Star Wars: X-Wing I: Rogue SquadronMichael A. Stackpole
THE NEW X-WINGS!
This exciting series chronicles the adventures of the most feared and fearless fighting force in the whole galaxy. It is now two and a half years after the events of the blockbuster film Return of the Jedi, and isolated but still powerful remnants of the Empire are scattered throughout space. These outposts of evil are disrupting galactic peace and threatening to one day overthrow the Rebel Alliance and reestablish its dark tyranny of violence and oppression.
They are opposed by a new generation of X-wing pilots. Following in the footsteps of the squad that defeated the Death Star, the new pilots face a challenge every bit as dangerous and deadly as that of their legendary predecessors. And they are every bit as tough, talented, and determined to succeed.
However, their intrepid leader will first have to confront the most difficult task of all: to whip a band of young, rowdy, undisciplined pilots into a well-oiled team who will fight together and—if necessary—die for each other to achieve their goal: victory over the Empire.
Filled with explosive space action, camaraderie, and nonstop adventure, Star Wars X-Wing is a series you won’t want to miss!
STAR WARS: ROGUE SQUADRON
A Bantam Spectra Book / February 1996
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®, TM & © 1996 by Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization.
Cover art by Paul Youll. Copyright © 1996 by Lucasfilm Ltd.
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To George Lucas
The universe he created is so vital and magical that I remember not only when and where I first saw the film, but when and where I first saw the trailer for the film. If someone had told me then I’d be writing in that universe now, I’d have told them they were insane.
Once again, Mr. Lucas, you make dreams come true.
The author would like to thank the following people for their various contributions to this book:
Janna Silverstein, Tom Dupree, and Ricia Mainhardt for getting me into this mess;
Sue Rostoni and Lucy Autrey Wilson for making it so easy to work in this universe;
Kevin J. Anderson, Timothy Zahn, Kathy Tyers, Bill Smith, Bill Slavicsek, Peter Schweighofer, Michael Kogge, and Dave Wolverton for the material they created and the advice they offered;
Lawrence Holland and Edward Kilham for the X-Wing and Tie Fighter computer games;
Chris Taylor for pointing out to me which ship Tycho was flying in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi;
My parents, my sister Kerin, my brother Patrick and his wife Joy for their encouragement (and endless efforts to face my other books out on bookstore shelves);
Dennis L. McKiernan, Jennifer Roberson, and especially Elizabeth T. Danforth for listening to bits of this story as it was being written and enduring such abuse with smiles and a supportive manner.
About the Author
Also by This Author
Introduction to the Star Wars Expanded Universe
Excerpt from Star Wars: X-Wing: Wedge’s Gamble
Introduction to the Old Republic Era
Introduction to the Rise of the Empire Era
Introduction to the Rebellion Era
Introduction to the New Republic Era
Introduction to the New Jedi Order Era
Introduction to the Legacy Era
Star Wars Novels Timeline
COMMANDER WEDGE ANTILLES (human male from Corellia)
CAPTAIN TYCHO CELCHU (human male from Alderaan)
LIEUTENANT CORRAN HORN (human male from Corellia)
OORYL QRYGG (Gand male from Gand)
NAWARA VEN (Twi’lek male from Ryloth)
RHYSATI YNR (human female from Bespin)
BROR JACE (human male from Thyferra)
ERISI DLARIT (human female from Thyferra)
PESHK VRI’SYK (Bothan male from Bothawui)
GAVIN DARKLIGHTER (human male from Tatooine)
RIV SHIEL (Shistavanen male from Uvena III)
LUJAYNE FORGE (human female from Kessel)
ANDOORNI HUI (Rodian female from Rodia)
ZRAII (Verpine male from Roche G42)
M-3PO (Emtrey; protocol and regulations droid)
WHISTLER (Corran’s R2-D2 astromech)
MYNOCK (Wedge’s R5-D2 astromech)
ADMIRAL ACKBAR (Mon Calamari male from Mon Calamari)
GENERAL HORTON SALM (human male from Norvall II)
GENERAL LARYN KRE’FEY (Bothan male from Bothawui)
CAPTAIN AFYON (human male from Alderaan)
CREW OF THE Pulsar Skate
MIRAX TERRIK (human female from Corellia)
LIAT TSAYV (Sullustan male from Sullust)
YSANNE ISARD, DIRECTOR OF IMPERIAL INTELLIGENCE (human female from Coruscant)
KIRTAN LOOR, INTELLIGENCE AGENT (human male from Churba)
GENERAL EVIR DERRICOTE (human male from Kalla)
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 calculations?”
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 matter—as 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 starfighters and a half-dozen bombers—known 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 bloody.
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 TIEs—two eyeballs and three dupes—all 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 work—moving 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 order, 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 and 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, complaining about being a target. Corran hurried a shot and knew he hit, but the TIE flashed past and continued 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.” I 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 three.”
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 stern.
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 damage.
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, giving the bomber a few seconds more of life. Keeping the bomber centered 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.”
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 missiles at the corvette. That would be less than useless as far as he was concerned.