Star Wars - X-Wing - The Bacta WarMichael A. Stackpole
Star Wars X-Wing - The Bacta War
Somehow the dead of night amplified the lightsaber's hiss, allowing it to fill
the room. The blade's silvery light frosted the furniture and gave birth to
impenetrable shadows. The blade drifted back and forth, prompting the shadows to
waver and shift as if fleeing from the light.
Much as criminals would flee from the light.
Corran Horn stared at the blade, finding the argent energy shaft neither harsh
nor painful to his eyes. He lazily wove the blade through joined infinity loops,
then, with the flick of his right wrist, snapped it up into a guard that
protected him from forehead to waist. Relic of a bygone era, it still can
conjure up images and feelings.
He hit the black button under his thumb twice, and the blade died, again
plunging the room into darkness. The lightsaber did conjure up images and
feelings in him, but Corran doubted they were at all the images and feelings
commonly felt by most others on Coruscant. To everyone, including Corran, Luke
Skywalker was a hero and was welcomed as heir to the Jedi tradition. His efforts
at rebuilding the Jedi order were roundly applauded, and no one, save those who
dreaded the return of law and order to the galaxy, wished Luke anything but the
greatest success in his heroic quest.
As do I. Corran frowned. Still, my decision has been made.
He'd felt it the greatest of honors to be asked by Luke Skywalker to leave Rogue
Squadron and train to become a Jedi. Skywalker had told him that his grandfather
Nejaa Halcyon had been a Jedi Master who had been slain in the Clone Wars. The
lightsaber Corran had discovered in the Galactic Museum had belonged to Nejaa
and had been presented to Corran as his rightful inheritance. Mine is the
heritage of a Jedi Knight.
But that was a heritage he had only heard of from Skywalker. He did not doubt
the Jedi was telling the truth, but it was not the whole truth. At least not the
whole of the truth with which I grew up.
Throughout his life Corran Horn had come to believe his grandfather was Rostek
Horn, a valued and highly placed member of the Corellian Security Force. His
father, Hal Horn, likewise was with CorSec. When it came time for Corran to
choose a career, there was really no choice at all. He continued the Horn
tradition of serving CorSec. His grandfather had always admitted to having
known a Jedi who died in the Clone Wars, but that acquaintance had been given no
more weight than having once met Imperial Moff Fliry Vorru or having visited
Imperial Center, as Coruscant had been known under the Empire's rule.
Corran found it no great surprise that Rostek Horn and his father had downplayed
their ties to Nejaa Halcyon. Halcyon had died in the Clone Wars; and Rostek had
comforted, grown close with, and married Halcyon's widow. He also adopted
Halcyon's son, Valin, who grew up as Hal Horn. When the Emperor began his
extermination of the Jedi order, Rostek had used his position at CorSec to
destroy all traces of the Halcyon family, insulating his wife and adopted son
from investigation by Imperial authorities.
Since exhibiting any interest in the Jedi Knights could invite scrutiny and my
family would be very vulnerable if its secret were discovered, I probably heard
less about the Jedi Knights than most other kids my age. If not for various
holodramas that painted the Jedi Knights as villains and later
reminiscences by his grandfather about the Clone Wars, Corran would have known
little or nothing about the Jedi. Like most other children, he found them
vaguely romantic and all too much sinister, but they were distant and remote
while what his father and grandfather did was immediate and exciting.
He raised a hand and pressed it to the golden Jedi medallion he wore around his
neck. It had been a keepsake his father had carried and Corran inherited after
his father's death. Corran had taken it as a lucky charm of sorts, never
realizing his father had kept it because it bore the image of his own father,
Nejaa Halcyon. Wearing it had been my father's way of honoring his father and
defying the Empire. Likewise, I wore it to honor him, not realizing I was doing
more through that act.
Skywalker's explanation to him of what his relationship to Nejaa Halcyon was
opened new vistas and opportunities for him. In joining CorSec he had chosen to
dedicate his life to a mission that paralleled the Jedi mission making the
galaxy safe for others. As Luke had explained, by becoming a Jedi, Corran could
do what he had always done but on a larger scale. That idea, that opportunity,
was seductive, and clearly all of his squadron-mates had expected him to jump at
Corran smiled. / thought Councilor Borsk Fey'lya was going to die when I turned
down the offer. In many ways I wish he had.
He shook his head, realizing that thought was unworthy of himself and really
wasted on Borsk Fey'lya. Corran was certain that, on some level, the Bothan
Councilor believed henot Corranwas right and his actions were vital to
sustain the New Republic. Re-creating the Jedi order would help provide a
cohesive force to bind the Republic together and to drape it in the nostalgic
mantle of the Old Republic. Just as having various members of nation-states
placed in Rogue Squadron had helped pull the Republic together, having a
Corellian become a new Jedi might influence the Diktat into treating the New
Republic in a more hospitable manner.
Skywalker had asked him to, and Fey'lya had assumed he
would, join the Jedi order, but that was because neither of them knew of or
realized that his personal obligations and promises exerted more influence with
him than any galactic cause. While Corran realized that doing the greatest good
for the greatest number was probably better for everyone in the long run, he had
short-term debts he wanted to repay, and time was of the essence in doing so.
The remnants of the Empire had captured, tortured, and imprisoned him at
Lusankya, which he later came to realize was really a Super Star Destroyer
buried beneath the surface of Coruscant. He had escaped from therea feat never
before successfully accomplishedbut had gotten away only with the aid of other
prisoners. He had vowed to them that he would return and liberate them, and he
fully intended to keep his promise. The fact that they were imprisoned in the
belly of the SSD that now orbited Thyferra made that task more difficult, but
long odds against success had never stopped him before. I'm a Corellian. What
use have I for odds?
His desire to save them had increased with a chance discovery that embarrassed
him mightily when he made it. In Lusankya the Rebel prisoners had been led by an
older man who simply called himself Jan. Since his escape, Corran had caught a
holovision broadcast of a documentary on the heroes of the Rebel Alliance.<
First and foremost among them had been the general who led the defense of Yavin
4 and planned the destruction of the first Death Star, Jan Dodonna. The
documentary said he'd been slain during the evacuation of Yavin 4, but Corran
had no doubt Dodonna had been a prisoner on Lusankya. If I hadn't thought him
dead, I might have recognized him, too. How stupid of me.
Dodonna's celebrity had nothing to do with Corran's desire to save him. Jan,
like Urlor Sette and others, had helped him escape. They had risked their lives
to give him a chance to get away. Leaving such brave people captives of someone
like Ysanne Isard not only failed to reward their courage but repaid them by
leaving them in severe jeopardy of death or worseconversion into a covert
Imperial agent under Isard's direction.
Corran started, then turned and smiled at the black-haired, dark-eyed woman
standing in the bedroom doorway. "I guess not, Mirax. I'm sorry I woke you."
"You didn't wake me. Your absence awakened me." She wore a dark blue robe,
belted at the waist with a pale yellow sash. Mirax raised a hand to hide a yawn
then pointed at the silver cylinder in his right hand. "Regretting your
"Which one? Refusing to join the Jedi Knights or"he smiled"or hooking up with
She raised an eyebrow. "I was thinking of the Jedi decision. If you have
reservations about the other decision, I can relearn how to sleep alone."
He laughed, and she joined him. "I regret neither. Your father and my father may
have been mortal enemies, but I can't imagine having a better friend than you."
Mirax shrugged. "All you men who've just gotten out of prison say that."
Corran frowned for a moment. "I imagine you're right, but how you came by that
information, I don't want to know."
Mirax blinked her eyes. "You know, I don't think I want to know that, either."
Corran laughed, then crossed the room and enfolded her in a warm hug. "After my
escape, Tycho expressed his regrets concerning your death to me. He told me how
Warlord Zsinj had ambushed a convoy at Alderaan and destroyed it, including
your Pulsar Skate. Everything inside of me just collapsed. Losing you just
ripped the emotional skeleton out of me."
"Now you know how I felt when I thought you'd been slain here on Coruscant." She
kissed his left ear, then settled her chin on his shoulder. "I hadn't realized
how much you had become part of my life until you were gone. The hole the
Lusankya created blasting her way out of Coruscant was nothing compared to the
void I had inside. It wasn't a question of wanting to die, but of knowing my
insides were dead and wondering when the rest of me would catch up."
"I had it luckier than you. When he got the chance, Gen-
eral Cracken pulled me aside and told me how you'd gone on a covert mission to
Borleias to deliver ryll kor, bacta, and a Vratix verachen. Zsin j's ambush
conveniently covered your disappearance so the Thyferrans didn't know what you
were setting up on Borleias with their bacta."
"Yeah, they would not have liked it if it were known we were using the Alderaan
Biotics facility there to make rylca and, eventually, enough bacta to dent their
monopoly." Mirax shivered. "I would have preferred the original plan working,
because as much as I didn't look forward to being reviled and hunted down for
stealing bacta from the convoy, I would have rather endured that than having all
those other people killed."
"Nothing you could do about that."
"Nor was there anything you could do about your fellow prisoners being whisked
away by Isard when she escaped in the Lusankya." Mirax backed up a half-step and
held Corran at arm's-length. "You do realize that, don't you?"
"Realize, yes. Accept, no. Tolerate, no way." Corran narrowed his green eyes,
but the hint of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "You know, if you
keep hanging around with me, you're going to get into a lot of trouble."
"Trouble?" Mirax batted her brown eyes. "Whatever do you mean, Lieutenant Horn?"
"Well, I precipitated the mass resignation of the New Republic's most celebrated
fighter squadron and vowed that we'd liberate Thyferra from Ysanne Isard's
clutches. So far, toward that end, we have a squadron's worth of pilots, my
X-wing, and if you're really in this with us, your freighter."
Mirax smiled. "Versus three Imperial Star Destroyers and a Super Star Destroyer,
not to mention any sort of Thyferran military forces that might oppose us."
Corran nodded. "Right."
Mirax's grin broadened. "Okay, so get to the trouble part."
"Mirax, be serious."
"I am. You forget, dear heart, that it was an X-wing and a freighter that lit up
the first Death Star."
"This is a little bit different."
"Not really." She reached out and tapped his forehead with a finger. "You and I,
Wedge and Tycho, and everyone else knows what it takes to defeat the Empire.
It's not a matter of equipment, but of having the heart to use that equipment.
The Empire was broken because, for the good of the galaxy, it had to be broken.
The Rebels were given no choice, and because of that, they pushed themselves
further than the Imperials did. We know we can win and that we must win, and
Isard's people know nothing of the kind."
"That's all well and good, Mirax, and I agree, but this is a massive
undertaking. The sheer amount of equipment we'll need to pull this off is
"Agreed. I don't think this will be easy, but it can be done."
"I know." Corran massaged his eyes with his left hand. "Too many variables and
not enough data available to begin to assign them values."
"And three hours before dawn isn't the time you should be wrestling with such
things. As bright as you might be, Corran Horn, this is not an hour when you do
your best work."
Corran raised an eyebrow. "I seem to recall you singing a different tune last
evening about this time."
"At that time you weren't concerned with Ysanne Isard, you were concerned with
"Ah, and that makes the difference?"
"From my perspective, you bet." She took the lightsaber from his hand and set it
atop his dresser. "And I think, if you're willing to work with me, I can share
that perspective with you."
He kissed her on the tip of the nose. "It would be my pleasure."
"That, Lieutenant Horn, is just half the objective here."
"Forgive me." Following her toward the bed, he stepped over the silken puddle
her robe made on the floor. "You know, I just got out of prison."
"For that I won't forgive you but perhaps"she smiled up at him"I will make
some allowance for good behavior."
Wedge Antilles felt decidedly uncomfortable out of uniform. Actually, I feel
uncomfortable out of the service. During the covert mission to Coruscant, he'd
not been in hailing distance of an Alliance uniform, and he'd even worn Imperial
uniforms a couple of times, but that had not bothered him. He'd spent most of
his adult life as part of the Rebel Alliance and now he had cho
sen to leave it.
There was no doubt in his mind that the decision to leave was the right one to
make. He fully understood why the New Republic couldn't attack Thyferra and
bring Ysanne Isard to justice. Since she was installed as the Chief of State
through an internal revolutionas opposed to an invasionher holding office was
not a case of Imperial aggression, but of self-determination. If the New
Republic rejected that idea in this one case, plenty of other nation-states
would think long and hard before joining the New Republic or would consider
Wedge forced himself to smile and looked up at the light-brown-haired man with
bright blue eyes sitting across the table from him. "Have we bitten off more
than we can chew?"
Tycho Celchu shrugged. "It's a mouthful, but with some more teeth, we might be
able to choke it down. There is some good news on this whole front you know. We
have the ten million credits that Ysanne Isard placed in accounts to frame me.
That money is mine, which means it's ours. We have the five Z-95 Headhunters
that were used to help liberate Coruscant."
"But they're not hyperspace capable."
"True, but that's not going to be their value for us." Tycho began to smile.
"The Z-95s are part of history. They're collectable. I've already had offers
from museums and amusement parks to buy them. We can probably get one point
five million for each of themthe Bothan Military Academy wants the one Asyr
flew so badly they're not even trying to hide their desire for it."
Wedge's jaw dropped. "That would give us quite a war chest."
"It should take care of many of our needs."
"Provided we can find places where we can buy weapons that are restricted or
illegal on most civilized planets."
Tycho nodded. "Winter and Mirax are working on that problem. Winter, from her
work locating Imperial supply depots for us to raid, knows where there are bits
and pieces of things that we can buy, borrow, or steal. Mirax is fairly certain
she can locate sources for pretty much anything else we need. And we are getting
donations of material."
Wedge smiled and looked around the small office in which he and Tycho sat. After
their resignation, they had been forced out of Rogue Squadron's headquarters
facility. Various citizens had turned around and offered the ex-Rogues