Kain took advantage of the time in hyperspace to meditate on the failed Second Battle of Yavin. The error, he decided, had been in allowing Olie to take charge of the TIE squadron. Her sloppiness had botched everything. First, she hadn't adequately concealed her identity as an Imperial agent from the Alliance, allowing two Rebels to discover her identity. Second, instead of quietly doing away with the two men and making it look like an accident, she had attempted to frame Vader, creating a heightened panic among the Rebels that led to the eventual discovery of a spy by High Command. Last but most disastrously, she had developed a teenage crush on Skywalker and focused her energy and resources on capturing him instead of on destroying the base, her original objective. She had bungled the job and deserved her fate.

He was still quite unused to the sudden intrusion in his skull that meant a telepathic message, but he knew what to do when he felt it. He opened his mind to his master.

/You acted commendably considering the circumstances, Kain. The Alliance may not be destroyed, but it is in disarray and will not be mobilized to attack for some time to come./

/I only regret that we failed to destroy Skywalker, my master/ he sent back.

/I see./ A moment of contemplative silence. /Perhaps Admiral Olie had the right idea there./


/Skywalker and Vader are extremely powerful, Kain. They can be dangerous enemies – or great allies. If we can turn them…/

Kain curled his lip. The idea of sharing the Sith cause with two more Force-strongs rankled him. Hadn't he been chosen to follow in Sidious' footsteps? Why was his master suddenly so eager to convert the two Skywalkers as well?

/Return to Corusant, my apprentice. We must make further plans./

Mothma's white dress rippled around her as she walked swiftly but easily through the rusty corridors of a long-grounded, pre-Republic warship on Nar Shaddaa that was the Alliance's temporary home. It wasn't much, but it would do until Rogue Squadron could locate a more suitable base of operations.

Stars, the squadron and its pilots had truly come of age over these past few months. What was once a ragtag collection of adolescents chafing under their overly strict leader's rule was now an efficient fighting and scouting force. Oh, not that they'd lost any of their fun-loving attitude – Ghede would spin in his grave to see them going for joy rides in the newly acquired A-wings and gorging on junk food during their all-night holovid marathons. But they had had their loyalty and skills tested to their limits, and they had not only survived, they had cemented the bonds among themselves and to the Alliance.

She opened the door to the small room where the Rogues had gathered, waiting in the doorway respectfully. Candles lit the memorial room with a flickering golden glow. The squadron stood in reverent silence, their gaze fixed on a table where two flight helmets lay. One, Squib's, was badly charred. The other, Bekme's, was mangled almost beyond recognition.

Mothma understood what few others in the Alliance did – Squib was not the only Rogue to fall that terrible day. Admiral Olie had been a traitor to the Rebellion, but Bekme had been a friend and comrade. And the squadron chose to remember and honor the memory of the latter.

Vader stood solemnly between Luke and Rocky, his glossy black visor and stained mechanic's uniform out of place among the orange jumpsuits and gray flight helmets. The man had not only proven to be a fine ally; he had exhibited tremendous loyalty to his friends and the Alliance even when considered a murderer and traitor. The accusations could easily have driven him back to the Empire and his past, but he had chosen to remain true to their cause.

Which reminded her of her task…

The Rogues turned almost as one when she gently cleared her throat.

"I apologize for intruding," she said. "But I must speak to Commander Skywalker."

"I'm right here," he volunteered, stepping forward.

Mothma smiled sadly. Luke's face was still smooth and youthful, his sandy hair unruly as ever, but in his bright blue eyes a sadness beyond his years lingered. Of all the Rogues, he had taken this ordeal the hardest.

"Skywalker, your men acted courageously at the Second Battle of Yavin. Thanks to your heroism, the Alliance has survived to continue the war against the Empire. High Command feels that such bravery should be rewarded."

"We were only doing our duty, my lady," Dekham said modestly.

"I insist," she replied. "Report to the audience hall in two standard hours, please." Her gaze rested on Vader. "Now for the second matter."

Luke's eyes followed Mothma's, and he smiled.

"Skywalker, you had once said that you would leave the Alliance if Vader joined Rogue Squadron," said Mothma. "I sincerely hope you have reconsidered your brash statement since then, because it would be a shame to lose either of you. You both have the makings of superior pilots in you."

"I've changed my mind," Luke said eagerly. "He can join. We'd love him to be one of us. In fact," he added with an even wider smile, "I need a new second."

"You told me, Vader, that you did not want a role on the Rebellion's front lines," Mothma noted. "But would you reconsider?"

"I would be honored to serve the Rebel Alliance as Second Commander of Rogue Squadron," Vader replied, nodding respectfully but unable to contain all his enthusiasm.

The squadron broke into cheering as Luke and Vader clasped hands. Mothma smiled, very pleased with the decision.

The ancient ship's cargo hold was the only chamber big enough to serve as an audience hall, so it was here that thousands of Rebel soldiers, technicians, officers, and others congregated to witness the ceremony. It was standing room only, and the air was heavy with the wet-iron smell of rust, but no one complained or gave any indication of noticing. The excitement permeating the atmosphere overrode any discomfort.

At the far end of the room waited Mon Mothma and Princess Leia, each dressed in flowing white, with the rest of High Command standing just behind them. Leia was wearing a smile for the first time in months, everyone noticed. Mothma, too, wore a rare public smile, and Ackbar beamed as much as his Mon Cal features would allow.

The doors at the other end of the hallway ground open to admit a dozen men and women, each in orange jumpsuits and all but one carrying a gray helmet under his or her arm. Upon seeing Rogue Squadron grins and exultant expressions broke out on every face, though they respectfully held their applause.

Vader, striding alongside Luke as they approached the dais on which High Command stood, couldn't believe his eyes. A few months ago he had been ferociously hated by the Alliance. Now, however, they saw him as a friend – even a hero!

A bit nervously, he glanced at Luke – what for, he wasn't sure. The boy flashed him an encouraging smile as they walked. That action alone dispelled his anxiety. Skywalker was now one of his most trusted allies. How ironic that the son of one of his victims was now his closest friend.

Han, Chewie, and Forenze were grouped together near the High Command, accompanied by Threepio and Artoo. Upon seeing Vader and Luke Han grinned, Chewie bellowed in pride, and Forenze winked as if divulging a secret. How he wished he were free of his mask, that he might smile back! He settled for a grateful nod in their direction.

At last they reached Mothma, and as one the Rogues saluted. She gave a satisfied nod and turned to General Dodonna, who presented her with a medal of valor for each pilot.

Vader had to stoop low for her to drape the medal over his domed helmet and around his neck. When he straightened he caught a glimpse of Leia's face. She no longer looked at him as if he were a beast or a criminal; acceptance, even admiration, shone in her eyes instead.

The pilots turned to face the assembly, and thundering roars filled the chamber as the Alliance greeted the heroes of Rogue Squadron with enthusiastic acclaim.

Vader felt as if his heart would burst free of his ribs. He was a Rebel! No longer haunted by the darkness of his past, he had shed the robes of his former life and been born again, given a chance to redeem himself of his crimes. And though he still had questions regarding his past, said questions no longer dominated his thoughts.

Luke slapped his back good-naturedly, and his grin broadened until it threatened to tear his facial muscles.

He was home.


I had a lot of fun making up names on this one, especially for Rogue Squadron. Luke, Zev, Hobbie, Janson, and Gavin come from the movies and books, of course, but the rest of the pilots are my own creation.

Ghede Ironmoon's name is one I've wanted to use for a long time. Ironmoon was the surname of a female character (and a blatant Mary Sue) from my first fanfic story "Fall to Madness." Ghede, believe it or not, is the name of the Voodoo god of death.

Bekme and Dekham are both derived from the title of the movie "Bend It Like Bekham." Mela is named after my hair stylist – they look nothing alike, trust me. And yes, Squib comes from "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," from the word describing a magic-less person born into a wizard family. No idea where Ar'ya and Rocky came from.

Despite what other readers have asked me, Forenze is NOT named after the centaur Firenze in the first and fifth Harry Potter novels. Her name is actually derived from the word "forensic," which I thought was appropriate for a medical officer. Likewise, Kain is NOT named after the professional wrestler, who I always found a little creepy. He is named after Cain, Adam and Eve's firstborn son in the Bible (I changed the spelling to make it seem a little more exotic.)

That said, keep your eyes open for Part Two of the "Reborn" trilogy – "Experience."