentaal. The man was as good as he was then, but he wasn’t Baron Fel or Darth Vader.


Obviously the Adumari set them up without Intelligence knowing about it or perhaps just not telling them.


While Wedge is introduced to some minor official, he glances across the room and notices a very recognizable woman. He signals for his pilots, explaining that he’s going to focus on something else and, because everyone else will be looking at him, he wants Janson to go over to that woman and talk to her. Tycho and Hobbie will warn him if he’s being noticed.


The woman is Iella Wessiri and Wedge thinks she might be here on an Intelligence assignment. He doesn’t want to blow her cover.


Cheriss had offered a demonstration of sorts to Wedge earlier and he asks her for it. What he doesn’t realize is that it involves a battle between her and another Adumari. He wants to stop it, but Darpen tells him he cannot back down now. It certainly serves as a distraction while Janson does his assignment, but she prevails. Wedge finds it is up to him to determine if her opponent lives or dies. Allowing him to live implies a certain weakness. Knowing the stakes of getting Adumar into the New Republic are now higher than he thought, he finds a diplomatic way of sparing the young man’s life.


Then he pulls Darpen aside and tells him they are going to have a conversation later. Janson comes back with his report.

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  • Turr Phennir appeared in Dark Horse Comics’ Rogue Squadron series and was mentioned in Solo Command.

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chapter 4:


Wedge lectures Darpen on what he can and cannot do. Darpen explains that it is better if Wedge follow his lead because he can’t be expected to be allowed to say things he doesn’t know anything about. He should not have asked for Cheriss’s demonstration if he didn’t know what it entailed only to try to back out of it right away.


He moves on ahead while Janson and Hobbie pop up. Janson confirms it’s Iella and that she’s been here for awhile posing as a slicer to link up the computers here with those of the New Republic and the Empire. She wants to meet him tomorrow night at midnight secretly so her cover’s not blown.


Wedge notes that this information doesn’t fly with what Cracken told him about the New Republic’s discovery of Adumar after years and years. He gets the distinct impression that they weren’t invited here because the population loves pilots but because they are going to be competing against their opponents.


Hobbie adds that he got to talking with people, too, and has learned that there is no world government at all. The nation of Cartann is the largest and influences other nations for about half the planet, but it doesn’t have the authority to bring the planet into the New Republic at all.


Janson also adds he thinks Cheriss is sweet on Wedge.


At this point, Wedge wants everyone to continue to act as though they believe everything they are being told. Hobbie is to make sure that no New Republic listening devices are in their rooms and Janson is to head up to Allegiance and make sure that they are aware that an Imperial capital ship is probably orbiting the other side of Adumar.


Later, they practice flying Adumari fighters, adjusting to different controls, speeds and features. Hobbie had found no listening devices in their clothes, but found two in their quarters. Since he can’t be sure he found them all, they have to be careful about speaking candidly in there.


In the cockpits of these ships, however, they talk about Adumar’s position here. How do they know that the Empire won’t just come in and take it regardless of who wins the competition. Wedge reminds them that the Empire is not what it was and it’s just not cost-effective for them to operate the old way.


When they land, Cheriss compliments their flying. They are constantly turning down duels from squadrons that want to prove their mettle because the challenges here are dangerous.


Cheriss explains that not all challenges end in death for one of the opponents. The Imperials shot down four today and one survived. Wedge asks if they don’t use simulators. She doesn’t know what they are.


He explains and she notes that some of the lesser nations have duels with lower-powered weapons. There is a lack of honor there, normally. One does not have to accept a challenge. In fact, one’s commander can refuse them if there are no benefits to both parties. An ace pilot would gain nothing from a brand new pilot beyond an extra kill so such a challenge could be refused unless the new pilot had a maneuver that could be learned.


She thinks, though, that wins in simulators might boost prestige after a time. Wedge thinks that tomorrow he will have his fighters equipped with low-powered lasers and paint missles.


No diplomatic functions are scheduled. Wedge and his pilots accept a dinner invitation where they are asked only for stories of their exploits. On the way out, they are attacked by several persons with blastswords. Cheriss helps Wedge and the others fight them off, until they fell the leader.


Cheriss believes he’s a paid assassin, pointing to the coins he has on his person versus the plain clothes he’s wearing. The man claims he only did it for prestige and would have attacked the Imperial pilot tomorrow. He got the coins off of the last man he killed. Cheriss points out, then, that he must have killed a wealthy merchant or minister which means the family will likely prosecute him.


The Guardsmen show up and offer Wedge the chance to kill the assassins or release them to the authorities. Wedge prefers to the release them in the hopes the authorities will find out who hired them.


Cheriss admires his pilots’ skills with vibroblades and fists. Wedge points out she’s quite good with a blastsword. She explains that she cannot fly because of vertigo so she studied the lost art of the blastsword. They agree to teach each other what they know about armed and unarmed combat.


It’s time for Wedge’s meeting with Iella. He is cautioned to be careful as there could be people who just want a legitimate challenge out there, too.


Iella tells him the same thing. She admits that the situation with the Adumari has been going on longer than he was led to believe but that it’s still a relatively new development. The people found out about the power struggle and pretty much want to compare the two governments. Wedge wonders how he’s supposed to persuade them to join the New Republic when they don’t even have a unified government.


Iella tells him there are other people working on this. All he has to do is be a pilot. Wedge explains he doesn’t like this world which has too little value for life. Iella mentions that other nations are not like this which is why they want to encourage a unified government so that some of that may be tempered.


He also wants to know who her superior is so he can punch them for not giving him a full briefing. Iella will not reveal that and will not discuss their past friendship. Her life is in a different direction from his now.

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  • Since Cartann is a large nation, though, and influences other, smaller nations, isn’t there a risk that it will dominate a unified government anyway?


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ZM, I would go for it anyway.

 

chapter 5:
With no further meetings or dinners scheduled, Wedge decides to go out flying again, equip his fighters with low-level lasers and paint missles, then has Cheriss put the word out that he might accept challenges today.
Cheriss tells him it was dangerous to slip away last night and asks if he saw a woman. He explains that he did and denies it was a pilot. She is considerably happier, telling him to remember the match numbers in challenges. This means he must specify how many can fly against him, otherwise they can bring however many they want.
Janson is sure to tell him that her knowing that Wedge’s woman isn’t a pilot made her happy because it means she also has a chance with him.
Up in the air, however, they are bereft of challenges and Tycho surmises that simulated runs may not have the same appeal. However, a flight of ships approaches and Wedge, after confirming that they are indeed sporting simulated weapons, accepts the challenge.
When they defeat the challengers, Wedge invites another run with them, to give the others who didn’t fly with them their chance. The challengers are surprised and delighted. Later, he explains strategy to them, to teach them how to fly more effectively, not for their own honor, but to defend others. He explains that getting honor for oneself is fine, but would they rather have it alive to come home at night or for when their loved ones are visiting their graves?
The captain, ke Mattino, is intrigued by this and asks if they will be flying tomorrow, too. Wedge believes he will and offers to bring the X-Wings so that the Adumari pilots can see how they fly.
The next day, citizens pack the airfield to watch the pilots. Phennir and his men have done very well as Cheriss explains their earlier kills. She is confused when Wedge notes that the blood on Phennir just has the honor coupons sticking to him.
Tycho tells Wedge that Phennir has obviously figured out a couple of days ago what they’ve just learned: the Adumari pilots aren’t very good. They might be if they would live long enough to get proficient.
Teldon continues to refuse requests for diplomatic meetings, but Darpen is excited that news of a possible unified government is coming and could only mean good news for the New Republic. No one points out how easily the Empire could rule through a single planetary government.
Wedge and his pilots fly daily, now getting challenges from pilots from other nations while Phennir’s people increase their kills and their popularity. Cheriss explains that the Imperials do things the Cartann way. Wedge thinks the Cartann citizens should remember how many children they’ve buried because of this.
On a tour of an underground missle factory, they find out that the workers live in dug-out apartments right above the places where they work, but still below ground. They are too poor to live above-ground and too tired to walk there after their shifts. Cheriss explains her mother and her lived in one of them working in a food-processing plant until the mother died. Cheriss learned to make a living with her blastsword and now gets endorsements from the company that makes them.
Hobbie jokes he should do endorsements for bacta.
Cheriss adds that no one is forced to work in the plants. They can join the armed forces or take up the art of the blastsword like she did. Wedge finds that the option of either living below ground in poverty or risking one’s life is not something that would appeal to most people, especially with 40% of the population working in the plants.
Later, they find that the surviving members of the assassination team have escaped. Cheriss tries to point out that it’s unlikely they will surface again due to concepts of Cartann honor, but, knowing that these were likely hired by the Imperials, it means that Wedge and his pilots are at risk again.
However, their informal piloting school is going well. Wedge finds that his philosophies are being discussed as well as his flying techniques. He tries to impart the importance of personal honor but without the emphasis on external promotion of it. It eliminates the ability of others to manipulate you or redefine honor for you.
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chapter 6:
On the way back to their quarters, Janson regales the others with the names they are called by the people of Cartann. He is the “darling one”, Tycho is the “sad one”, Hobbie is the “dour one”and Wedge is the “diligent one”, but adds that the word diligent has several colloquial meanings that are less dull.
They find Hallis inside. She explains she was recording some of Phennir’s challenges when the crowd got unruly and the droid head got knocked around. Now it keeps repeating everything it hears within earshot.
She tells them they should take her more seriously. Wedge thinks they would if she didn’t look like a horror story told to children. She gets the picture, takes off the goggles and puts the droid head in a cupboard. Then she tells them she saw someone fiddling with one of their X-Wings on the balcony.
That is a ruse to get them out to where there are no listening devices. She explains that she did see someone enter these rooms earlier and the doors admitted them without a problem. She happened to be here at the time and hid, while using Whitecap to record them. Then she followed the intruder.
It seems that no one really notices her when she’s got the droid on, so taking him off makes her almost invisible. She only had to follow him to the third floor of this building.
Darpen enters and orders everyone out but Wedge. Wedge will not allow his pilots or Hallis, whom Darpen didn’t recognize without her extra head, to be pushed out. He tells them to stop running these simulated challenges. It’s not their place to change the way things are done here on Adumar. If they don’t do things the way the Cartann citizens do them, the way Phennir and his pilots are doing them, they will lose Adumar to the Empire.
Wedge rejects the notion that they have to play by the Empire’s rules to win this game. He fails to convince Darpen that acting like the Empire makes them the Empire, regardless of who leads them. Darpen points out that his orders come from the local head of Intelligence, whom he will not name. Wedge decides, that, until he receives orders from General Cracken telling him to stop the simulations, he won’t.
There are some Adumari pilots who are coming around to their way of thinking, but the vast majority of them are still devoted to this concept of honor and death, far more than any respect they may have for pilots. Bringing them into the New Republic like this may not be a good idea; they certainly don’t want Adumari pilots in their squadrons.
Wedge goes out for a drink, alone and disguised, to consider what he should do. In all likelihood, the Adumari would adapt to New Republic ways. Pilots would have their horizons broadened while visitors here would learn to avoid challenges. However, Wedge doesn’t know how he should handle if he is ordered to follow Phennir’s example. He would face a court-martial or resign.
The end of his military career would eliminate most of the people he has in his life now. He would be alone again.
He is confronted by someone else wrestling with a decision of honor. Admiral Rogriss who had risked charges of treason to help General Solo fight Warlord Zsinj. He is here with the Agonizer, the only ship left in his command after he did poorly in picking off pieces from Teradoc.
Wedge wonders why the Empire always chooses such terrible names for its ships. Rogriss says every schoolboy ponders it, but Wedge has a theory from Luke Skywalker. Skywalker thinks that it’s easy to mask a slide into personal corruption when you can mask it in the trappings of duty. But it’s much harder when there are examples around you that make your own coming darkness clearer. Consequently, the names of Imperial ships tend to be like Agonizer or Executor in order to remind their crewers constantly of who they actually are.
Rogriss thinks that’s a rather self-righteous comment, but the Rebels are known for it. He has spent his life ensuring security for troubled worlds, bringing civilization, food, education and medicine to underdeveloped planets and sacrificing time with his children to do so. Now, he’s being lectured by someone a generation younger about honor.
Wedge knows they are both struggling with the concept, but he thinks he has his answer. He hopes Rogriss gets his, too. He leaves, making sure no Imperial aides follow him.
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  • Admiral Rogriss appeared in Solo Command.

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chapter 7:


Wedge heads up to the Allegiance with Janson who wonders why he didn’t bring Tycho instead. Wedge explains he needs someone more mature than Wes and Hobbie on the ground to handle any potential diplomatic incidents.


They go over Rogriss’s record and determine he’s not a man who likes getting into a big fight. He’s a widower with a grown daughter and a son in the Imperial Navy. Wedge wonders who would’ve ordered this kind of guy out to Adumar to sit in a bar grousing about honor.


Salaban shows up and figures out who they are talking about. He says that they are gearing up for a battle because they know the Imperials won’t keep their word. It seems that a representative of Cartann showed up and had both sides promise that, if they were not chosen, the losing side would leave the system and not come back except under a formal banner of truce or war. It took a couple of days, but the Chief of State’s office agreed. Salaban doesn’t think it was Leia Organa Solo herself, but one of her minions.


It’s unlikely the Imperials will accept that because they know what it means for the New Republic to get that weapons production going. So they will come back with a stronger force and the Allegiance will have a fight on its hands.


Wedge guesses that Rogriss knows this and that’s what affecting his personal honor. He’s a man who does his duty and that flies in the face of breaking promises.


He wants to get a message to General Cracken. Salaban points out he can’t do that. Everything has to go through the local head of Intelligence first. Wedge tells him to disregard the request, then has Janson arrange another meeting with Iella.


She pulls him into her room that night and tells him he has to stop contacting her because he’ll blow her cover. Wedge explains that he know that Tomer Darpen is her superior and the local head of Intelligence. The man acts too much like he’s used to having his orders obeyed, which is not something a mere diplomat should be expecting.


He wants Wedge to stop simulated duels and handle them with live-fire the way the Imperials do. Wedge will only proceed on General Cracken’s orders but he fears Darpen will not give Cracken all the information needed to make the right decision. He wants Iella to use her access to get a message to Cracken.


She refuses. The Council may indulge Wedge but she cannot disobey orders and she cannot send this message for him.


He says he’ll find another way, but also tells her that he needs a way to communicate with Admiral Rogriss who’s commanding the Agonizer so that his subordinates don’t know about it.


If he’s forced to fire on Adumari pilots, he will resign and that will leave him with nothing. Before he risks that, he wants to know how he lost her friendship. She explains that she had waited for him to make the first move. He didn’t want to because he wanted to give her time. By the time she realized that she would have to assure him that she would welcome a relationship, Qwi Xux was there. It hurt too much knowing that she missed her chance.


Wedge points out that he’s not seeing Qwi any more. She will not be second to that needy little thing. Wedge argues that they shouldn’t give up just because of that. She asks him to leave but he realizes a part of his life will be over if he does.


He argues that they’ve both made mistakes. Even when they didn’t see each other in ages, he knew he loved her. He’s been in mourning ever since the other night because someone he wants in his life for good blames him for seeing someone else for awhile. Then he kisses her and she kisses him back.


She asks if he’s making a commitment and he offers to make it official. Iella would rather wait until after Adumar, warning him that their actions may put them on opposing sides.


He kids Janson on the way down, irritated by the sunlight and brushes off Wes when the other is certain he heard breathing on the stairwell, thinking someone was spying.


Wedge gets five minutes of sleep when Darpen shows up and tells everyone that they are invited to a diplomatic meeting at which the heads of the nations will be discussing the formation of a world government. There is a bit of confusion when Whitecap’s head inside the cupboard keeps repeating his words, but they get the jist that they have to be ready to be displayed again.


They open the cupboard to find that the bracket holding Whitecap to Hallis is gone and it appears she’s done some work inside, too. They haven’t seen Cheriss either. Getting the feeling they’re being abandoned by their retinue, Wedge orders dress uniforms with no Adumari embellishments or weapons. They are not Adumari and they need to stop emulating them and legitimizing their behavior.

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chapter 8:


Dressed in their official uniforms, they are surprised by Hallis who meets them with no droid head and an elegant hairdo to hide her recording equipment. She’s disappointed to learn that Wedge already knows the intruder in their quarters went into Darpen’s rooms, but he appreciates the work she did anyway.


He finds Iella on the arm of another minor minister and she takes his hand, slipping him a flimsy with Rogriss’s private comm. code on it. It turns out wearing New Republic dress uniforms was wise as Phennir’s group is wearing Adumari garb today.


He finds that Cheriss is here and is participating in another challenge. Janson notes that she’s wearing the same clothes as yesterday. She defeats this one easily, then goes on to another challenge of more difficulty.


She explains to Wedge that she has neglected her other responsbilities and is taking care of them at once. He realizes that she is glancing at Iella and must have been the one Janson thought was spying on them. Wedge tries to go after her to explain the situation but the perator chooses this time to make his announcement.


He expresses how he has learned that the establishment of a unified planetary government is what separates them from their new friends. He announces that, effective tomorrow, the unified world of Adumar will exist, governed from Cartann and structured along Cartann’s current government. This causes some cheers, but some outrage from nobles of the other nations.


Teldan cautions the nobles off-the-record to go back to their homes and discuss how to handle this but they would be better off as citizens of Adumar rather than enemies of the new state. Darpen doesn’t think there’s a problem here, despite Wedge’s concerns.


For now, Cheriss is doing another challenge. Wedge confronts her and tells her that she is throwing her life away for nothing. He risks his life to help make the galaxy better. His piloting skills or the number of kills are not what gives him honor, it’s his willingness to die to make sure others have a happy life. She does not show him respect by randomly accepting challenges that could kill her just because she’s unhappy with him.


She has already accepted this challenge and fights hard. Her opponent injures her severely and, on his patron’s behalf, prepares to kill her when Wedge jumps in to issue a challenge. Wes beats him to it.


He insults the opponent grandly and makes the stakes all that higher, explaining to Wedges that he is expendable, Wedge is not, Wes is doing this because he’ll enjoy it and because, though he wasn’t eavesdropping at all last night, Wedge could consider this an engagement present.


He starts off by taunting the other man with the blastsword before jumping into the fight. He has his opponent disarmed fairly quickly and tosses his own blastsword aside before showing the crowd what real fighting is like. He pummels the Adumari until the fight ends to the cheers of the crowd.

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chapter 9:


Wedge gets the news that Cheriss will be out of bacta soon and he wants to know when so she’ll have a friendly face waiting for her when she emerges. In the meantime, he has plans to subvert an Imperial admiral.


That night, he meets with Rogriss and explains that he knows that Adumar will be facing ruin if they turn down the Empire. It’s likely Rogriss has orders that require him to notify his superiors so they can come and hit the planet, leaving Rogriss as a man whose word means nothing.


On the other hand, disobeying orders will likely result in his execution.


Wedge is here to offer him a way out. He can seek refuge in New Republic space. Rogriss says that, in such a scenario, his children would never understand what he did. Wedge thinks that he’s raised his children well enough that they would not believe what someone in authority would tell them, but, if he wishes, Wedge can arrange for New Republic Intelligence to send them messages conveying his reasons…even get them to Republic space if need be. One thing is for certain, he won’t get to speak with them before he’s executed if he disobeys and goes home.


They are invited to another announcement for the following evening. The next day they spend in their cobbled together flight school before heading out in their dress uniforms. The Imperials are wearing theirs now.


Darpen laments how a war might start now, but Wedge chastises him for it. He confronts Darpen about being an Intelligence agent who needed to make a unified government and brought in some fighter pilots for show. When he realized the Imperials were here, too, he worked to make the planetary government occur faster. The only way to do that was to encourage Cartann’s natural inclination toward conquest which will plunge this planet into civil war if things are going the way they are now. Even if Adumar joins the New Republic, Darpen may not be able to save himself. Wedge expects Leia Organa Solo will consider him a war criminal once she knows of everything that has happened here. She will, eventually, despite the communications blackout that Darpen instated to keep anyone from contacting General Cracken and advising him of the new developments.


That’s why he never brought back orders from Cracken for Wedge and the other pilots.


The perator announces that two nations have decided to oppose this union so they are no longer under the protection of Cartann and will be pacified. He asks if the Imperial pilots will help them fight their enemies. Phennir agrees. Wedge refuses when asked if the New Republic pilots will help.


Darpen heads up to the perator to confer with him. After what appears to be a passionate exchange on Darpen’s part, Teldan announces that the four pilots are exiled from Cartann and must head to the air base under gauntlet now.


It seems that he cannot have the pilots executed but, under gauntlet means they have to get to the airbase on their own and anyone willing to shoot them will. Darpen explains they will be given Adumari ships to fly out because their X-Wings are being impounded. It was all he could do to prevent Teldan from ordering their deaths right there. Wedge asks if anyone will give four blastswords to four doomed men. A few in the crowd respond and they head first to retrieve their blasters at the doorway.


Wedge decides to comm. Gate and tell him to request an emergency evacuation from the Allegiance. He cannot get a response. They will have to do this the hard way. Using their blaster, they fire at those firing at them while running to respulsorlift transports.


After lifting off, the transport is damaged and they fly until they have to put down on a building. Inside, they rob a noble family of cloaks to hide their appearance and, thinking this is how the New Republic pilots visit homes, the family thanks them for the honor.


On the street, they venture hidden, making sure none of their faces appear on the screen as they head for the airbase. Wedge says they will need a wheeled transport, a flatcam monitor and four sets of women’s clothing to get in. He promises the others he’s not dressing them in women’s clothing.

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chapter 10:


As they roll toward the airbase wearing the women’s clothing, they use the flatcam to display an image that gets put on screens everywhere showing them at a very recognizable building. As crowds run past them, they blast whoever is in their way at the airbase and a guard lets them in, telling them the Adumari fighters are waiting for them.


They are assured the ships have not been sabotaged. In the air, however, it is difficult to overcome huge odds. Adumari fighters come at them. They cannot raise the Allegiance. All four fighters are damaged and Janson is forced to eject.


Knowing they won’t make space, they try to head back to the planet but are confronted by more. Fortunately, they are rescued by Captain ke Mattino’s squadron who believes they’ve won their departure.


They land in a relatively lightless part of Cartann. Under cover of darkness, Wedge and Tycho find Iella’s apartment where Hobbie and Janson are already waiting. Cheriss had come down from Allegiance, heard about the air duel and went to their quarters where she found Hallis.


Hallis had gone back to get Whitecap and found two men already ransacking the place, joking about the Rogues. She whacked both of them on the head and took the personal items they were collecting. Cheriss brought her to Iella’s.


Iella can get them Adumari comlinks, clothing and money but she cannot contact the Allegiance. She knows it’s alright though. Hallis asks to speak with her privately in order to convince her to abandon her mission, go with Wedge and shoot Darpen in the stomach.


A few moments of privacy later and Iella is ready to do all of that. Hallis shows them a datapad that contains a recording she made of the last announcement. After Wedge refused to fly against Cartann’s enemies, she got an audio of Darpen’s exchange with Teldan which is far different than what was explained to them.


Rather than persuading the perator not to execute the pilots, Darpen is overheard explaining that Wedge wanted to fly against the enemies but was bound by conflicting orders by his superiors. He’s embarrassed that he cannot assist Teldan with this and would rather die. Teldan is persuaded to give Antilles and his men an honorable death that they cannot refuse.


After Teldan gives the announcement, Darpen contacts the Allegiance and orders comm. silence until he himself rescinds it.


They realize that Darpen has to save face with his New Republic superiors. He cannot risk Wedge giving his report so that General Cracken and Chief of State Organa Solo will know how he manipulated the situation. This means there can’t be any links to betray him so it is likely that Iella, too, would end up dead.


Cheriss explains there are some men and women from the other nations who’d like to meet him. While lending him a spacecraft may not be the primary concern right now, it’s possible they could help him.

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chapter 11:
In an old transport borrowed from an agent of another nation, they travel slowly. Cheriss comes to Wedge and explains that the bacta treated her injuries and that the medical personnel who treated her asked if she had any other problems.
She told them about her vertigo so they did a scan and found a chemical imbalance that is easily treated by a chemical every few days. With that one act, she is free of what stopped her from becoming a pilot. If she’d died in her challenge, she never would have known the life she was giving up. She wants to be a pilot now, but not for Adumar, for the New Republic.
They are greeted by Escalion who leads the Yedagon Confederacy. He explains that they will give the pilots transport to their ship in repayment of them refusing to fly for Cartann. However, he has a request that Wedge lead their forces against Cartann. He has been in contact with another national leader and they have agreed to join against Cartann.
If they do this, then the other smaller nations may rally to their side. Wedge has to think about this and confers with Iella. He explains that he is still the official New Republic diplomat here and that his orders are to help bring Adumar into the New Republic. He is going to accept the offer.
They strategize, knowing how Cartann fighters fly and fight. They arrange for false transponder signals to cause confusion and for Hobbie to lead an advanced unit in and fire on the oncoming the Cartann ships from below. Cheriss is going in to try to find their X-Wings. Hallis will be recording the whole battle. Iella has already been up to the Allegiance and found that Captain Salaban is unhappy with the communications blackout.
Knowing that she has only her word and some corroborating recording bits, she chose not to tell him about Darpen as he will probably obey his orders anyway. She did give him a copy to send to Cracken once the blackout is lifted.
Wedge addresses the pilots and tells them that they cannot be thinking about their personal honor here. They are to fight for their world, not for themselves. The Cartann pilots will be fighting for themselves. He reminds them to focus on firing at the enemy and not exchanging words with him. Fire where they are and where they will be. Focus on the people who will be waiting for them at home.
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  • Just asking: wouldn’t it have been a good idea to take Wedge up there and have General Antilles explain to Salaban what Darpen has been up to? For one thing, that recording is hardly just bits of compromising dialogue. It clearly has Darpen lying to the perator and persuading him to kill Wedge and the others. For another, wouldn’t Wedge’s word, combined with Iella’s be enough for Salaban to risk communicating with Coruscant to be sure?

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chapter 12:


The fighters head toward Cartann, Wedge feeling much more comfortable now he’s flying a ship rather than being flown. They hit a square bunker before Iella contacts them to let them know the Cartannese are hitting from an unknown base. Their team is going to strike at the base now.


The team continues to fight the Scythes until a TIE Interceptor shows up. Tycho asks Wedge who he is now. Wedge’s transponder is for a Yedagon pilot with no kills. Wedge tells Tycho he’s just Not-Wedge now. Tycho suggests that stay the same until they can get to their X-Wings.


More TIEs are incoming. Wedge gives the Rogues their strategy and Hobbie approves of the chance to cause damage. They are assisted by the arrival of a Meteor-class Aerial Fort, the largest flying vehicle produced by the Adumari.


Tycho ends up extravehicular. After Wedge sends help for him, he’s informed that Cheriss has found their X-Wings. It was just a matter of following the astromechs’ signals. Wedge isn’t so sure. Surely the first thing the thieves would have done would be to fit the droids with restraining bolts.


Then he realizes that’s what the Imperials would have done. Their enemy is the perator who probably doesn’t know much about the independence of astromechs. He contacts Gate for assistance. The droid tells him that they are all fine and about the guards in the hangar. Then Wedge contacts Cheriss to find out what kind of gear is available in terms of viewscreens. She has an Adumari flatscreen. He has her set the frequency to something obscure and tells her she will get some helpful information soon. Iella will have to work to get images of the inside of the hangar to translate from Gate to the incompatible viewscreen.


Despite the help, the Adumari are barely holding on. Wedge and his team reach Cartann City and find the hangar. Wedge fires a missle into a bunker which is heavily reinforced. Cheriss believes a tunnel is behind the door. He fires again and creates a hole. Cheriss explains that Gate’s transmission of the hangar showed an image of the perator’s personal ship which makes this his personal hangar.


That tunnel must lead to the palace so that he can visit the hangar when he wants. The Rogues climb into their X-Wings while Cheriss’ team moves toward the tunnel. Incoming fighters fire at the hangar as the Rogues fly out. Wedge sees the fireball behind him in the hangar, hoping Cheriss and the others got clear.


He tells the Rogues that it’s time to show General Phennir what they can do.


In space, this time in their own ships, they rejoin the battle. Hobbie is hit, so Wedge decides to have Gate do some cosmetic damage to his ship. He and Tycho will play injured and hope the Imps will come after them and not Hobbie. Janson stays close by. The ruse works and they draw fire off their friend. After losing a pursuit that they are sure is Phennir, it seems likely the pilot will be alerting the rest of the Imperial fleet for reinforcements.


Wedge hopes he’s done at least one diplomatic thing right on this trip.


With the loss of Imperial Interceptors, the Cartannese are flying more desperately. Then whole wings start surrendering to Wedge. Iella explains the palace is ordering air groups to surrender, but only to Wedge. Wedge decides that Hobbie and Janson can take surrenders just as easily, intending to go find out what the perator is up to.

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chapter 13:


When Wedge and Tycho land, they find the perator held at the palace. Cheriss is there. Flatscreens showing several images, including Escalion, the perator of Yedagon. Then Hallis shows up.


The perator wonders why they brought the alien general when they could just shoot him as easily themselves. Tomer Darpen steps out from the group of captors to explain that’s not really what they want. Wedge unhappily mentions that he wasn’t aware Darpen held a post on Adumar. Then he threatens to have Tycho shoot him if he says anything else.


Cheriss tells him that the perator won’t surrender. He doesn’t think it’s honorable. A Halbegardian elite decides they’ll just have to shoot him. A gray-haired woman on screen insists that Pekaelic be judged by a council of his peers. Cheriss warns Wedge that, since he’s not named a successor, the perator’s successor would be chosen by a council of Cartann’s nobles. It might give some of the smaller nations time to break away during the confusion.


Wedge sees a larger problem and confronts the man. He explains that this type of confusion will give the Empire time to come back, destroy the Allegiance and enslave the entire planet. Pekaelic still won’t surrender. Wedge suggests he retire instead. He hadn’t thought of that; he could name one of his sons his successor, but they’re all pilots and he can’t be sure if they’re alive.


Wedge thinks it’s a good idea to find out. Cheriss tells him that royal heirs are generally in danger on Cartann so they’re typically raised apart from their parents under assumed names. Wedge doesn’t have to tell her how bad that is.


Iella tells him that the Agonizer has left, but an Imperial shuttle is on its way down. Wedge thinks it might be a friendly.

The perator confirms that his sons are alive and that the oldest is on his way here now. When he arrives, Wedge recognizes him as Balass ke Rassa, one of the pilots he’d flown against in simulated combat. He wonders how long it has been since the perator has seen his son.


Balass accepts his father’s abdication, agreeing to rule in his stead, but he refuses to surrender. The gray-haired woman on the flatscreen reminds him of the costs. Balass explains that they cannot forget the Empire. The New Republic cannot bring in more ships unless they are under flags of truce or war with the planet. But they cannot even do that while the world is not united and that will take time to decide what the ramifications of Cartann’s surrender will mean. However, if they agree now to acknowledge that the old Cartann has ended with the abdication of his father, they can vote together as a united world, gaining the New Republic’s help and all of those other things can be decided later.


Even Tomer realizes how well this is working out. He tells Wedge how glad he was to find out that the Rogues had survived. Wedge is sure he is, but suspects this will get better soon.


In the meantime, Escalion isn’t happy that Cartann won’t be properly punished for this, but has to acknowledge that time is of the essence. They give Cartann a full voice in the Adumari Union and want Wedge to negotiate with the New Republic for them. Wedge admits he really can’t do that as he’ll probably be the one negotiating with them. They turn to quickly trying to find an ambassador amongst themselves.


Wedge and Tycho pull their weapons on Darpen. Wedge tells him to call the Allegiance and have them restore communications between them and New Republic personnel on the ground or he will turn Darpen over to the Halbegardia or the Yedagon Confederacy for punishment. Darpen calls the ship but gets no answer. Wedge gives him a code NRI-1 and the ship responds. He rescinds the blackout. Wedge tells Tycho to arrange for Darpen to be sent back up to the ship, inform Allegiance what’s going on and have Captain Salaban standby to communicate with Fleet Command and General Cracken regarding the situation. Wedge himself is going for a walk.


Admiral Rogriss is not happy to see Wedge. His career is in ruins. The Agonizer left orbit with its holocomm which can only be opened by Rogriss’ voice or that of a superior officer which it won’t see for three days. He’s not helping Wedge find an Imperial Intel team on planet, but they don’t have a holocomm anyway. Wedge tells the Admiral that he respects him anyway and will keep his promise to get word to Rogriss’ children. The Admiral has spent some time finding weaknesses in the Adumari defenses. He wonders if he can stay here and help them eliminate those weaknesses.

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chapter 14:


Looking out into space from the Allegiance’s hangar, Wedge feels like he’s at home. Besides whatever home he and Iella choose to make for each other once everything is finished here on Adumar. He was sorry to learn that Liak ke Mattino and some of the other pilots he trained here were killed in battle.


The other perators weren’t happy that Balass has his father hidden away where he will not be punished for his bad judgment, but his terms for unity were firm. Tomer Darpen won’t be so fortunate. He’s in custody now, plotting his defense, not knowing about the conversation Hallis has recorded.


His interference won’t be a problem now. Iella has replaced him and is working on the problem with Adumar now. She joins him in the hangar. She is proud of him being willing to lose. He tells her that when he knew he hadn’t lost her, he knew not all was lost. Their moment is broken by the alarm and announcement that three Imperial Star Destroyers are in system.


Time for Wedge to go. She knows that she can’t ask him to be safe, but will tell him to shoot straight and faster than them. He promises and tells her he loves her. She loves him, too.


In space, Wedge listens to some of Hallis’ false news reports that reveal Adumar to be a country at war, surely picked up by Imperial Intelligence units and transmitted to the task force in orbit.


The Agonizer is back, along with the Retaliator and Master Stroke. The 181st is out here, too. What the Imperials did not expect, however, was an organized fight. Believing that the Rogues would be the only ones, with Adumar’s defenses still fighting among themselves, they are surprised at the efficient way the Adumari Union is hitting them.


Still, Tycho’s ship is hit and goes dead. Wedge also manages to blow off the top of Turr Phennir’s TIE Defender, but he’ll be picked up. For the time being, they’ll keep doing what they’ve been doing until the Imperials withdraw.

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chapter 15:
Wedge, back in dress uniform, admires Iella’s dress. She thinks he’s glad there’s no more diplomacy for him now. This final party has more subdued than before. Crowds are less enthusiastic about the Rogues. Balass approaches and offers his apologies that Wedge only got one kill in the battle.
Wedge points out that a TIE Defender is still a prestigious kill if that’s what’s important. Balass understands. He explains that his father’s way are old fashioned, but he still has a code of honor and operates within it. Pekaelic is upset at the way he was manipulated by Tomer Darpen to think Wedge wanted an honorable death when he did not. He sends his apologies. Wedge thinks the old perator is best suited to a quiet remaining years, polishing off his youthful victories, giving unwanted advice and grousing about the new way of doing things. But, who knows? He could possibly adapt.
Janson is wearing his dress uniform, too, but with his cloak. The Flatscreen vids on the back of it display a line of chorus-dancing Jansons. Wedge makes a note to vape the thing before the return to Coruscant.
Hallis found that much of what she’d recorded wouldn’t work for a documentary and a lot of it’s classified now anyway. The Adumari Union, however, had given her a tidy sum, impressed by her work on the false newscasts that had fooled the Imperials. Wedge suspects she may find a job with New Republic Intelligence.
Cheriss approaches him. Wedge tells her he transmitted her application to the academy, but she wants to know if she can leave with his ship immediately. He’s not sure he wants to navigate her crush on him now that’s with Iella. But she surprises him. She explains that the new perator is not going to make her life easy after she was involved in capturing his father. Her endorsement deal has been canceled and her landlord is evicting her. If she’s going to leave, she might as well do so sooner rather than later.
Wedge agrees, then smiles to himself, telling Iella he was flattering himself until he caught himself doing it. He pulls her into a dance. She mentions there’s no music. He tells her that he can snap his fingers and have music if she wants. That’s the perk of fame. She thinks they’re just fine without it.
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  • Well, it's nice to get some resolution on the Wedge/Iella thing.

End of Book 9.

 

 

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