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Star Wars - X-Wing - Rogue Squadron

Michael A. Stackpole


  You're good, Corran, but you're no Luke Skywalker. Corran Horn's cheeks still

  burned at the memory of Commander Antilles's evaluation of his last simulator

  exercise. The line had been a simple comment, not meant to be cruel nor

  delivered that way, but it cut deep into Corran. I've never tried to suggest I'm

  that good of a pilot.

  He shook his head. No, you just wanted it to be self-evident and easily

  recognized by everyone around you. Reaching out he flicked the starter switches

  for the X-wing simulator's engines. "Green One has four starts and is go." All

  around him in the cockpit various switches, buttons, and monitors flashed to

  life. "Primary and secondary power is at full."

  Ooryl Qrygg, his Gand wingman, reported similar start-up success in a

  high-pitched voice. "Green Two is operational."

  Green Three and Four checked in, then the external screens came alive

  projecting an empty starfield. "Whistler, have you finished the navigation


  The green and white R2 unit seated behind Corran hooted, then the navdata

  spilled out over Corran's main monitor. He punched a button sending the same

  coordinates out to the other pilots in Green Flight. "Go to light speed and

  rendezvous on the Redemption."

  As Corran engaged the X-wing's hyperdrive, the stars elongated themselves into

  white cylinders, then snapped back into pinpoints and began to revolve slowly,

  transforming themselves into a tunnel of white light. Corran fought the urge to

  use the stick to compensate for the roll. In space, and especially hyperspace,

  up and down were relative. How his ship moved through hyperspace didn't really

  matteras long as it remained on the course Whistler had calculated and had

  attained sufficient velocity before entering hyperspace, he'd arrive intact.

  Flying into a black hole would actually make this run easier. Every pilot

  dreaded the Redemption run. The scenario was based on an Imperial attack on

  evacuation ships back before the first Death Star had been destroyed. While the

  Redemption waited for three Medevac shuttles and the corvette Korolev to dock

  and off-load wounded, the Imperial frigate Warspite danced around the system and

  dumped out TIE fighters and added bombers to the mix to do as much damage as

  they could.

  The bombers, with a full load of missiles, could do a lot of damage. All the

  pilots called the Redemption scenario by another name the Requiem scenario.

  The Warspite would only deploy four star fighters and a half-dozen bombersknown

  in pilot slang as "eyeballs" and "dupes" respectively but it would do so in a

  pattern that made it all but impossible for the pilots to save the Korolev. The

  corvette was just one big target, and the TIE

  bombers had no trouble unloading all their missiles into it.

  Stellar pinpoints elongated again as the fighter came out of hyperspace. Off to

  the port side Corran saw the Redemption. Moments later Whistler reported that

  the other fighters and all three Medevac shuttles had arrived. The fighters

  checked in and the first shuttle began its docking maneuver with the Redemption.

  "Green One, this is Green Four."

  "Go ahead, Four."

  "By the book, or are we doing something fancy?"

  Corran hesitated before answering. By book, Nawara Ven had referred to the

  general wisdom about the scenario. It stated that one pilot should play

  fleethund and race out to engage the first TIE flight while the other three

  fighters remained in close as backup. As long as three fighters stayed at home,

  it appeared, the Warspite dropped ships off at a considerable distance from the

  Korolev. When they didn't, it got bolder and the whole scenario became very


  The problem with going by the book was that it wasn't a very good strategy. It

  meant one pilot had to deal with five TIEstwo eyeballs and three dupesall by

  himself, then turn around and engage five more. Even with them coming in waves,

  the chances of being able to succeed against those odds were slim.

  Doing it any other way was disastrous. Besides, what loyal son of Corellia ever

  had any use for odds?

  "By the book. Keep the home fires burning and pick up after me."

  "Done. Good luck."

  "Thanks." Corran reached up with his right

  hand and pressed it against the lucky charm he wore on a chain around his neck.

  Though he could barely feel the coin through his gloves and the thick material

  of his flight suit, the familiar sensation of the metal resting against his

  breastbone brought a smile to his face. It worked for you a lot, Dad, let's hope

  all its luck hasn't run out yet.

  He openly acknowledged that he'd been depending quite a bit on luck to see him

  through the difficulties of settling in with the Alliance forces. Learning the

  slang took some workmoving from calling TIE starfighters "eyeballs" to calling

  Interceptors "squints" made a certain amount of sense, but many other terms had

  been born of logic that escaped him. Everything about the Rebellion seemed odd

  in comparison to his previous life and fitting in had not been easy.

  Nor will be winning this scenario. The Korolev materialized and moved toward the

  Redemption, prompting Corran to begin his final check. He'd mulled the scenario

  over in his mind time and time again. In previous runs, when he served as a home

  guard to someone else's fleethund, he'd had Whistler record traces on the TIE

  timing patterns, flight styles, and attack vectors. While different cadets flew

  the TIE half of the simulations, the craft dictated their performance and a lot

  of their initial run sequence had been preprogrammed. A sharp squawk from

  Whistler alerted Corran to the Warspite's arrival. "Great, eleven klicks aft."

  Pulling the stick around to the right, Corran brought the X-wing into a wide

  turn. At the end of it he punched the throttle up to full power. Hitting

  another switch up to the right, he locked the S-foils into attack position.

  "Green One engaging."

  Rhysati's voice came cool and strong through the radio. "Be all over them like

  drool on a Hutt."

  "I'll do my best, Green Three." Corran smiled and waggled the X-wing as he flew

  back through the Alliance formation and out toward the Warspite. Whistler

  announced the appearance of three TIE bombers with a low tone, then brought the

  sound up as two TIE fighters joined them.

  "Whistler, tag the bombers as targets one, two, and three." As the R2 unit

  complied with that or-der, Corran pushed shield power full to front and brought

  his laser targeting program up on the main monitor. With his left hand he

  adjusted the sighting calibration knob on the stick and got the two fighters.

  Good, looks like three klicks between the eyeballs and the bombers.

  Corran's right hand again brushed the coin beneath his flight suit. He took a

  deep breath, exhaled slowly, then settled his hand on the stick an
d let his

  thumb hover over the firing button. At two klicks the heads-up display painted a

  yellow box around the lead TIE fighter. The box went green as the fighter's

  image locked into the HUD's targeting cross and Whistler's shrill bleat filled

  the cockpit. Corran's thumb hit the button, sending three bursts of laser bolts

  at the lead fighter.

  The first set missed but the second and third blasted through the spherical

  cockpit. The hexagonal solar panels snapped off and spun forward through space

  while the ion engines exploded into an expanding ball of incandescent gas.

  Corran kicked the X-wing up in a ninety-degree snap-roll and sliced through the

  center of the explosion. Laser fire from the second fighter lit up his forward

  shields, making it impossible for him to get a good visual line on the TIE.

  Whistler yowled, coo-plaining about being a target. Corran hurried a shot and

  knew he hit, but the TIE flashed past and con-tinued on in at the Korolev.

  Time to write a new chapter for the book on the Requiem scenario. Corran

  throttled back almost all the way to zero and let the X-wing decelerate.

  "Whistler, bring up target one."

  The image of the first TIE bomber filled his monitor. Corran switched over to

  proton torpedo target control. The HUD changed to a larger box and Whistler

  began beeping as he worked supplying data to the targeting computer for a

  missile lock.

  "Green One, your velocity is down to one percent. Do you need help?" "Negative,

  Green Two." "Corran, what are you doing?" "Making the book a short story." /

  hope. The HUD went red and Whistler's tone became constant. Corran punched the

  button and launched the first missile. "Acquire target two." The HUD flashed

  yellow, then red, and the pilot launched the second missile.

  Numbers scrolled away to zero as the missiles streaked in at their targets. Two

  kilometers away the first missile hit, shredding the first TIE bomber. Seconds

  later the second missile hit its target. A novalike explosion lit the

  simulator's cockpit, then melted into the blackness of space. "Acquire target


  Even as he gave the order he knew the rate of closure between the bomber and his

  ship would make the last missile shot all but impossible. "Cancel three."

  Corran throttled up again as the third bomber sailed past and brought his ship

  around. He switched back to laser targeting and climbed right up on the bomber's


  The dupe's pilot tried to evade him. He juked the double-hulled ship to the

  left, then started a long turn to the right, but Corran was of no mind to lose

  him. He cut his speed, which kept the bomber in

  front of him, then followed it in its turn. As he leveled out again on its

  tail, he triggered two laser bursts and the targeting computer reported hull


  The bomber's right wing came up in a roll and Corran did the same thing. Had he

  continued to fly level, the X-wing's lasers would have passed on either side of

  the bomber's fuselage, giv ing the bomber a few seconds more of life. Keeping the

  bomber cen-tered in his crosshairs, Corran hit twice more and the bulky craft

  disintegrated before him.

  Pushing his throttle to full, Corran scanned for the fighter he'd missed. He

  found it two klicks out and going in toward the Korolev. He also found five more

  TIEs coming in from the other side of the corvette, eighteen kilometers away.

  Damn, the bomber took more time than I had to give it.

  He brought the torpedo targeting program back up and locked on to the remaining

  fighter. The HUD seemed to take forever before it went red and acquired a lock.

  Corran fired a missile and watched it blast through the fighter, then turned his

  attention to the new TIEs.

  "Green One, do you want us to engage?"

  Corran shook his head. "Negative, Two. Warspite is still here and could dump

  another flight." He sighed. "Move to intercept the fighters, but don't go beyond

  a klick from the Korolev."

  "On it."

  Good, they can tie the fighters up while I dust these dupes. Corran studied the

  navigational data Whistler was giving him. The Korolev, the bombers, and his

  X-wing formed a shrinking triangle. If he flew directly at the bombers he would

  end up flying in an arc, which would take more time than he had and let them get

  close enough to launch their mis-

  siles at the corvette. That would be less than useless as far as he was


  "Whistler, plot me an intercept point six klicks out from the Korolev."

  The R2 whistled blithely, as if that calculation was so simple even Corran

  should have been able to do it in his head. Steering toward it, Corran saw he'd

  have just over a minute to deal with the bombers before they were in firing

  range on the Korolev. Not enough time.

  Flicking two switches, Corran redirected generator energy from recharging his

  shields and lasers into the engines. It took the acceleration compensator a

  second to cycle up, so the ship's burst of speed pushed Corran back into the

  padding of his command seat. This better work.

  "Green One, the Warspite has hyped. Are we released to engage fighters?"

  "Affirmative, Three. Go get them." Corran frowned for a second, knowing his

  fellow pilots would make short work of the TIE fighters. They would deny him a

  clean sweep, but he'd willingly trade two TIEs for the corvette. Commander

  Antilles might have gotten them all himself, but then he's got two Death Stars

  painted on the side of his X-wing.

  "Whistler, mark each of the bombers four, five, and six." Range to intercept was

  three klicks and he had added thirty seconds to his fighting time. "Acquire


  The targeting computer showed him to be coming in at a forty-five-degree angle

  to the flight path of his target, which meant he was way off target. He quickly

  punched the generator back into recharging lasers and his shields, then pulled

  even more energy from his quartet of Incom 4L4 fusial thrust engines

  shunted it into recharging his weapons and shields.

  The resource redirection brought his speed down. Corran pulled back on the

  stick, easing the X-wing into a turn that brought him head-on into the bombers.

  Tapping the stick to the left, he cen-tered the targeting box on the first of

  the dupes.

  The HUD started yellow, then quickly went red. Corran fired a missile. "Acquire

  five." The HUD started red and Whistler's keen echoed through the cockpit. The

  Corellian fired a second missile. 'Acquire six."

  Whistler screeched.

  Corran looked down at his display. Scrolling up the screen, sandwiched between

  the reports of mis-sile hits on the three bombers, he saw a notation about Green

  Two. "Green Two, report."

  "He's gone, One."

  "A fighter got him?"

  "No time to chat ..." The comm call from the Twi'lek in Green Four ended in a

  hiss of static.


  "Got one, Corran, but this last one is good."

  "Hang on."

  "I'll do my best."

  "Whistler, acquire six."

  The R2 unit hissed. The last bomber had already shot past the intercept point

  and was bearing i
n on the Korolev. The pilot had the wide-bodied craft slowly

  spinning, making it a difficult target for a

  missile lock. The Korolev, being as big as it was,

  would present large enough of a target that even a rolling

  ship could get a lock on it.

  And once he has that lock, the Korolev is so much space junk. Corran switched

  back to lasers and pushed his X-wing forward. Even though two klicks separated

  them, he triggered a couple of laser

  blasts. He knew his chances of hitting were not good at that range, but the

  light from the bolts would shoot past the TIE and give the pilot something to

  think about. And I want him thinking about me, not that nerf-vette grazing


  Corran redirected all power back into the engines and shot forward. Two more

  laser blasts caused the TIE bomber to shy a bit, but it had pushed into

  target-acquisition range. The ship's roll began to slow as the pilot fixated on

  his target, then, as Corran brought his lasers to bear, the bomber jinked and

  cut away to port.

  The Corellian's eyes narrowed. Bror Jace has got to be flying that thing. He

  thinks it's payback time. The other pilot, a human from Thyferra, wasin

  Corran's opinionthe second best pilot in the training squadron. He's going to

  kill the Korolev and I'll never hear the end of it. Unless ...

  Corran pulled all his shield energy forward and left his aft as naked as the

  shieldless TIE bomber. Following Jace through a barrel roll, he kept the

  throttle full forward. As they leveled out again Corran triggered a snapshot at

  the bomber. -It caught a piece of one wing, but Jace dove beneath the X-wing's

  line of fire. Here we go!

  Corran shoved his stick forward to follow the bomber's dive, but because his

  rate of speed was a good twenty percent faster than that of Jace's ship, the

  X-wing moved into a broad loop. By the time Corran inverted to finish the turn

  off, Jace's bomber came back up and banked in on the X-wing's tail.

  Before the bomber could unload a missile or two into his aft, Corran broke the

  fighter hard to port and carved across the bomber's line of fire. Basic maneuver

  with a basic response. Without even glancing at his instruments, and paying no

  attention to Whistler's squealed warning, Corran cut engine

  power back into recharging his shields. One more second.

  Jace's response to Corran's break had been a reverse-throttle hop. By bringing