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Star Wars: X-Wing II: Wedge's Gamble, Page 3

Michael A. Stackpole

  “Thank you, sir.”

  Wedge handed each of them a small strip of plastic. “The facilities here are a bit more comfortable than we’ve been used to—Evir Derricote ran this operation until we took it away from the Empire. He was devoted to a certain level of creature comfort. Captain Nunb, you’ll have your own quarters. Lieutenant Cracken, you will share a room with Nawara Ven, a Twi’lek pilot. I think you’ll like him.”

  Pash took the strips and handed one to Aril.

  Wedge glanced at his datapad, then frowned sharply. “I’ve only got an hour until I have to fly out to rendezvous with Home One. I will be taking our Lambda-class shuttle since I’ll be bringing General Salm with me. Lieutenant Cracken, you may use my X-wing for the time being—we should have one of the others up and repaired inside a week for you. Captain Nunb, I’ll introduce you to Captain Celchu. Because of his status, you’ll actually be in command of the unit in my absence. Tycho will help you with anything you need.”

  He stood up. “Is there anything else we need to discuss?”

  The Sullustan shook her head. “No, sir.”

  Wedge looked at Pash. “Anything?”

  “No, sir.”

  “And if I see your father at the meetings?”

  Pash smiled. “Just tell him he was right about the grilling he said you’d give me, and let him know I passed.”

  “It will be my pleasure, Lieutenant.” Wedge kept a smile on his face as he led them to the door. “I think you both will find the trials of being a Rogue a bit more difficult than any interrogation I’ll give you, but I have no doubt, being as how you are Rogues, you’ll survive and then some.”


  Corran welcomed his visitors to the small suite of rooms that he and his wingmate, the Gand named Ooryl Qrygg, had been given on Borleias. Since the Rebel assault had severely damaged most of the surface buildings in the Imperial installation, the New Republic occupation force housed itself in the underground warrens that formed the foundation for the base. Aside from the occasional blaster scars and a couple of blown-out walls, the facility was in fairly good repair.

  Corran’s suite had two bedrooms that had been built on to either narrow end of a rectangular room. The walls had been painted an Imperial grey. That color, combined with the deep blue of the carpet, made the room fairly dark. Corran had countered the color scheme by bringing in as many lights as he could find and rigging a small holoprojector to flash up images of other worlds and cover a huge chunk of the longest wall.

  He’d begged, borrowed, and bartered for the furnishings installed in the room. Most of the functional surfaces were the tops of spare parts crates. He’d managed to keep one of the couches that had originally been in the room and swapped the one with the blaster-burn hole for two Y-wing ejector seats. A small refrigeration unit doubled as the holoprojector stand and, though filling the room with an occasional rattle or wheeze, managed to keep beverages cold and food from spoiling.

  A slender, brown-haired man entered the suite first and smiled as an image of Alderaan appeared on the wall. “It has been a long while since I saw Wuitho Trifalls.” He pointed at the promontory from which a river fell in three spectacular waterfalls. “I visited there with my family the week before I went off to the Imperial Academy. NovaCom maintained a repulsorlift cabin in the area, so that’s where we stayed. It was as beautiful as that picture, but without the roar of the water, it seems …”

  Dead, Corran didn’t need to see the sorrow and pain on Tycho Celchu’s face to know what word had gone unspoken. Save for the coldest-hearted Imperialist among the survivors of Alderaan, the Alderaanians had suffered a deep, emotional wound when their homeworld had been destroyed. It crushed some but others, like Tycho and Princess Leia Organa, seemed to be driven by that loss to forever put to rest the Empire and its evil.

  “I apologize for that, sir. The projector chooses images at random.”

  Tycho’s face brightened. “Don’t apologize. I may miss my home, but that does not mean I like seeing holograms of it any less. The planet may be dead, but its beauty lives on in images like that.”

  The second visitor shuffled through the doorway, then took a hop forward as it shut behind him. The black droid had the body of a 3PO unit, but the crested clamshell head of a spaceport control droid. “Good evening, Lieutenant Horn. May I say I was pleased to receive your invitation to visit this evening because I am finding Captain Nunb a bit brusque for my tastes …”

  Corran flicked a green-eyed glance at Tycho. “Do you want to do it or should I?”

  “Do what? May I help?”

  Tycho smiled. “We couldn’t do it without you, Emtrey. Shut up.”

  “Sir, I must protest …”

  “Shut up.”

  “But I …”

  “Shut up.”

  With Tycho’s third repetition of the command, the droid’s arms snapped to its sides and its head canted forward sharply until its chin almost touched its chestplate. At the base of its skull, back at the top of its neck post, a glowing red button became visible. Emtrey shook once as if hit by a blaster bolt, then stood still and, most remarkably, silent.

  “Every time I see that little routine I’m amazed.” Corran shook his head and waved Tycho to the couch. “I think I’ve gotten to the bottom of what’s going on with him, though.”

  “Great.” Tycho sat down and turned to face away from the picture wall. “Tell me what you’ve got—or at least as much as you can.”

  “Sure.” A shiver worked its way down Corran’s spine. A month previously Tycho had reported that Emtrey, Rogue Squadron’s M-3PO unit, had exhibited odd behavior when told to shut up repeatedly. The droid had been acting strangely for a time before that, but no one had complained because he was talking less and had managed to cobble together some excellent exchanges on the black market and within the Alliance’s quartermaster corps to get the Squadron needed supplies. That behavior Corran had been able to trace to his suggestion that the droid “scrounge” some parts to fix his X-wing.

  “I managed to track records back to right before the evacuation of Hoth. Emtrey was there working for a Lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps. Her name was Losca or something like that. Anyway, she was having to work hard to try to build up stores after the losses at Derra IV and she wasn’t having much luck. At that point in time the defeat made things look bad for the Rebellion, so resources began to dry up.”

  Tycho nodded. “I remember. We had a difficult time getting our equipment to function in the cold because we didn’t have the proper conversion kits.”

  “It appears this Lieutenant Losca was getting killed on negotiations and wasn’t getting the job done to her or Alliance Command’s satisfaction. She wanted to create a database that would allow her to function like a commodities trader, but computer resources were limited and tied up coordinating things like defenses. Apparently the Alliance leadership wasn’t too high on the idea of becoming a commodities exchange, so they forbade her from doing anything that ambitious and urged her to keep doing what she was doing.”

  “The Hoth base was supposed to be top secret.” Tycho frowned. “Setting it up as some sort of marketplace would have led to its discovery even earlier than Vader’s tactic of using probe droids surveying worlds.”

  “That may be true, but this Lieutenant Losca appeared to think that without some sort of trade, the Rebellion would run out of supplies. The base would remain hidden, but be out of everything that made it possible to rebel. In desperation she had some techs cobble Emtrey together out of spare parts. She sliced some commodities-brokering code together and burned it into some chips which were implanted into Emtrey. The brokering chips give him a second personality that operates without the normal 3PO personality being aware it exists. The scrounger can be brought to the fore by asking it to scrounge something, or telling it to shut up, as you discovered. When you use that latter technique, the droid becomes a simple terminal that gives you access to all its data.”

man from Alderaan leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “What were the security precautions Losca took with the droid?”

  “I don’t know, and I can’t ask because she died on Hoth during the assault. Emtrey got off the planet and has been kicking around from unit to unit until we got him. No one else learned about his secret until we ran across it. I had Whistler do a basic diagnostic scan of Emtrey and the scrounging circuitry is the only unusual stuff in there. I don’t think he’s a security risk.”

  “That’s good.” Tycho smiled. “And it was good work getting the data from Hoth. Most of those files are still classified, aren’t they?”

  “All of them are, but Whistler’s got slicing code that can get him through low-level security stuff.” Corran shrugged. “Those files are easy to break—unlike the routines used to seal portions of your record.”

  Tycho barely missed a beat. “Good. I doubt there is much damage that could be done by people learning details about Hoth. My adventures, on the other hand, could cause problems.”

  Corran made no effort to hide the surprise at Tycho’s words. “Aren’t you angry with me for trying to crack your file?”

  Tycho smoothed his light brown hair at the back of his neck. “Anger isn’t going to do me any good, is it? I might be a little disappointed, but not angry.”

  “Why disappointed?”

  “If there was something you wanted to know, you could have asked.”

  “Would I get a straight answer?”

  Tycho blinked. “Why would you think I’d lie to you?”

  Corran jerked a thumb toward the closed door. “There are two Alliance Security officers at my door, correct? They’re waiting to escort you back to your quarters, right?”

  “Yes. So …?”

  “So General Salm thinks you’re some sort of threat to the Alliance. Shouldn’t that make me wonder about you?”

  “It could.” Tycho shrugged his shoulders. “Then again, you could think about what you know about me and decide for yourself if I can be trusted or not.”

  Corran sat back and folded his arms across his chest. In his career with the Corellian Security Force, Corran had questioned all manner of people—humans, aliens, and even the occasional droid. He’d always had a sense about who was telling the truth and who was lying to him. He’d gotten used to following that feeling, playing his hunches to find the chinks in the stories suspects used to build.

  From Tycho he was getting no sign of deception, but what he didn’t know about the man seemed to outweigh what he did know. There was no question that Tycho Celchu had been a valued and valiant member of Rogue Squadron from before Hoth until after Endor, Bakura, and dozens of other little battles. He flew an A-wing in the assault on the second Death Star and managed to draw pursuit away from Wedge and the Millennium Falcon. Well after that he had volunteered for a classified mission and all trace of his records up to six months before he rejoined Rogue Squadron had been encrypted. The gap only amounted to three quarters of a year, but it marked the end of trust in him by a host of Alliance figures. It seems Wedge Antilles was the only person who still had faith in him.

  Corran had only known Tycho for six months, but in that time Tycho had repeatedly flown an unarmed shuttle into dangerous situations to recover pilots who had been shot out of their ships. On one of those occasions he had saved Corran’s life by providing him a datafeed that let him target incoming TIE Interceptors. It had been a brave thing to do, and one that could have gotten Tycho killed, but he took the chance to keep Corran alive.

  Despite owing Tycho his life not once but twice, Corran still had reservations about him. Tycho had been secretive about the gap in his record. Corran could have easily ignored that, but the ease with which Tycho had overpowered his security detail and slipped away from supervision on the second occasion when he saved Corran’s life made Corran wary. He knew his suspicion was the residue of having been a CorSec officer whose father and grandfather had also served CorSec, and he’d hoped learning the truth about Tycho would ease his mind.

  The problem was that the only place he could learn the story would be from Tycho who, for better or worse, had to be considered somewhat unreliable as a narrator. Still, it’s better than unfocused suspicion.

  “Sir, I have trusted you in the past, and I’ll go on trusting you in the future because I’ve not seen you do anything wrong. And I apologize for trying to slice out your file. I guess having worked with CorSec has just honed my sense of paranoia. Not knowing why Salm has you under guard has that sense working overtime.”

  “But you’d still like to know what happened to me two years ago?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Fine.” Tycho shrugged with resignation, but his voice carried with it some relief. “It’ll be good to share this with someone else, but it goes no further, right?”

  Corran held his hand up. “On my honor.”

  Tycho fixed him with a crystal-blue stare for a second, then nodded. “I volunteered to fly a TIE starfighter into Coruscant. The Alliance impounded it at Bakura and modified it heavily to fill it with sensor packages. In coming in I made several orbits of the planet and picked up all sorts of interesting data on the Golan space fortresses, the defense shields, the orbital solar collection mirrors, the skyhooks, the dry docks and ship factories, and everything else orbiting the planet. I then took the ship in, landed on Coruscant, and the data was downloaded. It was shipped out by various routes and within two weeks I was asked to fly the eyeball back out, taking readings as I went, then hook up with a freighter and return to the Alliance. I knew getting out would be tough, but we had all the proper codes to get out, so I chanced it.”

  “And the Imps got you.”

  “They did. Two ion-cannon blasts shorted every system I had in the ship, including the self-destruct. A Star Destroyer pulled me on board and I was captured. They hit me with a Stokhli stun spray and I was out. When I finally awakened again I was on a transport coming out of hyperspace. We grounded and I found out I’d been taken to Lusankya.”


  “You know it?”

  “Only by the most vague and nasty of rumors. It’s supposed to be Iceheart’s own private prison. Weird things happen to people there.”

  Tycho nodded. “The guards, when they deign to speak to a prisoner, take great delight in noting that no one leaves unless Ysanne Isard is through with them.”

  Corran shook his head. It was easier for him to believe that the Katana-fleet existed than it was to accept the existence of Lusankya. Corran had first heard the word mentioned after a rival of Corellia’s Diktat had been murdered by a trusted aide. The aide had been taken away by Imperial authorities about a year before the murder, but had been returned three months later. After he killed his boss he was reported to have repeated the word “Lusankya” over and over again. After that incident Corran had heard of a dozen other, similar situations where a seemingly normal person had turned on friends and family, betraying them or performing some hideous act of terrorism against them. Each of these incidents had a link to Lusankya in some way or other, but that link only became apparent after the crime had been committed.

  Corran frowned at Tycho. “People who come out of there are human remote bombs. They do horrible things when the Empire activates them.”

  Tycho’s hands convulsed into fists. “I know, I know. What’s worse, no one has ever mentioned Lusankya before they have acted. The clues are always found later. But with me, after three months of interrogation and detention, I guess they decided I was useless. I was in bad shape—catatonic for most of my time at Lusankya so I remember almost nothing, then I was let go. They shipped me to Akrit’tar. After three months I managed to escape from the penal colony there and made my way back to the Alliance. I was debriefed for two months but they couldn’t find anything wrong with me.”

  “And they hadn’t found anything wrong with the other people who had been to Lusankya either, right?”

  “No. The only
difference between me and them was that I remembered having been there. It is the opinion of General Salm and some others that I was allowed to retain my memory, and that my escape was engineered, just so I could return to the Alliance and betray it.”

  Without any evidence to prove he was a sleeper agent, the Alliance couldn’t imprison Tycho without seeming as much of a heartless entity as the Empire itself. Even so, Corran reminded himself, lack of evidence was not evidence of lack. Salm’s suspicions about Tycho could be one hundred percent correct, and the utter lack of evidence pointed to the skill of Ysanne Isard and her people.

  Corran’s eyes narrowed. “So, you don’t even know, really, if you are an Imperial agent waiting to happen or not?”

  “I know I’m not.” The Alderaanian’s shoulders slumped. “Being able to prove it is something else again.”

  “But being constantly under suspicion, that’s got to wear on you. Why put up with it? How can you put up with it?”

  Tycho’s expression drained of emotion. “I put up with it because I must. Enduring it is the only way I can be allowed to fight back against the Empire. If I were to walk away from the Rebellion, if I were to sit the war out, I would have surrendered to the fear of what Ysanne Isard might, might, have done to me. Without firing a shot she would have made me as dead as Alderaan, and I won’t allow that. There’s nothing in what I have to live with on a daily basis that isn’t a thousand times easier than what I survived at the hands of the Empire. Until the Empire is dead, I can never truly be free because I’ll always be under suspicion. Living with minor restrictions now means someday no one has to fear me.”

  Tycho slowly opened his hands and scrubbed them over his face. “I don’t know if any of that sets your mind at ease, but that’s all there is.”

  Corran shook his head. “It helps, a great deal. Whether you are or are not an Imperial agent in a Rebel uniform, the fact is that you’ve saved my life twice. That definitely counts for something—a great big something, in fact.”