[On board the Alliance Nebulon-B Frigate Joan d'Arc, stationed on the Outer Rim]
The sound of laughter mixed with the smell of beer in the small darkened forward compartment on board the Frigate Joan d'Arc. "The Bomb Shelter", as the compartment was affectionately named, served as bar and hangout to the pilots of the Alliance's White Squadron, a group of freedom fighters specializing in assault and deep space reconaissance.
In the middle of the bar a large poker game appeared to be going on, the four players surrounded by the usual crowd of cheerers and hecklers. Off to one side, three figures sat together at their own table in the corner and spoke quietly. One of them, the youngest, took a generous swig of the liquid known as "Blue Stuff", the official brew of the Bomb Shelter, and sighed contentedly.
"Ahh," he said after swallowing. "Now I know why I wanted to join White Squadron - this is the best beer I've ever had. Mind you, compared to the swill they serve back on Arrebnac, condensed Hutt drool would taste nice." Another man, about ten years the senior of the first one, grimaced at his companion's remark.
"If you say Hutt and nice in the same sentence, Drake, you need to get help, not join a squadron," he rejoined in his thick accent.
"Thank you, Ibero, for your kind comments and comradely support," Drake said, bowing melodramatically from the shoulders before taking another belt of Blue Stuff.
"Cut it out, you two," the third person, a female Selonian, added. "Is it possible to have anything resembling a serious conversation with you guys?" She grinned.
"Not after your comments about Arrebnac," Drake sniffed and turned his head as if he was offended.
"My what?" the woman exclaimed. "I made some comment about the strangest creatures on the Rim coming from there - which, judging by our present company, Ibero," she finished with a sly grin, "appears to be totally true." The man called Ibero laughed.
"Ladyfox-1, Drake-0," he chuckled. "You'd better give up now, my friend, before she beats you again."
Drake held up his hands in defeat. "Okay, okay, " he sighed. "Although I must remind you that it was your own decision to deprive yourselves of my witty repartee - it wasn't my fault. " He grinned again. Ibero and Ladyfox laughed, the latter shaking her head.
"Look at this young man," she smiled, "very sure of himself, isn't he?"
"I can't argue with that." Drake chuckled and leaned back in his chair.
"Well, I 'm glad to be here," Ladyfox said, looking around the dimness of the bar. "I think it's great. I can't wait to start flying some missions, and battle some of the Imperials." She smiled again, baring sharp teeth.
"Me either," Drake agreed. "I had to leave my X-Wing in the care of the tech 'droids. They better take care of her! - but I've already got my A-Wing painted up and ready to go. Very sleek she is, too - I have to admit that the A-Wings are definitely growing on me. Shok'wave can have her B-Wing - it'll be us in the A-Wings that keep TIEs off her back!"
"Yes...speaking of which, where is Shok'wave? " Ibero asked.
"Let's find out..." suggested Ladyfox. "Hi! Foxfire! Over here!" She waved at the squadron's Executive Officer, Foxfire the bartender, who started to clean up the bar before she headed over. Drake watched her with obvious interest.
"So that's Foxfire," he murmured. After seeing her blonde hair and flashing blue eyes, his eyes seemed to glaze over a little as he glanced back at the table in front of him. Ibero chuckled beside him.
"What is this?" he asked. "You've got your eye on Foxfire?" Ladyfox laughed as well, quietly. Drake, much to his embarrassment, felt himself blush.
"What's the matter, Ibero?" he hissed under his breath. "Haven't you ever seen an attractive woman before?" He looked up as he asked, and for a fraction of a second, thought he saw something that looked like pain flash through Ibero's dark eyes. Then the latter smiled.
"Of course...but I'm usually more subtle," he answered. "And I don't usually single out superior officers for interest, either. Especially not ones armed with crowbars." he added pointedly.
Drake deliberately refrained from looking to try and see Foxfire's concealed crowbar, and decided not to press the issue too much. "Well, if you'd ever lived on Arrebnac... as far as women and excitement in general go, it's about on a par with Tatooine," he said. "At least the weather's different, though... cold usually, but pleasant enough in the summer or spring. Lot more greenery than Tatooine, too, although we do have a central desert continent." he finished as Foxfire sauntered over and sat down with a smile.
"Well, how are you new pilots doing?" she asked.
"Great, Foxfire." Ladyfox smiled. "Good thanks, Foxfire." Ibero replied. "I'm good, thank you ma'am." Drake answered. Foxfire glanced at him. "At ease before you sprain something." she told him with a grin. "In the Bomb Shelter you can relax, so leave the ma'am out, okay? Here we're just all pilots and friends." Drake nodded his acknowledgement and smiled, relieved that the squadron's Executive Officer was not an all-business type like so many command-rank officers were.
"We were just wondering where Shok'wave is, anyway." Ladyfox said. "We noticed she's not around, although everyone else seems to be here."
"Hmm...I think she's off talking to the Captain." Foxfire mused. "I wouldn't be at all surprised if she's being briefed on a mission."
"We'll see if you're right, ma..er, Foxfire. " Drake said, as a figure appeared in the doorway. Instantly all noise in the bar stopped and the poker crowd turned to watch the figure of their Commanding Officer as she strode in and stood in front of the wall.
"I've just been talking to the Captain..." she began without ceremony. "I need three volunteers..." Three hands shot up before she could finish her sentence. Ibero, Ladyfox and Drake had all raised their hands. Shok'wave smiled. "You haven't even heard the mission yet." she reminded them, and paused briefly. Rookies... they're always full of enthusiasm. The real measure of them is whether or not their skill matches it, she thought grimly. There was no response, so she continued. " Okay, you three, you've volunteered. Now I need four more volunteers..." and she picked out four more pilots from amongst the poker players. "Okay, that'll do. You seven, come with me, everyone else, keep a glass of Blue Stuff on hold for me!!"
Drake, Ibero and Ladyfox walked onto the bridge of the Joan d'Arc with a slight sense of awe. This was their first time on the bridge, and in Drake's case, the first time on the bridge of any star ship. The low hum of the ship combined with the different beeps, whistles and whines of various communication and navigation equipment to create a wall of background noise as the three pilots trailed Shok'wave and their four comrades.
"Captain, I'd like to introduce you to our two newest pilots - I believe you already know Flight Officer Pozo," Shok'wave said as the three caught up to her talking to the Captain of the Joan d'Arc. "The others are Flight Officers Sutherland and Esposito." The three pilots, now dressed in uniform to meet the Captain, all snapped salutes at him. The senior officer returned the salutes with just the faintest hint of a smile.
"Welcome aboard, Flight Officers," he said. "I'm sure you'll do well here. Now, to business." He picked up a small pointer and used it as he conducted the briefing on one of the lighted data screens.
"We'll be dispatching two starfighter patrols - each consisting of two A-Wings and two B-Wings, to patrol a neighbouring system. However, this will be no ordinary patrol. I'm not exactly sure what we're after yet," here the Captain frowned, "because obviously the High Command has decided that that information is on a need-to-know basis, and I don't need to know. However, I do know that what you might be looking for is a shuttle, or other small transport ship. To be honest with you, I don't even know why you're looking for such a vessel. If you do spot any, though, you're to disable it and wait until we can capture it. " Drake, Shok'wave and Vyper all frowned.
"With all due respect, Captain," Shok'wave began, "that's a pretty sketchy mission statement. Perhaps...." The captain cut her off gruffly.
"Sorry, Commander, I wish I could give you and your people more, but that's all they've told me." he growled. "Admiral Ackbar himself is personally taking charge of this one. It appears to be quite important, so I expect you won't let us down."
"No, sir," Shok'wave said, and saluted the Captain, who nodded curtly to dismiss the pilots before returning to his command chair.
As they walked off the bridge, Ladyfox muttered indignantly, "Well, that was great! We go and fly a mission where we might run into something that could possibly be useful and...."
"Oh, come now," Drake interrupted reproachfully. "Didn't you just say you couldn't wait to fly missions?" He ducked to avoid Ladyfox's playful punch.
"Just keep his A-Wing
outta my way," she said to Ibero with mock severity.
[Just outside the Alliance Frigate Joan d'Arc]
"Lead, this is Three," Vyper's voice came through clearly on the comm. "We're making the jump to hyperspace now."
"I copy, Three...good luck, Vyper." Shok'wave acknowledged the report over the radio and Vyper's patrol quickly vanished into hyperspace.
"Now, pilots," Shok'wave said over the radio. "Stick close to me... we have to be prepared to meet anything here. Drake, if we run into any trouble, you and Ibero can take any TIEs that bother us - Ladyfox, you and I will take any larger ships or slower fighters, such as Gunboats. Understood?" The three pilots all voiced their acknowledgement.
"Joan d'Arc, this is White Leader...we're going to lightspeed now. Whites, prepare to enter hyperspace on my mark... three...two...one...mark!" The stars elongated into streaks as the ships hurtled forward into hyperspace.
Drake quickly glanced around his cockpit once again. It was nice to have the full circular vision an A-Wing provided, he mused, but even with that he still didn't like quiet patrols. The only ships to be seen were the two B-Wings on his right, and then, further out and to the right of them, Ibero's A-Wing. Drake glanced down at his radar, at the three green dots that represented his comrades' ships and at the single white blip that showed where the nav buoy was. The patrol was flying a lazy circle around the buoy, hoping that some Imperial ships would show soon before they returned to the Joan d'Arc. Finally, the comm crackled to life and Shok'wave's voice filtered through:
"Pilots, it's about time that we..."
"Lead, this is Eight! I've got multiple Imperials exiting hyperspace, bearing one four zero mark one two! " Ladyfox's voice had risen an octave, the excitement showing in her voice.
"Lead, this is Five...confirming five shuttles and four TIE escorts. Permission to engage the escorts?"
"Affirmative, Five. You and Nine go get 'em. Eight, you're with me. Let's ID those shuttles!"
"I copy, Lead," Ladyfox acknowledged.
"As ordered, Lead." Drake's A-Wing dove sharply and swung back on itself to streak back in the opposite direction. Ibero was close behind as the larger, slower B-Wings began to turn.
"Lock S-foils in attack positions," Shok'wave ordered.
Drake, sitting in his cockpit, grinned to himself. His right hand hovered over the non-existent S-foil lever. "I'm flying an A-Wing now," he reminded himself. "Oh well, one less lever to worry about." He redirected energy from his engines to his lasers and felt the A-Wing decrease in speed. It would still be more than a match for any TIE fighters, however. Finally, Drake switched his lasers over to dual fire mode.
Meanwhile, the two B-Wings' S-foils swung outward into the normal upside down sword shape and Shok'wave's voice again came on the comm:
"Eight, this is Lead. I'll try and ID Lambdas One and Two on the first pass...you go for Four and Five...then we'll come back around for number Three."
"Nine, this is Five. I have Alpha One tagged and ready to go... you right for a target?"
"Roger, Five," Ibero replied. "Nine has taken Alpha Three."
"Okay, Ibero, let's go!"
The two A-Wings swerved further apart from each other, Drake's to the right and Ibero's to the left. Drake watched the tiny shape of the TIE Fighter grow larger as the targeting reticle went green. He fired twice as the TIE Fighter began to fire, and then dived. A few green laser bolts splashed against his forward shields, but did him no serious damage. The computer beeped as it informed him of the TIE's destruction. Drake glanced left just in time to see Ibero whip around behind a TIE and empty fire into it at close range. The Imperial craft blew apart in a spectacular explosion which Ibero flew straight through before whooping a victory cry over the comm.
"Yeah, good shot, Nine!" Drake cried enthusiastically as his gloved fingers found the button and selected the next TIE.
"Thank you, Five," Ibero replied. "And to you also."
"Too easy..." Ladyfox commented as the B-Wings slowed to two-thirds speed behind the shuttle group. "Four TIE escorts? You've gotta be kidding! Whatever these shuttles are carrying, it can't be that important."
"Or maybe that's what we're meant to think," Shok'wave suggested as they swooped underneath the shuttles and she hurriedly targeted the next shuttle while it was still within target range. The information flashed across her screen...the two shuttles she had identified were carrying technical supplies...
"Lead, this is Eight! Lambda Four is carrying some sort of coded documents!!!"
Before Shok'wave could reply, there was a crunch as half her aft shields disappeared. She slammed the stick forward and the B-Wing dove steeply, with Ladyfox close behind. Behind her, she saw the dots on her radar scatter as the shuttle group broke formation.
"Armed shuttles!" Ladyfox breathed.
"Yes...they gave me a nasty shock," Shok'wave agreed. "Eight, don't, I repeat, _do not_ destroy them - disable them instead. Use a single torpedo on each if you want to speed the process up, but I have a feeling we'll need them all intact. Oh, and leave Lambda Four to me."
"I copy, Lead." Ladyfox's B-Wing looped up and out of sight, on the tail of a shuttle.
Shok'wave had tagged Lambda Four, but now she selected another shuttle - if she did disable the fourth shuttle, the Imperials might decide that whatever it was carrying was too important and destroy it. Also, she didn't want Alliance capture transports running around in the middle of a dogfight. She flicked the fire selector over to triple fire, and started firing bursts at the aft of the shuttle in front of her. The next moment she was forced to bank as another shuttle fired on her from behind.
The computer beeped its repetitious tone and the reticle flashed yellow as Drake twisted and turned to stay with his TIE, trying to get a missile lock. Ibero flashed by on the other side of the TIE, and it straightened out to fire a burst at him. That was all Drake needed. The tone became a solid whine and the reticle went red. Drake thumbed the firing button and a concussion missile burst out on a tongue of orange flame. The TIE started to pull up, but too slowly, and the missile crashed into it from the back, its warhead splitting the smaller craft apart and leaving one of the solar panel wings to drift slowly in space.
Ladyfox gritted her teeth as the computer whined the fact that it had acquired a torpedo lock. She pushed the firing button and a blue proton torpedo streaked away, straight into the shuttle in front of her. The computer immediately reported that its shields had gone down, so Ladyfox switched the selector over to ion cannons and began to fire at the shuttle. The blue bolts thudded into the enemy ship and raced along its hull, causing fiery sparks and mini-explosions. The shuttle sat dead in space.
"Lead, this is Eight. Lambda Two disabled. "
"Good work, Eight. Go for Lambda Five next."
"Acknowledged, Lead. I'm on him."
Shok'wave's B-Wing flashed across Ladyfox's cockpit window as she yanked the stick around to get onto the shuttle's tail.
"Alpha Four destroyed!"
"Good work, Ibero!" Drake grinned and waved at Ibero as he fell into formation beside him.
"Lead, this is Five. All eyeballs have been destroyed. You need a hand with those shuttles?"
"Negative, Five, but thanks for the offer." Drake's grin grew wider. He and Ibero had done their part by themselves, now Shok'wave and Ladyfox were going to do theirs - without assistance.
"You can move in if you like, though - if Alliance transports show up, which I think they will, we'll need close cover."
"You stay out of my way, Drake!" Ladyfox added and Ibero laughed.
"Affirmative Lead, Eight....moving in and staying out of the way," Drake answered with a chuckle. The A-Wings came around slightly and flew towards the dueling B-Wings and shuttles.
Shortly after, Ladyfox and Shok'wave had disabled all five of the shuttles, and Shok'wave's voice cut in clearly on the comm:
"Joan d'Arc, this is White Leader. We have encountered a small convoy...five lambs and four eyeballs...eyeballs destroyed, lambs disabled. Awaiting further orders."
There was a pause, then:
"Copy, White Leader. Remain on station. We have three transports en route. They should be with you any moment. Provide close cover for their docking operation."
No sooner had the order been acknowledged than three transports appeared two kilometers away.
"White Leader, this is Alliance Transport Ferrett One," said a voice. "Thanks for the cover."
"No problem, Ferrett One," Shok'wave replied. "Just make it quick, okay?"
"Planning on it, White Leader."
The transports slowly approached the disabled shuttles, which were now strewn around a wide area. Inside his cockpit, Drake clenched his hands into fists and silently willed them to hurry. This was the worst part, he reflected. Waiting for the enemy to appear, thinking, worrying... at least after they showed up you didn't have to think what to do, or what might happen... you just engaged the enemy. Also, escort duty was the hardest... and most draining if you failed... type of mission. Failure meant that it had cost lives, and the responsibility for that lay on you. Drake's reverie was interrupted suddenly by a beep from his computer.
"Lead, I..." he began.
"Lead, incoming Imperials!" Ibero warned.
Shok'wave cut them off. "Okay, I see them. Eight, you and I will take out those Gunboats... also see if you can knock out one of the Corellian Corvettes. I'll take the other. Five, Nine... just wait for a..."
"Squints! Two flight groups, three ships each, bearing three one five mark zero and zero four five mark one three," Drake reported. "Nine, you take the guys on the right, I'll take the ones on the left, okay?"
"Affirmative, Five, engaging..." Ibero's A-Wing peeled off and raced toward the starboard Imperial Corvette, and Drake's headed off to the left.
Unfortunately, Shok'wave was not having an easy time.
"Lead, I can't get a clear run at the Corvette to get a lock," Ladyfox reported over the comm, sounding frustrated. "I've got three Gunboats on me, all of them trying to fire missiles at me...as it is, I've got to take missile hits in order to fly straight long enough to get kills."
"Copy, Eight... I know what you mean... just do your best. At least while they're concentrating on us, the Imps are leaving those transports alone." The White CO pulled her B-Wing up in a climb to avoid the green laser bolts which groped like fingers for her ship. An Assault Gunboat sailed across beneath her and she snapped the B-Wing down onto its tail, firing triple laser bursts into its exposed aft section.
Reminding himself that he was not in an X-, B- or even Y-wing, Drake quickly decided to avoid a head-on shootout with the three TIE Interceptors that roared towards him. Instead, he held his course straight at them until just out of laser range, then temporarily redirected energy from the shields to the engines, giving the A-Wing a burst of speed as he stomped on the left rudder pedal. The A-Wing smoothly accelerated and slewed to the left as the three TIEs began firing and green laser bolts sizzled past the A-Wing's cockpit. Drake whizzed past the Imperials so close that he could hear the roar of the Twin Ion Engines that gave the craft their name. Instantly, they broke formation and he redirected energy back into his shield system. Designating the nearest enemy target, Drake sat forward in his seat and gripped the stick.
The fight was not going well for the White Squadron pilots. The TIE Interceptors and Assault Gunboats had managed to herd the Whites (whom they far outnumbered) towards the stationary shuttles and docked transports. Even now, they were getting dangerously close to laser range for the transports...
"Whites, they're almost in range! The transports still haven't finished docking..."
Even as Shok'wave said it, the transport Ferrett Three streaked away into lightspeed, closely followed by the newly captured and repaired Lambda Five.
"That's it, the other two still have to get away though," Ladyfox remarked.
"Lead, this is Five," Drake's voice was calm, but he sounded out of breath or distracted. "We're flying almost totally defensive here... my missile lock warning light is so bright I could just about read a holonovel here in the cockpit."
"Well, do the best you can, Five, because... "
"Lead! New ships arriving!" Ibero reported.
"What now?!" Ladyfox asked, exasperated.
"It's Vyper! I don't believe it! Bring on the cavalry!" Drake laughed.
"Lead, this is Three...thought you guys could use a hand," Vyper's voice on the comm sounded just a tiny bit smug.
"Cut the chatter, Three, and let's see some action," Shok'wave retorted, but the ambient laughter in her voice could not be mistaken. "I'm going after that port Corvette... Eight, I believe the other one's yours."
The battle after that was short. Both of the Imperial Corellian Corvettes were destroyed, all TIE Interceptors and Gunboats were destroyed, and all the shuttles and transports made it away safely. It was undoubtedly the arrival of Vyper's patrol arrival that had saved the day.
"Thanks, Three," Drake said just before they went to hyperspace home. "Things were getting a little hot back there."
"Anytime, Five," Vyper replied coolly. "Anything we can do for you... and the next round of Blue Stuff is your shout... although I prefer a nice schnapps myself."
"Typical, I always
get helped out by the person with the most expensive tastes," Drake grumbled
with good humor as the eight ships rocketed forward into hyperspace.
[On board the Imperial Star Destroyer Inexorable]
The darkened dimness of the room, combined with the soft, constant hum, was enough to put anyone who was tired enough and waited long enough to sleep, the man thought. In fact, the man wearing the uniform of an Imperial Navy Captain was tired enough and had been waiting long enough, but he was no where near sleeping. On the contrary, he was only barely suppressing the urge to fidget nervously - and he never fidgeted. It was due entirely, he knew, to the man he was about to see. Meetings with this man always instilled a kind of expectant fear and awe in him, and an uncertainty of what was about to happen. Again he went over the details of his last mission in his mind, trying to analyse objectively what he might have done inefficiently or wrong, but he came up blank. Of course, there was usually some fault to be found...
The man's reverie was interrupted as the door hissed open. The sound of uniform boots clicking on the floor seemed to echo in his mind, and he shot to his feet as the visitor walked in. The visitor wore knee-high polished black boots, and his white uniform bore many decorations as well as gold braid on the shoulders. His face was a cold, calculating blue color, and his eyes were a malevolent red by contrast. They narrowed as they looked at the standing man, who saluted.
"At ease, Captain," the deep voice rumbled. The Captain relaxed. "Sit down." The order was spoken simply, without mention of manners or any other unnecessary niceties, and the Captain sat. The visitor looked down at him.
"Your performance on your last assignment was impressive," he noted.
The man blinked rapidly to cover his surprise. He had never been complimented on his work... it was always "adequate", or "satisfactory". But now, "impressive"!
"Thank you, Grand Admiral Thrawn," he said. "I am honored to serve, sir."
The Grand Admiral nodded curtly. "I'm sure you are, Captain," he agreed. "Now, you have shown yourself to be reasonably competent at the simple tasks I have so far assigned you... "
The Captain frowned, somewhat perturbed at this remark. The last few assignments had been anything but simple. The first had been a crackdown on a major smuggling ring, in which he had almost lost his ship and his life. He stared as the Grand Admiral continued.
"Now, however, I have a real mission to test your mettle." The senior officer threw a datapad down onto the table. "That," he informed the Captain, "is it... the destruction of a thorn in the Empire's side." He began to pace around the small room, walking around it slowly. "Hampering our continued success are the Rebel starfighter squadrons, which, although clearly not as large or as skilled as many of our own pilots, are admittedly largely equipped with better technology. Our TIE starfighters, with the exception of the TIE Advanced and perhaps the Assault Gunboat, are no match for their snubfighters." The Grand Admiral's eyes narrowed and he frowned. "We are losing capital ships to starfighter attacks at a disturbing rate. Even with the redesign and upgrade of our Imperial Class Star Destroyers to eradicate their previous weakness, the Rebels still manage to destroy many of our vessels. Their B-Wing fighters, especially, are dangerous. Your job, Captain, is to eliminate one of these squadrons, a particularly troublesome one. Have you heard of White Squadron?"
The captain considered briefly, then shook his head. "No, sir."
The Grand Admiral's frown deepened. "No, I should not have expected so," he mused.
The captain looked up sharply, but the admiral seemed to be thinking, and spoke without rancor.
"It is of little concern," Thrawn continued. "They were once called Praying Mantis Squadron... they have recently been re-organized into White Squadron."
"Ahh, yes sir... I have heard of the Mantis Squadron," the Captain nodded.
"Good. In any case, they contain many dangerous elements." the Grand Admiral continued, increasing his pacing as he spoke. "Their commander is said to be some sort of Force-sensitive. They also have an outlawed security officer, an escaped Imperial prisoner who was the slave of one of our officers, the daughter of an Imperial general (according to rumor,) and one of our own traitors, a renegade Imperial pilot! These are just a few of the insurgents in this group. All members of the squadron are highly skilled pilots, in addition to whatever other skills they might have. You can see, Captain, why they present such a threat to us."
"Your mission, as I have said, is to eliminate them. They are based on board the Alliance Nebulon B Frigate Joan d'Arc. Her captain is a worthy and dangerous adversary, and a Nebulon-B Frigate under his command is just as dangerous as the pilots themselves. To accomplish your mission, you will be given command of the Imperial Star Destroyer Providence and its task group. Beyond that, the details of your assignment are up to you, Captain Piett. You may use whatever means necessary to ensure the Rebels' destruction."
"Understood, sir." Captain Piett replied, and nodded. Grand Admiral Thrawn's eyes narrowed and he leaned forward, placing blue knuckles on the table.
"Good, Captain. Perhaps if you acquit yourself well, you will one day be given the ultimate honor... the command of a Super Star Destroyer. After all, it seems to run in your family, doesn't it?" Thrawn smiled, but Captain Piett did not think it was a nice smile. It was a predatorial smile, he thought - all teeth - and Thrawn's eyes seemed narrowed with hidden malice, their red glow deepening just a little. "It is a shame about what happened to your father... he was a good officer and a hero of the Empire," the Grand Admiral continued, almost as if he were reciting a history holo. His voice seemed to contain nothing but the greatest respect for the Admiral Piett he spoke of, but the Captain thought he caught a slight mocking inflection in his superior officer's tone. "A favorite of Lord Vader, too! Such a tragedy for the Empire... as was the loss of the Executor."
"Indeed, sir." Captain Piett, son of the famous Admiral Piett that died during the Battle of Endor, replied coldly.
"Very well, then Captain," Grand Admiral Thrawn said, taking his knuckles off the table and drawing himself up to his full imposing height, "You are dismissed. A shuttle is waiting to take you to your new command." Captain Piett stood and saluted crisply. The Grand Admiral returned the salute and Piett marched out.
When he was gone, Thrawn glanced out the window at the stars and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. What Piett didn't know was that he - Grand Admiral Thrawn - actually liked him. His father, Admiral Piett, really had been a good officer, in Thrawn's opinion. What happened to him was the result of pure Rebel luck... and perhaps also the ever mysterious Force, which Thrawn, unlike that traitor Zaarin, had a healthy respect for. Still, Thrawn liked to prod the younger Piett, to test the son's endurances. So far, the young man had done well, both in his dealings with senior officers like Thrawn and in his missions and commands, which left not his tactical skills to test, but his personal qualities. The young Piett had risen up the chain of command even faster than his father, who was catapulted to an Admiral's rank and position by Vader himself. Grand Admiral Thrawn smiled to himself. Yes, assigning Piett this mission was exactly the thing to do. White Squadron was going to be in for a very tough time, and while they were thus occupied, Thrawn had other matters to attend to.