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Star Wars - X-Wing - The Bacta War

Michael 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.<
br />
  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.

  "Couldn't sleep?"

  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."

  "Or lover."

  "Especially lover."

  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