The two A-Wings were flying at low speed, keeping in formation with a Rebel Alliance's Nebulon B Frigate, not at a very large distance. There were no other ships in the proximity and only the navigation lights of the Frigate blinking against the blackness of space could give a sensation of movement, that time was not standing still. A beautiful winged horse painted on the Frigate's hull identified it as the Joan d'Arc, home of White Squadron.
The A-Wing pilots were Whites 4 and 11, Peter "Iceman" Kovessy and Owen "Granite" Stone.
"I hate escort and reconnaissance missions." Granite said using the intercom. "It's more boring than a guided tour on Tatooine!"
"Do you really?" Iceman questioned as he started to laugh. "I thought you loved it..."
"Why do you suppose that?"
"Because every time Shok'wave needs someone for one of these missions, everybody can hear you whispering that you hate escort and reconnaissance missions and immediately you are assigned for the next flight."
"Yes," Granite said laughing too, "you caught me. I don't like these missions that much, but I do prefer the real thing, do you know what I mean? Even the top of the boring flights rather than the best that the simulator can offer!"
"I see your point, but today it would have been funny. Moose is almost finishing the basic training with a group of recruits. Right now is when they are full of confidence, believing they are able to shoot down entire squadrons of TIE Fighters. Moose had wanted some of us to join them in the simulator without previous warning, but flying on the Imperial side..."
"Ouch, I didn't know anything about that!" protested Granite. "It would be great, just kicking some youngsters' butts, and then see their faces when they get out of the simulator...!"
"Too late, Granite! Foxfire, Vyper and Shok'wave are having aaaaall the fun right now!"
"How I hate escort and reconnaissance missions!"
It took some moments before Iceman could stop laughing, while Granite's groans and colorful curses filled the intercom. Iceman sighed and decided that he had to say something to cheer up his squad mate.
pal. I'm sure that in some part of the galaxy, not far from here, something
is happening, something that will end the boredom..."
[In some part of the galaxy, not far from there...]
"Where is the next jump carrying us?"
"Hmmmm, let me see... Yavin system, it seems. Ah, yes, I remember, hehehe. From there to Corellia there will be only two more jumps. It's far from the usual routes, but the alternatives had very high traffic and we would probably have to wait a while at one or two points for clearance. Before you start to complain, you must know that I've been working hard with the computer looking for a non-commercial path."
"Non-commercial." The co-pilot repeated arching an eyebrow.
"Yes, that's what I've said, and I'm really proud of my shortcut."
The two men were chatting in the cockpit of the tiny yacht Little Laura, while preparing for their hyperspace jump. They were in the beginning of a short holiday, a little tour across the three worlds of Corellia.
"Hmmm, did you just say Yavin?" the co-pilot asked. "Isn't that the place where the Rebels beat the Imperials some time ago?"
"You and your Rebels." The pilot said. "The Empire has never recognized such a battle, and all the story could only be part of the Rebel's propaganda, trying to make a few dumbies like you join his cause."
Dario, the co-pilot, smiled, but he didn't really want to leave things like that between them.
"Tah-tah-tah. So are you saying that Imperial citizens are smart people because they believe all the Empire tell them and that doesn't cause any problems?" Edu, the pilot, tried to reply, but Dario didn't give him the chance. "The Empire has a propaganda department too, you know. An entire ministry, actually. If there had been a battle lost against the Rebels, do you think that they would have announced it like it was the weather news? "Good night, citizens of the Empire. Tomorrow it will rain over sectors B1 and B2 of Imperial Center. The Rebel scum has beaten the glorious Imperial Navy today in a remote place called Yavin or something. Sunny day in ..."
"Ok, ok, you win" Edu interrupted. "I admit that the Empire probably would hide news like that, but..."
"... Surely, all right, but it doesn't mean that the rumor about that Rebel victory is true. And be quiet for just a minute or we'll miss the point to make the jump!"
Edu waited until the yellow light on the panel moved to green and then pushed the hyperspace motivator lever. Just when the stars became lines of light, Dario attacked again.
"So, what do you say about the Empire destroying Alderaan with it's Death Star?"
"The Death Star?" Edu laughed. "Do you believe that story about a giant space battle station, capable of destroying entire planets?"
"Well, if that is Rebel propaganda too," Dario replied as he tried to imitate Edu's voice, "How do you explain such a disaster?"
"Didn't you look at the reports? The media was full of them for several months. They stated that Alderaan's core was unstable and it was a question of time that a chain of earthquakes started sooner or later, blowing away the whole planet. The scientists had been warning them about that for years!"
"Are you sure about that? I can't remember any of those reports before the destruction of Alderaan."
"Well, I can't either" Edu said thoughtfully, "but nobody attends such reports when nothing has happened yet." Edu finished sarcastically.
"That's not what the Alderaanians we both know say. None of them..." Dario didn't finish his sentence. He realized that he was about to get angry again, and Edu didn't deserve to be the target of his rage, not even when he spoke as a jerk.
"Hey, don't misunderstand me." Edu said peacefully. "I don't like the Empire, you can believe that!" Edu added noticing the Dario's change of expression. "I know it must be hard for you to go so long without seeing your wife."
Ten months ago, Imperial troops had taken the city of Lorance, in the planet Iberya, where Dario and his wife Marife lived. The only explanation given by the Imperial commander was that there was a Rebel group hidden there. Following orders from the Moff of the sector, the access to Lorance had been seriously restricted, and the exit practically forbidden until the Rebels were found. The result was that the town had been kept in almost complete isolation from the external world since then. The day of the assault, Dario was out of the city assisting with Edu to a computer science conference. The two men had been working together for several years as software engineers in an important telecommunications company, where they had became great friends. Two months before the assault, Edu had moved to a different company out of the city, taking his family with him. That had saved them from suffering the same destiny than their friends. When the first news about what was happening in Lorance reached them, Dario decided to return immediately and Edu offered to drive him home. At five kilometers of Lorance, Edu had to park the rented aero-speeder out of the route, completely saturated. Thousands of people were trying to return to the town, but they were being systematically rejected by the stormtroopers controlling all the accesses. As many others did, the two men walked until the Imperial control, where Dario tried uselessly to be allowed to continue. He complained, menaced and yelled, but the most he got was to be knocked out by the carbine of a stormtrooper, who immediately trained it at him. Edu watched horrified the whole scene. He ran to lift Dario from the ground, and he had to bribe the soldiers before. Finally they allowed to leave, carrying the unconscious Dario all the way back to the place where they had left the aero-speeder. When Dario recovered conscience, he was in Edu's home, thirty kilometers away from Lorance. Immediately, he tried to call Marife, but all non-military communications had been interrupted. He couldn't find out not even if she was alive or not.
"It's not your fault, Edu." Dario said as remembrances made his anger turn into sadness. "You know how much I appreciate all that you and your wife are doing for me."
"Bah, its nothing at all, you would do the same for me." Edu put a hand on Dario's shoulder. "Hey, wipe that expression from your face, we're on vacation, remember?"
"Yes, I suppose." Edu stared at him in silence for some instants and then returned his attention to the ship's controls, although there was nothing to do now. He knew that Dario would be fine in some minutes, or that he would appear from outside. He wondered how he was able to resist it. Honestly, Edu thought that in his friend's place, he would have become crazy ever since the first minute. Iberya had never had problems with the Empire until now, at least not this serious, but there was no point in keeping pretending there was nothing wrong with it. Edu didn't fool himself, this was the same they had made in a thousand places. First, they sent troops with any excuse, troops that supposedly wouldn't stay for too long, only while they were needed. But of course they never found the adequate moment to leave, not even when new "refreshment" troops arrived. The local army, if any, passed from the "ally" status to be forced to integrate into the Imperial forces, and then they were sent somewhere else, thousand of parsecs from home, where they would not cause any trouble. Edu knew all that as much as his friend, but he couldn't admit it in his presence. It was bad enough as it was. Dario had tried to enter Lorance again and again, taking new risks with every attempt. Last time he had almost bought it. The fresh scar on his neck showed the point where a laser bolt had partially touched him, but that wouldn't restrain him from trying again. Edu watched all that with growing concern, feeling himself impotent to help his friend. All that Edu could do was trying to prevent him from get himself killed, and that included to tell him all these stupidities every time he started to talk about Imperials and Rebels. If he lost the hope that things would ever recover something close to normality, he would find a fancy way to commit suicide, probably more sooner than later. But Edu didn't know how he was going to convince Dario when his own words sounded so false to himself. The Empire would never leave, and no one was going to help them. Nobody. The Rebellion can't do anything. Iberya is too close to Coruscant for them...
They traveled in silence until the alarm warned them that the ship was finishing the hyperspace jump. Edu turned the motivators off and they entered normal space. But they did it so briskly that both men felt smashed against their seat belts.
"Whoaaaaaaa!" Dario screamed. A red gassy giant completely filled the viewscreen. "You are such a fool, Edu! What kind of calculations have you made? We almost crash on that..., that... planet!"
"That is Yavin. I counted with its gravity well to take us out from hyperspace on the exact location." Edu explained very satisfied with Dario's reaction. Actually he was struggling to not laugh at him.
"You did what?" Dario turned to look at Edu as if strangling him was the next thing he was going to do.
"There are no
accurate cards of this system, so I calculated the best approximate coordinates,
and expected that the planet's gravity would made us drop on the exact
location. Now we'll use that same gravity to increase our speed. Three
quarters of an orbit around it, and we'll be shot directly towards our
next jump point,
"Yes, this is the Yavin system" Dario answered as he looked at the chart on the monitor, "and that red ball is the planet Yavin, but I still can't believe you are this crazy. You could have killed the two of us!"
Edu took the giggles, but recovered self-control quickly. "Not a chance, nothing as dangerous as the way you pilot. Just some smart navigation and a lot of technology. This little wonder is equipped with the last improvements in navigational computers. It can detect any gravity well in its route and makes the ship re-enter normal space automatically at a safe distance. Two years ago, only military ships had this kind of stuff."
Dario looked at the control panel with increasing respect. He knew such systems existed, but he ignored that they were available to public.
"You have spent a lot of money in this craft, have you?"
"I'll be paying to the bank for the next ten years, if that answers your question. But the Little Laura is worth the price, don't you think so?"
Dario shook his head. "I'd never be able to throw away that insane amount of credits, but I imagine you can feel as a god having your own space ship."
"Hehehe, sort of."
"Did Nuria agree with you to buy the ship?"
"Shhhhhhh, never mention it." Edu said suddenly serious. "She still thinks I've rented it for this trip. I don't know how I'm going to explain..."
Now it was Dario who laughed until it made him cough. "Ah, some times I think I don't know you at all... Don't worry, I'll let Nuria to discover the kind of fool she got married with by herself." He winked at Edu.
"Right, then." Edu returned the wink. "It will take the computer only two or three minutes to calculate the parameters for the next jump. It's your turn to pilot, so I'll have a little nap. Do you think that...?"
Edu didn't complete his question. The proximity alarm had started to sound and the two men looked at the viewscreen at the same time.
Something hit the little ship with an impressive noise, making more alarms come to life. The entire ship was trembling, continuously smashed by smaller objects.
"Turn those sirens off or we won't understand each other!" Dario screamed.
"Junk! The space is full of junk!" Edu exclaimed in disbelief while he disconnected some of the alarms. "Is there anyone cleaning up around here?"
"Look at that!" Dario said pointing to something that was passing in front of them. "Isn't that a solar panel from a TIE fighter?"
"Yes, it seems so." Edu said while maneuvering the ship trying not to collide into anything else. "Maybe there was a battle here after all. Oh, shit..."
Pieces of junk and debris filled the space around the Little Laura. Edu needed all his skill to evade all of the fragments and exit successfully out of the dangerous cloud of debris. If they had appeared closer to Yavin it would have been impossible. The sensors warned that the fragments were more numerous and greater there. Dario asked the computer for a damage report, while sweat started to run down his forehead, as always happened when he got nervous.
"Fantastic. Several hull damages and the communications antenna has disappeared" Dario read. "The computer says that it's not safe to jump to hyperspace with the hull in that shape."
"Not safe? You know what that means?" Edu asked with a note of fear in his voice. "If we can't jump to hyperspace and we can't communicate to ask for help..."
"Don't lose our nerves, Edu. Let's try to find a place to land and we'll try to make some repairs." Dario didn't say what he was thinking, repairs, with what?
"Repairs, with what?" Edu asked.
"One problem at a time, please! I hate telepathy! Look at this!" Dario pointed to the report on the monitor. "That moon, Yavin IV, shows a more than acceptable readings for atmosphere, temperature, vegetation and water. It looks like a real paradise in the tropics..."
"It will be better
than space. Ok, Yavin IV then."
Amongst the spatial
junk near Yavin nearly all small objects were undetectable. A small Imperial
satellite blended in with the rest of the debris orbiting the giant red
planet. But something had caught its attention and its programming decided
that it was important enough to send a message to certain unknown coordinates.
[On board the Victory II Class Star Destroyer Gray Wolf]
One of the communications officer saw the signal indicating a new long-range message had just arrived. He checked it and executed the correct decoder routine to obtain the real information from the unmeaningful sequence of signals. Within a matter of seconds he was reading the original report and calling his higher official over.
you better take a look at this."
Some minutes later,
Commander Bail Guindamonn, the Captain of the Gray Wolf, received
the report from his second in command, Captain Zelia. He didn't look at
his subordinate, who patiently stood escorted by an stormtrooper until
Guindamonn decided to talk.
"It would mean one of three things, sir." Zelia had his answer prepared. "First, it could be smugglers looking for something valuable amongst the debris of the Rebel base."
"Possible, but not a great chance. The Empire has kept all the data about that base as secret as possible. Even with the Rebel attempts to make the story public about the battle of Yavin, not a single smuggler has been detected in the zone in the last two years. They must think that if there were something interesting there, someone would have already removed it. Please continue."
"Second, someone has suffered an accident and has landed in Yavin IV just by luck. There is a great amount of junk floating there and a ship navigating across Yavin system could receive some damage from that."
"I'm not a man to believe in accidents, Captain. Yavin is not a highly frequented system. We might say it's not frequented at all. I would accept it as chance, though. One very remote chance. Your last idea?"
"Third, the Rebels are interested in something that they left on that base." Captain Zelia said very satisfied with himself."
"No, Captain." The smile disappeared from Captain Zelia's face. "There is nothing in that base they could miss. Our troops investigated even under the stones. But they are Rebels, of course."
Captain Zelia said nothing. He was just looking at Commander Guindamonn trying not to seem as confounded as he felt. After almost a minute, Guindamonn continued talking.
"We have been chasing the Rebels without pause after the battle of Hoth and they must be crazy looking for a permanent base where we are unable to find them." he grinned and continued. "There is no such place." He turned to look at his subordinate. "But they can think that we won't look in a location where they had been before. A place from where we had already thrown them out of. This is the reason because we have hidden satellites in Dantooine, Yavin and Hoth, for example. Of course, they are not such fools to go to one of those places and bring all their forces there without a previous inspection. Before that, they would have to explore the site. Make certain that we had not left any traps behind and that there is not Imperial activity around it."
"And there are no traps?"
"No." Guindamonn smiled again. "Lord Vader ordered to analyze every piece of information we could obtain from the base. However, they were ordered not to destroy completely the facilities, as it unfortunately happened at Derra IV, and not to leave any traps behind. The Rebels will think that we won't believe them so foolish to return to one of their old bases, and that is precisely what Lord Vader expects them to do."
"Shall we prepare to go capture them, sir?"
"No, Captain, not yet. We must finish our present mission first, but it will take us only two or three weeks. We'll go then. Let's allow that their confidence grow. If we go now, we would obtain a little fish, but if we are patient enough, we can get the first prize."
"Then, we must inform the High Command of... "
"Wrong again, Captain!" Guindamonn hit his deck with a fist. "If there is something important there we don't want someone else taking the glory of discovery, do we?"
"No, sir. I agree with you." the Captain lied.
"We will inform, of course," Guindamonn said recovering his calm, "but we must be the first ship arriving and the first to kill some Rebels. Is that clear enough, Captain?"
Captain Zelia saluted
and left that part of the bridge. Commander Guindamonn turned again towards
the external viewscreens, looking at the stars with a confident smile.
What an unexpected luck! Who would have imagined? If I use adequately
this opportunity, I'll be commanding an Imperial Class very soon.
[Undetermined spot, some parsecs away from the Gray Wolf]
The Rebel Corvette Curious Cat was flying silently in the deep space, far from any star system, with minimal use of its engines. It showed no navigation lights, just a shadow with no external signs of life. But inside its hull, the blockade runner was full of activity. The ship belonged to the Rebel Alliance's Intelligence Services. The operator, a white furred Bothan, called his higher officer with a wave of his hand.
"Lieutenant Dey'jeaa, look at this, please." The Lieutenant, a Bothan too, as most of the crew, looked seriously into the monitor. The report came from an Imperial satellite detached in the Yavin system. Lieutenant Dey'jeaa nodded thoughtfully, recognizing the satellite identification. It was part of a series secretly manipulated by a Rebel programmer, infiltrated in the factory of Andrellia. The handful of instructions he has managed to slice into the transmission protocols' code caused that all the messages were sent twice, one to the Imperial receivers and the other to the Rebel ones. The security department of Andrellia's facilities only ran a full test over a twenty percent of the finished satellites and the programmer was part of the team that performed the check-outs. The man was very careful to alter only the ones that he was sure that nobody else would check again later. Even with those cautions he was taking a high risk, so he was not in that job for long. Dey'jeaa had learnt that the spy, with General Madine's blessings, had accepted a change of destiny when he was suggested to by his supervisors. New devices wouldn't be hacked any more, at least while other code slicers couldn't be introduced in the assembly lines by the Alliance, but some of those reprogrammed kept providing their Intelligence officers with valuable data from time to time. The Yavin's satellite was two years old. Until now, it had showed very low activity.
"A small ship lands near our old base in Yavin," Dey'jeaa said almost talking to himself, "and nobody has gone to investigate it as of now. Hmmmm... How old is this report?"
"We received it three hours ago. I've been expecting an Imperial ship to go take a look, but there has been no one so far."
"Keep a close eye on that monitor. I want to know immediately if anybody arrives there within the next twenty hours. Transmit these instructions to the next shift."
"Yes, sir. What do you think about this, sir? "
"Hmmm, the Empire
uses to be very careful with the reports from its spy satellites. Its
very strange that they don't send a ship to investigate that landing.
They have enough ships to spare with missions like that, unlike us. I
can find only one explanation. That ship is Imperial, although it sends
a neutral code. That makes me wonder why the Empire is interested again
in our base in Yavin. Maybe they are so desperate looking for us that
they are trying to find some clue that they could have missed after we
evacuated the base. It will be better to be alert to anything that satellite
could say. And I'll warn Captain Gen'yaa. If we're traced back we'll be
in serious trouble."
[Entering the deserted Rebel base in the Yavin system]
"It was real luck that we found this place, don't you think so?" Dario commented.
"Yes, there's no doubt." Edu answered distractedly, while the two men looked around. They were inside a great stone building, and it was evident that it had been a base for someone in the past, but it had been abandoned in a hurry. With the dim light that entered from the exterior, they could see equipment and tools forgotten in several places.
"Land the ship here, Edu. At least it will be safe from the weather. With so much vegetation, it must rain very often here."
"You are right. While I do that, try to find something as a means of light or we won't be able to do that much here."
Edu left towards the ship while Dario used the small lantern he had took from the Little Laura to inspect the huge hangar. There were a couple of stairs to climb into the ships abandoned on the floor, containers of different sizes, rolls of cable, flexible pipes to refuel the ships, some machinery and many other items. On top of everything was a great amount of dust.
If this was an Imperial base we could be in a lot of trouble! Dario thought feeling a chill. The place was too big for a real inspection with just a lantern and Dario wondered if they could find a generator in some of those containers before the lantern batteries died. He saw a lateral exit that seemed to go to another hangar and decided to try it. Local spiders had made a good work filling the corridor with its webs. Struggling against the bothersome meshes, Dario was about to give up when he noticed some light in front. He turned the lantern off and stepped forward. If there was a place with natural light the best was to search there first. Fifty meters beyond, the corridor ended in another chamber with the walls and a good portion of the floor covered by the exotic vegetation. Dario looked around stunned. Now he knew who had been the last owner of this place. He heard an engine noise at his back and went back towards the hangar. The forward lights of Little Laura allowed him to see a bit better.
"Keep the lights on a few minutes, Edu!" Dario shouted while walking towards the ship. "It's our only chance to find something here!"
"Ok, but we better hurry. If we use the accumulated energy from the ship we will soon run out!" Edu explained. "Hey, where had you been? You looks like if you had just escaped from the spiders queen's lunch!"
"Sort of." Dario started to remove pieces of web from his clothes, although the worst of it was on his hair. "I already know who has been here, Edu." He said while they walked to inspect the nearest container.
"The Rebels!" Dario exclaimed very excited. "I've found another chamber and it's full of decorations and the remainings of certain flags... The Rebel Alliance flags! They must have had some type of celebration just before abandoning this place."
Edu remembered the conversation on board the Little Laura and couldn't help but smile.
"I must admit that it seems you were right." Edu said, but before Dario could say anything, he continued. "But if we can't find an energy generator we are trapped here."
"Don't worry Edu, the next container will be the right one!" They moved towards another group of containers. The first crates had been empty, but none of them wanted to abandon before checking up all of them.
"There he goes, Optimistic Man in person. Nice to see you back." Edu chuckled. He looked back towards the entrance and the jungle behind. Things didn't look too well, although he didn't want to give up without trying all their chances. The rear part of the Little Laura was brightening under the light entering from outside. Too bad nobody had thought about making some windows in this place. His eye caught a new reflect from the ship's hull. Edu stopped searching in the containers, something important was running through his mind.
"Come on Edu, help me open this one!"
"Wait a minute, Dario."
"This place is really huge."
"Yes, I think so." Dario said impatiently.
"I've been looking out there and I haven't seen anything indicating the presence of a big energy generator some time in the past, but there must have been something to illuminate this place."
"Just because you haven't seen anything doesn't mean that much. With this vegetation things could be well covered by now." Dario argued.
"Yes, but... even with all the rain we suppose, all this vegetation would never grow up without a lot of light."
"Perfect for our vacation. We can have sun baths and..." Dario forgot the container he was trying to force open and looked at his friend. "Are you talking of solar energy?
"Yes! They could have installed thousands of solar cells all around and over this building and many of them could be working right now!"
"If that was true, there must be a place from where they controlled the conversion to electricity. If we can find it..." Dario left the rest on the air and started to look around. Almost immediately, he felt Edu's hand on his shoulder.
"What do you think about that?" Edu asked pointing at a cabin near the cell, accessible with metallic stairs and now visible with the lights of Little Laura.
"That we've got to climb up there right now!"
The control panels had been covered with protective plastic. Dario thought that someone had took very seriously his work, considering that if they had evacuated the base, as it seemed obvious, the hope to recover any of that equipment was all but remote. But thank you, whoever you were! Edu and him took some minutes to guess how to use a good portion of the controls. They had designed software for facilities like that in the past, and had helped to install them on the client side, so nothing was entirely strange for them.
"That button." Edu said.
"What? Ah, yes... The one labeled power?"
"Good thinking. I see that you have not forgotten all I have taught you."
"Eh! You teaching me?"
"Could you close your mouth and push the button, please?" Edu demanded. He was trying to keep his sense of humor, but the truth was that he was too nervous to push the button himself.
"Here I go..." Dario said whispering, but his finger stopped a centimeter over the button.
"What if something explodes?" He asked. "This could be a trap..."
"All right, all right, you joker, I'll do it!" Edu pushed Dario away from the console, what didn't take a great effort for him, being considerably stronger than his friend. He smashed the button with his open palm.
"Perhaps if you try again..." Dario suggested.
"Shhh, shut up. Don't you hear anything?"
"Like a buzzing?"
"Yes, growing louder every moment... Look!"
With jumps of joy they saw how many lights started to illuminate the hangar and some of the instruments in the control cabin came to life. They discovered that a good portion of the equipment still worked. Now they could watch better what resulted to be an immense hangar. The disorder was terrible. The crates they had been opening were just a part of what could be found all over the place. The final moments of the installations could be easily guessed. The quick and hasty evacuation, the escape, and the following invasion. Someone had stayed behind to cover the withdrawal, and those people had died fighting there. Containers, columns and walls showed burns from laser bolts. Traces of little explosions, like the ones that could be caused by thermal grenades, could be easily appreciated here and there. It was a violent but short fight. The resistance had been too weak as to cause too much trouble to the assaulting troops, which Dario didn't doubt they were Imperials.
"I wonder why they didn't destroy the whole place." Edu said.
"I was thinking exactly the same. There was a fight, but then they just left..."
"It doesn't make any sense." Edu shook his head. "Well, let's go back down there and continue searching. Perhaps there will be something we'll be able to use." Edu went to the stairs and started to descend. "I'll go first to turn the ship's lights off and..."
"Look at that, Edu, in that corner!" Dario yelled from the cabin.
"What?" Edu stopped and looked in the direction Dario was signaling. He saw it immediately and could hardly believe it. "It seems that they forgot that one..."
In one corner of the hangar was a lonely Y-Wing, and from where they were standing it seemed to be intact. It was the old model, made for a crew of two men, the pilot and the weapons operator.
"Maybe we could obtain some pieces from it to repair Little Laura!" Edu exclaimed and the two men ran down the stairs towards the abandoned fighter.
They inspected the ship carefully, from the inside out. After some minutes, Edu had a diagnostic evaluation.
"It has the hyperspace motivator fried by a laser shot. That was probably the reason they left it here. But the rest seems ok."
"The comms probably works," Dario said from the cockpit "but we can't send a transmission with good chances of success from here. Nobody will receive us in this remote system, unless more dumbs are looking for shortcuts out there..."
"You're not going to let that pass, are you? Well, we can remove the antenna from the fighter and try to install it on the Little Laura, but the hull damages will require hard work. That is if we find some soldering equipment and instructions to operate it, of course!"
"Take a better
look at Little Laura's damages." Dario said. "There could
be something we haven't noticed yet. While you do that, I'll explore the
facilities better, now that we have light, and I'll try to find all we
Three hours later, Dario was back in the hangar and he joined Edu near Little Laura.
"I was starting to worry about you..." Edu said. "I've finished with all the crates here. The best I've found is a pack of campaign rations. We would not starve in six months." Edu omitted what didn't need to be said, that he hoped they wouldn't need all that time. There was tension in his voice when he made his question. "Have you found anything else?"
"Nothing in the form of soldering equipment, I'm afraid."
"Then we are doomed." Edu said sadly, all his hope almost lost in a second. "I've performed a complete check with the computer and the cracks in the hull are severe. Some of them can be seen even with the naked eye.
"That bad?" Dario sighed. "Well, then we'll have to use plan B."
"I didn't even know there was a plan B."
"There is now. I haven't found any soldering equipment, but there are many things that the Rebels didn't have time to take with them. Amongst them, complete manuals for the Y-Wing and a flight simulator. It works, I've checked it out."
"Are you talking about flying with that Y-Wing?" Edu asked with his eyes widely opened.
"And what else? You have said that it only has a damaged hyperspace engine motivator. We could try to adapt the one from Little Laura." Edu stared at him in silence while considering the possibilities they had.
"Ok, suppose we are able to do that." He said at last. "The computer of that fighter can't do hyperspace calculations by itself. It needs an astromech droid, I believe. If you haven't found one, then we have nothing at all."
"We have no droid, yes, but we only need to make one jump. From here to the next inhabited system..."
"Ah, yes, I see what you are thinking about." Edu nodded while looking alternatively to both ships. "We do the calculations with Little Laura's computer, download the results over the Y-Wing's computer and we jump to a place from where we can ask for help."
"You got it. And we have the flight simulator to learn how to pilot one of these." Dario said with a big smile. "I fear that we'll pass our holidays working."
"Not a problem at all. I don't like the beach that much anyway." Edu said with resignation and hope at the same time. "I'll begin to dismount that hyperspace motivator right now. That is something I have to do on my own."
"I'm sorry for you having to do that to your ship," Dario said in sympathy with his friend, "but we'll return for it later."
"That's the last of my concerns right now." They looked each other in silence for some moments. They were no blind to the seriousness of their situation, but they agreed without words in doing their best to come out of it with good. It was Dario who broke the silence with a chuckle.
"All right, I'll look at what I can make of that simulator. I'm a better pilot than you, you know."
"You're a better
nothing than me, that's what I know." Edu snorted, but he smiled
at his friend. "Have fun."
It was not premeditated, but that was the way of working for the next days. Edu took the hard part of repairing the Y-Wing with pieces from Little Laura, sometimes aided by Dario. Meanwhile, Dario filled his time with the flight simulator, showing Edu from time to time the things he was discovering. Edu's job was the toughest so far, but he didn't complain. He felt guilty for choosing a path away from the commercial routes, and for not being able to avoid the accident. An accident that would never have taken place if he had not made his bold approach to Yavin, in the first place, as he repeated to himself in his worst moments. But he had a more important reason to work as he was doing. He was thinking every single minute of his wife, Nuria, and their daughter, Laura, only one year old. He couldn't help but thinking again and again What if I can't see them again? and that made him sick. He used to remember them just before starting this trip. Nuria standing with Laura in her arms, talking with him while Dario finished loading the ship.
"Are you sure about not coming with us?" Edu asked.
"Yes, dear. We better stay here." Nuria noticed his expression and decided to explain the reasoning behind her decision. "Have you observed Dario these last months? He is dying by sadness, Edu! Do you remember the last time he told you a joke? He was one of the funniest persons I've ever met, and now he is only his shadow!" Edu turned his head to see Dario while loading the baggages and said nothing.
"If Laura and I go with you," Nuria continued "he won't be able to put out of his mind that Marife is not with him. Maybe if you two are alone, you could have some fun, and he could recover some."
Edu sighed and look towards Dario again.
"You are right. This is something we have to do. Have I told you how much I love you and how much I am going to miss you and Laura?"
"I hope you do. Call me from Corellia."
"That will be the first thing I'll do there! And I'll buy the biggest gift I can find for you!" Edu said while kissing Laura.
"Ooky, Dad, ooky!" Laura said at the best of her ability. Edu looked at her puzzled.
"Laura wants a Wookie!" Nuria translated.
"A Wookie it is then!" Edu said and kissed them again.
Dario came to say good bye, and the two friends parted towards the ship.
"I'll call you, I promise!" Edu shouted before closing the external door.
Edu was remembering
now how Laura was waving her little hand, and Nuria smiling at him. Now
they would be waiting for a call that he could not make. He was going
to repair that Y-Wing. Of course he would.
Dario was thinking
too of his wife Marife. Ten months. Ten months not knowing even if she
was alive. He didn't blame Edu for the accident. He understood what his
best friend was passing through better than anybody else. Dario was feeling
some guilt too, because he knew this travel was for him, and furthermore,
he was evading the hard work and enjoying the simulator instead. Yes,
enjoy was the correct word. Supposedly, he only needed to learn
the basic stuff, but he couldn't just stop when he was able to pilot decently
an Y-Wing. He decided to have the full packet and learn all he could about
astro-navigation and space combats as well. He only stopped to have some
hours of sleep, and only remembered to eat when his stomach started to
complain noisily. Gradually he got used to the tactic computer, the different
weapons and the shields. He practiced one maneuver after another, until
he was able to catch up with his computer-generated trainer. After the
first week, the artificial intelligence that piloted the enemy ships
was not a terrible adversary any more, and he began with the hardest scenarios.
It was easy to forget that everything was just a simulation. Sometimes,
when the debriefing report scrolled across the screen informing of his
scores, Dario closed his eyes and dreamt. He was the hero who destroyed
all the Imperial forces there in Iberya, landing at last in front of his
home, just to be embraced by Marife...
[Two weeks later, ISD Gray Wolf's bridge]
"Captain Zelia..." Commander Guindamonn said approaching his second in command.
"Anything new from our satellite in Yavin?"
"No, sir." Zelia replied. "Not a single ship has arrived or parted from the system."
"Strange, very strange indeed... If there are Rebels now in Yavin IV, I would expect some traffic in the system. Only a ship landing and it remains there, but what if...?" Guindamonn interrupted while an idea had touched his mind.
"Have you reached a conclusion, sir?" Zelia asked."
"...What if that ship had the mission to manipulate or disable our satellite?" Guindamonn continued like if Zelia hadn't said anything.
"Our satellite is working, sir." Zelia said. "I ordered the communications officer to send it an interrogation message, and it has replied with normality."
"Then that satellite has been manipulated or there are no Rebels at all." The anger in his voice was more than evident. For the last weeks he had been looking forward to the moment when they would return to Yavin to fall on their prey. The mere thought that there may be no prey after all was a cold shower for his ambitions. Don't anticipate yourself. Let's see that satellite first. "Captain Zelia, bring the Gray Wolf to the Yavin system, and when we arrive, send a transport to recover the satellite. Our technicians will say if we have something to worry about."
"At once, sir."
[Onboard the Nebulon B Frigate Joan d'Arc]
The Joan d'Arc was flying with his usual escort of two A-Wings, one of them piloted by Diana "Joker" Agar and the other by Owen "Granite" Stone, who had complained again about the escort and reconnaissance missions. At least this flight counted with the extra distraction of Joker's most recent repertory, although after the first two hours, Granite thought he had had all the jokes about Gamorrean stormtroopers he could resist in a whole life span. He was fully aware that if he said at the woman what he really thought about her jokes it could only become worse, so he kept his mouth closed. Next time I'll do just that...
In the Rebel Frigate's bridge, a message was being received.
"Captain Orris," the Communications officer began. "we are just receiving a classified transmission for you."
"All right, officer. Redirect it to my private room please."
"At once sir."
Captain Rahne Orris went to his room, and saw a red light blinking in his console, indicating the transmission was already waiting for him. He pushed the button to accept it and keyed his passcode, and immediately a hologram show him a blonde bearded man, with an uniform of General.
"Nice to see you, Captain." General Crix Madine began. One of the more brightening minds of the Rebel Alliance, he was chief of its Intelligence Services. He had been occupying an important position in the Imperial Intelligence until the destruction of Alderaan by the Death Star. Then he vanished and reappeared a couple of months later offering his services to the Alliance. The simple fact that he had known how to contact Mon Mothma's people showed how well informed he was. Why he hadn't used that knowledge to destroy the Alliance when he had the chance was the first question his interrogators made to him, but it was a mystery for him, too. "Probably in my subconsciousness I wanted you Rebels to win" was the best answer he was able to give. Anyway, that conscious or not sympathy toward the Alliance was not the less of the reasons for him to be allowed in the Rebel Intelligence ranks. Once there, he quickly climbed to the responsibility positions until he was offered the leadership by Mon Mothma herself. He seemed to find a lot of satisfaction turning the Empire's arms against itself. The bounty offered by the Empire for his head was only slightly lower than what they would pay for Mon Mothma's. Captain Orris knew all that, and it made him to pay all his attention to the General's words.
"Nice to see you too, General." He said. Madine and him had worked together once in the past, right after Madine's desertion, and had kept some contact ever since. They hadn't gotten as close as to be considered good friends, but sometimes, when they were in privacy they even omitted the ranks. Orris could tell from the General's attitude that this was not just a friendly call, although Madine's smile suggested the opposite. "Is it safe to assume that you are not sending a classified transmission just to talk about old times?"
"You always getting directly to the point, my friend." And you always being as twitched as a Devaronian snake, Orris couldn't help but think, with a slight trace of amusement. "But you are right, of course." He ceased smiling and that was a signal for Orris that the real stuff was coming behind. "Two weeks ago, one of our ships received a message from an Imperial satellite, one we had hacked, detached in the Yavin system." Orris arched an eyebrow when he heard that name, unforgivable for every member of the Alliance. "A little ship, unidentified but supposedly civilian, landed on our old base in Yavin IV. The Imperials must have received that same transmission, but not a single ship was sent to investigate. Until now. Just one hour ago, the satellite informed that a Victory II Class Star Destroyer, the Gray Wolf, had exited from hyperspace and launched an armored transport directly towards its position. We have lost the contact, so we don't know what is happening there, but obviously we must assume that our manipulation over the satellite has been discovered by now. I've ordered the ship that was tracking its signal to abandon its actual position as a security measure. Now we need to know what the Imperials are doing there, and you are the nearest ship. But you must be cautious, and not to expose the Joan d'Arc if you can avoid it. Perhaps someone from White Squadron could do a recon without being detected, but I'll let you and your people to decide the better way to accomplish the mission." The Captain reprised an impulse to say ironically thanks. "If there is a fleet there, I want to know, so in that case you must contact me immediately. Even before informing High Command. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir." Orris frowned. He didn't like to receive that kind of suggestions, even from Madine. At least he had not said "instead informing High Command". Intelligence always played on its own rules, and everybody accepted that was the way things must be. He decided to put aside that point and concentrated on the practical details. "What if the Star Destroyer is alone?"
"In that case White Squadron can perform a raid and try to destroy it. Even if they fail, that may make the Imperials think that we are interested still in the Yavin system, and that would be an excellent distraction maneuver. We need that now more than ever."
"Something about the rumor of a second Death Star, General?" Orris adventured.
"A second...?" If the General was hiding something, he covered it very well. "I hope not, what a thing! But if you hear that rumor again, please, tell me." There was no humor in Madine's smile.
"Of course, sir." Orris admonished himself in silence. He didn't use to comment rumors, even less with his higher officers, but this one was giving him chills since he caught a comment behind a closing door, the last time he was summoned to the temporary Alliance Headquarters, aboard the cruiser Home One, a month before. That the door itself belonged to a meeting room, where Admiral Ackbar was in conversation with his staff, was what made him think it was not a joke.
"Well. About the mission..." Madine said interrupting his thoughts.
"We'll do our best, sir."
"I know, my friend,
I know." The General smiled again, this time sincerely. "Good
luck, Captain." He said while the transmission was finalized.